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KUPCHINO

 

Kupchino is one of the oldest names on the map of the modern city of St. Petersburg. The Northern Capital of Russia has not yet been founded, not even its founder first Russian Emperor Peter the Great was born, and the small village of Kupchinova already existed on the banks of the Rver Setuy with its old and odd title.

Until the end of the 15th century, this land belonged to Great Novgorod, and later to the Grand Principality of Muscovy. According to Stolbovskiy peace treaty which put an end to the Russian-Swedish war of 1610-1617, Russia was forced to cede the territory between the Gulf of Finland and Ladoga Lake to Sweden. As a result the area of modern Kupchino ended up under Swedish control. Swedes immediately started the census of everyone and everything on the newfound territories. First of all, the population was count to establish a new tax system. Swedish census takers reached the territory of the present Kupchino in 1619. Therefore it was the first extant documentary evidence of an unremarkable hamlet near the delta of the Neva River. Finnish historian Saulo Kepsu cites Swedish census books, and mentions some of the early drafts of the village name: Kuptzinoua (1619, 1634), Kupsinoua (1622), Kupsonoua (1643). According to the Swedish census in 1619 the hamlet of Kuptzinoua had four yards, and four taxable householders lived there, three of them were Orthodox - Ifuan Guismin, Pråska Lefuanteaf, Siman Abrahamof. By 1643 the hamlet had seven households.

Map of  Ingermanland 1676

Obviously the village wasnt founded in 1619, and existed there long before Swedish enumerators had come, and even before socio-economic and political crisis came in Russia in 1570 - 1610’s, during which the population fled from the northern areas of the country to the fertile southern lands, and so the new hamlet in northern climes just could not appear. Besides, before 1610’s the hamlet of Kupchinova was more populated, but after government and state religion changed, the Orthodox population left the hamlet because of the scourge of war and fear of  both administrative and religious harassment by the new authorities.

Map of  Ingermanland 1676

 

Considering the names of the first inhabitants of the hamlet in the census, we can conclude that the village was founded in the middle of the 16th century by Russian colonists, who at that time were actively reclaiming the northern lands. Also we can conclude that the name of the village is of Slavic origin and etymologically relates to the Russian words kupetz, pokupka (merchant, purchase). After the change of the state affiliation the ethnicity of the population began to change, especially after the Russian-Swedish war of 1656-1658, when the Orthodox population of the Neva area were massively deported to Russia, and the deserted hamlet was populated with immigrants from the Swedish Finland. Thus, from the middle of the 17th century the Finnish names dominated in the lists of the population.

It is worth noting that the Slavic name of Kupchinova has no sense for both the Swedes and the Finns. This is nothing more than a mouthful combination of sounds. Therefore, after 1658 the name has transformed. Since the end of the 17th century on the Swedish maps hamlet was called Kupsilla (1676), Cubsilda (1678), Kupsila (1680), Kupsillda (1695). The most common name was Kupsilla, which later became used on Russian maps, too.

In 1702, during the Great Northern War, the land previously given to Sweden became a part of Russia again. In 1711, a number of villages and heaths along the banks of the River Setuy, or as it was called then, Chernaya (Black) River were given to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery, including mentioned hamlet of Kupsilla. After the city of St. Petersburg was founded the hamlet population began to change again. Slavs returned to replace the Finnish colonists. And the changes same as half a century ago started to happen with the name of the hamlet, but the opposite way this time. The familiar and clear name of Kupchino gradually replaced the title Kupsilla.

Map of  St. Petersburg province 1790

 

Map of  St. Petersburg province 1790

By 1713, there were five peasant households and five landless peasants in the hamlet. In 1714 the hamlet with heath were given to Tsarevich Alexey Petrovich, the son of Tsar Peter the Great. After the death of Alexei Petrovich, in 1718 the hamlet of Kupchino was given back to Alexander Nevsky Monastery.

Very little is known about the history of the village during the period from 1718 to the end of the 18th century. What was Kupchino like in the 19th century? On the one hand it was a poky hole of a place. The hamlet was located away from busy roads. The only near arterial road was Kurakina road that connected major suburban roads: Moscow and Schlisselburg highways. The hamlet was populated only by peasants since noble people did not settle in these places. Before the beginning of the 20th century there were no church. The first in Russian Tsarskoselskaya railway was built in the direct proximity of the hamlet in the end of 1830s, but did not affect the lifestyle of local residents as well. Trains passed by without stopping at the hamlet. On the other hand, obscurity and isolation made the hamlet attractive for traders who want to transport their goods to the capital of the Russian Empire without going through customs. There was an active exchange of goods in the hamlet and, as a consequence, inns flourished, or, to put it in modern terms, sales and hotel business flourished. Kupchino has almost never been in the bond-hold. Most of its existence the hamlet was owned by the State Treasury. And it left an imprint on the entire rural lifestyle. People here used to live freely and quite prosperous. In the description of St. Petersburg Province dated back to 1838 it is stated that there were 302 residents of both sexes in the state-owned hamlet of Kupchino. The list of villages of the same province made by Regional Committee in 1856 indicated that there were 40 yards in the hamlet. Quoting the list of habitations of the Russian Empire dated back to 1862 there were 42 yards and 273 residents of both sexes in the hamlet. In 1905  in the hamlet there officially lived 342 people in 62 yards.

The St. Gerasimos church

In 1903 Kupchiners decided to build their own temple, and in three years they laid the foundation of the wooden church. The church was built at the expenses of the peasants and the famous St. Petersburg philanthropist, merchant Ivan Shustrov by engineer Vasiliy Sarandinaki upon the project of the architect Ivan Sokolov. The church was hallowed in the name of St. Gerasimos on November, 1, 1906. After the church was built the hamlet gained the right to be officially called a village according to the old Russian tradition.

At the beginning of the XX century a village of Romanovo appeared to the north of Kupchino. It was located between the modern Belgradskaya and Sofiyskaya Streets. Meadows and gardens were significant part of Romanovo. Since 1909, there began an active construction on the territory. In 1912, the City Council (as the town hall was called in Russia) has approved the names of streets in Romanovo. These streets mainly were named after the centres of Russian uyezds (districts). Just in fifty years these streets will be named after the capitals of the socialist countries of the Second World. Shortly after the October Revolution in 1917, the village of Romanovo was renamed Ryleevo to replace the name of the former Russian emperors with a more revolutionary name of the participant of anti-monarchist coup in Russia in 1825. In 1919 Ryleevo became a part of the 1st Municipal District of Petrograd (the name St. Petersburg had in 1914). After Petrograd was renamed Leningrad and the municipalities were reorganized, Ryleevo became a part of Volodarskiy District. In 1929, that lands were allocated to the union of doctors and teachers. Formed garden co-operative societies were the first in Leningrad and lasted until the end of the 1970s.

The St. Gerasimos church, picture by Vladimir Isaev

 

In the mid -1920s, to the north-east of Ryleevo settlement Nikolayevskiy appeared near the railway station Farforovskaya. The name probably came from the Nikolaevskaya railway that was close to the place. Workpeople from the nearby oil refinery Vacuum Oil (later called Shaumyana Plant) settled here. In the mid-1930s to the north of Kupchino, state farm (sovkhoz) Udarnik was established. Mainly vegetables and fruits were grown at the state farm. The main buildings of the farm were located on three small streets between the railway to Vitebsk, and Chernaya River. Almost in the centre of the state farm lands there was a small two-storey wooden building where the office, the Red Corner, two primary schools, a medical centre and two rooms (a youth hostel) were. A little further there were three wooden huts where a family hostel was located. The farm had over 550 acres of land, 2,500 square metres of greenhouses, 60 horses. There were tractors and vehicles, too.

In the 1920s at the Kurakina road, now called the Yuzhnoe (Southern) Highway, on the place of horse slaughter once existed here the company for the manufacturing of bricks was organized. Bricks were made from clay mined from quarries on site. In 1936, the construction of the Number 4 Brick Factory started here. The brick factory became operational in 1940. A residential village was built near the brick factory. There were one-story and two-storey wooden barracks in the village. There was also a medical centre, dining room, club room. Barracks were different, some were reserved for single men, others were reserved for women, and the rest ere designed for couples. There were no stoves for cooking in the barracks, only small slate-fired stoves for heating in the rooms. Complementary to the barracks a large wooden house was built near the shore of Volkovka (Black) River, and the families which worked in a brick factory lived there. Also there were built beautiful stone buildings of secondary school and an orphanage. Most of the villagers had their subsistence farming with livestock. Around village there were gardens and yards. The brick factory grew rapidly. Along one of the quarries a narrow-gauge railway was built. A Russian railway track with 60-inch gauge was built from the factory to the train station Sortirovochnaya. It exists until now.

Map of  Leningrad region 1924

 

Map of  Leningrad region 1924

After the Revolution in 1917 villagers of Kupchino were consolidated into the Thälmann communal farm (kolkhoz), named after the anti-fascist leader of the German Communists. The kolkhoz existed until the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. In the pre-war years residential buildings were located in the northern part of the village, and collective farm buildings (the kolkhoz, the farm club, the school, the farmyard) were located in the southern part. In 1927, railway station was organized near the village. Kupchiners have got the opportunity to use public transport to get to Leningrad.

German map 1941

Meanwhile Leningrad actively grew. In December 1935 a new master plan for the city was approved. It did not consider the growth of the city in the northern direction because of the proximity of the border. But the increase of the urban area in the south-eastern, southern and south-western directions was planned. Mezhdunarondny (now - Moskovskiy) Prospect and Moscow highway (Moskovskoye Highway) should have become the central axis of new buildings. The northern, central and southern arcuate arterial roads were also outlined there. A project for extending the Dzerzhinskogo (now - Gorokhovaya) Street to the border of the city, and further beyond existed in the plan. According to that plan the city limit of Leningrad lied far to the south of ring railway, which since the 1920s limited the south of Kupchino territory. The lands up to Kuzminka and Slavyanka Rivers should have become a part of the city, and also Pulkovo were meant to be within the eastern city limits. Therefore Kupchino could have become a place directly adjacent to the new city centre, and in the process of growth become a city centre itself. The territory of Kupchino were lined by a large number of straight parallel streets, stretching from north to south, and from east to west according to the project of perspective plan of Leningrad in 1935. The prospective arcuate arterial road passing through Kupchino and leading to the Volodarsky Bridge across the Neva River already built by that time was outlined there, too. In the early 1940s, in response to this plan, the city authorities have started to form a new business and administrative centre of Leningrad in the southern part of the city. To this end, they began construction of the House of Soviets at the current Moskovskaya Square. But the implementation of the whole project was interrupted by the war.

German map 1941

 

Since the beginning of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945  due to the proximity of the front line Kupchino population was evacuated in the northern and central areas of the city blocked by German troops. Residential buildings were took to pieces for the construction of military fortifications and for the fuel, except three of them that were left for military purposes. In the first months of the siege of Leningrad in special trains residents of the city were sent from Vitebsk Station to the area of Kupchino for construction of fortifications. Nine lines of homeland defence were created to defend the city from the south. Two of them were on the territory of modern Kupchino, one was on the Kurakina road, the other was on the line connecting Blagodatnaya Street, Salova Street and the Farforovskaya station. In July 1941, 3rd volunteer Frunze division of the Leningrad People’s Militia Army was formed from the residents of the southern part of the centre of Leningrad. The soldiers from this division had their baptism of fire on the Luga defensive line and in Karelia. Nowadays there is a memorial sign to fighters of this division on Prospect Slavy. Also there is a monument to Georgy Zhukov, one of the most famous Soviet generals of the war. Pillboxes remaining on the territory of Kupchino since then remind about past heavy war. They were built during the construction of a defensive line Izhora in 1943. In 2014 one of these bunkers was restored and opened as a people’s museum.

Pillbox the museum

 

Museum Pillbox

Monument to Georgy Zhukov

After the war Kupchino (already as a settlement) was restored, although it has not reached the pre-war the size. Thälmann kolkhoz was not restored. But the state farm (sovkhoz) Udarnik continued functioning and ceased to exist only in 1960s, with the beginning of a period of mass housing construction. Ryleevo and settlement near Shaumyana plant bombed during the war were also preserved. The Number 4 Brick Factory was growing, and new stone houses were actively built in the settlement near the plant.
    In 1948, a new Master Plan of Leningrad was developed. This time scale of the designers were more modest and realistic than in the pre-war years. Kupchino buildings, according to the project ended at the city line, which was limited by the ring railway. When you look at this project, it is clear that its developers didnt mean to build a concrete jungle. On the territory of Kupchino a wide variety of parks were supposed to be created, and one of them had to be laid out on the banks of the Volkovka River. At that, this part of the river should have become a part of the southern bypass channel, planned for the derivation of transport waterway of the Neva River. However, this time builders didnt get to Kupchino due to lack of funds to implement the plan. Then plans were developed in 1955 and in 1959. They also included the development of the Kupchino territory, but in those years none of this plans has been implemented. The territory of present Kupchino featured few isolated settlements, horticulture and numerous state farm fields between them.

Monument to Georgy Zhukov

 

Everything has changed dramatically in 1964. A period of mass housing construction started. There was nothing left but memories of the Ryleevo and Shaumyana villages in which wooden buildings prevailed. Four brick two-storey buildings built in 1950s was all that was left of the central farmstead of the Udarnik state farm. Many post-war buildings can be seen nowadays in the former village near Number 4 Brick Factory. Two pre-war built stone houses were also preserved, which were very rare in Kupchino. A unique complex of wooden buildings of the 1920s can yet be seen at the railway station Farforovskaya. Also pre-war buildings and houses the first post-war decade can be seen in the area of Volkovo Field and along Volkovskiy Prospect and Strelbischenskaya Street.

Kupchino village also completely disappeared. Last wooden house for many years surrounded by five-storey buildings was demolished in March 1976. But the ancient name has not died. It was inherited from the small village by the enormous urban areas. 1964 is the year of birth of Kupchino as the urban district of the multi-storey residential buildings. That year the first bearing-wall house was built. Same year the names were given to the new highways being built in Kupchino. Belgradskaya, Budapestskaya, Bucharestskaya, Prazhskaya, Sofiyskaya Streets ran where once were Ochakovskaya, Baikalskaya, Siedletskaya, Poznanskaya, Penzenskaya Streets. Construction began in the north area. It is the northern part of Kupchino that is now often called the Old Kupchino. The fields of the former state farm were being built up. It often happened so that just after harvesting machines were gone construction equipment immediately came, and on the place where cabbage grew shortly before, building piles were driven. Often residents of first 5-storey houses in Kupchino were beating a track to their homes among the cabbage and carrot fields.

New tenement-houses in Kupchino

 

New blocks of flats in Kupchino

Kupchino has not become a pioneer in mass housing construction in Leningrad. Much earlier panel houses were built in the neighbouring areas. And, of course, Kupchiners benefited from that. Practically first unsuccessful series of prefabricated-sections houses were not built in Kupchino. But the second generation of paneláks were built which by the standards of that time could be called quite comfortable. It should be noted that the task for the builders given by the government was to settle the numerous slum quarters and communal apartments. Therefore, residents of the central districts of Leningrad became the first residents of Kupchino Khrushchevkas as people call prefabricated houses built on the initiative of Nikita Khrushchev, the head of state that days. Despite the unsettled life, distance from the centre, and difficulties with transportation, people gladly moved from crowded communal apartments into separate flats.

Monument to the soldiers of the Afghan war

Meanwhile, Kupchino grew to the south. In place of the 5-storey houses came 9 and 14-storey tower blocks and brick buildings. In 1970, at the Bucharestskaya Street the country’s first self-service store was opened with its huge trade hall for 12 000 visitors per day. It was named Frunzensky. Standardly designed widescreen Slava Cinema with an auditorium for 1250 people was built at the corner of the Bucharestskaya Street and Prospect Slavy. In 1972 the first Kupchino Metro station was opened. In 1974, Nevsky overpass over railway tracks that linked Kupchino and Nevsky District came into operation. Territory of south Kupchino was being built up since 1972. There was less green and the buildings are higher. In the east, the housing sector borders with the Obuhovo industrial zone. In the south, the border of the Kupchino district was for a long time the city limit of the urban development of Leningrad. On the west side the area is limited by the railroad to Vitebsk. The era of mass housing in Kupchino ended in 1985, when all supposed for new buildings territories were reclaimed.

Modern Kupchino is one of the largest residential areas of St. Petersburg. Backed by a long history, the area is one of the newest and most modern. Kupchino is limited by railway lines:  by the former ring from the north, by the new ring from the south, by the railroad to Vitebsk and Moscow from the east and the west, respectively. Such isolation, the lack of the roads out of the city in the recent past and a few highways that connected Kupchino with other districts, have generated a lot of jokes about Kupchino as a poky hole of place. All these problems are gradually fading. Kupchiners communication with the outside world has improved significantly in recent years: the construction of new overpasses were made, a new metro station was open. There are no large-scale industrial enterprises in the territory of Kupchino. The last of these - the brick factory - moved to a new site in 2013. Cinemas, which were the centres of culture in the Soviet period, are now mostly abandoned and converted into shopping malls. Although no theatres appeared in the district in recent years, new shopping malls have opened up, that have cinemas onboard. Mobile dolphinarium is functioning. Area is extremely attractive for developers, and this does not always go in districts favor. Being once one of the most green areas of Leningrad, Kupchino is  slowly but constantly becoming a concrete jungle. Fewer green areas, parks, lawns remain since densification actively continues. After the construction of new houses new challenges emerge. The first of them is a problem car parking. The modern houses are often built with underground parking garage. But not all residents hurry to use them immediately as the cost of a parking lot is sometimes comparable to the cost of a one room apartment. The other problem of Kupchino is the traffic problem, directly connected with cars, too. The traffic jams lie in wait of trap for Kupchiners daily in different places. Every weekday, and sometimes on the weekends, traffic jams occur all over the district. It is generally known that any traffic jam worsen air quality not only in a single location, but in the whole area. In other words, the problems in the district exist, and they need to be solved.

Monument to the soldiers of the Afghan war of 1979-1989

 

Monument to the Special Forces soldiers

Monument to the Special Forces soldiers (Spetsnaz Memorial)

 

There is no saying that Kupchino somehow stands out compared to other bedroom suburbs of St. Petersburg. It is neither better nor worse. It is just different. Living here has its own pros and cons. A kupchiner who really knows the district may guide tourists for hours, showing them the pre-war wooden houses and modern high-rise towers, echoes of war - Pillboxes - and the monument to the soldiers of the Afghan war of 1979-1989, the Good Soldier Schweik (the title character of the novel of the Czech writer Jaroslav Hasek) with polished to a shine nose, and Kupchino tit that is lost among the many mosaics of Bucharestskaya Metro station. It has its own legends and secrets. Kupchiners are mostly patriots of their small Motherland. Evidence of that is not only  inhabitants interested in the history of their district, but even the little things like Kupchino T-shirts or stickers on cars, appearing on the roads on an incredibly regular basis. Kupchino is an area with a long history, however, it is very modern and dynamic. District is praised by many famous people: artists, writers, scientists, and politicians. Third President of the Russian Federation and the current Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev was also born in Kupchino.

Kupchino is the Capital of the World is sung in the popular song by Billy Novick, Billy’s Band founder. Maybe the world is just concentrated in Kupchino. Perhaps, on the contrary, the world is around, and Kupchino is its centre. Everyone understands this phrase on its own. But, anyway, Kupchiners like it.

Bucharestskaya subway station

 

Bucharestskaya Metro station, underground hall

 

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