History of Kharkiv

The city of Kharkiv is a center of historical and geographical area of Ukraine which has a settled name “Slobozjanshchina”. The area of modern Kharkiv is more than 300 sq. km and its population is 1 mln 450 thousand people. The territory of the city is a hilly flatland with valleys, ravines, etc. The climate is moderately continental: annual average air temperature is +6,9, the coldest month in a year is January (-6,1), the warmest month is July (+20,5).


Kharkiv is one of the largest cities in Ukraine, the regional center of the Kharkiv region. Kharkiv has always played an important role in social, economic and political life. The city was founded in 1654.

There are several versions of the appearance of the name of the city as “Kharkiv”. Some of historians think that Kharkiv is a transformed name from Sharukhan, the cumin capital which was located on these lands; the others connect it with the name of the leader of Ukrainian settlers Kharko (Chariton) in the middle of the XVII century. Most of the specialists consider that the city got its name from the river Kharkiv. For the first time this name was mentioned in “The Book of Great Schedule” which was composed in 1627. The name of the river is still a hydronimic enigma.

The founders of the city were the Ukrainian Kazaks and peasants who ran away from the national, religious and social pressure of the Pole landlords of the Dnieper and Western Ukraine, especially in the period of emancipative fight of Ukrainian people headed by B. Khmelnitskyi.  Ukrainian settlers started to inhabit unsettled territories which in the beginning of the XVI century were formally included into the body of Moscow state. The land was called “the Wild Field” as it was devastated after the Mongol and Tatar raids.
The Russian settlers appeared here in the same time as the Ukrainians. In the result of interaction of two migration streams: a big one from the West, which was Ukrainian, and the smaller one from the North, which was Russian, the Slobozjanian subculture was formed. In the XVII-XVIII centuries Slobozjanshchina turned into a special historical and cultural region of Ukraine with a distinctive hue of material and spiritual culture.

To the beginning of the XIX century Podol – the district between the fortress and the river Kharkov – was settled, and in the 30-40s of the century, when the threat of Crimea and Nogay Tatars raids passed away, the settling stepped over the rivers Lopan and Kharkov. There were 1000 housings and a range of social buildings of different kinds in the town Four of six the biggest fairs of Slobozjanshchina – Uspensky, Kchreshchensky, Troitsky and Pokrovsky – were held in Kharkiv.

Университетская горка

There were changes in the social life of the city. In 1765 the regiment administrative order was liquidated. The Slobodsko-Ukrainian governorate was created instead of sloboda regiments.

For a very long time Kharkov belonged to Bielgorod eparchy. In 1799 the Slobodsko-Ukrainian eparchy with its center in Kharkov was created. Uspensky church is among the first churches which were built in the city. The erection of it started in 1658. The modern sanctuary was built in the 70-es of the XVIII century. In 1726 Pokrovsky abbey was founded on the territory of Kharkiv fortress. The abbey sanctuary is the oldest in Kharkiv.

Kharkiv becomes the governorate city. The city council was created (1785). Since 1734 the post service had started to work, in 1739 the first doctor appeared, in 1778 the first drug-store started to work. All these changed the living of kharkovites in a way, but during the whole century their main occupation was agriculture (to 70% of population). The titles of streets and lanes which appeared in that time testify of development of crafts and trades. They are: Chebotarskaya, Rymarskaya, Shlyapnyi, Stoliarnyi, Slesarnyi.

In the XVIII century Kharkiv became an educational center. The Kharkiv Collegium (the Slavic and Latin school which was transferred in 1726 from Bielgorod got this title in 1731) became the second in importance in Ukraine after Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. A complete course of science was taught there. The Collegium library became the first in the city and in 1840 there were 5 thousand books in the library.

In the beginning of the XIX century Kharkiv was developing not only as a trade center but as an industrial one. There had been more than 70 enterprises: mills, fat-melting plants, alcohol distilling plants, tan-yards in the city by 1897. Till the middle of the XIX century the city industry had a handicraft character mostly, and the main economics brunch was trade and agricultural products processing. Enterprises started to make the products of various kinds – from agricultural machines to engines. Therefore Kharkiv became a supplier of agricultural mechanics to the empire market.

New educational institutions appeared with the development of the city. By the beginning of the XX century there had been four male, two female grammar schools, two non-classical secondary schools, a seminary, several private grammar schools and boarding schools, the School for Noble Maidens, Commercial School, five higher primary schools (111 primary schools in 1902). A lot of events in cultural and scientific life of Kharkiv in the XIX century happened for the first time not in the city only, but in Ukraine. The first provincial museum in Russia was opened in Kharkiv in 1886. It was the City Art and Industrial Museum.

Харьковский императорский университет

The opening of one of the oldest in the country and the first in Ukraine Kharkiv university on the 17th (29th) of January of 1805 had a huge meaning. V.N.Karazin became the founder of the university. The university is a cultural and scientific center; it is famous by its scientists, graduates and teachers: N.N.Beketov, V.Y.Danilevskiy, H.F.Sumtsov, D.I.Bagaley, and many other coryphées.

Therefore by the beginning of the XX century Kharkiv had become an industrial, scientific and cultural center with a huge potential. The new age put unexpected corrections into development of the city. During the Civil War Kharkiv survived a red bolshevics’ terror, Denickin’s army revelry, intervention aftermaths and nationalization.

In the beginning of the 20-es there starts a period of wide transformations in different branches of social life. Considerable changes were made in the administrative and territorial order of the city.

In 1919 Kharkiv appropriated the state of capital officially By the end of 1925 the industrial enterprises were rebuilt and reconstructed, new plants and fabrics appeared. In 1940 the industry of the city was 12 times bigger than in 1913. In 1920-30 there was started an activity of many new scientific organizations and institutes of the city such as the Ukrainian Profondometer Academy, the Institute of Hematology and Blood Transfusion, Charred Cole Building, the Ukrainian physical and technical institute etc. The science societies held a scientific work, regional ethnography was developing.

In the first half of the XX century the city was changed greatly because of the monuments appearance (in 1935 the best in the world monument to T.G.Shevchenko by M.G.Manizer was opened) and because of works of “The Kharkiv Rossie” Beketov, architects Veryovkin, Zjukov etc. In 1925 Gosprom was built in constructivism style.

Березиль Харьков

The cultural life of the city was full of events. The State Drama Theatre “Berezil” headed by Les Kurbas moved from Kiev to Kharkov in 1926, in 1929 the Ukrainian Theatre of Musical Comedy issued the first performances. In 1932 the Kharkiv organization of the Union of Composers of Ukraine was organized, in 1934 – of the Union of Writers of Ukraine.

The city had incredible losses in the years of mass repressions of Stalin regime and in the years of Great Patriotic war. It became a subject of a special interest of Hitler Germany and as a result both sides fought cruelly for possessing it. The city went from one hands to others twice, it survived the occupation, hunger and ruining. By the moment of deliverance of the city 200 thousand square meters of living areas had been ruined, all the housing maintenance had been put out of work, a considerable amount of material assets of Kharkiv enterprises had been also ruined in spite of evacuation. By the 23rd of August – the day of deliverance of the city – there had been no working enterprises in the city.

During the occupation thousands of kharkovites were murdered just because of their race, nation or belonging to the party, a lot of people were overtaken to Germany.

But even in these inhuman conditions people of the city tried to save and keep the cultural values.

There were killed and tortured more than 256 thousand of civilians and 164 thousand were overtaken during 21 months of occupation. There were 200 people left from 900 thousand of population before the war. The material damage of Kharkiv region maintenance, organizations, cultural institutions and civilians was 33,5 milliards rubles altogether.

A lot of the streets of the city are named by the defenders and deliverers of Kharkiv: platoon of lieutenant P.N.Shyronin, O.Yarosh and others.

Self-sacrificing work on the city rebuilding had been started right after the deliverance of Kharkiv. But only by the beginning of the 50-es the level of production which had been observed before the war had been gained. The production itself became more and more perfect. There were new plants and factories opened: “Electrotyajmash”, “The Plant of Road Machines@ etc. By now there are more than 250 big enterprises in the city. According to this data Kharkiv is considered to be a leading industrial center of Ukraine.

In the middle of the 50-es Kharkiv television started its work. In 1962 the population of the city approached 1 million marks and Kharkiv became the second after Kiev city with a million populations in Ukraine.

In the 50-80-es the building of the whole massives of the city was begun: Pavlovo Polie, Alekseevka, Saltovka.

In 1975 the first line of Kharkiv metropolitan was opened and there are three of them working now.


In 1985 the period of reforms – “perestroika” – was started. Declaration of Independence of Ukraine in 1991 became the culmination of democratic society processes. It allowed the new state to create the future by itself. The life of the city became a reflection of the new processes in the society. For example, because of the new Constitution issued by Verkhovna Rada the Soviet Ukraine square became the Constitution square. The city was grasped by the wave of privatization. In a result of it plenty of private enterprises, schools etc. appeared on the map of the city.

The cultural life became verified. But the enterprises and organizations created after the ware are the base of it. The history of the city of Kharkiv consists of three and a half centuries of beautiful and tragic events. The city was accepted to the League of historical cities. Its development was and is and will be one of the main moments in the life of the whole state of independent Ukraine.

Key dates
Date Event
1654 Kharkiv was founded on hill between the Lopan and Kharkiv Rivers
1689 The construction of the Holy Shroud Cathedral was completed. It is now the oldest stone building preserved in Kharkiv.
1726 The Holy Shroud Monastery was founded. The same year, the College moved here from Belgorod. It was the first educational establishment of that kind on the Left-Bank Ukraine.
1765 The city became the centre of the Province of Sloboda Ukraine. E. Sherbinin was appointed the first governor.
1787 Under the leadership of architect P. Yaroslavky, the city development plan was drafted. The City Council (or ‘Duma’ as it was called then) started to work.
1799 The diocese of Sloboda Ukraine was created.
1917 Soviet power was proclaimed. Kharkiv was the first capital of Ukraine (until 1934, with a short break of 1918–1919).
1930’s The construction of the flagships of Soviet industry, including Tractor Plant, Turbine Plant, and Lathe Contraction Plant was finished, and the production release started.
1932 The city became the centre of the Kharkiv Region.
1943 On August 23, the city was liberated from the fascist occupants. Now this day is celebrated as the City Holiday.
1962 The millionth citizen of Kharkiv was born.
1975 The traffic along the first underground line was launched.
2003 The Council of Europe awarded Kharkiv a European Diploma.
2004 Festive celebrations of the 350th anniversary of Kharkiv. The city was awarded the Flag of Honour by the Council of Europe.
2008 Kharkiv received the European Plaque of Honour.
2010 Kharkiv is the winner of the Europe Prize.
2012 Kharkiv becomes the host city of the Football Championship Euro 2012.
2015 City Mayor elected as a president of the Association of City Holders of Prize Europe Winners.