What do old drums, a crumbling bust of Viktor Yanukovych and an ancient market have in common? Well, it might not be much elsewhere, but in Kyiv they came together for a celebration that doubled as a protest on May 26.
To mark an alternative birthday of Kyiv, about 100 activists gathered in Hostynniy Dvir, an historic building in the Podil district, to celebrate and to protest against plans to turn the site into yet another shopping mall.
Hostynny Dvir, or Hospitality Court, is a medieval name for a place where visiting merchants stayed, stored and sold their goods.
For Kyiv Days, the two-storied building had a poster stretched on it, saying “Get out to the street-bring back your city.” The slogan was chanted over and over again to the rhythm of loud drums. The protest continued the next day, this time watched over silently by a plaster bust of President Yanukovych.
“Kyiv Days are the best occasion to remind that this is our city, we pay taxes to the city coffers, and we decide the future of Kyiv,” organizers wrote on the event’s Facebook page before it took place. “We don’t need fireworks, celebrity concerts and waste of money on a holiday once a year – we need comfort city every day.”
Kyiv Days are celebrated on the last weekend in May. This year, the city celebrated its 1,530th birthday.
Activists protecting Hostynniy Dvir are worried about the potential effect of the city council ruling from April 26, which will turn the historic building into a shopping center. The development will be overseen by an offshore company associated with the nation’s richest, activists said.
They said they want to prevent what happened on Andriyivsky Uzviv, when a building was mistakenly demolished earlier this year, causing riots.
Vladyslava Osmak, a public activist and a Kyiv guide, says that officially the current reconstruction plans only involve building a glass roof over the courtyard, Kyivans distrust any reconstruction of a historic site.
“Taking into account what happened with Andriyivsky Uzviz we cannot be sure that this will be the end,” Osmak said.
Construction of the two-stored Hostynny Dvir on Kontraktova Square started in 1809 but was disrupted by a big fire on Podil in 1811. It remained a one-story building which housed 52 different shops and a market in the courtyard. The modern building appeared in 1980s but was based on the 19th century drafts.
Activists demanded that the building gets back its former status of an architectural memorial.
Kyiv Post staff writer Oksana Faryna can be reached at faryna@kyivpost