Kiev or Kyiv (Ukrainian: Київ (Kyiv) [ˈkɪjiw] ( listen); Russian: Киев (Kiyev)) is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300, though higher numbers have been cited in the press.
Kiev is an important industrial, scientific, educational, and cultural centre of Eastern Europe. It is home to many high-tech industries, higher education institutions and world-famous historical landmarks. The city has an extensive infrastructure and highly developed system of public transport, including the Kiev Metro.
The city’s name is said to derive from the name of Kyi, one of its four legendary founders (see Etymology, below). During its history, Kiev, one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe, passed through several stages of great prominence and relative obscurity. The city probably existed as a commercial centre as early as the 5th century. A Slavic settlement on the great trade route between Scandinavia and Constantinople, Kiev was a tributary of the Khazars, until seized by the Varangians (Vikings) in the mid-9th century. Under Varangians rule, the city became a capital of the Rus’, the first East Slavic state. Completely destroyed during the Mongol invasion in 1240, the city lost most of its influence for the centuries to come. It was a provincial capital of marginal importance in the outskirts of the territories controlled by its powerful neighbours; first the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, followed by Poland and Russia.
The city prospered again during the Russian Empire’s industrial revolution in the late 19th century. In 1917, after the Ukrainian National Republic declared independence from the Russian Empire, Kiev became its capital. And from 1921 onwards Kiev was an important city of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, and, from 1934, its capital. During World War II, the city again suffered significant damage, but quickly recovered in the post-war years, remaining the third largest city of the Soviet Union. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Ukrainian independence of 1991, Kiev remained the capital of Ukraine.
It is believed that Kiev was founded in the late 9th century (some historians have wrongly referred to as 482 CE). The origin of the city is obscured by legends, one of which tells about a founding-family consisting of a Slavic tribe leader Kyi, the eldest, his brothers Shchek and Khoryv, and also their sister Lybid, who founded the city (The Primary Chronicle). According to it the name Kyiv/Kiev means to «belong to Kyi». Some claim to find reference to the city in Ptolemy’s work as the Metropolity (the 2nd century). Another legend points that Saint Andrew passed through the area and where he erected a cross, a church was built. Also since the Middle Ages an image of the Saint Michael represented the city as well as the duchy.
There is little historical evidence pertaining to the period when the city was founded. Scattered Slavic settlements existed in the area from the 6th century, but it is unclear whether any of them later developed into the city. 8th century fortifications were built upon a Slavic settlement apparently abandoned some decades before. It is still unclear whether these fortifications were built by the Slavs or the Khazars. If it was the Slavic peoples then it is also uncertain when Kiev fell under the rule of the Khazar empire or whether the city was, in fact, founded by the Khazars. The Primary Chronicle (a main source of information about the early history of the area) mentions Slavic Kievans telling Askold and Dir that they live without a local ruler and pay a tribute to the Khazars in an event attributed to the 9th century. At least during the 8th and 9th centuries Kiev functioned as 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 9th or early 10th century Kiev fell under the rule of Varangians (see Askold and Dir, and Oleg of Novgorod) 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.) Other historians suggest that the Magyar tribes ruled the city between 840 and 878, before migrating with some Khazar tribes to Hungary. According to these the building of the fortress of Kiev was finished in 840 by the lead of Keő (Keve), Csák and Geréb, the three brothers, possibly members of the Tarján tribe (the three names are mentioned in the Kiev Chronicle as Kyi, Shchek and Khoryv, none of them are Slavic names and it has been always a hard problem to solve their meaning/origin by Russian historians. Though the three names were put into the Kiev Chronicle in the 12th century and they were identified as old-Russian mythological heroes).
During the 8th and 9th centuries, Kiev was an outpost of the Khazar empire. However, being located on the historical trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks and starting in the late 9th century or early 10th century, Kiev was ruled by the Varangian nobility and became the nucleus of the Rus’ polity, whose ‘Golden Age’ (11th to early 12th centuries) has from the 19th century become referred to as Kievan Rus’. In 968, the nomadic Pechenegs attacked and then besieged the city. In 1203 Kiev was captured and burned by Prince Rurik Rostislavich and his Kipchak allies. In the 1230s the city was besieged and ravaged by different Rus’ princes several times. In 1240 the Mongol invasion of Rus led by Batu Khan completely destroyed Kiev, an event that had a profound effect on the future of the city and the East Slavic civilization. At the time of the Mongol destruction, Kiev was reputed as one of the largest cities in the world, with a population exceeding one hundred thousand.
In the early 1320s, a Lithuanian army led by Gediminas defeated a Slavic army led by Stanislav of Kiev at the Battle on the Irpen’ River, and conquered the city. The Tatars, who also claimed Kiev, retaliated in 1324–1325, so while Kiev was ruled by a Lithuanian prince, it had to pay a tribute to the Golden Horde. Finally, as a result of the Battle of Blue Waters in 1362, Kiev and surrounding areas were incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania by Algirdas, Grand Duke of Lithuania. In 1482, the Crimean Tatars sacked and burned much of Kiev. In 1569 (Union of Lublin), when the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was established, the Lithuanian-controlled lands of the Kiev region, Podolia, Volhynia, and Podlachia, were transferred from Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, and Kiev became the capital of Kiev Voivodeship. In 1658 (Treaty of Hadiach), Kiev was supposed to become the capital of the Duchy of Rus’ within Polish–Lithuanian–Ruthenian Commonwealth, but the treaty was never ratified to this extent. Kept by the Russian troops since 1654 (Treaty of Pereyaslav), it became a part of the Tsardom of Russia from 1667 on (Truce of Andrusovo) and enjoyed a degree of autonomy. None of Polish-Russian treaties concerning Kiev has been never ratified. In the Russian Empire Kiev was a primary Christian centre, attracting pilgrims, and the cradle of many of the empire’s most important religious figures, but until the 19th century the city’s commercial importance remained marginal.
In 1834, the Saint Vladimir University was established; it is now called the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kiev after the Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko. Shevchenko was a field researcher and editor for the geography department.
During the 18th and 19th centuries city life was dominated by the Russian military and ecclesiastical authorities; the Russian Orthodox Church formed a significant part of Kiev’s infrastructure and business activity. In the late 1840s, the historian, Mykola Kostomarov (Russian: Nikolay Kostomarov), founded a secret political society, the Brotherhood of Saint Cyril and Methodius, whose members put forward the idea of a federation of free Slavic people with Ukrainians as a distinct and separate group rather than a subordinate 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 centre was dominated by the Russian-speaking part of the population, while the lower classes living on the outskirts 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 theatre, folk studies etc.)
During the Russian industrial revolution in the late 19th century, Kiev became an important trade and transportation centre of the Russian Empire, specialising in sugar and grain export by railway and on the Dnieper river. As of 1900, the city had also become a significant industrial centre, 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 tram line of the Russian Empire was established in Kiev (arguably, the first in the world).
Kiev prospered during the late 19th century industrial revolution in the Russian Empire, when it became the third most important city of the Empire and the major centre of commerce of its southwest. In the turbulent period following the 1917 Russian Revolution, Kiev became the capital of several short-lived Ukrainian states and was caught in the middle of several conflicts: World War I, the Russian Civil War, and the Polish-Soviet War. Kiev changed hands sixteen times from the end of 1918 to August 1920.
Starting in 1921, the city was a part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, a founding republic of the Soviet Union. Kiev was greatly affected by all the major processes that took place in Soviet Ukraine during the interwar period: the 1920s Ukrainization as well as the migration of the rural Ukrainophone population made the Russophone city Ukrainian-speaking and propped up the development of the Ukrainian cultural life in the city; the Soviet Industrialization that started in the late 1920s turned the city, a former centre of commerce and religion, into a major industrial, technological and scientific centre, the 1932–1933 Great Famine devastated the part of the migrant population not registered for the ration cards, and Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge of 1937–1938 almost eliminated the city’s intelligentsia
In 1934 Kiev became the capital of Soviet Ukraine. The city boomed again during the years of the Soviet industrialization as its population grew rapidly and many industrial giants were created, some of which exist to this day.
In World War II, the city again suffered significant damage, and was occupied by Nazi Germany from 19 September 1941 to 6 November 1943. More than 600,000 Soviet soldiers were killed or captured in the great encirclement battle of Kiev in 1941. Most of them never returned alive. Shortly after the city was occupied, a team of NKVD officers that had remained hidden dynamited most of the buildings on the Khreshchatyk, the main street of the city, most of whose buildings were being used by German military and civil authorities; the buildings burned for days and 25,000 people were left homeless.
Allegedly in response to the actions of the NKVD, the Germans rounded up all the local Jews they could find, nearly 34,000, and massacred them at Babi Yar over the course of 29–30 September 1941.
Kiev recovered economically in the post-war years, becoming once again the third most important city of the Soviet Union. The catastrophic accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant occurred only 100 km (62 mi) north of the city. However, the prevailing northward winds blew most of the radioactive debris away from the city.
In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union the Declaration of Independence of Ukraine was proclaimed in the city by the Ukrainian parliament on 24 August 1991. Kiev is the capital of independent Ukraine. Later, in 2004–2005 the city played host to the largest public demonstrations in support of the Orange Revolution.