The source of the name of the town is likely the river Kharkiv. Also some historians establish conection between Kharkiv and the ancient Polovetsk settlement in Kharkiv Sharukan which was located not far from the place where modern Kharkiv is situated.
In the beginning of the XVII century the territory of modern Kharkiv was actively populated by Ukrainian refugees from the Right Bank of Ukraine and Russian settlers. Also fortifications and defensive lines against the Nogai and Crimean Tatars were built.
In 1654 Kharkiv fortress was raised. One year later a group of Ukrainian Cossacks settled near it under the auspices of I. Karkatch. Cossacks built a small settlement between the rivers Kharkiv and Lopan in a woody and marshy terrain.
Cossacks were formally subordinate to Moscow Governor but he did not interfere with the internal affairs of Cossacks. In 1655 about two thousand people lived in Kharkiv. Most of the population worked in agriculture, part-crafts and trade, they lived in the fortification but most of them settled around it. Peasants had the right to use the land doing crafts and retain Cossack liberties.
In 1662 the building of a new fortification was completed. During the Russian-Swedish war in connection with the statement of Ivan Mazepa and the rising of Don Cossacks, Peter І ordered to enlarge Kharkiv fortification.
In 1765 Tsar cancelled the self-government of Kharkiv and Cossack population turned into military migrants. The province of 5 Slobodsky regiments was created with its center in Kharkiv.
In 1796 the province was replaced by the region ruled by the governor-general of Kharkiv, than again replaced by Slobodskaya Ukranian province and from 1836 it turned into Kharkiv province.
After the judicial reform in 1867, Kharkiv own judicial chamber was created. The important event in the history of the city was the foundation of the University by V.N. Karazin and by Ukrainian nobility in 1805 and it turned the provincial town into the important East- Ukrainian educational center.
In the city the Governor’s palace was under construction in which later the University, the first one in Ukraine and the third one in Russian Empire was opened. The University affected a lot the development of Kharkiv as an important cultural center. Afterwards such famous scientists as a prominent philologist Potebnia, the laureate of Nobel Prize Mechnikov taught there, and the founder of modern Polish state Jozef Pilsudski was among students of the University.
In the 19th century 4 gymnasiums for boys and several secondary schools for girls were established in Kharkiv. The education developed: in 1873 the veterinary institute was opened; in 1885 the technological one. In the second half of 19th century a number of professional schools were opened: trade, technical, musical, railway etc.
By the end of the 19th century Kharkiv became a big, intellectual, trade and industrial center of the South of Russian Empire and at the same time the centre of revolutionary movement.
Thus in 1888 near Kharkiv in Borki, terrorists made a famous attempt on Emperor Alexandr III blowing up his train. The imperial family was saved only by a miracle, one of the greatest Russian churches was raised near Kharkiv in honor of this event, later it was destroyed by the bolsheviks. In 1900 in Kharkiv for the first time in Russia the first “first May” demonstration took place; the future leader of the Revolution Lenin dedicated the whole monograph named ‘May days in Kharkiv’.
In 1917 the power was concentrated in the hands of provisional government; the local power belonged to the province commissioner, municipal duma, zemstvo. The third Central Rada universal spread its power over Kharkiv territory. But the proximity to Russia where the power was taken by the Bolsheviks and the proximity to Donetsk Basin where they also actually seized power plus the weakness of Ukrainian forces decided the fate of the city. Beginning from the end of November 1917 Russian Red Army soldiers and Baltic sailors came to Kharkiv. Together with local Bolsheviks they disarmed Central Rada and Russian antibolsheviks forces.
After signing the Peace Treaty of Brest the German Army and Ukrainian forces deliberated Kharkiv from the Bolsheviks. In November 1918 UNR Directory forces temporary seized power in Kharkiv, but in January 1919 the city was again occupied by the Bolsheviks and Ukrainian Soviet government functioned till June 1919, when the city was occupied by the White army of General Denikin, they stayed there till the middle of December 1919. After the final victory of the Red Army over Denikin, the third Ukrainian Soviet government came back and in December 1919 it proclaimed Kharkiv the capital of USSR.
During the Second World War in 1941-1945 Kharkiv was considerably destroyed. Before the attack of the German Army the part of manufactures was evacuated, the rest was destroyed. The German Army entered the city on the 25th of October 1941. The city was under occupation of German troops during 22 months. In February 1943 there were several attempts to liberate Kharkiv and soviet troops finally liberated the city on the 23th of August.
After the liberation of the city from fascists the construction and reconstruction of destroyed city buildings started. The number of old factories was constructed and the new ones were built.
The city started to develop rapidly, new living areas were built: Saltovka, Pavlovo Pole, Rogan, Alekseevka, Holodnaya Gora, Krasnaya Bavaria. The opening of Kharkiv underground 18 kilometers long with 13 stations (there were planned to have 3 lines, 43 stations overall) in 1975 became an important event in the city life.