Загальногеографічна карта України
«Загальногеографічна карта України»
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Ukraine, as an independent sovereign state, was proclaimed on August 24th, 1991, within the boundaries of the former Ukrainian SSR, which ceased to exist with the break-up of the Soviet Union. Ukraine has common borders with Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Belarus and the Russian Federation.
Most of Ukraine’s territory lies on the Eastern-European Plain in a lace-work of river valleys. In the west and south the plains are gracefully outlined by the Ukrainian Carpathians and the Crimean Mountain Ridge, which make up to 5 per cent of the country’s territory.
Among European countries Ukraine is singled out by as many as 400 rivers, most of which flow into the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The main and the largest waterway of the country is the Dnipro River, which divides the country into the Right-bank and the Left-bank Ukraine.
A lucky combination of soils, including chernozem, damp forest, turf-podzolic, and meadow-marsh, accounts for the fertility of Ukraine’s arable lands, as well as the diversity of natural vegetation.
The earliest settlements in Ukraine’s territory date back to the Upper Paleolithic Era (ca 500,000— 300,000 years ago), to which there is ample archeological evidence in Zakarpattia, Naddnistrianschyna and the Crimea. The remains of the Lower Paleolithic settlements (35,000—10,000 years ago) can be found throughout the country. The Neolithic Age saw the arrival the Cucuteni-Trypillian Culture, which thrived in the Pre-Dnipro area in 5,000—3,000 BC.
A breakthrough in the development of the region should be attributed to the early Greek colonies in the Prychornomorya and Crimea in the 5lh—7th c.c. BC. The early 1st millennium AD. saw the arrival of the Slavs, who by the 7th c. AD had formed such tribal units as the Polianians, Derevlianians, Syveryns, Yblynians, and others. Towards the end of the 9lh c. AD these principalities were united under Kyivan Rus, a mighty European power of the time, which stretched from the Baltic to the Black seas. Its capital, Kyiv, often referred to as the ‘the Mother of all Russian towns’, became the first Eastern-European city to adopt Orthodox Christianity as the state religion in 988.
Eventually, Kyi van Rus split up into several principalities, which were later absorbed by the Golden Horde in the 1239—41. The most powerful of them, Halych-Yblyn, did not cease to exist until the 14lh c., when it was partitioned between Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The 1569 Lublin Unia brought these lands back together under the mighty Rzecz-pospolita. From the 16th c. and for many decades ahead the native Ukrainians found themselves divided by the three great powers of the time. By religion, these three belonged to either irreconcilable branches of the Christianity (Orthodox Muscovy in the east and Catholic Poland in the west), or the Islam with the Ottomans in the south.
The lands squeezed in between two great powers at a time, commonly referred to as Ukraine (borderland), were sometimes reduced to a narrow strip beyond the Dnipro Porohy (rapids). It was here that free Cossacks gave birth to what became known as the Cossatstvo (Cossackdom or Brotherhood of Cossacks), commonly regarded as ‘the cradle’ of the Ukrainian nation.
The Cossacks raised countless uprisings against Rzeczpospolita, one of which, led by Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky, grew into the Liberation War of 1648— 54. The war ended in the questionable Treaty of Pereyaslav with Muscovy. The freedom-loving Zaporozka Sich retained its independence until 1775, when it was disbanded by the Russian Crown.
During the 1917—20 Civil War Ukraine witnessed an array of short-lived independent states: the Ukrainian People’s Republic, the People’s Republic of West Ukraine, Hetmanate, the Derzhava (State) of Ukraine, and others. The longest-living of all happened to be the Ukrainian SSR (1922—91).
Today’s administrative and territorial division of Ukraine was completed by the 1950s, after the Western Ukraine entered the Ukrainian SSR in 1939—45, with the Southern Bessarabiya following suit in 1945. The Crimean peninsula was transferred to the Ukraine in 1954.
The major role in cultural development in Ukraine has always been played by the church. Old churches, cathedrals and temples, along with those newly built or restored, continue to delight the eye with their undying beauty.
The natural assets of Ukraine are varied and meet with an ever-growing conservation awareness, which results in opening new nature reserves, wild life sanctuaries, national parks, botanical gardens, and landscape parks.
The Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, occupies a vast expanse of land, over 800 sq. km along the banks of the river Dnipro, and may well claim to rank among Europe’s ten most beautiful cities. The moderately continental climate with a mild winter and warm summer adds to the city’s attractions for the visitor. If you happen to be here when the chestnut trees spring to blossom in May, it truly is a memorable experience.
Kyiv is located on the Dnipro mid-water plains. The right-bank city lies where the Polissia lowlands border on the Kyivan plateau, shaped by meandering rivers, gorges and ravines. With the passage of time the elements carved the terrain into seven discemable hills.
Legend has it that three brothers Kyy, Schek, and Khoriv and their sister Lybid (Swan) settled in the area in the late 5th c. The younger brothers set up their homes on high hills that were later named after them, Schekovytsia and Khoreva. The eldest brother, who gave his name to the settlement, established himself on Mt Starokyivska, which dominated the locality. The sister’s name was immortalized in the small river that bears her name. The four siblings were also commemorated in the stone monument dedicated to the city’s 1500th anniversary (1982).
The oldest written record of Kyiv in the Hypatian Chronicles dates back to 862, when the city was governed by Ascold and Dir; however, the princes had been slain by Prince Oleh of Novgorod, whose troops captured the city. 20 years later, Oleh absorbed the land into his kingdom and it is during his reign (882—912) that a principality known as the Kyivan Rus began.
The Principality owed much for its rise to the cunning diplomacy and ruthless rule of Oleh’s descendants, Ihor (r. 912—945), Olha (r. 945—957) and Sviatoslav (r. 957—972). The feudal dynasty of Kyiv sealed a number of beneficial treaties with the Byzantine Empire and went on to conquer vast territories in Central Europe. A special place should be reserved for Princess Olha, who after the violent death of her husband, Prince Ihor, led Kyivan Rus single-handedly. Canonized as a Saint by the Orthodox Church, Princess Olha was immortalized in a granite monument (1911) replicated in marble in 1996.
Prince Volodymyr Sviatoslavych’s eventful and dramatic rule (980—1015) represented the heyday of Kyivan Rus.The most crucial event of this period was the adoption, in 988, of Orthodox Christianity as the Kyivan Rus state religion. The conversion to Christianity of Kyivan Rus was glorified by Prince Volodymyr’s column, the first statue ever built in the city in 1853. The monument still stands on the steep slopes of Mt Starokyiv.
The longest uninterrupted build-up that the city witnessed in Middle Ages coincided with the principality of Yaroslav Mudry (the Wise), (r. 1019—54),
who extended the city boundaries farther than ever before. It was during his reign that the socalled ‘pearls’ of Medieval Ukrainian Architecture and the Orthodox Church’s Sacred Places, St. Sophia Cathedral and Kyiv-Pechery Lavra were built. Both now enjoy the status of being UNESCO world heritage sites.
St. Sophia Cathedral, head metropolitan temple of Kyivan Rus, was built between 1017 and 1037. The interior of the cathedral still boasts preserved ancient mosaics, which include the famous «Oranta» (the Virgin Orans) and other unique frescoes. The Cathedral is believed to have retained its original look for 5 centuries, until the 16th c., when it was temporarily occupied by the Uniats. Later, in the 1640s, the Kyivan Metropolitan (head of church) Petro Mohyla set up a cloister on the cathedral’s lands. Between 1685 and 1707 the Cathedral was renovated in the Ukrainian Baroque style, and later more buildings were added to it, including the Metropolitan Residence, the Refectory Church, the Consistory and the 76-m four-tier belfry (1748), probably the most recognizable edifice in the Old City.
As renowned is another Orthodox holy site, Kyiv- Pechery-Lavra, whose beginnings date back to 1051.
Conveniently located near the Prince’s Summer Residence on the Dnipro, the Lavra played a role as a bulwark and vehicle of Christianity in lllh c. Kyivan Rus. Famous for its caves and holy relics, the Lavra is still the most revered holy place for Orthodox believers and a must for all history-minded tourists. Hie former cloister was granted the status of ‘Lavra’ (head monastery) in the 12th c., and by 18th c. it had become the largest religious site in Malorossiya. Out of dozens of original monastery edifices, the only surviving are: The Trinity Cate Church (1180) and the Church of the Saviour at Berestov (1125), which stands beyond the Lavra walls.
A tragic destiny befell the Lavra’s main temple, the Assumption Cathedral (1078), which first underwent considerable reconstruction in 1720 and was reduced to ashes in 1941 during World War 11. After Ukrainian independence it was rebuilt in 1990 to the design of 1720. Nowadays there is only a fragment of the former wall cordoned off to remind the visitor of what it looked like after WW II.
The only remaining peace of Miroslav’s fortifications is Zoloty Vorota (the Golden Gate) (1037) which is believed to have served as the main gateway into the city. The Gate gave access to the upper town and was linked to the earth ramparts that stretched along the city walls as the first line of defense. It was through the Golden Gate that the triumphant troops of Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky entered Kyiv after defeating the Poles in 1648 and the Kyivans welcomed the Russian embassy of the then tsar Aleksey Mikhailovich after the 1654 Unification Treaty of Pereyaslav. Up to Kyiv’s 1500th anniversary in 1982, the remains of the Golden Gate were enclosed inside a 30-m-tall replica of the original gate crowned with the Annunciation Church.
Upon Yaroslav’s death, his descendants entered into a feud over the principality lasting over a century, which finally culminated in the city to be ruined in 1240 by a Mongol-Tartar raid led by Batu Khan, the event that ushered in a long decline in Kyiv’s history.
The 17th and 18th c.c. were marked as a relatively slow period in the city’s development. This, however, did not prevent the appearance of what are now regarded as architectural masterpieces. Among them is the Vydubytsky Monastery, founded by Prince Vsevolod Yaroslavych in the 11th c. The site owes its present-day look to magnificent St. George’s Cathedral, as well as the Saviour of Transfiguration Church and the Refectory (1701), to which a Bell Tower was added later (1733). The construction of St. Andrew’s Church on the site formerly occupied by the Andriy Sentinel Tower was initiated by the Russian Empress Elisabeth I in 1753. For her residence in Kyiv she commis sioned the inconspicuous yet elegant Mariyinskyy Palace (1755), still in use by the leadership of the independent Ukraine. At that time the city was divided in 4 randomly-built parts, namely: Pechersk, High Town, Podil and Ploska Sloboda.
After 1812, however, when a ravaging fire gutted the densely-built Podil, the reconstruction that commenced was carried out in compliance with a rigid grid street scheme. The role of Podil as a trade and crafts heart of the city was retained and new amenities were added, including the arcaded Kontraktovyy House, 1817, and Hostynnyy Dvir (1828).
The newly-opened Kyiv University (1834), today’s Shevchenko University, was constructed in the classical style (1842). The unusual colours of the country’s key educational institution, i.e. red walls and black bases and capitols of the building’s columns, correspond to the stripes of the St. Volodymyr Order whose name the University originally bore.
By WW I, Kyiv had already crossed the line of half-million permanent residents, while the administrative centre began to transfer to Khreshchatyk, where the City Hall was built in 1876.
The rapid construction of that time also included rich families’ mansions that mushroomed up all over the city. An example was the Kyiv residence of the major sugar manufacturer and art patron Tereschenko, built in 1884, which now houses the Museum of Russian Art and the whimsical Horodetsky ‘House of Chimeras’, featuring motifs of the animal kingdom, now the presidential Reception Hall.
The late 19lh century also gave rise to an extensive cultural build-up with such architectural accomplishments as St. Volodymyr Cathedral, 1882, and the 1909 St. Mykola Chapel Church, which give the city its exquisitively noble look.
Among the many public amenities that appeared at that time were the impressive 1901 National Opera House, and the Bessarabsky Market, which despite its old age still delights the eye with stalls of fresh fruit. Among the monuments erected at that time is the Bohdan Khmelnytsky statue of 1888, which is one of the city’s most recognizable symbols.
In order to clear a site for government premises in a prime location on Old Kyiv Hill in the mid-1930s, the then city authorities pulled down the historic Mykhaylivsky Zolotoverkhyy (Gold-dome) Monastery, built in the llth century by Prince Sviatopolk Iziaslavovych. Luckily, the sky-blue Mykhaylivskyy Zolotoverkhyy Monastery, with its traditional Ukrainian adornments, was reconstructed in 2000.
In WWII Kyiv was subjected to a long Nazi occupation and suffered unimaginable losses. Nearly 200,000 citizens were shot dead by the Nazis in the Baby Yar ravine; 100,000 more were sent to Germany as slave labour and coundess soldiers and citizens laid down their lives in the defence and liberation of the Ukrainian capital. The tragic events of WW II are reflected in a number of reminders, of which the 62-m Defence of the Motherland monument, built in 1981 and located at the Great Patriotic War History Museum, is most revered.
It took decades to rebuild the city, which lay in ruins. The modern looks of Khreshchatyk, the city’s main street, which was almost flattened during the war, can now be regarded as a tribute to the joined effort of the post-war architects and construction workers. Today’s Kyiv ranks among the most beautiful and memorable of Europe’s capitals and can rightly boast of numerous historical and cultural sights.