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¹7 (2014)
Tunnelling Towards Hope

28 February - 6 March 2014

Ukraine History

A Stronghold of Rulers and Rebels

With the recent death toll jumping to nearly 100 and 1,000 injured, Hrushevskoho Street, one of the strongholds of EuroMaidan’s three-month-long protests, made headlines around the globe. It was here, on 19 January the country’s stand against government corruption, abuse of power, and the violation of human rights turned from peaceful protest to all-out revolution. Having witnessed much over the years, Hrushevskoho is a street with a history, and not only care of recent days.


Ukraine Today
Acelebrity using their status and intelligence to influence public views and opinion is rarely seen in modern society, even less so in Ukraine. Here, the majority of celebs use their time, effort, and money to enhance or further their career rather than put their name to something that can do good for others. However, as EuroMaidan intensifies, some are making themselves heard – and they fall either side of the EuroMaidan divide.
It used to be that when rebellion and revolution occurred, the intellectual, creative, and spiritual elite would be front and centre.


Ukrainian Culture

When Walls Can Talk

People have been writing on walls since the dawn of civilisation, we call it graffiti, and ranges from simple written words to elaborate wall paintings. Sometimes it is merely the creator wanting to leave his or her mark; sometimes there is an underlying social or political reason. And it is due to the latter that graffiti has exploded across Kyiv in recent months. Anti dictator messages aside, we peel back a few layers of paint to look at graffiti in the city in general.


Ukraine Travel

Defenders of the Realm

Over its long history, Ukraine has seen more than its fair share of invasion, war and strife, clear evidence of which is provided by the many castles dotting the land in their silent majesty. Whereas 3 000 of these feudal defensive outposts once protected Ukraine’s various regions and their peoples, a mere 116 remain.  Still, for those inclined towards chivalric romances, or for those more attuned to the cold, hard and often cruel facts of military history, castle fans will find no shortage in Ukraine.  The attrition of Ukraine’s castles should be on the wane, as UNESCO and national recognition of some of these historical sites as worthy of protection may help to stem the tide of oft-destructive “progress.” 

Below, What’s On offers a list - non-exhaustive to be sure, but an excellent starting point – for readers interested in some adventure, perhaps over the upcoming holidays.

Akkerman Fortress in Bilhorod-Dnistrovskiy(Odeska Oblast)
Found in Odesa oblast, this castle has had many different names over the years, given by the many different nations which possessed it.  Most translations, however, refer to it as the ‘white fortress’, reflecting the large number of white seashells that mark the shore upon which the fortress was built,  as well as the castle’s numerous limestone buildings. It is uncertain how long the actual fortress has been standing, as the city itself marked its 2500th anniversary in 1998. What is certain is that construction of its high walls and towers began at some point in the 13th century, and the castle has been under the careful watch of Moldovans, Genoese and Turks during its long life. As Ukraine’s most grandiose fortress, it was recognised as an historical architectural landmark in 1896, and having served as the set for many Soviet films of the early 20th century, it is truly something to behold. 

Bar Castle in Bar(Vinnytsa Oblast)
Built in 1452, this castle has changed hands a few times in the course of its lifetime, and almost a century after it was built was under the control of the Polish Queen Bona Sphortsa. Once called ‘The Gates of Polish Ukraine’, the castle was renamed along with the town after a town in the queen’s native duchy in Italy, Bari. In 1636, Hetman Stanislav Konetspolskiy moved his residence to Bar and replaced the old fortress, but it would suffer at the hands of Cossack leader Maxym Kryvonis during the Khmelnytskiy Uprising, as well as from the Turks, who took control just 40 years later. It remains in decay to this day. 

Berezhany Castle in Berezhany(Zhytomyrska Oblast)
Designed by the French and built by the Italians, this castle built in the 1530s and 40s has hosted Polish magnates, kings and even Peter the Great! Built in a deep swampy river valley, it was so well fortified that neither Khmelnitskiy’s Cossacks, nor the Turks succeeded in taking it, yet it was transferred among noble families throughout its entire lifetime. Damaged by WWI military action, it has been said that the Soviets deliberately aimed to destroy it at the end of WWI. Although it is not much more than a shadow of its former self, the ruins cannot hide the former architectural beauty it once was. 

Berdychiv Castle in Berdychiv(Ternopilska Oblast)
Beginning in 1320, this small town belonged to the estate of a Polish noble family. Having suffered at the hands of prior Mongol and Tatar invasions, fortifications of the town allowed it to prosper. While enemies found it very difficult to breach the walls, stories tell of one of the male members of the family, kidnapped by the Tatars in 1626. When he returned from captivity, he founded a monastery which he then donated to the monks of the mendicant Order of the Barefoot Carmelites. In 1648, religious tensions between the ?atholic monastery and the general Orthodox population, paved the way for Bohdan Khmelnitskiy’s siege of the castle. Considerable sums of money were donated by the Vatican for its renovation, and while WWII would also inflict its wrath on the long-suffering structure, it has since become a centre of cultural life, immortalised forever by the memoirs of Honore de Balzac.

Dubno Castle in Dubno(Rivnenska Oblast)
Dubno Castle, which overlooks the Ikva River, was founded in 1492 by Lithuanian Prince Konstantin Ostrogski. Reconstructed and re-fortified several times, it boasted an impressive array of cannons, as well as a treasure trove that was thought to have garnered the interest of the Tatars more than once. As with most fortresses in the country, the castle itself  - as well as its surrounding area  - was often faced with heavy fighting in the days of Hetman Khmelnytskiy (descriptions of which can be found in “Taras Bulba” by Nikolai Gogol). WWI was also unkind to Dubno Castle and, retaken by Poland, it was transformed into a military garrison, only later to be used for even more sinister purposes, as an NKVD prison and site of hundreds, if not thousands of executions during WWII. 

Chufut Kale Fortress near Bakhchisaray(Crimea)
This bastion was historically one of the centres of the Crimean Karaite community, the name of which is Turkish for “Jewish fortress”, or “Place of Forty”, as it was known in the Middle Ages. While no one really knows when the city was founded, experts believe that its remains go back to the fifth or sixth century, when it was founded by tribes of Iranian descent. Little recorded history has come down to us from the period between its founding and Mongol-Tatar invasions of the 13th century, when the cave town was taken and became the centre of a small feudal principality. It remained as such until the mid-17th century, when its significance as a stronghold decreased, as neighbouring Bakhchisaray began to flourish. By the mid-19th century, it was completely abandoned. However, there still exist the remains of caves cut into the cliffs, the ruins of a mosque, a mausoleum (from 1437) and two Karaite cenotaphs.

The Genoese Fortress in Sudak(Crimea)
The city of Sudak is believed to have been founded in 212 AD by the same Alan settlers who were instrumental in the settlement of the Chufut Kale area. By the 6th century, the Eastern Roman Emperor had ordered that a fortress be constructed. From then until the 12th century when the Genoese took control, it was dominated by the Khazars, the Byzantine Empire and the Tatars. By 1380, they generally controlled the whole Crimean Black Sea Coast between them.  Sudak remained a vital stronghold, in light of its command of the trade routes. Some say that the size, position and strength of the fortress that stood here is, to some extent, a measure of the sense of insecurity felt by the Genoese. Built on a hill 150m above sea level, it was easy to keep watch on the surrounding area, but it was not sufficient to stave off the Ottoman Turkish invasion. Not only did they lose control of the area (never to regain it), but the lucrative trade in slaves and spices also disappeared. The fortress also fell into disuse until the 18th century, when Imperial Russia gained control, turning it into a garrison. It has since been restored to its original beauty and is open to the public.  

Kamianets-Podilskiy Castle in Kamianets-Podilskiy (Khmelnytska Oblast)
The name of this castle comes from the word rock in most Slavic languages and that’s exactly what it looks like, sitting atop a large elevated peninsula. With historical accounts dating back to the mid-14th century, and control exercised by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the fortress played a major role in seeing off attacks from Cossack, Ottoman and Tatar forces, and while none were ever successful, the castle was not immune to damage. The forces in possession of the castle changed often, until the city’s leaders surrendered to the Ottomans near the end of the 17th century. Beginning in the 18th century, and with the return of Polish control, the fortress was used more as a prison than a military fortification, and would remain such until 1928, when it was declared a historical cultural preserve by the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1989, it became a part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites and remains a must-see.   

Khotyn Fortress in Khotyn (Chernivetska Oblast)
Found on the shores of the Dniester River, this area was very important for trade and, therefore, required some sort of border fortification. Construction started in the Kyivan Rus period of Ukrainian history, in the 10th century. Throughout the years, however, the castle expanded significantly, with the 13th century perhaps most prominent, with adaptations the Genoese, Moldovan Prince Dragos and Stephen the Great of Hungary playing the most key roles. The year 1621 saw the Battle of Khotyn, where Ukrainian Hetman Petro Sahaidachniy and others held off the Turkish sultan, and in 1650, Bohdan Khmelnytskiy himself occupied the fortress, until various battles and peace treaties dictated new foreign occupants. Today, however, it is an architectural preserve and the fount of many legends. 

Kremenets Castle in Kremenets(Ternopilska Oblast)
Some maintain that this fortress’ first foundations were laid in the 8th and 9th centuries. However, the first written references are found in 1064, and even then people knew little about it, until 1240 when the Mongols tried and failed to capture it. Having received yet another castle as a gift from her husband, Polish Queen Bona Sphortsa improved and enhanced the structure immensely. Ultimately though, she abandoned it, as she had Bar Castle, to return to her native Italy after her husband’s death. For years it stood without a ruler, until the 17th century, when brutal battles between the Cossacks and the Polish Army ensued. Today, its ruins stand tall and proud, and legend has it that if you happen to be around at Easter, you may ever catch sight of Queen Bona Sphortsa. 

A few more if you’ve got time:
• Kyiv Castle in Kyiv (Kyiv Oblast)
• Kudrynsti Castle in Kudryntsi (Ternopil Oblast)
• Dobromyl Castle in Dobromyl (Lviv Oblast)
• Chervonohorod Castle in Nyrkiv (Ternopil Oblast)
• Letychiv Fortress in Letychiv (Khmelnytskiy Oblast)
• Ostroh Castle in Ostroh (Rivne Oblast)
• Pidhirtsi Castle in Pidhirtsi (Lviv Oblast)
• Skala-Podilska Castle in Skala-Podilska (Ternopil Oblast)
• Svirzh Castle in Svirzh (Lviv Oblast)
For more information, you might want to take a look at www.castles.com.ua/english.html

Lana Nicole

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    Ukraine Truth
    Rights We Didn’t Know We Had

    Throughout EuroMaidan much has been made of Ukrainians making a stand for their rights. What exactly those rights are were never clearly defined. Ukraine ratified the Univer­sal Declaration of Human Rights in 1952. The first article of the Declaration states all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, they are endowed with reason and conscience, and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The ousted and overthrown Ukrainian government showed to the world they don’t understand the meaning of these words.

    Kyiv Culture

    Pulling Strings
    Located on Hrushevskoho Street – the epicentre of EuroMaidan violence, home to battles, blazes and barricades – children’s favourite the Academic Puppet Theatre had to shut down in February. Nevertheless, it is getting ready to reopen this March with a renewed repertoire to bring some laughter back to a scene of tragedy. Operating (not manipulating) puppets is a subtle art that can make kids laugh and adults cry. What’s On meets Mykola Petrenko, art director of the Theatre, to learn more about those who pull the strings behind the show.


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