Kharkiv is the second-largest city of Ukraine. Located in the north-east of the country, it is the largest city of the Slobozhanshchyna historical region.
In the course of the administrative reform carried out in 1708 by Peter the Great, the area was included into Kiev Governorate. Kharkov is specifically mentioned as one of the towns making a part of the governorate. In 1727, Belgorod Governorate was split off, and Kharkiv moved to Belgoro Governorate. It was the center of a separate administrative unit, Kharkiv Kazak Sloboda Regiment. The regiment at some point was detached from Belgorod Governorate, then attached to it again, until in 1765, Slobodsko-Ukrainian Governorate was established with the seat in Kharkiv.
As the country's capital, it underwent intense expansion with the construction of buildings to house the newly established Ukrainian Soviet government and administration.
In 1928, the SVU (Union for the Freedom of Ukraine) process was initiated and court sessions were staged in the Kharkiv Opera (now the Philharmonia) building. Hundreds of Ukrainian intellectuals were arrested and deported.
In the early 1930s, the Holodomor famine drove many people off the land into the cities, and to Kharkiv in particular, in search of food. Many people died and were secretly buried in mass graves in the cemeteries surrounding the city.
In 1934 hundreds of Ukrainian writers, intellectuals and cultural workers were arrested and executed in the attempt to eradicate all vestiges of Ukrainian nationalism in Art. The purges continued into 1938. Blind Ukrainian street musicians were also gathered in Kharkiv and murdered by the NKVD. In January 1935 the capital of the Ukrainian SSR was moved from Kharkiv to Kiev.
- The Annunciation Cathedral is the main Orthodox church of Kharkiv. The pentacupolar Neo-Byzantine structure with a distinctive 80-meter-tall bell tower was completed on October 2, 1888, from designs by a local architect, Mikhail Lovtsov. The church was baptized in 1901, while the first church of Annunciation (built in 17th century), located next to it was dismantled. The candy-striped cathedral supplanted the older Assumption Cathedral as the main church of Kharkiv and was one of the largest and tallest churches of the Russian Empire. The church was frescoed in a style derived from St Vladimir's Cathedral in Kiev. On July 3, 1914 the temple became recognized as the city's cathedral. The cathedral was closed to worshippers in 1930, but it was reopened during the German occupation in 1943. During that time the space in the temple initially was assigned to a cultural lyceum, while there are some evidences that it was used as a warehouse. During WWII it was a temple of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. Since 1946 the cathedral is the seat of the Kharkiv and Bohodukhiv eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), while the bishop residence has stayed in the Saint-Pokrov Monastery. The Ecumenical Patriarch Athanasius III Patelaros and several saintly bishops are buried in the cathedral.
- The Kharkiv Choral Synagogue is the largest synagogue in the country, and a building of architectural significance. Construction of the synagogue began in 1909, with architects submitting design proposals as part of contest. St. Petersburg architect Yakov Gevirts submitted the winning design and construction was completed in 1913 at a cost of 150,000 rubles. In 1923, the synagogue was closed, nationalized by the government, and used by a Jewish worker's club, part of the Comintern. It then served a variety of uses including housing a club, cinema and a sport complex and was not used as a place of worship until 1990.
- The Shevchenko Gardens is the oldest green area in the city centre. It was planted as far back as 1804. The gardens central path is a beautiful chestnut-tree alley leading from the Taras Shevchenko Monument to the University building. The gardens area of 25 hectares has over 15,000 trees and bushes of more than 100 varieties. It also has gigantic oaks, which are over 200 years old. One of these grows close to the monument to the great Kobzar (Bard). The gardens are being expanded and improved every year. After the war, their western slope was reconstructed with a water cascade and stairs leading down to the Klochkovska Street. A color and music fountain is located in the center of the gardens.
- The Kharkiv State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre named after M.Lysenko is the first academic theatre in Ukraine. It presents operas in Ukrainian, Russian, French and Italian. This leading Ukrainian theatre was opened in 1925 by putting on the stage opera "Sorochynska yarmarka" ("Sorochyntsy Fair") of Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky. From 1991 the theatre works in the new building which is built in postmodern style and is located at Sumskaya Str. 25/27. The repertoire includes around 50 operas and ballets, the majority of which are Ukrainian and Russian but there are also Italian ones.
- The Assumption or Dormition Cathedral was the main Orthodox church of Kharkiv until the construction of the Annunciation Cathedral in 1901. The cathedral stands on the University Hill by the bank of the Lopan River and dominates the entire downtown. The Neoclassical cathedral bell tower, built in the 1820s and 1830s to a height of 90 meters, remained the tallest building in the city until the 21st century. The original Dormition Church was built in the Kharkov Fortress in the 1680s. It was completely rebuilt after a fire to a Late Baroque design loosely based on St Clement's Church, Moscow. The cathedral was consecrated in 1780 in the presence of Ukraine's governor, Pyotr Rumyantsev. The church boasted a gilded icon screen, carved from limewood to Rastrelli's Rococo design. The free-standing Alexander Bell Tower was built in the aftermath of Napoleon's expulsion from Russia "to express the people's gratitude to Alexander I". It used to be the second tallest building in Ukraine after the Great Lavra Bell Tower. The seat of the local bishop was moved from the older Intercession Cathedral to the Dormition Church in 1846. A large French clock was installed in the bell tower in 1856.