Kyiv’s parks were once for af­flu­ent only

Kyiv Post - - Lifestyle - BY OK­SANA FARYNA

There was a time when walk­ing about in Kyiv’s parks was a priv­i­lege. Well, at least it was true for the well-kept and land­scaped parks. At the start of the 20th cen­tury, Kyi­vans had to pay 10 to 40 kopecks to walk in a park, or spend a night there.

Vis­it­ing the best parks was a priv­i­lege of the rich be­fore the 1917 rev­o­lu­tion, when 10 kopecks would buy two ki­los of bread or a bucket of toma­toes. For 40 kopecks, you could buy in ex­cess of one kilo of meat.

For those who could af­ford it, the price was worth it as it in­cluded en­ter­tain­ment by var­i­ous singers and the­atri­cal troupes.

One of those high class parks was called Chateau-de-fleur, or Cas­tle of Flow­ers, which oc­cu­pied the space now taken by Dy­namo Sta­dium. An­other park was Ku­pet­sky Sad, or Mer­chant Gar­den, lo­cated on one of the Dnipro’s hills.

It is the Mer­chant Gar­den, over­look­ing the Dnipro River and its pris­tine left bank, that you can see in the blackand-white-photo taken in the early 20th cen­tury.

The park owes its name to the Mer­chant Assem­bly House built in 1882 by the fa­mous Rus­sian ar­chi­tect Vladimir Niko­laev. In its early days the build­ing served as a club for Kyiv mer­chants and housed nu­mer­ous con­certs, balls, mas­quer­ades, char­ity lot­ter­ies, fam­ily par­ties and many other events. Its pil­lared con­cert hall was fa­mous for the best acous­tics in the city. And that is pre­cisely the rea­son why it has since been turned into a Na­tional Phil­har­monic.

The beau­ti­ful domed build­ing and lacy carved wooden gal­leries in the mid­dle of the old picture is a Sum­mer The­ater. In the warm sea­son, it hosted per­for­mances and con­certs as well as the small shell-shaped stage to the right did. These days, the same park has an open stage un­der the Arch of Friend­ship (mid­dle of the mod­ern picture), while a smaller shell-shaped stage is hid­den in the depth of the park closer to Mariyin­skiy Palace.

Kyiv’s rich en­joyed spend­ing their time in paid-for public parks such as the Mer­chant Gar­den.

The parks that were free of charge of­ten had no benches, their al­leys were weedy and se­cu­rity was poor. They of­ten at­tracted home­less peo­ple.

There were ex­cep­tions to that rule, how­ever. Volodymyrs­ka Hirka Park, also vis­i­ble in the fore­ground of the old picture, is one of them.

“The only place more or less com­fort­able for free walk­ing was Volodymyrs­ka Hill,” Olek­sandr Pataleev, a mer­chant from the 19th cen­tury Kyiv, re­called in his mem­oirs. “But even here Kyiv hooli­gans and poor light­ning from kerosene lamps made it so that mid­dle­class cou­ples did not con­sider this place re­spectable enough.”

With time both Volodymyrs­ka Hill and the Mer­chant Gar­den, now part of the Khreshchat­iy Park, be­came safe enough and loved by Kyi­vans – as well as free of charge. While Volodymyrs­ka Hill was cov­ered with lush trees over time, Ku­pet­sky Gar­den changed more rad­i­cally.

In 1982, a tall, 50 me­ters in di­am­e­ter, rain­bow-shaped ti­ta­nium arch ap­peared in the park. It was un­veiled there to sym­bol­ize uni­fi­ca­tion of Rus­sian and Ukrainian na­tions and was called Friend­ship of Na­tions Arch. This land­mark mon­u­ment was made by sculp­tor Olek­sandr Skob­likov and sev­eral Soviet ar­chi­tects.

Un­der­neath the arch one can see two groups of sculp­tures. One de­picts a Rus­sian and Ukrainian work­ers hold­ing the Soviet Or­der of Friend­ship of Peo­ples. An­other por­trays par­tic­i­pants of 1654 Pereyaslav­ska Rada, in­clud­ing Ukrainian het­man Bo­hdan Kh­mel­nyt­sky and the Rus­sian en­voy, bo­yar Vasily Bu­turlin. Due to this treaty part of Ukrainian ter­ri­tory was grad­u­ally over­taken by the power- ful Rus­sian Em­pire. There­fore some Kyi­vans jok­ingly call this mon­u­ment The Yoke.

At night, the arch lights up with the colors of the rain­bow, which the younger Kyi­vans in­ter­pret as the sym­bol of the gay com­mu­nity and a sign that Kyiv is slowly chang­ing.

Kyiv Post staff writer Ok­sana Faryna can be reached at [email protected]

Nowa­days the park, now called Khreshchat­y, is free for all and fa­mous for a rain­bow­shaped mon­u­ment, Friend­ship of Na­tions Arch, built here in 1982. (Kostyan­tyn Ch­er­nichkin)

A view of Kyiv Mer­chant Gar­den and its Sum­mer Theater in the early 20th cen­tury. The best parks charged ad­mis­sion and of­fered mu­sic, per­for­mances and other en­ter­tain­ment. (Cen­tral State Cinepho­tophono Ar­chive of Hordiy Psheny­chny)

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