Sometimes when I start looking for mosaics in a new city, I’ll already have half an idea of what they might look like and where they might be. That was certainly the case for this giant Lenin mosaic on the ‘Boris Verkin Physico-Technical Institue of Low Temperature’ (try saying that three times fast).
I had tried to take the cable car down to Gorky Park, but due to the wind, they were not operating. I took a few quick pictures of the mosaic at the cable car high station, which seemed to be in the process of demolition – if you visit please keep me updated on the status.
So instead, I took an Uber out to the ‘Boris Verkin Physico-Technical Institue of Low Temperature’. The driver seemed very confused as to why I would want to visit the Physics Institute on the Saturday of a bank holiday weekend. I couldn’t believe my luck when we arrived and there were large banners advertising a conference taking place that day.
Unfortunately, when I got there, I had missed this beauty seemingly by a couple of days. There were still drops of yellow paint on the ground and the lingering smell of chemicals. I was gutted.
I walked back along Nauky Avenue (formerly Prospect Lenina) towards 23-Serpnia (23rd August) Metro Station. I’m not sure if this was the first metro station where I got yelled at for taking photos, but it certainly wasn’t the last. Ukraine, amongst other post-Soviet countries, is somewhat infamous for its beautiful and elaborate metro stations. For some reason unbeknownst to me, you’re prohibited to take photos in them.
So sue me, I’m a rebel. If you know Kharkiv, you may recognise some local landmarks in these mosaics. And I guess, if you don’t know Kharkiv, this is what some of the landmarks look like.
Not far from the metro station is the Arts Fund Complex.
Address: 23-ho Serpnia St, 27
Next on the list was the cinema and concert hall which is confusingly just called Ukraine. If it helps, it’s in the same area as Derzhprom and Kharkov Zoo.
The mosaic itself is pretty shitty, but the building is awesome (or tremendously ugly, depending on your stance on brutalist architecture).
This one is more sgraffito than mosaic (sgraffito is a word I only learnt recently and I hope to God I’m using correctly). Anway, I digress. It’s still in the spirit of the Soviet mosaics that I am chronicling – overt displays of propaganda/nationalism. Bonus points for the hammer and sickle, and space race motifs.
Address: Pushkins’ka St, 72
This next one can be found on the Kharkiv Palace of Sport. It’s in really good condition and due to the scale, probably needs to be seen to be believed.
Address: Petra Gryhorenka Avenue, 2
This is probably one of the most infamous Soviet Sgrafittos in Kharkiv. If you follow the same kinds of Instagram accounts as I do, this one comes up reasonably regularly. You can see why, with Glory to Labour emblazoned across the top, it ticks a lot of the boxes.
Address: Plekhanivs’ka St, 117 (can be seen quite plainly on Google Maps).
If you follow Plekhanivs’ka St a short way, you will come to another Space Race themed sgraffito (apparently it takes 160 repetitions to retain a new word). If you’re coming from the Glory to Labour sgraffito pictured above, please be aware that this one will be on the side of the building behind you. If you get to the Miskelektrotrans Dormitory, you’ve gone too far.
Address: Plekhanivs’ka St, 106
Continue in the same direction on Plekhanivs’ka, and you’ll soon reach the Miskelektrotrans Dormitory. This mosaic panel is titled ‘History of the Electric Vehicles’ and it’s absolutely bloody massive.
Address: Plekhanivs’ka St, 98
These last two I probably should have seen when I was at the ‘Boris Verkin Physico-Technical Institue of Low Temperature’ but my purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others, so there you go. I’ve even made a handy-dandy Google Map for you so you don’t have to repeat my mistakes.
Address: Kosmonavtiv St, 2
Address: 23-ho Serpnya St, 63
Honorable mention to all the metro stations I didn’t get a chance to photograph or got yelled at for photographing. My favourite though was definitely Prospekt Gagarina which has beautiful stained glass at each end, one of which features (presumably) Yuri Gagarin in a CCCP (read: USSR) helmet. You can see selected photos from all the Kharkiv metro stations on their website.