Vyshhorod – The Town Upstream
There are few cities in Ukraine which enjoy such a well documented ancient past as Vyshhorod. While today Vyshhorod in Ukraine is a modest city with a population of over 23,000, in the early 900s it was a bustling metropolis that enjoyed royal favor. Vyshhorod is located along the banks of the Dnieper River just a short distance upstream from Kiev. Thus, the name ‘Vyshhgorod’ is a good choice for this city since it can be literally translated as ‘the town upstream’.
The earliest known mention of Vyshhorod dates to 946 when it was documented as being one of the favorite residences of Saint Olga. By this time the town was home to a strongly fortified castle and a palatial residence that was popularly used by monarchs of Kievan Rus. In fact this legendary residence was made use of by the rulers of Kievan Rus from at least the early 900s until 1240 when it was sacked by Mongol hordes and destroyed. During this time of royal use, the town gained special significance after the killing of Boris (who was murdered in 1015) and Glib (who was murdered in 1021). Both brothers were killed by Svjatopolk and the reason for their deaths remains somewhat a mystery even today. Boris and Glib quickly became martyrs and their deaths were honored a short while later when they were made the first saints of Kievan Rus – an honor which must have surely been a slap in the face for Svjatopolk. It was also in Vyshhorod that Vladimir the Great (958 – 1015) chose to house his 300 concubines.
After the Mongolian invasion in 1240, the settlement fell into insignificance. It was not mentioned in historical documents again until 1523 when it was said to be a poor village with little to offer. Between 1934 and 1937 and in 1947, the old town that had been destroyed was excavated revealing some incredible historical finds. The most striking of these was probably the discovery of the basement of Church of St Basil, a massive eight-pillared church that was built at the command of Vladimir the Great. The church would have been one of the largest in Kievan Rus at the time and it is estimated that it took some twenty years to build. The church was said to house the relics and mummified bodies of Boris and Glib, but no one knows what happened to these relics. Vyshhorod only started to enjoy prosperity again in the mid-1900s when a hydroelectric power plant was built here. This enabled the settlement to achieve ‘city’ status in 1968 and proved to be a much-needed injection of life and money that probably saved the city from obscurity. Today, Vyshhorod is a part of the Kyiv oblast in central Ukraine and serves as the administrative center for the Vyshhorodksy district. So pay a visit to this fascinating little city that was once home to kings!