Ukrainian officials have now issued a warning: the people of Kharkiv must evacuate. Russian forces continue to bombard the city center. According to military analysts and intelligence reports, it seems likely that Kharkiv will become the target of a massive Russian military operation, possibly as a form of revenge for Ukraine’s successful defense of Kyiv.
Vladimir Putin, who failed to achieve his major objectives in the first phase of the war, has struck a defiant pose. He has demanded that a Russian victory be delivered by the 9th of May — “Victory Day” in the Russian calendar — the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s triumphant conclusion of the Second World War.
Setting aside the question of whether Kharkiv will ultimately fall, one thing is clear: the Russians will have achieved a decisive victory over the architectural heritage of this former Ukrainian capital. The destruction of the city center is progressing day by day. Stanislav Ostrous, a photographer from Kharkiv, has painstakingly chronicled the damage to the cityscape. Recently he sent me photographs of the famous Railroad Workers’ Palace of Culture, one of the Constructivist gems of Kharkiv’s architecture. A Russian bomb had exploded nearby, causing severe damage to the back of the building.
The Palace, designed by Aleksandr Dmitriev (1878-1959), was built between 1927-1932. The architect’s contemporaries liked to compare it to a stretched-out accordion — a reference that Mr. Dmitriev likely found annoying.
The Palace houses a magnificent concert hall.
The famous Russian artist Evgenii Lansere (1875-1946) painted the murals that decorate the interior.
The black marble pillars, complemented by a precise, minimalist railing, are at once sober and elegant.
In short, one of the most important Constructivist landmarks in Kharkiv is on the brink of ruination.
And this is most likely just the beginning.