Kiev is an important industrial, scientific, educational and cultural centre of Eastern Europe. It is home to many high-tech industries, higher education institutions, world-famous museums and art institutions.
Historically, Kiev is one of the most ancient (probably 1550 years old) and important cities of the region, the center of Rus civilization, survivor of numerous wars, purges and genocides. Many historical and architectural landmarks are preserved or reconstructed in the city.
| Kiev city|
| population |
Table of contents
Geography and climate
Kiev is located on both sides of the Dnieper river which flows south through the city towards the Black Sea. Its geographic co-ordinates are 50°27′ N 30°30′ E. Geographically, Kiev belongs to the Polissya natural zone (a part of the European mixed woods). However, the city's unique landscape distinguishes it from the surrounding region. The elder right-bank (western) part of Kiev is represented by numerous woody hills, ravines and small rivers (now mostly extinct). It is a part of the larger Prydniprovs'ka height (Придніпровська височина) adjoining the western bank of the Dnieper. The left-bank (eastern) part of the city was built in the Dnieper valley. Significant areas of it were artificially sand-deposited and enforced by dams.
The river forms a branching system of tributaries, isles and harbors within city limits. The city is adjoined by the mouth of the Desna River and the Kyivs'ke reservoir in the north, and the Kanivs'ke reservoir in the south. Both Dnieper and Desna around Kiev are navigable, although regulated by the reservoir shipping locks and limited by winter freezing-over.
Middle Ages through 17th century
Kiev was probably founded in the 5th century and functioned as a trading post between Constantinople and Scandinavia. The Hervarar saga may refer to it as the Goth capital Arheimar (...á Danparstöðum á þeim bæ, er Árheimar heita...), whereas the Norse sagas otherwise call it Könugarð. As the region came under Slav rule the town became known as Kyiv. Legend speaks of a founder-family consisting of Kyi (Кий) the eldest, his brothers Schek and Khoriv, and also their sister Lybid'.
During the eighth and ninth centuries Kiev was an outpost of the Khazar empire. A hill-fortress, called Sambat (Old Turkic for "High Place") was built to defend the area. At some point during the late ninth or early tenth century Kiev fell under the rule of Varangians (see Askold and Oleg) and became the nucleus of the Rus polity. The date given for Oleg's conquest of the town in the Primary Chronicle is 882, but some historians, such as Omeljan Pritsak and Constantine Zuckerman, dispute this and maintain that Khazar rule continued as late as the 920s (documentary evidence exists to support this assertion – see the Kievian Letter and Schechter Letter.)
From Oleg's seizure of the city until 1169 Kiev was the capital of the principal Varangian/East-Slavic state, known as Kievan Rus' (or Kyivan Rus'). The church of Saint Sophia in Kiev, begun in 1037, was designed to emulate the splendor of Byzantine churches, reflecting the reception of Christianity from the Byzantine Empire. Though it is dedicated to "Holy Wisdom", as was the great cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, the building has a very different form—rather than a single hemispherical dome rising out of the block of the building, Hagia Sophia in Kiev has 13 onion-shaped domes carried on drums. The central dome is larger than the rest (and in the most recent renovations, gilded), but not significantly so.
Devastated by the invading Mongols in 1240, it subsequently passed under the rule of the state of Halych-Volynia [before 1264] and then Lithuania (1362), Poland (1569), a short-lived Ukrainian Cossack state (1648), which formed a protective treaty with Muscovy (1654) and slowly lost independence, then autonomy by 1775, as Muscovy renamed itself, "Russia" (1713), then the "Russian Empire" (1721), successively.
In 1632, Peter Mogila the Orthodox Metropolitan of Kiev and Galicia established the Kiev Mogila Academy, an educational institution aimed to preserve and develop Ukrainian culture and Orthodox faith despite Polish Catholic oppression. Although ruled by the church, the academy provided students with educational standards close to universities of Western Europe (including multi-lingual training). Later it became one of the main educational centers of the Slavic world. Closed by the Russian Tsarist government in 1817, the academy was reestablished in 1992 as a secular non-governmental international university. It is still based in the same compound, containing some 17th century architecture.
19th century to 1917 Revolution
In 1834, St. Vladimir University was established in Kiev (now known as National Taras Shevchenko University of Kiev). The great Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko cooperated with its geography department as a field researcher and editor.
From the late 18th century until the late 19th century, city life was dominated by Russian military and ecclesial concerns. Orthodox Church institutions formed a significant part of Kiev's infrastructure and business activity at that time. In the late 1840s, the famous historian, Mykola Kostomarov (Nikolay Kostomarov in Russian), founded the secret political society, the Brotherhood of Saints Cyril and Methodius whose members put forward the idea of federation of free Slavic people with Ukrainians as a distinct group among them rather than a part of the Russian nation (the society was quickly suppressed by the authorities).
Following the gradual loss of Ukraine's autonomy, Kiev experienced growing Russification in the 19th century by means of Russian migration, administrative actions and social modernization. At the beginning of the 20th century, the city was dominated by Russian-speaking population, while the lower classes retained Ukrainian folk culture to a significant extent. However, enthusiasts among ethnic Ukrainian nobles, military and merchants made recurrent attempts to preserve native culture in Kiev (by clandestine book-printing, amateur theater, folk studies etc.)
During the Russian industrial revolution in the late 19th century, Kiev became an important trade and transportation center of the Russian Empire, specializing in sugar and grain export by railroad and on the Dnieper river. As of 1900, the city also became a significant industrial center, having a population of 250,000. Landmarks of that period include the railway infrastructure, the foundation of numerous educational and cultural facilities as well as notable architectural monuments (mostly merchant-oriented). The first electric train tram line of the Russian Empire was established in Kiev (arguably, the first in the world).
At that time, a large Jewish community emerged in Kiev, developing its own ethnic culture and business interests. This was stimulated by the prohibition of Jewish settlement in Russia proper (Moscow and Saint Petersburg) — as well as further eastwards. In fact, the Pale of Settlement (Russian: черта оседлости) crossed through Kiev itself, fencing off some of the city's districts from the Jewish population.
The development of aviation (both military and amateur) became another notable mark of distinction of 1900s Kiev. Prominent aviation figures of that period include Kievites Pyotr Nesterov (well-known aerobatics pioneer) and Igor Sikorsky. The world's first helicopter was built and tested in Kiev by Sikorsky.
Ukrainian Revolution and Independence
In 1917 the Central Rada (Tsentral'na Rada), a Ukrainian self-government body headed by the famous historian Mykhailo Hrushevsky, was established in the city. Later that year, Ukrainian autonomy was declared. On November 7, 1917 it was transformed into an independent Ukrainian Peoples Republic with the capital in Kiev. During this short period of independence, Kiev experienced rapid growth of its cultural and political status. Academy of Sciences and professional Ukrainian-language theaters and libraries were established by the new government.
Later Kiev became a war zone in the lasting and bloody struggle between Ukrainian governments and Russian Bolsheviks.
Early Soviet Rule and World War II
The Bolsheviks took control of Kiev in 1920. After the Ukrainian SSR was formed under Moscow rule, Kharkiv was declared its capital. In 1934, the capital was moved back to Kiev, starting a new period of growth, mostly by migrants.
In the 1930s, Kiev suffered the results of the controversial Soviet policy of that time. While encouraging lower-class Ukrainians to pursue careers and develop their culture, the Communist regime soon began harsh oppression of political freedom, Ukraine's autonomy and Orthodox religion. Recurring political trials were organized in the city to purge "Ukrainian nationalists", "Western spies" and opponents of Joseph Stalin inside the Bolshevik party. Numerous historic churches were destroyed or vandalized and the clergy repressed.
In the late 1930s, clandestine mass executions began in Kiev. Thousands of Kievites (mostly intellectuals and party activists) were arrested in the night, hurriedly court-martialed, shot and buried in mass graves. The main execution sites were Babi Yar and the Bykivnya forest. Tens of thousands were sentenced to GULAG camps. However, the city's economy continued to grow, following Stalin's industrialization policy.
During World War II, Nazi Germany occupied Kiev on 19 September 1941 as part of Operation Barbarossa, destroying a huge Red Army division in the area and taking more than 650,000 prisoners. On September 29 and 30 at Babi Yar, SS Einsatzgruppen carried out the mass murder of 33,771 Jews. The city remained in German hands until it was retaken by the Soviet Red Army on 6 November 1943. Both Communists and Ukrainian nationalists established underground resistance activities (known as Підпілля, pidpillia; подполье, podpoliye in Russian) in Kiev during the occupation. Kiev was heavily bombarded during the war, so many architectural landmarks (including most of the main Khreschatyk Street) were destroyed. For its suffering during the War, the city was later awarded the title Hero City.
Post-WWII Soviet Rule
Post-wartime in Kiev was a period of rapid socio-economic growth and political pacification. The arms race of the Cold War caused the establishment of a powerful technological complex in the city (both R&D and production), specializing in aerospace, microelectronics and precision optics. Dozens of industrial companies were created employing highly skilled personnel. Exact sciences and technology became the main issues of Kiev's intellectual life. Dozens of research institutes in various fields formed the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR. Kiev also became an important military center of the Soviet Union. More than dozen military schools and academies were established here, also specializing in high-tech warfare (see also Soviet education).
This created a labor force demand which fed migration from rural areas of both Ukraine and Russia. Large suburbs and an extensive transportation infrastructure were built to accommodate the growing population. However, many rural-type buildings and groves have survived on the city's hills, creating Kiev's image as one of the world's greenest cities. The city grew tremendously in the 1950s through '80s. Some significant urban achievements of this period include establishment of the Metro, building new river bridges (connecting the old city with Left Bank suburbs), and Boryspil airport (the city's second, and later international).
Meanwhile, city life was declining in the political, cultural, and ethnic realms, especially after the end of Khrushchev's era. Systematic oppression of pro-Ukrainian intellectuals became a major object of Russification in the 1970s, when universities and research facilities were gradually and secretly prohibited from using Ukrainian. Strong Russian migration into the city was an official excuse for switching most schools to Russian and later not allowing children to learn Ukrainian at all.
Every attempt to dispute Soviet rule was harshly oppressed, especially concerning democracy, Ukrainian SSR's self-government, and ethnic-religious problems. Campaigns against "Ukrainian bourgeois nationalism" and "Western influence" in Kiev's educational and scientific institutions were mounted repeatedly. Due to tight political control and lack of career prospects in Kiev, Moscow became a preferable life destination for many Kievites (and Ukrainians as a whole), especially for artists and other creative intellectuals. Dozens of show-business celebrities in modern Russia were born in Kiev.
The Chornobyl accident of 1986 affected city life tremendously, both environmentally and socio-politically. Some areas of the city have been polluted by radioactive dust. However, Kievites were neither informed about the actual threat of the accident, nor recognized as its victims. Moreover, on May 1, 1986 (a few days after the accident), local CPSU leaders ordered Kievites (including hundreds of children) to take part in a mass civil parade in the city's center—"to prevent panic". Later, thousands of refugees from accident zone were resettled in Kiev.
The city was the site of mass protests over the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election by supporters of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko beginning November 22, 2004 at Independence Square. Smaller counter-protests in favor of Viktor Yanukovych also took place.
The current city mayor is Olexander Omelchenko.
It is said that one can walk from one end of Kiev to the other in the summertime without leaving the shade of its many trees. Most characteristic are the horse-chestnut trees (Ukrainian: "kashtany").Kiev is known as a green city, with two botanical gardens and numerous large and small parks. Notable among these are the War Museum, which offers both indoor and outdoor displays of military history and equipment surrounded by verdant hills overlooking the Dnieper river; the Hidropark, located on an island in the river and accessible by metro or by car, in which an amusement park, swimming beaches, and boat rentals can be found; and Victory Park, a popular destination for strollers, joggers, and cyclists.
Boating, fishing, and water sports are popular pastimes. Since the lakes and rivers freeze over in the winter, ice fishermen are frequently seen, as are children with their ice skates. However, the peak of summer is when masses of people can be seen on the shores, swimming or sunbathing, with daytime high temperatures between 30 and 34 degrees Celsius.
Kiev's noteworthy architecture includes government buildings such as the Mariyinsky Palace (designed and constructed from 1745–1752, then reconstructed in 1870) and the sweeping Ministry of Foreign Affairs building; several Orthodox churches and church complexes such as the Pecherska Lavra, St. Sophia's, St. Andrew's, and others such as the 19th century Lutheran church.
The cylindrical Salut hotel, located across from Glory Square and the eternal flame, is one of Kiev's most recognized landmarks. Its windows command views in all directions from one of the highest points in the city.
Among Kiev's best-known public monuments are the statue of Bohdan Khmel'nyts'kyi astride his horse up the hill from Independence Square and the venerated Volodymyr the Great, baptizer of the Rus, overlooking the river above Podil.
Kiev is home to several institutions of higher learning, including the Taras Shevchenko State University of Kiev, the Polytechnic Institute, the Agricultural University, and numerous scientific and technical institutes.
Each residential region has its market, or rynok. Here one will find table after table of individuals hawking everything imaginable: vegetables, fresh and smoked meats, fish, cheese, honey, dairy products such as milk and home-made smetana (sour cream), caviar, cut flowers, housewares, tools and hardware, and clothing. Each of the markets has its own unique mix of products. There is a popular book market by the Petrovka metro station.
In 1930s Kiev was divided by several districts, finally reaching number 14 in early 1940s. Several years ago, this number was cut down to 10. Beside these, Kiev is also unformally divided by large neighborhoods, housing as much as 50–100 thousands of people.
Kiev or Kyiv?
The city has been called Kiev in English since at least the 19th century. The earliest quotation in the Oxford English Dictionary containing "Kiev" is dated 1883, while the name was used in print as early as 1823 in the English traveller Mary Holderness' travelogue New Russia. Journey from Riga to the Crimea by way of Kiev.
In 1995, the Ukrainian government made a declaration concerning English-language usage of the name of the city, favoring the use of Kyiv over Kiev. This act has legal jurisdiction only over Ukrainian government spelling of the city's name. It says in part:
- To acknowledge that the Roman spelling of Kiev does not recreate the phonetic and scriptural features of the Ukrainian language geographical name.
- To confirm that the spelling of Kyiv as standardized Roman-letter correspondence to the Ukrainian language geographical name of Київ.
- On the basis of point 7 of the Provision on the Ukrainian Commission for Legal Terminology, determine as mandatory the standardized Roman-letter spelling of Kyiv for use in legislative and official acts.
Many people have followed suit and use the spelling Kyiv in all Latin alphabet publications. The new spelling Kyiv is increasingly being used by the United Nations and most English-speaking diplomatic missions, and by some English-language publications.
Some find the spelling Kiev inappropriate, because it reflects Russian instead of Ukrainian pronunciation. Some even consider it offensive, a remnant of Russification under Imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. However, the Kiev spelling was used in English before reforms of Ukrainian orthography and vocabulary, and also reflects the Old East Slavic (the language of the ancestors of modern Ukrainians and Russians) spelling of the name. The name is pronounced by Ukrainians and many Russians as one would in English say "Keev."
Some writers of English do not accept the authority of the Ukrainian government over English spelling. They point out that the spelling Kiev remains the most widespread spelling in English by a substantial margin and that many cities have different names in English than in their native language, such as Moscow and Warsaw.
- Askold and Dir
- Golden Horde
- Kievian Letter
- Olga of Kiev
- Schechter Letter
- Sviatoslav I of Kiev
- Vladimir the Great
- Vladimir Monomakh
- Resolution of the Ukrainian commission for legal terminology No. 5
- Kiev.info – Kiev city guide
- Environment pollution in Kiev
- Kyiv Encyclopedia (in Ukrainian)
- Kyiv Post English Newspaper
- Kyiv sites catalogue
- Kiev hotels directory
- Pictorial tour of Kiev's WW2 era battlegrounds
|Subdivisions of Ukraine|
|oblasts:||Cherkasy | Chernihiv | Chernivtsi | Dnipropetrovsk | Donetsk | Ivano-Frankivsk | Kharkiv | Kherson | Khmelnytskyi | Kirovohrad | Kiev | Luhansk | Lviv | Mykolaiv | Odessa | Poltava | Rivne | Sumy | Ternopil | Vinnytsia | Volyn | Zakarpattia | Zaporizhia | Zhytomyr|
|cities with special status:||Kiev | Sevastopol|