Kiev is the capital and largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population in July 2013 was 2,847,200 (though higher estimated numbers have been cited in the press), making Kiev the 8th largest city in Europe.
The capital of present-day Ukraine became the site of the largest encirclement battle in the summer of 1941. When the Germans commenced their offensive on 7 July, Soviet forces concentrated in the Kiev area were ordered to stand fast, and a breakout was prohibited. Defence of the pocket was fierce. Thousands of civilians volunteered to help defend the city. Eventually Kiev was taken on 19 September. Over 600,000 Soviet soldiers were taken captive when the pocket was cleared. The prolonged resistance effectively disrupted the German plans of blitzkrieg. However, in military terms, the battle was a great victory for the German Army and a disaster for the Soviets. It had a huge effect on morale, and Adolf Hitler praised the victory as the greatest battle in history.
During the German occupation of Kiev, hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed or deported for slave labour. Kiev again became a battlefield when advancing Soviet forces pushed the Germans back West, liberating the city on 6 November 1943. Kiev was awarded the title Hero City in 1965.