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Kiev - The Capital of Ukraine
Kyiv - the Capital of Ukraine
Kyiv - the Capital of Ukraine

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The Capital of Ukraine

Kiev (also known as Kyiv), a scenic city of close to 3 million people situated on the Dnipro River, is the bustling capital of Ukraine. Ancient Kievan Rus, which reached its greatest period of ascendancy during the 11th and 12th centuries, was a center of trade routes between the Baltic and the Mediterranean. The city of Kiev and the power of Kievan Rus were destroyed in 1240 by Mongol invaders and the lands of Kievan Rus were divided into principalities located to the West and North: Galicia, Volynia, Muscovy and later, Poland, Lithuania, and Russia. Once a powerful force on the European scene, Ukraine's fate in modern times has been decided in far-off capitals. As a result, modern Ukrainian history, for the most part, has been defined by foreign occupation.

Kiev suffered severely during World War II, and many irreplaceable architectural and art treasures were destroyed. In earlier 1930's the Soviet authorities systematically destroyed many churches. Extensive restoration has revived much of historic Kiev. The city hit the headlines in April 1986, when the nuclear reactor at nearby Chernobyl exploded, but scientists generally agree that the city is now safe from radiation effects.

Despite repressions, suffering, political turmoil, and ecological disasters, Ukraine's spirit and national identity have never died. On August 24, 1991, after the aborted coup in Moscow, Ukraine proclaimed its independence.

The art and architecture of Kiev are world treasures. The Cathedral of St. Sophia, where the princes of Kyiv were crowned in the years of Kiev's grandeur, has outstanding mosaics and frescoes dating back to the 11th century. Overlooking the old section of Kyiv, Podol, stands the Ukrainian Baroque church of St. Andrew, much beloved by Ukrainians. The Percherska Lavra, the Monastery of the Caves, has two 11th-century cathedrals on its grounds, in addition to its world-famous catacombs, bell tower, and museum collections. Close to the center of town stands the Golden Gate, a structure which dates back to 1037. This recently reconstructed remains of the former fortified wall of the city defined the limits of the city in centuries past. Several blocks away, stands the magnificent 19th-century Cathedral of St. Volodymyr.

Theater buffs will find much to choose from here. Most performances are in Ukrainian or Russian. The recently renovated Kiev Opera House presents very good opera as well as a broad repertoire of ballets. The Kiev Young Theater is very popular and stages innovative plays in Ukrainian or Russian. The Ivan Franko Theater is the center of Ukrainian drama, comedy, and musicals.

Ukrainian pottery, embroidery, and handicrafts are available throughout the city, particularly in shops on Andrievsky Uzviz, at Percherska Lavra, and St. Sophia's church. Quality and quantity vary from shop to shop. A great number of stores stock Western food, alcohol, clothing, and electrical appliances.