Natalie Khoroyan

Kharkov on the Boundary of the XIX and XX centuries:
Uncritical Regionalism.
Architectural School without Vernacular


Different kinds of cities are to be found: cities-strongholds, cities-capitals, cities-fairs, ports and etc., and etc. Kharkov - the second on significance city of Ukraine after Kiev, owes its rise to opening of Kharkov Emperor's university in 1805. There are all the foundations to consider this event to be the main precondition for constitution in Kharkov of its own architectural school - at first as a community of practicing architects and then as a system of reproduction of professionals. However this did happened not at once; the process of forming of the Kharkov architectural school had been developing in the last decades of the XIX century and had completed in general in the 1900-th.

Creation of the university (the second in Russian empire after the Moscow one) played a key role in transformations of an urban way of life, in attracting to Kharkov land of numerous Russian and foreign specialists of the very different fields, including building engineering and architecture. This circumstance promoted building of the railway branch-line from Moscow to the south of Russia via Kharkov (1869); due to that considerable finances were poured in Kharkov, the development of local trade and industry obtained an unprecedented scale.

The consequences of all above mentioned were not only gradual strengthening of the significance of Kharkov in the Empire, but also fast transformations inside the city. Among them the most essential for our subject are the forming (again on the basis of Kharkov university) of a very trustworthy Kharkov school of municipal management1 and the building boom of the 1880-th - 1910-th.2 In the rapidly developing city increased the demand for architects and building engineers. There emerged the necessity of creation of a corresponding educational base.


1. From the City History

The majority of historians connect the beginnings of the city with the Liberation War of Ukrainian people (1648-1654) and with the Reunion of Ukraine and Russia in 1654. In 1654-1655 a numerous group of resettlers from behind Dnieper arrived here and having settled down on the hill, built up their dwellings, and soon the erection of а defense fortress has begun. Thus the largest city center of the left-bank Ukraine was found. Contemporary Kharkov with the 1.6 million population has a large economic, industrial, scientific, cultural potential. Kharkov is the greatest educational power in Ukraine. There are more than 180.000 students of Higher Schools here.


1.1  Permanent Trade

Kharkov from the old times was famous of its fairs. As far as in 1659 the city got the permission for the yearly Assumption fair and for weekly auctions. Henceforth 80 days yearly there took place lively trade: on Epiphany (January, 7 - February, 1), Trinity (June, 1-17), Assumption (August, 18 - September, 1) and Protection (October, 1-26) fairs. A lot of various goods flew together here. They were brought from St. Petersburg and Baltic harbors, Moscow, Suzdal, Tula, Kiev, Crimea, Taganrog, Tsaritsin (now Volgograd), Samara, Saratov etc. At the same place one could buy goods and wears from Poland, Silesia, Moldavia, Turkey and other countries. The weight of Kharkov fairs in all-Russian commodity circulation was essential.

The strengthening of significance of the South - the Novorussia lands - has entailed the growth of significance of Kharkov as the permanent intermediary between the South and the Center of the state in their trade connections and relations. Kharkov trade began flourishing not only during traditional fairs, but also in so-called fair breaks.

The rise of the economic significance of the city was accompanied by transformation of Kharkov into a large (at those times) administrative center. In 1765, on January, 18 Kharkov got the status of a principal town of Slobodsko-Ukrainian province, which was renamed in 1835 to Kharkov’s province. From 1870 Kharkov achieved the rights of city self-government.

From that very moment the rates of growth of city population constantly increased: in 1850 it was 41.861 people, in 1861 - 50.391, in 1871 - 85.562, in 1881 - 128.445, and in 1901 - 198.237. In connection with the widening of cultural demands of its inhabitants and the population of Kharkov’s and neighbour provinces new educational establishments appear in Kharkov3. After the opening of the university in 1805 Kharkov became an intellectual center of all the Southern Russia (more details will discuss further). Of course all these factors stimulated permanent Kharkov trade.

On May, 22 of 1869 the first train came to Kharkov from the North, having opened the movement on Kursk-Kharkov-Azov railway. Railway construction, which turned Kharkov into the junction of the new way of transportation of goods from the most remote lands, still more reinforced Kharkov trade in the second part of the XIX century and made a noticeable turn in the character of trade activity.


1.2  Development of Credit Institutions

A great role in the development of the city played the rise of the powerful coal and metallurgical industry in the neighbour regions - Donbass and Krivorozhye. The closeness of Kharkov to those regions, the availability of working force, grown up not on the basis of original cottage industry, but rather under the influence of the powerful educational center, and at last, considerable trade capital - all that turned the city into the biggest finance-industrial center in the South of Russia (transport and trade one also).

The mentioned above growth of permanent trade, together with the development of industry and handicraft production caused the necessity of organization of credit, which could fill up the lack of entrepreneur’s cash capitals. It’s natural that credit institutions of different types appeared in Kharkov: joint-stock, public, reciprocal. The two last ones were a characteristic feature of Kharkov: private enterprise was widely developed.

Such strong development of credit institutions dates from the second part of the XIX century, from the end of the 60-s. At that time in Kharkov there were 12 credit institutions, the city was distinguished by the volume of its trade turnover, being a transmissive point between industrial Russia and her Southern region - Novorussian land.


1.3  University

Already in the XVIII century due to its collegium - a unique educational institution in Ukraine - Kharkov gained the significance of educational center of Slobodskaya Ukraine. In 1768 Additional classes of Kharkov collegium were opened; they provided training of the stuff for civil and military institutions. The graduates, the first local architects, produced in 1787 the first real project of the city development.

In the XIX century Kharkov became “mental”4 and science-educational center of all the South-Eastern Russia. It owes this high position among other cities to the establishment of three new higher education institutions, first of all - the university. Kharkov university, operating from 1805, produced as its branch Veterinary institute (in 1839 it was a veterinary school by the university, in 1850 - a separate college, in 1873 - an institute). Due to the university the opening of the Practical technological institute became possible in 1885.

None of the Russian universities was so closely connected with the city, in which it had been founded and where it was functioning, as Kharkov University. The main fact of its foundation Kharkov University owes to a local public figure V.N. Karazin, who is justly considered as the founder of this institution. But Karazin himself would have been helpless if he had not met moral and material support of the society (not only of nobility, but also of other layers of Kharkov population - province officialdom, the merchants and petty bourgeois). The enlightened helper of V.N. Karazin and provader of his ideas was the city mayor E.E. Uryupin (at that time he was a merchant of the third guild, and later for his assistance in organization of Kharkov University   he was granted a noble rank of collegium assessor).

In spite of the fact that in 1802, before the opening of the university Kharkov was the main city of the province and was distinguished by its fairs and already existing educational institutions, formally it could not pretend on the opening of the university in it. The city was not ready for that, considering the number of its inhabitants, its city budget, the city accomplishment, and the state power didn’t realize the necessity of the opening there of the educational establishment, that had not yet existed neither in Kiev, nor in Petersburg.

The situation was firming gradually. V.N. Karazin highly appreciated the propagation of moral ideas of the famous Ukrainian philosopher-humanist and enlightener G.S. Skovoroda, whose friends and admirers became later the main figures, deciding the question of material donation on the new educational institution; and that fact obviously was not occasional. E.E. Uryupin also was a good friend of G.S. Skovoroda and a follower of his ideas, he was an outstanding person of civic honour and courage. Mainly it was just he, who turned out to be the main mover of the idea of the university among the citizens. As for Karazin, he used his closeness (due to his work in the department of public enlightenment) to the Emperor and, being a compiler of the plan of public education in Russia, he solicited for the opening of the university in Kharkov.

Kharkov Emperor’s University was created in the image and likeness of Moscow University. The attitude towards the University of the city administration and city community was always benevolent and full of respect. Kharkov rendered assistance to the University, mainly - with money. But all that was a drop in the bucket in comparison with what Kharkov has hound later from the University.

In order to get an idea of this it’s necessary to discuss briefly those sides of the University life, which were closely connected with city culture. Some of the cultural phenomena entirely owe their origin to the University.

The scientific sphere of activity, which was initiated, supported and developed by the University, made the city a Ukrainian scientific center. One after another a number of scientific societies was established by the University: philological (1813), medical (1861), that of naturalists (1869), of physics-chemistry sciences (1872), history-philology (1876), mathematical (1879), agricultural (1880), juridical (1890). The names of outstanding scientists in different fields of knowledge are connected with Kharkov. Today Kharkov scientists also do carry weight in the world scientific community

The development of literary activity in Kharkov in the XIX century was also closely connected with the University; the same can be said about journalism. Here first were published: “Kharkov Democritos” “Ukrainian herald”, “Morning Star”, “Molodyk” (“Young man”), newspapers “Kharkov weekly” (1812), “Kharkov News” (1817, 1818). The university typography worked not only for the University, but for the city and also for all the educational region. The University had the right of censorship of the materials, printed there.

The sphere of art - in the broad sense - gained its development under a significant assistance of the University. For example, on the basis of collections of painting, engraving and moulds, bought by and granted to the University, a Museum of Fine Arts was established.

On the whole, we may say about the wide influence of the University on material and spiritual life of the city. Why was it so and where from came that all-Ukrainian influence of the University?

The First Regulations of the University put it at the head of all the educational business in the whole educational region ― i.e. higher than all the secondary and primary schools. Kharkov educational region at that time was enormous. Besides Kharkov province it included: Chernigovskaya, Voronezhskaya, Kurskaya, Poltavskaya, Ekaterinoslavskaya (now ― Dnepropetrovskaya), Khersonskaya, Tavricheskaya (Crimea) regions, territory of Donskaya Army and Caucasia. A bit later Kievskaya, Orlovskaya and Tambovskaya regions were also included there. Thus at that time Kharkov educational region included those provinces, which later became a part of Kievskiy, Odesskiy and Caucasian educational regions!

This put Kharkov into a special privileged position in comparison with all the rest cities of Kharkov region. Toward them it played the role of a circuit, central city, thogh it was inferior to many of them as in a number of citizens, as in antiquity, as in some other aspects. But none of those cities, including Kiev had its own university at that time, and their secular educational establishments were in hierarchical dependence from Kharkov Emperor’s University. In its region the university accomplished supervision on teaching, upbringing, administrative and economic work, took measures for the opening of gymnasias, district and parish schools, employed and dismissed the personnel, and had its own jurisdiction over the stuff.

Western Europe got acquainted with Kharkov through the mediation of the University due to the fact, that at first the main way to form the professors’ collegium was the invitation of foreign professors to Kharkov from abroad. German professor Meiners and even Goethe contributed into making up of the stuff. Among 47 lecturers of Kharkov University during the first ten years of its work there were 29 foreigners.  Those were lecturers from Germany (18 persons), Slavic lands (7), France (4 ones). Foreign professors had brought with them the academic traditions of the ancient Western universities, they introduced to youth not only sciences, but also new languages, in which they delivered lectures.  Studying youth and to a certain extent Kharkov society got an opportunity to become acquainted with living bearers of West-European culture.

Numerous collections, scientific library, different laboratories, observatory zoological, biological, mineralogical architectural rooms, a room of rarities - in the XIX cent. Kharkov University could be proud of all those and other possessions. On the spot of a forestry a university garden was layed, the upper terrace of which was occupied by а landscape park (now - Shevchenko’s Garden), and the lower one - by botanical gardens with greenhouses and hothouses.

Kharkov relative to Ukraine is compared with Athens relative to other Greek cities. Maybe, it is too boldly, but one may say with confidence that Kharkov owes its rapid growth and development in the XIX century and its high position among the cities of all the South of Russian Empire to a greater extent to Kharkov University, than to trade, even not taking into consideration the fact, that education itself is a precious acquisition.

Before the opening of the University Kharkov could not be compared with Poltava, Kursk, Orel, Voronezh and even Belgorod. Such raise of Kharkov could not be possible only due to trade and favorable geographical position, as shows an example of neighbor Sumy and Kursk; and as for industry at that time it was rudimentary. It was just the University, which attracted to the city an enlightened community - and it turned to be sufficient for the forthcoming success of industry, financial inflow and all the rest aspects, that elevate the city among the others and give it the future.


2. Kharkov on the border of XIX and XX centuries

Kharkov architects of this period in a majority were educated in learning institutions of St. Petersburg ad Moscow. Some of them worked on probation in Europe (in Germany, France). On their arrival in Kharkov, they brought architectural tendencies and different creative methods, perceived far from “midday land”.

Here is a list of most significant architects, who worked in Kharkov in the 1880-th - 1900-th5:

M.I. Lovtcov (1850-1907) - born in Ryazan (Russia); graduated in 1873 from St. Petersburg Institute of Civil Engineers (S-PICE); adherent of eclecticism, Russian-Byzantine and neo-roman styles; professor of Kharkov Technology Institute (KTI) from 1889;

A.N. Beketov (1862-1941) - a Kharkovite; in 1885 graduated from St. Petersburg Academy of Art (AA); built mainly in neo-renaissance; academician of architecture, in different times taught in KTI, Kharkov Art Institute (KAI) and during the soviet time in Kharkov Institute of Communal Engineering (KICE);

V.V. Velichko (1864-1923) - born in Warsaw; graduated in 1887 from AA; worked mainly in neo-renaissance; architect of Kharkov university;

K.N. Zhukov (1873-1940) - a Kharkovite; graduated in 1897 from Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture (Stroganov School); one of the founders of “Ukrainian modern style”; professor of KAI, taught in KAI and in the School of Printers;

B.N. Korneyenko (1871-1916) - born in Elisavetgrad (now Dnepropetrovsk); graduated from S-PICE in 1893; eclectic, preferred neo-Ukrainian style (or “Ukrainian modern style”8);

Brothers S.I. (1836-1904) and I.I. (1851-1919) Zagoskin - born in Kostroma (Russia); Sergey Iliodorovich was the alumnus of St. Petersburg Institute of Railroads Engineers, professor of KTI; both brothers were adherents of eclecticism;

B.G. Mikhalovski (1830-1909) - born in Vilno (now - Vilnius, Lithuania); in 1849 graduated from S-PICE; eclectic; taught in the I-st Kharkov Real School;

B.S. Pokrovski (1836-1903) - a Kharkovite; in 1857 graduated from S-PICE; eclectic (neo-baroque, neo-renaissance, neo-Russian style, etc.);

V.N. Pokrovski (1864-1924) - born in Kamenets-Podolski in Galichina; in 1888 graduated from AA; eclectic (neo-baroque, neo-renaissance, neo-Byzantine, neo-Russian style, etc.); professor of Art School and KTI;

A.M. Ginzburg (1876-1949) - born in Slavyansk (Donetsk region, Eastern Ukraine); in 1898 graduated from physics-mathematical faculty of Kharkov university, in 1903 - engineering faculty of KTY; a representative of Modern style (Art Nouveau); in the soviet time - professor of KICE;

A.I. Rzepiszewski (Rzhepishevski) (1879-1930) - born in Akkerman (Odessa province); in 1903 graduated from S-PICE, in 1904-1906 studied in Paris Ecole de Beaux Arts; a representative of Art Nouveau;

Y.S. Tsaune (1862-1930?) - in 1891 graduated from AA; eclectic (neo-renaissance); teacher and architect of KTI;

V.A. Estrovich (1881-1941) - born in Rossien (Kovel province); in 1907 graduated from S-PICE; eclectic (neo-Romanic, neo-classicism; later one of the bright representatives of Art Deco;

Ivan-Emily-Otto P. Ginsch (1834-?) - Dane (later Russian citizen); in 1865 graduated from AA; eclectic (motives of French renaissance, Romanic, Gothic); in the 2-nd half of the XIX century - architect of the University. 

Kharkov more than any other Ukrainian city of that time was closely ideologically connected with the Northern capital of the Empire, with St. Petersburg, as for town planning and architectural outlooks and principles. Construction of many significant buildings in Kharkov was conducted by Petersburg architects. Thus, the first five corps of Kharkov Practical Technological Institute were erected about 1877 in a so-called “brick style” by the design of St. Petersburg architect R.R. Genrichsen. Russian-Asian (Nothern) bank in Sumskaya street was built in 1908-10 in modernized classicism by the design of O.R. Munts and A.K. Schpigel. The largest in the city “Astoria” hotel in the former St. Paul square (“Nothern Art Nouveau”), was erected in 1910-1913 by architect N.V. Vasilyev (St. Petersburg) together with a Kharkovite A.I. Rzepiszevski. And at the time of Kharkov Art School construction in the former Kaplunovskaya str. (now it’s the “old” building of the Industrial Art Institute in the Red Banner street) as a result of polemics about the existence of original features of folk Ukrainian architecture the project of K.N. Zhukov, was approved. The author of this project, which was executed in stylistics of national-romantic trend of Art Nouveau, was an alumni of Moscow Stroganov School.

By the way, Kharkov Modern style (art Nouveau) - is also a polivalence phenomenon. While historians call the Mamontov’s circle and F.O. Schechtel’s “Gothic” as the origins of Moscow Modern style6, and St. Petersburg Art Nouveau has the evident Scandinavian and German features due to intensity of cultural contacts with the countries of Nothern Europe at that time, in Kharkov three characteristic trends find their place:

- decorative, freely operating by relief and flat ornamental adornments using floral and animal motives;

- constructive, making emphasis on the exposure of plastic qualities of building materials;

- free interpretation of forms and proportions of historical styles.7

On the late stages of the style development a “national note” sounds emphatically in Kharkov Modern style (K. Zhukov, V. Krichevski and others). The theme of folk dwelling as the basic motive for architectural variations, is widely used in this trend. It’s necessary to note, that traditional forms, arriving here, in the left-bank lands, and flourishing as the “national” trend of Art Nouveau, are not vernacular, because they are western-Ukrainian.

As we can see, tolerant attitude towards architectural ideas, brought to Kharkov lands, became a specific feature of Kharkov regional architectural school, while it was forming in the described period. Just this approach caused such bright style variety, which is noticeable in the buildings of those years. A lot of them remained in contemporary Kharkov. The same attitude, as we’ll show it below, is a characteristic feature also for the next generations of Kharkov architects.


3. Not so remote consequences

Today, a hundred years later, it’s quite evident that since the moment of creation of its own educational base Kharkov has gained the significance of an important architectural center. In 1918-1934, when Kharkov was the capital of the Soviet Ukraine republic, those architects, who were educated in local schools, became agents of the ideas of art pluralism. Such a specific professional quality which appeared to be very useful in the Kharkov conditions was undoubtedly a direct result of Kharkov architectural history. All the mentioned above facts and events created prerequisites for the own method of architectural training, based on acceptance of a wide spectrum of professional ideas (certainly, on condition that artistic taste and engineering competence are developed). One can affirm that by the “capital period” of Kharkov the reproduction of architects was put on a production line.

Capital post-revolution Kharkov quickly constructed the unprecedented here yet buildings for the organs of the new power. As it was set up in the soviet times, they didn’t grudge money for the capital, “throwing” here also significant creative forces. Kharkov became a lab for new architecture9, where all the new flew in organically, being based on already drawn attitude towards newly brought things.

The most bright buildings of this period are now the reading-book samples: Kharkov general post office (A. Mordvinov), the Gosprom building (house of the state industry; S. Serafimov, S. Felger, M. Kravets, M. Felger) and the rest of monuments forming the ensemble of the former Dzerzhinski square, a remarkable collection of the “capital” period buildings, representing with dignity constructivism and domestic version of Art Deco. In the all-union and international competitions for GPO, Gosprom, a theatre for mass actions participated I. Golosov, Vesnin brothers, V. Gropius ― and together with them, as equals -  architects-Kharkovites.

In those years Kharkov architects experimented not only with large public buildings, but they also built new kinds of dwelling houses and elaborated vanguard planning decisions. There has been formed a fundamentally different structure of new town districts. Dwelling complexes and separate houses had their own names, also presenting the “spirit of the time”: "Red Ray", "Red Industrialist", "House of Specialists", "Red Chemist", "New Way of Life", "Tobacco Worker", "Word".

Rejecting of historicism in architecture, unwillingness to follow its secular canons, search for completely different, new means of expression of the Modern movement ideology were considered to be characteristic indicators or even signs of the epoch. It’s right also that the doctrine and compositional system of constructivism are the products of creativity of Moscow Society of Modern Architects, famous OSA headed by M. Ginzburg and Vesnin brothers (Ukrainian branch of OSA was functioning in Kharkov).

So, what are the distinctive features of  Kharkov architectural school? The main thing, in our opinion, is that on the territory of a relatively young city (in comparison with other centers of architectural education) its own architectural tradition had not been formed, had not appeared the “architectural zest”, determining all the following developments of the local architecture ―such things, that in western cities had been formed for ages. During all the time of city existence architectural ideas were brought to Kharkov ― both from neighbor Russia and immediately from Europe. The city had no historical opportunity to bring up something really own, and in that it’s similar rather to the young cities of the New World. Only the sources of the things, that are introduced, are different, as different are the historical destinies of countries and towns.

Just due to that the benevolent and constructive attitude towards the ideas, incoming on the regional ground, became a unique way, which could be realized and become a core of Kharkov architectural tradition, which we’ve called in the title of this article “uncritical regionalism”. Its starting point is the absence of any significant folklore heritage, of any architectural vernacular. Its basic principles are: tolerance, dictated by the boundary location and intensive trade connections; intellectualism, which arose on the ground of the largest educational center in the country; and avant-gardism - the easily perceived by Kharkov architectural school, the shorter and more stormy its history of the ХIX - XX centuries was.


1 Говоренкова Т.М. Самоуправления на Украине. - "Медиаполис", № 1-2, 1996 - с. 62-65, 132-135

2 Попов В. А.К. Погорелко (1848-1912) - "первый гражданин города Харькова". - "Медиаполис", № 1, 1998 - с. 102-105

3 The first educational institution in Kharkov was the Collegium opened in 1727 and attached to Pokrovski (Protection) monastery. Except theology they taught there philosophy, physics, rhetoric, mathematics, geography, history, drawings, music, languages (Russian, Latin, Greece, German, French) and some other subjects. The outstanding Ukrainian philosopher and writer G. Skovoroda, whose humanitarian ideas greatly influenced the enlightened layers of Kharkov society of that period and later on, taught here in the 1770-th.

4 Багалей Д.И., Миллер Д.П. История города Харькова за 250 лет его существования (1655-1905). Историч. монография. В 2-х т. Т. 2 - Репринтное изд. - Харьков, 1993. - 982 с.

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