Ukraine Travelogue, part 4: Building to impress

Sep 23 2007 Published by under Travel

One thing that strikes you about traveling in Eastern Europe is that everything seems BIG. Buildings, monuments, and other things are not only built large, but somehow conspicuously large. For instance, here's a photograph of one of the government buildings in Kiev:

This is evidently a Soviet-era building, which I suspect is designed to scare the hell out of you before you even set foot inside. Incidentally, the EU and Ukrainian banners are present because of a meeting between the two organizations which took place that week.

Here's another, egregious, Soviet-era example, the 'Friendship of Nations Monument':

This massive, dull-steel arch was built to commemorate the 1654 'integration' of the two countries (and that is 1654, not 1954: not a typo). It's located right at a scenic overlook of the river and the greater part of Kiev, and is a place where people will buy a beer and hang out.

The best example of 'build it big' in Kiev, however, is harder to find. The metro system of Kiev is located way, way underground. One of the stations which comes up in the center of Kiev is located at the top of a very large hill, so you have to descend a great distance in order to get to the train. Most people would probably build a series of escalators which would gradually take you there, but in Kiev, there's essentially just one long escalator to the bottom:

From an engineering standpoint, this is highly impractical. If the escalator craps out, people will have a quarter-mile walk uphill to get out of the station. It is damn impressive, though, and this seems to be the point.

My impression is that building big isn't just a Soviet proclivity. We'll see more examples of grandness and opulence when I post some pictures of the various cathedrals around Kiev.

4 responses so far

  • The Girlfriend says:

    The rationale for building big cathedrals though is to impress and scare you with the size and power of God. But, it is possible the Soviets thought they were on equal footing with him so they used the same rationale.

    Architecture has been used to communicate through the ages. Being the silly girl I am, I always snicker at the phallic symbols that men "erect' to commemorate their victories. Trajan's column for example. You'll never see women building a monument of huge breasts to show how great we are. Maybe we just don't need to make such a big deal about it...

  • skullsinthestars says:

    TG: Of course, we also both personally saw the national monument in Amsterdam's Dam Square, which I understand many of the locals refer to as "The Penis de Milo".

  • babs67 says:

    So as a man, can you explain the motivation for creating these "monuments" in the form of the male genitalia? Are we to interpret it as "I won the battle because my penis is bigger than yours." ?

  • babs67 says:

    By the way, I'm "The Girlfriend" too. I've got too many screen names!