Khmelnytsky Region is the oldest oblast in Western Ukraine, formally created in 1937. This flat terrain lies in the Polissian Lowland in the south, Volynian Upland in the south-west, Pre-Dnipro Upland in the centre, and Podillian Upland in the north.
On the lands of Khmelnychchyna flow headwaters of the rivers of Horyn, Sluch and the Southern Buh, which define the distinct looks of the regions of Polissia and Prychornomorya. Especially picturesque features of Podillia are attributed to the whimsically carved-in valleys of the Dniester River and its left tributaries (Zbruch, Zhvanchyk, Smotrych, Ternava, Ushitsa, and others), which create gorgeous canyons and sceneries.
Around three dozens of human dwellings of the Stone Age period have been discovered on the Podillia banks of the Dnistro, dating back to the Early Paleolithic era (around 300,000 years ago). During the 8th —9th c.c. the northern side of the region was inhabited by the Ulichs and Tiverians tribes, and the southern side by the Volynians and the Dulibs. In the 11th c. the lands of mid-upper Dniester were part of the Terebovlia Principality, part of Galicia in 1141, and from 1199 onward most of the region’s territory was under Halych-Volyn.
In 1362 Podillia was conquered by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and from the mid-15th c. for over 300 years it was controlled by Poland. During its reign dozens of towns appeared, and the best fortified town, Kamyanets-Podilsky emerged as the centre of the region.
The 1575 and 1666 Tartar raids, the 1648—54 Liberation War, and the 1672—99 Turkish occupation brought devastating consequences to Podillia. After the 1793 partition of Rzeczpospolita this region entered the Russian Empire. After WW I most of Volhynia Guberniya passed to Poland, and Khmelnychchyna was surrounded by the state frontiers on three sides.
On the eve of WW II the administrative centre was moved farther from the borders to the town of Proskuriv, which along with the Oblast itself was renamed in honour of Bohdan Khmelnytsky in 1954, on the 300th anniversary of the Pereyaslav Rada.
Khmelnytsky Region is one of the most scenic tourist attractions of Western Ukraine, e.g. Kamyanets-Podilsky has over 150 memorial sites. Different areas of the region have the remains of 14th —18th c.c. castles-fortresses, and varied in style Orthodox, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim religious edifices (16th —20th c.c.). Civic architectural heritage includes administrative buildings, palaces, parks, park manors and historic monuments of the 18th —20th c.c.
Khmelnytsky, the largest town on the banks of the Southern Buh River, sprung from a frontier settlement of Proskuriv, first mentioned in 1493. After the 1795 partition of Rzecz-pospolita it became the povit head town of the newly-formed Podilska guberniya. The architecture of Khmelnytsky is not outstanding; however, it has beautiful mansions and administrative buildings of the capitalist Pre-Revolution times, such as the city hall, museum, theatre and other buildings. Among the city monuments stand out the 1992 B. Khmelnytsky Monument, and the Afghan War Veterans Monument.
Kamyanets-Podilsky, the oldest town of Khmelnychchyna situated on the Smotrych River, was first mentioned in Armenian chronicles in 1062. In 1432 Kamyanets was granted with Magdeburg Law, two years later it obtained the status of a Royal Poland town, and soon after it became the head frontier fortress. In Ukraine it is hard to name a more naturally fortified place as Kamyanets. The Old City was located on an island, carved-out by the waters of the Smotrych River in solid limestone. An imposing Old fortress with thick walls and seven towers raised in the mid-16th c. protected Kamyanets.
The Kamyanets National History and Architecture Heritage Complex created in the present time, preserves the memory of the Armenians, Poles, Ruthenians, Turks and Tatars who inhabited the old city. Reminiscent of the Poles, who controlled the town for nearly three and a half centuries is the 1370 Dominican Cathedral, Franciscan (16th c.) and Trinitarian (18th c.) monasteries survived till today. Illustrative is the story of the SS Peter and Paul Cathedral in the 16th c. During the Turkish reign (1672—99) the Cathedral was made a head Muslim mosque and added a 36 meter minaret. After the Turks were driven out the minaret survived by miracle, and in 1756 it was crowned by a bronze Madonna, constituting a unique Ukrainian example of a temple transformation from Catholic to Muslim and back. A building of Polish Magistrate Hall (15th —19th c.c.) outlived the Polish dominance and now remains in the central square in the Old City.
As a memory of the Armenian community preserved are the well near the city hall, a chain of residential buildings (14th —19th ex.), a trading house (15th c.), warehouses (16th c.), a hospital (17th c.) and other edifices.
Following the Second Partition of Poland and Podillia’s joining the Russian Empire; Kamyanets became the guberniya’s centre. The only Orthodox wooden Exaltation of the True Cross Church (1801), placed at the bottom of the Smotrych canyon was supplemented by the 1834 SS Peter and Paul, the 1861 St. George and the St. Nicholas churches.
A small town of Medzhybizh, on the Northern Buh’s left bank, is known to exist in 1146. The Tatars’ frequent raids forced its owners, the Sieniawskis, to put up a stone fortress on the protrusion where the rivers of Northern Buh and Buzhok conflate. A semi-ruined 1586 castle cathedral and a two-storey palace (16th c.) adjoining the fortress’s walls and the western tower are still preserved in the centre of the courtyard. The restoration of the Medzhybizh castle has been underway for half a century, and in the year 2001 a Medzhybizh State Historical and Cultural Park opened here.
The village of Zhvanets, rising above the Dnistro, was founded in 1431. At the end of the 16th c. a Fortress, razed by the Turks and the Tatars in 1620 was put up here. After the Khotyn War a new owner Lanckoronski rebuilt the castle, and in 1646 Zhvanets was granted Magdeburg Law. After the 1793 partition of Rzeczpospolita, this region was joined to the Russian Empire, and the semi-ruined southern tower of this mighty bulwark still remains on the Dnistro’s bank.
Sutkivtsi, the Ushytsa’s left-bank village dating back to the 14th c., served as an important barrier to safeguard Podillia from the Tatar raids. Ruins of the castle and the Intercession church-fortress survived here. It is believed that this distinctive donjon was built in the 14th c., and later in 1476 it was turned to a church.
The 1996 Podilski Tovtry National Nature and Historic Heritage Park is one of the biggest in Ukraine. All sorts of monuments can be found here, such as unique geologic formations and natural limestone caves, the remains of the caved Bakota Monastery on the precipice of the Dnistro, and settlements with old monuments — Zhvanets, Kytaihorod, Pa-nivtsi, Rykhta, and Sataniv.