This black and white postcard sends us back to pre-soviet Kyiv or, to be more precise, to one of the city’s central squares, now known as Yevropeyska (European). The name derives not from a strong European integration drive that followed the Orange Revolution, but from a three-story hotel built there in 1851 by architect Alexander Beretti.
The hotel no longer exists. It was replaced by the Soviets in 1982 with a new building which still stands today: the Lenin museum, renamed after independence as the Ukrainian House art center.
This Courtesy photo, provided by the Central State CinePhotoPhono Archives of Hordiy Pshenychniy, depicts a view of Kyiv Art, Industry and Science Museum before 1911. (Courtesy)
The photograph of the modern view of the same area was taken by Kyiv Post staff writer Oksana Faryna.
The only reminder of the original hotel that stood there is the name of the square and a few old photos and postcards. This particular postcard is remarkable because it shows the exact view any resident of the Yevropeyskiy hotel had out of their window at the beginning of the 20th century.
“This is indeed a lively and spontaneous photo,” said Kyiv historian Vladyslava Osmak. “Camera devices and technologies at that time had already allowed capturing a moment, rather than building up statuary shots where nobody moves or there are no people at all.”
In the bottom right corner of the photograph, four women in black robes and white kerchiefs are seen walking energetically along tram lines. Some say they might have been nuns from the nearby Mykhalivskiy Orthodox Cathedral or Oleksandrivskiy Catholic Cathedral. But Osmak says her “personal and subjective feeling is that those women march too energetically and confidently, something an Orthodox nuns never does.
The postcard most likely came out of the studio of famous photographer Dmytro Markov, who had his studio on Khreshchatyk Street. “Don’t be deceived by the title in French on the card, ‘Vue du musee.’ That was in those times a post standard,” Osmak added.
The photo is called “A view of a museum” because of the Kyiv Art, Industry and Science Museum, a building with columns in the very center of the photo’s background. The Museum officially opened in 1904 (just a few years before the photo was taken), and is still there, bearing the name of the National Art Museum.
The spot in the very center of the square – taken up by a flower bed nowadays – then housed an electric car pavilion and a fountain. It is from this square that the first electric car in the Russian Empire operated, rolling down towards the Dnipro River into Kyiv’s Podil district.
Also captured in the photo, is a fountain installed there some time in the 1870s. It replaced the original first fountain that had been there since 1843 thanks to the financial support of well-honored governor Ivan Fundukley. Kyivans used to refer to that fountain, simply as an ‘Ivan.’
The richly-decorated building in the foreground on the right was known as The Slavianskiy House. It was conceived in 1891 by Russian tenor and choir director Dmitry Agrenev-Slavianskiy. This famous singer and his choir gave over 4,500 concerts around the globe. He originally planned big concert halls, a school for singers and a dormitory in this building. But he failed to make this dream a reality due to financial troubles and problems with city authorities.
The building was finished by new owners and lived a short life until the hotel Dnipro was built in its place in 1964.
The square, itself, is a record breaker because it changed its name seven times. For a long time there was no square at all, just hills covered with forest. The square appeared in the 18th century when the road from Podil district to Kyiv Pechersk monastery was built. Later the flat space was used as a cattle market, giving it the name Horse Square.
In early 1800s, it became known as the Theater Square in honor of the city’s first stationary theater, built there by Kyiv architect Andriy Melenskiy. Almost fifty years later, the old building of the theater was removed and hotel Yevropeyskiy, mentioned above, appeared instead.
But in 1869, it was renamed again, to Czar Square, this time in honor of a chapel that was built there and, itself, named in honor of Russian Czar Alexander II. Later, in 1911, a monument to this ruler, who liberated peasants from serfdom, was also erected on the square. After the Bolshevik revolution, the Soviets renamed the square to Third International.
In 1944, when Kyiv was freed from Nazi rule, the square was renamed in honor of Joseph Stalin. Between 1961 and the collapse of the USSR in 1991, it carried the name of Lenin’s Komsomol Square. After Ukraine gained its independence, the square was renamed to Yevropeyska, again.
Kyiv Post staff writer Oksana Faryna can be reached at email@example.com.