Istanbul. The largest city (2021 pop 15,514,128) in Turkey. Its old city (Stamboul) stands on a triangular peninsula between Europe and Asia washed by ‘the three seas’: the Bosporus, the Golden Horn, and the Sea of Marmara. The Golden Horn inlet separates the original old city from the ‘newer’ (10th century on) city of Beyoglu (formerly Galata-Pera) to the north. The Bosporus separates European Istanbul from its Asian districts of Üsküdar (formerly Scutari and Chrysopolis) and Kadiköy (Chalcedon). Istanbul is a renowned port and political and cultural center. It was the capital of the Byzantine Empire and Ottoman Empire and, until 1923, of the Turkish Republic. It has many Byzantine and Turkish architectural monuments (churches, mosques, and palaces), learned societies, research institutes, museums, libraries, and newspapers; a university (est 1453), technical university, and academy of fine arts; other postsecondary schools; and a palace of culture.
The site of the ancient Greek colony of Byzantium was founded on the Bosporus ca 660 BC and came under Persian, Athenian, Spartan, Macedonian, and Roman rule. In 324 AD, after defeating his rival Licinius, Emperor Constantine the Great made Byzantium his capital. Renamed Constantinople, it became one of the world’s most powerful, beautiful, and wealthy cities. In 381, the city became the seat of a patriarch who was second only to the bishop of Rome. Because of its central role in the Byzantine Empire, its geopolitical location, and its wealth, Constantinople became an object of conquest by the Persians and Avars (626), the Arabs (674–8, 717–18), the Volga Bulgars (813, 913), the Pechenegs (1090–1), and Kyivan Rus’.
Varangian-Rus’ forces first besieged Constantinople in 860; the sieges of the princes of Kyiv Prince Oleh (907), Prince Ihor (944), and Prince Volodymyr Yaroslavych (1043) followed. But there were also amicable relations between Constantinople and Kyiv. In 957, for example, Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus welcomed the visit of Princess Olha with much pomp and circumstance. In the 11th and 12th centuries, banished Rus’ princes sought refuge there; in 1129 five Polatsk princes banished by Grand Prince Mstyslav I Volodymyrovych settled there with their families. Rus’ warriors served in Constantinople; in the 11th century, there was a retinue of them at the emperor’s court. Rus’ merchants received special privileges in Constantinople, as laid down in the treaties of 911, 944, and 971; they were allowed to live in a separate quarter near Saint Mamant’s Monastery. From that time on merchants from Constantinople also traded in Ukraine.
Constantinople—called Tsargrad or Tsarhorod (‘The Emperor’s City’) by the Slavs—played an important role in the Christianization of Ukraine in 988 and the subsequent history of the Ukrainian church. From 1037 to 1686, Kyiv metropoly was under the canonical jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople, who appointed its metropolitans. Patriarchs who had a particularly important influence on church affairs in Ukraine were Jeremiah II (1589–95), who granted the right of stauropegion to the Lviv Dormition Brotherhood, Kyiv Epiphany Brotherhood, and Lutsk Brotherhood of the Elevation of the Cross; Parthenius, who ratified Metropolitan Petro Mohyla’s Orthodox Confession of the Faith (1643); Dionysius IV, who placed Kyiv metropoly under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Moscow (1686); and Gregory VII, who confirmed the autocephaly of the Orthodox church in Poland (1924). Many Ukrainian pilgrims (see Pilgrimage) on their way to the Holy Land passed through Constantinople, which was considered a holy city; some of them, such as Hegumen Danylo of Chernihiv (ca 1113), the Nizhyn monk I. Vyshensky (1708), the Chyhyryn monk Serapion (1749), and Vasyl Hryhorovych-Barsky (1723), left accounts of their stay there.
Together with Christianity, Byzantine art and Byzantine law were brought to Ukraine from Constantinople. The architecture of Kyiv under Volodymyr the Great and Yaroslav the Wise used Constantinople as the model. Churches (especially the Saint Sophia Cathedral), palaces, and the Golden Gate were built and embellished by Byzantine craftsmen and painters. The most famous Rus’ icon, the Vyshhorod Mother of God, was painted by artists from Constantinople.
Constantinople was sacked by the Crusaders in 1204, and the ensuing dismemberment of the Byzantine Empire, Latin rule (1204–61), Turkish expansion, and foreign occupations and sieges led to the city’s political and economic decline. Finally, in 1453 the Ottoman sultan Mehmed II seized Constantinople and massacred its population. The city was then repeopled and rebuilt. From 1457, as Istanbul, it was the capital of the Ottoman Empire and enjoyed centuries of peace and prosperity.
Under the Ottomans, decisions made in Istanbul influenced the fate of much of southeastern Europe, including most of Ukraine. During the numerous raids of Turkey’s vassals, the Crimean Tatars, into Ukraine, thousands of Ukrainians were captured and shipped to the slave market in Istanbul; among them was Roksoliana, who ca 1520 became the wife of Sultan Süleyman I Kanuni. The Cossacks combated the Turks and Tatars; their leader Prince Dmytro Vyshnevetsky was captured and executed in Istanbul in 1563. Under and after Hetman Petro Konashevych-Sahaidachny the Cossacks were strong and daring enough to sail across the Black Sea and pillage the environs of Istanbul in 1615, 1620, and thrice in 1624, releasing Cossacks and other Christians from Turkish captivity. During the Polish-Ottoman Battle of Cecora, the future hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky was captured and held prisoner in Istanbul (1620–2). At the start of the Cossack-Polish War (1648), Khmelnytsky’s emissary, Colonel Filon Dzhalalii, concluded an alliance at the Porte. Hetman Petro Doroshenko had residents at the Porte from 1666. In 1672, Yurii Khmelnytsky was captured by the Tatars and taken to Istanbul; he lived there as the archimandrite of a Greek monastery for six years before becoming the hetman of Right-Bank Ukraine.
During the First World War, the Union for the Liberation of Ukraine had its representatives, headed by Mariian Melenevsky, in Istanbul. After the 1918 Peace Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, envoys of the Ukrainian Hetman government (Mikhail Sukovkin in 1918) and the Directory of the Ukrainian National Republic (Oleksander Lototsky in 1919–20 and Jan Tokarzewski-Karaszewicz in 1920–1) resided in Istanbul. In 1919–21 the Ukrainian artist Oleksa Hryshchenko also lived there. After the Armistice of 11 November 1918, 300 Ukrainians in the Austrian army who had surrendered on the Western front were brought to Istanbul and allowed to return home through the intervention of the Ukrainian envoy. In 1921–35, a representative of the Government-in-exile of the Ukrainian National Republic, Volodymyr Mursky, resided in Istanbul. After the Second World War, until the late 1940s, there was a small but active Ukrainian community in Istanbul, headed by M. Zabila.
Barsov, T. Konstantinopol'skii patriarkh i ego vlast' nad russkoiu tserkoviiu (Saint Petersburg 1878; repr, The Hague 1968)
Kondakov, N. Vizantiiskie tserkvi i pamiatniki Konstantinopolia (Odesa 1887)
Lotots'kyi, O. Storinky mynuloho, 4: V Tsarhorodi (Warsaw 1939)
Levchenko, M. Ocherki po istorii russko-vizantiiskikh otnoshenii (Moscow 1956)
Hornykevych, T. Viden', Tsarhorod, Ateny: Podorozhni zapysky (Munich 1964)
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1988).]