Cultural capital of Ukraine

Posted on August 30, 2012 in Cities

Kharkiv is the kind of city that has always wanted to be different from others — and it has succeeded remarkably well. This is a city that constantly reinvents itself — rebuilding, revising, renewing — and the enormity of the changes is particularly noticeable when you compare the past with the present.

In 1919, the capital of Ukraine was moved from Kyiv to Kharkiv by the new soviet government and remained so until 1934. To reflect its status as the New Capital of the New Man, it became the center of constructivism in urban planning and the country’s platform for innovative projects, turning Kharkiv itself from a mere trading hub into the industrial and intellectual capital of Ukraine.

Kharkiv’s calling card and one of its most interesting buildings is the Derzhprom Building or state industry building. When it was originally erected, it was the first skyscraper in the Soviet Union and is located on Ploshcha Svobody or Freedom Square, one of the largest urban squares in the world, at nearly 12 hectares or 30 acres. In shape, the “square” looks like a bulb that ends in a straight cut where it meets vulytsia Sumska. The rounded upper part ends in front of a monument to Lenin while the central part is a forested park.

Derzhprom Building. Kharkiv, Ukraine Mirror Stream Fountain. Kharkiv, Ukraine Triokhsviatytelska Tserkva. Kharkiv, Ukraine

Vul. Sumska is the city’s cultural heart. Here you fill find two main theaters: the Shevchenko State Academic Drama Theater and the Lysenko Opera and Ballet Theater.

Opposite the opera house is another great symbol of Kharkiv, the Mirror Stream fountain, built in 1947 in honor of the soviet victory in WWII. This fountain has even been entered into the UNESCO list of protected architectural sites.

Yet another example of the city’s unstoppable ambitions is the bell tower of the Uspenskiy Sobor or Assumption Cathedral. Constructed in the 1820’s and 1830’s, the story goes that it was intentionally built to be higher than the Kremlin in Moscow, an unacceptable breach of imperial etiquette at the time. It stands on University Hill on the banks of the Lopan River.