Mezhyhirya Residence Museum
Former Estate of Viktor Yanukovych
Excursion included in PCON program, Fall 2017
Cost of souvenirs and refreshments: 25-250 Hryvnia ($1-$10)
During the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was forced to flee Ukraine and seek asylum in Russia (asylum was later officially granted by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2016). When Yanukovych fled Ukraine, he left behind luxurious Mezhyhirya Residence, a place Yanukovych called home for twelve years.
Following Yanukovych’s departure, the Mezhyhirya Residence was seized by the Ukrainian government and now serves as a museum, open to the public. It serves, the government says, as a true representation of the corruption that has harshly plagued the country. Tours are offered in Ukrainian, Russian, English, and German. One can also rent golf carts as the property is huge and there’s a lot to see (I recommend wearing comfortable shoes when you go in any case).
The Mezhyhirya Residence sits on the bank of the Dnieper River and encompasses 350 acres of land. The estate includes two mansions, a large garage for antique and exotic cars, a shooting range, multiple gardens for organic vegetables and meat/dairy production, a sauna house, a personal golf course, and a large recreation building. The property even includes a small church.
When visiting the property, almost all of the buildings within the , and can easily be toured. However, the Honka Mansion, the estate’s main residence, and the recreation center are kept under careful lock-and-key for “special tours” only. (This tour was also included in the PCON program). These two structures are connected by an underground tunnel, which our guide told us was to serve as an emergency exit route, if ever needed. The recreation building housed the gaming equipment, a bird room, a full-sized gym with courts and boxing equipment, a salon, and a movie theater.
The “special tour” allows guests to walk through the recreation building, the underground tunnel, and the entire Honka Mansion. While exploring this part of the estate, visitors get to see a real glimpse of how Yanukovych lived. The interior contained extravagant artworks, gold-plated furniture, an excessive amount of electronics, and a hand-crafted wooden floor designed by an Italian firm. Everything in the mansion, the guide explained, sits exactly as it did when Yanukovych resided there.
The Mezhyhirya Residence is a controversial topic among locals. Many people become frustrated when they discuss the lavish lifestyle that Yanukovych led during his presidency, especially considering the critical state of the Ukrainian economy. Others, however, point to it as an important reminder of the corruption that was fought against and the ideals fought for during the Euromaidan Revolution. A comparison can be made to when the Hermitage in St. Petersburg became a museum. That museum, as well as the Mezhyhirya Residence, are both intended to show the people what lavish lifestyles the country’s leaders once led while the majority of the people suffered in poverty. Both also were founded with the intention to show that the new government intends to follow a different path.