Diorama ‘Battle for Kyiv. Lyutizh bridgehead. 1943’ is a truly unique example of battle- scene painting, the museum’s artistic and conceptual dominant, and its compositional centre. The diorama is a monumental piece of artwork showing the heroism of Soviet warriors who forced a crossing over the Dnipro river and liberated Kyiv. This diorama was created in honor of the 35th anniversary of the Victory in WWII by the painters of Hrekov’s military painters studio in Moscow. The author is the people’s painter of Russia, Honoured Art worker of Ukraine, laureate of the Government prize of Repin, Mykola Prysekin. Together with other painters from the studio he participated in the creation of another diorama ‘Storm of Sapun-hora on 7 May 1944’ (Museum of the heroic defense and liberation of Sevastopol) and painted ‘The Battle of Kursk’ diorama (Central Museum of WWII in Moscow). The diorama was being created during 2 years (1957-1958) in Moscow. It was first opened in 1980 in Svyato-Pokrovska church in Novi Petrivtsi and exhibited there till 1993. The area of the diorama is 29/7 metres. It depicts the breakthrough of German coastal fortifications on the right bank of Dnipro, northern from Kyiv in the end of September – beginning of October, 1943. Large size allowed the painter to depict general battle scene, to show its scale and tension; military art, courage and heroism of warriors representing all branches of the service.

Диорама музей освобождения Киева 1943

When looking at the diorama the viewer feels as if standing on the right bank of Dnipro, the moment when the battle achieved its peak. The figures are depicted to resemble real size. The author tried to reproduce the real landscape together with trophy arms and ammunitions collected at the battle scene. Spacial depth is achieved by means of painting and dimensional projection combination. This combination creates ‘the effect of the presence’ which allows spectators to feel themselves as if they participate in the operation. The diorama’s plot includes different scenes and episodes. Its characteristic feature is a tendency towards maximal reliability. The landscape, firing positions and vehicles are accurately depicted too (real witnesses of this battle helped the author during his work on the diorama). Heroes, depicted on the foreground are real people, some of whom have portrait resemblance and it gives the diorama further historical persuasiveness. Forced crossing of the Dnipro river began in September 1943 on a vast territory (more than 750 km by length) but Lyutizh bridgehead became a starting point for Kyiv liberation. The 240th division under the command of colonel T. Umanskyi fought off a small piece of land on the right bank of Dnipro thus helping the rest of the 38th army under the command of colonel general K. Moskalenko to cross the river. The glorious 5th tank corps under the command of lieutenant general A. Kravchenko also played an important role in the creation and expansion of the bridgehead. All these events are depicted in the diorama. On the left side of the canvas one can see D. Chumachenko’s tank, shooting the enemy’s vehicles and infantry. This tank was one of the first to enter Kyiv and after the war it was placed in our museum. A little bit farther, on the background, there is another tank, under command of Nychypir Sholudenko. Sergeant major of the intelligence company was one of the first who entered the centre of Ukrainian capital but died there. The Hero of the Soviet Union is buried in the Park of Eternal Glory (park Slavy) in Kyiv, many streets and schools carry his name. On the foreground there is another group of soviet soldiers and officers. In the front there is major Strateichuk, the battalion commander. Not far from him one can see signaller I. Davydov with a bobbin in his hands and serjeant M. Pavlov, overcoming an obstacle. Major Strateichuk and his brigade were among the first to enter the enemy’s bank of the river where they captured a tiny piece of land and held it over 24 hours. Later he was rewarded with the rank of Hero of the Soviet Union for this feat. This group of warriors is a compositional and conceptual centre of the diorama, its connecting element. Their portrait embodies the strength of spirit of Soviet people, their courage and self-sacrifice, the belief in rightness of their deeds and ardent hatred to the enemy. Every meter of the bridgehead cost soviet army immense efforts. Here and there the viewer sees figures of wounded and killed soldiers. But those who stay alive go further and further, nothing can stop them – Kyiv is ahead! In the centre, closer to the right side there are depicted gunners under command of lieutenant O. Ptukhin. After making a lodgement on the occupied frontier, they fought off 15 counterattacks of the enemy, including 8 tank attacks. The lieutenant himself substituted an aimer who was killed, and destroyed 6 tanks and almost 150 hitler soldiers alone. He was later rewarded with the rank of Hero of the Soviet Union too.

Диорама, музей освобождения Киева 1943

Hand-to-hand combats frequently occured along all the enemy’s defense line. One of such episodes is depicted in the right part of the diorama. Soldiers of the 842th rifle regiment intelligence platoon under command of sublieutenant M. Valyaev occupied the enemy’s artillery positions and fought him off with hand grenades, stocks and bayonets. The 38th army had an active support on part of the 2nd air army of colonel-general S. Krasovsky during this operation and the diorama depicts air battles as well.

The landscape stands in stark contrast to the battle scenes: warm autumn day, blue Dnipro and a clear sky create the effect of depth and space. This landscape symbolises the struggle of light and darkness, the imminent victory of kindness and justice. Diorama ‘Battle for Kyiv. Lyutizh bridgehead. 1943’ is by right considered one of the best Soviet artworks portraying the unparalleled feat of our people in WWII.