Kyiv city walk at the beginning of XX century

Center for Urban History, jointly with Kyiv researchers, work on the development of an online platform "City of the 20th century through the prism of digital era". Please, be reminded that the series of publications covers the course and mechanics of pilot blocks "City and Art on the Edge" and "City and Everyday Experiences of War.

This time, we shall tell how the fundamental study was taking place of the 20th century Kyiv, as part of the block "City and Everyday Life". The "Kyiv Interactive" project is  an ambitious attempt to transfer the city of the early century into the digital domain. Researchers are trying to show all possible infrastructure facilities of those times, and introduce us into the diverse everyday lifestyles of Kyiv citizens 100 ago.

What did it start from?

"I have always dreamt to create something google-map-like for Kyiv. It is the city where I currently live and take inspiration from its atmosphere, for the interactive map of the early 20th century. The dream has partially come true in our project. Another old dream was to tell about Kyiv of those times, and its people in an analytical language, rather than in caramelized terms – says Olena Betliy, a coordinator. 

Collection and systematization of information always requires much human and time efforts. It is a huge layer of research addressing sources in the archives, such as in the Pshenychnyi Central State Film and Photo Archives of Ukraine. On this stage, the team worked with the address book "All Kyiv" of 1916. 

To perform digitization and analysis, researchers chose the last pre-revolutionary publication of the directory. It helped compile the most recent data basis of Kyiv citizens from the early 20th century, by occupations and places of residence, as well as to identify most recent owners of Kyiv houses. In further research, it could be compared with the data from earlier years directories, to trace the dynamics of change within certain professions and occupations, in the development of trade networks and service provision, as well as to trace the impact of the Great War on the life of citizens. 

Olena Hnydiuk worked on the topic "City Owners." The objective was to research who owned what in Kyiv in 1916 - "In order to do this, I looked through, marked, and counted each house out of the 9110 buildings. Now, I can tell who owned the largest number of buildings." Even though the genre of the directory implies it contains data on public officials, owners of real estate or public institutions, historians also managed to find information about places of residence of average Kyiv citizens. It helped compile a separate data basis and partly reconstruct the social topography of Kyiv of the early 20th century.

Thematic Blocks

The team work on the development of thematic blocks on transportation, education, medicine, food, and cultural life in a story map format. 

"I like thinking of what my characters were like; when I worked here, I felt like I transferred from an apartment at Kharkivska street into 1916. There, against the background of Kyiv landscapes, I got to know each of them" – Maria Chorna shares, a researcher of the educational block. 

Oleksandra Obarenko worked on the gastronomic and trade picture of Kyiv, and can share where to buy the best caramel candies and have some "cultural leisure" or to have some tea, if you happen to get into the year 1916. 

"In this project, I had to tackle an unusual but exciting topic – to process the data from Kyiv everyday printed media about the crimes committed in the city" – Kateryna Dysa tells, she explored criminal life of Kyiv in the early 20th century. 

Andriy Levchenko reconstructed the sound landscape of key junctions of transport, trade, and cultural routes of the pre-revolutionary Kyiv. Moreover, the historian collected the music repertory from advertising announcements, theater posters and cinemas, announcements on public events in the city with the music agenda, or those that engaged musicians.

Data bases

A data basis is hard to compile. A software is not always able to recognize some words. That is why any mistakes or inconsistencies shall be edited manually. 

When drafting the tables, one needs to structure information from the sources in order to have the software locate the links between different categories of data, or to make a picture.

It was an interesting experience for the team that teaches to think and analyze sources from a different perspective. The method requires to fragment the source in order to assemble it back but in the form of the software. 

Geolocation

Upon compiling the data basis, they needed to mark the facilities of 1916 onto the modern map of Kyiv. Without this step, it is impossible to correlate the past city and the present-day city. It is hard to do as the facility might not be preserved until today. Moreover, there are no documents or reference books available to show how the numbers of buildings have been changing over the last 100 years. "It is like in archeology – you bring back to life some long gone objects. For example, I was surprised to find an old church not far from the place where I live. It was destroyed in the 1930s," – Olha Hnydiuk states.

The team tried different experiments in order to tackle the problem. The most successful visual analysis was for maps on 2019 and 1925. Why the 1925 map? Currently, it is the first known topographic map of Kyiv. It shows both the streets and the layouts and boundaries of individual buildings, households, and other sites. However, the map does not include the numbers of buildings. Thus, the researchers deduced them themselves. They found very helpful to rely on records about the junctions available in the address book, the corner buildings, and the visual comparison of boundaries of sites on both maps. Therefore, historians managed to discover the destroyed buildings and show them on the modern 2019 map. 

The information currently posted on the website is only the beginning. In the future, it is planned to post new data and publish the texts in other sections. What is more, the materials will be used in the course on "Digital History" for students at Kyiv Mohyla Academy.

To enhance project outcomes, the team find sit very important to consider feedback, critical remarks, recommendations of possible users, and from anyone interested. You can also contribute as a volunteer and help process more materials.

Welcome for cooperation!

The talk was recorded by: Alina Dziubko

The project is supported by the Ukrainian Cultural Foundation.