Kharkiv is the historic capital of Ukraine, there is archaeological proofs of the existence of human settlements in the area of the present-day Kharkiv since the 2nd millennium BC. The Chernyakhov Culture flourished in the area from the 2nd to the 6th century.
Kharkiv was founded about 1655 by the Ukrainian Cossack Ivan Karkach, as a military fortress to protect the Russia’s borders from attacks by nomads such as the Crimean Tatars and the Nogay Tatars; the city was settled where the Kharkiv River flows into the Lopan River. Kharkiv became a vital frontier headquarters of the Ukrainian Cossacks; in 1655 the population of Kharkiv was about 2,000, including about 600 Cossacks. In 1732 its male population was 3,700, 2,500 of whom were Cossacks.
Russia’s annexation of The Crimea in 1783 and colonization of the steppes stimulated Kharkiv’s economic growth; the city began to lose its Ukrainian traditions and become more influenced by Russian culture.
In the late 19th century, the city became a railway hub
The city became an important educational centre with the foundation of the Kharkiv College in 1734; and of the Kharkiv University in 1805. The 1810s were a important period for the Ukrainian culture, many of the first Ukrainian linguistic, ethnographic, historical, and literally works were published in these times.
After the Russian Revolution of 1917, Kharkiv was the first capital of Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic from 1920 to 1934 when was superseded by Kyiv, during this time the city experienced exceptional development in fields of literature, theatre, and research. Because of the impact of the Russification (inhibition of Ukrainian cultural expressions) only 25 percent of the residents in Kharkiv used Ukrainian idiom as their main language.
In the early 1930s, the Ukrainian Holodomor (Famine) drove many Ukrainian people from their lands into the big cities, particularly to Kharkiv, in search of food, many of them died in the course.
During World War II, Kharkiv was the location of 4 major battles leaving 70% of the city in ruins and thousands of inhabitants murdered. During April and May 1940, about 3,800 Polish prisoners were killed in the Kharkiv NKVD prison (part of the Katyn massacre). Between December 1941 and January 1942, approximately 30,000 people (mostly Jewish) were massacred by the Nazis.
By the time the Nazis abandoned Kharkiv they had killed more than 100,000 of its inhabitants. The Red Army recaptured Kharkiv on 16 February 1943 then the city was rebuilt as a city of broad streets, large apartment blocks, administrative and office buildings.
Before the Nazi occupation, Kharkiv's tank industries were evacuated to the Urals, these enterprises were returned after the conflict, and still continue to manufacture some of the world's best tanks.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kharkiv became part of the independent Ukraine, Kharkiv’s Dzerzhinsky Square was renamed Liberty Square, and in 1996, Soviet Ukraine Square was renamed Constitution Square.
Today, Kharkiv is a centre of industry, trade, science, and culture.