According to the ancient legend, Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, was founded by three brothers, Kyi, Shchek and Khoryv, and their sister Lybid, 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 Kyiv, and at the end of the 9th century the city became the political centre of the Eastern Slavs. In the year 988 Christianity, introduced by Great Prince Vladimir, became the official religion of the Kyivan 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 Kyivan Rus began to decay. In 1240 Kyiv was demolished by Baty-khan. Only in the 14th century Kyiv 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 Bohdan Khmelnytskyi, 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 Kyiv was closely connected to Russian history.
Archaeological excavations show evidence of the first settlements on the territory of Kyiv 15,000 to 20,000 years ago.
The early settlers of Kyiv built their citadel on the steep right bank of the Dnipro River to protect themselves from Nomadic tribes. Later, Kyiv's Grand Dukes built their palaces and churches on Starokyivskyi Hill, while artisans and merchants settled next to the wharf on the Dnipro. By the end of the 9th century, when the Grand Dukes of Kyiv united scattered Slavic tribes, Kyiv became the political centre of the Eastern Slavs. The city maintained wide foreign and commercial trade links due to its favourable position in the middle of trade routes between the Vikings and the Greeks (strict way from Northern Europe and the Baltics to the Mediterranean). Kyiv 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 Kyiv on the broader international arena. During that time the first stone temple in Russia, Desiatynna church, was constructed.
During the 11th and 12th centuries ancient Kyivan Rus reached its greatest period of ascendancy. By the 11th century Kyiv was one of the largest centres of civilization in the Eastern Christian world. At that time, there were about 400 churches, 8 markets and more than 50,000 inhabitants in Kyiv. For comparison, at the same time the population of London, Hamburg and Gdansk was about 20,000 people. Kyiv was among the most prospering craft and shopping centres of Europe. After the death of Kyiv great Prince Vladimir Monomakh in 1125, Kyivan 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 Kyiv after series of long and bloody battles. Kyiv fell into a prolonged period of decline. The Tartar-Mongols ruled for almost a century. Despite a foreign rule, Kyiv retained its artisan, trade and cultural traditions and remained an important political, trade and cultural centre. In the 14th century, the Kyiv region became the cradle for the modern Ukrainian nation.
In the 15th century Kyiv was granted the Magdeburg Rights, which permitted greater independence of the city in matters of international commerce.
Until the 14th century Kyiv paid tribute to the Golden Horde. Then it passed under the control of Great Lithuanian Duchy, which in 1569 was united with Poland. With the establishment of the Kyiv Mohyla Academy in 1632, the city became a centre 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 Bohdan Khmelnytskyi, Ukraine's Cossack leader, waged several wars to liberate Ukraine. In 1648, when the Ukrainian Cossacks rose against Poland, Kyiv became for a brief period the centre of the Ukrainian State. But soon, confronted by the armies of Polish and Lithuanian feudal lords, Bohdan Khmelnytskyi 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.
Kyiv 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 Kyiv historical and cultural heritage. Despite repressions, suffering, political turmoil, and ecological disasters, Ukrainian 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.