Monday, March 17, 2008

Kyiv during World War II

Given the western location the Ukraine within what was the Soviet Union, the city of Kyiv was virtually destroyed during World War II given its proximity to the rest of Eastern Central Europe. The Nazi Germans occupied Kyiv and most of western Ukraine following their 1941 capture of the territory and a large number of Soviet forces, thus explaining much of the destruction that occurred there. The German occupation of Ukraine continued, with brutality, until October 1944, a period over 1,800 days, with Soviet forces beginning to recapture territory in 1943. Kiev alone was occupied for almost 800 days.

The population loss in Kyiv alone was staggering. At the beginning of World War II, Kyiv was a booming city of 900,000 people, but by the close of World War II in 1945, Kiev was a city largely destroyed with only 186,000 people. The largest battle in Kiev was the Battle of Kyiv, a massive Soviet loss to the Nazi Germans in September 1941, with over 665,000 Soviet forces and 5 armies surrendering, a surrender that remains the largest surrender in the Soviet’s history.

What is remarkable, however, is how quickly Kyiv was rebuilt after World War II, being almost completely rebuilt by the mid-1950’s, again serving as one of the most important cities in the Soviet Union. Much of this can be credited to the Supreme Soviet’s decision to implement a five-year plan of restoration of industry in Ukraine. Followed was a revival of cultural life within the republic. Finally, Ukraine again served as the second largest economy in the USSR, the largest being the RSFSR.

Featured below is a photo of Kyiv burning during World War II:

Follows is an image of modern Kyiv:

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