The modern megapolis of Dnipropetrovsk (1.063 million inhabitants), one of the richest (and most expensive) cities of Ukraine, appeared in place of Cossack villages in the vicinity of the fortress of Kodak, in the middle reaches of the Dnieper, where the Samara River flows into it. Over the last few years Dnipropetrovsk, or simply “Dnepr,” as most of the local people call it, has been glaring with neon lamps of the shop-windows of expensive boutiques, restaurants and clubs. During World War II many historical sights were destroyed, however, if you go to the center of the city you will be able to feel the spirit of old Yekaterinoslav, or even Sicheslav.
As a result of the victorious Russian-Turkish wars of 1768-1774 and 1787-1791 the lands of the northern Black Sea maritime regions passed to the Russian Empire and were quickly populated. In 1775 the Azov province was formed in this area. On October 14,1775, there was drawn a map of the future provincial center, which was to appear on the River Kilchen where it flows into the Samara River. This town was later named Yekaterinoslav I, Left-bank, Kilchensky. Before long it turned out that the place for the provincial center had been chosen mistakenly: in spring and autumn the territory was flooded, and, above all, the city was situated far away from the navigable Dnieper. So by order of Catherine II of January 22,1784, Yekaterinoslav was moved to t he righ bank of the Dnieper, a higher terrain. However, even today researchers cannot determine exactly the date of the city’s foundation. There exists at least seven versions. In spite of the similarity of the city’s name with that of the river upon which it stands, its present-day name the city acquired in 1926, after H. Petrovsky, a Soviet party functionary.
Founded in 1787, the Transfiguration Cathedral (1 Zhovtneva Sq.) was to become the center of the new city. The first project of the temple was created by the French architect Clod Gerois in the form of a five-nave basilica. The project was not realized. The cathedral was built from 1830 through 1835 after the project of the architect A.Zakharov, in Russian classical style. The roof and the vaults were executed in the technique of Italian sgraffito by the artists Bezsonov, Sazonov, and Terebniov. On money of Maecenases the temple was quickly filled with valuable sacral works of art. After 1917 the Transfiguration Cathedral was closed and got into the black-list of the general layout of the development of the city according to which it was to be destroyed. It was saved by director of Historical Museum D.I.Yavornytsky who proposed converting it into museum of atheism. The structure was saved, but everything inside – icons, church plate, and, above all, the iconostasis – was burnt down. Also at that time any information of the bell weighing five poods disappeared. On January 21,1992, the temple was officially transferred to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Its original state is being restored. Today divine services are celebrated there daily, and people come here from afar to listen to the choir which is the best in Dnipropetrovsk eparchy.
On the right side of the entrance to the cathedral, beside the wall, there is an interesting historical relic: one of the mile-posts (1787) that were installed along the roads in the Russian Empire.
Andriy Farba was considered the best governor of the region. Under this pedantic master the city acquired many important buildings. In 41 K. Marx St. there is the house in which the governor lived. The local officials were afraid of and hated the active and popular leader, and spread legends of his excessive “thriftiness.” Popular tales have been living so far in the city about the “eternal pineapple,” which was served up at every official lunch, and which none of the guests dared taste; or about the govemor’s habit to take out several billets from the firewood prepared near the stoves, just for the sake of saving. However, it is true that when A. retired and settled in an estate in the Crimea, he bequeathed his million strong property for the maintenance of the orphanage and charity.
Prince Grigoriy Potemkin, favorite of Catherine II, was known among the Zaporozhian Cossacks under the nickname “Hrytsko Nechosa” (Hrytsko the Shaggy). His ambitious plans were not realized in spite of the fact that twelve regiments of soldiers were sent here for three years to build the city. However, what the descendants retained in memory were Potemkin’s village sets along the Dnieper to deceive visiting Catherine II. There is a myth according to which Potemkin ordered to build a spire of the church exceeding that of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome.
The foundation of the gymnasium in Yekaterinoslav (2 Zhovtneva St.) started in 1805.The city urgently needed a high-quality educational institution. The nobility assembly allotted for the purpose premises at the intersection of present-day Lenin and Plekhanov streets. However, the number of students was incessantly growing and, naturally, there emerged the necessity of a new building. In spite of hardships and financial problems, in 1861 the architect I.Skotnikov informed the authorities of the completion of a new building. True, it proved that many things were done improperly, and it was only in 1896, after elimination of all imperfections, that the institution began to work. A library, assembly hall and archaeological laboratory assisted students in acquiring good education. From 1914 the building was handed over to medical courses. Today it is one of the buildings of Medical University.
D.Yavornytsky Historical Museum was founded in 1849 on the initiative of the governor A. Farba. First it occupied part of the former Petemkin’s palace, but later a new building was raised in classical style after the project of arch. V. Pafnutin. With time the old part was connected with the new two-storied building, in which the diorama “Battle for the Dnieper” is on display. The museum was named after the well-known Ukrainian historian, ethnographer and archeolo-gist Dmytro Ivanovych Yavornytsky. In the course of years he collected many unique Zaporozhian antiquities. Beside the historical museum there is a collection of Scythian images. D.Yavornytsky memorial house.
The history of Town council (47 K. Marx St.) began in the second quarter of the 19th century, when the merchant Hershko Leibovych Lutsky acquired a plot of land for building a private house. His son-in-law Leiba Kranzfeld was known in the city as a philanthropist and patron of art. From 1835 the building was rented by the public chamber. In 1901 -1903 by decision of Town council architect D.Skorobogatov reconstructed the building. Ornamented with coats of arms it impressed the contemporaries as “a town council of a small European town. ” The interior equipment was very convenient for the officials. Part of premises in the ground floor was occupied by the City bank. As the city expanded the number of functionaries increased, and there emerged a need in re-planning the building. World War I, the ensuing revolutionary events, and World War II made it impossible to realize this plan. In 1982 the building was handed over to culture school.
“Ukraina” Hotel (1910-1914) is one of the most expressive examples of Ukrainian modernist art, and an architectural visiting card of the city. The building of the former rent house built on demand of the famous merchant and Ukrainophile Mykola Khrennikov, it has characteristic hexagonal windows and polychrome ornamental inserts, which underline the national style of the structure. In the course of its existence different parts of the building were adjusted to living quarters, expensive shops, and even a theater (for some time the popular theater “Palace” was working there). In Soviet times it worked as youth club, an art museum, and young people’s theater. During World War II it was set on the fire by the Nazis. The post-war restoration changed its appearance. In particular it lost the original roof termination, which made it less presentable.
The English club (3 Lenin St.) was one of the most elitist establishments of the city in the past. Through quick increase in the number of well-to-do and influential townspeople there emerged a necessity in setting up appropriate establishments for rest and pleasant pastime. In 1838 the nobility assembly proposed to create an English club. At first it rented the house of the retired Major V.Scherbakov, and at the close of the 19 th century a new building for the club was constructed after the project of architect Alexander von Gagen, which has been preserved to our time. The premises of the club, apart from meetings, saw appearances of famous guest artistes. Here performed F.Shaliapin, M.Zankovetska, D.Yavornytsky. In 1913 a large theatrical hall was added to the main building. From 1887 to 1917 these premises were the residence of Yakaterinoslav governors. Having survived the stormy events of the 20th century, the building remains an interesting example of public architecture of the second half of the 19 th century.
Part of the building of T. Shevchenko Theater (1913,5 Lenin St.) belonged to the English club. The hall for 1200 spectators built in 1913 passed onto present-day theater. The authors of the annex were the architects S. Bulatsel and D. Petrovetsky. In 1978-1979 it was reconstructed. The facade, which can be best seen from the square before the theater, is decorated with a sculptural triptych reflecting the stages of the creative way of the company. The rounded corner is decorated with the figure of a muse.
The Public Assembly (6 Lenin St.) was the second building after the English club by its significance, intended for public life. The existence of this assembly was known from 1899. However, for a long time it had no building of its own. Many years later, on money of patrons of art, from charity concerts, and investments of those interested in playing gambling games, the architect Alexander Ginzburg obtained an order from the community for a new building, the construction of which was completed in 1912. The author of the project used the reinforced concrete in an innovating way. The building enraptured specialists, however, the local proprietors of entertaining establishments, scared by competition, insisted that the authorities incessantly checked the structure for possible subsidence for the whole year. It was only in 1913 that active social work developed in the house, which even the tragic events of the first half of the 20th century could not stop.
Alexander Paul (1832-1890), one of the most popular citizens of Yekaterinoslav, became rich after he discovered iron ore deposits in Kryvyi Rih. The amateur archeologist A. Paul gathered a rare collection of antiquities of the Northern Black Sea maritime regions. The English tried to acquire it for the London royal museum, valuing it at 100 thousand silver dollars. However, A. Paul considered that the memorials were to remain in their native land. Thus a greater part of the collection got to the historical museum. Unfortunately, the excessive enthusiasm for patronage of art brought A. Paul to bankruptcy and untimely death.
Lecture hall for public readings. In 1882, in connection with the necessity of conducting popular lectures, a decision was made to create an enlightener center. A plot of land was allotted for the construction site for a symbolic price, and in 1896 the building was consecrated. The project was prepared free of charge by the engineers L.Brodnitsky and S.Kharmansky. The house was one of the first in the city to be lighted with electricity. Prominent scientists such as A.Terpigorev, D.Yavornytsky and others delivered lectures there. However, proactive enlightener activity of the society began to worry authorities. The cause for prohibiting its activity was I Shevchenko evening conducted in 1902, which, in the opinion of officials, called upon the “Little Russians” for separatism. This fact notwithstanding, cultural life continued to glow. Thus, in 1914 one of the pioneers of Ukrainian cinematography, Daniel Sakhnenko, showed to public several films on Ukrainian themes. World War I and the civil war somewhat changed the activities of the society. Soviet power adjusted the building to administrative needs.
Cloth factory (arch. F.Volkov, 106 K. Marx St.) was founded in the city by decision of Prince G. Potemkin. Transferred to Yekaterinoslav from Mogilev, it was envisaged to manufacture delicate doth for the military-engineers’ school. They say that Potemkin, demonstrating effective work of the enterprise to Catherine II, “treated” her to gilded walnuts with silk stockings inside, made in “Yekaterinoslav.” However, the prince’s confidants knew perfectly well that the “miracle” was of French origin. The enterprise began to work in 1784, but stocking production as such did not last long. Through its unprofitableness the factory was converted into a military settlement in 1804.The reorganization proved ineffective, and in 1837 the factory was closed once and for all. Most of the buildings were re-profiled, and among those that have survived to our time the former spinning building is in the best state (now it is bread-baking plant No. 1).
The former Potemkin’s palace is situated in T.Shevchenko Park. Its construction began simultaneously with that of the Transfiguration Cathedral in 1787. According to the contemporaries, the palace was intended for out-of-town entertainments rather than for a permanent residence, and was filled with works of art and articles of luxury.The local nobility arranged there ceremonial receptions and balls. At the beginning of the 19 th century the palace proved to be in a state of neglect. Soviet power adjusted it to a rest-home for the working people. During the Second World War it was ruined by the Nazis. In 1952 the palace was restored after the project of the architects A. Baransky, S.GIushkov and engineer A.Muchnik.Today it is the palace of culture of University students.
Monastery Island acquired its name from a monastery supposedly founded by Byzantine monks. It was a resting-place before overcoming the Dnieper rapids. In 957, saving herself from a sudden storm, Princess Olga visited the island. It was under the Cossacks’special supervision: In 1765 the clerk and deputy hetman of Kodak fortification was instructed to look after its green plantations. G. Potemkin and the architect Claude had a lot of plans regarding its fitting out. However, none of them was realized. In 1863 this land became private property. At the beginning of the 20th century the island became a support for a railway bridge, and a yacht-club was founded there. In 1956, having linked the island With T.Shevchenko Park, there was set up a good pleasure resort with the best beaches in the city. There is a monument to Kobzaplayer in the center of the island (sculptors Land V.Znoba).
Guillaume Levassaire de Beauplan (1600-1673), a French engineer and military cartographer, was in Polish service from the early 1630s to 1648 and worked in the territory of Ukraine. He planned castles and fortresses in the towns of Bar, Brady, Kremenchuk, Kodak. Beauplan was the author of the first variant of the general map of Ukraine. His “Description of Ukraine,” in which the author gave information about geography, economy and way of life of the Ukrainian people, enjoyed popularity in European countries.