Kyiv: Important For Two Millennia
Kyiv or “Belonging to Kyi,” is one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe and within a few hundred years of its founding, had become the most important in all of Europe. Sitting as it does on one of Europe’s great water-ways, it served the Norse as the perfect center for commerce or plunder with the rich Byzantine Empire and Caliphate of Baghdad. So great was its fame, that a prince of the territory that was to become Moscow even destroyed it rather than possess it to avoid the competition it represented. Less than a hundred years later, in 1240, the Mongols under Batu Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan, rode through and left little but rubble. But somehow Kyiv was rebuilt. Centuries passed and by the end of the Soviet period it was again an important city, the third largest in the Soviet Union.
Today visitors to Kyiv (no longer to be spelled “Kiev” by request of the Ukrainian government in 1993, but still is in most parts of the western world), will find a modern city of nearly three million people that covers both banks of the Dnieper and a good-deal more besides. This modern Kyiv, like the ancient Kyiv, can be seen as the hub of commerce and industry for Eastern Europe; it is now the capital of the second largest nation in Europe after Russia, and boasts an impressive mixture of high-tech industries, world-renowned museums and institutions of higher learning.
Besides commerce and industry, Kyiv serves as a window on the past, welcoming historians and tourists alike. The ruins of ancient Kyiv, can still be found on the right bank of the river. The Monastery of Caves, built by monks in 1051 and the Saint Sophia Cathedral, the oldest Orthodox Christian cathedral, stands out in the midst of the dreary gray remains of Soviet architecture. Many modern up-to-date shops, restaurants and hotels exist to keep visitors to today's Kyiv busy and comfortable.