Surveying Chisinau’s architectural heritage

Surveying Chisinau’s architectural heritage, 26 May 2012 (photo by Diana Mandache)

Some of you already know that last week Diana and I undertook a short trip to Chisinau (Kishinev), the capital of the Republic of Moldova, where we were part of a team that opened there a travelling exhibition organised by the National History Museum of Romania, which commemorates 200 years since most of the territory that today forms this Romanian speaking post-Soviet republic was ceded by the Ottoman Empire, the erstwhile overlord of the south east Europe, to the Russian Empire, thus igniting one of the most conflict generating geopolitical issues in this part of the world. A number of the exhibits (old maps, books, etc.) are from my own collection of such documents, which I gathered in the 1990s and the early 2000s during my doctoral studies, on the historical geography of this region, at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

Chisinau nowadays is a large town, with an ethnically mixed population of over three quarters of a million registered residents, making it the second largest city within the Romanian speaking world, a bit as Montreal is for the French world. It contains an ample and fascinating architectural heritage of a special mix, from ethnographic and vernacular Balkan type dwellings, to grandiose edifices typical of the architecture of Russia throughout the c19th and the early c20th, from the Russian Orientalist (Central Asian) current to beautiful Art Nouveau and historicist architecture examples. There are also a number of Neo-Romanian and Art Deco style buildings scattered throughout the town, dating from the inter-war period, when most of what is now the Republic of Moldova, was part of the Kingdom of Romania. In all, the place is a unique meeting point of contrasting architectural traditions.

I tried to use my spare time in Chisinau as efficiently as possible in viewing its extraordinary architectural heritage and photographing as many as possible of its old buildings. The image above shows me immersed in that captivating activity :) Throughout the following weeks and months I plan to post a series of articles detailing some of the most interesting architectural examples that caught my attention.

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