“The regimental town of Kharkiv with its outskirts was first scattered between the Kharkiv with Netechia and Lopan rivers, on the hill and foothills, or Podil area; later it gradually spread beyond the two rivers… In the west and south it was surrounded by gardens and groves.” From the guide “Kharkiv. Its Past and Present” by 0. Gusev, 1902.
The city was founded in the mid-17th century by Ukrainian Cossacks. During three centuries it was a regimental town, the principal town of a province, a capital city. Today Kharkiv is the largest intellectual, cultural and industrial center of Eastern Ukraine. We offer you a brief tour around the city’s downtown area. To become better acquainted with Kharkiv we recommend you to read the guide “A Trip through Kharkiv and Slobodian Ukraine” published by “Baltia-Druk.”
We start an acquaintance with Kharkiv from its oldest part, the territory of the Intercession Monastery and the Intercession Cathedral (1689, 8 University St.), the first stone temple of the city. On the left of the cathedral there is the Ozerianska Church (1896), and to the right – the diocesan office occupying the former metropolitan’s house (1826). In the 17 th century, on the hill, there stood a strong fortress, which defended the borders from the incessant onslaughts of the Crimean Tatars. So the original purpose of the settlement was a military one. With time Kharkiv became an important center on the intersection of trade routes.
In 1726 Bilhorod theological school was transferred to Kharkiv and attached to the monastery (the prominent Ukrainian philosopher Hryhoriy Skovoroda taught at the school), and 80 years later a university with 25 departments was opened in the former house of the governor (1776, 16 University St.). In different years there studied or taught well-known scientists and cultural workers such as the writer P. Hulak-Artemovsky, composer M. Lysenko, artist H.Semyradsky, biologist I.Mechnikov, physicist M.Beketov, architect RYaroslavsky, and others. Kharkiv ha: been styled the student’s capital of Ukraine to this day. At the crossroads of University Street and University Side Street, opposite a little public garden, there is a well-proportioned and elegant bell tower of the former Assumption Cathedral (177711 University St.; now it is organ and chamber music hail).The bell tower was built in 1848; it is 84 meters high. Not far away there is a monument to H. Kvitka-Osnovyanenko, a well-known Ukrainian writer whose creative and public activity was closely linked with Kharkiv.
Beyond the public garden, down to the river runs Khalturin Descent wherefrom opens up a panorama of housing estates on the opposite bank of the Lopan. The Annunciation Cathedral (1901, 12 F. Engels St.) is a dominating structure of the landscape whose outward appearance is reminiscent of old Byzantine temples built of red thin bricks alternating with plastered blocks.
Beyond the monastery, at the beginning of University Street, there is yet another colorful picture – a view of Bursa Descent in which a theological school, the famous Kharkiv bursa (1885, 4 Bursatskv Descent), was situated at the close of the 19 th century. Students of this establishment, ever hungry seminarians, often made plundering raids on the market situated at the end of the descent, dismaying retailers. Now in place of the bursa there is Kharkiv state academy of culture, and its students do not make raids any more…
AROUND CONSTITUTION SQUARE
The rooms of Historical Museum (5 University St.; tel.: (057) 712-7568; 9.00-17.00) located in the building of the former pawn-house are the next stage of our tour. The museum exhibition numbers some 250,000 exhibits and is one of the richest in Ukraine. On display in the museum yard there are examples of military equipment embracing the period from the Cossack times to the Second World War. Of special interest are the famous Soviet T-34 tank and an English tank of the period of the First World War.
In the 1 7 th century the city’s central square was used as a place for fairs; later it was named Nicholas Square in honor of St. Nicholas’ Cathedral built nearby. With time the names changed, but, fortunately, its architectural ensemble remained intact. Its present-day appearance formed at the close of the 19 th-early 20 th centuries, when Kharkiv became the major industrial and cultural center of Slobodian Ukraine. Opposite the public garden, beside the Museum of History, there are former banks – monumental structures that look quite harmoniously despite their different architectural styles. The premises of the former Land Bank (28 Constitution Sq.) were turned into lecture-rooms of Kharkiv motor transport technical school; the buildings of the Commercial Bank (26 Constitution Sq.) became the House of science and technology, and the Volga-Kamsk Bank (24 Constitution Sq.). a puppet theater – one of the best in Ukraine (it is worth visiting its “Puppet Museum”). St. Petersburg International Commercial Bank (22 Constitution Sq.) is the only one that remained a financial establishment.
The appearance of the square is closely linked with the outstanding architect A. Beketov whose creative work is inseparable from Kharkiv.
Down the square (once this descent was used by tobogganers in winter) there are pompous structures of the
mid 19 th century – 1930 s. On the right side of the square, in Pushkin Street, There is the building of the former Azov-Don Bank with an expressive figure of violinist erected recently on the roof. The next block after Moscow Avenue is pied by an elegant building the ground floor of which used to be a
book supermarket. Strange to say, but twenty years ago, when a good book was considered a deficit, the floor space of “The World of Book” was by far more spacious …
The left side of the square, after Spartacus Street, begins with the buildings of the University of Fine Arts (the former Commercial Exchange). The ground floor of the neighboring building is occupied by the “Bear Cub” confectionery.
ALONG SUMSKA STREET
Our trip along the main street of the city begins from “Radianska” Metro station in the direction of Pushkin Street. Recently the majestic Choral synagogue has been restored there (12 Pushkin St.). Walking up Sumska Street you will see original buildings executed in modernistic, constructivist, Renaissance and other styles. Opposite I. Mechnikov Institute of Microbiology and Immunology (the former hospital and bacteriological station, 14 Pushkin St.) built after A. Beketov’s project there is a monument to llya Mechnikov. At the intersection with Theater Square there is an elegant building with a bay window, lucarnes, and tracery balconies (19 Pushkin St.); Poetry Square with Provisions warehouse and Land Bank stretches further. Turning to the left we get to a quiet public garden with monuments to A.Pushkin and N.Gogol. The paths of the garden lead to T. Shevchenko Ukrainian Drama Theater (1841, 9 Sumska St.) on whose stage performed such outstanding actors as Mikhail Schepkin, Mykola Sadovsky, Maria Zankovetska, Eleanor Duze, Maria Yermolova, and Polina Strepetova. In 1922 the prominent Ukrainian director Les Kurbas organized there “Berezil” theater whose staff included the famous actors such as Ambrosiy Buchma and Natalia Uzhviy.
Lined by former rent houses distinguished for their exquisite architecture, Sumska Street is running upwards. One of the buildings is noteworthy for its unusual facade decorated with stone salamanders reminding one of the former masters of the building – the management of the “Salamander” insurance company. Sumska is a street of banks, theaters and former rent houses, which were rented by wealthy citizens. Architecture of most of the buildings is noted for eclecticism, nevertheless general impression of the street is gratifying to the eye, perhaps due to the fact that these buildings were raised by talented architects such as A. Beketov, A.Ton, 0. Rzhepishevsky, B. Mikhalovsky, and others.
Public gardens and parks are the city’s adornment – the first one on our way is situated between Skrypnyk and Sovnarkomivska streets. There you will see a nice-looking rotunda with “a mirror stream,” a symbol of the city. Opposite the rotunda there is the odious structure of M. Lysenko Opera-house, which was built from 1970 through the 1990 s with great difficulties. The result was rather impressive, though provoked opposite feelings – just a chimerical post-modernist architectural clod… Right after the theater there is T. Shevchenko Park. It is the former University garden laid out in the early 19 th century. In March 1935 a wonderful monument to Kobzar was erected there (sculptor M.Manizer). An observatory, a cinema and concert hall, and a zoo are situated in the territory of the park.
Walking in the opposite direction, along Sovnarkomivska Street, we get to Kharkiv Art Museum (11 Sovnarkomivska St., tel.: (057) 706-3394; 10.00-1 7.30; Tu. – day off), which contains a representative collection of paintings by Ukrainian, Russian and West European artists. Across the street there is the formei private residence of the architect Alexey Beketov (now the Scientist’s House and an art gallery). Unique mural paintings have been preserved in the interior of the building. The former villa of the Alchevskies (the family of the well-known industrialist and Maecenas) in 13 Sovnarkomivska Street is presently occupied by the House of Culture of Kharkiv oblast Department of Internal Affairs. Nearby the Metro station “Architect Beketov,” at the intersection of the spacious square and Pushkin Street, begins Darwin Street, the most beautiful street in Kharkiv. It is not long, lined with beautiful buildings magnificent in the past, but now somewhat decrepit. Worthy of note are the Architect’s House (9 Darwin St.), the Artist’s House (11 Darwin St.), D. Alchevsky’s villa (13 Darwin St., now-Ukrainian-British college). The fusion of Gothic, Moresque, modernist, and neo-Renaissance styles makes the street look elegant and festive… A walk along Chernyshevsky, Pushkin, and Krasin streets will give you another chance to become acquainted with different architectural styles. On coming back to Sumska Street you will make another discovery…
The concluding tour around Kharkiv runs along the alleys of the former capital of Ukraine. In 1919, when power and government in Kyiv changed more often than seasons of the year, the Bolshevik bosses of the tormented country decided to make Kharkiv the capital of the Ukrainian republic – closer to the eastern terrains, where the positions of the “Soviets” were much stronger. In the 1920 s – 30 s monumental construction work was expanded on a large scale in the city to underline the might of new power. The center of the new capital was transferred to the north of the historical center, beyond the City Garden, in compliance with the general building layout of the city there ired Dzerzhinsky Square, one of the largest in the world (more than 11 hectares).
It is framed by unique structures – classic examples of constructivism, the innovative style of the first half of the th century. Thus, the Building of State Industry was constructed to accommodate numerous white-collar workers in 1929.The structure of reinforced concrete, made up of huge parallelepipeds, has two arches through which freely pass H. Barbusse and R. Rolland streets. On both sides of it there are two buildings of institutions of higher learning – V. Karazin Kharkiv National University (on the right, 1930 s, former building of planning dnd building organizations), and Military University (1930-1954, former Cooperation Building). Nearby there is “Kharkiv” Hotel (“International” Hotel in the 1930 s) and the dynamic sculpture of comrade Lenin in front of it. The monument faces the pompous building with Soviet symbolism on the facade. It is the former regional committee of the Communist party of Ukraine, and presently the headquarters of oblast state administration. The rectangular part of the square serves for promenades and public meetings. Students of colleges situated nearby prefer the shady corners of the City Park.
Kharkiv University and its founder deserve a separate story. Petitions for opening an institution of higher learning in the Left Bank Ukraine were sent to czarist chancellery from Sumy, Chernihiv, Katerynoslav. The fact that the first university in Ukraine was founded in Kharkiv was to a large extent due to Vasyl Nazarovych Karazin, a native of Slobodian Ukraine, scientist and enlightener called “Ukrainian Lomonosov” by his contemporaries. Working on the institution’s regulations Vasyl Nazarovych considered that students had to be graded according to their talent and persistent work, regardless of their property qualification or titles. In 1805 first university premises were situated in present-day University Street. Their address changed much later. A monument to V. Karazin was set up in front of the main building of the University.
The greater part of the large and beautiful city with interesting history, original architecture and considerable tourist’s potential remained beyond the framework of our brief tour. More detailed information will be offered in a new guide from “Baltia-Druk.”