Kiev, officially Kyiv (Київ in Ukrainian, Киев in Russian, Kijów in Polish) is the capital and largest city of Ukraine, and has officially around 2.6 million inhabitants, although the large number of unregistered domestic immigrants would probably raise this figure to about 4 million.
Kiev is located in north central Ukraine, at 50° 25′ N, 133° 43′ E. The Dnipro (Dnieper) river flows south through the city towards the Black Sea; in the west is the 'old city' of Pechersk, built on the hills overlooking the right bank, where the famous Lavra monastery is located. Also in the west are the city center, government buildings, embassies, theatres, and most local industrial complexes. On the east side of the river lie several residential areas, and the nearby Boryspil international airport.
The city has a three line metro system (total length 54.8 km), and extensive bus, tram, and trolleybus routes. On weekends, the streets of Khreschatyk (the center of the city) are closed to vehicular traffic, in favor of pedestrians. Visitors to Kiev in May can catch the springtime festival  http://www.uazone.net/Kiev.html .
Middle Ages through 17th century
Kiev was probably founded in the 5th century and functioned as a trading post between Constantinople and Scandinavia. The Gothic historian Jordanes recorded the trading town of Danapirstadir. 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 Russian chronicle is 882, but some historians, such as 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").
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 1497, the city was granted a "Magdeburg law", turning it into a self-governed entity independent from szlachta rule.
In 1632, the Kyiv Mohyla academy was established in the city aimed to preserve and develop Ukrainian culture and Orthodox faith despite Polish Catholic oppression. It was named after Petro Mohyla, a prominent Slavic cleric. 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 Tsarist government in the 19th century, the academy was reestablished in the 1990s 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. Volodymyr University was established in Kiev (now known as Shevchenko University ). 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.
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 Tsentral'na Rada, the Ukrainian self-government body, 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. 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 due to it being more dominated by the working class. In 1934, the capital was moved back to Kiev, starting a new period of growth and the reestablishment of a Ukrainian spirit (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.
As of the 1950s, Kiev's pre-war population of 1930s had mostly perished due to purges, war losses and forced migration to other regions of the USSR.
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 Khruschev'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.
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 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.
After 57 years as the capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union, Kiev in 1991 became the capital of independent Ukraine.
The city has been the site of ongoing mass protests over the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election by supporters of opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko since November 22, 2004 at Independence Square. Smaller counter-protests in favor of Viktor Yanukovych have also taken place.
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. There are 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 Dnipro river; 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, one of many parks scattered around the city in residential areas where one may stroll, jog, or ride a bicycle.
In parks and elsewhere, one will encounter many horse-chestnut trees, called "kashtany". The large five-bladed leaves are distinctive, bursting into bloom in springtime, as are the glossy brown nuts that tumble to the sidewalks in the fall.
Architectural fascinations abound, including government buildings such as the Marinskiiy 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, and St. Andrew's, and others such as the 19th century Lutheran church; and public monuments such as 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.
Among the many hotels, the cylindrical Salut is unique—located across from Glory Square and the eternal flame, its windows command views in all directions from one of the highest points in Kiev.
Kiev offers 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.
Industry includes many large and small publishing and printing plants, such as Pressa Ukraina, and the famous Arsenal camera and lens factory which produces consumer, medical, and military optical equipment.
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.
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 and as you travel on the metro, bus, or tramvai routes, you'll find many travellers passing the time with a book. Where better to get a stack of books at a low price, than at the book market by the Petrovka metro stop?
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.
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. The Russian spelling is Ки́ев, pronounced KEE-if; Ukrainian Київ is pronounced KY-yeev. 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 Polish-influenced reforms of Ukrainian orthography and vocabulary, and also reflects the Old Ruthenian (the language of the ancestors of modern Ukrainians and Russians) spelling of the name.
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.
The city has given its name to a recipe, Chicken Kiev, which consists of breaded boneless chicken breast containing garlic butter in the middle.
Chicken Kiev is also the label used by the media for a speech made in the city in 1991 by then US president George Bush. It was drafted by Condoleezza Rice, and cautioned Ukrainians against "suicidal nationalism". A few months later, Ukrainians voted to withdraw from the Soviet Union.
- Resolution of the Ukrainian commission for legal terminology No. 5 http://www.uazone.net/Kiev_Kyiv.html
- Kiev.info http://www.kiev.info - Kiev city guide
- Environment pollution in Kiev http://www.sensus.ws/eco.htm
- http://wek.kiev.ua/ (in Ukrainian)
- Kyiv Post English Newspaper http://www.kyivpost.com
- Kyiv sites catalogue http://kyiv.ru
- Kiev hotels directory http://www.hotels-kiev.com
- Pictorial tour of Kiev's WW2 era battlegrounds http://www.kiddofspeed.com/serpents-wall
Last updated: 02-08-2005 11:48:10