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Kharkov History, Ukraine

Kharkov, also known as Kharkiv, is the country’s second largest city after the capital city of Kiev. Located in the north-eastern part of the country, it is one of Ukraine’s important industrial, cultural and educational centers.

 Early Civilization

The city has a long history dating back to the time 2000 years ago. Archeological excavations reveal artifacts dating as far back as the Bronze Age and a thriving population inhabited the city area in the second millennium B.C.

 Founding the City

The city itself was founded in the 17th century, and has also served as the capital city of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic between 1917-1934.This lasted only in the initial years of the Soviet Union.

The city of Kharkov saw a mass migration of people from rural areas of Ukraine at the onset of the well-known Ukrainian famine of the 1930s. Their search for food pushed them into Kharkov but many died and were quietly buried in the city’s cemeteries.

A decade later, in April-May 1940, as many as 3800 Polish prisoners belonging to the Starobelsk camp were murdered in Kharkov.

The city became a site for a number of military activities during World War II. First, it was captured by the Nazis of Germany and their allies, then it came under the Red Army, only to be recaptured by the Nazis. Kharkov was finally freed on 23rd August, 1943, but the whole period saw 70 percent of the city in ruins, and tens of thousands of its occupants lost their lives. It is believed that between the two months of December 1941 and January 1942, about 30,000 people were killed by the Nazis, most of them being Jews. They were buried in a large mass grave called Drobitsky Yar.

 Impact of World War II

The Second World War saw 4 major military events in the history of Kharkov. The first battle for Kharkov took place between 20th -24th October, 1941. The city had to somehow protect its tank factories, which were quickly dismantled to be moved further eastwards. The Second Battle followed seven months later between 12th  and 28th May 1942 as the Soviet forces tried to expand their strategic initiative. However, they were badly defeated by the Germans. The Third Battle of Kharkov took place between 19 February 1943 and 15 March 1943, and led to Soviet victory and recapture of Kharkov. However, this was purely temporary as the Germans succeeded in recapturing it on 15th March. The city finally got liberated in August 1943.

 The Present

Today Kharkov looks like any other modern city with remnants of the past, an industrial network that provides employment to its citizens, a sound educational system and a cultural center. The first university is supposed to have come up in 1805. It has an underground rapid transit system easing the traffic and facilitating movement of the people.

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