Sunday, 2 December 2012



Kharkiv is the second-largest city of Ukraine. Located in the north-east of the country, it is the largest city of the Slobozhanshchyna historical region.

Archeological evidence discovered in the area of present-day Kharkiv indicates that a local population has existed in that area since the second millennium BC. Cultural artifacts date back to the Bronze Age, as well as those of later Scythian and Sarmatian settlers. There is also evidence that the Chernyakhov culture flourished in the area from the second to the sixth century.

The city was founded by re-settlers who were running away from the war that engulfed Right-bank Ukraine in 1654. The group of people came onto the banks of Lopan and Kharkiv rivers where stood an abandoned settlement. Some sources indicate that the city was founded by the eponymous, near-legendary character, called Kharko (a diminutive form of the name Kharyton). At first the settlement was a self-governed under the jurisdiction of a voivode from Chuhuiv that is located 40 kilometres (25 mi) to the east. The first appointed voivode from Moscow was Voyin Selifontov in 1656 who started to build a local ostrog (fort). At that time the population of Khakriv was just over 1,000 half of which were local cossacks, while Selifontov brought along a Moscow garrison of another 70 servicemen. The first Kharkiv voivode was replaced in two years after constantly complaining that locals refuse to cooperate in building of the fort. Kharkiv also became the centre of the local Sloboda cossack regiment as the area surrounding the Belgorod fortress was being heavily militarized. With the resettlement of the area Ukrainians it became to be known as Sloboda Ukraine, most of which was included under the jurisdiction of the Razryad Prikaz (Military Appointment) headed by a district official from Belgorod. By 1657 the Kharkiv settlement already had a fortress with underground passageways.

In the course of the administrative reform carried out in 1708 by Peter the Great, the area was included into Kiev Governorate. Kharkov is specifically mentioned as one of the towns making a part of the governorate. In 1727, Belgorod Governorate was split off, and Kharkiv moved to Belgoro Governorate. It was the center of a separate administrative unit, Kharkiv Kazak Sloboda Regiment. The regiment at some point was detached from Belgorod Governorate, then attached to it again, until in 1765, Slobodsko-Ukrainian Governorate was established with the seat in Kharkiv.

Prior to the formation of the Soviet Union, Bolsheviks established Kharkiv as the capital of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic (from 1919–1934) in opposition to the Ukrainian People's Republicwith its capital of Kiev.

As the country's capital, it underwent intense expansion with the construction of buildings to house the newly established Ukrainian Soviet government and administration.

In 1928, the SVU (Union for the Freedom of Ukraine) process was initiated and court sessions were staged in the Kharkiv Opera (now the Philharmonia) building. Hundreds of Ukrainian intellectuals were arrested and deported.

In the early 1930s, the Holodomor famine drove many people off the land into the cities, and to Kharkiv in particular, in search of food. Many people died and were secretly buried in mass graves in the cemeteries surrounding the city.

In 1934 hundreds of Ukrainian writers, intellectuals and cultural workers were arrested and executed in the attempt to eradicate all vestiges of Ukrainian nationalism in Art. The purges continued into 1938. Blind Ukrainian street musicians were also gathered in Kharkiv and murdered by the NKVD. In January 1935 the capital of the Ukrainian SSR was moved from Kharkiv to Kiev.

During April and May 1940 about 3,800 Polish prisoners of Starobelsk camp were executed in the Kharkiv NKVD building, later secretly buried on the grounds of an NKVD pansionat in Pyatykhatky forest (part of the Katyn massacre) on the outskirts of Kharkiv. The site also contains the numerous bodies of Ukrainian cultural workers who were arrested and shot in the 1937–38 Stalinist purges.

During World War II, Kharkiv was the site of several military engagements. The city was captured and recaptured by Nazi Germany on 24 October 1941; there was a disastrous Red Army offensive that failed to capture the city in May 1942; the city was successfully retaken by the Soviets on 16 February 1943, captured for a second time by the Germans on 15 March 1943 and then finally liberated on 23 August 1943. Seventy percent of the city was destroyed and tens of thousands of the inhabitants were killed. Kharkiv, the third largest city in the Soviet Union, was the most populous city in the Soviet Union captured by the Germans, since in the years preceding World War II, Kiev was by population the smaller of the two.

                                                        Kharkiv’s Top 5:
  1. The Annunciation Cathedral is the main Orthodox church of Kharkiv. The pentacupolar Neo-Byzantine structure with a distinctive 80-meter-tall bell tower was completed on October 2, 1888, from designs by a local architect, Mikhail Lovtsov. The church was baptized in 1901, while the first church of Annunciation (built in 17th century), located next to it was dismantled. The candy-striped cathedral supplanted the older Assumption Cathedral as the main church of Kharkiv and was one of the largest and tallest churches of the Russian Empire. The church was frescoed in a style derived from St Vladimir's Cathedral in Kiev. On July 3, 1914 the temple became recognized as the city's cathedral. The cathedral was closed to worshippers in 1930, but it was reopened during the German occupation in 1943. During that time the space in the temple initially was assigned to a cultural lyceum, while there are some evidences that it was used as a warehouse. During WWII it was a temple of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Since 1946 the cathedral is the seat of the Kharkiv and Bohodukhiv eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), while the bishop residence has stayed in the Saint-Pokrov Monastery. The Ecumenical Patriarch Athanasius III Patelaros and several saintly bishops are buried in the cathedral.
  2. The Kharkiv Choral Synagogue is the largest synagogue in the country, and a building of architectural significance. Construction of the synagogue began in 1909, with architects submitting design proposals as part of contest. St. Petersburg architect Yakov Gevirts submitted the winning design and construction was completed in 1913 at a cost of 150,000 rubles. In 1923, the synagogue was closed, nationalized by the government, and used by a Jewish worker's club, part of the Comintern. It then served a variety of uses including housing a club, cinema and a sport complex and was not used as a place of worship until 1990.
  3. The Shevchenko Gardens is the oldest green area in the city centre. It was planted as far back as 1804. The gardens central path is a beautiful chestnut-tree alley leading from the Taras Shevchenko Monument to the University building. The gardens area of 25 hectares has over 15,000 trees and bushes of more than 100 varieties. It also has gigantic oaks, which are over 200 years old. One of these grows close to the monument to the great Kobzar (Bard). The gardens are being expanded and improved every year. After the war, their western slope was reconstructed with a water cascade and stairs leading down to the Klochkovska Street. A color and music fountain is located in the center of the gardens. 
  4. The Kharkiv State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre named after M.Lysenko is the first academic theatre in Ukraine. It presents operas in Ukrainian, Russian, French and Italian. This leading Ukrainian theatre was opened in 1925 by putting on the stage opera "Sorochynska yarmarka" ("Sorochyntsy Fair") of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky. From 1991 the theatre works in the new building which is built in postmodern style and is located at Sumskaya Str. 25/27. The repertoire includes around 50 operas and ballets, the majority of which are Ukrainian and Russian but there are also Italian ones.
  5. The Assumption or Dormition Cathedral was the main Orthodox church of Kharkiv until the construction of the Annunciation Cathedral in 1901. The cathedral stands on the University Hill by the bank of the Lopan River and dominates the entire downtown. The Neoclassical cathedral bell tower, built in the 1820s and 1830s to a height of 90 meters, remained the tallest building in the city until the 21st century. The original Dormition Church was built in the Kharkov Fortress in the 1680s. It was completely rebuilt after a fire to a Late Baroque design loosely based on St Clement's Church, Moscow. The cathedral was consecrated in 1780 in the presence of Ukraine's governor, Pyotr Rumyantsev. The church boasted a gilded icon screen, carved from limewood to Rastrelli's Rococo design. The free-standing Alexander Bell Tower was built in the aftermath of Napoleon's expulsion from Russia "to express the people's gratitude to Alexander I".  It used to be the second tallest building in Ukraine after the Great Lavra Bell Tower. The seat of the local bishop was moved from the older Intercession Cathedral to the Dormition Church in 1846. A large French clock was installed in the bell tower in 1856.


  1. Weather in Ukraine is rather cold and snowy, but you can enjoy your travel to this country. Night clubs and restaurants are at your service. Moreover, you can go to a theatre. Every Ukrainian city has original theatres with very interesting performances. You can choose the right place to go in the directory of Ukrainian theatres. Ukraine travel Guide also contains information about cafes, pubs, taxis and much more services you may need in Ukraine including accommodation, food, entertainments and services.

  2. They are beautiful orthodox churches.