Ethnic traditions


Vertepny theater is a Christmas performance by means of a puppet show, sometimes also with the participation of human actors. It was distributed mainly on the territory of Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, in some regions of Russia. A nativity scene in this case is also called Vertep is a special box in which a puppet show is shown.

Nativity Scene (from Old Slavic – cave) – an ancient Ukrainian traveling puppet theater, which originated in Ukraine in the Baroque era (second half of 17-18 century). It had the shape of a two-story wooden box. On the second floor they showed a Christmas drama; on the first – a satirical-domestic interlude mechanically tied to it. The first, Christmas, part of the nativity scene, which was called “Christmas holidays”, had a more or less stable composition, while the second varied depending on local conditions, abilities and wit of the nativity scene. Source

In the Ukrainian culturevertep (Cyrillic: Вертеп, Батлейка) is a portable puppet theatre and drama, which presents the nativity scene, other mystery plays, and later secular plots as well. The original meaning of the word is “secret place”, “cave”, “den”, referring to the cave where Christ was born, i.e., the Bethlehem Cave “Вифлеемский вертеп” in the liturgy of the Russian Orthodox Church. In the 17th century, the vertep arrived in the Russian Empire after the Ukrainian Cossack Hetmanate, where it was known as szopka, became a Protectorat of the empire in 1654 (it was formally part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth).

In Belarusian culture it was also referred to as Batleika (батлейка), from “Bethlehem“.


A typical vertep was a wooden box, one or two storeyed. The floors had slots through which the puppeteers controlled wooden puppets. The upper floor of the two-storeyed box was used for the nativity scene, while the lower was for interludes and other mystery plays (most often featuring the Herod and Rachel plots) and secular plays, often of comedy character.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, the atheistic Soviet state severely persecuted religion and the associated elements of culture, and by 1930s the tradition of Christmas verteps was virtually eliminated. The word itself survived in the meanings of “robber’s den” and “the den of depravity”.


The Ukrainian vertep, or puppet theatre, first appeared in the latter half of the 16th century, beginning of the 17th century from a popular Western European mystery play. It is believed that it was introduced by a student of the Kiev-Mohyla Academy. The vertep puppet theatre was made familiar to Ukrainian rural communities by wandering deacons and students of the above-mentioned Academy. The Vertep theatre had numerous regional variants. The performance was divided into two separate sections, sacred and secular, with the latter taking the form of either a tragedy or a comedy.

Batleika puppets

The sacred act was based on the Nativity scene with interludes, while the secular was based on day-to-day life often lampooning the various national traits of the local population with characters such as the Kozak (Ukrainian/Cossack), Liakh (Pole), Moskal (Russian), Zhyd (Jew), Tsyhan (Gypsy). Each was accompanied by representative dance music (KozachokKrakowiakKamarinskaya, etc.) Religious Christmas carols were also sung, often in harmony. Some early verteps told of the destruction of the Cossack Sich.

The vertep box often had the construction of a multi-storey building. The sacred act took place on the upper level (with occasional interludes on the lower floor) and the secular one taking place only on the lower floor (Heaven- Earth). The Ukrainian vertep differed considerably from the Polish Szopka, the Belarusian Batleika and the Russian Petrushka, or rayok puppetry.

In recent times at Christmas young children dress as the various characters and act out the plays of the vertep. This form, following the old tradition of Malanka, is quite popular in Western Ukraine. Often hidden political meanings are placed in the performances.

Vertep in Ukraine also became heavily intertwined with singing of the Ukrainian Carols (Kolyadki). Source VIDEO

Ukrainian Verteps

Russian Verteps

Think your friends would be interested? Share or reblog this story!

MICHAEL WALSH is a journalist, broadcaster and the author of WITNESS TO HISTORY, RISE OF THE SUN WHEEL (Paperback / Ebook), TROTSKY’S WHITE NEGROESMEGACAUST,  DEATH OF A CITY,  MY LAST TESTAMENT LET GOD JUDGE ME, THE ALL LIES INVASION (Paperback / Ebook), THE All LIES INVASION II (Paperback / Ebook)Odyssey Adolf Hitler, Death of a City, SLAUGHTER OF A DYNASTY, REICH AND WRONG, THE RED BRIGANDS, RANSACKING THE REICH, SCULPTURES OF THE THIRD RIECH: ARNO BREKER AND REICH SCULPTORS, SCULPTURES OF THE THIRD REICH VOLUME II Josef Thorak and Reich Sculptors, SCULPTURES OF THE THIRD REICH VOLUME III Porcelain and Reich Sculptors, The Exiled Duke Romanov Who Turned Desert Into Paradise, and other book titles. These best-selling books are essential for the libraries of informed readers.

 MICHAEL WALSH is a journalist, author, and broadcaster. His 70 books include best-selling THE LAST GLADIATORS Fiancés of Death (Paperback / Ebook); AFRICA’S KILLING FIELDS: African Victims of the Liberal-Left (Paperback / Ebook); RHODESIA’S DEATH EUROPE’S FUNERAL European to Wall Street Colonialism (Paperback / Ebook); RISE OF THE SUN WHEEL (Paperback / Ebook), EUROPE ARISE, FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT SPEAK, THE ALL LIES INVASION (Paperback / Ebook), THE All LIES INVASION II (Paperback / Ebook), Death of a City, and many other book titles. These illustrated best-selling books are essential for the libraries of informed readers.

The dissident author’s books available for purchase by visiting his website BOOKSTORE, and POETRY  links.

We are in debt to our donors who finance the distribution of spin-free real news and fearlessly expressed views.


MEGACAUST Michael Walsh. R. J. Rummel,   Power Kills: Genocide and Mass Murder (Journal of Peace Research) 164 million people have been killed in cold blood this century by Capitalist / Communist governments. 

SLAUGHTER OF A DYNASTY  Michael Walsh. Covertly sponsored by Wall Street banks and the White House Bolsheviks seized Tsarist Russia (regime change). For 36 years news of Bolshevik atrocities and 70 million martyred Christians were censored by Western media.  Lavishly illustrated, this expose reveals secrets removed from Western history books.

When ordering the book contact Michael Walsh by email to receive your signed copy.

KEEP REAL NEWS OPEN: Donate by using Western Union, MoneyGram, Ria, registered mail or contact Michael Walsh: or 2) Follow our blog. 3) Share our stories and 4) buy our author-signed books. 5) Receive free newsletters by writing subscribe to

BOOKS THAT CHALLENGE, INSPIRE, INFORM Michael Walsh, ‘Writer of the Year’ with a strong global following. Nearly 70 interesting Amazon book titles famed for changing and improving lives. CLICK TO VIEW

New stories every day!


2 replies »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s