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A weapons plant; a medieval chronicler, and a street  glimpses of Kyiv


Professor Yury SHAPOVAL, Ph.D. in history, offers his selection of Kyiv curiosa.


Beating Swords into Ploughshares


The gun which was made at the Arsenal Plant as a monument erected close

to the plant in commemoration of the event of the Civil Was in Ukraine.


There is an art museum project which is being carried out in Kyiv, and which is called Mystetsky Arsenal, or Art Arsenal.

What does art have to do with war?

The factory complex in Kyiv, known as Arsenal did indeed make weapons, and now part of it is being turned into an art centre.

The word arsenal has been borrowed from the Italian arsenale, which in turn had an obsolete Italian form of arzanale, which in turn was borrowed from Arabic dar-as-sinaah : dar, house + as-, the + sinaah, manufacture (from sanaa, to make).

In Kyiv, the first arsenals were built as early as in the eleventh century.

When in the mid-seventeenth century it was decided to build a new arsenal, the place for it was chosen between the Kyiv Fortress and the Pechersk Lavra Monastery, which was also fortified.

At the site where the arsenal was to be built there stood another monastery, or actually a nunnery, whose Mother Superior was the mother of Ivan Mazepa, the arch traitor in the eyes of the Russian tsars (Ivan Mazepa, circa 16401709, hetman of Ukraine, champion of Ukraines independence; he swore allegiance to Muscovy, but when he saw a chance for making Ukraine independent from Russia, he sided up with the invading forces of the Swedish King Charles XII but lost the decisive Battle of Poltava in 1709). In 1712 the Voznesensky nunnery was closed down and the nuns were moved to the Frolovsky nunnery elsewhere in Kyiv. The buildings of the Voznesensky nunnery were incorporated into the structure of the Arsenal.

The construction went until the very end of the eighteenth century, with new modifications being added all the time. The Russian Empress Catherine II personally signed the plans and decrees that dealt with the construction.

Because of the vast scale of the construction, a new factory was built in the vicinity of Kyiv, not far from the village of Korchuvate, to make bricks for building the Arsenal. The bricks made at that factory were of a high quality and of a bright yellow colour, and the buildings made of them looked like porcelain. When Catherine saw the buildings of the Arsenal, she exclaimed, Oh, my arsenal in Kyiv is made of porcelain!

The Arsenal in Kyiv made, repaired and stored field guns, ammunition, rifles, swords and knives, horse harness and other equipment.

With the passage of time, the changes in warfare and military equipment required considerable changes to be introduced at the Arsenal in Kyiv too.

In 18511852 a new large two-storey building, designed by the architect Ivan Chenyk, was built to house shops for making new types of arms  and in large quantities. New buildings were added to the Arsenal in the second half of the nineteenth century and in the early twentieth century. They reflected the changes that were occurring in the architectural styles in those times  architecturally, they were considerably more than just ugly utilitarian boxes.

The Arsenal kept making weapons of all kinds, but up to WWII its main item of production were artillery pieces, with the 76-milimetre gun being its specialty. This gun could be easily disassembled into the barrel, carriage, wheels and shield, and then reassembled again after it had been delivered to its destination. It was particularly useful in the mountains. Incidentally, one of such guns stands on a pedestal close to the Metro station Arsenalna. It was put there to commemorate the uprising of the Arsenal workers which was inspired by the Bolsheviks against the Tsentralna Rada, the then government of independent Ukraine, in January 1918.

The pedestal itself used to be the base of a monument to Iskra and Kochubey, which was erected there in 1915. The Bolsheviks, when they came to power in Ukraine, removed the monument and placed an Arsenal-made gun on the vacant place (Iskra and Kochubey were Cossack leaders who revealed Hetman Mazepas plan of joining forces with the Swedish King Charles XII in an attempt to gain Ukraines independence from Russia with the Swedish help; the Russian tsar did not believe Iskra and Kochubey and later they were executed for treason).

In the 1950s and for several decades, under the Cold War conditions, the Arsenal in Kyiv fulfilled the orders of the soviet military for weapons and different weapon systems. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Cold War also came to an end, and the Arsenal in Kyiv lost most of its commissions for weapons, and now most of its buildings are being converted into an art museum. Isaiahs prophecy  And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares  is coming true. And its very good. When the Muses are talking, the guns are silent.


The Chronicler

Among the chroniclers of medieval Ukraine-Kyivan Rus, Nestor is the best-known one. He is believed to have authored the chronicle, Povist vremennykh lit (Story of the Bygone Years) which presents a history of Kyivan Rus from its foundation down to the eleventh century and thus is a major historical source.

Very little is known about Nestor or his life. It is known that he became a monk of the Pechersk Lavra Monastery in 1073 and was buried in the monastery after his death, the date of which also remains unknown.

According to the Russian historian Vasyl Tatishchev (16861750; Tatishchevs work, the Istoriya Rossiyskaya s samykh drevneyshikh vremyon in five volumes  History of Russia from the Most Early Times  relied on sources that have since disappeared to a great extent; it amassed a great volume of data based on original sources and was a pioneering work in its attempt to depict the development of the Russian state as the result of geographic and historical circumstances rather than as a result of divine providence; Tatishchev is also known as the founder of the city of Yekaterinburg), Nestor was born some time between 1040 and 1056; he must have come from a well-to-do family; he knew several foreign languages. Tatishchev claimed that he had found the description of Nestor in one of the books of the Lavra Monastery library: Nestor the Chronicler was grey-haired, and his hoary beard was not parted; he had the custom of wearing a klobuk (hood-like headgear of Orthodox monks) at all times; in his right hand he always had a quill, and his left always held a rosary.

In addition to his great chronicle, Nestor is credited with the authorship of hagiographic works about the martyrs Boris and Gleb and about Feodosiy the Hegumen (abbot or Father Superior of the Pechersk Lavra Monastery). Though these works were typical creations of Christian hagiography, they also included some information which the present-day historians can use for their research.

Writing of chronicles in Kyivan Rus began in the ninth century; then there was a gap in chronicle writing which was resumed in the late tenth century. Nestor must have used earlier chronicles for writing his own. It is known that one of the abbots of the Pechersk Lavra Monastery made his own compilation of earlier chronicles in the 1090s, and this compilation must have been used by Nestor too. He must have had access to some official documents as well, including the treaties of Kyivan Rus with Byzantium which were concluded in 911, 944 and 971, and to some histories of Byzantium written by Byzantine historians in Greek. Some of the archaisms in Nestors writings are considered to be evidence of his having used early chronicles and documents.

Nestors Chronicle is believed to have been completed by 1113. Its opening words are, This history begins with a story of the Land of Rus and of its origins. Nestor describes the earliest times in the history of the Slavic tribes which were united to become the state of Kyivan Rus, tells the story of military exploits of Kyivan rulers, of the baptism of the Kyivan population under Grand Duke Volodymyr the Great, and the wise rule of Grand Duke Yaroslav. Nestor reproves those rulers who engaged in strife in their quest for power.

The original of Nestors chronicle has not survived and later historians used only copies of his great work.

Nestor was canonized by the Orthodox Church and the feast day of this saint is November 9. Incidentally, in independent Ukraine this day was proclaimed The Day of the Ukrainian Language.


The Street

There are many streets in Kyiv, in some of the buildings of which there once lived remarkable and prominent personalities. One of such streets is Pankivska.

In one of the buildings in this street lived for some time a lyrical poet, Oleksandr Oles.

The nightingales are laughing and weeping,

And their songs pierce the heart:

Kiss her, kiss her while you are young 

Youth does not come back.

Oles poetry is known for its poignant intimacy and inspired gentleness. Many of his poems are full of optimism though the poet himself lived a hard life. Oleksandr Kandyba, who chose the penname of Oles, was born in 1878 in Ukraine and died in immigration in Prague in 1944 (his son, Oleh Olzhych, was also a poet and a prominent leader of the Ukrainian resistance movement in Western Ukraine in WWII). His place in the history of Ukrainian poetry has been firmly secured by a number of his poetic collections (Z zhurboyu radist obnymalas  With Sadness Joy Embraced, Komu povim pechal moyu  To Whom Can I Tell About My Woes, and others).

The sky has embraced the sea,

The sea has spilled into the sky

The whole world they have forgotten

And have sunk in the fogs of the sky

I have dreamed of being with you,

Our souls are close mates.

You are like the blue sky

And your thoughts are like wandering clouds

Pankivska Street came into being in the first half of the nineteenth century after a suburb of Kyiv, known as Pankivshchyna, became incorporated into the city; this suburb was mentioned in chronicles as early as the sixteenth century. Now the street runs into Zhylyanska Street but in the nineteenth century it descended down the hill to the River Lybid which later was put into underground tubing.

In the 1850s, there was laid out in Pankivska Street a garden created by a gardener named Karl Khristiani, who became famous for designing and creating a park in front of the University of St Volodymyr (now Shevchenko University).

Mykhailo Drahomanov, a prominent historian and public figure, lived in one of the buildings of Pankivska Street in the 1860s. He graduated from the University in 1863 and upon graduation he was invited to teach at the same university.

In 1881, the building of an orphanage at Number 2 Pankivska Street was unveiled in the presence of the person who donated money for building it  it was Mykola Tereshchenko, an industrialist and patron of art. That orphanage was the first of his many big charity projects.

One of the buildings in Pankivska Street at Number 9, a three-story house, was owned by the Hrushevsky family. A member of that family, Mykhailo Hrushevsky (18661934), was one of the outstanding Ukrainian historians and the first president of Ukraine. In the building the Hrushevsky family owned there lived a number of painters two of whom, Fedir Krychevsky and Anatoliy Petrytsky, became classics of Ukrainian painting.

In fact, the Hrushevsky family owned a plot of land in Pankivska Street on which another, seven-story apartment building was built in the end of the nineteenth century. It was in that apartment house that Oleksandr Oles, the poet I mentioned earlier, lived for some time.

In 1918, during an artillery shelling to which the Bolshevik troops subjected Kyiv in an attempt to capture it, this seventh-story building got a direct hit and was so badly damaged that it had to be pulled down.

In 1919, Mykhailo Hrushevsky left Ukraine and for several years stayed in immigration  Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Geneva and Paris  until 1924 when he returned back to Ukraine. Surprisingly enough, Hrushevsky was not arrested by the Bolshevik authorities  he was even allowed to live in that three-story house in Pankivska Street, which the Hrushevsky family once owned. He lived there until 1930 when he was arrested and charged with leading a Ukrainian nationalist bourgeois movement. The charges were eventually dropped but he was forced to go to Moscow where he stayed almost until his death in 1934 (he died at a resort town of Kislovodsk after a minor operation).

Other buildings in Pankivska Street accommodated Maksym Rylsky, one of the leading Ukrainian poets of the twentieth century; at 10 Pankivska Street lived Yevheniy Tarle, a historian, best known for his works about Napoleon and the French Revolution of the eighteenth century.

In 1939, Pankivska Street was renamed Stepan Khalturin, but in 1990 it was given back its original name.

It was only in 2006, that the three-story house Mykhailo Hrushevsky used to live in was turned into a Hrushevsky museum.

So many events and personalities for one street!


Photos by Oleksiy ONISHCHUK


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