KYIV, THE CAPITAL OF UKRAINE
Kyiv (also known as Kiev), a scenic city of close to 3 million people situated on the Dnipro River, is the bustling capital of Ukraine. Ancient Kievan Rus, which reached its greatest period of ascendancy during the 11th and 12th centuries, was a center of trade routes between the Baltic and the Mediterranean. The city of Kyiv and the power of Kievan Rus were destroyed in 1240 by Mongol invaders and the lands of Kievan Rus were divided into principalities located to the west and north: Galicia, Volynia, Muscovy and later, Poland, Lithuania, and Russia. Once a powerful force on the European scene, Ukraine's fate in modern times has been decided in far-off capitals. As a result, modern Ukrainian history, for the most part, has been defined by foreign occupation.
The art and architecture of Kyiv are world treasures. The Cathedral of St. Sophia, where the princes of Kyiv were crowned in the years of Kyiv's grandeur, has outstanding mosaics and frescoes dating back to the 11th century. Overlooking the old section of Kyiv, Podol, stands the Ukrainian Baroque church of St. Andrew, much beloved by Ukrainians. The Percherska Lavra, the Monastery of the Caves, a short trolley ride from the center of town, has two 11th-century cathedrals on its grounds, in addition to its world-famous catacombs, bell tower, and museum collections. Close to the center of town stands the Golden Gate, a structure which dates back to 1037. This recently reconstructed remains of the former fortified wall of the city defined the limits of the city in centuries past. Several blocks away, stands the magnificent 19th-century Cathedral of St. Volodymyr.
Theater buffs will find much to choose from here. Most performances are in Ukrainian or Russian. The recently renovated Kyiv Opera House presents very good opera as well as a broad repertoire of ballets. The Kyiv Young Theater is very popular and stages innovative plays in Ukrainian or Russian. The Ivan Franko Theater is the center of Ukrainian drama, comedy, and musicals. This repertoire has just opened its 75th season and includes brilliant versions of Aeneid and Teve Tevel, the original version of Fiddler on the Roof.
The modern center with surviving parts of the old city are on the hilly west, or right bank, of the Dnipro River. The main street, Khreshchatik, runs between two steep hills. Parallel about half a kilometer west, is vulytsya Volodymyrska, the main street of the Old Kyiv area (Staryj Kyiv). From the north end of Khreshchatik, vulytsya Hrushevskoho rises southeast along a ridge to the Caves Monastery at Perchersk. Woods and parks cover most of the steep right-bank slopes. The capital's newer sections stretch out on the flat left bank. These are characterized by large housing developments and industrialized neighborhoods.
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