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Thursday, 01 December 2022


Must-see in Ukraine > “The city of a hundred thousand roses”

One of the new symbols of Sumy – Monument to the Bag

Vladimir CHERNOV, journalist.
Specially for “Prime Excursion Bureau”.

The Bag and the Arbour

Cities are much like people: there are not two similar ones in the world and some have pseudonyms along with their names. So Sumy is called “City over Psel” and “city of a hundred thousand roses”. About 20-0 years ago, in this comparably small regional center tens of thousands of these tender flowers really delighted everybody with their odor. Then there came times, when local authorities neglected flowerbeds and loans and roses disappeared. But the pseudonym “the city of a hundred thousand roses” survived.

Sumy is located on the River Psel, which caused the second informal name of the regional capital. River Sumka flows through the center of the city, not even a river now, but rather a brook, although several centuries ago it was navigable. Three bags are depicted on the coat of arms of the city. Nothing else. Researches of local history still argue where its name comes from: from the name of the river or from an old legend.

According to the legend, Cossacks once passed this little-inhabited area and found three bags with coins. They say, the money was used to found a settlement here 355 years ago. This version of origin of Sumy is not considered fantastic, otherwise how could the bags get on the city`s coat of arms?

The Arbour – visiting card of the city

Like Eifel Tower for Paris, the carved wooden arbour was so-called trademark of Sumy. According to one of the legends, oil was searched for at this place. Oil has never been found, but they decided to set an original wooden monument to that dream. The arbour became that monument. There must be no newly-married couple in the city, who wouldn`t have themselves photographed by it after registry office. Such photos are said to attract money. But recently there appeared a rival for the symbol. Sumy Association in Kiev made a present to their native city: they set a monument to….a bag on Voskresenskaya Street. To one of the three, depicted on the city`s coat of arms and the one, the money from which was allegedly used to found Sumy. The monument is styled as a well, over which a bag with coins overhangs and water drops down. Now newly married couples like to take pictures here and passersby can hardly keep themselves from dropping a coin into the well – to always have money in their pockets.


Legends are legends, but history is history: although it is often rewritten, but it is very hard to change something radically. So, the founder of Sumy is quite real historical personality – Cossack Ataman Gerasim Kondratyev, who was allowed to settle “on the river Psel by the river Sum” by Russian Tsar Government in the middle of 17th century. In 1657 there was a fortress on the territory of the present-day regional center. It was one of the biggest and strongest in Slobozhanshina. New fields, forest and hayfields were allocated to new settlers ten kilometers around it. Just a few years later Sumy Colonel Gerasim Kondratyev became one of the greatest landowners of the Empire (119 thousand hectares of land belonged to his family in 1585 – it would be enough for 2-3 tens of powerful modern agro firms).

At the times of Kondratyev, Sumy was notable as the center of trade and useful arts. Eventually four fairs started to be held there every year, each of them lasted from five days to a month. For a rather long time Sumy was the center of a Cossack settlement regiment of the same name and the center of province of the same name of Slobodsko-Ukrainian Province, which started to be called Kharkovskaya Province since 1835.

Monument to the famous resident of Sumy – industrialist,
benefactor and Maecenas Ivan Kharitonenko.


There must have been figures in every city, whose names sound as names of epochs. The second after Kondratyev name-epoch in the history of Sumy is Kharitonenko. It is hard to find a person who did more for the city. His sons resumed this activity. Citizens of Sumy still use the buildings, built by this family for themselves and for townspeople. “Love Sumy the way I loved it” – these words of one of the greatest industrialists of Russian Empire can be read on big boards, placed in the regional center. Several years ago, honored citizen of Sumy Ivan Kharitonenko was brought back on his pedestal on Petropavlovskaya Street, where a monument to V. Lenin rose from the times of Soviet Power.

It is significant that in the main encyclopaediс work about the history of the region, in the “History of towns and settlements of the Ukrainian SSR (Sumy region)” surname Kharitonenko is mentioned just five times. And there wasn`t a word about the great merits of this family before Sumy and Ukraine. But even party-class oriented authors of 700-page edition could not neglect the fact that Sumy region took the second place in Ukraine in such characteristic as sugar production. In 1898 10 local sugar plants involved 4, 5 thousand people (most enterprises belonged to Kharitonenko). The remaining 181 production enterprises of the region could provide with working places only three thousand people. Besides, when average salary of a worker at the machine building plant, built by the Belgians in Sumy (now well-known union named after Frunze), was 8-10 rubles a month, the sugar plant gave an opportunity to earn 13-15 rubles. In 1912 these two main production spheres in Sumy involved 75 % of working class of the city.


In 1939 Sumy region was founded and Sumy became its administrative – territorial center. But several decades passed before it turned into a modern city, not worse than other “regional capitals”. This transformation is tightly connected with the name of M. Lushpa. 18 years of his life, up to “perestroika” period Mikhail Afanasyevich worked as the First Secretary of the Sumy City Committee of the Communist Party. During that period eight new micro districts arose in Sumy and population of the city increased from 165 to 300 thousand people.

Bird`s eye view of Sumy Sumy coat of arms on the Dome of Children and Young People Palace

There wasn`t a project of detailed planning of the city – M. Lushpa told me about beginning of his work at the position of the First Secretary of the City Committee. Low-rise flats in Khrushchev buildings were attached to vegetable gardens with spare areas. Roadway of Kharkovskaya Street was planned to be 11 meters wide. Neither a hairdressing salon nor a shop was founded. But the city had to grow and develop. I called the Head of the Capital Construction Administration of the City Executive Committee and ordered him to burn down all the project documentation. Ten years on end under Lushpa 170-180 square meters of dwelling buildings were constructed. These were nine and sixteen-storey buildings. Kharkovskaya Street became an Avenue with 25 meters wide roadway and the width of “red line” (from façade to façade of houses across the road) reached 100 meters. During the «rule” of Lushpa the new building of the Theatre, Youth Center, scientific library, 16-storey modern hotel complex, 35 kindergartens, about 15 schools, new parks, public gardens, fountains were built. The premises of the covered market place, which Lushpa brought from Ulyanovsk, are still considered unique: a concrete dome, weighing 900 tons is supported by… ropes. Republican conferences and seminars were held in Sumy, at which architects were demonstrated by specific examples how a provincial town can be turned into a modern European city.

Ukrainian Academy of Banking
“Sadko” Fountain


So, history of any city, including Sumy, can be recounted, concentrating on certain basis – symbolic figures, who the history depended on. Other personalities – after Gerasim Kondratyev, Ivan Kharitonenko and Mikhail Lushpa – still keep creating it, and here there is an actual rule: “Big is well seen from apart”. However, even today we can say that the honored citizen of the city Anatoliy Epiphanov has done and keeps doing much for present day Sumy. He used to be the Head of the city (to be more exact, Chairman of the City Executive Committee), President’s representative in the region, Chairman of Sumy Regional State Administration and Sumy regional Council. Now he is a Rector of the Ukrainian Academy of Banking. On the façade of the gorgeous building there is a plate, informing that it was built in honor of 10th anniversary of Independence of Ukraine and 10th anniversary of the National Bank of Ukraine. Ceremonial opening of Scientific Library of Ukrainian Academy of Banking took place in Sumy last summer. It can be said without exaggeration that no other city in Ukraine (except for Kiev) can provide with such librarian premises, such funds, and ultra-modern opportunities for education. Track and field manege was built under National Academy of Banking several years ago, now republican championships and and international track and field indoor tournaments are often held in Sumy. Vladimir Stelmakh, the President of the National Bank of Ukraine is an honored citizen of Sumy – thanks to him to a large extent, the educational establishment was rebuilt.

Up to the beginning of 2000, Alexandr Andronov was the Mayor of Sumy. He did a lot for improving equipment of the regional center with cervices and utilities, for solving transport and acute communal problems. Sumy – is one of the few cities in Ukraine, which practically doesn’t suffer from interruptions in heating, cold and hot water supply.

Sumy celebrated its 335th anniversary with Mayor Gennady Minaev, who brought elements of “European style” and certain modernism into the work of the Body of Local Self-Government.


Every year Sumy celebrates the City Day at the beginning of September. This holiday unites two dates: anniversary of foundation and anniversary of liberation from German-fascist invaders. Outstanding townsmen made Sumy famous by their heroic deeds: the only in Ukraine Thrice Hero Of the USSR Ivan Kozhedub, twice Heroes Stepan Suprun, Pavel Rybalko and Sidor Kovpak, Twice Hero of Socialist Labor Maria Savchenko. Honored Citizen of Sumy Vladimir Lukyanenko owes two Golden Stars – The Hero of Socialist Labor and the Hero of Ukraine. For many years he was the director of the biggest in the region and one of the biggest in Ukraine enterprises – the Machine-Building Association Named after Frunze.

This year residents of Sumy celebrated the holiday of their native town five days on end – from the first till the fifth of September. Each day got its own name: Day of Knowledge, Day of Glory, Day of Streets and Public Gardens. The fourth of September became the Day of the City. And the fifth of September was announced the Day of Sports.

On September 2, 1943 Sumy was liberated from invaders. On this day 67 years later, ceremonial meeting and laying of flowers took place by the Glory Memorial, event “Good morning, veterans” was run in places of veteran’s residence. Officials of the region and the city met liberators of Sumy, thanked them for their heroic deed and congratulated on the occasion of the holiday. Names of many streets in Sumy are connected with events and heroes of the World War Two. The Holiday of Streets was traditionally held on one of them: on Suprun Street and on Sumy-Kiev divisions Street. In the evening a concert of brass band took place by the arbour and after that everyone was treated to “veteran porridge”.

Children`s Park “Fairytale”

On the Day of Streets and Public Gardens festival “The Colored City” took place; exhibitions of Municipal Art Gallery and “History of Sumy” were opened. The ribbon on the entrance colonnade was ceremonially overcut in the park named after Kozhedub. On the 4th of September the Exhibition of works of art, flowers and creations of local craftsmen was opened on Sobornaya Street. Opening of one more unique sculpture, without which one can no longer imagine Sumy, took place on Pokrovskaya Square: a Monument to Sugar appeared in the city. A piece of lump sugar was finally immortalized on pedestal. It can be said that economic growth of the region started a century and a half ago right from it. And again exhibitions, contests, art events lasted all day long.

Sumy is the Motherland of twice Olympic Champions Vladimir Golubnichiy and Alexandr Shaporenko. The city is famous for the success of its teams in field hockey, biathlon, equestrian sport and other disciplines. So, it is quite logical, that the fifth of September became the Day of Sports. Competitions for the Cups of the City`s Head: in indoor soccer, tennis, field hockey, championships in rowing, cross-country motorcycle race, paintball, billiards took place. Show “Sumy Heroes” took place by the Arbour in the evening. And, by the way, there are a lot of them in the region: twice Olympic Champion in weight lifting Leonid Zhabotinskiy was also born in Sumy region.


September 2010.