Host city of Eurovision2017: Welcome to Kyiv

Author : International 112

Source : 112 Ukraine

Come closer to Ukrainian history and legends, which still exist in Kyiv streets, parks, monuments and buildings
23:08, 11 May 2017

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Sights of Kyiv

Kyiv has a 1000-year history and is known as the capital of eastern Slavdom in the past; but today it’s the city of governmental authorities, residence of the President, significant scientific, cultural and religious center with its cathedrals, theaters, museums, authentic architecture. Track the history of a beautiful and great ancient city which is constantly changing.

There’s a place where it all started! It’s all in Kyiv – the places where pagans worshiped their gods, Prince Volodymyr baptized Kyivans, the first stone cathedral was build and the first library and the first school appeared. Find ancient witnesses of a 15-hundred-year history. And believe that or not – many of these witnesses are still alive to tell us their stories…


The Legend

According to the legend Kyiv was founded about 1500 years ago by three brothers - Kyi, Scheck, Khoryv and their sister Lybid. The city was named after the eldest brother – Kyiv.

"Mother of Kyiv Rus cities"

People settled on the territory of present-day Kyiv as far back as in the late Paleolithic epoch, 20 thousand years ago. In the ensuing centuries, in the times of so-called Trypillian Culture, in the Scythian period, and during the great movement of peoples, a whole series of settlements appeared on the ridge of hills above the Dnieper.

At the turn of the 6th century, these formed the city. Kiy and his successors ruled here until the 9th century. But in 882, Oleg, the Varangian Prince, arrived from Novgorod, occupied the city and made it the centre of a large state joining the Kyiv and Novgorod lands.

At first, the Kyivans were polytheistic and worshipped idols. The wooden statues of the pagan temples towered over peasant's houses (the first stone houses appeared only in the middle of the 10th century). But the influence of Christianity grew as a result of regular contacts with the Byzantium Empire.

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Capital City

The flourishing of Kyiv as the capital of Kyivan Rus is linked to the names of the great princes Volodymyr Svyatoslavovych and his son Yaroslav the Wise. Prince Volodymyr introduced Orthodox Christianity in Rus, initiated school education, reformed the vassal princedoms on the Kyiv throne.

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Yaroslav carried out grandiose construction projects in Kyiv and created the first Legal Code "The Rus Truth". He founded the first library, and promoted the arts and crafts. On those days, the monarchs of many European countries considered it an honour to become related to the Kyiv princes by marriage.

The subsequent rulers Volodymyr Monomakh and Mstislav the Great consolidated the supremacy of Kyiv in Kyivan Rus. During their rule, the state occupied a great stretch of territory from the Baltic and to the Black Sea, from the Carpathians to the rivers Volga, Oka and Don.

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The capital city, Kyiv, was a stronghold with numerous stone cathedrals and towers, and large areas of wooden dwellings. Historians estimate that the population of Kyiv was 40 to 50 thousand people. Eventually, however, other cities grew stronger, and Rus disintegrated into separate princedoms, among which Kyiv was comparatively small. On several occasions, rival princes attacked and pillaged Kyiv. By that time, Kyiv had already become  one of the largest centers of civilization in the Eastern Christian world. At that time, there were about 400 churches, 8 markets and more than 50,000 inhabitants in Kyiv.

The Mongol conquest was a fatal blow for Kyiv. In 1240 Batu Khan captured the ancient city. Thousands of people died, and many holy places were destroyed.

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Its former greatness lost, by the 14th century Kyiv was reduced to an outlying district of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and later the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In 1654 Kyiv was liberated from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth by Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky, the Cossack leader.

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The Hetman Era

When Kyiv was part of Lithuania, the Crimean Tatars dominated Ukraine's vast southern expanses. They carried out devastating raids on Ukrainian territory - sometimes coming as far as Kyiv. But gradually a force was formed to protect the southern frontier. These daring troops were the Cossacks.

The Cossack movement developed and spread through the whole of Ukraine. The Cossack chieftains were called hetmans. Formally, according to the "Magdeburg Right", the citizens of Kyiv were not subject to the authority of the Hetmans. But the most prominent hetmans - such as Petro Konashevych-Sahaydachny, Bohdan Khmelnytsky and Ivan Mazepa - exercised an enormous influence over the life of Kyiv.

Sahaydachny supported the Kyiv community ("Bratchyky") and school, and helped to restore the city's Orthodox metropolitanate during the period of the church union. Khmelnytsky liberated Kyiv from the Polish rule.

Mazepa was a patron of learning and a builder of churches. The city remained under the Moscowian rule , with brief, but uncertain, periods of independence in between 1918 and 1920.

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World War II

During the times of World War II, Kyiv was almost completely destroyed, 72 days did the heroic Kyiv defense last against the German invaders. On 19 September 1941 the troops of the Nazi Germany entered the city. The city was set free on 6 November 1943 at a high price in blood and human lives. In post-war period, Kyiv was rebuilt swiftly.

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Under the power of the "Soviets"

After the Civil War and the revolution in Petersburg, the power in Kyiv changed constantly. In 1922, the Soviet Union was created and Ukraine became part of it as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). It was de-jure as if a sovereign state as part of  the federation but actually all power was handed to Russia.

Numerous repressions against cultural and scientist workers followed. The Ukrainian capital was transferred to Kharkiv, while Kyiv was granted the status of a district centre along with much smaller towns.

As late as in 1934 Kyiv regained the status of the main city of the republic. Its global transformation in the socialist manner continued year after year. The church domes were replaced with industrial buildings - the creations of the five year plans, administrative buildings with the hammer and sickle on the facades, co-operative housing projects.

The Second World War interrupted the process, taking hundreds of thousands of lives and leaving Kyiv in ruins.

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The capital of the Ukrainian State

The year 1991 was a turning point in the history of Kyiv and of all Ukraine. After the unsuccessful hardline coup in Moscow, the Verkhovnaya Rada of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic adopted the Act of Independence of Ukraine, after which the city was transformed from the servant of an allied country into the capital of a sovereign European state. It was the decision taken by the Ukrainian people who never stop to reaffirm their choice. The streets and squares of Kyiv often turned into battle stages for independence.

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Orange Revolution

The Orange Revolution was a series of protests and political events that took place in Ukraine from the late November 2004 to January 2005, in the immediate aftermath of the run-off vote of the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election, which was claimed to be massively rigged, with voter intimidation and direct electoral fraud. Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, was the focal point of the movement's campaign of civil resistance, with thousands of protesters demonstrating daily. Nationwide, the democratic revolution was highlighted by a series of acts of civil disobedience, sit-ins, and general strikes organized by the opposition movement.

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Euromaidan is a term used for a wave of demonstrations and civil unrest in Ukraine, which began on the night of 21 November 2013 with public protests in Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Kyiv, demanding closer European integration. At the heart of the protests was a trade pact. For a year, President Viktor Yanukovych insisted he was intent on signing a historical political and trade agreement with the European Union. But on November 21, he decided to suspend talks with the EU. The peaceful protests escalated into Illegal prosecutions of Maidan activists, illegal detains, tortures, deaths. A revolution with a series of violent events, culminated in shooting, deaths among civilians and ousting of the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych followed.

Ukrainians call the victims of the street violence the Heavenly Hundred – 98 people, who fought off riot police on the barricades, were killed by snipers. The Heavenly Hundred list does not include the 11 police officers who also died during the clashes.

The other name for those events is the Revolution of Dignity.

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Sights of Kyiv

St. Andrew's Descent

According to the legend, St. Andrew's descent got its name after Saint Andrew the First-Called. The Chronicle of Nestor narrates that after protracted attempts to spread Christianity in the Scythian lands, about two thousand years ago, the Apostle Andrew blessed the slopes of the Dnipro River and predicted the appearance of a great Christian city. At the place where Andrew had put his holy cross, was subsequently built the church, named after him. At present Andrew's Church is the main adornment of the street.

In times of Kyiv Rus, Andrew's descent was the shortest route from the Upper City, where the Golden Gate and St. Sophia Cathedral were situated, to the Lower City – Podil. The city port and artisan districts were also located there.

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In 1711, by the order of the Kyiv governor, the passage between Zamkova and St. Andrew's hills was expanded and it became accessible not only for pedestrians and riders, but also for carts pulled by horses and oxen. After the October Revolution of 1917, according to the trends of that time, in 1920, St. Andrew's descent was renamed to G.V.Leaver Street. In 1944, it was decided to return the historical name of the street, but this occurred only in 1957, when authorities took resolution. The main development of St. Andrew's descent was made at the turn of the XIX and XX centuries. Many prominent scientists, writers, composers, painters, sculptors lived and worked there.

Nowadays, Andrew's descent is sometimes called Kyiv's Montmartre - the artists come here with their works for sale, and musicians. Here you can buy Ukrainian souvenirs - embroidered, painted pottery, figurines. Every year on the Day of Kyiv, at St. Andrew's descent the public viewing of crafts is held. St. Andrew's Descent is a Street-Museum. Here and there, you can observe something interesting, in the street reigns the bohemian atmosphere of the late 19th – early 20th century. In honour of St. Andrew's Descent the museum dedicated to the history of the street was opened, which is called the "Museum of one street". Today, apart from antique shops and art galleries, theaters, museums, cafes and restaurants, the descent is also famous for its unique landmarks.

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The main attraction of the descent is St. Andrew's Church, built by order of Catherine II, the author of the project was Rastrelli. If you go beneath, you will bump into  one of the most mysterious and enigmatic buildings in Kyiv - Castle of Richard. An important element of cultural background is the house number 13, where the writer Mikhail Bulgakov lived, the author of the novels "The White Guard", "Days of the Turbins." At present this house is a museum of Bulgakov.

In these latter days, Andrew's descent lights in the news and resounds in public discussions due to its recent reconstruction. Euro 2012, as you know, was invoked to improve and develop Kyiv. And the renovation of the descent was planned one year before the Football cup EURO-2012. The first most frightening thing was, of course, the threat of building commercial and business centers and all kinds of offices. Other anxieties were concerned with the replacement of the old pavement, which covered the descent from the its top to bottom. Being bulky, broken and rather uncomfortable, it gives a vintage look to this legendary place, focusing on its being one of a kind. Scrubbing slabs that covers the historical center of the city do not go in comparison with unique paving stone.

Having been on the scene before and after reconstruction, it is difficult to estimate the changes that have touched upon the street. It is difficult to deny that the street was westernized almost by force

St. Andrew's Descent really looks beautiful today. Polished facades, smoothness of pavement surfaces instantly clicks with anyone who chooses to get a quick impression of the historically valuable architectural element.

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St. Andrew’s Cathedral

According to the legend, St. Andrew's Cathedral got its name from Saint Andrew the First-Called. The Chronicle of Nestor tells that after protracted attempts to spread Christianity in the Scythian lands, about two thousand years ago, the Apostle Andrew blessed the slopes of the Dnieper and predicted the appearance of a great Christian city. At the place where Andrew had put his holy cross, later the church, named after him, was built. At present Andrew's Church is the main adornment of Andrew's descent.

Designed in 1754 by the Italian architect Bartholomeo Rastrelli, it is one of the few buildings to have survived intact with reconstruction or other significant damage.

The single-domed cathedral, with its five lesser cupolas, seems to hover over the city.

The church was built at the behest of Elizabeth, Peter the Great’s pious daughter who visited Kyiv in 1744.

The steps, which lead to the church, make man closer to God, according to popular belief.

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The Church of the Tithes

The Church of the Tithes as well as just a few other buildings being so old, have endured so much or have been the topic of so much debate. Originally named the “Church of Our Lady” and now officially known as the “Church of the Assumption of the Virgin”, this fascinating historical attraction no longer stands in its original form. In fact, it no longer stands at all. All that remains today of what was the first stone church in Kyiv are a few crumbled ruins.

The Church of the Tithes or Church of the Dormition of the Virgin was the first stone church in Kyiv. Originally it was built by the order of Grand Prince Volodymyr the Great between 989 and 996 by Byzantine and local workers at the site of death of Theodor the Varangian and his son Johann, the martyrs. The church was ruined in 1240 during the siege of Kyiv by Mongol armies of Batu Khan.

Vladimir set aside a tithe of his income and property to finance the church construction and maintenance, which gave the church its popular name.

The temple was rebuilt in the mid 19th century, but in 1928 it was once again destroyed by the Soviet regime.

By Volodymyr's order, the remains of his grandmother Princess Olga, the first Christian ruler of Rus', were reburied in this church. Volodymyr and his wife, Princess Anna, the sister of Byzantine Emperor Basil II, were also buried in the Church of the Tithes.

The church was used by Kyivans as the last refuge while the city was being ravaged by the hordes of Batu Khan in 1240, when it finally collapsed from fire.

In the 1630s Petro Mohyla, the metropolitan bishop of Kyiv, had a wooden church of St. Nicholas erected on the site.

In the early 19th century another metropolitan bishop, Eugene Bolkhovitinov, had the site excavated. Under his administration, a new church of the Tithes was built in stone (between 1828 and 1842). It had little in common with the medieval original. In 1935 this church was destroyed by the Soviet authorities.

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The Church of the Tithes - nowadays

A controversial plan to rebuild the church is currently actively under consideration in Kyiv. Proponents of reconstruction point out the historical and political importance of rebuilding a church of unchallenged significance in the history of all East Slavic people.

Opponents refer to the lack of any documentary descriptions or depictions of the original church, and that excavations were unable to determine even the layout of its foundation.

Besides, the monumental building of the new church is likely to be in disharmony with the delicate 18th-century St. Andrew's Church, one of the most famous landmarks of Kyiv, located close to the original location of the destroyed Church of the Tithes.

The Landscape Alley

The Landscape Alley is a zone in Kyiv created on the spot where there used to be the defence shafts and moats of the Upper Town.

It was planned to be part of the architectural complex “Ancient Kyiv” that had to include all the territories that used to form Kyiv.

In 2009 the playground was added to the alley with benches and huge cats.

There is also a fountain in shape of an elephant, zebras’ heads, 30m cat, benches in shape of a rabbit, a cat and a raven. Kostyantyn Skrytutskiy, a famous Ukrainian architect, worked on this project.


National Museum of History of Ukraine

The museum’s extensive exhibits consist of eight sections dealing with various aspects of Ukraine’s history from prehistoric times to the present.

The museum has the rich collection of archeological and ethnographical findings, coins, works of art and old books.

There is a path behind the museum that provides a good view of Podil, Kyiv’s lower town from the highest point of Old Kyiv.

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St. Michael Golden-Domed Monastery

The original, built by Prince Svyatopolk in 1108, was destroyed by the Soviet regime in the 1930s for having "no historical value". The reconstructed cathedral was completed in May 2000. Its sky blue exterior and glittering golden domes add a stunning layer to a cityscape that has become a mix-mash of crumbling ancient and newly reconstructed. A sobering reminder of Stalin's inhumane policies stands to the right as you exit the church grounds. This is a monument to the victims of Holodomor: A famine orchestrated by the Soviet leadership in an attempt to subdue the peasantry, as many as 10 million Ukrainians were killed in 1932-33. Keeping watch over the square are the reconstructed statues of Princess Olga, Apostle Andrew, St. Cyrill and St. Mephodius.

St. Michael Golden-Domed Monastery in Kyiv, one of the oldest monasteries, attracts tourists due to  its history, architecture and rich decoration. The name "Golden-Domed" comes from ancient times: historians believe that such an epithet of the monastery was granted by the fact that it was the first monastery with a golden dome. After it, there appeared the sacred tradition – to gild churches, monasteries and cathedrals.

St. Michael Golden-Domed Monastery, founded by Metropolitan of Kyiv, Mikhail, was badly damaged during the Mongol-Tatar invasion, the reconstruction took many years, but the current structure differs from its ancestor neither in architecture nor style. Despite the heavy destruction there remained walls, the dome and the altar apse in the middle of the main temple, which has miraculously survived up to this day. There also remained the fragments of ancient frescoes and mosaics, which are now the pride of the monastery.

In recent years, the fragments of frescoes, which were kept in Russia's Hermitage Museum, have come back to St. Michael Golden-Domed Monastery, so it becomes not only the famous architectural but also cultural monument. Unfortunately, the mosaics, carried to St. Sophia Cathedral, and the relics of the Great Martyr Barbara, carried to St. Vladimir's Cathedral, will not be returned to St. Michael Monastery.

The monastery is currently divided into male and female (the female was transferred to Podil more than three centuries ago), and the monastery places the Kyiv school of the clergy. Prior to the XVII century the monastery owned vast estates, which it lost with the creation of the Rzeczpospolita (Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth), but most of the lands was returned.

The monastery attracts tourists because of its history: for more than 50 years it was under reconstruction, the monastery was the burial place of the Kyivan princes, and the archangel Michael, in whose honor the monastery was named. It is considered the saint protector of Kyiv. On the belfry of the monastery there are famous clock-chimes and the unique musical instrument Carillon (due to the clockwork, the bells ring in the definite tonality, creating a unique melody).

Magnificent views, buildings, greenery, uneclipsed frescoes and wealth - all this makes the St. Michael Golden-Domed Monastery in Kyiv a unique monument.


Saint Sophia Cathedral

Saint Sophia Cathedral - a masterpiece of art and architecture of Ukraine and Europe, the oldest survived church in Kyiv. This majestic 13-domed church became a Holy place of worship for ancient Kyivites, as well as a major cultural and political center in Kyivan Rus. The first library was situated there. It is a national shrine and is under the egis of UNESCO.

It was built in Kyiv at the height of Kyivan Rus’, in the Byzantine style (see Byzantine art), and significantly transformed during the baroque period. The cathedral was founded by Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise and built between 1037 and 1044 (some suggest 1017 – 1037). The original building, most of which remains at the core of the existing cathedral, is a cross-in-square plan with twelve cruciform piers marking five east–west naves intersected by five transverse aisles. Each nave springs from an apse in the east. The central nave and the main transverse aisle (transept) are barrel-vaulted and twice the width and height of the side naves. A balcony tops the north and south naves and narthex. Over the balcony, aisles, and naves rises a pyramidal arrangement of 12 smaller, peripheral domes and one large, central dome, all 13 of them hemispherical on tall drums. An open ambulatory girdles the north, south, and west sides, and a further ambulatory and exonarthex with two staircase towers were added to it in the late 11th century.

The centripetal plan, internal volumes, and external massing reflect the hierarchical ordering of the mosaics and frescoes inside. As the surfaces of the walls advance from the floor and the narthex, the frescoes increase in size and religious significance and culminate in the monumental mosaics of Mother of God (Orante) in the central apse and Christ Pantocrator in the central dome. Among the most masterful mosaics are those of the Church Fathers. The more archaic Orante in the central apse, often referred to as the Indestructible Wall, is the most famous.

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The cathedral's 11th-century exterior walls are of opus mixtum, a widely used technique of alternating courses of brick and stone. Exterior ornamentation of the original walls consists of decorative brickwork, the monochromatic painting of key architectural elements, and a number of frescoes.

The architects of earlier masonry buildings in Kyiv, such as the Church of the Tithes (989–996), were from Chersonese Taurica, but those responsible for Saint Sophia are not documented. Despite popular speculation, the cathedral did not borrow much from the Hagia Sophia of Constantinople other than its name and some general features. Some 19th-century scholars and contemporary Byzantologists contend that all features of Kyiv's Saint Sophia are imitations of Byzantine types created by master builders from Byzantium. Others liken certain features to German examples and suggest Romanesque influences. Some see features in the cathedral resembling churches in Armenia and Georgia, and a few even trace elements to Iran, Islam, or Bulgaria. More convincingly, a number of scholars have established an autochthonous hypothesis. They argue that by the 11th century an architectural tradition had already been established in Kyivan Rus’, exemplified by the 10th-century Byzantine structures and the vernacular masonry palaces and wooden structures of the Polianians from the 8th century, and that it was this hybridized tradition, not Byzantine architecture alone, that shaped Saint Sophia.

A number of the cathedral's features are extremely rare or do not appear at all outside of Kyivan Rus’ prior to its construction. Among the most notable are the number of domes and their elongation, the marked pyramidal form and overall striving for height, the fact that the width of its body is greater than its length, the combined use of mosaics and frescoes, and the styling and much of the subject matter of the frescoes.

With the sack of Kyiv by the Suzdal prince Andrei Bogolyubskii in 1169, the city and the cathedral fell into a 460-year period of decline. Frequently plundered during this period, the cathedral functioned only intermittently. By 1585, its roof ruined, the cathedral had deteriorated significantly. After it had been under the Uniate church for a brief period (1610 – 1633), the Orthodox metropolitan, Petro Mohyla, took control of the cathedral. Over the following 24 years it was extensively restored, and new monastery buildings and other wooden structures were built in its precinct. After the Pereyaslav Treaty of 1654 between the Hetman state and Muscovy, autocephalous control over the cathedral was lost, and after 1657, repairs became sporadic and at times deleteriously expedient.

From 1690 to 1707 Hetman Ivan Mazepa influenced and funded the completion of the repairs. Most significant was the exterior work: portions were heightened; the masonry was stuccoed and whitewashed; pediments and other decorative features were added throughout; all the domes, including six new ones, were covered with distinctive pear-shaped and capped cupolas; and the central cupola was gilded. A new three-story bell tower was also built in the precinct's wall. Up to that time the character of the cathedral had remained largely medieval. All the exterior work during this period, however, reflected the newly developed principles of the Ukrainian baroque. This created the current exterior appearance of the cathedral.

In the mid-18th century, largely under the patronage of Metropolitan Rafail Zaborovsky, another period of intense artistic activity occurred. Many silver chandeliers and finely carved and gilded wooden iconostases were installed. The three-tiered iconostasis in front of the main altar is considered to be among the most important examples of 18th century wood carving (only the lower tier has remained). Between 1744 and 1752 the bell tower was partly rebuilt, and a fourth story and new cupola were added. The refectory (1722 – 1730) and metropolitan's residence (1722 – 1730, with later additions) are both fine examples of Ukrainian baroque architecture. A wall surrounding the precinct was rebuilt in masonry, and included the flamboyantly ornamented and carefully ordered Zaborovsky Gate (1746 – 1748). The gate and parts of the bell tower were designed by Johann Gottfried Schädel.

In the 19th century an exonarthex was added to the cathedral to replace the collapsed western gallery. In the mid-19th century the first exact survey of the cathedral was undertaken, by F. Solntsev. In the intense cultural activity unleashed by the collapse of tsarist rule in 1917, considerable research, investigations, documentation, and restoration of the cathedral took place. Much of this activity, including systematic photographic documentation, continued through the early Soviet years. In 1934, however, all religious activity was terminated, and the cathedral was turned into a museum. Many of its most important objects were confiscated by the state, and many of these were destroyed, lost, or sold abroad. In 1941 – 1943 most of the confiscated articles preserved in Kyiv's museums and the Central Scientific Library of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR were plundered by the Nazis. Currently the cathedral is part of the Saint Sophia Museum.

The art and architecture of the Saint Sophia Cathedral have had a wide influence. The original building's cross-in-square plan, its tall, pyramidal, domed spaces and silhouette, and its organization and stylistic treatment of mosaics and frescoes provided the model for many Kyivan Rus’ and later Ukrainian churches. It influenced many more, such as Saint Volodymyr's Cathedral in Kyiv (1862 – 1882). Its clearly ordered organization, structural logic, and use of materials informed the development of the more rational and constructivist attitudes of almost all subsequent Ukrainian architecture.

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Key events in Ukrainian religious, political, and cultural life have taken place in and around the cathedral. The first library in Ukraine was founded there by Yaroslav the Wise. He was eventually buried in the cathedral (his sarcophagus remains), as were other grand princes and metropolitans. Coronations were performed, foreign ambassadors were received, councils met, and many historic treaties, proclamations, and universals were announced there.

The Golden Gate

The Golden Gates of Kyiv is one of the most important architectural and historical monuments remaining from the Kyivan Rus’ period. Currently it serves as a museum.

The history of Golden Gate begun in 1037 during the reign of Yaroslav the Wise. It was constructed at about the same time as Saint Sophia Cathedral and the upper city fortifications, and functioned as the main triumphal entrance and as a defendable portal to the fortified section of the city. The GG was built of brick and stone and consisted of a tower with a vaulted passageway (12 m high and up to 7.5 m wide), topped by a platform for guards and the small Church of the Annunciation. The passageway probably had a wooden or gilded gate, and there may have been turrets on the tower.

This gateway was one of three constructed by Yaroslav the Wise, Grand Prince of Kyiv, in 1037. The passing part of the gates was about 40 feet high and 20 feet wide. For almost half of millennium they served as the Triumph Arch of the city and were considered the major pride of the city's residents. It was reputedly modeled on the Golden Gate  of Constantinople, from which it took its name. It served as the model for a gate built in Vladimir in the 1160s by Prince Andrei Bogolyubskii.

In 1240 the GG was partially destroyed by the Mongols; however, it remained in use as a portal until the middle of the 16th century. Such 15th- and 16th-century travelers as Paul of Aleppo and Erich Lassotavon Steblau mentioned it in their writings, and a drawing (1651) by the Dutch artist Abraham Van Westerfeldt shows the remains of the church. In 1648, after their victory over the Poles, Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky and his army made their triumphal entrance into Kyiv through the GG. In 1750 the gate's remains were covered with earth. The ruins were excavated in 1832 by the archeologist Kindrat Lokhvytsky, and the structure was reinforced with a metal framework. Of the original GG do only the brick and stone walls and portions of the arch remain. On the outside of the walls, can be seen the impressions left by the oak-beam framework of the walls that encircled the old city. Based on archeological excavations, scholars have created various models of the original GG, which was last restored in the early 1980s. A book about the GG, by Serhii Vysotsky, was published in Kyiv in 1982.

Prince Volodymyr the Great Monument (Volodymyr Hill)

The oldest sculptural monument of Kyiv was built in Volodymyr Hill park on the Dnipro steeper in 1853. According to legend, somewhere in these places Prince Volodymyr Svyatoslavich baptized the inhabitants of the city, thereby turning Kievan Rus into a bulwark of Christianity in the Slavic lands. The monument was created by Peter Clodt von Jürgensburg (statue of Volodymyr), Alexander Ton (pedestal), and Vasily Demuth-Malinovsky (bas-reliefs).

The bronze 4.4-meter statue depicts Prince Volodymyr in a cloak with a large cross in his right hand and a grand prince's cap in his left hand. It rises on a 16-meter pedestal, which has the outline of an octagonal chapel in pseudo-Byzantine style. The brick pedestal and stylobate are faced with cast-iron plates. The total height of the monument is 20.4 m. The pedestal depicts the scenes of baptizing Rus (988), emblem of Kyiv, and the star of the Order of St. Volodymyr.

Maidan (The Square of Independence)

The territory of modern Square of Independence was called Perevesische, making a wasteland. There were defensive earthworks with Lydski Vorota (gates) from Volodymyr times. Thus the wasteland preserved until the beginning of the 19th century.

The Square was finally formed in 1930-s, when all the remains were demolished and the square got the name Khreschatytska because of the neighboring street – Khreschatyk. The Kiev City Duma (City Council) was build in 1876, the square was named Dumska then.

Maidan survived many renamings – Sovetska Square in 1919, Kalinina Square in 1935, the Square of October Revolution in 1977. The modern name was provided in 1991.

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Maidan got its’ modern look after a scale reconstruction in 2001. New monuments, sculptures and fountains appeared afterwards.

Independence Monument, a white column with a figure of a young woman on top, was installed in the center of the square. Symbolic Lyadski gates were also erected with the figure of archangel Michael, the saint patron of Kyiv.

There’s a big underground shopping mall.

Three times Maidan was the place for mass protests – in 2000 – 2001 during the Ukraine against Kuchma protest, the Orange Revolution in 2004 and the bloodiest Ukrainian uprising in 2013 – 2014 called the Revolution of Dignity.


House with Chimeras

This spectacular building, created by architect Vladyslav Horodetsky in 1901-1903, is one of the most recognizable Kyiv attractions. Its name was given to the house thanks to sculptural ornaments, located both on the facade and inside. Subjects of sculptures are terrestrial and underwater fauna, attributes of hunting, plants. All the sketches were designed by the sculptor Elio Salya.

Despite the name, there are no real chimeras neither outside nor inside the house. All figures are just quite detailed images of the real animals (rhinoceroses, deer, crocodiles, elephants, and others). Even sculpted mermaids in fact are just girls riding on fishes. The choice of subjects of sculptures is explained simply: Gorodetsky was an avid hunter and, according to rumors, traveled the world to replenish the collection of trophies with exotic animals. His "House with Chimeras" is one of the first concrete buildings in Kyiv. There is a version that the architect, who also owned the cement plant, built it to promote the reliability of the material. Among other things, the building was erected over a precipice, and many of Gorodetsky's contemporaries were convinced that it would not survive in such conditions. But you  can see the building today. However, once the building still needed an urgent reconstruction, when its piles lost their supporting function, and the house split into two parts. In 2003, the works were completed, but the restorers chose not to straighten the building - this would mean its reconstruction, and the task was to preserve the unique structure. To mount the windows in the walls that have been distorted from the time, the craftsmen had to make curved window frames. In the courtyard, an artificial lake was created, fountains and a garden with an alpine slide. Now it is used as the residence of the president of Ukraine.

The Mariinsky Palace

The picturesque palace in Kyiv on the high right bank of Dnipro is one of the most beautiful buildings of the city and the ceremonial residence of the President. The palace was built by the order of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna in 1744. The Baroque project was designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli, the most famous architect of Russia in the Elizabethan era. Under the guidance of one of the students of Rastrelli, Ivan Michurin, as well as a group of other architects, the palace was completed in 1752. However, Elizabeth did not have time to visit the palace. The first royal special, who stopped at the Mariinsky Palace, was Catherine II, who visited Kyiv in 1787. At the turn of the XVIII - XIX centuries the palace was the residence of the governors-general of the Kyiv province.

After restoration, the Kyiv palace was renamed to Mariinsky Palace in honor of the Empress Maria Alexandrovna. At her request, a large park was created on the south side of the palace, also called the Mariinsky. The palace served as a residence for members of the imperial family visiting Kyiv until 1917. In Soviet times, a semicircular platform with fountains appeared on the territory of the palace. For many years, the Mariinsky Palace has been closed for reconstruction.

House of the Government of Ukraine

The building of 1938 is the largest administrative building in the capital and a monument of early Soviet architecture. It was built for the People's Commissariat of Internal Affairs of the newly created USSR. For all its history, it has never changed its purpose, remaining administrative.

The time in which the monumental construction of the Cabinet of Ministers appeared, left its mark not only on the exterior of the building. The style of 1930s in the Soviet Union was full of hypertrophied monumentality - the houses were simply huge, decorated with tall columns, the lower floors were faced with large stone blocks. In addition, the facade of the building of the Cabinet is made in the form of a semicircle (another characteristic feature of the early Soviet architecture), reinforcing the feeling of own insignificance in the one who will be in front of him.

As for the internal premises, they are connected by rounded corridors with a large number of corners. This also shows the logic of the construction of Soviet administrative buildings - such corridors facilitated the defense in the event of an attempted seizure. In 1997, the upper part of the structure was painted into white, which softened the rigid facade.

Verkhovna Rada

A monumental building in classical style was built in the Mariinsky Park in 1939, and is now used for holding sessions of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

This is one of the best architectural structures of the Soviet period in Kyiv. The interiors of the lobby and the main foyer are decorated with stucco, inlays, and monumental paintings in the style of socialist realism with elements of Ukrainian folk decorative art. The central part of the building is an octagonal session hall, covered with a glass hemispherical dome. In 1991, the state independence of Ukraine was proclaimed here. Now the Verkhovna Rada is the main political center of the country. In the sessional days, rallies and pickets often take place on the square.

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Kyiv-Mohyla Academy

The National University of "Kyiv-Mohyla Academy" is the successor of Ukraine’s oldest university and the first Orthodox higher education institution in Europe. It appeared thanks to the generous gift of patron of arts Halshka Hulevichevna, who on Oct. 15, 1615, transferred her lands and premises to the Fraternity Monastery for the purpose of creating a school. In 1632, the school of the Kyiv-Pecherska Lavra, founded by the Metropolitan of Kyiv and Galicia Petro Mohyla, was merged to the school of the Fraternity. That is how the academy appeared. Subsequently, the institution was named in honor of its founder, Kyiv-Mohyla. In the collegium, education was conducted in in Latin, the students studied Church Slavonic, Russian, Greek, and Polish. The national and world history, literature, poetry, philosophy, mathematics and geography were taught too.

The duration of education in the academy reached 12 years. However, anyone could study there - there were no age limits. They were also not punished or dismissed for lack of progress; material difficulties or illnesses of students were taken into account. Teachers were first trained in the universities of Europe, and soon the college began to prepare them themselves.

Among the outstanding students of the classical Kyiv-Mohyla Academy are Cossack hetmans Ivan Mazepa, Pylyp Orlyk, Pavlo Polubotok, Ivan Skoropadsky and Ivan Samoilovych, philosopher Hryhoriy Skovoroda, architect Ivan Hryhorovych-Barsky, composers Artemiy Wedel and Maksym Berezovsky.

The oldest building of the Academy is the Old Academy building, constructed with funds from Ivan Mazepa. It has survived to this day. Now in its walls there is a university library. This building is depicted on the 500 hryvnia bill of along with a portrait of the philosopher Skovoroda on the obverse.

The classical period of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy ended in 1817. But in 1992 the educational institution was revived in its former territory. Students of "Mohyla" love to retell the story, when the initiator of the revival of the university and its first president, Vyacheslav Bryukhovetskiy won the first cabinet of the future university from the head of the naval school that was located here. Training in the revived academy began on the first anniversary of Ukraine's independence - August 24, 1992.

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Monument to Hryhoriy Skovoroda

Near the legendary university on Kontraktova Square there is a bronze monument to its famous student, wandering philosopher and writer Hryhoriy Skovoroda. As if he came from afar and stopped in front of his alma mater. The monument was installed more than 30 years ago, this is the work of the famous sculptor Ivan Kavaleridze.

Hryhoriy Skovoroda (1722 - 1794) was one of the most talented students of the Academy. His main philosophical postulate was the idea of "akin labor." He proved with his whole life that happiness consists in discovering in yourself a talent, build on it all your life, doing your work easily and with and with pleasure.

Skovoroda knew several foreign languages. He traveled a lot, leading the way of life of the wandering philosopher-theologian. Most of his philosophical writings are written in a dialogical form. In his works, Skovoroda almost never quotes anyone and does not refer to anyone. During his lifetime, the works of the philosopher were not published. But 50 years after his death, his portraits began to appear in the houses, which speaks of people's love and recognition.

Twice a year students of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy wash the Skovoroda monument on Academy’s Day on October 15 and June 28, when the graduation ceremony takes place at the university. And in the summer the monument is also dressed in a mantle specially made for him and a student's hat - bonnet. To participate in the ritual of ablution of sculpture is considered a special honor for the students of the university.

Sahaidachnoho Street

One of the few streets in Kyiv, which almost completely retained its original appearance. This area was built up in the 1830s-1840s after a big fire, which destroyed Podil in 1811. The main part of the houses are two-story mansions, the first owners of which were wealthy Kyiv philistines, merchants, craftsmen.

In 1896, on this street, the first tram in the Russian Empire was launched, which connected the center of Kyiv with Podil. In 1977, the track was removed and the roadway part was re-planned for road transport. However, since last year Sahaidachnoho Street is closed on weekends and holidays, turning into a place for hiking.

At the end of the street, there is a monument to Hetman Petro Sahaidachnyi, installed in 2001. This is one of the few equestrian monuments of the capital.

Hostynnyi Dvir

Hostynnyi Dvir is the central object of Kontraktova Square. This is a rectangular closed building, built in the style of classicism. It was erected in 1809 instead of the old courtyard, the architect of which was Ivan Hrygorovych-Barsky.

It is interesting that here at the same time there were guild houses, workshops, warehouses and shops - a real prototype of modern shopping centers. After the Second World War, Hostynnyi Dvir looked deplorable and was recreated in order in the post-war period.

here were all sorts of shops and cafes, workshops, warehouses. But a few years ago the reconstruct of Hostynnyi Dvir began and it is not repaired until now.

Contracts House

Since the end of the XVIII century, Kontraktova Square in Kyiv has been always hosting annual fairs (from January to February). During the fairs, the whole area was filled with temporary shops, and the "headquarters" of the fair was the Contracts House, a building in which contracts were concluded between landlords and merchants.

In Kyiv, "Contracts congresses" timed to traditional Sretensky fairs, which took place annually before the winter holiday of the Presentation of the Lord. Thus, the congress showed itself not only as an exchange meeting, but also as a two-week continuous market. Numerous outstanding personalities have visited the Contracts House - writers Taras Shevchenko, Mykola Gogol, Alexander Pushkin, Honore de Balzac, pianist and composer Franz Liszt.

With the appearance of railways, stock exchanges, daily press, telegraph communication, the Contract fairs lost their significance in the life of Kyiv. The world war, the revolution and civil strife ceased the existence of the Contracts. Therefore, the building with the columns was rented. Now there is a commodity exchange in the Contracts House.

The Greek Monastery

The Greek monastery was founded by Kyiv Greeks in 1748. Initially, a stone church was built in this place in the Baroque style, and in the second half of the 18th century, residential buildings and a bell tower were built on the territory of the monastery.

After the October Revolution, almost all the buildings of the monastery were destroyed and the temple was closed, and its largest building was used as an exhibition pavilion. Now the National Bank is located in the rebuilt monastery building.

However, three times a week, believers come here to serve. Recently, the clock on the bell tower of the monastery was restored. Now it beat the hour every 15 minutes.

Stow of potters and tanners (Modern Vozdvyzhenka)

In the days of Kievan Rus, Podil was the main gate of Kyiv, where merchants along the river arrived at the marketplace. Thus, artisans of the city settled here - potters, tanners, and others.

By the way, pottery shops existed here till the beginning of the XIX century. Now this tract is actually a modern district of Vozdvyzhenka, which borders the Andriyivsky Descent.

Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra

The Caves Monastery is Kyiv’s premier tourist attraction and stands on a hill overlooking the Dnipro River.

The territory of the Kyiv-Caves monastery occupies over twenty hectares and is located in the very heart of Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, which since the 11th century according to the “Primary Chronicle” (the work of venerable Nestor the Chronicler of the Kyiv Caves) has been known as “the mother of all the cities of Rus”.  The Lavra complex has over a hundred  buildings, including numerous churches. On Sundays, up to ten Divine Liturgies are celebrated. While on weekdays,  divine services are permanently celebrated throughout the many churches. Six ancient underground churches are located in the Far and Near Caves of the Monastery.

Upper Lavra

Owned by the government the Upper Lavra contains a number of churches and museums. The admission fee gives access to most of the churches but some require additional payment.

Great Bell Tower

Measuring just over 96m the Great Bell Tower competes for dominance of Kyiv’s skyline with nearby Rodina Mat. For a small fee it’s possible to climb the tower for an unequalled view of the monastery and Kyiv.

Museum of Historical Treasures

Situated at the rear of the Upper Lavra, this museum houses showcases historic items, precious stones, metalwork and jewelry. Most notable is its spectacular collection of Scythian gold.

Museum of Micro-miniatures

This museum displays the miniature creations of Russian artist Mykola Syadristy. The exhibits, viewed through microscopes, include a chess set on the head of a pin and the world’s smallest electric motor.

Lower Lavra

Beneath the Lower Lavra are hundreds narrow passages and caves where monks once lived and worshiped. Over 100 of them lie mummified in niches that line the subterranean streets.

Since its foundation as the cave monastery in 1015 the Lavra has been a preeminent center of the Eastern Orthodox Christianity in Eastern Europe. Together with the Saint Sophia Cathedral, it is inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The monastery complex is considered a separate national historic-cultural preserve (sanctuary), the national status to which was granted on March 13, 1996. The Lavra also not only located in another part of the city, but is part of a different national sanctuary than Saint Sophia Cathedral. While being a cultural attraction, the monastery is currently active. It was named one of the Seven Wonders of Ukraine on August 21, 2007, based on voting by experts and the internet community.

Currently, the jurisdiction over the site is divided between the state museum, National Kyiv-Pechersk Historic-Cultural Preserve, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchy) as the site of the chief monastery of that Church and the residence of its leader, Metropolitan Volodymyr.

In the late 2010 a monitoring mission of UNESCO visited the site to check on situation with the Kyiv Pechersk Lavra. Currently Lavra and Saint Sophia Cathedral are not threatened by the "black list".

Entrance to the caves is free, but most visitors purchase a candle at the entrance for a couple of hyrvnias. Women are asked to cover their heads and cameras are not allowed.

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St. Volodymyr's Cathedral

Unlike the ancient shrines of Kyiv, which in the XVII-XVIII centuries were rebuilt in the style of Ukrainian baroque, the much younger St. Volodymyr's Cathedral (the years of construction: 1862-1882) with its outlines is much more like authentic churches of the times of Kievan Rus.

The greatest masters of that times put their hands on the project. The original project was designed by architect Ivan Shtrom. It was he who determined that the building would be built in a neo-Byzantine style in order to convey the atmosphere of Prince Volodymyr Svyatoslavych as accurately as possible.

The project was finished by Pavel Sparro, supervision of construction was conducted by Alexander Beretti, and interior murals were performed by Victor Vasnetsov, Mykhailo Nesterov, Pavel Svedomskiy, Wilhelm Kotarbiński and other artists. Outstanding patron Adrian Prahov supervised the design of the cathedral.

Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Pyrogoscha

The contemporary church of the Mother of God Pyrogoscha markedly differs from most of Kyiv's temples. The building is a reconstruction of the ancient temple, erected on this place in the XII century. The church was single-domed, decorated with frescoes and mosaics. It is mentioned in one of the first works of Old Rus literature - "The Tale of Igor's Campaign", when describing the return of Prince Igor from the Polovtsian captivity.

The name "Pyrogoscha" is associated with one of the shrines of the ancient temple - the icon of the Mother of God. This icon was brought from Constantinople, where it was kept in the tower, and where it was called "Pirogotis" - "tower icon". There is also a version according to which the name of the temple comes from the Greek word "pyros" - "bread", consonant with the modern word "pie". However, the origin of the name of the church cannot be said for sure.

The temple has been destroyed many times. In 1240, it was almost completely destroyed by the Mongols that had conquered Kyiv. It was restored in 1474, but in 1482 it was badly damaged, when the Crimean Khan Mengli-Giray entered Kyiv. In 1611, a large-scale fire broke out on Podil, and it severely damaged the church. This time, Italian architect Sebastiano Bracci completed the renovation. Ivan Hryhorovych-Barsky, who was probably buried here, gave it some Baroc features, which were typical for Kyiv's religious buildings in the 1770s. At the beginning of the XIX century, after another major fire on Podil, by the city architect Andrey Melensky gave the church the features of classicism. The last destruction of Pyrogoscha occured in 1935, when the temple was completely demolished by the order of Stalin's power.

In 1976-1979, on the site of the long-suffering temple, archaeological excavations were carried out on the foundation of the building, which reached 4 m deep. The foundation was made up of building material taken from an earlier building. Then the idea arose to restore the building for the museum "The Lay of Igor's Campaign." This time it has gained some Byzantine style features. Construction was conducted in 1997-1998. Today, Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Pyrogoscha is one of the most notable buildings of Podil. Although the issue of the historical authenticity of its appearance remains a matter of controversy.

Monument to Yaroslav the Wise

The monument to Yaroslav the Wise was designed by sculptor Ivan Kavaleridze in 1958. Subsequently, his project was significantly enlarged and in 1997 the city administration placed it at the Golden Gate. It calls "a man with a cake" among people – this is how a model of a building on a "plate" looks like. In fact, the bronze prince holds in his hands the a model of the most expensive building that was guarded by the Golden Gate - the temple of St. Sophia.

By the way, if you look behind Yaroslav's back, you can see his secret. Three palms are printed in bronze. By the time of creating the monument, Kavaleridze was not alive, and the new masters wanted to show that they have taken a hand to the monument. In a literal sense.

The National Opera of Ukraine

The National Opera (the National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater of Ukraine named after Taras Shevchenko) is the largest musical theater in Ukraine.

The opera house was built in 1901 on the place of the burned down City Theater. Within the walls of Kyiv Opera that Prime Minister of the Russian Empire Stolypin was killed, when attending the premiere of "The Tale of Tsar Saltan" together with Emperor Nicholas II, his family and his associates. In the Soviet years, the theater was nationalized.

It received Taras Shevchenko's name back in 1939. The Kyiv Opera became the second theater in the USSR, where a system for monitoring the temperature of the hall was installed.

Since 1983-1988, the theater underwent a large-scale reconstruction, which allowed to increase the stage, the orchestra pit and rehearsal areas.

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