The Chernivtsi Region or Bukovyna, which was formed in 1940, is Ukraine’s smallest administrative region, bordering on Romania and Moldova in the south. The varied geographic profile of the region includes the Northern Podillia Upland, the Central Chernivtsi Upland, and the Pokuttia-Bukovyna Carpathians in the South-West.
The intricately carved, canyon-like Dnistro valley, together with the branching Prut River, which descends from the Carpathians and the rapid mountain river Cheremosh, creates inspiring breath-taking scenery complemented by the skyline of the Pokuttya-Bukovyna Carpathians. The thick spruce forests intermingle with the pristine meadows, and small hillside agricultural estates to create magnificent landscapes.
The earliest settlements in Naddnistrianschyna (The Dnistro country) date back to the late Paleolithic Era (40,000— 15,000 years ago). In the Princely times between 10th— 12th c.c, Northern Bukovyna, which is today’s Chernivtsi Region, was part of Kyivan Rus, and in 12th—13th c.c. of the Halych-Volyn principality, which had to accept suzerainty to the Golden Horde.
In 1245, the Golden Horde was ousted from the area by the Hungarians, who yielded it to Moldova, which retained control of the lands till 1514 when it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. Since 1774 and for over a hundred and fifty years, northern Bukovyna was under Austria, which resulted in economic and architectural boom, and brought the area a status of Bukovyna Duchy. After the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, the lands passed to Romania until 1940, when it became part of the Ukrainian SSR.
The complex history of the region had profound effect on its architecture, including 15th—18th c.c. fortifications, 16th—20th c.c. churches of all confessions and 18th—20th c.c. palaces, private estates, administrative buildings and monuments.
Chernivtsi, Bukovyna’s largest city lies on the banks of the Prut River. The early records of Chernivtsi date back to 1408. In the 15th—16th c.c., when it was under Moldova, Chernivtsi acquired a particular significance as it exercised customs control on the trade route from Poland to the Black Sea. When Bukovyna came under the Austrian Monarchy in 1774, Chernivtsi gained momentum in civic construction, which resulted in its status as the capital of a district in 1786, and the capital of a province in 1849.
The oldest buildings in the city are the wooden 1607 St. Mykolayivska, the 17th century Voznesenska (Ascension) and the 1707 St. Spyrydonivska churches. The architectural diversity in city construction can be observed at the example of the 1844 Holy Spirit Cathedral, and the 1847 City Hall, followed by the 1875 Armenian Church, the 1805 O. Koby-lianska Music and Drama Theatre, the!939 St. Nicholas Cathedral and others.
Chernivtsi’s special pride is the elegant red-brick Metropolitan’s Residence, which included the 1882 Seminary Church, the 1876 Metropolitan Palace, the 1870 Seminary Hall, and the Brethren House. After the restoration ensuing WWII, the whole complex was turned to Chernivtsi Fedkovych National University.
With Chernivtsi’s acquiring the status of the capital of the Duchy of Bukovyna under the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1869, the city saw a true civic construction boom. It wouldn’t be wrong to suggest that the city centre owes its veneer of noble oldness to the well-preserved buildings of the period rare to find anywhere else in Ukraine.
The town of Khotyn is believed to have begun as a fortress on the steep right bank of the Dniester River during Kyivan Rus times. In 1250—60′s Danylo of Halych ordered the earth ramparts and wooden fence to be reinforced with stone fortifications. Overlooking the Dniester, which a serious water obstacle, and surrounded by ramparts and thick walls with bastions, the fortress was thought to be impregnable. The construction, including the mighty citadel, was completed during the 15th—18th c.c., when Khotyn was under Moldavan voyevo-das (military commanders) who were Turkish lieges. This accounted for the discernible Moldavan ornaments in the citadel’s interior.
Not once was the Khotyn Fortress a battlefield in the wars of the Ottoman Empire against Rzeczpospolita, and then, Russia. In 1621 it played a pivotal role in the Khotyn War, as the Polish Army, aided by the Zaporozhian Cossacks’, stopped the Turkish advance in Podillia. In 1673 Jan III Sobieski of Poland beat the 70,000-strong Ottoman Army, which, however, did not prevent the then Ottomans from grabbing the Pre-Dniester chunk of land from Rzeczpospolita.
During the Russo-Northern War (1710—11) the Turks commissioned the French military engineers to expand the fortress’s fortification, making the total area cover 30 ha. The Medieval citadel still remained the most protected section of the fortress with massive walls and five towers overlooking the river. The largest, Northern tower was constructed to be the last keep or donjon of the fortress. The inner courtyard was divided in two sections by the Commandant’s Palace. In the event of a siege, the bigger part of the yard was intended for the garrison, whereas the smaller section was allocated for the superiors.
After the 1806—12 Russo-Turkish War Khotyn passed to the Russian Empire, which made it into the military school in 1825 with the gracious 1832 St. Alexander Nevskiy Church on the premises. In 2000 the Khotyn Fortress History Heritage Preserve was founded with extensive restoration works being carried out at the time of research.
The town of Storozhynets on the Seret River received its first mention in the 1448 deed of the Modlavan voyevoda Roman as a watch tower on the Danube’s tributary. However, it was not until 1904 when it was granted with the status of a town that it saw a rapid sprawl. In 1912, a dendropark of 17 Ha was founded near Storozhynets to safeguard hundreds of rare species of trees and bushes indigenous to the area.
Dykhtynets, a village that stretches along the Putyla River, has been known since 1774. Every bent of the winding mountain road offers a new glimpse of the region’s natural wanders. The widest known attraction of the area is the Zakamyanila Bahachka (Petrified Rich Woman) Cliff, featuring in all surveys of the Bukovyna Carpathians’ nature marvels. It is a gray 30-m high cliff shaped like a woman due to the weathering. The legend has it that a rich but parsimonious woman was cursed by a beggar for having a heart of stone, which turned her into the cliff.