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06 Jun. 2023


Atypical Kharkiv: facts you didn't know about the first capital of Ukraine



Atypical Kharkiv: facts you didn't know about the first capital of Ukraine

Kharkiv is a comfortable, smart and green metropolis with a long and impressive history. And many experts agree that it is a unique city. Learn more about modern Kharkiv with us

Choose tours in Ukraine for every taste
Choose tours in Ukraine for every taste

Everyone knows that Kharkiv is the first capital of Ukraine, the city with the largest area and market in Europe, and the industrial center of the country. However, its centuries-old history, political situation, and cultural background make this city unique in nature. We invite you to learn more about modern Kharkiv and unusual historical facts about it.

Why is modern Kharkiv a unique city?

Kharkiv is the only region in Eastern Europe that has secured the status of a shrinking city over the past couple of decades. What does this mean? As a rule, the development of a city in any country in the world is characterized by population growth and gradual development, but Kharkiv has taken a completely different path.

Thus, the proximity of the first capital of Ukraine to the russian border forced the city to rethink its capabilities and transform not through new buildings and expansion, but through a new use of existing spaces. So, at first glance, it may seem that nothing is changing in Kharkiv, but in reality, the city is undergoing a constant internal transformation.


The world's oldest tennis player

Leonid Stanislavsky is a 99-year-old Kharkiv resident who entered the Guinness Book of Records as the world's oldest competing tennis player. Last year, he flew to play in the United States of America, and this year he has already managed to take part in the Australian Open. Now Leonid is forced to live in Lithuania, as he was forced to leave Kharkiv due to constant shelling by russia.

Read more about outstanding Ukrainian athletes who have made the country famous on the international sports scene here.

City of madmen or mysterious inscriptions on the walls

One day, back in the days of perestroika, the peace of Kharkiv's residents was shaken by hundreds of mysterious white inscriptions that were on almost every corner in the city center: "WHERE-ON-EARTH", "NARROWING-OF-MIND-ON-EARTH", "CENTURY", "PEOPLE". A lot of rumors immediately arose around these inscriptions because the author and his message were unknown.

Thus, a legend arose that a man lost his mind when he forgot his doctoral dissertation in a tram on his way to the Higher Attestation Commission, and as a result, he did not become a doctor of science.

 However, in reality, he turned out to be Oleh Mitasov, an ordinary street artist who went insane under unknown circumstances, because no one was able to talk to him in person. According to his acquaintances, his divorce from his wife led to an exacerbation of his hereditary mental illness, and before he started leaving inscriptions on the street, his own apartment turned into what would be called an art house museum. Not only were the walls dotted with graffiti, but the entire entrance and apartment, including the furniture and appliances, were covered with inscriptions.

Photo: Pavlo Makov

Mitasov's mysterious inscriptions have survived to this day, and can be found at 18 Kaplunivskyi Lane. It was in this courtyard that the famous Kharkiv madman lived. 

It is said that it was Oleg Mitasov who became the founder of street art in Kharkiv.

Is Kharkiv a city of street artists?

Kharkiv residents are well acquainted with street art, because one of the most famous contemporary representatives of this movement is Hamlet Zinkivsky, a Kharkiv artist whose philosophical works have been decorating the streets of the city since 2007. The street artist doesn't just leave drawings on the walls, his works are full of philosophical content and make everyone think.

"I learn not to burn out from the sun" Photo: Hamlet Zinkivsky

Today, a special Google Map of drawings has been created so that everyone can appreciate all the artist's works. Nevertheless, new street art continues to appear even despite the terrible war.

"The invader has his own flowers, cassette ones" Photo: Hamlet Zinkivsky

The largest city in the world...

Geographically, Kharkiv is located on the 50th parallel, an invisible geographical line that runs across the globe. Krakow, Prague, Mainz, and many other famous cities are also located on this line. However, Kharkiv is the largest city in the world on the 50th parallel.

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Kharkiv was the capital twice

Few people know that Kharkiv was not only the first capital of Ukraine, but also the center of another great power. In February 1918, the revolutionaries created the Donetsk-Kryvyi Rih Republic with Kharkiv as its capital, which included the modern-day Donetsk, Luhansk, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia, and partially Kharkiv, Sumy, Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Rostov regions. However, the republic lasted only about two months.

The legendary confectionery factory

Today, at 11 Constitution Square, residents and guests of the city can visit an unusual confectionery shop. The facade of this establishment has nothing special, and if you don't know the history of this place, you can easily walk past without even noticing it.

However, "Vedmedyk" is a unique shop that was opened at the beginning of the last century, namely in 1896. Today, it is a legendary story of how a small shop turned into a large confectionery factory.

The first nuclear explosion in Ukraine

The whole world has heard about the Chornobyl disaster, but only a few people know that the first nuclear explosion in Ukraine occurred long before the Chornobyl disaster.

On July 9, 1972, a nuclear bomb was detonated near Kharkiv at a depth of about 2 kilometers.

This information was completely classified by the Soviet authorities, and even local residents were not warned about the use of nuclear weapons and the possible consequences of this explosion. The use of the radioactive bomb was preceded by an unprecedented accident in a gas well with a large-scale leak of blue fuel. According to eyewitnesses, a flame at least 200 meters high rose from the well.

However, the "controlled explosion" did not produce the desired result, instead, a huge atomic mushroom was formed at the site of the explosion, which rose even higher into the sky, and the blast wave destroyed all the houses around. The accident was eliminated according to the standard Soviet scheme: they dug a pit around the site, laid pipes into the burning mine, and shut off the valves. The incident was never publicized. Today, the well remains mothballed.

So Kharkiv is not only the industrial capital of Ukraine, its versatility can surprise even the most avid traveler. And even the brutal full-scale russian invasion could not destroy and bring Kharkiv, the Hero City, to its knees!

And if you want to visit Kharkiv in person and get to know its unique history and see all the legendary places with your own eyes, we recommend that you do not neglect your safety and choose safe tours with Visit Ukraine.

We remind you that even in today's realities, the attractiveness of Ukraine's picturesque landscapes continues to attract foreign tourists. You can find out more about the most popular and most visited places here.

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