Storozhynets in a historical post card

During Neolithic, Bukovyna was populated by Cucuteni-Trypillian culture of early settlers (4500 BC – 3000 BC), which was overrun, around 2000 BC, by the migration of Indo-Europeans.

Archaeological excavations in Sokyriany District dating back to the Trypillian culture

Starting from the II millennium BC it was inhabited by the Dacian tribes, such as Costoboci and Carpians, who also shared the land with the Celto-Germanic tribe of Bastarnae for some period. From approx. 70 BC to 44 BC, the region was incorporated in the Dacian polity of Burebista.


When the Dacian Kingdom of Decebal, which included the territories just on the opposite side of the Carpathian Mountains from what is today's Bukovyna, was invaded by the Romans in 106 AD, the area experienced linguistic and cultural influence of the Roman Empire.

Decebal's relief portrait in Danube rocks, near the Iron Gate, Romania

In the III century AD (240s–270s) the region was devastated by the Goths, in the IV century by the Huns (370s–380s), and in the VI century (560s–570s) by the Avars.


Beginning with the VI century, Slavic populations spread over the region and influenced the locals in terms of  linguistics and certain agricultural methods (e.g. burning forests to expand the cultivated lands).

Ancient Slavs

In 797 the Avars, who settled in today's Hungary and collected tribute from the peasants all over south-eastern Europe on a regular basis, were defeated by Charlemagne.


According to medieval Kyivan sources, around the X century the territory could have been part of the Kyivan Rus, and in the XII to early XIV century, the Principality of Galicia-Volhynia included parts of the region. Some sources affirm that the low-land area of today's Bukovyna was included in an early Vlach polity around the city of Siret.


The villages of the Campulung Valley organized a "republic" that managed to remain autonomous even under the Principality of Moldavia, which gained independence in 1359.



The era of the Moldavian Principality


In the mid XIV century the Moldavian state emerged, eventually expanding its lands all the way to the Black Sea. Bukovyna and neighbouring regions served as the nucleus of the Moldavian Principality, the city of Suceava being its capital since 1388 (after Baia and Siret). The name of Moldavia (Moldova) was derived from a river (the Moldova) flowing in Bukovyna.


In the XV century, Pokuttya, the region immediately to the north, became the subject of disputes between the Principality of Moldavia and the Polish Kingdom. Pokuttya was inhabited by Ruthenians (predecessors of modern Ukrainians) and Hutsuls; the latter also resided in West Bukovyna. During the 1497 Cosmin Forest Battle (near the hilly forests separating Chernivtsi and Siret valleys) Stephen III of Moldavia (aka Stephen the Great - Rom. Ștefan cel Mare) managed to defeat the significantly stronger but demoralized army of King John I Albert of Poland. In Polish popular culture the battle is named "the battle when the knights have perished".

Ștefan cel Mare

In this period, the patronage of Stephen III of Moldavia and his successors on the Moldavian throne bore such fruits as the construction of the famous painted Moldoviţa, Suceviţa, Putna, Humor, Voroneţ, Dragomirna, Arbore and other monasteries. With their renowned exterior frescoes, these have been remaining amongst Romania's greatest cultural treasures; some of them are World Heritage Sites, part of the Northern Moldavia painted churches. Stephen also settled the first Ruthenians in Bukovina with the hope of having a loyal and more numerous population that would contribute to taxes collected. In XVI-century Suceava two percent of the population (i.e. about 500–1000 people) were Ruthenians.

Since 1513, Moldavia had been obliged to pay annual tribute to the Ottoman Empire but retained its autonomy and was governed as before by a native Voivod / Prince, also known as Domnitor or Hospodar (Lord in English).


In May 1600 Mihai Viteazul (Michael the Brave) consolidated the three Romanian principalities under his single leadership.


During short periods of time (mostly during wars) the Polish Kingdom occupied parts of North Moldavia. However, the previous border was restored every time thereafter, for which reason on October 14, 1703 the Polish delegate Martin Chometowski acknowledged that "Between us and Wallachia (i.e. Moldavia) God himself set Dniester as the border" (Inter nos et Valachiam ipse Deus flumine Tyras dislimitavit).


In the course of the Russo-Turkish War of 1768–1774, the Ottoman armies were defeated by the Russian Empire that occupied the region from December 15, 1769 to September 1774, and before then between September,14 and October 1739. Bukovyna was the reward the Habsburgs received for aiding the Ottomans in that war. Prince Grigore III Ghica of Moldavia protested and was determined to take action to recover the territory, but he was assassinated and the Ottomans put a Greek-Phanariot foreigner on the throne of Moldavia.

Under the Austro-Hungarian Empire


In wouldn't be false to say that the era of the Austrian rule was the period of Bukovyna's unprecedented development giving it the shape having greatly remained until now. Once the poorest province of the Empire, by 1914 Bukovyna transformed into a prospering land enjoying the most advanced culture and technology achievements of the time.

The coat of arms of Franz Joseph I, the last Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire...

...and the text on today's Chernivtsi City Hall

VIRIBUS UNITIS - IN JOINT EFFORT. The City's slogan emphasizes on collaboration. City Hall, Chernivtsi, Ukraine

The Austrian Empire occupied Bukovyna in October 1774. After the first partition of Poland taking place in 1772, the Austrians claimed that they needed a road between Galicia and Transylvania. Bukovyna was formally annexed in January 1775. On July 2, 1776 at Palamutka Austrians and Ottomans signed their border convention, Austrians giving back 59 of the previously occupied villages with 278 villages remaining to them.


First, Bukovyna was a closed military district (1775–1786), then the largest district, Kreis Czernowitz (named after Czernowitz (Chernivtsi) being its capital) of the Austrian constituent Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria (1787–1849), and, finally, on March 4, 1849, it became a separate Austrian Kronland ("crown land") under a Landespräsident (not a Statthalter, as in other crown lands) and declared Herzogtum Bukowina (nominal duchy, as part of the official full style of the Austrian Emperors). In 1860 it was re-amalgamated with Galicia but reinstated as a separate province once again on February 26, 1861, this status continuing until 1918.

Franz Joseph I, the last and, probably, the most notable Austro-Hungarian Emperor

In 1849 Bukovyna got its representative assembly, the Landtag (provincial parliament). The Moldavian nobility had traditionally formed the ruling class in the territory. Since 1867 it had remained part of the Cisleithanian or Austrian territories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918.

A historical post card depicting Ruthenians from the Austro-Hungarian period

According to the 1775 Austrian census, the province had the total population of 86,000 people mostly consisting of Romanians (Moldovans), and up to 10,000 Slavs (Polish, Ruthenians and Hutsuls). During the XIX century the Austrian Empire policies encouraged the influx of many immigrants, in particular, Germans, Poles, Jews, Hungarians, and Ukrainians (that time referred to as Ruthenians) from Galicia. By 1900 the Romanian population of Bukovyna decreased to roughly 40%, with significant Ukrainian (including Hutsuls) (especially in villages in the northern half), German, Jewish, Polish (especially in towns), and Hungarian (several villages) proportions. To reflect this ethnicity shift, in 1843 the Ruthenian language was recognized, along with the Romanian language, as "the language of the people and of the Church in Bukovyna".

Hutsuls from approximately the same period

Late XIX - early XX centuries


The 1871 and 1904 jubilees celebrated at Putna Monastery, near the tomb of Ştefan cel Mare, signalized tremendous moments for Romanian national identity in Bukovyna. Since gaining its independence, Romania had envisioned to incorporate this historic province which, as a core of Moldavian Principality, had tremendous historic significance for Bucharest and contained many prominent monuments of Romanian art and architecture.


Although migrants continued resettling to Bukovyna and the process was encouraged under the Austrian rule, Romanians continued to be the largest ethnic group in the province until 1880, when Ruthenians (Ukrainians) outnumbered the Romanians achieving the proportion of 5:4. According to the 1880 census, there were 239,690 Ruthenians and Hutsuls, or roughly 41.5% of the region's population, while Romanians were retaining the second position with 190,005 people or 33%, the proportion that remained unchanged until World War I. Ruthenians was an archaic name for Ukrainian, while the Hutsuls, traditionally deemed an ethnic group of Ukrainian stock, are considered by some modern authors ethnically Vlach shepherds whose linguistics approached a Slavic (Ukrainian) language. It is worth to note that today's historical findings are very much affected by visions of different political forces from the countries anyhow related to the region.

A mix of ethnicities in Austro-Hungarian Bukovyna (Ruthenians, Hutsuls, Romanians, Swabians, Jews, Poles, Hungarians, Lipovans, Romas)

Under Austrian rule Bukovyna remained ethnically mixed: predominantly Romanian in the South, Ukrainian (commonly referred to as Ruthenians in the Empire) in the North, with small numbers of Hungarian Székely, Slovak and Polish peasants, and Germans, Poles and Jews in towns. The 1910 census counted 800,198 people, the proportions of which were: Ruthenians - 38.88%, Romanians - 34.38%, Germans - 21.24%, Jews - 12.86%, Poles - 4.55%, Hungarians - 1.31%, Slovaks - 0.08%, Slovenes - 0.02%, Italians - 0.02%, and a few representatives of the Armenian, Croat, Gypsy, Serbian, and Turkish ethnicities. Romanians were still present in all settlements of the region, but in Northern villages their number decreased. Many Bukovyna's Germans and some Romanians emigrated to North America at the turn of the XIX century. Some Romanian historians, such as Ion Nistor, were of the opinion that many Ukrainians were "Romanians who have forgotten their Romanian language”.

A family of immigrants from Velykyi Kuchuriv (in today's Storozhynets District) in the U.S. (Photo courtesy of www.findagrave.com)

In 1783, based on an imperial decree, Greek Orthodox eparchies in Bukovyna and Dalmatia formed their Archbishopric with its seat in Czernowitz, which entity was later raised to the rank of Metropolitanate. At those times, there were some conflicts between the Serb archbishops and the Romanians complaining that Old Slavonic is favoured to Romanian, and that family names are being slavicized. In spite of clashes between Romanian and Slavonic leaders dividing the influence in the local Orthodox clerical hierarchy, there was no Romanian-Ukrainian inter-ethnic tension, and both cultures developed organically in terms of educational and social level. Moreover, at the end of the XIX century, the development of Ukrainian culture in Bukovyna surpassed that in Galicia and the rest of Ukraine due to a network of Ukrainian educational facilities.

Eugen Hackmann, probably, the most outstanding Bukovynian Metropolitan

...and the Residence of Bukovynian Metropolitans the construction of which he initiated

In the early XX century, a group of scholars surrounding the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand created a plan (that never came to pass) of the United States of Greater Austria. The specific proposal was published in Aurel C. Popovici's book "Die Vereinigten Staaten von Groß-Österreich" [The United States of Greater Austria], Leipzig, 1906. According to it, the South of Bukovyna (including Czernowitz) would form, with Transylvania, the Romanian state, while its North-Western portion (Zastavna, Kozman, Waschkoutz, Wiznitz, Gura Putilei, and Seletin districts) would form, together with the bigger part of Galicia, the Ukrainian state, both in a federation with 13 other states under the Austrian crown.

Franz Ferdinand's vision of the United States of Greater Austria, image courtesy of wikipedia.org

During the Kingdom of Romania


At the times of World War I, several battles had place in Bukovyna between the Austro-Hungarian, German, and Russian armies. Finally, the political situation (the Bolsheviks' revolution) resulted in forcing the Russian army out in 1917.


With the collapse of Austria-Hungary in 1918, both the local Romanian National Council and the Ukrainian National Council based in Galicia declared the region as their domain. On October 14/27, 1918 the Constituent Assembly formed the Executive Committee, to which the province's Austrian governor transferred the power. The Executive Committee named the General Congress of Bukovyna for November 15/28, 1918, in which 74 Romanians, 13 Ruthenians, 7 Germans, and 6 Poles were elected (defined on a linguistic basis without distinguishing Jews as a separate group). The popular enthusiasm spread throughout the region, and a dramatic number of people gathered in the city waiting for the Congress's resolution.


Based on the results of the Congress's Chairman election, the position was entrusted to Iancu Flondor, a Romania-oriented Bukovynian politician, which was followed by the decision for the union with the Kingdom of Romania. This was supported by the Romanian, German, Jewish, and Polish representatives, while the Ukrainian ones found themselves in opposition. The reasons for the unionistic decision were that, until its takeover by the Habsburg in 1775, Bukovyna had used to be the heart of the Principality of Moldavia with "gropniţele domneşti" (burial sites of voivods) in its territory, and had enjoyed "dreptul de liberă hotărâre de sine" (right of self-determination).


After the formal request by Iancu Flondor, Romanian troops promptly moved in to take over the territory, in spite of Ukrainians' protests. Although local Ukrainians attempted to incorporate parts of the North Bukovyna into the died-in-childbed Western Ukrainian People's Republic, this attempt was nipped in the bud by the Polish and Romanian troops. The Romanian control over the province gained international recognition in the Treaty of St. Germain in 1919.

Romanian 8th Division marching in Chernivtsi, November 11, 1918 (photo courtesy of gr-czernowitz.livejournal.com)

Between the two World Wars, Romanian authorities conducted the romanization policy. Romanian language was introduced in ethnic minorities' schools in 1923, and by 1926 all Ukrainian schools in Bukovyna were closed.


In the decade after 1928, as Romania tried to build better relations with the Soviet Union, Ukrainian culture was given some limited freedom to redevelop, though the achieved success was rapidly reversed in 1938.


According to the 1930 Romanian census, Romanians constituted nearly 45% of the total Bukovyna's population, while Ruthenians (Ukrainians) did 29.2%. However, in the region's North, which subsequently was ceded to the USSR following the Soviet Ultimatum dated June 1940, Romanians only totalled 32.6% of the population with Ukrainians slightly outnumbering them.


In 1940, after the region got annexed by the Soviet Union, Chernivtsi Oblast's (which was 70% Northern Bukovina) population totalled around 805,000 persons, of which 47.5% identified themselves as Ukrainians and 28.3% did as Romanians, with Germans, Jews, Poles, Hungarians and Russians forming the rest. Some Romanian brainpower, reasonably fearing GULAG, fled the region before the Soviets advanced. The strong Ukrainian community was the official motivation to include this region in the Ukrainian SSR and not in the novel Moldavian SSR. It is still a matter of speculations if it would have been added to the Ukrainian SSR, if the decision had been made by someone else but Nikita Khrushchev, the then-Ukrainian communist leader. In fact, indeed, some territories in which the Romanian ethnicity prevailed (e.g. Hertza District) were attributed to the Ukrainian SSR for somewhat unclear reasons.

The Red Army entering Chernivtsi, moving from today's Soborna Sq along Holovna St to Centralna St, 1940

On the eve of the Second World War


Following the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, the June 1940 Soviet Ultimatum demanded from Romania returning the northern part of Bukovyna, the region bordering Galicia (the latter already annexed by the Soviet Union during the 1939 Poland's partition). The Soviet demand for Bukovyna surprised Nazi Germany, though it did not formally oppose it (probably, planning that the Soviet rule here would not continue too long). In the first Soviet ultimatum addressed to the Romanian government, North Bukovyna with the prevalence of Ukrainians was "demanded" as a minor "reparation for the great losses caused to the Soviet Union and Bassarabia's population by twenty-two years of Romania's domination of Bassarabia". On 28 June 1940, the Romanian government evacuated North Bukovyna, and the Red Army moved in, with the new Soviet-Romanian border traced less than 20 km north of Putna Monastery.

A Hutsul-style march during a communistic parade in Centralna Sq, Chernivtsi, 1940 (photo courtesy of times.cv.ua)

In the course of the 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union by the Axis forces, the Romanian Third Army led by General Petre Dumitrescu (operating in the north) and the Fourth Romanian Army (operating in the south) re-occupied Northern Bukovina together with Hertsa District, as well as Bassarabia, during June–July 1941. However, it did not stop continuing the war, instead, during 1941–1944 it occupied recognized Soviet territories in the South of the Ukrainian SSR, such as Odessa Oblast and parts of Mykolaiv and Vinnytsia Oblasts.

A Romanian soldier, summer 1941

Romanian horse cavalry in Chernivtsi, July 1941

Post-WWII era


Spring 1945 saw the formation of transports of Polish repatriates who (in their own volition or by coercion) had decided to resettle to Poland. Between March 1945 and July 1946, 10,490 inhabitants left northern Bukovyna for Poland, including 8,140 Poles, 2,041 Jews and 309 of other ethnicities.


All in all, between 1930 (last Romanian census) and 1959 (first Soviet census), the population of North Bukovyna decreased by 31,521 people. According to official data from those two censuses, the Romanian population had decreased by 75,752 people, and the Jewish population did by 46,632, while the Ukrainian and Russian proportions increased by 135,161 and 4,322 people respectively.


After 1944, the human and economic connections between the North (Soviet) and South (Romanian) parts of Bukovyna were interrupted. While the Northern part is the nucleus of the Ukrainian Chernivtsi Oblast, the Southern part is tightly integrated with other Romania's historic regions.

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