History of Kharkiv
From Cossak settlement to a large industrial, cultural and scientific center

The city of Kharkov is a center of historical and geographical area of Ukraine which has a settled name “Slobozjanshchina”.
The area of modern Kharkov 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 +6,90, the coldest month in a year is January (-6,10), the warmest month is July (+20,50).
People had started to settle at the territory of modern Kharkov in ancient times. Archaeological excavations testify that different peoples lived there: Scythian and Sarmatian, Chernyakhovsky tribes, cumin people. It is also known that in the second half of the Ist th. B.C. the territory was settled by the eastern Slavic tribe of the Severians. In the VIII century the Slavs founded their settlement on the place of future Kharkiv, which was known as Donets town in the X century. Donets was not only a fortress, but a center of crafts (blacksmith’s, jewel, ceramic etc.), an important center of transit trade. The first mention about Donets in the chronicles belongs to 1185. The episode of “The Lay of Igor’s Warfare” which is the most important writing of Kievan Rus is also connected to this town. A hero of the poem Novgorod-Seversky knyaz Igor Svyatoslavovych stayed there after his capture. Donets town was destroyed by khan Baty in the middle of the XIII century.
There are several versions of the appearance of the name of the city as “Kharkov”. Some of historians think that Kharkov 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 Kharkov. 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.
The first Kharkov fortress was built according to “Cherkassky (which means Ukrainian) way”. In 1656 the Moscow tsar Aleksey Mikchaylovich issued a decree about creating a separate Kharkov voivodeship. The fortress, which appeared on the place where two rivers the Lopan and the Kharkov merged together, had 10 towers and the length more than a kilometer. The oldest document where Kharkov was mentioned is the tsar decree about constructing of Kharkov fortifications to a Chuguyev vaivode Sukhotin. The decree was issued on the 28th of March 1656. According to the letter of the first Kharkov vaivode Selifontov of 1657 and name register of 1658 Kharkov was rather a big settlement. There were 578 men in the register and it is possible to suppose that there were no less than 200 houses in the town.
Kharkov became the center of Kharkov Kazak regiment. The Ukrainian settlers brought a typical for them Kazak war and administrative order. The craft people started to settled around the fortress from the very first years of its existence. The first slobodas (suburbs) such as Goncharovka, Zjuravlevka etc. appeared. This fact testified that Kharkov turned from an important border outpost to a center of crafts and trade.
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 Kharkov. 
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 Kharkov fortress. The abbey sanctuary is the oldest in Kharkov.
Kharkov 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 Kharkov became an educational center.
The Kharkov 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 Kharkov 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. Since the second part of the XIX century, because of serfage liquidation and the fast development of of Donetsk and Kryvoy Rog region, the city becomes the largest economical center of Russian Empire. In the middle of the century there were more than thirty thousand inhabitants in Kharkov. The development of railway transport became a factor which influenced the city development directly. In 1869 a railway trunk was opened, which connected the city with Moscow and than with Donbass, Kiev, ports of Black and Azov seas. A car-maintenance business was developing, in 1897 Kharkov railway engine building plant issued the its first production. Enterprises started to make the products of various kinds – from agricultural machines to engines. Therefore Kharkov became a supplier of agricultural mechanics to the empire market. The plant of Gelferih-Sade built in 1882 made the largest amount of production of this kind.
In 1828 they started to pave the city. In 1871 gas lighting appeared in the streets of Kharkov, in 1881 the first line of city plumbery was put into exploitation. In 1882 the first line of city horse railway was built, this railway existed till 1981. In the end of the XIX century the first power plant was built in the city and this enabled the development of city transport electrification. In 1905 the first electric tram appeared in the streets of the city. In 1988 Kharkov became the second electrified city of Ukraine.
In the second part of the XVIII century the Russian government tried to unify the system of education. In 1788-89 the main and the minor public schools appeared in Ukraine. In 1789 The Main Public School was opened in Kharkov and in 1805 it became the foundation of the new-created male grammar school.
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 Kharkov 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 Kharkov in 1886. It was the City Art and Industrial Museum.
The opening of one of the oldest in the country and the first in Ukraine Kharkov 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. For the first time in the Russian Empire the grade of Doctor of History was given to a woman Yefimenko A.Y. in 1910. In 1873 the Veterinary Institute was opened in Kharkov. The Institute of agriculture and forestry was evacuated to Kharkov from Novaya Aleksahdria.  
Therefore by the beginning of the XX century Kharkov had become an industrial, scientific and cultural center with a huge potential. The new age put unexpected corrections into development of the city. A lot of important events in Ukrainian history are connected to Kharkov. On the 29th of January (according to the old dating) of 1900 the first political party in the Dnieper Ukraine was created there. It was the Revolutionary Ukrainian Party (RUP). On the 12th of December of 1917 the Soviet power was declared. The boisterous flowing of economical processes conditioned the sharpening of social contradictions . In the 70-es – 80-es of the XIX century Kharkov became a center of populist movement. Spontaneous actions of workers occurred
During the Civil War Kharkov 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. On the 26th of January of 1919 the city was divided into three districts – Ivanovo-Lysogorskiy, Petino-Zjuravlevskiy and Oshovyansko-Kholodnogorskiy. The executive committees concentrated the management of all the sides of social life in their hands. The names and the number of districts were changed often. There were eight of them by 1938 and they corresponded to the modern division mainly. 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 1924 the first radio station in Ukraine began its work. The new settlements of workers appeared. They were: the one named by Artem, the one named by Kirov, the settlement of tractor builders, the Red October. The district heating supply of the city was started. In 1939 the first trolley-bus line appeared. In the 20-30-es a wide net of seven years schools appeared, the struggle with ignorance was started. A period of activity of an outstanding pedagogue A.S.Makarenko is connected to Kharkov. New forms of out-class work came into life, and in 1935 the first Palace of Pioneers in Ukraine was opened in Kharkov. Considerable changes were made in the higher education system. Since 1921 there appeared the Medical Institute, the Institute of Public Maintenance, and the Law Institute in 1937 appeared after reorganization of the university. In 1930-31 there were organized 23 new higher educational institutions.
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 Kharkov Rossie” Beketov, architects Veryovkin, Zjukov etc. In 1925 Gosprom was built in constructivism style.
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 Kharkov 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 Kharkov 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 Kharkov 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 Kharkov: 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 Kharkov. 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 Kharkov is considered to be a leading industrial center of Ukraine.
In the middle of the 50-es Kharkov television started its work. In 1962 the population of the city approached 1 million mark and Kharkov became the second after Kiev city with a million population 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 Kharkov metropolitan was opened and there are three of them working now.
Though the 70-es – the first half of the 80-es are considered as a period of stagnation in the history of the country, the city succeeded in many ways in science, culture and maintenance development.
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.
In 40-50-es there were created the Ukrainian SRI of selection and genetics, SRI of organization and mechanization of mine building. In 60-70-es there were opened the Institute of Public Food Industry, Institute of Cryobiology and Cryomedicine problems, North East Center of Academy of Science of Ukraine etc. And now the city is proud of its scientists. They are academicians L.T.Malaya, A.V.Pogorelov and others. The biographies of more than 100 academicians and corresponding members of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine are connected to the Kharkov State (now National) university. Technical and military higher educational institutes made their contribution into development of techniques and science.
People living in Kharkov have a possibility to visit numerous theatres, the circus (in 1974 it received a new building for 2300 visitors), the planetarium (opened in 1957) There are numerous festivals and conquests held in the city. In 1992 According to the conclusion of UNESCO the 70th anniversary of “Berezil” theatre and in 1993 there was held an international festival “Berezil-93”.
During the last years there were held the festivals “Ukrainian toloka”, festicals devoted to the memory of K.I.Shulzjenko, to the memory of the pianist V.Kraynev and others.
The history of the city of Kharkov 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.
 
 
Sergey Kudelko
PhD, professor,
Headmaster of the Regional Ethnography Center
of V.N.Karazin’s Kharkov National University
 
Print