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The Architecture of Sevastopol

Sevastopol destined from the very cradle to become a stronghold at the sea, a fortress was founded in 1783. It got its name in imitation of the antiquity (a sort of the political mode then in Russia). Translated from the ancient Greek this name means "lofty, sacred city."

The construction of Sevastopol was going hand in hand with the creation of the Black Sea Fleet. Both were of great importance for the Russian State. Not for nothing in St. Petersburg, the capital of the Empire, memorial medals were struck in honour of the foundation of Sevastopol "The Benefit of Russia", in honour of the creation of the Black Sea Fleet - "The Glory of Russia".

From the first, symbolic as a matter of fact, medal "The Glory of Russia" through the two unparalleled in history for duration and fortitude defences (in the years of the Crimean and Second World Wars) the city came to its chief award - the Gold Medal of the Hero-City. From afar and everywhere the 55 m -high obelisk in honour of the valient city on Cape Khrustalny (Crystal) is seen - the monument to the courage, intrepidity, selflessness of the defenders and liberators of the Black Sea stronghold.

The heroic bicentennial history of Sevastopol is evidenced by its 1,200 monuments, different in their artistic merits, but always marked by the pathetical significance of events that are behind them. Among the monuments of architecture many are well known: the Grafskaya (Count's) Wharf, the Vladimirsky (St. Vladimir) Cathedral on the Central Hill, the burial place of the famous Russian admirals, the Petropavlovskaya (Saints Peter and Paul) Church, the Defence of Sevastopol in 1854-1855 Panorama, the Mounments to the Scuttled Ships, to the Commander of the legendary brig "Mercury" ("Example for posterity"), memorials on Malakhov Hill, Nakhimov Square, Mt Sapun-Gora...

With every reason Sevastopol can be said to be a city of memory, of monuments, a city-monument, in fact. Its fate was uncommon, indeed: twice ruined, burnt down, razed to the ground, it returned to life, retaining in its aspect the former dear to all tokens, peculiarities and acquiring other features called forth by life and time. In the process of the city's development in the 18th c. the character of its building up formed which was followed by all the architects of Sevastopol up till the Great October Revolution.

The rugged relief dictated its requirements. The steep and gently sloping hills, the wedge-shaped bays between them, lagoons and inlets, the abrupt-sided ravines and shallow depressions, acclivities and declivities - the peculiarity of the relief made it difficult to lay down the city properly. But on the other hand it became its natural and inimitable adornment.

Sevastopol was being developed as the main base of the Black Sea Fleet. The layout of its building up was always strict and definite: all that was connected with the needs of the fastgrowing fleet, its construction and repair was located by the bays and in the adjacent gullies, dwellings on the hills and slopes. In the outskirts there were depots, hospitals, cemeteries, various workshops.

No buildings of the 18th c. have survived in Sevastopol. They were mostly built in an off-hand manner and were pulled down as far back as the first half of the 19th c. Others were ruined during bombardments in 1854-1855.

The city worked for the fleet. The city served for the fleet and in the fleet. Therefore the Commanders of the Black Sea Fleet F. F. Ushakov, I. I. de Traversay, A. S. Graig and M. P. Lazarev in turn took part in working out projects of its building. The whole epoch of the strenuous construction of Sevastopol (1834-1852) was associated with the name of the latter.

The Commander-in-Chiefs objective was to create the industrial base of the fleet, properly arrange the city and first of all its central part. It was Colonel-Engineer J. Upton that M. P. Lazarev authorized to do the topographical and geodetic survey and prepare a project of the reconstruction.

Little is known about the life of one of the Sevastopol's first architects - John Upton, an Englishman in the Russian service. He designed and built docks and water-line in the Ko- rabelnaya Storona (Ships' Quarter), made survey anad drew up a scheme of the layout of the central part of the city, built the Grafskaya Wharf. John Upton's descendants lived in Sevastopol at least up to the dawn of the 20th c., his grandson's grave with the date of his death - 1904 - has been preserved at the old city cemetery.

John Upton's son - Samuil Ivanovich, also an engineer and architect, was in a way unlucky. There are no visible traces of his creative work in Sevastopol. The first and rather remarkable building of the Marine Library erected by him in 1839-1844 burnt down ten months after it was completed. S. I. Upton was the chief architect of the city up to 1841 and together with his father erected various buildings, technical structures as well as docks in the Korabelnaya Storona.

Owing to the efforts of Admiral Lazarev towards the beginning of the 1850s Sevastopol became a beautiful and sufficiently large city for those times. The Maly (now Sailors') and Bolshoy (now Historical) Boulevards appeared, the Central Hill was fully reconstructed, the Korabelnaya Storona was being intensively built up. Few buildings of that period survived and these unique, in fact, miraculously preserved monuments are the particular pride of the Sevastopolites.

Such is for example the Petropavlovkaya (Saints Peter and Paul) Church. Its outward appearance is reminiscent of an antique temple with collonades lining all its facades. By the way, it is the sole in the Crimea strictly Classical-style monument. The temple was designed by a lieutenant-engineer of the marine construction unit V. A. Rulev, afterwards the Professor of Architecture. The building was completed in 1844 and subsequently the edifice like the city itself burned by the war, mutilated, had to be twice restored.

During the Crimean War almost one year cannon-balls, rockets of the allies fell thick and fast on Sevastopol, before retreating from the Ships' and South Quarters the Russians blew up and set fire to everything within reach, the rest was blown up by the British and French. The city lay in ruins. The Black Sea Fleet ceased to exist, new ships could not be built under the Paris Peace Treaty. Sevastopol lost its strategical importance for the Russian State and therefore it was being restored very slowly.

The radical change occurred after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. The Black Sea Fleet and its main base Sevastopol were brought back to life.

The building of port structures, industrial enterprises, dwelling and public houses was going on precisely in this period (1870-1890s). Among the preserved structures of special note are the Temple of St. Nicholas at the Common Cemetery (1870, designed by the architect A. A. Avdeyev awarded the title of Academician for this work), The Vladimirsky Cathedral on the Central Hill (1888, designed by Academician A. A. Avdeyev), the Vladimirsky Cathedral in Chersonesus (1892, the architect D. I. Grimm), the building of the present-day Red Banner Black Sea Fleet Museum (1895, Academician A. M. Kochetov)t the building of the former Biological Station, now the Institute of Biology of the South Seas of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences (1898, the architect A. M. Weisen) and others.

In good time the preparations were made in Sevastopol for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the city's Heroic Defence. In 1899 the Committee for the Restoration of the Monuments of the Sevastopol Defence was created. Historians, engineers and architects from Sevastopol and the capital took part in its work. They elaborated the large-scale project of the complex of monuments along all the line of defence, devised and planned several monuments outside it, on the site of the most important events. Almost all the programme was carried out in 1905.

The most significant memorial structures of those times associated with the Crimean War are the aforesaid Panorama of the Defence of Sevastopol in 1854-1855 (1905, the artist F. A. Roubaud; the building was constructed to the design of the military engineer О. I. Enberg and the architect V. A. Feldman), the Monument to the Scuttled Ships (1905, the sculptor A. H. Adamson, architect V. A. Feldman, engineer O. I. Enberg), also the Monument to General E. I. Totleben (1909; the artist General of Cavalry A. A. Bilderling, sculptor I. N. Schroder), the monumental tombstones at the Common Cemetery, the unpreserved Monument to Admiral P. S. Nakhimov (the new one was raised in 1959, the sculptor Academician N. V. Tomsky, the architect A. V. Arefyev) and others.

The general plan of building up Sevastopol worked out by architect A. M. Weisen and engineer G. N. Dolin in 1910 was realized in the best way possible, it determined the correct direction of the city's territorial development but the construction of many blocks was put into life only in Soviet times.

Towards the beginning of the Great Patriotic War Sevastopol was a well-built modern city with the population of 114,000. Its architectural aspect was formed by thousands of dwelling houses and hundreds of public buildings. The old and new public buildings (mostly of late 19th-early 20th cc. and mid - 30s) housed 28 schools, 64 pre-school institutions, 76 public catering establishments, 274 stores along with cinemas, concert halls, the Drama Theatre, the Young Pioneers' Palace...

Throughout the 250 days of the siege in 1941-1942 thenazi brought down upon the streets and squares, the houses and parks of Sevastopol thousands of tons of deadly metal and explosives. And again as in 1855 the enemy captured but the ruins of the city having paid for them too high a price.

In 1949 the Committee of Architecture attached to the Council of Ministers of the USSR approved the general plan of Sevastopol up to 1970, worked out under the direction of. the architects V. M. Artyukhov, Yu. I. Trautman and engineer I. K- Zhilko. The authors proceeded from the already established structural pattern of the city.

Construction works started immediately after the liberation actually before the approval of the general plan. But after 1949 the restoration works were being carried out in a complex way, on a large scale and their rate was growing from year to year. The builders brought back to life all more or less preserved houses that were of material, architectural or historical value. But for the most part Sevastopol was rebuilt anew, of course. The principles of its building up remain unchanged also in our days, they are regularly confirmed by all the new projects of the general plan. To put it figuratively these principles rest on the three whales. Sevastopol, first of all a seaport; Sevastopol, a large industrial and scientific centre of the South Ukraine; finally, Sevastopol a Hero-City, a city-monument, a museum in the open air.

The city's centre has a single face. It was created by diverse architects, but they all worked in the same style, widely using the elements of the classical order system and architectural methods of the Rennaisance. The architecture of Sevastopol conformed to the specific character of the South, the warm climate, the colour of the seaside. In the period of the restoration loggias and balconies were added to almost all buildings which were also decorated with turrets, ballustrades or rotundas on the roofs.

Sevastopol is a peculiar city. There are few cities with such an abundance of stairways as Sevastopol: majestic stairways with hundreds of steps and less showy ones of but 10-15 steps, broad decorative and just plain staircases serving for practical purposes. The stairways function here as streets and lanes, link up-and downgrades, the whole districts of the city and separate houses. They adorn the city, make its aspect look colourful and facilitate its everyday life.

The architecture of Sevastopol includes many other items. There are very diverse structures of all epochs (starting from the most ancient times) and various nations: the "stone cases" and cromlechs of Tauri in the city's vicinity, the majestic ruins of the ancient Greek colony Chersonesus, the remains of the medieval walls and towers, forts, dwelling and public houses dating from the 19th c., the monuments in honour of the fighters of the Revolution, the memorials of the two heroic defences, the modern high-rise buildings. We have told you about some peculiarities of Sevastopol's architecture, about those its specimens in which the heroic spirit of the "lofty, sacred city" is most graphicaly imprinted.

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© Alexey S. Zlygostev, 2013-2017
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