Kyiv region

Kyiv Region: Rich History and Indomitable People, Cities, and Even Ceramic Roosters

For many thousands of years, this region has attracted attention with its natural wealth, convenient location, and beauty. In addition to its regional center and the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv (of which we will talk about in another piece), Kyiv region (Ukr. oblast) has much to be proud of — it has a rich history, outstanding artists, and sporting successes.

And it has much to protect. In 2022, it was here that fierce battles took place, with the Ukrainians managing to stop the many kilometers long enemy columns right near the capital.

The defeat at Kyiv was one of the most devastating ones for Russia, but that’s how it should be with an enemy coming to foreign lands.

How to Make a Sea

Can one make a sea? Why not? But extraordinary efforts will be needed.

In the 1960s, to the north of Kyiv, a grandiose reservoir with an area of almost one thousand square kilometers [~386.10 sq mi] was created. For this, more than 16 million cubic meters [~565 million cubic feet] of soil had to be removed. Some figures are, however, even more impressive: for the reservoir’s creation, 52 settlements with over 33 thousand people living there were flooded. It was a true tragedy for many of them, for they had to leave the homes where their ancestors lived for many years.

So how did the Kyiv Reservoir turn into the Kyiv Sea? It was called so simply because of its large area — 110 km [~68.35 mi] long and 12 km [~7.46 mi] wide. But in fact, every year the name increasingly reflects reality: the rising concentration of salt in the reservoir’s water makes the animals and plants characteristic of the Black Sea rather than rivers dominate there.

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The Tragedy of Occupation

On February 24, 2022, the Russians attacked Ukraine from a dozen directions at once. One of the major strikes was aimed at Kyiv to seize the capital and change the state government.

The Russians aimed to capture a small suburban airfield of Hostomel and land a landing party there. Already in the first hours of the invasion, it was attacked by no less than 40 helicopters while large transporters circled in the sky above Belarus, waiting for a signal. Hostomel positions were defended by the National Guard brigade. Despite having light weapons, they gave battle to elite Russian paratroopers and intentionally damaged the airstrip to prevent planes from landing. During the fight in Hostomel, Russian troops destroyed the unique Ukrainian plane — Mriya (a.k.a. Dream), the largest one in the world. However, Ukraine is already planning to reconstruct it.

Though the Russian paratroopers’ plan failed, the danger remained: a 65-kilometer [~40.39 mi] column of enemy armored vehicles was moving towards Kyiv. Such a force seemed to be impossible to stop, and the Russians were sure of their victory. The New York Times quoted the order that one of the Russian soldiers received — to reach Kyiv in 18 hours following the equipment ahead of them. 

But the aggressors were stopped by Ukrainians’ heroic resistance. One of the key episodes involved the dam detonated on the Irpin river by the locals: the water spilled over and seriously impeded occupiers’ advancement. Residents of the village of Demydiv, which was flooded after the dam’s explosion, later said: “We’d rather have water in our houses than the Russians.”

The enemy was only stopped near Kyiv itself. Still, a real disaster happened to the Ukrainians who were under occupation, with the town of Bucha, a couple of tens of kilometers [~12.43 mi] from the capital, becoming a symbol of these tragic events. The Russians captured it in early March, and the next 28 days of its occupation are now known as the Bucha Massacre. Hundreds of civilians were tortured and killed on the town’s streets and right in their homes. Hundreds of people more died in other occupied towns and villages of the Kyiv region — in Borodianka, Irpin, Makariv, and Demydiv. For many decades has Europe not seen such cruelty.

In early April [2022], Kyiv region was liberated by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, with investigations into Russian war crimes still ongoing.

A Ceramic Figure that Inspired the Whole Country

After the liberation of the Kyiv region, a cabinet was noted on the wall of one of the apartments bombed by occupiers in Borodianka. While the apartment was almost completely destroyed, the cabinet stubbornly clung to the wall with a decorative ceramic rooster standing atop it. In an instant, it became a symbol of Ukrainians’ indomitability, at the same time reviving interest in the traditional Ukrainian craft of Vasylkiv maiolica.

The factory in Vasylkiv, where such ceramics used to be produced, was once one of the largest pottery centers in Ukraine, but was eventually shut down due to lack of funding. However, the image of the invincible rooster got so powerful that the local community decided to revive the factory.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian and foreign artists dedicated many of their works to the rooster, it appeared on clothes and jewelry, and even a monument to the rooster was built in a Rivne region village.

A Village Woman Whose Imagination Amazed the World

“That’s how it all started. Once, near my home, above the river, I was herding geese on a flowery meadow. On the sand, I was drawing all kinds of flowers I could see nearby. Then I noticed bluish clay. I took some of it in my hem and used it to paint our house,” — this is how the Ukrainian artist Mariia Prymachenko spoke about her first steps in art.

For all her life, she painted whimsical animals, scenes of rural Ukrainian life, and ornamental motifs. Back in 1936, her works were noticed and Mariia was invited to an exhibition. There, the phantasmagoric cosmos of a simple Ukrainian village woman impressed people so much that her paintings were sent to Poland, France, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Canada. Her works reached an international exhibition in Paris, where they received a gold medal. As a semi-legendary story says, the great Pablo Picasso was simply impressed by the fantasy of the Ukrainian woman while Marc Chagall was so much imbued with her talent that he started to draw similar weird creatures himself. Meanwhile, for all her life Prymachenko lived in the village of Bolotnia near Kyiv, where she created about 800 paintings that now represent Ukrainian culture in galleries all over the world.

25 of the artist’s works used to be exhibited in her native village — in the Museum Local of History. Still, in just a few days after the full-scale invasion, the Russians shelled the building and the museum burned down. Fortunately, there was a security guard nearby, who managed to climb in through a window and, under fire, take Prymachenko’s paintings out of the burning building.

The vast territories of the Kyiv region have been closed to visitors for already 37 years, and almost a hundred settlements have been abandoned.


The exclusion zone area of 2.6 thousand square kilometers [~1 sq mi] is larger than three Singapores taken together.

In 1986, one of the worst man-made disasters in history occurred there — the accident at the Chornobyl NPP. One of the power units faced a powerful explosion, which completely destroyed the reactor and threw radioactive substances into the air. This was caused by the reactor’s structural defects multiplied by personnel errors and the general drive of the Soviet authorities for setting records: to build the nuclear power plant at the greatest speed possible, to produce as much as possible, and to be in time for the holiday parade on May 1. Following their own style, the Soviet authorities chose to hide the event — the first report about the accident was broadcast two and a half days later, lasting just 14 seconds. No danger to the people was mentioned, and on May 1, tens of thousands of Kyiv residents took part in the festive demonstration — with the radiation level exceeding the norm by hundreds of times.

Due to the Chornobyl disaster, more than 100,000 people were forced to leave their homes in the exclusion zone forever. Over time, nature came back there, literally sprouting through the long-abandoned buildings. Now the place hosts a unique reserve, the only one on the planet, where many animals live peacefully. Though some areas of the zone are still threatened and, therefore, access to them is prohibited, some of them have become popular among tourists from all over the world. The HBO Chornobyl series became a serious impetus, revealing, in particular, many truths hidden in the USSR.

In 2022, Chornobyl once again posed a threat to humanity. The territory of the former nuclear power plant was temporarily occupied and the Russians used heavy armored vehicles at the station, which carried a risk of destroying protective elements around the reactor. The Ukrainians’ heroism knocked the invaders out from Kyiv region, and the Chornobyl NPP is now again under the expert supervision.

From a Kyiv Region Village to the Love of Hundreds of Thousands

The year 2003, the UK, Manchester, 62,000 people watch mesmerized as a 27-year-old man approaches the soccer ball. He hits — and for the first time in a decade, the Italian Milan becomes the winner of the Champions League, while the young man secures the Ballon d’Or — the most prestigious individual award in the world’s football.

Andrii Shevchenko was born in the village of Dvirkivshchyna in the Kyiv region in an ordinary Ukrainian family. Due to his own talent, he scored for the strongest clubs in Europe, leading his teams — Dynamo Kyiv, Milan, and Chelsea — to victories in championships and European cups.

Shevchenko had long ago finished his career and has already managed to prove himself as a successful coach: it was under his leadership that Ukraine reached the quarterfinals of the 2020 European Championship.

From Trypillia to Christmas Decorations

The ancient land of Kyiv region is full of amazing sights. It was here that the large settlements of the Trypillia culture (full name: the Cucuteni–Trypillia culture) were found, a civilization that 8,000 years ago spread over almost the entire territory of modern Ukraine. The culture is known for its specific features including proto-cities for tens of thousands of people, ceramics with various patterns, and two-story houses with painted walls. Herewith, archaeologists haven’t found a single administrative building of the Trypillians, which may indicate of their high self-governance skills — the tradition later continued in these lands by the Cossacks.

Kyiv region is also famous for Vytachiv. At first glance, this is an ordinary Ukrainian village, but it is actually more than 1.5 thousand years old and even Byzantine emperors wrote about ancient Vytachiv as a powerful port on the Dnipro river. Moreover, before a permanent settlement was set up there, unknown ancient peoples — either the Antes or the Goths — built a mound so majestic that under the name Krasukha it became the highest point of the Right Bank Kyiv region — 190 meters [626.36 ft] high.

The ancient settlement continues to develop even in the hardest times. On the first day of the full-scale invasion, a modern and fashionable bakery was started in Vytachiv. Though its opening was planned for a later date, it had to be launched before all the preparations were finished in order to bake bread for the community and the army on a volunteer basis.

The invasion has also changed everything for the famous Klavdievo Christmas decorations factory. Having faced a two-month occupation, it got back to work almost immediately after the liberation. Now the factory’s assortment includes Christmas balls depicting patriotic Ukrainian symbols as well as messages of thanks to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

In 2022, Kyiv region experienced a horrible tragedy, but managed to protect its own freedom, now demonstrating miracles of recovery and support

Construction and reconstruction are going on, while people return to build a new life. Kyiv region became a living example of good and light always triumphing over evil.

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Last updated 29.01.2024

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