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The History of Kiev (also spelled Kyiv as per Ukrainian), the largest city and the capital of Ukraine, is long and remarkable. The exact time of city foundation is hard to determine.

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.

Kievska Rus

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.

In the 15th century Kiev was granted the Magdeburg Rights, which permitted greater independence of the city in matters of international commerce.

Until the 14th century Kiev paid tribute to the Golden Horde. Then it passed under the control of Great Lithuaninan Duchy, which in 1569 was united with Poland. With the establishment of the Kiev-Mogilyanskaya Academy in 1632, the city became a center 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 Bogdan Khmelnitsky, Ukraine's Cossack leader, waged several wars to liberate Ukraine. In 1648, when the Ukrainian Cossacks rose against Poland, Kiev became for a brief period the center of the Ukrainian State. But soon, confronted by the armies of Polish and Lithuanian feudal lords, Bogdan Khmelnitsky 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.

During this century

In 1919, amid great fanfare, the Ukrainian People's Republic, led by journalist Simon Petliura, formally united with the West Ukrainian People's Republic (which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire) based in Lviv. This union of Ukraine's lands proved to be short lived as the West Ukrainian National Government's Army lost the war against Polish expansionists, while the Kiev- based Ukrainian Army was forced out of Ukraine by the Red Army. Soon after, Ukraine was officially incorporated into the Soviet Union. Under Stalin, tile Ukrainian political, social, economic and cultural fabric was atomized through totalitarian terror, involving massive purges, executions, and the exile of millions to the infamous labor camps of Siberia's "Gulag". During World War II, Kiev again was heavily damaged. For 72 days the city was defended by its citizens and Soviet troops against the invading Nazis. On September 19, 1941, Nazi troops entered Kiev. The Nazis also built two concentration camps for civilians and Paw's near Kiev. During this period, over 200,000 people were killed and over 100,000 were deported to Germany for forced labor. Kiev was liberated on November 6,1943, by Soviet troops. Soon after celebrating the defeat of Hitler's Germany, Ukraine learned that "liberation" by the Soviet Army meant a different kind of dictatorship. The post war years in Kiev were marked by intensive restoration of the damage caused during the war. The city began to dress its wounds. Politically, however, new waves of Stalinist terror again tore at the Ukrainian social fabric, with more purges, executions, and mass exiles to the Gulag. As the worst features of the Stalinist police state began to dissipate during Khrushchev's and Brezhnev's leadership, the Kremlin intensified its policy of "Russification", barring the Ukrainian language from government, education, courts and so on, pursuant to the theory that the "Soviet peoples" would become better unified if they adopted the Russian language and culture. With so many economic and social disincentives at work, the policy itself worked amazingly well, and new habity, especially in Kiev and other large cities of central and eastern Ukraine.


The 1980's were marked by increasing political impotence of Soviet leadership. The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident of April 26,1986, brings back painful memories for all Ukrainians. This disaster caused tens of thousands of deaths and health related problems, and inflicted enormous ecological and economic damage. Chernobyl served to rock the Communist Party establishment with political fallout as the facts behind bureaucratic ineptitude, negligence, disregard for the ordinary citizens, and cover-up emerged and began to stir the minds of the people.

On July 6, 1990, the legislature proclaimed Uktaine's sovereignty. In August 1991, a failed three-day military coup of the Kremlin's would-be dictators led to the Declaration of Independence by the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) on August 24. On December 1, in a nationwide referendum, 93% of Ukraine's citizens voted for an independent Ukraine and chose Leonid Makatovich Kravchuk, former communist ideologist, as their first democratically elected President. On July 10, 1994, Leonid Kuchma, former director of the world's biggest rocket plant, defeated Leonid Kravchuk to become the second President of independent Ukraine.