Money Trumps Historical Culture as Kyiv Gets New Facelift

By Daniel Fedorowycz, M.A. Candidate, CERES

Strolling down one of downtown Kyiv’s historic streets, it’s hard not to notice the crumbling and disheartening state of many of its architectural monuments, which once stood proudly as a testament to Kyiv’s grandeur as an age-old urban centre. Today, however, these buildings are often left neglected and abandoned – and not to mention the safety hazards they pose for pedestrians left dodging their falling debris.

When discussing the destruction of Kyiv’s architectural gems, one would often think back to the early years of Soviet rule, which saw the demolition of many of Kyiv’s beautiful and irreplaceable golden-domed churches (For some examples: http://www.oldkyiv.kiev.ua/index2.htm).

But in present day Ukraine, unfortunately, architectural and cultural monuments are still under threat, albeit for different reasons.  Rather than ideological motivations, business interests among high-level officials often take precedence over preserving cultural and historical landmarks. Take, for example, the unexpected demolition of a 1909 mansion located on Poshtova Ploshcha in the Podil’ neighborhood. This building, which once belonged to architect Mykola Kazansky, was removed from Kyiv’s list of protected historical monuments on July 13, 2010, and as Kyivans were preparing for New Year’s Eve celebrations, the building was suddenly demolished in the middle of the night. It will be replaced with a multi-level office building.

(Media Credit/UAculture.info)

This is but one example of the disregard for historical and architectural monuments in present-day Kyiv.  Countless other buildings in the city’s centre are slated for demolition on the heels of big business transactions, which today are all too common.

In response to community protests over this issue, a draft moratorium on construction in Kyiv’s historic areas is being considered by the city council in the coming weeks. Moreover, a slew of celebrities have stepped up in defence of historical monuments, among them writer Oksana Zabuzhko, musician Oleh Skrypa, and painter Vladislav Erko. But how significant will these measures actually be? Will business interests once again prevail over the preservation of Kyiv’s architectural integrity? With a few strong connections and a large sum of cash, the unforeseen demolition of Podil’s Kazansky House is an example of how simple it can be to pry off a plaque protecting the historical significance of a building, and replace it with a generic glass box and calling it a “business centre.”

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