The Mother of Russian Cities: Kyiv

The city of Kyiv is the capital of which country?

And the answer: Ukraine.    

Kyiv (or Kiev) is one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe. The city prospered during the Russian empire's Industrial Revolution of the late 1800s. While it was nearly destroyed in World War II, Kyiv was rebuilt in the 1950s and thrives today, with almost 2.9 million people calling it home.

Photo credit: Lonely Planet

This "Mother of Russian Cities," as it has come to be known, has a long and proud history in Slavic culture. From its destruction in World War II to its successful movement for independence in 1991, Kyiv is a major European capital whose inhabitants have cultivated a lasting relationship with their homeland and its traditions.

In the Middle Ages, Kyiv was the center of power for the Rus people. Within its walls, the first Russian empire took shape in the mid 9th century. Kyiv began to gain importance, as its defensive site on the high river bluffs, rich agricultural area and proximity to a group of early Slavic towns naturally created a protected swath of land for the Rus rulers. By the late 10th century, Christianity flourished in the city, bringing with it hundreds of ornate churches, expert craftsmen, and awe-inspiring mosaics. Such magnificence can be experienced even today, with some 800 churches standing tall in their original (and often restored) splendor.

Yet after the retreat of the German army at the end of the second World War, Kyiv lay in ruins. More than 40% of its buildings – and hundreds of its industrial enterprises – were reduced to rubble, while its population dwindled. However, for a city with millennia under its belt, reconstruction came quickly and with fastidious effort. Today, remains of the Tsar-controlled city and Christian center can be observed in abundance.

Learn more about the history and culture of Kyiv below.

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