The Mykolayiv Regon was formed in 1937. It is distinguished by a moderately continental climate with an exceptionally mild winter with little if any snow and a hot, often droughty summer. The region lies on a flat loess plain slightly tilted southwards. Towards the north it transcends into the Podillial and Pre-Dnipro Uplands densely cut by river valleys, gorges and gullies. The Pivdenny Buh, Arbuzynka, Mertvovid, Hnylyy Yelanets and other fast rivers in this terrain offer breathtaking landscapes as they carve their way through the hard crystalline rock of the Ukrainian Shield.
The vast plain of the Northern Prychornomorya descends to the coastal strand in 30-m high steep cliffs exacerbated by sudden slides, forming a wildly beautiful but deadly dangerous and unsteady coastline. For its beauty the area also owes a lot to so-called lemans, river-estuary lagoons partially or completely cut off the sea.
The first Paleolithic settlements to have appeared in the area 20,000 years ago seem to have clung to the Pivdenny Buh and Inhul rivers. The early human presence in the steppe is put down to the Iranian-speaking Scythian nomads who arrived from the east in the 7th to 2nd с. ВС. In the same span of time the ancient Greeks started to actively colonize the accessible southern lands they could reach by sea. The earliest Greek settlement of the time was unearthed on Island Berezan., whereas by far the largest, Olviya founded in the 6th с. ВС is the most acclaimed archeological site in today’s Mykolayivschyna. The 1st—3rd c.c. AD saw the arrival of the Romans, who were ousted by the the Ostrogoths in the late 3rd c. AD, who in their turn were swept by the Huns migrating from the East in the 4th c. About at the same time, the northern parts of the area were inhabited by the early Slavs of the so-called Cherniakhiv culture (2nd—6th c.c. BC), who suffered greatly from the nomadic Avars, Bulgars, Khazars and Magyars.
The vast area between the Dnipro and the Dnistro rivers was the domain of the Pechenegs from the 10th to 13th сс. when they were driven from their lands by the Mongol invasion. For the next two centuries the area passed to the expanding Grand Duchy of Lithuania and, in the 15th c., the Crimean Khanate. Under the Crimean Khanate, which was in vassal to the Ottoman Empire, the whole area lay virtually barren for hundreds of kilometres, which is why the Slavs called it the ‘Wild Field’.
The late 18th c. saw the rise of the Russian Empire, which began a century-long blood shedding military campaign against the Turks for the access to the Black Sea. One outcome of the two Russo-Turkish wars of 1768—74 and 1787—91 was that the entire area of today’s Mykolayivschyna was joined to Russia, who launched a large-scale resettlement plan. In a short while the newly-arrived colonists from the north founded a number of settlements. As the ‘Turkish threat’ was eliminated and, especially, after the 1861 Abolition of Serfdom Act was passed, the population of Novorossiya began to grow thrice as fast as in the rest of Russia.
Mykolayivschyna cannot boast of old historic memorials. The oldest remaining religious edifices are the 18»’-c. Orthodox and Catholic churches. The civic architecture is more varied with well-preserved administrative and residential housing of the 19th—20th c.c.
Mykolayiv, the region’s capital and largest city, lies on the banks of the Buzkyy Leman, and the Inhul River estuary. The city owes its birth to the Governor-General of the then Novorossiya G. Potyomkin, who in the summer of 1788 opted for this site to build a shipyard urgently needed for the newly-born Russian Black Sea Navy. The shipyard was built in a record time and in commemoration of the seizure of Ochakov it was given the name of Mykolayiv in honour of St. Nicholas, the protector of sailors. The 1976 Stepan Makarov monument, which decorates the boulevard, is homage to Russia’s outstanding Navy commander, Vice-Admiral Makarov, who was born in Mykolayiv. Another reminder of the glorious past is a row of old cannons overlooking the harbour.
During the Crimean war of 1853—56 Mykolayiv served as the chief logistics base for the Black Sea Navy. In Myko-layiv’s central parts there is a remarkable range of admiration-worthy old buildings dating from the 19th c. Among them are the 1800 Nativity of St. Mother of God Cathedral, the 1817 St. Nicholas Church, the 1821 Astronomical Observatory, the 1824 Officers’ Assembly Hall, the 1824 German Lutheran Church, the old Water-tower and others. Singled out among the Soviet legacy are a memorial complex to the heroic marines, who were the first to break into the Nazi occupied city in 1944, and the 1989 multi-figure monument dedicated to the generations of Mykolayiv’s ship-builders.
Ochakiv lies on the northern banks of the Dnipro Leman. In 1415 the prince Vitovt of Lithuania founded a fortress in the leman’s mouth. The first written mention of the fortress named Dashiv dates back to 1431. In 1492 the Tatar Menghli-Giri-Khan ordered for a new fortress to be built, which he called Kara-Kermen (Black fortress), or in a Turkish way, Achi-Kale, i.e. the fortress with an access to the sea. For over 3 centuries Ochakiv remained the Turkish key outpost in the Northern Prychornomorya. It was only at the beginning of the Russo-Turkish war of 1787—91 that the Russian troops led by Potyomkin finally won it for Russia. The 1791 Jassy Peace Treaty sealed the Russian control over Ochakiv.
The central part of the city, which was built up before the 1917 Russian October Revolution was marked by such architectural accomplishments as the 1818 Mykolayivska Church, also known as Ochakiv Navy Cathedral, the 1903 I. Gorich monument, and the 1907 Generalissimo A. Suvorov monument. The revolution delivered new heroes, one of whom was Lt. Petr Schmidt, who led a mutiny on the Ochakov battle-cruiser during the 1905 Russian Revolution.
Berezan, one of the islands off the Ukrainian coast, is located where the Dnipro and Berezan Lemans flow into the Black Sea in the neighbourhood of Ochakiv. Small as it is, this island was home to what scientists believe to have been the earliest Greek settlement in Northern Prychornomorya. In the Princely era, the island served as the last moorage for ships bound for Constantinople.
In modern times the island acquired an ill fame, though, as in 1906 the Ochakov mutiny leader, P. Schmidt, and his three aides were executed here. Not very much of a tourist attraction, the island of Berezan is rather a sacred site revered by all sailors.
The village of Parutyne on the western bank of the Buzky Leman was founded in 1789 by the Orthodox old believers who arrived here from the Dniester. Today, Parutyne is mostly known due to the neighbouring archeological site on the ruins of Olviya.
Olviya was founded in the mid-6th с. ВС by the Greek colonists, who arrived here mostly from the ancient Greek town of Miletus. In its heyday from the 5th—3th c.c. BC Olviya sprawled up to 50 ha and had a permanent population of 15 thousand citizens. The city collapsed after ceaseless plundering raids by the Goths in the 3rd c. AD and was finally ruined by the Huns in the 4th c. AD. The early field research of the site in the modern times was carried out by Russian scholars, P. Pallas, in 1794, and P. Sumarokov in 1799. Since then, for over two centuries now, parties of archeologists have spent dozens of research seasons, unearthing the Olviyan ruins. The most valuable finds of fortunate expeditions are on display at the local Natural History Museum.
The Yelanetsky Steppe is the only purely steppe National Nature Reserve in the Right-bank Ukraine. Founded in 1996, it covers an area of 16.76 sq. km. Its history traces back to 1995, when a local game reserve, ‘Rose’, received large animals from the Askaniya Nova national park to open a zoo and wildlife sanctuary. The zoo, or rather an enclosure of 0.7 sq. km, fenced from the rest of the reserve, features bison, wild deer, onagers and moufflons.
The territory of the reserve which 5 mln years ago was the Black Sea coastline is now carved by three large and gently sloping ravines. With the coming of spring, the ravines, which usually look barren and lifeless, seem to spring back to life, overflowing with thawed snow and spring showers, which also water the steppe herbs. In all other seasons the steppe looks rather boring with only scattered grey limestone and red granite boulders, which liven up the otherwise dull landscapes. What should be remembered though, is that the Yelanetsky Steppe National Nature Reserve is the only patch of undisturbed virgin lands, which were once the boundless Pry-chornomorskyy steppes.