Kharkiv Region, formed in 1932, is the oldest and largest region of Eastern Ukraine, which borders on the Russian Federation in the north. Most of the region lies within the Pre-Dnipro Lowland in the east, and in the north-east it partly lies in the spurs of Middle Russian Upland. The area is a low hilled plain slightly tilted southward. The elaborate intricate ‘lace-work’ of Slobozhanschyna’s rivers: the Siversky Donets and its tributaries, the Bereka, Vovcha, Udy, Oskol and others, adds to the natural beauty of the area.
The Paleolithic settlements remains testify for an early human presence in the area, whereas Neo-Paleolithic remains are indicative of the rapid growth of the period. The 13th-c. Tatar-Mongol yoke, however, rendered the vast area into Dyke Pole (Wild Field) with only occasional settlements hiding in the woods hardly passable for the cavalry. The resettlement of the area began in the mid-17th c. with an inflow of refugees from both the Poland controlled areas, and central parts of Muscovy. The years of 1711—15 saw a greater influx of immigrants from the north as the Russian government began to encourage migration to reinforce the southern frontiers which were moved towards the Black and Azov seas. The re-settlers founded small townships (sloboda), which gave the name to the whole area — Slobozhanschyna or Sloboda Ukraine.
It was due to the 17th-c. resettlement of the area, that most cities were founded. By the 1650s, the original Cossack population had already formed four Cossack regiments. The constant threat of Tatar raids turned the territory into a military camp of the sort with a highly mobile rapid deployment force. Their skills and aptitude came in handy in the takeover of the Black Sea and Azov northern coastal lands with the Crimean peninsula by the Russian Empire.
In 1765, the Cossack self-governing was abolished by Moscow, thus sending the area into Sloboda-Ukrainian gu-berniya, then in 1775 the Voronezh Gubemiya with the Governor-General’s seat in Kharkiv. Slobozhanschyna won the reputation of the county’s bread basket, which in turn, necessitated the spread of crafts and trade, especially rapid during the industrial boom of the mid-19th c. Closely connected with Russia, it was this area that, after the 1917 Russian Revolution, was the Bolsheviks’ bulwark in Ukraine, with Kharkiv as the post-revolution capital of Ukraine in 1919—34.
Kharkivschyna has preserved a lot of all-style Orthodox temples of the 17th—18th c.c., while other historical edifices, i. e. administrative or residential housing, counting estates, mansions, date back to the 19th — early 20th c.c. ‘industrial period’.
The region’s capital, Kharkiv, is the second most populous city in Ukraine. Founded in a confluence of the Kharkiv and Lopan rivers as a Cossack outpost in 1654, the Kharkiv Fortress was envisaged as a key-element in safeguarding Muscovy’s southern frontiers. Due to the lucrative location at trade crossroads, Kharkiv became a trade centre, and, after the abolition of the Cossack self-governing, it became the head city of the Sloboda-Ukrainian Guberniya in 1765.
The oldest brickwork edifice of the city is the 1689 Intercession Cathedral built on the fortress’ site. It consists of the Intercession Monastery with the original belfry and Ozerianska Church, the 1820 Bishop’s Palace and the 1912 Administrative Block. The 18th с. saw a rise of the city centre with the brickwork Kharkiv Collegium, and the 1768 Governor’s Residence, where in 1805 Kharkiv University was founded.
The most scenic church of the time is the golden-domes Assumption Cathedral with an 89-m bell tower added in 1844 to commemorate the victory over Napoleon. The turn of the 19th and 20th c.c. was marked by a construction boom in Kharkiv, with thriving banks, hotels, boarding houses, gymnasiums, trade places, and private housing. The architectural accomplishments of that time are the 1898 Panteleymon Church and the 1901 Annunciation Cathedral. From 1919 to 1934 the city, then the capital, saw the construction of the architectural ensemble of the largest in Europe Liberty Square.
The place is unique to Ukraine as it was a testing ground for the Soviet architectural style. The State-Industry Complex built in 1925—29, followed by the House of Projects (1930—32) (now Kharkiv Karazin National University), the House of Cooperation (1929—34) and the four blocks of the International Hotel (now ‘Kharkiv’) (1932—36) reflect the country’s priorities. Today’s architecture is a curious mixture of pre-revolutionary Classicist to Baroque buildings and the Soviet Constructivist grandeur. The city has a number of fine monuments to N. Gogol, V. Karazin, I. Kvitka-Osnovyanenko, M. Kropyvnytskyy and others; the most famous of which is a multi-figure 1936 Taras Shevchenko monument in the Shev-chenko Gardens,
Chuhuyiv, one of the oldest towns in the region, sprang up on the Sivesky Donets in 1617. The fertile lands attracted the Royal eye. and the Royal Vineyards were set up near Chuhuyiv. In 1817—57, Chuhuyiv was made the Headquarters of the six regions of military settlement, set up by the 1810 order of Aleksander I, the event which is still reminded of by the 1830 Military Settlements Headquarters Building, the 17th—18th c.c. Military School and the barracks of the same period.
The surviving religious sites of that time are not numerous, the Icon of the St. Mother of God Chapel Church ‘Rejoice the Miserable,’ and the 1834 Intercession Cathedral, which, as it was lacking the traditional dome at the time of research, was reminiscent of some Soviet-style House of Culture or a country club. Chuhuyiv’s architectural pride is the ‘Trade Aisles’, the Town Hall and scattered residential housing of the 19th c. One such house is now the memorial gallery-museum of the noted Russian artist Illya Repin (1844—1930).
Izium is the region’s second most populous city, located on the banks of the Siversky Donets. The city began with the 1660s fortress. Rising high over the fortress’ ruins stands the only surviving edifice of that time, the 1684 Transfiguration Cathedral, which is a true pearl of Eastern Ukrainian Orthodox architecture. Soon, the Izium-Sloboda regiment was formed, which took part in Russo-Turkish Wars and in the 1812 Borodino battle against the French. In the 19th c., two more churches were put up in Izium, St. Nicholas (1823) and Ascension (1825), to match the Holy Trinity number. In the 18th to 19th c.c., as the Russian Government encouraged migration to Slobozhanschyna, rich families’ mansions appeared in dozens, some of them still preserved.
The settlement of Stary Merchyk, known since the 1660s, avails itself with the oldest, as well as the largest landscape park. The generations of the noble Shydlovsky family put plenty of time and effort in cultivating the beauty of the park. A lot was done under H. Shydlovsky, who provided for the construction of a two-storey residential palace with two wings to form an inner courtyard and completed the reconstruction of the 1680 All Saints Church. By the Emperor Alexander II order of 1891, the Stary Merchyk park was declared a national reserve. Under the Soviet rule, the complex was awarded to a veterinarian school.
A small village of Parkhomivka, on the Kotelva River, known since 1688, was passed by Catherine II to Maj.-Gen. Count G. Pidhorychany in the late 18th c. At the turn of the 18th and 19th c.c. the village was decorated with the Count’s Palace and the 1808 Intercession Church. Nowadays, the palace houses the famous Parkhomivka Art gallery, founded in 1950s by a local school teacher and art lover A. Lu-niov. The gallery can boast of a praise-worthy Western Art section.
The town of Liubotyn in the Merefa headwaters was founded ca mid-17th c., as a sotnia under the Kharkiv regiment command. The next century saw the rise of the landlord’s estate, which in the spell between two World Wars was home to an orphan asylum, the managerial buildings in the town’s southern outskirts and the 1843 St. Michael Church.
In the early 1880s, a wealthy sugar-manufacturer and trader, I. Kharytonenko, founded an estate on the Merchyk River, and named it Natalivka, after his granddaughter Natalya. A true pride of the estate is the charming 1913 Saviour Church, richly wrought and styled after Old Rus samples, which stands amidst a century-old oak grove. The entrance to the estate is ‘guarded’ by a Gothic-style gate-tower, through which the visitors would pass onto the main alley and proceed up to the western gate ‘guarded’ by the Polovtsi stone-carved idols.
The village of Sharivka on the Merchik River was founded ca 1700. After 200 years the previously obscure settlement could claim recognition owing to the L. Konig estate palace and a strikingly beautiful landscape park The Sharivka Palace is distinguished by two symmetrical three-tier octagonal towers reminiscent of a medieval castle.
The grandeur of the palace is emphasized by the austere steps descending to the bridge between the two moat-like ponds separated by a rampart. On the verdant slope of the ravine behind a wall of trees stands an old leafy lime-tree grove, the centrepiece of the park. The other surviving edifices include the rest-house, forester’s house, park gazeboes, and the main gateway with the guardhouse.
The settlement of Krasny Kut on the river Merla was founded in 1651 by the Cossack settlers from Korsun, who put up an ostroh (‘fortified guarded place’) to defend Muscovy’s southern borders. Eventually, around the ostroh grew a Sloboda called Krasny Kut (Beautiful Corner), which stands out due to the famous Krasnyy-Kut Dendropark, initiated by I. Karazin in 1809. It is from its plantery that more than 200 rare species of trees and bushes have been disseminated all over Ukraine to decorate main squares or avenues in many Ukrainian cities. Since 1922 the Krasnyy-Kut Park has been in the custody of the specially-formed Gardening Research Station. The I. N. Karazin Monument stands at the station’s main entrance.