Vinnytsia Region, or Vinnychchyna, the largest administrative region of Central Ukraine, was formed in 1932. The terrain of the region stretches from the Pre-Dnipro Upland in the east to the Podillia, forming forested lands sloping down towards the Black Sea. The flatland was carved by the Dnistro (Dniester) and Pivdennyy (Southern) Buh Rivers, as well as their tributaries and rivulets. Truly breathtaking views await the traveller in the Dniester Valley as the Podillia Upland cascades down to it.
It was in these areas that many Paleolithic hunting settlements have been unearthed. In the 11th century, the Middle Pivdennyy Buh region was a part of the Kyivan Principality, while the Upper Dniester region joined the Principality of Halych. Later on almost the whole territory fell under the control of the Halych-Volyn.
After it was conquered by the Golden Horde in 1240, the Podillia for the following centuries was held under tribute to the Mongols, whose kosh was located in the Dyke Pole (Wild Field). In 1362, the Lithuanian Duke Olherd finally drove the Horde’s warriors out of Podillia.
Castles, built in the period of Rzeczpospolita in order to defend against belligerent nomads, were later used for the development of cities. Sporadic plundering raids by the Horde Mongols, followed by attacks by the militant Ottoman Empire and its vassals continued at intervals for more than three centuries to come.
During the 17th—18th c.c. the region suffered under an incessant power struggle between Rzeczpospolita and the Cossacks. Due to an uprising,- the shlakhta lost control of the t, territory. In the course of a continual power struggle, the Polish ) szlykhta were weakened so much as to yield the Bradaw Voivodeship to Bohdan Khmelnytsky (1648—54) and some other territories to the Ottomans (1648—99). The 18th c. saw an intensive development of the area, with large estates of landlords thriving between 1760 and 1790.
After the Second Partition of Poland in 1793, the region was a part of the Russian Podolie Guberniya. In the years to come the Russian Crown drove out the remaining Polish landlords as well as the Catholic Church from their lands on the grounds of their alleged involvement in the Polish uprisings of 1830—32 and 1863.
During WW II in the wooded outskirts of Vinnytsia, the Nazis build a top secret bunker ‘Wolfschanz’ (wolf’s lair), designed to act as Hitler’s headquarters in the occupied territories (although he never used it).
Vinnychchyna still preserves a multicultural and multi-style diversity of Orthodox, Catholic and Jewish religious edifices from the 16th—20th ex., while other historical edifices, i.e. country estates, farmsteads, old park gazebos, and relics, date back to 18th—19th c.c, and only fragments of the which the horde nomads used for raids into Poland, Khmilnyk was destined to be built as a fortress. Yet, the only original fortification left is a three-tier sentinel tower. The 1603 Beheading of St. John the Baptist Cathedral, rebuilt in 1728, seems to be the oldest surviving building in the city. Soon after WW II, the radon mineral waters of Khmilnyk received recognition, contributing to the city’s fame as the spa resort.
The small town of Tulchyn began as a Rzeczpospolita fortification called Nestervar in 1607. In 1775, the richest Polish magnate Count Stanislaw Szczesny Potocki opted to locate his residence there and commissioned the French architect Lacroix for the project. The Lacroix Palace seems to be the most ambitious 18 th-c. estate in Ukraine. It is a two-floor palace, with its wings forming a courtyard the size of a football pitch. In 1796, the Russian Field Marshal Alexander Suvorov, chose Tulchyn for his army’s camp, locating his headquarters in the Potocki Palace. Other notables to have visited the city include the Ukrainian writer Ivan Kotliarevsky, the Russian poet Pushkin and many Decembrists, army officers who chose Tulchyn as the headquarters for their anti-tsar plot.
The first written record of the city of Nemiriv was found in the Khan Meiili I Giri yarlyk of 1506. The city was totally destroyed by two devastating fires in 1803 and 1811. That is why all the architectural places of interest date back to the 19 th—20th c.c. The most noticeable architectural heritage that Nemiriv can boast of is the Princess M. Scherbatova Palace. The neatly designed landscape park with a variety of trees and bushes will please the discerning eye. Nemyriv received widespread fame as the name of the Nemiroff top-quality horilka (vodka) brand known far outside Ukraine.
A small town of Sharhorod, on the banks of the Murashka River, was founded in 1383 under the rule of the Lithuanian
extended fortifications formerly common in the area have stood the test of time.
The administrative centre of the region, Vinnytsia, lies on both banks of the Pivdenny Buh River. In 1363, Fedir Koriatovych put up a wooden fortress on the riverside to repel Tartar raids.
The Vinnytsia of the 19th c. is preserved in the form of large family mansions, associated with great names (e.g., the house-museum of the prominent Ukrainian writer M. Kotsiubynskyy (1864—1913), or the house-museum of N. Pirogov (1810—-81), the pioneer of emergency and field surgery).
The oldest known city on the banks of the Pivdennyy Buh is Khmilnyk, whose history can be traced back to the 14th c. Dangerously located near the Chorny Shlyakh (black route), Prince Vitovt. The fortified settlement on the busy trade route to Moldova was an attraction to many travellers. In 1588, Sharhorod was granted with Magdeburg Law and the permission to hold auctions and fairs. During late 16th p., the town’s owner Prince Jan Zamoysky let Jewish families live in Sharhorod, where they built a fortified synagogue (1589) considered to be the oldest survived synagogue in Ukraine. During the 1648—54 Liberation War, the city was twice taken over by Khmelnytsky’s Cossacks, and in 1672—99 Sharhorod was a part the Sarmate Principality of the Ottoman Empire. Apparently, the Turks were aware of the commercial value of the town and renamed it into Kuchuk-Stambul (Little Istanbul). In the late 17th c. Sharhorod returned under the rule of Rzeczpospolita, and in 1717 the Vasylian Brothers built St. Nicholas Monastery here. Even now, while taking a walk around Sharhorod and observing the architecture of the town, tourists can still enjoy the atmosphere of a Jewish town, even though the Jewish community left the town long ago.
Several kilometers off Sharhorod, lies a small town of Murafa, famous for its splendid Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Roman Catholic Church, amazing the travellers with its whimsical Baroque exterior.
The small towns of Podillia can still boast of dozens of 18th—19th c.c. estates and landscape parks, known in the whole of Ukraine. Among those parks are the estates of the Komar family in Murovani Kurylivtsi, of Nadezhda von Meek in Brayiliv, where the famous composer P. Tchaikovsky used to be a frequenter, and of Alexander Mozhayskiy, a pioneer of aviation, in Vbronovytsia.
Vinnychchyna cannot boast of any nature reserves or parks; however, every bent of the road offers vistas so strikingly beautiful that it seems there is no need in formally creating any artificial landscape parks. The deep riverbeds carve through the geological formation as old as ages themselves, offering the sort of scenery hard to find anywhere else in Ukraine.