The old interconnected underground tunnels and caves extend under Kharkiv central streets for about 600 meters. The secret catacombs are supposed to have been built in different periods of 17–18th centuries for military and commercial purposes, the scientists say.
After being built, the catacombs got deserted and forgotten to be discovered only accidentally over 100 years ago when the ground suddenly collapsed, and gaps appeared in different sites under some horse-drawn trams and walking people. The Kharkiv journalists of that time spread the information about the secret underground city.
In June 1913, the Kharkiv city government even introduced a special department for the management of the underground structures. Scientists, archaeologists, and diggers have been exploring and studying the tunnels since.
The whole underground quarter with tunnels, galleries, dungeons, and caves is located under the Bursatsky Descent, Rymarska, Kvitky-Osnovyanenka and Universitetska streets in the very city’s heart.
Today the explorers who have access to investigating the tunnels can get into the “secret Kharkiv” through the hole under the Assumption Cathedral. The ordinary curious people are not allowed though.
According to a member of the Board of Children of the Underground Foundation Ihor Denisenko, a dungeon under Kvitky-Osnovyanenka street could attract lots of tourists and extreme trips fans. Therefore Ihor and his colleagues, who are currently clearing the caves, are going to develop the first sightseeing route in the “underground Kharkiv.”
They are also planning to install the museum there which can become a future tour’s first stage. The crockery, bottles, skulls, old weapons and other things found and kept here can make amazing exhibits.
In summer 2015, the Foundation members managed to assign the status of a local archeological monument to the Kharkiv catacombs.
By now the underground tunnels present one of the most mysterious and amazing pages of the city history stirring numerous legends, rumors, and heaps of scientific and fiction books.
Text: Olena Sokolynska