Urban Studies Kyiv
Olena Betlii
  • LAST REVIEWED: 17 April 2023
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 October 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190922481-0044


Urban studies is still an undeveloped field in Ukraine, partly as a result of a lack of field institutionalization at Ukrainian universities. On the other hand, only in the early 21st century, urban challenges became a subject of interest of urban activists who started raising questions regarding strategic developments of Ukrainian cities. Thanks to that, the urban agenda has become visible and discussible on some independent research institutions or media platforms. Scholarship on Kyiv is a good illustration of this situation. There are not that many scholarly works dedicated exclusively to Kyiv. Ukrainian historians quite often address Kyiv issues in their research on a more general Ukrainian context. Western historians, focusing on the Russian Empire or the Soviet Union, mention Kyiv in their work but rarely choose this city as a main subject of examination. This article will introduce the reader to themes examined by scholars who have studied the history or current development of Kyiv. The majority of these studies are written in Ukrainian and have never been translated into English. Considering the emerging status of Kyiv studies, this article attempts to strike a balance between being inclusive and, at the same time, selective. A number of the sources cited here are the only existing examinations of a certain topic. Most of the citations refer to books, with just a handful of articles listed in this article. Papers written by Ukrainian historians are typically very short and do not analyze their topics deeply enough to be mentioned in a citation. Western scholars usually finalize their research in book-length publications, and their research on Kyiv is cited in this article. This article is divided into several topical sections, within which citations are organized chronologically, covering the time period from the medieval history of Kyiv to the present day. This article demonstrates that the late imperial history of Kyiv has been researched the best. There will likely be even more scholarship on this period due to the fact that Kyiv archives are rich and open to researchers, and their records have even been published online. In contrast, the Soviet period is barely touched by urban scholars. It is still uncertain to what degree the current challenges of Kyiv’s development will be reflected in scholarship in the near future. In order to get any further updates on the topic, one might consult the publisher Varto, which specializes in Kyiv literature.

General Overviews

There have been several attempts to write an urban biography of Kyiv over the past two centuries. Berlynskyi 1991 provides the timeline and events worthy of mention that shaped the city’s identity. Although this manuscript was written at the beginning of the 19th century, it was used as a point of reference by historians at the end of the 20th century. Kondufor 1986–1987 is dedicated to the 1,500th anniversary of the city. The narrative is overloaded with ideological clichés and Soviet interpretations of the events, but one can still find some useful facts and data within. Boriak, et al. 2012 is the most recent attempt to summarize the long history of Kyiv in one volume, with urban biography being closely intertwined with Ukraine’s biography. Knoch and Johenning 2015 provides a visual introduction for the general reader. The authors rediscover the history of Kyiv through its architectural heritage. Ivakin 1996 and Rusyna 2005 focus on the medieval and Early Modern periods, presenting different aspects of urban life in their surveys. Hamm 1993 is a rare book on Kyiv that was originally written in English. This landmark study is a must-read for anyone who wants to acquaint themselves with a solid urban biography of the city. Hrushevskyi 1926 provides article-length overviews of topics related to urban developments up to the beginning of the 20th century. The authors represent the old school of Ukrainian historiography, known for its high-quality analysis, which makes this collection of articles an indispensable resource for any researcher interested in the early modern and modern history of Kyiv. Mashkevich 2019 focuses on one of the most dramatic periods in Kyiv’s history—the revolutionary years of 1917–1920. In the first volume of two-volume book project, the author connects different political events with Kyiv’s life in one urban narrative of 1917. There is still no urban biography of Soviet or contemporary Kyiv. Furthermore, there is no systematic work on this city written with the application of urban studies methodology.

  • Berlynskyi, Maksym. Istoriia mista Kyieva. Kyiv, Ukraine: Naukova dumka, 1991.

    Originally written at the beginning of the 19th century, the manuscript was republished in 1991 due to its significance. It is based on unique sources that are not available for historians anymore. The text is divided into two parts, focusing on the medieval and early modern history of Kyiv and urban topography. In Ukrainian and Russian.

  • Boriak, H., V. Heiets, H. Ivakin, et al., eds. Iliustrovana istoriia Kyieva. Kyiv, Ukraine: Feniks, 2012.

    Contributors explore different epochs of Kyiv’s history in fourteen chapters, which follow the general timeline of Ukraine’s history from prehistory to the 21st century. Each chapter addresses a certain period and is divided into several parts that examine the political, social, and cultural aspects of city’s history. In Ukrainian.

  • Hamm, Michael F. Kiev: A Portrait, 1800–1917. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993.

    The book is an “urban biography” of modern Kyiv of the 19th to early 20th centuries. It summarizes the early history of the city and explores in detail how Kyiv became an important metropolis in the Russian Empire. The author analyzes the city’s development from different perspectives, focusing on political changes, modernization, the activities of ethnic urban communities and their interactions with the city, pogroms, and cultural life.

  • Hrushevskyi, Mykhailo, ed. Kyiv ta yoho okolytsia v istorii i pamiatkakh. Kyiv, Ukraine: Derzhavne vydavnytstvo Ukrainy, 1926.

    This collection of articles was the first attempt to develop a local and urban history of Kyiv. It remains a must-read introduction to Kyiv’s political, cultural, and social history, covering topics related to the medieval, Early Modern, and modern periods. In Ukrainian.

  • Ivakin, Hlib. Istorychnyi rozvytok Kyieva XIII—seredyny XVI st. Istoryko-topohrafichni narysy. Kyiv, Ukraine: Naukova dumka, 1996.

    This collection of essays focuses on the most unknown period of Kyiv’s history. Based on a variety of sources—from chronicles to archeological materials to numismatic collections—it reconstructs urban topography and demonstrates that the city was not transformed into a “desert” after the Mongol invasion of Rus’. In Ukrainian.

  • Knoch, Peter, and Heike Maria Johenning, eds. Architekturführer Kiew. Berlin: DOM, 2015.

    This guide illustrates Kyiv’s history through the lens of its architecture. Those who need to get a snapshot of cultural heritage and urban development of the city will appreciate the book structure, divided according to different periods and styles, and its numerous illustrations and descriptions, as well as expert commentary.

  • Kondufor, Yurii, Serhiienko Hryhorii, Sarbei Vitalii, Suprunenko Mykola, and Artemenko Ivan, eds. Istoriia Kyieva. 3 vols. Kyiv, Ukraine: Naukova dumka, 1986–1987.

    These volumes focus on the history of Kyiv from the Stone Age to the 1980s. The first volume describes the political, social, demographic, economic, and cultural developments in the city until the 17th century. Along with the description of the economic and cultural life of the city, the second volume draws special attention to Kyivans’ participation in the “antifeudal” struggle, class conflicts, and revolutionary movements. The third volume pays significant attention to the Bolsheviks struggle for power and Civil War of 1917–1921 and the interwar transformation, while covering the World War II experience only very briefly. It also defines Kyiv as a socialist city whose life was organized according to the Communist Party principles. In Ukrainian.

  • Mashkevich, Stansilav. Kiev 1917–1920 gg. Vol. 1, Proshchanie s imperiej. Mart 1917 g.–yanvar’ 1918 g. Kyiv, Ukraine: Folio, 2019.

    This study presents a careful reconstruction of the events in Kyiv after the February revolution. It analyzes developments in the city month by month and provides one of the most detailed overviews of this dramatic period in the city’s life. It is based on archival sources, memoirs, and Kyiv newspapers. In Russian.

  • Rusyna, Olena. Studii z istorii Kyieva ta kyivskoi zemli. Kyiv, Ukraine: In-t istorii Ukrainy NAN Ukrainy, 2005.

    The book examines the history of Kyiv in the 13th–17th centuries. It consists of articles that cover such topics as the Kyivan princely tradition and governance, political practices and the introduction of the Magdeburg Law, and memories of the Rus’ and representations of Kyiv myths in medieval chronicles, as well as the development of a new intellectual tradition to depict Kyiv as a holy city. In Ukrainian.

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