(khär'kəf), Rus. Kharkov, city (1990 est. pop. 1,600,000), capital of Kharkiv region, E Ukraine, at the confluence of the Kharkiv, Lopan, and Udy rivers in the upper Donets valley. Ukraine's second largest city, Kharkiv is also one of the country's main rail junctions and economic and cultural centers. Proximity to the iron mines of Kryvyy Rih and the coal of the Donets Basin has provided the basis for engineering industries that produce a wide variety of other heavy metal items, including tractors, locomotives, aircraft, and turbines. Kharkiv's industries also include food and tobacco processing, printing, and the manufacture of chemicals.
Founded in 1656 as a military strongpoint to defend Moscow's southern border, it became an important frontier headquarters of the Ukrainian Cossacks. They kept the city loyal to the czar during the Cossack uprisings of the late 17th cent., and, as a result, Kharkiv received more autonomy than most other Ukrainian cities. Developing as an intellectual and commercial center, Kharkiv became the site of large annual trade fairs, which were held from the second half of the 18th cent. until the Russian Revolution. Russia's annexation of the Crimea in 1783 and colonization of the steppes further stimulated Kharkiv's economic growth. The coal and metallurgical industries developed after the 1860s, and railroads were built in the late 19th cent. Kharkiv also became an important center of the 19th-century Ukrainian national and literary movements. The city became the capital of Ukraine in 1919 but was superseded by Kiev in 1934.
Kharkiv's landmarks include the cathedral of the Protectoress (1686), the cathedral of the Assumption (1771), and a bell tower that was built to celebrate Napoleon's defeat in 1812. The university dates from 1805, and there are numerous scientific research institutes. Heavy fighting raged in Kharkiv during World War II. The city was rebuilt with large avenues and many apartment blocks. In 2014 the city and its region largely escaped the pro-Russian separatist rebellion that occurred in the neighboring Donetsk and Luhansk regions.