This article was rejected by Top Tenz in 2015. But today I was reading usatoday.com and they said today was the 75th Anniversary of Babi Yar. "Why does that sound so familiar?" I thought to myself. "Oh yeah, because I wrote about it.
There was an article not that long ago that stated that if a man lived to be a 100 years old and spent his entire life in Kyiv, Ukraine from the cradle to the grave and had never moved he would have lived under a half dozen national regimes. That didn’t seem like that could be right. Well believe it or not, you can believe some things you read on the internet. Turmoil in Eastern Europe is about as common as unrest in the Middle East. Surprisingly, despite this history of violence, Kyiv is currently the 8th largest city in Europe. As tensions continue to fester along practically every Russian border with Europe, even the name Kyiv is in question (Kyiv for the Ukrainians, Kiev for the Russians,). With that in mind, we try to straddle the fine line between history and propaganda as we bring you the Top 10 Entities to Control Kyiv.
Well, not really the Mongolian Army, more like the Mongolian hoards. Legend has it that the Mongol leader, Batu Khan, had fancied the splendor of Kiev, so the Mongols sent their envoys to Kiev with terms of the city’s peaceful surrender in the year 1239. Speculation here is that as one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe, and as one of the primary trading outposts for the region, the city’s leaders didn’t realize the gravity of the threat they were facing and killed the Mongol envoys.
In response, the Mongols stormed Kiev in 1240 and burned it to the ground, killing an estimated 90% of the city’s 50,000-100,000 inhabitants. (Depending on your sourcing.) This was no small feat, seeing that Kiev at the time was one of the Top 10 largest cities in Europe and had been one of the cultural centers for the land of Rusˈ. Kiev had existed for a minimum of 500 years prior to the Siege of Kiev (1240).
Because the population had been decimated, it took a few generations and an influx of new inhabitants to repopulate the city. There was about a 100 years of relative peace as Kiev was under control of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
In the year 1482, the Crimean Tatars sacked and again burned almost all of Kiev to the ground. As wars and rumors of wars crippled the region, it took until 1569 for the region to stabilize. Control of Kiev was transferred from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland. With that transfer Kiev became the capital Kiev Voivodeship, an administrative unit inside of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth which spread from the Baltic to the Black Sea, covering nearly a half a million square miles.
From 1569 to (it depends?) Kiev was controlled by the King of Poland. Now despite the semi-autonomy that the region received from Poland, Russian troops had been in Kiev since 1654 as specified by the Treaty of Pereyaslav. Again the specific nature of this treaty remains a bone of contention in both Russia and Ukraine today, as some sources cite this treaty as the reason Russia has the right to control Kyiv in modern times, while others argue the treaty was simply a military alliance between the Tsar and the Cossacks. For 30 years after the Treaty, “the Ruin” was a war between Poland, Ukraine, and Russia. Not as simple as a war between countries, but between Catholics and non-Catholics and Cossacks and anarchists and nobles and anyone else with an agenda.
Want more specifics? Basically Right-Bank Ukraine vs. the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth vs the Ottoman Empire vs Left-Bank Ukraine vs the Tsardom of Russia. (Ha, that didn’t help you at all, did it?)
7. Cossack Hetmanate (Ukrainian)
Now depending on if you’re looking at a Russian Map or a Ukrainian Map, Ukraine gained autonomy somewhere around 1650 and held its identity until the late 1700’s. But which Ukraine?
Borders shifted almost constantly and in the mid 1650’s, Left Bank Ukraine and Right Bank Ukraine were split by the Dnieper River, which also splits Kiev. Further complicating matters was the Northern War which kicked off in 1700. Parts of Kiev in different countries, ruled by different rulers, with alliances to different administrative states. Because this isn’t a Russian History Class, we will fast forward to the beginning of the 19th Century.
By the year 1800, Kiev was clearly under Russian control. As one of the most important cities of the Russian Empire, and the capital of the Kiev Governorate administrative district, its population had again spiked to over 300,000 inhabitants in 1900, and then almost doubled by 1917. As Russians flooded into the city, Kiev regained its stature as a hub of commerce and commercialism. Going into 1917 everything was going Kiev’s way as one of the primary cogs in the Russian Industrial Revolution mechanism, but soon multiple factions would basically plunge the city into anarchy.
5. Everyone and No One (?)
After the January Uprising in 1918, the Bolsheviks took Kiev by storm as the Communists quickly moved to solidify their power. Problem is, World War I happened and the Germans overran Kiev shortly after the start of the war and basically spent the summer there. From the January Uprising of 1918 through the Russian Civil War, and then the Polish-Soviet War, Kiev changed hands a dozen times. Loosely defined as the Ukrainian Republic of Kiev, who was in charge for a 3 year period differed almost by the month.
At the heart of the confusion was the Ukrainian People’s Republic. In 1917 Ukraine declared independence. It wasn’t really recognized as its own state by any of its neighbors. As different troops trampled through the city, the Ukrainian State ceased to exist (again, different sourcing has different dates) then it did exist. When the 1920 Kiev Offensive occurred, the Polish army was greeted by some as liberators, yet as aggressors by others. The citizens of Kiev were found in both armies, as the Polish had a loose alliance with the Ukrainian independence movement, while others allied themselves with the newly formed Bolshevik movement. By the time 1922 rolled around, it was very apparent who was in charge…
4. Soviet Ukraine
In the early 1920’s, the first republic of the Soviet Union was the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Out of the ashes of chaos, right up until World War II, the process of Ukrainization both stabilized and created tension all at the same time as Stalin tried to push “Stalinization” ideals into the Ukrainian capital during the 1930’s.
In 1934, Kiev became the capital of Soviet Ukraine and the city returned to the economic engine status that had fueled Russia before World War I. By 1940, the citizens of Kiev had survived the Russian famine of the early 1930’s and the Great Purge by which Joseph Stalin had executed between a half a million to a million of his own citizens throughout the newly formed Soviet Union. From 1937 to 1941, by day, the people of Kiev worked, by night, around 100,000 Kievites were arrested, shot, and buried in mass graves on the outskirts of the city in Bykivnia.
World War II was yet another war which took a particularly harsh turn for the citizens of Kiev. Overrun by the Germans, again, the Battle of Kiev claimed half a million Soviet lives as the city was occupied, again, from the fall of 1941 to the fall of 1943. At their greatest eastern push, the Nazis had penetrated Russia almost to Moscow to the north and almost to the Caspian Sea to the south.
On September 29, 1941 30,000 Kiev Jews were massacred over two days at the Babi Yar site, but as the Nazis made a hasty retreat in 1944, it should be noted that not all suffered at the hands of the Germans, as “(the Nazis) were retreating from Ukraine, most of the bureaucrats considered it necessary to burn all documents so they would not expose their misdeeds” during the occupation.
2. Soviets (Part II)
The Soviet Union clamped down hard on Kiev after the massacres by Stalin and the slaughters of World War II, but remained the capital of the Ukrainian SSR. As the 20th century rolled along, yet another influx of population occurred, returning Kiev to one of the leaders in Europe by population, with a groundswell of over 2 million inhabitants between the War and the Chernobyl Accident. Basically growth tempered by fear.
On April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident occurred about a 2 hour car drive to the north of Kiev. This event, as much as any other, spurned the renewed Ukrainian independence movement. “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.” By the time Soviet Union began to crumble, Kiev was the 3rd largest city in the country.
1. Ukrainian (Yet again)
As the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Ukraine quickly re-declared independence in 1991 and named Kyiv its capital. Like a young calf first learning to walk, Ukraine had to find its footing in the new millennium. At the turn of the century, Kyiv was ground zero for the Orange Revolution, stemming from the muck and mire surrounding the 2004 Ukrainian Presidential Elections.
As the new version of Ukraine struggles to find its place in the new world, the shadow of Russia continues to loom large. Growth continues in Kyiv with a metropolitan area of over 3 million residents. Despite being a member of the United Nations, Russia re-annexed the Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and Ukraine prepares to fight for its sovereignty.
For those curious if Kyiv is up for another fight, it should be noted that in 2014 the citizens of the city voted Vitali Klitschko its Mayor. For those unfamiliar with Klitschko, he was 45-2-0 as a professional boxer with 41 knockouts. Currently, it is unclear whether Russia’s intentions are to swallow only Crimea, only the Eastern part of Ukraine, or if Moscow has its eyes on Kyiv.