Kharkiv Oblast (translit. Kharkivs’ka oblast’; also referred to as Kharkivshchyna – ) is an oblast (province) in eastern Ukraine. The oblast borders Russia to the north, Luhansk Oblast to the east, Donetsk Oblast to the south-east, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast to the south-west, Poltava Oblast to the west and Sumy Oblast to the north-west. The area of the oblast is 31,400 km², corresponding to 5.2% of the total territory of Ukraine.
The oblast is the third most populous region of Ukraine, with a population of 2,857,751, more than half (1.5 million) of whom live in the city of Kharkiv, the oblast's administrative center. While the Russian language is primarily spoken in the cities of Kharkiv oblast, elsewhere in the oblast most inhabitants speak Ukrainian.
The territory of the Kharkiv oblast has been permanently inhabited since at least the late Paleolithic period (10,000–12,000 years ago) but archaeological evidence indicates a human (Neanderthal) presence as early as the Mousterian period some 80,000 years ago.
The territory was relatively sparsely inhabited until the 1630s, when large numbers of Ukrainians began to settle there before and during the Khmelnytsky Uprising. Most of the settlers were migrants from the Dnieper region, many of whom were fleeing fighting between Cossacks, Poles and Tatars. They called the newly settled region the Sloboda Ukraine or Slobozhanshchina (as the area is still sometimes called) and ruled it from the newly established fortress-city of Kharkiv (founded 1654). In 1654, the region was incorporated into Muscovy (and subsequently the Russian Empire) under the terms of the Treaty of Pereyaslav.
Over the next centuries, the area became heavily Russified. Kharkov Governorate (Russian: Ха́рьковская губе́рния) was established in 1797 as a governorate of the Russian Empire and disestablished in 1919. Kharkiv itself became one of the cultural and administrative centres of the Russian Empire in the mid-18th century, and served as the capital of the Ukrainian SSR from 1919 until 1934.
During the Civil War, on June 25, 1919, the whiteguards created military Kharkiv Oblast of the Armed Forces of South Russia. On December 12, 1919 the Oblast was disestablished giving its place back to the Kharkov Governorate (1919–1923).
During the Soviet administrative reform of 1923–1929, in 1925, the Kharkov Governorate was abolished and a part of it became subordinate to the capital (Kharkov) of the Ukrainian SSR until 1932.
The modern Kharkiv oblast is a relatively recent creation, having been established on 27 February 1932. During the Holodomor the population of the Kharkiv Oblast together with Kiev Oblast suffered the most. The region saw major fighting during World War II in several Battles of Kharkov between 1941 and 1943.