Poltava pəltä´və [key], city (1989 pop. 315,000), capital of Poltava region, E Ukraine, on the Kiev-Kharkiv highway and on the Vorskla River, a tributary of the Dnieper. It is an industrial center and important rail junction in the rich black-earth agricultural region. The city has railroad shops, food- and tobacco-processing plants, and factories that produce machinery, railroad equipment, automobiles, tractors, building materials, footwear, leather goods, textiles, and wood products. One of the oldest Ukrainian cities, Poltava was the site of a Slavic settlement in the 8th and 9th cent. It became part of Lithuania in 1430. In the 17th cent., under Bohdan Chmielnicki, it was the chief town of a Ukrainian Cossack regiment. Poltava was a flourishing commercial center in the 18th and 19th cent., a principal focus of the Ukrainian literary and national movement, and, under Czar Nicholas I, a place of exile. Nearby lies the battlefield where Czar Peter I defeated Charles XII of Sweden and the hetman Mazeppa of Ukraine in 1709 (see Northern War) in a battle that marked Russia's emergence as a major European power. Poltava was the home of the writer Nikolai Gogol, many of whose stories are set in the nearby village of Dikanka. The city is the location of the gravitational observatory of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences.
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