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Kharkiv (Харків)
Kharkov (Харьков)

Freedom Square

Nickname(s): The First Capital[1]

Map of Ukraine with Kharkiv highlighted

Coordinates: 50°0′16.11″N 36°13′53.21″E / 50.0044750°N 36.2314472°E / 50.0044750; 36.2314472Coordinates: 50°0′16.11″N 36°13′53.21″E / 50.0044750°N 36.2314472°E / 50.0044750; 36.2314472

Country  Ukraine
Oblast Kharkiv Oblast
Municipality Kharkiv City Municipality
Founded 1655-56[2]
 • Mayor Hennadiy Kernes[3]
 • City 350 km2 (140 sq mi)
Elevation 152 m (499 ft)
Population (2012-10-01)
 • City 1,442,910[4]
 • Density 4,500/km2 (12,000/sq mi)
 • Metro 1,732,400
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Postal code 61001—61499
Licence plate ХА, 21 (old)
Sister cities Belgorod, Bologna, Cincinnati, Kaunas, Lille, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, Nuremberg, Poznań, St. Petersburg, Tianjin, Jinan, Kutaisi, Varna, Rishon LeZion, Brno, Daugavpils

Kharkiv (Ukrainian: Харків, pronounced [ˈxɑrkiw]),[5] or Kharkov (Russian: Ха́рьков, IPA: [ˈxarʲkəf]),[5] 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. By its territorial expansion on September 6, 2012 the city increased its area from about 310 to 350 square kilometres (120 to 140 sq mi).[6]

The city was founded in 1654 and was a major centre of Ukrainian culture in the Russian Empire. Kharkiv was the first city in Ukraine to acknowledge Soviet power in December 1917 and later became the capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Kharkiv remained the capital of the Ukrainian SSR until January 1934, when it was moved to Kiev. Currently, it is the administrative centre of the Kharkiv Oblast as well as the administrative centre of the surrounding Kharkiv district, while the city itself has a special status within the region. As of 2006, its population was 1,461,300.[7]

Kharkiv is a major cultural, scientific, educational, transport and industrial centre of Ukraine, with 60 scientific institutes, 30 establishments of higher education, 6 museums, 7 theatres and 80 libraries. Its industry specializes primarily in machinery. There are hundreds of industrial companies in the city. Among them are globally important giants like the Morozov Design Bureau and the Malyshev Tank Factory (leaders in world tank production in the 1930s through 1980s); Khartron (aerospace and nuclear electronics); and the Turboatom turbines producer.

There is an underground rapid-transit system (metro) with about 38.1 km (24 mi) of track and 29 stations. A well-known landmark of Kharkiv is the Freedom Square (Ploshcha Svobody formerly known as Dzerzhinsky Square), which is currently the sixth largest city square in Europe, and the 12th largest square in the world.

Kharkiv was a host city for the UEFA Euro 2012, and hosted 3 group matches in Metalist Stadium.


Kharkiv is located in the northeastern region of Ukraine. Historically, Kharkiv lies in the Sloboda Ukraine region (Slobozhanshchyna also known as Slobidshchyna), in which it is considered the main city. The city rests at the confluence of the Kharkiv, Lopan, and Udy rivers, where they flow into the Seversky Donets watershed.


Kharkiv's climate is humid continental (Köppen climate classification Dfb), with cold and snowy winters, and hot summers. The seasonal average temperatures are not too cold in winter, not too hot in summer: −4.6 °C (23.7 °F) in January, and +21.3 °C (70.3 °F) in July. The average rainfall totals 513 mm (20 in) per year, with the most in June and July.

Climate data for Kharkiv, Ukraine 1981-2010
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 11.0
Average high °C (°F) −2.2
Daily mean °C (°F) −4.6
Average low °C (°F) −7.0
Record low °C (°F) −35.6
Precipitation mm (inches) 36
Avg. rainy days 10 8 9 13 14 15 13 10 12 12 13 12 141
Mean monthly sunshine hours 49.6 65.0 108.5 162.0 238.7 264.0 272.8 248.0 186.0 124.0 48.0 31.0 1,797.6
Source #1: Weather and climate – Kharkiv's climate [8]
Source #2: Hong Kong Observatory. (sun only 1961-1990)[9]


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 (see Khmelnytsky Uprising). The group of people came onto the banks of Lopan and Kharkiv rivers where stood an abandoned settlement.[10] Some sources indicate that the city was founded by the eponymous, near-legendary character, called Kharko (a diminutive form of the name Kharyton, Ukrainian: Харитон). 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.[10] The first appointed voivode from Moscow was Voyin Selifontov in 1656 who started to build a local ostrog (fort).[10] At that time the population of Kharkiv was just over 1000, half of which were local cossacks, while Selifontov brought along a Moscow garrison of another 70 servicemen.[10] The first Kharkiv voivode was replaced in two years after constantly complaining that locals refused to cooperate in building the fort.[10] 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 by Ukrainians it came 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[10] with underground passageways.

In 1658 Ivan Ofrosimov was appointed as the new voivode, who worked on forcing locals to kiss the cross to show loyalty to the Moscow Tsar.[10] The locals led by their otaman Ivan Kryvoshlyk refused it.[10] However with the election of the new otaman Tymish Lavrynov the community (hromada) sent a request to the Tsar to establish a local Assumption market, signed by deans of Kharkiv churches (the Assumption Cathedral and parish churches of Annunciation and Trinity).[10] Relationships with the neighboring Chuhuiv sometimes were non-friendly and often their arguments were pacified by force.[10] With the appointment of the third voivode Vasiliy Sukhotin was completely finished the construction of the city fort.[10]

Kharkiv Fortress

The Kharkiv Fortress was erected around the Assumption Cathedral and its castle was located at University Hill.[10] It was situated between today's streets: vulytsia Kvitky-Osnovianenko, Constitution Square, Rose Luxemburg Square, Proletarian Square, and Cathedral Descent.[10] The fortress had 10 towers: Chuhuivska Tower, Moskovska Tower, Vestovska Tower, Tainytska Tower, Lopanska Corner Tower, Kharkivska Corner Tower and others.[10] The tallest tower was Vestovska some 16 metres (52 ft) tall,[10] while the shortest one was Tainytska which, however, had a secret well 35 metres (115 ft) deep.[10] The fortress had the Lopanski Gates.[10] In 1689 the fortress was expanded and included the Saint-Pokrov Cathedral and Monastery which was baptized[10] and became the center of local eparchy. Coincidentally in the same year in the vicinity of Kharkiv in Kolomak Ivan Mazepa was announced the Hetman of Ukraine.[10] Next to the Saint-Pokrov Cathedral was located the Kharkiv Collegiate that was transferred from Belgorod to Kharkiv in 1726.[10]

Within the Russian Empire

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.[11] 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.[12]

Kharkiv University was established in 1805 in the Palace of Governorate-General.[10] Alexander Mikolajewicz Mickiewicz, brother of Adam Mickiewicz was a professor of law in the university, another celebrity Goethe searched for instructorial staff for the school.[10] In 1906 Ivan Franko received here a doctorate in the Russian linguistics.[10][13]

The streets were first cobbled in the city centre in 1830.[14] In 1844 next to the first Assumption Cathedral was built the Alexander Belltower 90 metres (300 ft) tall, which on November 16, 1924 was transformed into a radio tower.[10] A system of running water was established in 1870. The Cathedral Descent at one time carried the name of another local trader Vasyl Ivanovych Pashchenko-Tryapkin as Pashchenko Descent.[10] Pashchenko even leased a space to the city council (duma) and was the owner of the city "Old Passage", the city's biggest trade center.[10] After his death in 1894 Pashchenko donated all his possessions to the city.[10] In 1912 the first sewer system was built. Gas lighting was installed in 1890 and electric lighting in 1898. In 1869 the first railway station was constructed, and the first tram lines in 1906.

From 1800 to 1917 the population increased by 30 fold.

Kharkiv became a major industrial centre and with it a centre of Ukrainian culture. In 1812 the first Ukrainian newspaper was published there. One of the first Prosvitas in Eastern Ukraine was also established in Kharkiv. A powerful nationally aware political movement was also established there and the concept of an Independent Ukraine was first declared there by the lawyer Mykola Mikhnovsky in 1900.

Soviet period

Prior to the formation of the Soviet Union, Bolsheviks established Kharkiv as the capital of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic (from 1919 to 1934) in opposition to the Ukrainian People's Republic with its capital of Kiev.[15]

As the country's capital, it underwent intense expansion with the construction of buildings to house the newly established Ukrainian Soviet government and administration. Derzhprom was the second tallest building in Europe and the tallest in the Soviet Union at the time with a height of 63 metres (207 ft).[16] In the 1920s, a 150 metres (490 ft) wooden radio tower was built on top of the building. During the interbellum period the city saw spread of architectural constructivism.[10] One of the best representatives of it was the already mentioned Derzhprom, the Building of Red Army, the Ukrainian Polytechnic Institute of Distance Learning (UZPI), the building of city council with a massive asymmetric tower, the central department store that was opened at the 15th Anniversary of October Revolution.[10] The same year on November 7, 1932 the building of Noblemen Assembly was transformed into the building of All-Ukrainian Central Executive Committee.[10][17][18]

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.[19] 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.[20] The site also contains the numerous bodies of Ukrainian cultural workers who were arrested and shot in the 1937–38 Stalinist purges.

German occupation

During World War II, Kharkiv was the site of several military engagements (see below). The city was captured and recaptured by Nazi Germany on 24 October 1941;[21][22] there was a disastrous Red Army offensive that failed to capture the city in May 1942;[23][24] 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.

The significant Jewish population of Kharkiv (Kharkiv's Jewish community prided itself with the second largest synagogue in Europe) suffered greatly during the war. Between December 1941 and January 1942, an estimated 30,000 people (slightly more than half Jewish) were killed and buried in a mass grave by the Germans in a ravine outside of town named Drobitsky Yar.

During World War II, four battles took place for control of the city:

Before the occupation, Kharkiv's tank industries were evacuated to the Urals with all their equipment, and became the heart of Red Army's tank programs (particularly, producing the T-34 tank earlier designed in Kharkiv). These enterprises returned to Kharkiv after the war, and continue to produce tanks.

Post War

In the post-war period many of the destroyed homes and factories were rebuilt. From the constructivism the city was planned to be rebuilt in the style of Stalinist Classicism.[10]

Gas lines were installed for heating in government and later private homes. An airport was built in 1954. Following the war Kharkiv was the third largest scientific-industrial centre in the former USSR (after Moscow and Leningrad).

In independent Ukraine

In 2007, the Vietnamese minority in Kharkiv built the largest Buddhist temple in Europe on a 1 hectare plot with a monument to Ho Chi Minh.[25]

Government and administrative divisions

While Kharkiv is the administrative centre of the Kharkiv Oblast (province), the city affairs are managed by the Kharkiv Municipality. Kharkiv is a city of oblast subordinance.

The territory of Kharkiv is divided into 9 administrative raions (districts):

  1. Leninsky (Ukrainian: Ленінський район)
  2. Dzerzhynsky (Ukrainian: Дзержинський район)
  3. Kyivsky (Ukrainian: Київський район)
  4. Moskovsky (Ukrainian: Московський район)
  5. Frunzensky (Ukrainian: Фрунзенський район)
  6. Ordzhonikidzevsky (Ukrainian: Орджонікідзевський район)
  7. Kominternіvsky (Ukrainian: Комінтернівський район)
  8. Chervonozavodsky (Ukrainian: Червонозаводський район)
  9. Zhovtnevy (Ukrainian: Жовтневий район)


According to the 1989 Soviet Union Census, the population of the city was 1,593,970. In 1991, the population decreased to 1,510,200, including 1,494,200 permanent city residents.[26] Kharkiv is currently the second-largest city in Ukraine after the capital, Kiev.[7]

The nationality structure of Kharkiv as of the 1989 census is: Ukrainians 50.38%, Russians 43.63%, Jews 3%, Belarusians 0.75%, and all others (more than 25 minorities) 2.24%.[26] According to the Soviet census of 1959 there were Ukrainians (48.4%), Russians (40.4%), Jews (8.7%) and other nationalities (2.5%).[27]

According to the census of 2001 done on the Kharkiv region 53.8% consider Ukrainian as their native tongue (3.3% more than in the 1989 census). The Russian language is considered native for 44.3% of the population (a decline of 3.8% since 1989).[28]


  • 1660 year – approximated estimation
  • 1788 year – without the account of children
  • 1920 year – times of the Russian Civil War
  • 1941 year – estimation on May 1, right before the World War II
  • 1941 year – next estimation in September varies between 1,400,000 and 1,450,000
  • 1941 year – another estimation in December during the occupation without the account of children
  • 1943 year – August 23, liberation of the city; estimation varied 170,000 and 220,000
  • 1976 year – estimation on June 1
  • 1982 year – estimation in March


During the Soviet era Kharkiv was the capital of industrial production in Ukraine and the third largest centre of industry and commerce in the USSR. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the largely defence-systems-oriented industrial production of the city decreased significantly. In the early 2000s the industry started to recover and adapt to market economy needs. Now there are more than 380 industrial enterprises concentrated in the city, which have a total number of 150,000 employees. The enterprises form machine-building, electro-technologic, instrument-making, and energy conglomerates.

State-owned industrial giants, such as Turboatom[29] and Elektrotyazhmash[30] occupy 17% of the heavy power equipment construction (e.g., turbines) market worldwide. Multipurpose aircraft are produced by the Antonov aircraft manufacturing plant. The Malyshev factory produces not only armoured fighting vehicles, but also harvesters. Khartron[31] is the leading designer of space and commercial control systems in Ukraine and the former CIS.

Kharkiv is also the headquarters of one of the largest Ukrainian banks, UkrSibbank, which has been part of the BNP Paribas group since December 2005.

Kharkiv markets:

  • Barabashovo is the largest in Ukraine and one of the largest markets in Europe.
  • Blagoveshinskiy.
  • Konniy (Horse Market).
  • Raiskiy (commonly Book gully).

Science and education

Kharkiv is one of the most prolific centres of higher education and research of Eastern Europe. The city has 13 national universities and numerous professional, technical and private higher education institutions, offering its students a wide range of disciplines. Kharkiv National University (12,000 students), National Technical University “KhPI” (20,000 students), Kharkiv National Aerospace University "KhAI" are the leading universities in Ukraine. A total number of 150,000 students attend the universities and other institutions of higher education in Kharkiv. About 9,000 foreign students from 96 countries study in the city. More than 17,000 faculty and research staff are employed in the institutions of higher education in Kharkiv.

The city has a high concentration of research institutions, which are independent or loosely connected with the universities. Among them are three national science centres: Kharkіv Institute of Physics and Technology,[32] Institute of Metrology,[33] Institute for Experimental and Clinical Veterinary Medicine and 20 national research institutions of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine, such as the B Verkin Institute for Low Temperature Physics and Engineering[34] and Institute for Problems of Cryobiology and Cryomedicine. A total number of 26,000 scientists are working in research and development. A number of world renowned scientific schools appeared in Kharkiv, such as the theoretical physics school and the mathematical school.

In addition to the libraries affiliated with the various universities and research institutions, the Kharkiv State Scientific V. Korolenko-library[35] is a major research library. Kharkiv has 212 (secondary education) schools, including 10 lyceums and 20 gymnasiums.

Modern Kharkiv

Of the many attractions of the Kharkiv city are the: Derzhprom building, Memorial Complex, Freedom Square, Taras Shevchenko Monument, Mirror Stream, Dormition Cathedral, Historical Museum, Choral Synagogue, Annunciation Cathedral, T. Shevchenko Gardens, Zoo, Children's narrow-gauge railroad, World War I Tank Mk V and many more.


Kharkiv is Ukraine's second-largest city, and as in the whole country sports are taken seriously. The most popular sport is football. The city has several football clubs playing in the Ukrainian National competitions. The most successful is Metalist that also participated in international competitions on numerous occasions.

There is also a female football club Zhytlobud-1, which represented Ukraine in the European competitions and constantly is the main contender for the national title.

Metalist Stadium hosted three group matches at UEFA Euro 2012.

Kharkiv also has an Ice Hockey club, Kharkivski Akuly, which play in the Professional Hockey League.

RC Olimp' is the city's rugby union club. They are recently the strongest in Ukraine and provide many players for the national team.

Igor Rybak, an Olympic champion lightweight weightlifter, is from Kharkiv.[36]


Kharkiv is one of the main cultural centres in Ukraine. It is home of 20 museums, over 10 theaters and a number of picture galleries. Large music and cinema festivals are hosted in Kharkiv almost every year.


In the 1930s Kharkiv was referred to as a Literary Klondike. It was the centre for the work of literary luminaries such as: Les Kurbas, Mykola Kulish, Mykola Khvylovy, Mykola Zerov, Valerian Pidmohylny, Pavlo Filipovych, Marko Voronny, Oleksa Slisarenko. Over 100 of these writers were executed during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s. This tragic event in Ukrainian history is called the "Executed Renaissance" (Rozstrilene vidrodzhennia).

In the 1930s most of these literary figures were repressed. Today a literary museum located on Chervonoprapirna Street marks celebrates their work and achievements.

Kharkiv is the unofficial capital of Ukrainian Science fiction and Fantasy. It is the home to popular writers like H. L. Oldie, Alexander Zorich, Andrey Dashkov, Yuri Nikitin and Andrey Valentinov. Annual science fiction convention "Star Bridge" (Звёздный мост) is held in Kharkiv since 1999.


Kharkiv sponsors the prestigious Hnat Khotkevych International Music Competition of Performers of Ukrainian Folk Instruments which takes place every three years. Since 1997 four tri-annual competitions have taken place. The 2010 competition was cancelled by the Ukrainian Ministry of Culture two days before its opening.[37]

Twin towns – Sister cities

Kharkiv is currently twinned with:[38]

Nobel and Fields prize winners

Notable people


The city of Kharkiv is one of the largest transportation centres in Ukraine, which is connected to numerous cities of the world by air, rail and road traffic. The city has many transportation methods, including: public transport, taxis, railways, and air traffic. There are about 250 thousand cars in the city.[56]

Local transport

Being an important transportation centre of Ukraine, Kharkiv itself contains many different transportation methods. Kharkiv's Metro is the city's rapid transit system, operating since 1975, it includes three different lines with 29 stations in total.[57] The Kharkiv buses carry about 12 million passengers annually, trolleybuses, tramways (which celebrated 100 years of service in 2006), and marshrutkas (private minibuses).


The first railway connection of Kharkiv was opened in 1869. The first train to arrive in Kharkiv came from the north on 22 May 1869, and on 6 June 1869, traffic was opened on the Kursk–Kharkiv–Azov line. Kharkiv's passenger railway station was reconstructed and expanded in 1901, to be later destroyed in the Second World War. A new railway station was built in 1952.

Kharkiv is connected with all main cities in Ukraine and abroad by regular railway trains. Regional trains known as elektrichkas connect Kharkiv with nearby towns and villages.

Air travel

Kharkiv is served by an international airport which used to have about 200 flights a day, almost all of them being passenger flights. The Kharkiv International Airport was only recently granted international status. The airport itself is not large and is situated within the city boundaries, south from the city centre. Flights to Kiev and Moscow are scheduled daily. There are regular flights to Vienna and Istanbul, and several other destinations. Charter flights are also available. The former largest carrier of the Kharkiv Airport — Aeromost-Kharkiv — is not serving any regular destinations as of 2007. The Kharkiv North Airport is a factory airfield and was a major production facility for Antonov aircraft company.


Footnotes and references

External links

  • Citynet UA — Official website of Kharkiv City Information Centre (English)/(Ukrainian)
  • Misto Kharkiv — Official website of Kharkiv City Council (English)/(Ukrainian)
  • Your beloved Kharkiv — Kharkiv city portal (English)/(Russian)/(Ukrainian)
  • Kharkiv Za Jazz Fest — official web-site of International kharkiv jazz festival KHARKIV ZA JAZZ FEST.
  • Old Kharkiv Gallery — Photos and postcards
  • — 360 VR panoramas of Kharkiv`s square (dinosaur exhibition summer 2010)
  • Kharkiv churches, monuments and other sights
  • Kharkiv under Nazi Occupation
  • Kharkiv on Google Maps
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