An Underground Museum in Kharkiv
The dungeons of an old hospitality court will be turned into an underground museum. For the last five years, activists have been clearing away rubble from the site
Historian Ihor Denysenko is showing us a map of the hospitality court’s dungeons, which were not destroyed during the war. There are about 250 square meters of basements and 90 square meters of underground galleries. Denysenko says that in the 18th century they served as storerooms. During World War II, the basements were used as a bomb shelter. The hospitality court itself was destroyed. Now, in its place, there is a college building.
“On the place, where we are standing now, there was one of the most interesting towers of the Kharkiv fortress called Tainytska. It had an underground passage. It was right here under these steps and reached the water,” said Denysenko.
The narrow passages at a depth of more than four meters were previously littered. During six years of excavation, 23 dump trucks removed soil and garbage from the dungeon. Now, archaeologists can display everything in the wine cellar that was not destroyed. They say that there were galleries here and more than 30,000 liters of alcohol. There were even branded bottles of the imperial court. The most precious item is a 130-year old champagne bottle with a hidden bottom.
“The bottle with this bottom is unique for Kharkiv. Because, usually, 3 to 4 centimeters are used for collecting sediments. Here we have 8,” said Denysenko.
Dishes, spoons, forks, and even whistles made in the early 20th century, as well as housewares, are kept in the dungeon. In addition, historians collected some legends.
“In the middle of this room, there were 12 chairs. On a stone table, there was a book that contained information about the fate of convicts. They wanted to be released,” said archeologist Anatoliy Shcherban.
They also found human remains; skulls and bones. They will be reburied. Mines and ammunition, found here during excavations, forced them to evacuate.
“When we found this ammunition, we stopped working here. People were evacuated. We called sappers and bomb disposal technicians from the State Emergency Service. We are trying to secure both our place of work and the site of the future museum,” said Andriy Kovalyov, president of a research foundation.
Archaeologists say that a sightseeing route called “The Hospitality Court’s Dungeons” is almost ready. There will be more than a thousand exhibits here. But the route is not yet indicated on maps or included in the cadastre. It also needs more funds to reinforce most of the dungeons so that they will be safe for tourists.