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History of Kiev

According to the ancient legend, Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, was
founded by three brothers, Kyi, Schek and Khoryv, and their sister
Lybed, at the end of the 5th-beginning of the 6th centuries. The city
was named after the eldest brother Kyi. Kyiv means the city of Kyi. Kyiv
is a Ukrainian spelling and Kiev is Russian, more known worldwide since
the Soviet times.

Many ancient tribes gathered around Kiev, and at the end of the 9th
century the city became the political center of the Eastern Slavs. In
the year 988 Christianity, introduced by Great Prince Vladimir, became
the official religion of the Kievan Rus. This helped to establish
political and cultural relations with such states as the Byzantium
Empire and Bulgaria. At that time almost 50,000 people lived in the
city; there were about 400 churches and 8 markets. When Vladimir
Monomakh died in the year 1152, the mighty Kievan Rus began to decay. In
1240 Kiev was demolished by Baty-khan. Only in the 14th century Kiev
began to revive. But in 1362 Great Duke of Lithuania captured the city.
For more than one hundred years it was under the command of Lithuanian
and Polish dukes. People’s liberation war of 1648-1654 against the
Lithuanian-Polish Yoke led to liberation. But Cossack armies, headed by
Hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky, couldn’t manage to conquer the enemy without
help from Russia. As a result, Ukraine plunged under a long period of
domination by the Russian Empire. Since that time the history of Ukraine
and Kiev was closely connected with Russian history.

Archeological excavations show evidence of the first settlements on the
territory of Kiev 15,000 to 20,000 years ago.

The early settlers of Kiev built their citadel on the steep right bank
of the Dnepr River to protect themselves from Nomadic tribes. Later,
Kiev’s Grand Dukes built their palaces and churches on Starokievskiy
Hill, while artisans and merchants settled next to the wharf on the
Dnepr. By the end of the 9th century, when the Grand Dukes of Kiev
united scattered Slavic tribes, Kiev became the political center of the
Eastern Slavs. The city maintained wide foreign and commercial trade
links due to its favorable position in the middle of trade routes
between the Vikings and the Greeks (strict way from Northern Europe and
the Baltics to the Mediterranean). Kiev`s development accelerated during
the reign of Grand Duke Vladimir the Great (980-1015). In 988 Vladimir
established Orthodox Christianity as the official religion of the realm
in order to strengthen the power of Kiev on the broader international
arena. During that time the first stone temple in Russia, Desyatinnaya
church, was constructed.

During the 11th and 12th centuries ancient Kiev Rus reached its greatest
period of ascendancy. By the 11th century Kiev was one of the largest
centers of civilization in the Eastern christian world. At that time,
there were about 400 churches, 8 markets and more than 50,000
inhabitants in Kiev. For comparison, at the same time the population of
London, Hamburg and Gdansk was about 20,000 people. Kiev was among the
most prospering craft and shopping centers of Europe. After the death of
Kiev`s great Prince Vladimir Monomakh in 1125, Kiev Rus became involved
in a long period of feudal wars. Foreign powers were quick to take
advantage of this situation. In the fall of 1240, the Tatar-Mongols
headed by Baty-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 a 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 15th century Kiev was granted the Magdeburg Rights, which
permitted greater independence of the city in matters of international
commerce.

Until the 14th century Kiev paid tribute to the Golden Horde. Then it
passed under the control of Great Lithuaninan Duchy, which in 1569 was
united with Poland. With the establishment of the Kiev-Mogilyanskaya
Academy in 1632, the city became a center of Ukrainian learning and
scholarship.

The long road to the independence of Ukraine began with Cossack military
campaigns. In 1648-1654 Cossack armies, headed by Hetman Bogdan
Khmelnitsky, Ukraine’s Cossack leader, waged several wars to liberate
Ukraine. In 1648, when the Ukrainian Cossacks rose against Poland, Kiev
became for a brief period the center of the Ukrainian State. But soon,
confronted by the armies of Polish and Lithuanian feudal lords, Bogdan
Khmelnitsky sought the protection of the Russian Tsar in the Treaty of
Pereyaslavl. After Ukraine’s union with Russia in 1654, however, the
city was acquired by Moscow. During a long period of domination by the
Russian Empire Ukraine in the 17th and 18th centuries managed to
preserve and enjoy some of its rich political, economic, cultural, and
religious achievements.

In January 1918 after the fall of Russian Empire, the independence of
Ukraine was proclaimed and the Ukrainian National Republic was
established.

During the Civil War that followed the October Revolution Bolshevik
Party seized power and expanded their sphere of control into Ukraine.
Ukraine becomes a part of the Soviet Union.

Kiev suffered severely during the World War II, when many unique
architectural and artistic treasures were destroyed. Earlier, in the
1930s, the Soviet authorities systematically destroyed many churches.
Extensive restoration of the after-war days has revived much of Kiev’s
historical and cultural heritage. Despite repressions, suffering,
political turmoil, and ecological disasters, Ukraine’s spirit and
national identity have never died. On August 24, 1991, after the
collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine proclaimed its independence. This
was the beginning of the whole new period in the history of Ukraine and
its beautiful capital.

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