The Zakarpattia Region (or Transcarpathia) is the nation’s westernmost oblast incorporated into the Ukrainian SSR during WWII in 1945. The province borders upon four countries: Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania. Separated from the rest of Ukraine by the Ukrainian Carpathians and linked to it only by some mountain passes (Uzhotskyy, Veretskyy, Yablunytskyy and others), Zakarpattia has moulded its peculiar history, culture and mentality for many centuries.
The Carpathians with the Chornohora ridge (literally: Black Mountain), the highest massif in Ukraine (peaks Hoverla — 2,062 m, Brebeneskul — 2032 m, and Petros — 2,020 m) cover most of the province. The Transcarpathian lowland gently sloping from the mountains to the Tysa River lies in the northwestern part of the region. Wooded or treeless mesas (sub-alpine meadows called polonyna) alongside with the steep slopes of the deep Tysa, Latorytsia, Uzh river valleys, and the valleys of their plentiful tributaries, all belonging to the Danube basin, create panoramas of indescribable attractiveness.
Unearthed on the Tysa bank near the village of Koroleve is the earliest site of prehistoric hominins of the Lower Palaeolithic era (ca 500 thousand years ago). Numerous settlements of the Upper Palaeolithic and Neolithic eras have been discovered in the lowland and foothill districts of Zakarpattia.
Hungarian tribes (the Magyars) migrating from the Eastern European plains in the 9th—10th c.c. gradually forced the East Slavs out of the region and established their rule over the whole territory in the 13th c.
In the mid-16th c., Hungary and Transylvania were brought under Ottoman Empire suzerainty that lasted for more than a hundred years. When in the late 17th c. all of the former Hungarian lands were taken back from the Turks, the whole territory of Transcarpathia came under Austrian control of the Habsburgs. Between two World Wars, Zakarpattia was a part of Czechoslovakia. At the end of WW II, Transcarpathia, where ethnic Ukrainians were in majority, was incorporated into the USSR as the Zakarpattia Oblast of Ukraine.
Transcarpathia is chockfull of all-style monuments calling attention to a rather noteworthy history of the region: castles of the region’s rulers, a variety of Roman Catholic, Greek Catholic, Ukrainian Orthodox, Protestant, Jewish and other religious edifices of the 14th—20th c.c. Architectural heritage also embraces administrative buildings, city halls, palaces, gazeboes, various mansions and statues of the 18th—20th c.c.
Located on the banks of the Uzh River, Uzhhorod was first mentioned in Gesta Hungarorum of 872. In the Princely era, Uzhhorod was a Hungarian Kings’ hereditary estate that in 1318 became the property of the Druhett family (Italian counts) who owned the town almost to the end of the 17th c. They built the castle (the 14th c.) that to-day houses the Local Lore Museum and Art Gallery. But the oldest building of Uzhhorod is Horiany Rotunda (the 12th c.), with its fragments of unique frescoes dating to 1360s—70s. Among the survivors from the 18th c. are the building of the former 1766 Zhupa administration (Zhupa means a territorial sub-unit in Hungary) as well as some temples (e. g., the neo-Baroque Cathedral and the Collegium’s building ensemble, built as a part of a Jesuit Monastery and after considerable renovations (1780, 1878) turned into the Cathedral of the Exaltation of the Cross and the Bishop’s residency).
Mukacheve, the second largest city of Zakarpattia, is located on the Latorytsia River. In the 10th—11th c.c., there existed a fortified settlement atop of the volcanic 70-m hill overlooking the flatland river valley. In 1445, the town was granted the rights of Magdeburg law, which contributed to the development of crafts and trade and played a part in town’s expansion along the river.
When the town was owned by the Rakoczi family (1633—1711), the castle obtained its current view of one of the most original constructions of Central Europe. Inside the Mukacheve (Palanok) Castle are three palaces of various height, bastions, casemates, armoury, towers, a chapel, an 85-m deep well, and a water-tower with a clock (inside one of the buildings is a Regional Museum with historical and ethnographic exhibits).
The oldest architectural monuments of Mukacheve are the 14 c. St. Martin Chapel and a former palace of the Rakoczi family, entirely rebuilt in the 18th c. as the town hall known as the Bilyy Budynok (white building). The city centre is smartened with the marvellous 1904 City Hall with the chiming clock on the graceful tower.
The city of Vynohradiv on the Tysa River was founded in the 10th—11th c.c. by the Hungarians as a frontier fortified outpost Kanko. In the vicinity of the fort there appeared a settlement called Sevliush, referred to for the first time in 1262, when it was granted the status of a privileged royal town. In 1399, Peter Perenyi, the founder of one of the richest noble families of Zakarpattia, became the owner of Sevliush. The city’s architectural landmarks such as the remains of the medieval castle Kanko on the slopes of Mt Chorna, the chapels of a Franciscan and Bernardine monasteries (founded in the 14th—15th c.c.) and the Perenyi Palace (the 17th с.) remind about the four centuries of the family domination.
The city of Berehove was founded in the 12th c. as a Saxon colony. The Saxons settled down the Tysa Lowland to grow vine. In 1247, it was declared a city. The survived architectural monuments of the city include a majestic All Saints Catholic Church, a 15th-c. Gothic Roman Catholic Church and a unique ensemble of buildings called the Count’s Courtyard (1629), very nearly the only monument of the estate construction of the 17th c. in Ukraine.
Picturesque romantic remains of Nevytskyy castle rise amidst thick forest over the Uzh River. Known from 1274, the castle used to control the important Uzhotskyy pass. In 1644, the castle was ruined by the Prince Rakoczi of Transylvania, and then never renovated. What have survived from the small castle are the fragments of its walls and a square donjon with a hipped roof adding to the castle mysterious attractiveness.
Zakarpattia has two natural reserves: the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve and the Uzhanskyy National Nature Park. But it is the Synevyr National Park that is the most famous embellishment of the region. The park is located in the central part of the Ukrainian Carpathians within the Gorgany Mountains. The pearl of the park is a tiny Lake Synevyr. It is situated at a height of 989 m above sea level in the river valley and appeared as a result of mountain falling. The Synevyr National Park is a natural visiting-card of the Ukrainian Carpathians with their numerous waterfalls, picturesque intricate rocks and other natural wonders worthy to be seen.