Kiev’s Bridges: A History of Passage and Devastation

Kiev has a history of being split in half physically as well as metaphorically. Located on both the right and left banks of the Dneiper River, the future location of the city was once prophesied by St. Andrew around 60 A.D. when the spectacular location of the hilly shores of the river captured his attention. Seven bridges knit the city of Kiev together these days but the bridges themselves have a history all their own.

The first floater bridge built in the twelfth century was located near the Vydubychi Monastery but due to the frigid winters in the ice drift that formed each spring, bridges could only be temporary for many years thus separating the city of Kiev each time the mercury fell below zero.

Stationary bridges arriving in the mid-19th to mid-20th century suffered a different sort of Fate. Two bridges built during the industrial revolution before the Bolshevik rise to power were considered engineering and architecture masterpieces of their time. The chain suspension bridge, the Nicolas Bridge, rested on five pillars and was the city’s pride and joy for a brief time. Sadly, the bridge was demolished by Polish trips in 1920 following their unsuccessful armed intervention into Ukraine. The second stationary bridge named after the engineer constructing the edifice later renamed the Darnytskyi Bridge stood over one kilometer in length making it the longest in Europe in the late 1800s. Once more, retreating Polish troops laid waste to the structure.

Following the Bolshevik Revolution, new bridges were built with frenzy but were destroyed during the first months of the 1941 Nazi German invasion. Later restored by forced labor of war prisoners and civilians during German occupation the bridges were bombed by the Nazis themselves as they retreated from Kyiv in 1943.

Rebuilding of Kiev’s bridges has been a 20th century project. Today, travelers can walk along the Pishokhidny Bridge or be transported by the Patona and Moskovs’ky Bridges. Railway and mixed use bridges also span Kyiv’s main water artery that freezes each winter symbolically separating the city from itself once more.