Budynok Slovo {Slovo House}
Ukraine, Kharkiv, Kultury Street, #9

Writer's house “Slovo”

“Slovo” - residential house for cultural figures of Ukraine, during many decades of 20th century it was populated by around 200 of notable writers, playwrights, literature critics, translators, actors and actresses, artists, sculptors.

From 1919 until 1934 the capital of Soviet Ukraine was located in the city of Kharkiv. Ukrainiazation policy conducted by Soviet power in 1920-s, lead to cultural burst and popularity of Ukrainian language. Here, in Kharkiv, new publications emerged, numerous literature organizations were created, discussions and gathering were held. But poor living conditions provoked intelligentsia to ask the government to provide them with proper housing.

Idea to build cooperative house was born in the middle of 1920s in literature organization of peasant writers “Plug” [meaning “Plow”]. Literature men created cooperative and name it “Slovo” [meaning “Word”]. They turn to the government for financial help, the project was approved. Construction began in September 1927 not far from city center, in the uphill region of Kharkiv. By the original idea of architect Mytrophan Dashkevych, the house was designed in form of “C” letter – in Cyrillic alphabet it is first letter of “Слово” [ “Slovo” = ”Word”].

At the end of 1929, new habitants hurried up to move into their apartments, in order to celebrate New Year of 1930 in their new homes. Though central heating was installed later. Living conditions were luxury by that times: 3 or 4-room apartments, high ceilings, big windows, place for tanning on the roof. “Slovyans”, that's how residents of “Slovo” were called, had their own garden, sport playground, catering, laundry and kindergarten. Among famous residents of 1930-s were Ostap Vyshnya, Mykola Hvylyovyi, Volodymyr Sosiura, Pavlo Tychyna, Myhail' Semenko, Mike Jogansen, Anatol' Petrickiy, Vasyl' Sedlyar, Ivan Padalka.

But at the end of 1920-s Ukrainization policy had been cut down, and already in 1932-32 there began massive arrests of intelligentsia. By 1940 Stalin terror touched 40 out of 66 apartments of “Slovo” House, most of arrested were executed. During World War 2 , German senior military officers were quartered in “Slovo”. After the war men of literature and art return from evacuation and start restoring cultural life of Ukraine in Kharkiv. After Kyiv is freed, most of them move there though. Natalya Zabila, head of Writers association, reclaimed most of apartments, that were taken by some intruders. In the 1950 and couple of decades later “Slovo” house remains center of cultural life of Kharkiv city. Now it is regular residential house, though few of descendants of prominent artists still live here.  

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Also: Bertelsen, Olga (2013) Spatial dimensions of Soviet repressions in the 1930s : the House of Writers (Kharkiv, Ukraine). PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.