Andriyivskyi Uzviz – history and modernity of the most interesting street in Kiev

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I would like to start a story about one of the most unique and famous streets of Kiev – Andreevsky Descent with a beautiful legend associated with this place.

Andrew's Descent
Vitaly Sokolovsky. Andrew’s Descent. 2010

According to the existing belief, in the place where the capital of Ukraine is now located and the Dnieper flows, there used to be a sea. Saint Andrew, having come to Kiev, erected a cross on the mountain on which St.Andrew’s Church is currently located, and the sea went underground, but most of it is still hidden under this mountain. That is why there is no bell tower in the Church of St. Andrew the First-Called – according to legend, after the first blow of the bell, the sea will return and flood not only the capital itself, but also the entire Left-Bank part, which at that time was not yet part of the city.

Scientists have not been able to establish exactly whether the sea really existed, but the history of the Andreevsky Descent itself begins from the moment the first settlements appeared on the site of Kiev. Officially, the Ukrainian capital celebrated its 1500th anniversary in 1982, and Podil is considered one of the most ancient districts of the city – the trade center of all Kievan Rus..

Initially, Andreevsky descent, which now connects Desyatinnaya and Vladimirskaya streets, as well as Kontraktova square, the center of Podol, was a narrow and not very convenient walking path, meandering between two mountains – Zamkova and Andreevskaya. It was along this path that residents of the city descended from Old Kiev (from the mountain) to Kontraktova Square, on which, since the 13th century, the so-called contract fairs were held, where merchants from all over Russia came.

It is interesting that in Ukrainian the name of the street sounds like Andriyivskiy uzviz, that is, “vzvoz” – a steep ascent, according to the Linguistic Dictionary, and not a descent at all. However, the name “Andreevsky Vzvoz” did not catch on and in Russian the Andriyivsky Uzviz is traditionally called descent. However, in any case, the name of the street fully reflects its main feature – it is indeed a rather steep descent and ascent from the mountain, which is extremely difficult to overcome on slippery paving stones in winter.!

Snow-covered Andrew's descent
Snow-covered Andrew’s descent

Andreevsky descent became a street in the literal sense of the word only in 1711, when, by order of the Kiev governor, Dmitry Mikhailovich Golitsyn, the footpath was widened, lined with granite paving stones, and they began to move along it not only on foot and on horseback, but also on carts.

Andrew's Descent
Andrew’s descent, mid-19th century

The main thing, due to its location, the tallest building of the Andreevsky Spusk – the St.Andrew Orthodox Cathedral, was erected in 1749-1754 by the famous architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli, according to the decree of Empress Elizabeth Petrovna.

St. Andrew's Church
St. Andrew’s Church

Most of the rest of the street’s buildings were erected during the 18th century. Prior to this, local residents lived mainly in small, one-story houses, and most of the neighborhood was wasteland.

Andrew's Descent
Street before large-scale construction

Massive development lasted for almost a hundred years – from the end of the 18th to the end of the 19th century, when all the main buildings of Andriyivsky Uzviz were erected, and it acquired a form that is well known to modern Kyivans and guests of the city..

Andrew's Descent
Andreevsky descent after construction – late 19th century

The history of Andreevsky Spusk is certainly unthinkable without the history of Kiev itself, which survived the wars of the ancient Russian princes, and the raids of the Mongol-Tatars, and the heavy battles of the civil war and the German occupation..

In 1920 the descent was named G.V. Liver, however, such a “dissonant” name did not take root, and soon after the liberation of the city from German occupation – in 1944, it was decided to return the historical name to the street.

Main attractions

Andriyivsky Descent is not for nothing called the Ukrainian Montmartre or Arbat – this is truly a street-museum, almost all of whose houses have their own history.

Andrew's Descent
1 St. Andrew’s Church. 2 Literary Memorial Museum of M.A. Bulgakov. 3 “Castle of Richard the Lionheart”; Art salon “Podol-Fortuna”.
4 Museum-workshop of I.P. Kavaleridze; Gallery in the House of I.P. Kavaleridze; Exhibition “Ridna Khata”.
5 Exhibition Center “Andreevsky Uzviz-3”; “Antique Center”; Salon “Artist”. 6 Kavyarnya “General”. 7 Cafe “Podvirya”. 8 Restaurant.
9 One Street Museum; Gallery “L-Art”. 10 Restaurant “Svetlitsa”. 11 Cafe-theater “Wheel”. 12 Gallery “Potters”. 13 Salon of interior painting “ART SALON”.
14 Creative workshops of Kiev artists NSHU. 15 Gallery “Atelier-Karas”. 16 Hotels “Vozdvizhenskaya” and “Andreevskaya”. 17 Cafe “Vernissage”.
18 Art Salon “Tvorchist”; Antique salon “Epoch”; Gallery “Triptych”; Restaurant “Chasing Two Hares”. 19 Gallery – 36; Cafe-bar “Symposium”.
20 National Museum of the History of Ukraine. 21 Foundation of the Church of the Tithes. 22 Monument to the Heroes of the Movie “Chasing Two Hares”.
23 Observation deck. 24 Mount Andreevskaya.

The very walk along this short, very steep and winding street will bring a lot of impressions, and in order to visit all the museums, interesting buildings, theaters, restaurants and the Church of St. Andrew’s Descent it may take more than one day.

St. Andrew’s Church

Overlooking the street is an amazingly beautiful church – the Church of St. Andrew, which is a one-domed five-domed cathedral in the shape of a cross, decorated with decorative turrets in the corners. The temple is deservedly considered one of the most beautiful buildings in the Baroque style not only in Kiev, but also in Europe. The richness of the external decoration, which is so characteristic of this style, the brightness – the temple is painted in sky-blue and snow-white colors, the mass of gilding – all this makes St. Andrew’s Cathedral fabulously beautiful, magnificent, like a real palace.

You can climb to the church by a cast-iron staircase; a very picturesque view of the Podol and the Dnieper opens from the balustrade around the temple. And the interior decoration of the church impresses visitors with golden patterns, a bright iconostasis kept in a red shade, and beautiful painting.

St. Andrew's Church
Staircase to St. Andrew’s Church

Richard’s castle

Another interesting building of Andriyivsky Spusk is the so-called Richard the Lionheart Castle. In fact, this is, of course, not a castle, but house number 15, built in the British Gothic style in 1902-1904. The owner of the most interesting building, which perfectly fit into the landscape of the Ukrainian capital, was the Kiev aristocrat Dmitry Orlov. Initially, the owner planned to arrange a tenement house in the Castle, that is, a hotel, but went bankrupt, died in 1911 and his wife was forced to sell the building.

House No. 15 on Andreevsky Spusk got its second name due to the fact that the new owners of the building could not spend the night there because of the terrible howling sounds that were heard literally out of nowhere. It was then that the future Castle began to be called the “Haunted House”, however, in the future of such a mystical story, a very prosaic explanation was found: the builders, annoyed at the stinginess of Orlov and his wife, walled up broken bottles and pipe cuttings into the walls of the house, chimneys and ventilation which hit the wind, causing those same terrible sounds.

It is not surprising that during its existence, Richard’s Castle, which was named after the hero Walter Scott from the novel “Ivanhoe” by Vasily Nekrasov, a connoisseur of the history of Andriyivsky Spusk, changed many owners. At the beginning of the 20th century, here, not afraid of the ghost story, a community of talented Ukrainian artists rented rooms for their workshops: Grigory Dyadchenko, Ivan Makushenko, Fotiy Krasitsky. It is interesting that all of them not only graduated from the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts and were students of Ilya Repin, but were also distant relatives of Taras Grigorievich Shevchenko. Later they were joined by the sculptor Fyodor Balavensky. It was Balavensky who made Richard’s Castle a truly royal gift: he took exact copies of the monsters and chimeras that adorn the facade of Notre Dame Cathedral, and then installed them on the inner spiral staircase of the courtyard and the terrace of the building. Unfortunately, all these statues mysteriously disappeared during the war – in 1942, according to unconfirmed information, a high-ranking German took them from Kiev to his estate in Germany.

Richard the Lionheart castle
Richard the Lionheart castle

Right behind Richard’s Castle, a metal staircase begins, leading to Mount Uzdykhalnitsa. The mountain received such a very strange name, according to a widespread legend, because after reaching its top by a rather steep staircase (and earlier – an ordinary path), people always sighed with relief. However, the most wonderful view from the observation deck is worth all the effort.

Now the Castle has received a very modern purpose – after the reconstruction, the office of a joint American-Ukrainian enterprise with the “speaking” name “Uzviz” is to open in it..

Bulgakov Museum

House No. 13, where Mikhail Bulgakov lived from 1906 to 1913, received no less fame. Now the building houses the museum of the great writer, and the house received a second name – “House of the Turbins”, since it was in this building that Bulgakov “settled” the heroes of his book “The White Guard”.

Bulgakov Museum
Bulgakov House Museum

The house has carefully preserved the furnishings of the early 20th century, furniture, books, including those on medicine (as you know, before becoming a writer, Mikhail Afanasyevich worked as a doctor), in total, the museum has more than 3 thousand unique exhibits, which were also collected by the Master’s nieces..

By the way, the museum also displays items that belonged to fictitious characters – the Turbins family, so that two worlds – the real one, in which Bulgakov lived and the literary one, invented by the writer himself, weirdly intertwined in this house with such a mystical number.

The cost of tickets to the museum is not at all high, and the excursions conducted by Bulgakov’s big fans, experts in his work, are very interesting. After a tour of the house, everyone can, for a fee, drink tea and taste traditional delicacies of that time on the veranda overlooking the backyard, where the writer’s family often gathered.

Near the Bulgakov Museum, a monument to the writer is erected, which has become another attraction of the Andriyivsky Descent.

Bulgakov Museum
The monument to the famous writer stands next to his house-museum

One Street Museum

At the very bottom of the Andreevsky Spusk, in the house number 2-b, there is a unique One Street Museum, whose exposition is entirely devoted to the history of the Andreevsky Spusk. There are only three such museums in the world, so you cannot pass by so many interesting places..

One Street Museum
“One Street Museum”

It contains a lot of historical documents, manuscripts, autographs, old postcards, photographs and a large number of just nice old household items. Only one thing unites such a diverse exhibition – all the exhibits are somehow connected with the history of the famous Kiev street.

By the way, in 2002, the One Street Museum was nominated for the European Museum Forum and today is the only Ukrainian museum that took part in this prestigious event..

Galleries

Since Andriyivsky Uzviz is not in vain called the Kiev Montmartre and has long served as a place where popular (and completely unknown) artists and sculptors worked and held their exhibitions, the abundance of art galleries located on this street is a completely logical continuation of this tradition.

Walking along Andreevsky Descent, you can visit the “Triptych” gallery, located in house number 34, which became the first private gallery that opened in Kiev in 1988. The main direction is contemporary art, all authors go through a fairly strict selection.

Going down a little lower you can visit Gallery 36. Artists and craftsmen of the Gallery “36” work in such areas of modern Ukrainian art as painting, including monumental, sculpture, graphics, scenography, batik, metal, glass. By the way, the entrance to the gallery “36” is free.

At 21 Andreevsky Descent, there is the House-Museum of Ivan Kavaleridze – the famous Ukrainian sculptor, director and playwright, called by his contemporaries “the second Dovzhenko.” Monumental sculptures by Kavaleridze stand in many cities of Ukraine: Poltava, Svyatogorsk, Chernigov, Kiev.

Nearby, in house number 19, there is an art gallery “Fortuna”, where you can see works of both contemporary realist artists and a collection of works by masters from the Soviet period.

At number 22-a there are two galleries at once – “Karas” and “SoviArt”, which host exhibitions of young contemporary artists, as well as photo exhibitions.

House No. 2-b houses the Ludmila Bereznitska Museum-Gallery & Partner Gallery, which presents works of contemporary art, works of both Ukrainian and European authors.

But the main exhibition gallery is the Andreevsky Descent itself – almost from top to bottom, the street is lined with paintings, handicrafts, various souvenirs, antiques, traditional Ukrainian embroidered shirts and towels offered by street vendors. It is on Andreevsky Spusk that most of the city’s guests buy souvenirs.

Andrew's Descent
The gallery of paintings goes along the whole street

Some of the works of local artists and craftsmen are very interesting, but nevertheless, the cost of the work is often too high, and no one will be able to guarantee that the proposed embroidered shirt has really “turned out” for about a hundred years.

Andrew's Descent
Street vendors on Andreevsky Spusk

“Chasing two hares”

The monument to the heroes of the popular film “Chasing Two Hares” – Svirid Petrovich and Prona Prokopovna became a new attraction of Andriyivsky Spusk. Local signs are already associated with the monument: if you rub the bug on Golokhvastov’s tailcoat, you will be lucky in financial matters, and if you hold Pronya by the gracefully “bulging” little finger, you will definitely be lucky in love.

There is also a very colorful restaurant of the same name nearby. At the “Chasing Two Hares” restaurant you can try traditional Ukrainian and Old Church Slavonic dishes.

Andrew's Descent
Monument to the Heroes of the Movie “Chasing Two Hares”

Surprisingly, these are far from all the attractions that can be seen on this rather short street..

Continuing the theme of Montmartre and the cafe “Vernissage”, located on Andreevsky Spusk in the house number 30, the interior of which is designed in the style of famous French bistros. By the way, the furniture that furnished the cafe was really brought from Paris, where the grandfather of the current owner of Vernissage kept the bistro many years ago.

Between houses No. 22-b and No. 20-b, attentive travelers will discover a winding cast-iron staircase, along which one can climb the Castle Hill. The top of the mountain is interesting in that it not only offers a picturesque view of the water surface of the Dnieper and St.Andrew’s Church, but also a cemetery with an old crypt, so this place is popular among informals.

There are also two theaters on Andreevsky Spusk – “The Wheel” (house No. 8) and “Theater on Podol” (house No. 20-b). Here you can see both performances based on the works of classics and new performances based on plays by contemporary authors..

Unfortunately, another attraction of the Andreevsky Spusk – the Cat Begemot, which adorned the facade of the building next to Bulgakov’s house-museum (although the writer created The Master and Margarita already in Moscow), disappeared literally in an unknown direction.

Behemoth Cat
Behemoth Cat

Only the tattered facade of the building remained. However, it is not the first time for the Behemoth to disappear like this – without a trace and mysteriously, but many local residents, merchants and regulars of Andreevsky Spusk still regret this loss.

Reconstruction

Not so long ago, at the end of September, the Kiev authorities began a large-scale reconstruction of the Andriyivsky Descent, the need for which has ripened a long time ago. The facades of some historic buildings with peeling paint, tattered ads and dilapidated balconies looked painfully unsightly..

Andrew's descent before the start of reconstruction
Andrew’s descent before the start of reconstruction

And the biggest fears were inspired by the paving stones of the famous street. In many places, the stones fell through, washed away by melt and rainwater, so that the Andreevsky descent, already not distinguished by a perfectly flat road, became simply dangerous for movement.

Andrew's descent before the start of reconstruction
The condition of the paving stones is poor

The reconstruction is planned to be completed in May next year – just in time for the opening of the European Football Championship, which, we recall, will be held in Poland and Ukraine. Many people in Kiev fear that after the reconstruction, Andriyivsky Uzviz will become another faceless “street of boutiques”.

However, the authorities promise to preserve the atmosphere of Ukrainian Montmartre and even leave the unchanged street vendors, equipping them with more civilized trading places. It is planned to repair communications, replace storm sewers, green the street, carry out cosmetic repairs to the facades of buildings (these expenses will most likely be passed on by the Kiev authorities to the owners and tenants of historical buildings), as well as to install the same type, created in the style of the beginning of the last century, lamps and shops along the entire Andreevsky descent.

The pavement will also be restored, and in order to keep the cobblestones intact, Andreevsky descent will turn into a pedestrian zone, where only ambulances, firefighters and police will be allowed.

Reconstruction of Andreevsky Spusk
Reconstruction of Andreevsky Spusk has already begun

Now, while the repair work is underway, street vendors have been temporarily “relocated” to the Landscape Alley, but in the spring they plan to return again, calling themselves “keepers of the spirit of Andriyivsky Descent”.

Meanwhile, despite such visible prosperity, rumors that several multi-storey buildings will begin to be erected on Andriyivsky Descent are stubbornly walking around the capital of Ukraine, although they have already been denied more than once by the government and the city hall..

The residents and guests of Kiev will see what the Andriyivsky Descent will turn into after reconstruction and whether it will manage to preserve its unique appearance next spring..

We can only hope that the authorities of the capital understand how important (and beloved) this street is, with which only the much more pretentious and capital Khreshchatyk can be compared in importance in Kiev..

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