Set in Lypkiy, Kyiv’s posh area of Pechersk district, Mykhaila Hrushevskoho or simply Hrushevskoho Street stretches between European and Arsenalna squares, and is bordered by Khreshchatyk, Volodymyrskiy Uzviz, Petrovska Alleya, Muzeyny Provulok, Sadova, Shovkovychna, Moskovska, Mazepy and other less well-known streets. Rich in architectural masterpieces – the National Fine Art Museum (designed by famous architect Vladislav Horodetsky), the Academic Puppet Theatre (a fairytale castle on the hill), the House of Officers (employed as a first-aid centre by protesters) – it is justly dubbed the governmental quarters, as it houses some top-of-the-line government buildings such as the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament), Cabinet of Ministers, Mariinsky Palace (the official ceremonial residence of the Ukrainian President), among others.
The history of Hrushevskoho dates back approximately 500 years, when in the 16th century, this thoroughfare was part of the Old Road connecting Pechersk and Podil, two densely populated districts of Kyiv at the time. Running through a forest, the Old Road descended to the centre of Podil, present day Kontraktova Ploscha.
Manor houses began appearing along the Old Road in the mid-18th century, along with the marvellous Mariinsky Palace, designed by highly-acclaimed architect Bartolomeo Rostrelli on the order of Empress Elizaveta. Completed in 1752, the Empress did not live long enough to see her architectural masterpiece, and so it was to be Catherine the Great who was the first royal to enjoy the Palace upon her visit to Kyiv in 1787. After burning to the ground in the early 19th century, it was reconstructed in 1870 under Emperor Aleksandr II, and named Mariinsky Palace after his wife Empress Maria, serving as a residence for visiting members of the Imperial family until 1917.
With wealthy nobles living in the area, erecting mansions in neo-Renaissance style along the Old Road, a very long and winding street – connecting present-day Hrushevskoho, Volodymyrskiy Uzviz and Sahaidachnoho – resulted. Named after the Emperor, it was called Aleksandrivska Street, and was the first ever paved roadway in Kyiv. Tramlines were also launched in 1894, and later disassembled in 1998.
A Change Of Epochs, A Change Of Names
The October Revolution of 1917 changed everything... With Bolshevik leaders to appease now rather than tsars, Hrushevskoho kept in line with new regime “trends”, and was renamed Vulytsya Revolutsiyi (Revolution Street) just two years later. The remodelling continued in 1934 when it was further divided into three parts, with the section constituting contemporary Hrushevskoho dubbed Vulytsya Kirova, after Sergey Kirov, head of the Communist Party in Leningrad.
In World War II, when Kyiv was occupied by Nazi troops in 1941–43, the street was again rechristened – Doktor Tod Strasse. In German, “Tod” means “death”, though no one could have foretold the tragedy that would take place there more than 70 years on.
After the War, the street regained its former moniker – Kirova, which held until 1991, the year Ukraine gained independence, when it was retitled for what will hopefully be the last time.
The First President Of Ukraine
One of Ukraine’s greatest historians, politicians, and public figures, Mykhailo Hrushevskiy (1866 –1934), lends his name to the street today, one of the main sites of the EuroMaidan protests. Making great contributions to the Ukrainian national revival of the early 20th century, his merit list is quite impressive: head of the Shevchenko Scientific Society in Lviv; head of the Lviv University Department of History; a member of Czech, Ukrainian and USSR Academies of Science; and more than 2,000 scientific works have been produced in his name. But he is possibly best known for his magnum opus – Istoriia Ukrayiny-Rusy (The History of Ukraine-Rus), published in 10 volumes between 1898 and 1937. It is the most comprehensive account of Ukraine’s history from ancient times to the second half of the 17th century, influencing the shaping of modern-day Ukrainian historiography. Though internationally acclaimed, it was banned under the Soviet regime. To top it off, Hrushevskiy is considered the first president of the country – he served as head of the government of the independent Ukrainian republic in 1917–1918.
Emperors, Bolsheviks, Nazis, Soviets... Hrushevskoho has seen and survived them all. Within these cobblestones, most recently flung at police by pro-democracy protestors, a street with stamina and charisma, aristocratic grandeur and revolutionary spirit remains. Take a walk and see for yourself its determination.
by Anna Azarova