Administratively formed in 1939, Sumy Region, which borders on the Russian Federation in the north and in the east, is the ‘youngest’ of ten Northern Ukrainian regions. The western part of it lies in the Pre-Dnipro Lowland, whereas the eastern part covers the spurs of the Middle Russian Upland. The largely flat or low-hilled surface of the area gains in attraction due to the truly picturesque meandering valleys of Dnipro’s tributaries: the Vbrskla, Desna, Psel, Seym and Sula rivers.
The human presence in the area dates back to 15 thousand years ago. The 7th—8th c.c. saw the spread of the Slavic Severyn tribes. In the 9th—11th c.c., the lands belonged to the Pereyaslav and Chernihiv principalities of Kyivan Rus, followed by the Novhorod-Siversky Principality. The unsuccessful military campaign of Novhorod-Siversky Prince Ihor Sviatoslavych against the defiant Cumans, who would now and then raid the Russian lands, was the subject matter of the 1187 masterpiece of Old Rus Literature The Lay of Ihor’s Host. The Tatar-Mongol yoke of 1239 brought destruction to many Slavic towns in the area.
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania took over most of the local lands in the 16th c., only to lose them all to Muscovy a century later. The south-eastern part of the Sumy area belonged to Slobozhanschyna and was under the authority of the Bilhorod voyevode. A lot of new settlements, founded by Cossacks and peasants, who migrated from the Right-Bank Ukraine, appeared in the II part of the 17th c. in the Sumy area.
After the abolition of the Hetman power (1764) and liquidation of the self-governing in Slobozhanschyna (1765) separate districts of the modern region were parts of the Chernihov, Novgorod-Siversk, Kharkiv and Kursk Gu-berniyas.
The Orthodox region’s sites of the 17th—19th c.c. have been preserved in the Sumy area, and the civic architectural heritage of that time is presented by various samples of palaces and mansions with beautiful parks, administrative buildings, and monuments.
Sumy, the youngest town among the regional centres of the north of the country, is located on the banks of the Psel River. It was founded in 1652 by the migrants from the Right-bank Ukraine, and within a few years a fortress was put up at the mouth of the Sula River in the forest. Sumy was the centre of the same name Cossack regiment during the century, and the 1702 Resurrection Church with a later built belfry (1906) is the only kept architectural memorial of the time. The main Orthodox edifice of the town is the Saviour and Transfiguration Cathedral, with a 56-m belfry added in 1788. The religious architectural palette of Sumy walls would be incomplete without the 1851 St. Illyah Church, the gracious 1914 Holy Trinity Church, and others. A lot of administrative and residential buildings built at the time still remain a major architectural attraction of the central part of the town.
The town of Hlukhiv on the Esman River was first referred to in the Hypatian Chronicles of 1152, when it was part of the Chernihiv principality. From 1708, when Baturyn ceased to be the Hetmanate capital, Hlukhiv became residence to Left-bank Ukraine Hetmans. Since 1722, it was the seat of the Malorossiya Collegium, the supreme administrative body of Ukraine under the Russian Empire. Not only this, but for a quarter of a century, the now obscure Hlukhiv was also home to the first imperial musical school, which gave tuition to the singers and musicians for the court choir and orchestra. Among others, the school brought up two composers who were destined to become European Celebrities, Maksym Berezovsky and Dmytro Bortniansky, honoured by the forthcoming generations by monuments in the Hlukhiv Town Gardens. Today’s Hlukhiv is a quiet provincial town in the north of the country, whose former fame and importance in the build-up of the Ukrainian state can only be guessed about, judging by the city’s architectural marvels, the 1695 St. Nicholas Church, the 1765 Transfiguration Church and the 1893 Triokh-Anastatiysivska Church. The oldest preserved civic construction, which is surprising to find in such a small town, as Hlukhiv seems to be now, is the Arch of Triumph of 1785.
The town of Okhtyrka in the Vorskla valley was founded by the re-settlers who fled from other parts of Ukraine in search of a better fortune and by 1641 formed a Cossack regiment under the Bilhorod (now part of the Russian Federation) military commander. Prior to the Napoleonic wars it was transformed into a Hussar regiment, which covered itself with glory in the 1812 partisan war against the Napoleonic invasion. In 1703, Okhtyrka was granted the status of a city. The 18th c. can be considered the architectural heyday of Okhtyrka with the overwhelming 1768 Intercession Church, forming an inseparable ensemble with an adjacent 1784 Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Church, which rises high as if it were a bell-tower. The austere 1884 St. Michael Church laid up in redbrick, is reminiscent of old army chapels peculiar to the Left-bank Ukraine.
The town of Putyvl on the river Seym has been known since 1146, when it was mentioned in the Hypatian Chronicles. The most inspiring and moving pages in the 1147 masterpiece of Old Rus literature, The Lay of Ihor’s Host, and namely, Yaroslavna’s Lamentation, were linked with Piityvl. An old trade route which ran across the Slavic Lands passed through Putyvl, making it an important trade and military centre in the Southern Russia of the 17th—18th c.c. It was then that the Movchansky (16th —19th c.c.) and the 17th-c. Holy Spirit Cathedral complexes were built, both veritable architectural assets to the city. The following century saw the arrival of the Mykola Cozatsky Church, built on the funds raised by local residents themselves. An important page in the history of WW II is also closely linked with Putyvl, for it was here that in 1941 a volunteer partisan detachment was tailored under Sydir Kovpak, which towards the end of the war grew in the largest partisan formation to ever operate in the occupied parts of the then USSR.
The city of Lebedyn on the banks of the river Vilshanka was founded in 1652 by the refugees from the Right-bank Ukraine. In 1708, Peter the Great opted for it as his headquarters in the southern campaign against the Swedes. Lebedyn’s architectural heritage is the 1789 Resurrection, the 1858 Ascension, and the 1890s St. Nicholas Churches and the 1847 Trade Aisles, a chain of one-storey shops still in use.
The city of Trostianets, founded on the Boromlia River in the mid-17thc., was granted by Peter the Great to his Confessor in 1720. In the late 18th century, the estate with the surrounding lands passed to the Golitsyn family, under whom a grand park was laid out around a natural oak-tree grove on the banks of a picturesque pond. The park still pleases the eye, in particular, with the 200-to-300-hundred-year old oaks of a few metres’ girth. The other park attractions, devised by the Golitsyns, included an artificial grotto, park pavilions and a residential palace
In the 1820s, the city was allocated for a multi-purpose Kruhly Dvir, meant to be used as a manege (riding school) or a theatre in the open air where the visitors to the city could enjoy anything from an itinerant circus performance to a ballet production. In 1864, it could have been attended by Russian composer Piotr Illyich Tchaikovskiy who was staying in a mansion nearby. A special attraction of the city is the early 19thc. Annunciation Church with a 40-m belfry and the 1913 Resurrection Church.
The old settlement of Khotin on the river Oleshnia became property of a major land-lady in the area, Ye. Buturlina, in the late 18th c. In the early 19th c. she set up a magnificent mansion on the bank of a picturesque pond. It included the main palace with 87 rooms and numerous outbuildings.