Origins and Foundation
Kyiv has a long, rich, and often stormy history. Its beginnings are lost in antiquity. Archaeological findings of stone and bone implements, the remains of primitive dwellings built of wood and skins, and large accumulations of mammoths' bones indicate that the first settlements in the vicinity date from the Upper Paleolithic Period (some 15,000 to 40,000 years ago). As early as 3000 BC in the Neolithic Period and subsequently at the time of the Cucuteni-Trypillya culture at the end of the Neolithic, tribes engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry lived on the site of modern Kyiv. Excavations continue to uncover many artifacts from settlements dating from the Copper, Bronze, and Iron ages. The tribes of the area traded with the nomadic peoples of the steppes to the south, Scythians, Sarmatians, and later Khazars, and also with the ancient Greek colonies that were located on the Black Sea coast.
The first Rus capital
Less legendary is the chronicle account of the Varangians, who seized Kyiv in the mid-9th century. As in Novgorod to the north, a Slavo-Varangian ruling elite developed. Kyiv, with its good defensive site on the high river bluffs and as the centre of a rich agricultural area and a group of early Slavic towns, began to gain importance. About 882 Oleg (Oleh), the ruler of Novgorod, captured Kyiv and made it his capital, the centre of the first East Slavic state, Kyivan Rus. The town flourished, chiefly through trade along the Dnipro going south to Byzantium and north over portages to the rivers flowing to the Baltic, the so-called "road from the Varangians to the Greeks," or "water road." Trade also went to the Caspian Sea and Central Asia.
Kyiv under Lithunia and Poland
n the 14th century what was left of Kyiv and its surrounding area came under the control of the powerful and expanding grand duchy of Lithuania, which captured it in 1362. For a long time thereafter Kyiv had little function except as a fortress and minor market on the vaguely defined frontier between Lithuania and the steppe Tatars, based in the Crimea. It frequently came under attack from the Tatars; in 1482 the Crimean khan, Mengli Giray, took and sacked the town. Almost the only survival of Kyiv's former greatness was its role as the seat of an Orthodox metropolitan. A step forward came in 1516, when the grand duke Sigismund I granted Kyiv a charter of autonomy, thereby much stimulating trade.
Kyiv under the tsars
In 1793 the Second Partition of Poland, under Catherine the Great, brought right-bank Ukraine into the Russian Empire, and Kyiv, assisted by the abolition in 1754 of the tariff barriers between Russia and the Ukrainian lands, began to grow in commercial importance. Catherine's reign was marked by the abolition of the old administrative system and of the post of Cossack hetman and the division of Ukraine into new administrative provinces, for one of which Kyiv became the centre. Subsequently it became the centre of a governor-generalship covering three provinces.
The revolutionary period
With the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1917, a revolutionary soviet, the Central Rada (rada, "council"), was elected by the city workers, consisting primarily of Menshevik and Socialist Revolutionary members, with strong support from Ukrainian nationalist groups. In January 1918 the Rada proclaimed an independent Ukrainian state with Kyiv as its capital. Minor uprisings by Bolshevik workers, who were mostly concentrated in the Arsenal works, were suppressed, but Red Army troops came to their aid and on Feb. 8, 1918, entered Kyiv.
By the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (March 3) between the Bolshevik government and the Germans, however, the new Soviet government recognized the independence of Ukraine, which was promptly occupied by German troops. A puppet Ukrainian government was set up in Kyiv by the Germans, but it collapsed with the German surrender to the Allies in November 1918 and the subsequent withdrawal of German troops. Once more an independent Ukraine was declared in Kyiv, under the leadership of Simon Petlyura, but its brief and stormy history was a series of struggles between Ukrainian nationalist, White, and Red forces. In November 1919 Kyiv was briefly taken by the White armies under General A.I. Denikin before being finally occupied by the Red Army. Peace was still denied the city, with the outbreak of the Russo-Polish War. In May 1920 the Poles captured Kyiv but were driven out in a counterattack.
The Soviet period
Kyiv's role as the centre for Ukrainian nationalists caused the Soviet government to transfer the capital of the new Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic to Kharkiv, and it was not until 1934 that Kyiv resumed its capital status. Meanwhile, restoration of the city's shattered economy was undertaken. During the first five-year plans, between 1928 and 1940, new machine tool, electrical, and chemical industries were established. By 1939 the population had reached 846,724. The German invasion in 1941 again brought severe suffering and destruction to the city. After a fierce 80-day battle, German forces entered it on Sept. 19, 1941. More than 30,000 Jews, Soviet prisoners of war, and partisans who had remained in the city were massacred within days in a nearby ravine known as Baby Yar; tens of thousands more were killed there over the next two years. Many of Kyiv's other inhabitants were deported for forced labour and to concentration camps, including almost all the large prewar Jewish population. In 1943 the advancing Soviet troops forded the Dnieper and, after bitter fighting, liberated Kyiv on November 6. The city itself had suffered great destruction, including more than 40 percent of its buildings and some 800 of its industrial enterprises. For its role in the war, Kyiv was later honoured by the Soviet government with the Order of Lenin, the title of Hero-City, and the Gold Star medal. In the first postwar five-year plan, rapid reconstruction was undertaken.