Developed around a military settlement, the city got to prominence in the 19th century when it became an important trade centre also enjoying the rights of the Ukrainian culture promoter with the first professional theatrical company both in Central and Eastern Ukraine being established here in 1882.
In Soviet times the city became an agricultural and light industry centre. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Kirovohrad saw the decline of the city's industry potential and general socioeconomic value. Since 2002 the economics of Kirovohrad has been slowly reviving.
The history of the city foundation dates back to the year 1754 when St. Elizabeth’s fortress was built on the lands of former Zaporizka Sich in the upper course of the Inhul, Suhokleya and Biyanka Rivers. The historic name of the city Yelysavethrad was changed for Zinovyevsk in 1924, for Kirovo in 1934. The city was renamed Kirovohrad on the 10th of January, 1939.
The history of Kirovohrad starts from that of Fort of St. Elizabeth. This fort was built in 1754 by the order of empress Elizabeth of Russia and it played a pivotal role in the new lands added to Russia by the Belgrad Peace Treaty of 1739. In 1764 the settlement received status of the center of the Elizabeth province, and in 1784 the status of chief town of a district, when it was renamed after the fort as Yelizavetgrad.
The Fort of St. Elizabeth was located on the crossroads of trade routes, and it eventually became a major trade center. The city has held regular fairs 4 times a year. Merchants from all over the Russian Empire have visited these fairs. Also, there were a lot of foreign merchants, especially from Greece.
On Wednesday, April 27, 1881, there was a pogrom against the Jewish citizens of Elisavetgrad. A religious dispute at an inn sparked off the riot. The attack focused at first on the systematic destruction of Jewish shops and warehouses. The Jewish citizens tried to protect their businesses, but this only led to more outrage. The soldiers joined in the rioting rather than trying to stop it. After two days of attacks, many were killed, 500 houses and 100 shops were demolished and approximately 2,000,000 rubles' worth of property was stolen or destroyed.
This would not be the only pogrom against the Jewish population of Elisavetgrad. In 1905 another riot flared killing Jews and again plundering the Jewish quarter. A contemporary account of the 1905 pogrom was reported in the New York Times December 13, 1905
Elizabethgrad was ravaged by famine in 1901 which was made worse by poor government response. The region is extremely fertile. However, a drought in 1892 and poor farming methods which never allowed the soil to recover, prompted a large famine that plagued the region. According to a 1901 NY Times article, the Ministry of the Interior denied that the persistence of famine in the region and blocked non-State charities from bringing aid to the area. In the opinion of the NY Times author, "The existence of famine was inconvenient at a time when negotiations were pending for foreign loans." The Governor of the Kherson region, Prince Oblonsky, refused to acknowledge this famine. Nevertheless, one non-resident and non-State worker was able to gain access to Elizabethgrad and could provide the NY Times with an eye-witness account He observed: general destitution; acute destitution; death from starvation; hunger typhus (shows poverty), little to no work to be found in the region.
During Soviet rule, the city economy was dominated by such enterprises as Chervona Zirka Agricultural Machinery Plant (which once provided more than 50% of the USSR need in tractor seeders), Hydrosila Hydraulic Units Plant, Radiy Radio Component Plant, Pishmash Typewriter Plant (de facto defunct nowadays) etc.
During the Ukrainian presidential election of 2004 the city got the country-wide notoriety because of mass election fraud committed by local authorities and long after that was known as District 100 (the community number according to Central Elections Committee).