The Eastern European nation of Ukraine is one of the most remarkable places on earth due to its unmatched ecological diversity and a cultural heritage that is a mix of traditions from both Europe and Asia. Ukraine shares its northern and northeastern borders with Russia, while on the west it is flanked by Belarus, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland. In the south it meets the great Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. Ukraine is the second largest country in Europe, bestowed with great geographic diversity from the sea to the magnificent Crimean mountain ranges in the south and the Carpathian mountains to the west. Ukraine also is the cradle to some of the major European rivers, with the delta of the Danube on the southwest and the great Dnieper river flowing into the Black Sea.
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The Ukrainian town of Kharkiv is one of the major economical and cultural hubs of the nation and also of Eastern Europe. Located in the northeast of the country, it is the largest city in the region of Slobozhanshchyna. In fact, Kharkiv was briefly the capital city of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, between 1919 and 1934. Today, Kharkiv stands as the cultural capital of Ukraine, with over 7 museums, 6 theatres and 80 libraries operating within the city limits. Its magnificent history and cultural heritage make it a place worth visiting in Eastern Europe.
The city of Kharkiv was built in 1654 by resettlers escaping the war that engulfed the right bank of Ukraine. But signs of human habitation dating as far back as the Bronze Age have been found here, as well as those of Scythian and Sarmatian settlers. In the 17th Century, a magnificent fortress was built around the Assumption Cathedral to protect the town from incoming attacks. The tallest towers of this fortress ranged above 50 feet in height and can still be observed flanking the old city.
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In 1708, Peter the Great of Russia issued reforms to include the area in the Kiev Governorate. The Kharkiv University was established here in 1805 and still stands as a premiere space for scholarship and education to this date. The early 20th Century saw the tumultuous Russian Revolution and the formation of the Soviet Union. Kharkiv was made the capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1919, and underwent massive transformation, including the great building of Derzhprom, which was the tallest building in the Soviet Union and the second tallest in Europe at the time, standing at an impressive height of 63 meters. In 1920, a wooden radio transmission tower, 150 meters high, was attached on top of the building. The city also witnessed some dark times during this era, like the numerous Stalinist purges and the massacre of 3900 Polish prisoners of the Starobelsk camp which were executed in the NKVD building in Kharkiv. During the Second World War, Kharkiv was a site for multiple military engagements between Germany and the Soviets, with four significant battles that took place to gain control over the city.
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Much of the city was rebuilt after the war. Photo by Maria
Much of the city was rebuilt after the war, and today it stands as a major industrial, educational and cultural hub for the nation. It is also famous for the large number of green parks with a history of more than 100 years with very old oak trees.
Kharkiv’s climate can be characterised as humid continental, with cold snowy winters and dry, humid winters. The city has pleasant, comfortable summers with the temperature rising between 20 to 25 degrees Celsius. Summers last from May to August. Winters on the other hand bring with them harsh cold winds with consistent sub-zero temperatures. Winters last from September to March. The city witnesses minor rainfall in June and July.
The best way to get to Kharkiv is by air. The Kharkiv International Airport (HRK) is located only 12.5 kilometers away from the city. Another way is to take a train or a bus from Kiev. The distance between Kharkiv and Kiev is 482 kilometers, and can be covered in less than 6 hours.
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Photo by Clara