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Chernivtsi (with various language-based versions, such as Ukrainian: Чернівці; German: Czernowitz; Romanian: Cernăuţi; Russian: Черновцы; see also other names) is the administrative center of Chernivtsi Oblast (province) in Western Ukraine. The city is positioned apically on the Prut, a tributary of the Danube, in the Northern part of Bukovyna historic region, which is currently divided between Romania and Ukraine. As of 2013, the estimated number of city's residents totalled about 260,000 people.
Chernivtsi City Hall
The city is proud to have served as a cradle for many outstanding personalities, such as Paul Celan and Alfred Kittner (both poets and writers), Oskar Laske (a Vienna Secession artist), Radu Grigorovici (a physics scientist), Maria Forescu. Many other famous people lived and worked in the city, such as Ivan Franko and Yuriy Fedkovych (Ukrainian national poets), Leonid Kravchuk (the first President of post-Soviet Ukraine), Mihai Eminescu (an outstanding Romanian national poet), Eudoxiu Hurmuzachi, Aron Pumnul, Ciprian Porumbescu, Sextil Puşcariu, Ion Nistor, Gala Galaction, Joseph Schumpeter, Nikolai Vavilov, Abraham Goldfaden, Avigdor Arikha, and Aharon Appelfeld.
Together with the city of Lviv, today's Chernivtsi is regarded as a cultural centre of Western Ukraine. It is also deemed one of modern Ukraine's greatest centers of culture and education. Historically, owing to its cultural and architectural uniqueness, Chernivtsi was even named Little Vienna, Small Paris, Jerusalem upon the Prut, or the European Alexandria. Currently, Chernivtsi maintains twin-city relationships with eight foreign cities and towns. It is also a major point of railway and highway crossings in the region, and houses an international airport.
As mentioned above, besides Ukrainian, Chernivtsi is also known under many different foreign names used during times of rule by different countries throughout the city's history, or by the respective population groups at the time, in particular, Romanian: Cernăuţi; German: Czernowitz; Yiddish: טשערנאוויץ (transliterated as Tshernovits); Polish: Czerniowce; Hungarian: Csernovic, Russian: Черновцы́ (translit. Chernovtsy) (until 1944: Чернови́цы (transliterated as Chernovitsy)). In the times of the Principality of Galicia–Volhynia the city's name was Chern.
A tourist plaque with the name Chernivtsi written in 10 languages
Geographically, Chernivtsi is located in the historic region of Bukovyna, which is currently sheared between Romania (South) and Ukraine (North). The city's altitude is 248 meters, the locality is surrounded by forested hills and fields. The Prut river penetrates the city's landscape.
The Prut near Kalynivsky Market seen from the air
Historically, Chernivtsi goes on holding an outstanding position amongst other Ukrainian and Eastern-European municipalities. The city's ancient roots and rich history add to its charm attracting connoisseur of rarities.
Archaeological evidences excavated in the area surrounding Chernivtsi indicate that some local population have inhabited it since the neolithic era. Later settlements included those of the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, the Corded Ware culture; artefacts from the Bronze and Iron Ages were also found in the city.
Excavations dating back to the times of the Trypillian culture found in Chernivtsi Oblast
Remains of the early Slavic tribes in the area date back to the II–V centuries, with the artefacts of White Croats and Tivertsi from the IX–XI centuries also available. A fortified settlement resting on the left (North-Eastern) bank of the Prut dates back to the time of the Principality of Galicia and is deemed to have been built by Grand Prince Yaroslav Osmomysl. Legendary accounts refer to this fortress-city as Chern’, or Black city; it is said to owe its name to the black colour of the city walls built from dark oak layered with local black-coloured soil. This early stronghold was demolished during the Mongol invasion of Europe by Burundai in 1259. However, the remaining ramparts of the fortress were still used for defence purposes; in the XVII century they were augmented with several bastions, one of which has survived until now.
After demolishing the fortress, later settlements in the area centered on the right (South-Western) bank of the Prut at an uplifted and, therefore, more strategically reasonable location. In 1325, when Kingdom of Poland took over Galicia and built relationships with the early Vlach (Romanian) feudal entities, a fort named Ţeţina was mentioned in chronicles; it served as a defence for the ford and crossing point on the Prut. It was a component of a group of three fortifications, the other two being the fortress of Hotin (Khotyn) on the Dniester to the East, and a fort on the Kolachin River, an upriver tributary of the Prut.
Between 1359 and 1775, Chernivtsi and its surroundings were part of the Principality of Moldavia; the city served as the administrative center of the homonymous ţinut (county).The first mention of the name Cernăuţi/Chernivtsi was found in a document by Alexander the Good dated October 8, 1408. In Ottoman sources, the city was mentioned as "Çernovi".
In 1775, around 1/10 of Moldavia's territory was merged by the Austrian Empire; this area became known as Bukowina. The city became the region's capital, which in 1849 was raised in status and became known as the Duchy of Bukovina, a crownland of the Austrian Empire. The city became subject to the Magdeburg Law. The period of its prosperity began in 1778 when Knight Karl von Enzenberg was appointed as the Military Administration Head. He invited many merchants, craftsmen and entrepreneurs to help develop commerce and other businesses. Saint Peter's Fairs (July 1-15) functioned as another catalyst to the market development from 1786.
Chernivtsi's coat of arms from the times of the Austro-Hungarian Empire
During the XIX and early XX century, Chernivtsi became a center of both Romanian and Ukrainian national movements. It was also the venue of the first Yiddish language conference in 1908 (coordinated by Nathan Birnbaum). When the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved in 1918, the city and its surrounding area became included in the Kingdom of Romania. In 1930, the city reached a population of 112,400 of these 26.8% Jews, 23.2% Romanians, 20.8% Germans, 18.6% Ukrainians, the remainder formed by Poles and ethnicities. It was one of the five university centers of the inter-war Romania.
Chernivtsi's coat of arms from the times of Romania
In 1940, the Red Army took over the area; the area around the city became known as Chernivtsi Oblast, and was added to the Ukrainian SSR by the Soviet Union. In July 1941, the Romanian Army recaptured the city playing its role in the Axis advance on the Soviet Union during World War II. In 1944, when Axis forces were forced out by the Red Army, the city was re-incorporated in the Ukrainian SSR. The population became predominantly Ukrainian.
Since 1991, Chernivtsi has been a part of independent Ukraine. In May 1999, Romania opened a consulate general in the city. Today's Chernivtsi is an important regional center situated on vivid banks of the Prut covering an area of about 150 square kilometres (58 sq mi).
Current Chernivtsi's coat of arms
The territory of Chernivtsi is divided into 3 administrative districts:
Pershotravnevyi District (Ukr.: Першотравневий район)
Sadhirskyi District (Ukr.: Садгірський район)
Shevchenkivskyi District (Ukr.: Шевченківський район)
Since 2014, the mayor of Chernivtsi has been Olexiy Kaspruk.
Olexiy Kaspruk with his family
Naturally, a city with such long and rich history must have something to offer its guests to see. And it does offer a lot! Below we outline some points that might be of interest to anyone who loves history and man-made beauty.
Austria’s arrival to Bukovyna and its emperor's decision to make Chernivtsi the capital of the Empire's new province defined its promotion as a European city. The city charter was adopted and administrative, economic and sanitary organizational measures were taken. Broad rights and benefits were granted to those who built stone houses which was a prerequisite for fast economic development and replacement of the wooden city by the stone one.
The core of historical Austrian development was formed round Ringplatz (today’s Centralna Square) from which Holovna, Ratushna, Lileyna, Bozhnitsy, Poshtova and Panska streets spread to different parts of the city like sunbeams.
Chernivtsi is one of the few Ukrainian cities deserving the title of a true architecture pearl. 602 buildings from the old part of the city are included in the state list of architecture monuments, 25 of which are nationally important. Today Chernivtsi's old town is an integral architectural ensemble of the mid XIX – early XX century. During that time European architecture was strongly influenced by the Art Nouveau style known as Vienna secession in Austro-Hungary. These are prominent secession monuments that make Chernivtsi's architecture famous and these are them to define the city's uniqueness.
Chernivtsi's religious structures personify the best historical traditions of architecture. The oldest one is the wooden St. Mykolay Church typical for Bukovyna of XVI-XVIII centuries. In 1787 Roman-Catholic Cathedral of St. Cross Erection was built. Another distinguishing construction is the Holy Spirit Cathedral that was sanctified in 1864 by Eugen Hackmann, a Metropolitan of Bukovyna being one of the most outstanding personalities of Bukovyna’s spiritual life in the XIX century. A wonderful example of neo-Gothic is the Jesuit Jesus Heart Cathedral. Prominent samples of city's architecture monuments are Jewish synagogues.
As every historically meaningful city, Chernivtsi is proud of numerous monuments in its squares and arteries. These reflect different phases of the community development, starting from the Austro-Hungarian Empire through Russian, Romanian and Soviet times to today's independent Ukraine. In different times, they were erected to commemorate outstanding people and events of different levels, be that the first Chernivtsi mayor or the Austrian Emperor, soldiers who died in international missions or those who won the World War II. Chernivtsi monuments remind or prominent artists and luminaries of Ukrainian, Romanian, Jewish, Armenian, Czech and many other cultures. As the city is devoted to revive its historical significance, the number of monuments is growing - and that is a good sign!
Chernivtsi is a city with rich cultural heritage. City's museums represent various collections of decorative and applied Bukovynian arts, there are also museums of outstanding personalities who lived and worked in the city. In these pages you’ll find the list of Chernivtsi museums and information on their work.
Some museums are only significant for their cultural or scientific importance, others have rich collections of artefacts, third, in addition to their expositions, are proud of their buildings that easily deserve to be named monuments of architectural workmanship.
Chernivtsi on Google Maps