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Kyiv – the mother of Russian cities

In the first third of the IX century, the city was paying tribute to the Khazars Kaganate, but soon was freed by Varangian Squad, headed by Princes Askold and Dir. Since then, Kyiv became a place where gathered all merchant fleets of Rus and assembled troops on their way to Byzantium. The first attack of Prince Askold on Constantinople in 860 did not have great international publicity. Almost in 882 Kyiv was treacherously seized by Novgorod Prince Oleg. He united the northern and southern Rus in one state for the first time and proclaimed Kyiv it’s capital – "mother of Russian cities". At that time, city consisted of two separate parts – the Hora with the residences of prince and boyars and Podil, that was commercial and manufacturing center of the city. Kyiv outskirts of villages, countryside residences of the officials, agricultural lands of townspeople complemented the urban structure. From the beginning the population of Kyiv varied as in the ethnic composition, as in religion. By the end of X century, most of the Kyiv population worshiped Perun and Veles, Slavic gods. But in the IX there already existed a Christian community, since X century – Jewish, later – Armenian, German, etc. Baptism of Rus by Prince Volodymyr in 988 has gained importance of epochal public and political act. Kyiv became the capital of one of the largest Christian countries of Europe, the center of Russian Metropolia. Building of Desyatynna Church of stone (990-996 years) initiated the development of Old Russian monumental art.

 

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Ancient Kyiv reached the greatest blossom during the reign of Yaroslav the Wise (Mudryi) (1019-1054) and his sons.

 

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Monument to Yaroslav the Mudryi (Wise) in Kyiv

 

Yaroslav constructed a vast system of fortifications of the city with festive Golden Gate and the majestic St. Sophia Cathedral, famous for its mosaics and frescoes.

 

 

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St. Sophia‘s Cathedral today

 

Literature, various arts and crafts are rapidly developing. In the city itself and around it there are many monasteries, among them Pechersk Monastery, one of the first centre of chronicles, gains the most religious and cultural importance.

 

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In old Rus times tens of monks were named saints (among them Sts. Anthony, Theodosius, Agapit, Alipio, Nestor the Chronicler, Ilya of Murom, etc…), more than 50 bishops came of the monastery. During the XI-XIII centuries Kyiv became one of the largest cities of medieval Europe. Its territory reached 400 hectares and a population – 35-50 thousand people.

 

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At the same time the city was constantly exposed to raids by nomads – first Pechenegs, and later Polovtsy.

After the death of Volodymyr Monomakh strife between autonomous princes intensified, and during the XII century the capital status of Kyiv gradually reduced to nominal. City was twice subjected to devastation of Rus princes: in 1169 – Andrei Bogoliubskyi army, in 1203 – Riurik Rostislavich. December 6, 1240 was one of the most dramatic days in the history of the city, when the Mongol horde of Batu Khan won the city by storm and almost completely destroyed it. After that Kyiv lost its significance for a long period. The decline of economic and political life of Kyiv strengthened the transfer of residence of Rus metropolitans (which, however, retained the title of Kyiv) to Northeast of Rus in 1299.