I’ve been examining maps of Ukraine closely over the last several months as I’m sure many in the 12MC audience have been doing likewise. In the course of that effort I noticed a little anomaly far removed from the action and completely unrelated to the conflict. It pertained to the Kyiv (Kiev) Oblast surrounding the self-governing City of Kyiv. The arrangement was convoluted. Kyiv, the city, was an enclave within the Oblast of the same name. In turn, the city was the administrative center of the Oblast even though not a physical part of it, as well as serving as the national capital.
That wasn’t a completely unique situation. I’ve seen similar things occur in other places including near where I live in a handful of Virginia’s independent cities that contain the seat of government for the surrounding county. I wouldn’t have bothered mentioning Kyiv if that had been the extent of the arrangement. However, I noticed a little dot on the northwest corner of the city of Kyiv and I thought it must have been a smudge or an error. It wasn’t. The tiny spec was a small bubble of the Oblast completely surrounded by the city which in turn was completely surrounded by the Oblast; an enclave within an enclave.
View Kotsiubynske in a larger map
It also had a name, Kotsiubynske or Kotsubynske or variations on that theme, although in its native Ukrainian it was something akin to Коцюбинське (assuming I managed to code all of those Cyrillic characters correctly). Kotsiubynske, an exclave of Kyiv Oblast subordinate to the city of Irpin, and an enclave enclosed with the city of Kyiv, had about fifteen thousand residents living within its unusual arrangement.
From what I could tell, it began as a small hamlet named Berkovets in 1900. A railway came through the area around that same time and the hamlet became a railroad stop. Berkovets may have been named after a wooden vessel used to hold honey, or it may have been named after an early settler. Accounts differed.
Another station was built nearby and named Squirrel. I thought that must have been a translation error except the websites kept mentioning Squirrel repeatedly. I felt some relief when I noticed a squirrel incorporated within the Kotsiubynske town logo. Okay, it really was a squirrel. The "squirrel village" portion dated back to the 12th Century, apparently.
Somehow the location of the railroad and the station conveyed some sort of special status upon the surrounding land. Later the name Kotsiubynske was applied to the area. Kotsiubynske became subordinate to Irpen in 1962, making it part of Kyiv Oblast rather than the city of Kyiv. I could probably come up with a better explanation if I understood Ukrainian, which I can’t, so hopefully I didn’t mangle the story too much. Anyone read Ukrainian? The whole squirrel thing threw me for awhile.
Undoubtedly 12MC readers would love to see Kotsiubynske in greater detail. We’re in luck! It’s one of the very few areas of Ukraine with Google Street View coverage (for example). Better yet, the village website included an embedded YouTube video which I’ve lifted and posted above. The entire premise involved someone driving around with a dashboard camera to a soundtrack best put on mute. Things I learned about driving in Kotsiubynske:
- Stop signs were apparently optional
- Drivers ran through intersections without looking
- It would be dangerous to be a pedestrian
- There were lots of pedestrians
- Many of them were women pushing baby carriages
- And Kotsiubynske must be pretty small because I think I saw the same street three times
If anyone ever doubted, I do watch every frame of every video I place on 12MC. Believe me, I was ready to get out of that virtual car after twelve minutes of back-and-forth. I started feeling carsick from all the motion.