Ukrainian architectural heritage

1 March 2022

I’m worried not only for the people of Ukraine, but their fantastic architectural heritage too, not only old Baroque churches and Neoclassical palaces, but Kyiv is also actually full of great old apartment buildings from the 1880s-1910s, when the Russian Empire finally had its industrial revolution and the middle class grew a lot. Moscow and St Petersburg grew then as well, but in Kyiv they built bigger and more ornately, in a range of styles, from Baroque to Russian Revival, Gothic to Art Nouveau, more so than in those other cities, showing how they were more aware of European trends. In fact the only place I’ve seen 1880s/90s blocks this ornate is Vienna, but even there they’re mostly plainer. Or perhaps they were even looking at New York, where they also built big and elaborate in those years. The tallest block here was 12 storeys (destroyed in ww2), by far the tallest in Europe at the time, but everyone’s forgotten it. Kyiv is also built on rather hilly terrain, so the streetscapes are delightfully picturesque. It’s often said that the city was destroyed in ww2, but actually that was only the very centre of the town (not sure why), the inner suburbs of apartments was largely untouched – I hope it stays that way ☹️😡 damn you Putin you mad autocrat – amazing how power still corrupts, absolutely.

It’s all very upsetting. Not only are there beautiful 18th and 19thC buildings in Ukraine, there’s great Russian Constructivist buildings from the 1920s, before Stalin’s Neo Classicism triumphed. The Gosprom building is one of the most spectacular across all the former Soviet Union, an arc of stepped towers connected by bridges – its at the other end of the square where government buildings have been bombed already. Then there’s the great scalloped front of the Railway Workers Social Club, and the bold lines of the main Post Office, a bit closer to Art Deco, amongst others. 😢☹️ This post was 5 days ago, now it seems pretty definite that these will all be damaged, if not half destroyed.

14 March

As someone put it, I’m #doomscrolling. Damage in #Kharkiv. Lovely late 19th, early 20thC, and even good Stalinist neoclassical. That pub recentkyndeyroyed looks like it was a nice 1910s neoclassical. It looks like the same few turn up in Instagram, and I’ve some that some streets and districts are fine, while others almost destroyed. I’m convinced Putin is basically going to flatten everything until he ‘wins’. Exactly what he did in Chechnya, thrh even dynamited the place after they moved in, then put in a horrid puppet leader who oppresses everyone. So I’m expecting kyiv to look like this soon. 😢😡😢😡 I’d better stop now.

18 March

Apparently peace talks are progressing – so perhaps all these beautiful places will not be bombed to bits – they’re the Opera Houses in Kyiv, Odessa (a mini Dresden Opera) and Lviv (a mini Paris Opera), and the Ukrainian Drama Theatre Kharkiv (might be damaged already). The Russians want Ukraine remain neutral in future, disarm (how much?) as well as giving up Crimea and probably a part of the Donbass region (historically they’re all Russian speaking and wanted to be Russian anyway, though i wonder if they still do !). At this point I’d say that’s not too high a price, but I’m not Ukrainian. The Russians on the other hand will suffer from sanctions for a good while yet.

6 April

I told myself I wouldn’t, but can’t look away – the Russians are retreating from the north, where they had surrounded Chernihiv, not much in the news, but suffered random shelling and missiles – its a very old city, with a bunch of great churches, they seem to be ok, but a lot else is not – a great Gothic Revival museum from 1896 is half destroyed, a great 1950s Neoclassical cinema is now just a damaged facade, the main 1912 museum building is damaged, and other old buildings heavily damaged or burnt out. 😡😢

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