In 1805, as the celebrated ataman and the hero of the 1812 patriotic war count Matwei Ivanovich Platov (on the picture) was in the process of founding the new capital of the Don Cossacks, he engaged the famous military engineer Francois de Wollant in the development of the general plan. De Wollant successfully integrated the city’s layout into the area’s natural landscape. The backbone of the austere classical layout of Novocherkassk is the three main streets or Prospects: Platovsky, Yermakovsky and Baklanovsky. The prospects are connected with each other through spacious squares, with smaller streets radiating from them. The unitary planning of the city allowed to avoid chaotic building and to integrate all the buildings into an expressive ensemble.
The first thing a person sees on entering Novocherkassk is the tremendous triumphal arches, erected in honour of the Don Cossacks’ participation in the 1812 patriotic war. The two similar arches were built in 1817 after the project by a Petersburg architect A.I. Rusk, one at the western, another at the north-eastern entrance into the city.
The combination of classical style buildings with typical Cossack Kurens (houses) adds to the peculiar appearance of the city. As the intensive development of the city began in the late 19th century, the times of eclecticism, there is quite a number of buildings in the eclectic style. Typical of this style is a great variety of architectural forms and a free choice of facade decorations.
One of the architectural jewels of Novocherkassk is its mansions. They seem to compete with each other in affluence and diversity of their architectural styles and decorations. The architects of the late 19th – early 20th century with their high standards of town building strived to integrate the new buildings into the whole ensemble of the city. Erecting buildings in different styles, they strived to unite them through their height, form and decoration. Facades in different styles, lace grating of the gates, parapets and marquees, and the carved doors make these mansions look original and unique.
Here are the facades of two impressive buildings, standing closely together. It is the wine-making plant on Platovsky Prospect (today, a plant and a military hospital). With their rich decorations, they look more like real palaces than provincial houses. We shall meet these mighty atlantes supporting the cornice and the stucco masks of the “Sarmatian Queen” again in the building of the Military Assembly on Moscow Street.
The administrative centre of Novocherkassk is the crossing of Platovsky Prospect and Moscow Street. In the middle of the square, in 1853, a monument to the town’s founder ataman Platov was erected. It was ordered by the military board to such famous Russian sculptors as academics A.A. Ivanov, N.A. Tokarev and P.K. Klott. In 1923, the statue disappeared. The monument was restored in 1993 by a Moscow sculptor A.V. Tarasenko. Behind the Platov Garden, there is a two-storey classical building – the Ataman’s Palace (today, one of the buildings of the Museum of the History of Don Cossacks). At different times it served as the residence both of Don Atamans and of visiting royalties: the Tsars Alexander II, Alexander III, Nicolas II. Here, in the Ataman’s Palace, on the 29th November 1918, the first post-revolution Ataman A.M. Kaledin died his tragic death.
The Military Cathedral of the Ascension of Our Lord dominates over the whole ensemble of the city. It is the main cathedral of the Don Cossacks and it took exactly 100 years to build (1805-1905). In its foundation there is a vault, where the most prominent military and religious figures of the Don Land are buried. On the choir galleries there are halls with the most significant events in the Don history depicted on the walls. On the belfry there is a tower clock. The square in front of the cathedral is the main square, the “maydan”, where all the holidays are celebrated.
Moscow Street used to be the main street with merchants trading and general public making their promenade. The building of the Officers’ Assembly (1890; today’s Pushkin Library) was also situated here. Its interior is remarkable: a spacious dancing hall with two tiers of windows and a stucco plafond decorated with ornamental friezes, cartouches, heraldic attributes and images of warriors. Among the upper windows, there are the signs of the Don regiments that distinguished themselves in action. Most remarkable is the interior of the dining room with its plafonds decorated with the images of the typical Don flora and fauna: apples, grapes, quails, lobsters, and fish.
On the central town square there are several more distinguished buildings that used to be the intrinsic part of the principal city of a province: the building of the regional courts with its impressive ten-pillared portico (1844; today, the Military Communications Institute), the building of the Judicial Setting (1909; architect A.N. Beketov; today, the Recreation Centre and the Komissarzhevskaya Cossack Theatre), the Russian-Asian Bank (1905; architect S.N. Boldyrev; the former House of the Young Pioneers), the Don Museum (1899; today, the Museum of the History of Don Cossacks that in 2009 had its 110 anniversary).
It is a unique, one-of-the-kind museum containing the rarest materials on the Cossacks’ history, military decorations and banners, collections of prize cold arms, paintings and chinaware. On the first floor, there is an exhibition of the Novocherkassk-born Russian landscape painter Nikolay Dubovsky. The two subsidiaries of the museum, the House Museum of the singer of the Don steppe Ivan Krylov and the House Museum of the father of the Soviet battle painting Mitrofan Grekov, tell about the life and work of these outstanding people.
Not only the names of famous architects and painters are connected with the city of Novocherkassk, but also the names of the Don historian Vasily Sukhorukov, the writers Mikhail Sholokhov, Fyodor Kryukov, Alexander Serafimovich, Pyotr Krasnov, Anatoly Kalinin, the philosopher Aleksey Losev, the composer Ivan Shishov, the actress Vera Komissarzhevskaya, the musicians Mikhail Erdenko and Konstantin Dumchev, the scientists Mushketov, Kashinsky, Skryabin.
Cossacks are distinguished not only by their bravery and daring in battle, but also by their longing for culture and enlightenment. Not any provincial Russian town of the early 20th century had such a number of educational institutions as Novocherkassk: the Platov Military Classical School, the Mariinskaya Women’s Classical School, the Cossack Cadet School, the Real School, the Pedagogical and Theological Seminaries, The Eparchy Women’s School, the Religious School, the Ataman Technical School, the Military and Crafts School, the Military and Medial School, the Jubilee School of the Trading Cossacks, the Commercial School, the Don Military School of the Emperor Alexander III, the Mariinsky Ladies’ Institute, the Don Pedagogical Institute, the Don Veterinary Institute, the Don Agricultural Institute, the Music School, parish schools, private schools.
Novocherkassk has generally managed to preserve its original historical appearance. The historian Sukhorukov may be quoted here: “the straight and broad streets, as well as big squares, create the original beauty of Novocherkassk”. Novocherkassk is a monument of a city. During almost 200 years, it has combined history, culture and scientific and technical potential. With the revival of the Cossacks in 1990, Novocherkassk acquired back its status of the main city of Cossacks and became the capital of the Don troops, as well as of the Cossacks both in Russia and abroad.