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The Lysa Gora tract: a walk through time

Parnikoza I.Yu.

National historical and architectural museum “Kyiv Fortress”

The Kyiv nature conservation squad “Green Future”

Kyiv – 2010-2023

In memory of Alexei Golovanov

Kyiv and the Dnipro all in one… My God, what a luxury! You hear me, good people, I tell you about Kyiv and you don’t cry with joy?

E. Grebinka, after M.M.Zaharchenko “Kyiv now and before”, 1888

The work concerns Lysa Gora in Kyiv and the tracts Pokal and the ancient mouth of the Lybid river, which the author unites under the term “Lysogorie”. The Lysogorie is one of the most mysterious areas in Kyiv covered by orphic legends and tales. However, a real historical and natural description of the Lysogorie is lacking today.

In the present work based on the data the author could access or find, the Lysogorie’s historical journey through time from high antiquity to present days has been resonstructed. This is a story about archeological findings and the strategic facility, Fort Lysa Gora, built on Lysa Gora in 1872-1874. Traditionally, Fort Lysa Gora is considered as part of the fortification enceinte. In the author’s opinion, it was designed as a self-contained position. The work reveals the real role the fort has played during the defence of Kyiv in 1941. A detailed description of the present-day status of the fort is given; visual inspection suggests it remains 80% preserved.

A separate part of the work deals with the environmental value of the Lysogorie: its vegetation, flora, and fauna. The author presents the results of the many years of his research on the status of the populations of local rare and endangered plant species. Anthropogenic threats to the existence of the unique corner of the Kyiv historical and natural environments are analyzed, as well as ways to preserve the unique natural ensemble are proposed. For its long history, Kiev has had other Lysa Gora’s, as different elevations were given this name in different periods.

In the most recent time, this name signifies the outermost elevation of the Kyiv loess plateau nearby the chronicled Vydubichi tract. Initially covered with oak-hardbeam forests, by the XVII century, however, due to anthropogenic and natural influences it accurately reflected its contemporary name (Lysa Gora means “a bald hill”). According to archeologic data, during the Tripolie and ancient Kyiv Rus periods these elevations towering above the navigable at that time Lybid river were yet not abandoned.

During 1872-1874, a plan of independent fortification was realized here resulting in a large-area fort designed to defend approaches to strategic bridges in Kyiv. Fort Lysa Gora was built according to an individual project by Edward Totleben as a self-contained fortification. It was not part of the general fortified enceinte of the Kyiv stronghold. However, financial shortages did not allow the realization of the Fort Lysa Gora project in full. Still, in this simplified form, having 178 cannons and a 2000 strong garrison, the Lysogorie Fort was considered impregnable and capable of defending the main approaches to Kyiv.

Near the fort, a new settlement, Saperna Slobidka, arose, which together with Demeevka was annexed to Kyiv in 1918. Due to its striking vantage position, by the XX century Fort Lysa Gora remained the only fortification structure of the Kyiv fortress that had not lost its defensive importance. Meanwhile, for a long time its territory served as a place where political and criminal culprits were executed. Before the World War II, the fort served as an explosives storage. Graffiti left by the storage gards on the fort’s walls, beside the ancient literas “yats”, names of provinces, and uyezds, contains surnames and dates of the 1920s and 1940s.

The tract’s historical apogee is the deed by militia soldiers who on 1941 defended Fort Lysa Gora and restrained the German army from making it through the Dnieper. After the war and up to the 1970s, the Lysa Gora area served as the artillery storage of Kyiv military district and thus remained a restricted access area. The access restriction removal in 1976 led to a wildcat destruction of the fort.

Today, it remains preserved by roughly 80%. The restricted access has facilitated preservation of the rich flora and fauna of the area. Nowadays, the dozens of plant and animal species of Lysa Gora protected by Kyiv authorities, listed in the Red List, or those under the protection of international conventions suggest that the area needs strict nature conservation regulations. This also applies to the historical satellites of Lysa Gora, namely the components of the Lysogorie complex, such as the Lybid river floodplain tract Pokal-Galerny Island and the ancient mouth of the Lybid river.

The mystic fame of Lysa Gora has probably risen from the christian apprehension of ancient pagan traditions. Nonetheless, its witches have been unable to protect the Lysogorie from the irresponsible activity of its visitors; and “Kyiv Fortress” museum administration, ecologists and conscientious residents of Kyiv are the only defenders of the tract against the city authorities’ building plans.

Conservation of the Lysogorie is facilitated by the differential protection regime on Lysa Gora introduced by the “Kyiv Fortress” museum and annexation of the rest of the Lysogorie complex fragments, namely the Pokal tract, Galerny Island, and the ancient mouth of the Lybid river, to the territory of the museum. The present work may be interesting to historians, local history students, biologists, nature conservation activists, as well as to a wide readership.