For many centuries this historic street served as a defensive fortification for Kyiv. Today, Yaroslaviv Val is an “open-air museum” where you can study the architecture of the city from the second half of the XIX century to the first quarter of the XX century.
Yaroslaviv Val Street is located in the central part of Kyiv and runs from Volodymyrska Street to Lvivska Square. Its name comes from the road under the city wall, which was built during the reign of Grand Duke of Kyiv, Yaroslav the Wise (978-1054). In the XI century, a defensive wall stood in the place of the current historic street. In the 1840s and 1850s, the remains of the embankment were demolished, and Pidvalna Street was constructed in its place (it passed “under the embankment”). In 1869 the street was officially named Yaroslaviv Val. However, there was another name that was used as well – Big Basement. In 1928, the street was renamed after the revolutionary, Soviet military leader Kliment Voroshilov; following this, in 1957, it was renamed Polupanova Street (in honor of the first Soviet commandant of Kyiv). Only in 1977 did its historical name return – Yaroslaviv Val. Today on Yaroslav Val you can admire the beautiful houses (“Baron’s Castle”, the former Karaite Kenasa, and the apartment house of L. Rodzianko) and remember the legends that still stimulate interest in Kyiv to this day.
Yaroslaviv Val Street, 1 – Pidhorsky House or “Baron’s Castle” (photo 1)
“Castle in miniature”, located in the historic centre of Kyiv at the intersection of Lysenko Street and Yaroslavovoy Val, is considered one of the hallmarks of the capital. All Kyiv guides are in a hurry to tell the story of this estate, painting it with romantic legends. The apartment house in the modernised Gothic style was built from 1896-1898 according to engineer Mykola Dobachevsky. The purchaser was a Polish landowner Mykhailo Pidhorsky; however, this territory initially belonged to the family of the chief of artillery garrisons of the Kyiv Military District, Lieutenant-General Taras Kalita. In 1857 the plot was given to the general’s wife – Anna Gerasimovna Kalita, and from 1858-1861 a two-storey residential building was built (today – Lysenko Street, 2). On the first floor, there were 12 rooms, on the second – 10. In the yard of the estate, there were one-storey residential outbuildings, a stone kitchen, and a carriage barn. There was also a garden with 25 fruit trees and 30 bushes. After the death of General Kalita, all this real estate was bequeathed to her children by will, and then in 1892 – by the merchant to the landowner Mykhailo Pidhorsky.
In 1907 the estate was bought by Karl Yaroshynsky for 200,000 rubles. The nobleman even planned to expand new possessions by buying neighbouring plots on Teatralnaya Street, 4 and 6; in 1910, Yaroshynsky already owned 1.05 hectares. However, new construction never took place. In 1915 the castle house was bought by the patron and sugar breeder Lev Brodsky. Like all previous owners, the famous businessman rented out his new property (he lived in a mansion in Lypky). During the Soviet period, after nationalisation, all apartments became communal – the district police, the city military commandant’s office, and other institutions were located here at different times.
A side note: in 1912 on the ground floor of the “castle”, a cinema to seat one hundred guests was opened. At the beginning of 1918, seven rooms were rented by the editorial board of the Nasha Dumka newspaper. Mr. Lysnevych’s furnished rooms were located on the second floor, and the bakery of the First Jewish Consumer Society was located in the basement. Today the building is considered a monument of architecture and urban planning. However, the “baron’s castle” is in critical need of restoration work.
Yaroslaviv Val Street, 3 – Baron Steingel House, the residence of the Ambassador of India (photo 2)
This two-storey building that boasts an elegant wrought-iron balcony once belonged to Baron Maxim Steingel. It was built during the 1870s, and the architect was the famous Alexander Schiele. Interestingly, the beautiful building, which has survived to our time, was essentially a utility room: the house served as an outbuilding for servants and stables on the main estate. The ancient noble, baronial and count family of Steingel appeared in Kyiv in 1877. Arriving in Kyiv from Estonia, Maxim Vasilyevich Steingel bought a two-story mansion on Yaroslavov Val, number 3. It was here that his wine shop was located, where you could buy wine produced by the baron from grapes grown on his estate near Tuapse. In addition, in 1885 Maxim Steingel founded the company “Russian Metal Towel Factory” on Kuznechnaya Street (today – Antonovich), which produced wire mesh, metal mattresses, sieves, etc. Later, the baron took up another profitable business, becoming a co-owner and a member of the board of the joint-stock company Yuzefovsko-Nikolaev sugar plant. Today, the former mansion houses the India House, the residence of the Indian ambassador to Ukraine.
By the way, there was also an ambassador in the Steingel family. Member of the First State Duma of the Russian Empire from the city of Kyiv and Ambassador of the Ukrainian state in Berlin, Fedor Rudolfovich Steingel. He was the son of Rudolf Steingel – the younger brother of Maxim Vasilyevich Steingel.
Yaroslaviv Val Street, 4 – Doctor Garlinsky’s house (photo 3)
There is little information in the archives about this beautiful orange building with elements of Art Nouveau, topped with a decorative “cap”. It’s known that it was constructed in 1907 as an apartment house and the owner of the new building was doctor Joseph Matvievich Garlinsky; his medical institution “Institute of Physical Therapy” was located here. Today the city physiotherapeutic polyclinic №1 is located in the premises of the former apartment building. Interestingly, the interior of the building, also decorated in Art Nouveau style, is well preserved to this day. Stucco, stairwells, doors, and railings – all this brings visitors back to the twentieth century.
Yaroslaviv Val Street, 5 – “House of Doctors” (photo 4)
Today, offices are located in a long one-storey mansion, and the well-known physicians Vasyl Obraztsov and Mykola Strazhesko once lived here. In the 1850s, this plot of land was acquired by court adviser Petro Mykytovych Bobyr. In 1859, according to the engineer, Avrinsky, a one-story mansion with 10 rooms was built here. In 1875, the estate was purchased by artilleryman Ilya Slepushkin, who slightly remodelled the facade of the building. It should be noted that the wife of the new homeowner, Maria Nikolaevna Kisilevskaya, belonged to the ancient family of descendants of Adam Kisel – a political and military figure of the Commonwealth, the Kyiv voivode in 1649-1653. In 1895 the house was bought by Vasyl Parmenovych Obraztsov, a professor at the University of Kyiv – an innovator in the field of methods for diagnosing diseases of the cardiovascular and digestive systems. He was the chairman of the Kyiv Physical and Medical Society, the Kyiv Society of Physicians, and together with Feofil Yanovsky he established the Kyiv Therapeutic School. In addition to his dissertation, he published several works, mainly on diagnostics. He developed methods of deep sliding palpation of the abdominal cavity, tapping the chest directly with one finger. In 1909, he became the first in the world to describe in detail the clinical picture of thrombosis (co-authored with his student MD Strazhesko), and in 1910 he described the clinical picture of myocardial infarction. Another outstanding medical figure, therapist Mykola Strazhesko, also worked and lived in the mansion with his teacher. An interesting note: he was also Obraztsov’s son-in-law. The Kyiv Institute of Cardiology, founded by him, is named after Strazhesko. In 1916, after the death of Oleksandra Oleksandrivna’s wife – for whom the house was decorated – Obraztsov renounced his share of the inheritance in favour of his only daughter Natalia Vasylivna and her husband Mykola Dmytrovych Strazhesko, who had lived on Fundukleivska Street until then. Mykola Strazhesko is buried in Lukyanivka Cemetery in Kyiv next to his father-in-law Vasyl Parmenovych Obraztsov.
Yaroslaviv Val Street, 7 – Former Karaite kenasa (photo 5, 6)
The Karaite Kenasa was built from 1898-1902 by architect V. Gorodetsky and engineer Anton Strauss in an unusual Moorish style by order of the Kyiv community of Karaites – who are considered descendants of the ancient Khazars. The land used for the construction of Kenasa was purchased for 35 000 rubles, and the construction was initiated by Solomon Kogen – a philanthropist, tobacco manufacturer, and the head of the Kyiv Karaite community with the blessing of Gazzan Joseph Sultansky. In 1896, the Karaite community of Kyiv consisted of about 800 people. In 1897, the person managing the affairs for the construction, Solomon Cohen, was paralyzed, and later died in 1900. In his will, he provided funds to help complete the construction of the temple, and his brother Moses took over the role. In total, about 200 000 rubles were spent on construction – a tremendous amount at the time. The Kenasa was consecrated on 27 January 1902 by Samuel Pampulov of Tavriya and Odessa. The building is decorated with beautiful stucco ornaments made by the well-known Elio Salia, and the design uses cement – a rather expensive building material during that time. On the base of the disappeared dome, you can still see a stucco ornament in the form of an endless swastika, but to see this, you need to go to the opposite side of the street. In Soviet times, the Kenasa was closed and the community was shut down. In 1926, the Kenasa turned into a political education institution, then the Puppet Theater, and in 1952, the Zorya cinema; in 1968 the building was reconstructed. Unfortunately, the Kenasa has lost its original royal appearance. Today, the temple lacks a significant detail – its spherical dome with a spire. In the 1970s, a small room was added to the Kenasa, through which it was easy to enter the building, bypassing the main entrance. Since 1981, the House of Actors of the National Union of Theater Actors has been located here.
Yaroslaviv Val Street, 12 – Embassy of Poland. The house where Fedor Hryhorovych Krychevsky lived and worked (photo 7)
Fyodor Krychevsyky, a well-known Ukrainian painter, the first rector of the Ukrainian Academy of Arts, and a professor at the Kyiv Art Institute, lived here for years. Fedor Hryhorovych Krychevsky brought up a whole generation of painters in Ukraine; among his students were T. Yablonska, V. Kostetsky, R. Melikhov, and S. Grigoriev. As one of the figures in the reform of art education, Krychevsky became the organizer of the Kyiv Art Institute. His workshop was very popular, and students were attracted by the artistic and pedagogical authority of the outstanding Ukrainian painter. During the German occupation, he was the chairman of the Union of Ukrainian Artists, but neither he nor his wife were extradited to the Germans, despite their Jewish origins. In 1944 he tried to go abroad, but the train in which he rode did not have time to depart far from Königsberg and was surrounded. Krychevsky was arrested by the NKVD, then released, and lived in exile in the village of Irpin near Kyiv, where he most likely died of starvation in 1947, despite the help of Tatiana Yablonska. Today the building houses the Polish Embassy in Ukraine.
Yaroslaviv Val Street, 13-b – House of the “Holy Doctor” (Photo 8)
According to the plaque, from 1903-1928 public figure Feofil Gavrilovich Yanovsky – a prominent scientist, founder of the Ukrainian therapeutic school, and organiser of sanatorium treatment in Ukraine – lived and worked in this building. Yanovsky is known for introducing microbiological research methods in the clinic of internal medicine. He was one of the founders of tuberculosis as a separate branch of clinical medicine, and the editor of the first tuberculosis manual (1923). With his active participation, sanatoriums for tuberculosis and pulmonary patients were founded, as well as the Kyiv Institute of Tuberculosis (now the FG Yanovsky National Institute of Tuberculosis and Pulmonology). It is said that Yanovsky never took money from the poor for his services; he also repeatedly sent them donations. When the “holy doctor” died in 1928, he was accompanied on his last journey to the Lukyanov Cemetery by many people, led by an Orthodox priest, a rabbi and a mullah.
Yaroslaviv Val Street, 15 and 15-b – Former military hotel “Red Star”, Sikorski mansion ( photo 9, 10)
The grey five-story building is mistakenly called the Sikorski mansion; however, this house, which was intended for high military ranks, was built on the site of a mansion belonging to the Sikorski family. The city estate consisted of a house facing the street (not preserved) and a three-storey outbuilding (Yaroslaviv Val, 15-b). The demolished mansion was built at the end of the XIX century, and from 1904 it was given to the music and drama school of Nikolai Vitalievich Lysenko. The Sikorski family lived on the ground floor of the outbuilding. The apartment occupied six rooms, one of which was given to the servants; another room was requisitioned after 1918. It was in this house that the childhood of Igor Sikorsky – the famous scientist, inventor, and aircraft designer – took place, and now, according to locals, the building is being deliberately demolished to make room for a new construction site.
A walk along the historic Yaroslaviv Val turns into a fascinating journey; you could say every house here is a “museum” of its own. Of the new buildings on this street, only a few are embassy-related – the rest are historical monuments.