View of Hlukhiv from the Three Anastasiyas Bell Tower.

With a population of about 35 thousand people, Hlukhiv is not a big town, and it does not take too long to walk through it from end to end. Walking is the best way of getting to know a place and soon after my arrival I saw most of it. And I suddenly realized I came to regard Hlukhiv as an old acquaintance, aged and somewhat tired intellectual. Nikolai Gogol, the Ukrainian-born Russian writer of great prominence, and Taras Shevchenko, the leading Ukrainian poet, visited the town of Hlukhiv in the nineteenth century several times. Recent archaeological excavations showed that Hlukhiv is one of the most ancient towns in Ukraine, with the first settlement in the area dating from about the fifth century AD. The research into the cultural past of Hlukhiv brought to light many interesting facts, revealed spiritual links of many prominent Ukrainian nineteenth- and twentieth-century figures with Hlukhiv.

In 1994, the town was given the status of “a historical and cultural preserve.” The town, as far as its architecture is concerned, impressively combines age-old traditions and modern architectural trends. In the centre of town you discover pathetic old-style merchant houses and nineteenth-century offices, and closer to the Moscow-Kyiv highway you stumble upon tall and thick walls surrounding ostentatious mansions of “new Ukrainians,” Ukrainian nouveaux riches. In 1998, the government of Ukraine gave the town a special prize for maintaining its architectural landmarks in a good condition, and at the same time going on with the town development. Awarding such prizes is one of the ways of supporting small, ancient towns in their efforts to maintain a balance between the old and the new. The history of such towns is captured in their architecture and local museums, and their future should not encroach upon their past. Surprisingly enough, with Kyiv still in decline, Hlukhiv does not have a museum of local history but plans for setting up such a museum have already been worked out. Three hundred years ago, Hlukhiv could still easily lay claim to being Ukraine’s capital, with Kyiv still in decline.


Mykola Tereshchenko
(1819-1903), industrialist
and patron of arts.
Leontiy Lukyanov, a Russian traveller who visited Ukraine in the early eighteenth century, enthused: “You can hardly find a better place among the Malorussian [Ukrainian] towns as far as the quality of housing and of life is concerned.” In contrast to the multiethnic Kyiv, dominated at that time by the Orthodox clerical culture, Hlukhiv was then an aristocratic and secular urban centre of Ukrainian culture.


Monument to Maksym Berezovsky. 1995.

It was here that Opanas Lobysevych, a translator at the court of Kyrylo Rozumovsky, the last Hetman of Ukraine, worked at creating a new literary Ukrainian language (later in the century, the last liberties and freedoms of Ukraine were taken away from her by the Imperial power in Moscow). Count Lobysevych was a man of refined European culture. Thanks to his efforts, a drama theatre, an opera and a symphonic orchestra, all of them the first ever in Ukraine, were set up. His private library was probably the biggest one in Ukraine. The town of Hlukhiv boasts architectural landmarks dating from the times of the last Hetmans. The town, similar to so many other Ukrainian towns, lost magnificent architectural creations of the past in devastating wars and demolition campaigns of zealously atheistic Bolsheviks. There is a hope that now, when restoration and rebuilding of the damaged or destroyed architectural landmarks have begun, the restoration needs of the town of Hlukhiv will not be forgotten either.
Musical town

A music school, the first of its kind in Ukraine at which, among other subjects, choral singing was taught was founded in Hlukhiv by Hetman Danylo Apostol in 1730.
In fact, the setting up of the school was a delayed reaction to a ukase issued by Peter the Great a couple of decades earlier. In 1708, during his campaign against the invading Swedes of Charles XII, Tsar Peter set up his headquarters in Hlukhiv. It is known that Peter enjoyed listening to Ukrainian folk songs. After the tsar’s departure, Hlukhiv became a town, in which Ukrainian Hetmans resided, thus turning it into a major urban centre in a vast part of Ukraine on the left bank of the Dnipro River. The first music school enrolled twenty students, teenagers and grown-ups. Some of the students were chosen from among the soldiers of the military units stationed in the area. The students were taught to read sheet music, to play the violin, bandura and some other Ukrainian national instruments, and also to sing in chorus. The families of choristers were exempted from paying taxes. Some of the students later became famous. One of them is Dmytro Bortnyansky, a composer who wrote music for choral church singing, well-known in Ukraine and Russia. Incidentally, the only known monument to him is to be found in St John’s Cathedral in New York, among the monuments to twelve composers who contributed most to the development of religious music.



Hlukhiv at night. School in Hlukhiv, built in 1874 with the money donated by Tereshchenko (at present, it houses a teachers’ training college). Above-the-Gate Church of Mother of God. 1999, the Hlynska Pustyn Monastery. Hlukhiv at night. The central part of the town.
Another famous student was Hryhoriy Skovoroda, the would-be most prominent philosopher of Ukraine in the eighteenth century. His philosophical legacy continues to be studied by budding philosophers even today. Maksym Berezovsky, a brilliant musician, forgotten and neglected for a long time and restored to fame a couple of decades ago, was also one of the students of the Hlukhiv music school. He was born in Hlukhiv in 1745, and at an early age was enrolled by the music school because of his perfect ear. He learnt to play the violin when still very young, and sang in church choirs. To develop his unique musical talents he was sent to Bologna, Italy, which was one of the greatest European musical centres of the time. His opera Demofont was a great success and Berezovsky’s name was entered in gold letters on the marble plaque on the wall of the Bologna Academy. One of the other names on that plaque is that of Mozart. When Berezovsky returned from Italy, he was not well received at the Imperial court in St Petersburg.

Ada Rohovtseva,
a prominent Ukrainian actress, native of Hlukhiv.

One of the most outstanding musical works of Berezovsky is called Don’t Reject Me When I’m Old (one can’t help remembering the Beatles’ Will you still need me when I’m sixty four?). But the musician did not live to be old. His opera about Zaporizhian Cossacks displeased the Empress, Catherine II, who was the one who had actually suppressed the last remaining vestiges of Cossack liberties. Cold reception in St Petersburg and personal problems combined to end his life in a suicide when he was just 32. His contemporary, the Russian painter Fyodor Shubin who had met the Ukrainian musician in Bologna, painted Berezovsky’s portrait which now hangs in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. It was not the first time, nor the last, that aspirations of an artist were dashed against the unyielding conservatism of the potentates.
Chief architect

From the windows of the apartment of the current chief architect of Hlukhiv, Mr Valeriy Hryban, you can see Hlukhiv’s central park with a sculpture in it..

.A closer look reveals that the monument is to Ukrainian composers Maksym Berezovsky and Dmytro Bortnyansky. It was designed by sculptor Inna Kolomiyets and erected by architect Anatoliy Ihnashchenko to mark Berezovsky’s 250-year anniversary. Bortnyansky lived a much happier life than Berezovsky, and whose fame in the eighteenth century Ukraine and Russia was hardly equalled by any other composer. Valeriy Hryban, in the capacity of Hlukhiv’s chief architect, had to overcome an opposition to introduction of new ideas in architecture and city planning. “When first I talked about future plans, I was told that I should focus on building new garages,” said Hryban describing his early stages as chief architect. “But gradually I managed to make my point of view accepted. We should not be ashamed of our creations.”
Berezovsky Arts School
Choir Maksym Berezovsky Arts School, built to Hryban’s design, stands out among houses built in the fifties, sixties and seventies, as a notable architectural landmark. The school, among many other subjects, trains students in dancing and choral singing. In the choir’s repertoire are musical pieces of Bortnyansky, Berezovsky, Chaikovsky and of other composers who wrote religious choral music.

Interior of the Church of Three Anastasiyas.

Monument to Dmytro Bortnyansky. 1995.
The choir has performed in the churches of Hlukhiv, at the Cossack Art Festival in Kyiv and in the Hlynska Pustyn Monastery. The monastery, situated about 12 miles from Hlukhiv, used to be a place visited by thousands of pilgrims. In the four centuries of its existence eleven thousand miraculous healings were said to have taken place among those who came to the monastery seeking recovery from illnesses in prayer. The Berezovsky Arts School Choir is managed and directed by Kateryna Kobzar. She is selflessly devoted to her work. The recognition came to the choir when, in 1990, a local priest named Kozma who had been performing religious services in the Church of Three Anastasiyas in Hlukhiv, offered Kobzar to have the choir sing old religious choral pieces that he had discovered in the archives of his church. The idea got the backing of the school’s headmistress, Olena Sakun, a broad-minded person of many cultural interests. Mrs Sakun also heads the local philharmonic society and plays Chopin whom she loves above any other composer, at concerts.
Actress and patrons of art
Ada Rohovtseva, one of the leading actresses of Kyiv, grew up in Hlukhiv. She shared her memories of the town with me: “Hlukhiv is a town of my childhood and this alone gives a special, warm feeling to my reminiscences. I remember well the tall water tower and churches of the central part of town.

My grandfather used to sing in church choirs. But there is anguish in my memories, too. Though I was still a child, I remember well the years of Nazi occupation. My family lived in the part of town called Chervona Hirka, not far from army barracks. The Nazis set up a concentration place quite close to the place where we lived. I remember Mother gathering food for the inmates. Neighbours helped with whatever they could, too. It was a problem to get the food passed to the prisoners. Barbed wire was everywhere. You could easily get shot if caught in the act of passing the food. In spite of all the hardships, Mother did all she could to bring some joy to the family. Once, she even brought a fur tree from the forest to celebrate Christmas and New Year. It was a courageous act, she could pay dearly for it. She did it at night and what a wonderful surprise it was for me to discover a beautiful Christmas tree in the room, waiting to be decorated. We, with my younger brother, made whatever decorations we could, from paper and from other handy materials. I also remember going hungry most of the time. There were eight people in our family but we were lucky to have our own vegetable garden. It saved us from starvation. The soil in and around Hlukhiv is very fertile. After the war I moved to Kyiv but Hlukhiv is still in my heart. I remember the people of Hlukhiv as being full of dignity, geniality and warmth.” Mykola and Fedir Tereshchenko, industrialists and patrons of arts of the end of the nineteenth — early twentieth century in Kyiv, were born in a small village close to Hlukhiv. They started their first business by making hemp ropes, then they moved into other businesses, and at last became the leading sugar producers of the Russian Empire. Though they spent most of their time in Kyiv, they did not forget the town of Hlukhiv either. They founded a teachers’ training college in Hlukhiv, the first of its kind in Ukraine. It has been training teachers ever since. One of the outstanding film directors of Ukraine, Oleksandr Dovzhenko, studied at this college in the twenties of this century. The brothers Tereshchenko donated money for the construction of schools, orphanages, hospitals and churches. Incidentally, the Church of Three Anastasiyas, mentioned earlier, was built with Tereshchenko’s money. Hlukhiv’s chief architect Hryban believes that his town could be easily turned in a tourist centre: “Provided we have enough resources for restoration and building of hotels, there is a lot that we can show visitors. And get them very interested.”

By Heorhiy-Hryhoriy Pylypenko
Photographs by Yuriy Moskalenko


Berezovsky Art School. 1995.


Choir singing religious choral music.
Conductor K. Kobzar.


Hlukhiv’s water tower. 1929.