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History of Kiev

Kievska Rus

Archeological excavations show evidence of the first settlement on the territory of Kiev 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. Legend has it that at the end of the 5th and the beginning of the 6th centuries, three brothers, Kiy, Shchek and Khoriv, and their sister, Lybid, founded a town and names it after their elder brother Kiy, as "Kyiv".

The early settles of Kiev built their citadel on the steep right bank of the Dnipro river to protect themselves from marauding nomadic tribes. Later, Kiev`s Grand Princes built their palaces and churches on Starokievska hill, while artisans and merchants built their houses next to the wharf on the Dnipro. By the end of the 9th century, when the Kievska Rus princes united scattered Slavic tribes, Kiev was the political centre of the Eastern Slavs. Kiev maintained wide foreign and commercial trade links due to its position in the middle of trade routes between the Vikings and the Greeks.

Desyatynna church
Desyatynna church in Kiev (reconstruction)
Kiev`s development accelerated durign the reign of Prince Volodymir the Great (980-1015). In 988, intent on strengthening his power on the broader international arena, Volodymir introduced Christiany as the official religion of the realm. At Vladimir Great in Kiev the first stone temple - "Desyatynna church" has been constructed. By the 11th century Kiev was one of the largest centers of civilization in the Christian World. Besides in those times the city totaled about 400 churches, 8 markets and more than 50 000 inhabitants. (For comparison: in same time in Novgorod, the second-largest city of Russia, was 30 000 inhabitants; in London, Hamburg and Gdansk - on 20 000). Kiev was among the most prospering craft and shopping centers of Europe.

After the death of the great Kiev`s Prince Vladimir Monomakh (1125). Kievska Rus became involved in a long period of feudal wars. Foreign powers were quick to take advantage of this situation. In the autumn of 1240, the Tatar-Mongols headed by Batiy Khan, captured Kiev after series of long and bloody battles. Kiev fell into a prolonged period of decline. The Tartar-Mongols ruled for almost a century. Despite foreign rule, Kiev retained its artisan, trade and cultural traditions and remained an important political, trade and cultural center. In the 14th century, the Kiev region became the cradle for the modern Ukrainian nation.

In the 15 th century Kiev was granted the "Magdenburg Rights", which permitted greater independence of the city in matters of international commerce.

Middle Ages

Bohdan Khmelnytsky
Monument Bohdan Khmelnytsky
The next time the world heard about Ukraine was during the period of the Cossack Republic - centered in the famed "Zaporizka Sich" Fortress - at the end of the 15th century. The long road to independence by the Ukrainian people began with Cossack military campaigns. In 1648-1654 Cossack armies, headed by Hetman (Ukrainian for Cossack leader) Bohdan Khmelnytsky waged several wars to liberate Ukraine.

Confronted by the armies of Polish and Lithuanian feudal lords, Bohdan Khmelnytsky sought the protection of the Russian Tsar in the Treaty of Pereyaslav.

Kreschatik street
Kiev. Kreschatik
Unfortunately, as a result, Ukraine was plunged into a long period of domination by the Russian Empire. Despite such repression and severe Tsarist autocratic rule, Ukraine in the 17th and 18th centuries nonetheless managed to preserve and enjoy some of the richness of its political, economic, cultural, and religious development.

The Kyiv Mohyla Academy, founded by Metropolitan Petro Mohyla in the 17th century, became the first university in Eastern Europe. In that period, the Ukrainian people were among the most educated in the world and almost all were literate. Books were printed, philosophy was studied; music, literature and painting flourished. The first Constitution appeared in Ukraine during the Cossack period (1711).

Soviet Union

The destroyed Kreschatik street (1943)
The destroyed Kreschatik street (1943)
In January 1918 when the Russian Empire fell, the independence of Ukraine was proclaimed and the Ukrainian National Republic was established. Mykhaylo Hrushevsky became the first President of Ukraine. But at that time Ukrainian statehood was not adequately defended. It is only recently that this became possible.

After the revolution of 1917 Vladimir Illyich Lenin and his Bolshevik Party seized power and expanded their sphere of control into Ukraine.

Sophia Cathedral
Sophia Cathedral and monument Bohdan Khmelnytsky
Ukraine experienced a brief period of independence when on January 22, 1918, the Ukrainian Central Rada (Council) formally issued a proclamation for Ukraine's independence. But shortly thereafter in 1919, the Ukrainian National Republic was defeated in a war against Polish expansionists and overrun once again.

Eventually, Bolshevik and Communist forces retook Ukrainian lands, and as a means to control the population, leader Josef Stalin caused the Great Famine of 1932-33 by forcibly collecting grain and deliberately starving to death nearly ten million people. Nazi Germany then began World War II and entered Kyiv in September 1941 razing the city. In November 1943, Soviet forces retook the city in fierce fighting and began their final domination of Ukraine for almost the next fifty years.

Independent Ukraine

On August, 24, 1991 the Supreme Soviet of Ukraine proclaims the Declaration of Independence. In a referendum held on December 1, 1991 the people of Ukraine endorsed independence and voted Leonid Makarovych Kravchuk as Ukraine's first ever democratically elected President. The United States recognized Ukraine's independence on December 25, 1991; and the first American Ambassador, Roman Popadiuk, arrived in Kyiv on June 8, 1992. On July, 10, 1994 in the second round of presidential elections Leonid Kravchuk loses to Leonid Kuchma who has been re-elected for the second term in 1999.
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