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.