Byzantine, Greek and Baroque influences on Ukraine architecture

Architectural traditions thrive from proximity. Ukraine’s tight-fitting geographic region has endured centuries of warring tribes and political oppressors, all of whom have left their architectural mark on a changing country. Remnants of ancient Greek city-states along the Black Sea coast and in the Crimea region, still survives. The Byzantine style of complex mosaic designs in Kiev are also two examples of a rich history.

Authentic Ukrainian architecture had its start in the 9th and 10th centuries when the Kievan Rus region became the centralized point of power. Early beginnings of military fortifications, palaces, and later churches were made of wood; a tradition that was preserved throughout the early part of the 20th century. Volodymyr the Great is credited for much of the consolidation of land and control, due in part to his conversion to Christianity. With this cultural shift, Ukrainian architecture embraced the Byzantine style culminating in the construction of St. Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv

Following the Mongol invasion of the region, architectural focus took a decidedly defensive U-turn. Towering fortresses, fortified monasteries, and castles multiplied during the 12th to 15th centuries and were constructed to withstand attack and on occasion, provide asylum to those under threat.

The Renaissance period of the 16th and 17th centuries bestowed its unique twist on the region, most particularly in the city of L’viv, and complimented the Ukrainian Baroque style of artistic ensemble of symbolism and allegory to tell story. The golden domes of St. Michael’s church and monastery in Kyiv survive this period, but many other structures were destroyed during the 20th century Bolshevik revolution.

A more “urban” style emerged in the 18th century, under the heavy-handed rule of the Russian Tsars, with an emphasis on palaces and classical public buildings. Sumptuous designs copied traditions from western Europe through the 19th and early 20th centuries in an effort to incorporate neo-classical, Gothic, and Moorish styles.

Much of both the ancient and early contemporary Ukrainian architecture came under the hammer of the Bolsheviks. Soviet and block style architecture, proliferated for decades. Sixteen years into Ukraine’s independence, the country’s ancient and modern architecture is still being preserved for all to see.