The Chernihiv Region, one of the largest and oldest in Ukraine, was formally established in 1932, bordering on Belarus and the Russian Federation. It lies on the Pre-Dnipro Lowland or Chernihiv Polissia; whereas its north-eastern part, i.e. Nov-horod-Siversky Polissia, stretches across the spurs of Sered-nyoruske Upland, and its south-eastern part lies on the Poltava Plains.
The landscape of the region is mostly that of a low-hilled plain with one-fifth of the territory sinking in thick forest. The valleys of the fast-flowing Dnipro, Desna, Snov, and Seym add a lot to the region’s natural beauty.
The earliest settlements in the region date back to the mid-Paleolithic Era (50,000 years ago). The 7th—8th c.c. saw the arrival of the Eastern Slavic tribes — the Severyns and the Polianians. In the 11th c. the local lands were gathered under the Chernihiv Principality, which fell to the Tatar-Mongols in 1239—40. The Great Duchy of Lithuania took over the area in 14th—15th c.c., followed by Muscovy State in the 16th c., and Rzeczpospolita in the early 17th c.
The 1654 Treaty of Pereyaslav concluded with the Muscovy State, envisaged an autonomous Cossack Hetmanate with Chernihivschyna being part of it. With the disbandment of the Hetmanate in 1775, Chernihiv and Novhorod-Siversky were included in Malorossiya (1797), later reformed into the Chernihiv Guberniya (1802) of the Russian Empire.
The oldest architectural survivors in the area are random Christian Orthodox churches dating back to the Princely times, along with landlords’ palaces and mansions with landscape parks, administrative buildings and monuments of the 17th—19th c.c.
Built on the Desna River bank, Chernihiv is one of the oldest cities in Ukraine, first mentioned in the Hypatian chronicle of 907. As the Chernihiv Principality spun off Kyivan Rus in 1024, the Salvation and Transfiguration Cathedral was built in Chernihiv to house the burial-vault for the Chernihiv princes. The late 11th — early 12th c.c. saw the erection of the 1076 Yeletskyy and the 1069 Holy Trinity and St. Elias monasteries, and the 12th с. Paraskeva Church. In 1239 Chernihiv was devastated by the Tatar-Mongols, which led to its rapid decline. Only in the 15th c. the Yeletskyy Monastery and Transfiguration Cathedral were reopened. What is left of the 1534 Detynets (fortress) on the Desna bank is a row of twelve bastion cannons on the ramparts overlooking the embankments.
Chernihiv was granted with Magdeburg Law in 1623 when it was under Rzeczpospolita, which helped rebuild the Troyi-tsko-Illinskyy Monastery in 1649, and the 1069 Illinska Church a few years later. About the same time the 1677 Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Church was raised, followed by the 1695 Trinity Cathedral, to which a 58-m-high bell tower was added in 1775.
Under the Muscovy rule in the late 17th c., Chernihiv developed into a major city in the Left-bank Ukraine. The architectural legacy of the time includes the 17th-c. Regiment Chancery, the 1700 Malorossiya Collegium, and the 1715 St. Catherine Church. In 1782 Chernihiv became the capital of a namisnytsvo, and in 1802 of a guberniya.
Nizhyn on the banks of the Oster River was first mentioned in the Hypatian chronicles of 1147. It began as a fortress, ruined in 1239, and was not rebuilt until the early 17th c., when Nizhyn became the biggest regimental centre in the Left-bank Ukraine. Most important buildings of the time numbered a few Orthodox churches with the 1669 Mykolayivskyy and 1716 Annunciation cathedrals. In 1820, the Higher Gymnasium was opened, which now houses Nizhyn Pedagogical University, named after its most prominent graduate, Nikolay Gogol, a great Russian and Ukrainian writer.
Novhorod-Siversky, known since 1096 former capital of the principality, was built on the high Desna bank. In 1185 the Prince Ihor Sviatoslavovych ventured an unsuccessful military campaign against the Cumans, the event immortalized in the Old Russian The Lay of Ihor’s Host (1187). The Tartar-Mongol invasion of 1239 left the town in ruins until the Hetmanate, when it was rebuilt. With the revival of the city the Assumption Cathedral was built in 1671, and the Salvation-Transfiguration Monastery was restored with a number of new buildings added, i.e. the 1693 Chamber with the adjacent SS Peter and Paul Church, the Gate-tower, the Dean’s House, the St. Illyah Church, and the 17th-c. Theological Seminary with monk cells. In 1990 the Memorial Museum of The Lay of Ihor’s Host was established on the monastery’s lands.
The town of Kozelets on the Oster River housed the headquarters of the Kyiv Regiment during the Hetmanate, with the 1760 Regiment Chancery still standing there. Another attraction of the town is the 1766 Nativity of the Virgin Cathedral, whose construction was initiated by Countess Rasumovska. Kozelets Cathedral stands out among other 18th-c. religious edifices built in the Russian Empire. The gilded fretted seven-tire iconostasis is the focal point of the Cathedral’s interior.
A way off Kachanivka village on the Smosh River stands the most magnificent 18th c. manor house. In 1771—1808 the Kachanivka manor belonged to P. Rumyantsev-Zadunaysky, and in 1808—97 to the Tarnovsky family. Apart from the palace, the manor included a water tower and two outbuildings, a sumrnerhouse (where the Russian composer M. Glynka stayed as a guest to the Tarnovskys), two subsidiary buildings, St. George Church, and a beautiful park, all of which have survived till now.
Known since the Princely time, Sokyryntsi village on the Utka River won fame due to the Pryluky commander H. Halahan. His village passed down from generation to generation, until his descendant, P. Halahan, initiated the construction of a new estate in a century-old coppice near the village. The 1829 Halahan Palace is a fine example of Ukrainian masonry.
The Trostianets village was owned by Hetman Skoropadsky descendants in the 19th c. In 1830 many buildings were put up here, followed by a park. The enormous effort of Skoropadsky’s serfs resulted in the creation of the Trostianets Dendropark (204 ha), which is one of the biggest parks of the former Soviet Union, with more than 400 species of trees and bushes grown here.