There is much more to see when you travel to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, than the bright lights and great sights of the big city. From your Kiev hotel, you can easily get to a place where you can see what life was like for rural Ukrainians in a bygone age. Just to the southwest of Kiev is the picturesque village of Pirogovo, which dates back to the 17th century. This village, away from the bustle of the city, is the location of the Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Life. It shows a lifestyle far removed from that of modern day Kiev hotels, shopping centers and factories.
This is an open air museum that covers 150 hectares. It was founded in the late 1960s, but did not open to the public until 1976. The museum is in fact a small town, made up of about 200 buildings from various parts of the country. A few are authentic replicas, but most of them are original structures. The buildings include thatch-roofed peasants’ cottages, barns, windmills, and wooden churches. The oldest church is Naddnepryanskaya Church, which dates back to 1742.
Within the buildings there are more than 40,000 ethnographic exhibits that include tools, glassware, musical instruments, ceramics, costumes, carpets, paintings, and embroidery. These items are not displayed the way they would be in a conventional museum, but are set out as they would be in everyday use in the homes and workshops of long ago. Historical interpreters dressed in period clothing are there to help visitors see what life was like. You have the experience of stepping back into another world.
The museum is divided into two sections. The first is called Architecture and Life in the Ukrainian Village Before the Revolution. It is made up of buildings representing six major regions: the Middle Dneper area, Poltava and Slobodian Ukraine, Podolia, Polesye, the Carpathians, and Southern Ukraine. You can see that the people of the mountains lived somewhat differently from the people of the steppes. The museum even includes flora from the various regions.
The second section is called Folk Architecture and Life in the Socialist Village. Here, visitors learn of the drastic changes that Ukrainian villagers were forced to accept in the early 20th century under the Soviet regime. While the new order did bring in improved methods of agriculture, it also swept away many cherished old traditions. The buildings in this section are from the mid-20th century, to show the contrast between pre-revolution and post-revolution life.
The museum hosts craft festivals in which visitors can watch blacksmiths, weavers, potters, coopers, carpet makers and other craftsmen and artisans at work. On Sundays there are Ukrainian folk music concerts. Food and drinks are available at several cafes, and there are picnic areas where you can enjoy your lunch. You will need a full day to explore the museum.