The town of Chernivtsi (Czerniowce) dates back to the 12th century, when a settlement was established on the left bank of the Prut River, near a trade route that connected Red Ruthenia with the Black Sea. In 1295 the settlement was burned down by Tatars and the inhabitants moved to the right bank of the river. Since the mid-14th century, the territories including Chernivtsi were part of Moldavia. The city was mentioned for the first time in 1408, in a document about a privilege granted by Hospodar Alexander the Good, concerning the collection of road tolls and related exemptions for merchants from Lviv. In 1509 the city was plundered by Mikołaj Kamienicki, Hetman of the Crown, as a revenge for Moldavian invasion of Ternopil and Pidhaitsi. In 1558 Moldavia came under the control of the Ottoman Empire. In 1770 a German baron, Peter Nicolaus von Gartenberg, established a new city on the other bank of the Prut River. The city was named Sadhora (Sadogóra), after the Polish version of his name - since 1965 this city has been a northern part of Chernivtsi.

In 1774 Chernivtsi became a part of Austria. The Austrians took care of its growth and development, especially when the city became the seat of an Orthodox bishopric in 1782. 1849 was also a crucial moment because in this year Chernivtsi became the capital of the newly formed Duchy of Bukovina. Another impulse for the city's growth appeared in 1866, when the Lviv-Chernivtsi-Jassy railway (LCJE) was opened. A university was founded in 1875 and a city theater and a musical society in 1877. In 1897 the first trams appeared. The city was multicultural, with Germans, Ruthenians (Ukrainians), Jews, Romanians and Poles living together. The heyday of Chernivtsi was associated with the Polish mayor Antoni Kochanowski (1866-1874, 1887-1905) [1.1]

During World War I, in April 1916, the city was captured by Russia. From 1918 to 1940, as well as from 1941 to 1944, it belonged to Romania (and in 1940-1941 it was occupied by the Red Army). In 1930 the city reached a population of 112, 427, including 38% Jews, 27% Romanians, 15% Germans, 10% Ukrainians and 8% Poles and Polish people of Armenian descent. In 1944 the city was conquered by the Red Army and incorporated into the Ukrainian SSR. Since 1991 it has been a part of independent Ukraine. The border between Ukraine and Romania - as well as the incorporation of northern Bukovina with Chernivtsi to Ukraine - was legitimized by two treaties concluded as late as 1997 and 2003[1.2].

 

[1.1] A short decription of Chernivtsi during this period may be found in M.Orłowicz's handbook Ilustrowany przewodnik po Galicyi, Bukowinie, Spiszu, Orawie i Śląsku Cieszyńskim, (1919), 174-175.

[1.2] For more information about modern Bukovina see: M. Jurecki, Bukowina. Kraina łagodności, (2001).

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