Kaniv (Ukrainian: Канів; Russian: Ка́нев, translit. Kanev; Polish: Kaniów) is a city located in the Cherkasy Oblast (province) in central Ukraine. The city rests on the Dnieper River, and is also one of the main inland river ports on the Dnieper. The current estimated population is 26,426 (as of 2005). The city was called Kaniv because of the manufacture of knives during the 15th century.
Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, considered a founder of Ukrainian literature, is buried on a hill overlooking the Dnieper in Kaniv, and the city houses a memorial museum dedicated to him.
Industry in the city includes: Kaniv’s hydro-electric power plant located on the Kaniv Reservoir on the Dnieper, the a fruit and vegetable, condiments factory, large milk and cheese factory, poultry processing.
The town was first mentioned in a chronicle of 1149, although some believe that it had been founded as early as the 10th century; its name is derived from the personal nickname Kanya (‘buzzard’). But the most appropriate explanation about etymological roots of the city according to М.П.Янко in his Топонімічний словник України is that the word is a Turkish word meaning the place of Khan.2 In the Middle Ages it was located on the Road from Varangians to Greeks. Initially part of Kievan Rus’, in the 14th century it was annexed by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It was sacked by the Ottoman Turks in 1458.
In 1569, Kaniv came under the rule of Poland, and it was also one of the centers of Cossack culture and military life. In 1600, it received the Magdeburg Rights, but the city’s prosperity was halted by successive plagues, fires, and Cossack unrest. During The Deluge the town was captured by the forces of Bohdan Khmelnytsky in 1648. In 1768, it was captured by one of the leaders of the Koliyivschyna, Maksym Zalizniak. As an effect of a pogrom, most of the local szlachta and Jews were killed. Following the Second Partition of Poland the town with large parts of other territories came under the control of the Russian Empire. In 1787, Kaniów was visited by Catherine II. She met there with Polish king Stanisław August Poniatowski.
During the later stages of the Great War, on May 11, 1918, the town was the seat of the Battle of Kaniów, in which the forces of the 2nd Polish Corps and the Polish Legions under Józef Haller de Hallenburg failed to break through the Austro-German lines to the Russian side. During the Second World War, Kaniv was a site of tragically unsuccessful drop of Soviet paratroopers.
In 1978, Oleksa Hirnyk burned himself to death in protest of Russification in Kaniv, on a hill near Shevchenko’s tomb. In 2007, he was honored as a Hero of Ukraine.