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Poltava

Poltava was first mentioned in chronicles of 1173 under the name of Ltava. However, archaeological finds prove that first settlements of the Slavnortheners on Ivan’s Hill appeared as far back as the 9 th century. Researchers consider that the name of the city originates from the Slavic words “fence” or “a place enclosed with a fence,” orfrom the name of the nearest waterway-the Ltava River, the right tributary of the Vorskla River. In the 11 th-17 th centuries Poltava existed on the boundary between the Rus state and the Wild Field of nomads, later -between the Grand Lithuanian Duchy and the Golden Horde, between Rzeczpospolita and Muscovy. This fact contributed to the formation of a special stratum of the local population – the Cossacks. In the early 17 th century the crown hetman of Rzeczpospolita Stanislaw Rzolkiewski built up the city as a fortress, with underground labyrinths, earthen ramparts and ditches. In the 1640 s Stanislaw Koniecpolski expanded Poltava fortress. In 1646 the city came into possession of magnate Yarema Vyshnevetsky. From 1648 through 1775 Poltava was the administrative center of Poltava Cossack regiment. The liberation war under the leadership of Bohdan Khmelnytsky against Poland practically did not touch Poltava and the neighboring terrains. Remaining aloof Poltava served as a reliable rear for the Cossacks. The socio-political upsurge of the people promoted the cultura rise of Poltava. It was the time when the creative work of the legendary song-writer Marusia Churay flourished, the Monastery of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross was built, the best Cossack chronicles by S.Velychko and H.Hrabianka, and I.Velychkovsky’s, poems appeared. The situation changed during the age of hetmans. In 1658 the city was in part destroyed during the uprising of the rebellious colonel M. Pushkar. The social conflict between the Cossack highest ranks and the common people had a ruinous effect on Poltava, and prepared it, in the early 18 th century, for a special role not only in national but in world history. When the multivectorial European interests of Russia and Sweden intersected in the Northern war, and Ukraine in the person of Hetman I.Mazepa obtained a historic chance of self-determination in an independent state, the battle of Poltava undermined the forces of Karl XII.The battle of Poltava took place in 1709. The allied forces of the Swedish king Karl XII and Hetman Ivan Mazepa were defeated by the army of czar Peter I. This battle determined further fate of Ukraine and started the ruination of the Cossack state. In 1802 Poltava with the population of 8 thousand became the center of province. In 1809 in connection with the 100 th anniversary of the battle of Poltava they started to build up the capital of the province like a “small Petersburg.” Since then modern Poltava has inherited its central part – the unique world-famous ensemble of Round Square. The transference of fair from Romnyto Poltava had a positive effect on the economic development of the city. In the first half of the 19 th century Poltava became the center of spiritual life of the province. It acquired a newly built district school, gymnasium for boys, institute for noble girls, religious school at the Monastery of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, military school, gardening and calligraphy schools, public library and the newspaper “Poltava Province Gazette.” In “Ukrainian Athens,” as Poltava was called at that time, studied and formed their future talents the mathematician V.Ostrogradsky, the writers L. Hlibov, M.Starytsky, N.Gogol, the scientist and public figure M. Drahomanov.The life and activity of such outstanding intellectuals as P.Myrny, I. Nechuy-Levytsky, V. Korolenko, V. Dokuchaev, V.Vernadsky, N.Vavilov, N.Sklifosovsky, M. Kropyvnytsky and many others are closely connected with Poltava. The Governor-general A.Kurakin was the first to begin the formation of the architectural face of the city. In 1802 they started building administrative buildings and dwelling houses for officials. The building up of the central part of the city began from Round Square. The site was chosen not by mere chance: they say Peter I met with the commander of the Russian garrison Colonel Kelin exactly in this place. The project for building up the square and adjacent streets was worked out by the architect A. Zakharov. General supervision of the construction work was carried out by the architect M.Amvrosimov. The thickset park with the monument of Glory (1811) in the middle is the visiting card of Poltava. According to the initial concept all the streets branching off from the park were to be completed with a temple. The monument was made in the form of a Tuscan column with a memorial copper plate, which evinced the victory of Peter I over the Swedes. The main idea of the monument belonged to the architect N. Amvrosimov. The sculptor A.Schedrin and the architect Tomade Tomon made the idea a reality. Most of the money for raising the monument was collected from serf peasants who were in the possession of the Poltava city council. Another part was donated by Emperor Alexander I. The square pedestal has the form of a fortress with cannons from the battlefield set in it. Its upper part is encircled with a fence of swords. The hemisphere on top of the column is terminated with a gilded eagle holding a laurel wreath in the beak, and arrows in the pounces. The head of the bird is turned in the direction of the battlefield.The monument was inaugurated in June 1811. During the German occupation the monument was damaged, but restored afterwards. The bureaus (1810.36 Zhovtneva St.). In the Russian Empire the post of governor was considered very important. With the help of special administrative institutions – the chancellery, district board of administration, committees and bureaus – he exercised the executive power at the local level. The bureaus were a consultative organ whose members were representatives of the aristocracy and the well-known bourgeoisie. In Poltava the bureaus were built in classical style after the project of F.Zakharov. A spacious terrace and wide stairs point out that a great number of people were supposed to visit the establishment. Most administrative departments were working there during the first decade. In 1818-1821 I. Kotliarevsky was a frequent visitor to the building, and from 1871 Panas Myrny worked there. After 1917 the building was occupied by Poltava executive committee, and after 1925, by Soviet and party regional bodies of power. The Nobility Assembly (1810,31 Zhovtneva St), It is a structure traditional of a district town. The nobility made up the main basis of the Empire and enjoyed absolute privileges. Apart from solving state affairs, the Assembly elected chairman, took care of the upbringing of the young people, and looked after elderly aristocrats. On the initiative of Prince A. Kurakin representatives of each uyezd had a room of their own. In the past these premises saw magnificent balls, fireworks and monarchic pu sons. Unfortunately, in the course of it history the building was re-planned and lost most of its exterior decor. In 1919 the Nobility Assembly in Poltava was liquidated. A proletarian club was organized in its place. During World War II the building was in part destroyed, and after the war it was restored. The governor-general’s house (37 Zhovtneva St.) is a structure built in the style of late classicism after the project of architect A.Zakharov. The construction was completed in 1811. In the building the governor had his own privy rooms, and received visitors. After 1856 the building was handed over to Poltava military school. From 1917 the building was occupied by leading party organs. During the Ukrainian liberation movement the representation of the Ukrainian People’s Republic was quartered there. After the outbreak of World War IIV. Lenin technical secondary school and militia school were replaced by the representative office of the Nazi district head. Today it is the regional committee of trade unions. The Little Russian post office (35 Zhovtneva St.) appeared in Poltava in 1802 as an important element of the urban center. The design of the building was carried out by the architect Ye. Sokolov, member of St. Petersburg Academy of Fine Arts. The construction was completed in 1809. Unfortunately, the post office existed for a short time. By decision of higher authorities it was moved to Chernihiv. The empty building was first used as a boarding school for children of the poor noblemen, and then converted into a qymnasiumfor noble girls. In Soviet times (from 1922 to 1941) it was a secondary school for girls. In 1943, during German occupation, the building burnt down. In 1963 it was reconstructed after the project of the architects I .Vaingort, D.Litvintsev and others. Peter I’s military school (42 Zhovtneva St.). On recommendation of the governor-general in Poltava, as well as in other cities, there were set up military schools, which registered young noblemen of Poltava, Kharkiv, Katerynoslav and Chernihiv provinces. The construction of the school began in 1835 after the project of the architect M.Bonch-Bruevich. In 1840 the building in the style of late classicism was completed. In 1915 graduates presented a bronze sculpture of Peter I (design of academician A.Adamson) to the school. Today it is found near the entrance to the museum of the battle of Poltava. During Poltava’s occupation by Denikin’s troops the building was used as the commandant office and the dwelling of an officers’ company. In 1919 the school was closed and its remains were evacuated to Serbia. The infantry command courses of the Red Army occupied the empty premises. From 1958 to the early 1990 s a military school was the owner of the building. Walking from Round Square by Lenin Street to Constitution Street you will seethe building of the Province Zemstvo (1903-08) constructed after the project of the architects V. Krichevsky and A.Shirshovin Ukrainian modernist style. Interior paintings were carried out by the artists S.Vasylkivsky and N.Samokish. The building is decorated with characteristic Ukrainian motifs. Students of Myrhorod ceramic school made colorful majolica inserts and polychromatic ceramic coats of arms of the cities of Poltava province on the facade of the building. They say emperor Nicholas II was indignant during his visit to Poltave over the style of the building. He said:”… it seems it is executed for the glorification of the Little Russians and their history, which is absolutely inadmissible and harmful for the state.” The Russian writer Ivan Bunin worked in this building from 1892 to 1895. During the Second World War the Zemstvo building burnt down, but in 1964 it was restored. Now it is Poltava Museum of Local Lore. The museum was initiated in 1891 by the collector and geographer V. Dokuchaev. During the war it was robbed by the Nazis. Except other damages the studies of N. Gogol, I. Kotliarevsky, P. Myrnyi and O.Teslenko were completely destroyed. The documents and the relics of the battle of Poltava, and the wall panel by S.Vasylkivsky burnt down. The losses were so great that the story of the museum’s destruction was even mentioned at the Nuremberg process. After the war the exposition was in part renovated. The Assumption Cathedral (1748-1770, 1 Soborna Sq. tel.: (05322) 73-177) is the first stone structure in Poltava. Formerly a wooden church stood in this place. In 1748 Cossack chieftains and citizens decided to build a stone temple. In November the same year a contract was signed with the architect S.Stabansky. However, because of financial problems the construction work began only in the 1770 s. The grandfather of Ivan Kotliarevsky was the deacon of the temple. In autumn 1917, during the time of the Ukrainian People’s Republic, a requiem for Hetman Ivan Mazepa was served in Soborna Square. In the 1930 s the temple was damaged by atheists, and during World War II it was cannoned by the Germans. The bell tower is the only remaining authentic fragment. The bell tower of the cathedral (1774-1801) is 40 meters high. Formerly it had a bell called “Kizi-Kermen,” cast in 1695 out of Turkish cannons (master A. Petrov).The bell is 5,733 kg. by weight and is on display at the museum of local lore. Today the Assumption Cathedral is a functioning church. The white rotunda-pergola on the brink of Ivan’s Hill is also a visiting card of the city. A wonderful panorama of the historical part of the city opens up from this place. I he Church of the Savior (1705-1845, 10 Spaska St.) was first mentioned in 1686. In spite of the destructions it suffered in 1695 during the onslaught of the Tatars, it was rebuilt as a wooden five-domed temple of the Transfiguration with a side-altar of the Vernicle. In 1705 the church burnt down again. The then senior priest Ivan Svitailo tried to restore the church, but his intention was not realized because he, together with the colonels Iskra and Kochubey, got under investigation of Hetman I.Mazepa as laid to treason. The church went down in history due to the fact that here, after the battle of Poltava, the Russians celebrated Te Deum. In 1837 a subscription for the renewal of the temple was declared. On September 4,1847, a small stone bell tower was built nearby. In 1929 an attempt was made to convert the temple into an ideological establishment. Today the temple is functioning. In 1709 the house of the well-to-do Cossack Mahdenko stood nearby the church. The next day after the victory over the Swedes Peter I expressed a desire to rest and have dinner in the house. In 1804 the house was dismantled and transferred to the village of Hryhorivka, not far away from Poltava. Shortly before the arrival in the city of Emperor Alexander I a memorial sign in his honor was erected in Poltava. Thus the original “day-off monument” came into being. In 1849 a new monument made in Petersburg by I. Hamburger after the project of A. Brullow was set up in place of the old one. Walking by the Parisian commune and Soviet streets you will get to the Monastery of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (2 a Sverdlov St.) founded in 1650 on the bank of the Vorskla River. The main cathedral of the monastery was completed and consecrated on February 11,1756. It is a seven-domed baroque temple, rare for Ukraine, which has been preserved to our time. Sponsorship in building the cathedral was rendered by Vasyl Kochubey-the son of General Judge of the Left-bank Ukraine, Vasyl Leontievych Kochubey, executed in 1708. A special decoration of the Cathedral was the four-tiered fretted iconostasis, made in the middle of the 18 th century by the well-known masters Vasyl Reklinsky and Sysoy Shalmatov. Unfortunately, many wonderful icons from the iconostasis were destroyed in 1931. The painting “The Apotheosis of Peter I” was transferred from the temple to the museum of local lore. Sketches of the monastery buildings were made by well-known artists, in particular by Taras Shevchenko and the Russian artist Grigory Miasoedov.The monastery was an important enlightening center of Ukraine ruled by hetmans. In 1923 it was closed and converted into a children’s labor colony. In 1786, during the time of the Slavonic archbishop Nikifori Feotoki of Kherson, a four-tiered bell tower, 47 meters high, was built near the temple. It looks like the bell tower of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra. In the middle tier there was arranged a throne in honor of the Kyiv-Pechersk icon of the Virgin. The biggest bell, weighing 400 poods, was cast in 1797. The single-domed St. Trinity Church (1750) and the small Church of St. Semion (1887) are situated in the territory of the monastery. The wonder-working icon of the Virgin painted in 1821 on the wall of the middle tier of the bell tower by the monk Daniel Moskovchenko was the main relic of the monastery. Many invalids came to the image, and thanksgiving services with blessing of water were conducted for them. It is also a known fact that the imperishable relics of the archbishops Amvrosiy Serebrennikov and Panas Volkhovsky, kept in the monastery, gave the beneficial healing to all true believers who asked for help. The institute of noble girls (1832,24 Pervomavskv Ave.) is an architectural monument of the first half of the 19 th century, built by Ludvig Sharleman after the project of the Petersburg architect A.Shtaubert in classic style. The institute was the first secondary school of a closed type in the provincial cities of the Russian Empire. Rector of the Kharkiv University, professor P. RHulak-Artemovsky, was the curator of the institute for a long time. V.Kapnist was member of the board of trustees. I. Kotliarevsky, TShevchenko, N.Gogol, V.Zhukovsky visited the institute more than once. In January 1918, at the beginning of the Civil war, the establishment moved to Vladikavkaz. From 1918 to 1930 the main building was occupied by a technical school, orphan-asylum, gardening school. In July 1930 the building was handed over to the newly-built institute of agricultural building. From 1992 it has been Yu. Kondratyuk Poltava University. State historical and cultural reserve “The Field of the Battle of Poltava” (32 Shvetska Mohvla St.) is situated at the entrance to the city from the side of Dykanka. It is one of the first stationary museums of Poltava region opened in 1909 to commemorate the 200 th anniversary of Peter I’s victory over the army of the Swedish king Karl Xll. The museum can be literally named “the fateful field of European history.” In course of the 14 th through 20 th centuries important events took place in its territory leaving a conspicuous imprint on the European state formation processes: the battle of the grand Lithuanian prince Witowt with the Mongol-Tatars in 1399, the battle between the legitimate Hetman of Ukraine I.Vyhovsky and the Poltava Colonel M.Pushkar, which started the period of Ruin in Ukraine (1658), the battle of Poltava in 1709, the operation “Frantic” in 1944. Within the territory of the State historical and cultural reserve there are four old settlements and more than 30 burial mounds of the Scythian period. Museum of the history of the battle of Poltava was opened in 1950. It has 9 halls with exhibitions displaying unique exhibits of the period of the Northern war of 1700-1721: weapons, flags and standards, the alignments of the belligerent powers, personal belongings of Peter I, paintings, coins, the models of monuments devoted to the great battle. Today the State historical and cultural reserve “The Field of the Battle of Poltava” became an important cultural, scientific and methodical center on the study of history of Ukraine of the 14 th-17 th centuries within the context of European history. It is the only museum in Ukraine, which is on the list of the International organization of military and historical museums (under the aegis of UNESCO) included in the world tourist route. By decision of the Cabinet of Minister of Ukraine it is entered into the state register of immobile sights as a reserve of national significance. Besides the museum the territory of the reserve contains the historical field of the battle of Poltava, the obelisks in place of the earthen redoubts, Samson’s Church, the common grave of the Russian warriors, a monument to the Swedish warriors from the Russians, and other memorial places related to the battle.

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