Complete History of Kyiv
Location of Kyiv
Kyiv vs. Kiev ... no, this is not a fixture in the Ukrainian football league. These are the Ukrainian and Russian spellings, respectively, of the city which we are visiting. Most Westerners will be used to the Russian version, but for rather obvious reasons 'Kyiv' is generally preferred in Ukraine.
Kyiv ... what's in a name? The story behind the name “Kyiv” goes back hundreds of years to the mythical foundation of the city. According to legend, the city was founded in the 5th century by three brothers, and a sister, the oldest brother being named Prince Kyi.
They supposedly sailed down the Dnipro River and established a settlement at the top of four hills on the grounds of what is today known as Schekavitsa and Khorivitsa. One can overlook this area if you go right after ascending Andrew’s Descent. You may also visit likenesses of the four siblings in one of two areas, either on the bank of the Dnipro River near Paton Bridge, or at the fountain in Maidan Nezaleznosti. The monument on the Dnipro River has been one of many popular visiting sites for new couples, in keeping with the tradition of laying flowers on monuments and taking pictures on their wedding day. The newer monument in the centre is decidedly less Soviet-looking than the one by the river, the characters even looking a bit Nordic by their costume.
The other legend says that St. Andrew came to the hills overlooking the Dnipro River on his way to Rome. According to this legend he blessed this place and predicted a grand future for this up and coming town.
Above image and text source:
Early Times to Mongol Invasion (1240) ... Kiev was probably founded in the 5th century by East Slavs. Kyiv/Kiev is translated as "belonging to Kyi". At least during the 8th and 9th centuries Kiev functioned as an outpost of the Khazar Empire. A hill-fortress, called Sambat (Old Turkish 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 and became the nucleus of the Rus' polity. The date given for Oleg's conquest of the town in the Primary Chronicle is 882.
From Oleg's seizure of the city until 1169 Kiev was the capital of the principal East-Slavic state, known as Kievan Rus' (or Kyivan Rus') which was ruled by initially Varangian Rurikid dynasty which was gradually Slavisized. In 968 the city withstood a siege by the nomadic Pechenegs. In 988 by the order of the Grand Prince Vladimir I of Kiev (St. Vladimir or Volodymyr), the city residents baptized en-masse in the Dnieper river, an event the symbolized the Baptism of Kievan Rus'. Kiev reached the height of its position of political and cultural Golden Age in the middle of the 11th century under Vladimir's son Yaroslav the Wise.
Mongol Invasion to 17th century ... Devastated by the invading Mongols in 1240, it subsequently passed under the rule of the state of Halych-Volynia (prior to 1264) before falling to Gediminas (Gedimin) in 1321, and in 1362 became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. By the order of Casimir Jagiellon, the Duchy of Kiev was abolished and the Kiev Voivodship was established in 1471.
After the 1569 Union of Lublin that formed the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Kiev (Polsh Kijów) with other Ukrainian territories was transferred to the Polish crown was it became a capital of Kijów Voivodship.
The 1667 Treaty of Andrusovo put Kiev under the control of Russia for the centuries to come with the territory, slowly losing the autonomy which was finally abolished in 1775 by the Empress Catherine the Great.
19th century to 1917 Revolution ... From the late 18th century until the late 19th century, city life was dominated by Russian military and ecclesiastical concerns. 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.
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. The first electric train tram line of the Russian Empire was established in Kiev (arguably, the first in the world).
Ukrainian Revolution and Independence ... In 1917 the Central Rada (Tsentralna 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 People's Republic with the capital in Kiev. Later Kiev became a war zone in the lasting and bloody struggle between Ukrainian, Polish and Russian Bolshevik governments in the time of Russian Revolution, Polish-Ukrainian War and Polish-Soviet War.
1918-1941 ... The Bolsheviks took control of Kiev in 1918 and then finally in 1920. After the Ukrainian SSR was formed in 1922, Kharkiv was declared its capital. Kiev, being an important industrial center, continued to grow. In 1932-33, the city population, as most of the other Ukrainian territories, suffered from Holodomor. In Kiev, bread and other food products were distributed to workers by food cards according to daily norm, but even with cards, bread was in limited supply, and citizens were standing overnight in lines to obtain it.
In 1934 the capital of Ukrainian SSR was moved to Kiev, opening a new page in Kiev history. At that time, the process of destruction of churches and monuments, which started in 1920s, reached the most dramatic turn. Many hundreds year old churches, and structures, such as St. Michael's Golden-Domed Cathedral, Fountain of Samson, were demolished. The other, such as Saint Sophia Cathedral was confiscated. City population continued to increase mostly by migrants. The migration changed the ethnic demographics of the city from the previous Russian-Ukrainian parity to predominantly Ukrainian, although Russian remained the dominant language.
In the 1930s, Kievans also suffered from the controversial Soviet political 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 religion. Recurring political trials were organized in the city to purge "Ukrainian nationalists", "Western spies" and opponents of Joseph Stalin inside the Bolshevik party. As numerous historic churches were destroyed or vandalized, 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 Bykivnia forest. Tens of thousands were sentenced to GULAG camps. In the same time, the city's economy continued to grow, following Stalin's industrialization policy.
World War II ... during the Second World War, Nazi Germany occupied Kiev on 19 September 1941. Overall, the battle proved disastrous for the Soviet side but it significantly delayed the German advances. The delay also allowed the evacuation of all significant industrial enterprises from Kiev to the central and eastern parts of the Soviet Union, away from the hostilities, where they played a major role in arming the Nazi fighting Red Army. Before the evacuation, the Red Army planted more than ten thousand mines throughout Kiev, controlled by wireless detonators. On September 24, when the German invaders had settled into the city, the mines were detonated, causing many of the major buildings to collapse, and setting the city ablaze for five days. More than a thousand Germans were killed in what was "the biggest and most sophisticated booby trap in history."
Babi Yar, a location in Kiev, became a site of one of the most infamous Nazi WWII war crimes. During two days in September 1941, at least 33,771 Jews from Kiev and its suburbs were massacred at Babi Yar by the SS Einsatzgruppen. The city was liberated by the Soviet Army advancing westward on 6 November 1943. For its role during the War, the city was later awarded the title Hero City.
Post-WWII Ukrainian SSR ... 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, specializing in aerospace, microelectronics and precision optics. Kiev also became an important military center of the Soviet Union. More than a dozen military schools and academies were established here, also specializing in high-tech warfare.
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).
In cultural sense it marked a new wave of Russification in the 1970s, when universities and research facilities were gradually and secretly discouraged from using Ukrainian. Switching to Russian, as well as choosing to send children to Russian schools was expedient for educational and career advancement. Thus the city underwent another cycle of gradual Russification.
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. In the 1970s and later 1980s–'90s, given special permission from Soviet government, a significant part of the city's Jews migrated to Israel and the West.
The Chernobyl accident of 1986 affected city life tremendously, both environmentally and socio-politically. Some areas of the city have been polluted by radioactive dust. However, Kievans 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 Kievans (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.
Independent Ukraine ... after 57 years as the capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union, Kiev became the capital of independent Ukraine in 1991.