Kharkiv (Kharkov), Ukraine
An important trading and industrial centre, Kharkiv is in the north of the country around 40 km from the Russian border. Capital of Kharkiv oblast, it lies at the meeting point of the rivers Lopin, Kharkiv and Uda. Following widespread destruction during World War II it was rebuilt by the Soviets.
The city was first mentioned in 1655 when Cossacks settled on the banks of the river Kharkiv. An important fort and trading post on the Tatar frontier, it was among Ukraine’s most prominent commercial cities in the seventeenth century. By the 1730s it was the administrative capital of the region and during the nineteenth century it expanded on the back of wealth generated by its coal and metal industries.
Following the Russian revolution it became capital of Soviet Ukraine from 1919 until Kiev succeeded it in 1934. The city underwent a cultural golden age in the early twentieth century, with the Vaplite writers association and the Berezil theatre at the forefront. However, Ukrainian nationalism was suppressed and Soviet culture came to dominate. The first wedding-cake style Soviet skyscraper was the House of State Industry in 1928.
Kharkiv was decimated during World War II. Under Nazi occupation from 1941–43 it witnessed fierce fighting. In the post-war period it was re-built along Soviet lines, incorporating wide avenues and brutalist architecture.
Among the most important industries are engineering, chemicals, metalwork, machine tools, electrical goods and vehicle manufacturing, and food processing. Kharkiv has a university and numerous higher education and research institutions.
Kharkiv is Ukraine’s largest railway junction and is on major road routes between Russia and Ukraine. There is an international airport and an underground railway.
Places of Interest
Among the buildings to survive World War II were the Pokrovsky Cathedral (dating from the seventeenth century), the Patriarchal Cathedral (built in the nineteenth century) and the bell tower built in tribute to Napoléon’s defeat of 1812. There are several theatres and a planetarium. Also popular are the museums of history, natural history and fine arts as well as the Shevshenko Town Gardens, Gorky City Park, Forest Park and the city zoo.