Kiev (in Ukrainian Київ Kyiv; Russian Киев Kiev) is the capital city of Ukraine, located in the north-central part of the country along the banks of the Dnieper River (Dnipro). It has a population of about three million.
The city is generally regarded to have been named after Kyi, one of it legendary founders. 'Kiev' is a transliteration into the Roman script, specifically into the English alphabet (in German, it is Kiew), from Cyrillic, the script used to write both Ukrainian and Russian. The name is different in the two languages, which also employ different conventions to adapt the script to their sound and spelling systems, so 'Kiev' is written as 'Київ' and 'Киев' respectively. As these would be transliterated into Kyiv and Kiev in English, the most likely explanation is that 'Kiev' is a straightforward rendering of the Russian form of the name. An alternative and less accepted view is that it may be derived from an old Ukrainian form . Since the 1990s, the Ukrainian government has mandated the use of 'Kyiv' in English; however, 'Kiev' remains the more popular English usage.
Legend has it that Kiev was founded about 500 by three brothers, Ky, Khoriv, and Shchek, along with their sister Lybid. Around 900, it was seized by the Varangians from the Khazars, who had built a fortress along the Dnieper. Varangians were a Baltic people linked with the Vikings, led by King Oleh from Scandinavia, who established the Rus' dynasty. (The term rus' means red-haired.) For 100 years the region expanded as a riverine trade route, sending fur, honey, and slaves south to Constantinople, and receiving luxury goods in return. Around 1000, King Volodymyr married into Constantinople royalty and forcibly converted the people of Kiev from paganism to Orthodox Christianity. Subsequently Yaroslav the Wise (Volodymyr's son) expanded Kiev into a major sociopolitical and economic centre.
Mongol raiders sacked Kiev in 1240, and the city languished and shrank. In 1362, Kiev was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Later, the city and surrounding area became a voivodeship of Poland as part of the Union of Lublin, a monarchical alliance that created the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1569.
In 1917, the October Revolution resulted in many Red versus White battles in and around Kiev, and subsequentStalinist famines killed many. In 1934, Kiev became the capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, part of the Soviet Union.
World War II
Early in the 1940s, the German invasion of World War II also destroyed many lives, both military and civilian. Between 20-28 September 1941, the city centre of Kiev, in particular buildings along the Khreshchatyk and parallel streets, were destroyed in a series of controlled explosions initiated by NKVD agents left behind in Kiev by the retreating Soviet Army. Hundreds of people were killed and 23,000 left homeless.
Around 1990, as the Soviet Union crumbled, Ukrainians agitated for independence, ultimately leading to the peaceful Orange Revolution in the first decade of the 21st Century. In 1991, Kiev became the capital of the newly-independent Ukraine.
In November 2013, the Euromaidan protests began in Kiev against the government's intention to seek closer ties with Russia. In February 2014, another revolution ousted the pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych from office, leading to the takeover of key government buildings in Kiev.
- A. Gregorovich (1995) 'Kiev or Kyiv?' FORUM Ukrainian Review 92.
- Ukrainian Information Project: 'Resolution of the Ukrainian Commission for Legal Terminology: No. 5: Protocol No.1 of October 14, 1995'.
- See Google Ngram survey of publications since 1800 which mention 'Kiev' or 'Kyiv'. Accessed 6th March 2014.