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Lviv (Ukrainian: Львів L’viv, IPA: [lʲwiu̯] ( listen)) is a city in western Ukraine. Capital of the historical region of Galicia, Lviv is now regarded as one of the main cultural centres of today’s Ukraine. The historical heart of Lviv with its old buildings and cobblestone roads has survived World War II and ensuing Nazi and Soviet occupation largely unscathed. The city has many industries and institutions of higher education such as Lviv University and Lviv Polytechnic. Lviv is also a home to many world-class cultural institutions, including a philharmonic orchestra and the famous Lviv Theatre of Opera and Ballet. The historic city centre is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Lviv celebrated its 750th anniversary with a son et lumière in the city centre in September 2006.
Lviv was founded on the existent settlement most probably in 1240-1247 by Daniel, ruler of the medieval Ruthenian kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia, and named after his son, Lev. The first record belongs to the chronicles mentioning Lviv in 1256. In 1349 Galicia and Lviv were incorporated into the Kingdom of Poland by King Casimir III the Great. Lviv belonged to the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland 1349–1772, the Austrian Empire 1772–1918 and the Second Polish Republic 1918–1945. Since the 15th century the city acted as a major Polish and later also as a Jewish cultural center; with Poles and Jews comprising a demographic majority of the city until the outbreak of World War II, the Holocaust, and the population transfers of Poles that followed. The other ethnicities living within the city, Germans, Ruthenians, and Armenians, also greatly contributed to Lviv’s culture. With the joint German-Soviet Invasion of Poland at the outbreak of World War II, the city of Lviv and Lwów Voivodeship were occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union, becoming part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic from 1939 to 1941. Between July 1941 and July 1944 Lviv was under German occupation and was located in the General Government. In July 1944 it was captured by the Soviet Red Army and the Polish Home Army. According to the agreements of the Yalta Conference, Lviv was integrated into the Ukrainian SSR, most of the Poles living in Lviv were transferred into Polish Recovered Territories and the city became the main centre of the western part of Soviet Ukraine, inhabited predominantly by Ukrainians with significant Russian minority.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the city remained a part of the now independent Ukraine, for which it currently serves as the administrative centre of Lviv Oblast, and is designated as its own raion (district) within that oblast.
On 12 June 2009 the Ukrainian magazine Focus judged Lviv the best Ukrainian city to live in. Its more Western European flavor lends it the nickname the «Little Paris of Ukraine». The city expected a sharp increase in the number of foreign visitors for the UEFA Euro 2012, and as a result a major new airport terminal was being built. Lviv was one of 8 Polish and Ukrainian cities that co-hosted the group stages of the tournament.
Archeologists have demonstrated that the Lviv area was settled by the 5th century. This fact places this settlement within the territory of once powerful state of White Chroatia. From the ninth century in the area of present-day Lviv, between Castle Hill and the river Poltva, there existed a Lendian settlement – in the tenth century the Lendians established a fortified settlement on Castle Hill. In 1977 it was discovered that the Orthodox church of St. Nicholas had been built on a previously functioning cemetery. In 981, the Cherven Towns area was captured by Vladimir I and fell under the rule of Kievan Rus.
Lviv was founded by King Daniel of Galicia in the Ruthenian principality of Halych-Volhynia and named in honour of his son Lev.
In 1261 the town was invaded by the Tatars. Various sources relate the events which range from destruction of the castle through to a complete razing of the town. All the sources agree that it was on the orders of the Mongol general Burundai. The Naukove tovarystvo im. Shevchenka of the Shevchenko Scientific Society say that the order to raze the city was reduced by Burundai; the Galician-Volhynian chronicle states that in 1261 «Said Buronda to Vasylko: ‘Since you are at peace with me then raze all your castles'». Basil Dmytryshyn states that the order was implied to be the fortifications as a whole «If you wish to have peace with me, then destroy [all fortifications of] your towns». According to the Universal-Lexicon der Gegenwart und Vergangenheit the town’s founder was ordered to destroy the town himself.
After King Daniel’s death, King Lev rebuilt the town around the year 1270 at its present location, choosing Lviv as his residence, and made Lviv the capital of Galicia-Volhynia. The city is first mentioned in the Halych-Volhynian Chronicle regarding the events that were dated 1256. The town grew quickly due to an influx of Polish people from Kraków, Poland, after they had suffered a widespread famine there. Around 1280 many Armenians lived in Galicia and were mainly based in Lviv where they had their own Archbishop. The town was inherited by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1340 and ruled by voivode Dmitri Detko, the favourite of the Lithuanian prince Lubart, until 1349.
During the wars over the succession of Galicia-Volhynia Principality in 1339 King Casimir III of Poland undertook an expedition and conquered Lviv in 1340, burning down the old princely castle. Poland ultimately gained control over Lviv and the adjacent region in 1349. From then on the population was subjected to attempts to both Polonize and Catholicize the population.
Casimir built two new castles. In 1356 he brought in German colonists and within 7 years granted the Magdeburg rights which implied that all city matters were to be resolved by a council elected by the wealthy citizens. The city council seal of the 14th century stated: S(igillum): Civitatis Lembvrgensis.
After Casimir had died in 1370, he was succeeded as king of Poland by his nephew, King Louis I of Hungary, who in 1372 put Lviv together with the region of Galicia-Volhynia under the administration of his relative Władysław, Duke of Opole. When in 1387 Władysław retreated from the post of its governor, Galicia-Volhynia became occupied by the Hungarians, but soon Jadwiga, the youngest daughter of Louis, but also ruler of Poland and wife of King of Poland Władysław II Jagiełło, unified it directly with the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland.
The Galician Sejm (till 1918), since 1920 Polish Jan Kazimierz University
As part of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland Lwów (Lviv) became the capital of the Ruthenian Voivodeship founded in 1389. The city’s prosperity during the following centuries is owed to the trade privileges granted to it by Casimir, Jadwiga and the subsequent Polish kings.
In 1412 the city became the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, which since 1375 had been in Halych. In 1444 Lviv was granted with the staple right, which resulted in city’s growing prosperity and wealth, as it became one of major trading centres on the merchant routes between Central Europe and Black Sea region. It was also transformed into one of the main fortresses of the kingdom.
As Lviv prospered it became religiously and ethnically diverse with Germans, Poles, Ukrainians (Ruthenians), Armenians and Jews being the most important ethnicities living within the city. With passing time many had become polonized and assimilated into the dominant Polish culture.
In 1572 one of the first publishers of books in Ukraine, Ivan Fedorov, a graduate of the University of Kraków, settled in Lviv for a brief period. The city became a significant centre for Eastern Orthodoxy with the establishment of an Orthodox brotherhood, a Greek-Slavonic school and a printery which published the first full versions of the Bible in Church Slavonic in 1580.
The 17th century brought invading armies of Swedes, Hungarians,Turks,Russians and Cossacks to its gates. In 1648 an army of Cossacks and Crimean Tatars besieged Lviv. The city was not sacked due to its beauty and the fact that the leader of the revolution Bohdan Khmelnytsky studied there and did not want to see it ruined. As a result a ransom of 250 000 ducat was paid and the Cossacks marched west towards Zamość. Lviv was the only major city in Poland which was not captured. In 1672 it was surrounded by the Ottomans who failed to conquer it. Lviv was captured for the first time by a foreign army in 1704 when Swedish troops under King Charles XII entered the city after a short siege.
The plague of the early 18th century caused the death of about 10,000 inhabitants (40% of the city’s population).
In 1772, following the First Partition of Poland, the region was annexed by Austria. Known in German as Lemberg, the city became the capital of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria. The city grew dramatically under Austrian rule, increasing in population from approximately 30,000 at the time of Austrian annexation in 1772 to 206,100 by 1910. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries a large influx of Germans and German-speaking Czech bureacrats altered gave the city a character that by the 1840s was quite German, in its orderliness and in the appearance and popularity of German coffeehouses.
In 1773, the first newspaper in Lviv, Gazette de Leopoli, began to be published. In 1784, a German language University was opened; after closing again in 1805, it was re-opened in 1817. German became the language of instruction.
In the 19th century, the Austrian administration attempted to Germanise the city’s educational and governmental functioning. Many cultural organizations which did not have a pro-German orientation were closed. After the revolution of 1848, the language of instruction at the University shifted from German to include Ukrainian and Polish. Around that time, a certain sociolect developed in the city known as the Lwów dialect. Considered to be a type of Polish dialect, it draws its roots from numerous other languages besides Polish.
In 1853, it was the first European city to have street lights due to innovations discovered by Lviv inhabitants Ignacy Łukasiewicz and Jan Zeh. In that year kerosene lamps were introduced as street lights which in 1858 were updated to gas and in 1900 to electricity.
After the so-called Ausgleich of February 1867, the Austrian Empire was reformed into a dualist Austria-Hungary and a slow yet steady process of liberalisation of Austrian rule in Galicia started. From 1873, Galicia was de facto an autonomous province of Austria-Hungary with Polish and Ukrainian or Ruthenian, as official languages. Germanisation was halted and the censorship lifted as well. Galicia was subject to the Austrian part of the Dual Monarchy, but the Galician Sejm and provincial administration, both established in Lviv, had extensive privileges and prerogatives, especially in education, culture, and local affairs. The city started to grow rapidly, becoming the 4th largest in Austria-Hungary, according to the census of 1910. Many Belle Époque public edifices and tenement houses were erected, the buildings from the Austrian period, such as the opera theater built in the Viennese neo-Renaissance style, still dominate and characterize much of the centre of the city.
During Habsburg rule, Lviv became one of the most important Polish, Ukrainian and Jewish cultural centres. In Lviv, according to the Austrian census of 1910, which listed religion and language, 51% of the city’s population were Roman Catholics, 28% Jews, and 19% belonged to the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Linguistically, 86% of the city’s population used the Polish language and 11% preferred the Ukrainian language. Lviv was home to the Polish Ossolineum, with the second largest collection of Polish books in the world, the Polish Academy of Arts, the Polish Historical Society, the Polish Theatre and Polish Archdiocese. At the same time, the city also housed the largest and most influential Ukrainian institutions in the world, including the Prosvita society dedicated to spreading literacy in the Ukrainian language, the Shevchenko Scientific Society, the Dniester Insurance Company and base of the Ukrainian cooperative movement, and it served as the seat of the Ukrainian Catholic Church. Lviv was also a major centre of Jewish culture, in particular as a centre of the Yiddish language, and was the home of the world’s first Yiddish-language daily newspaper, the Lemberger Togblat, established in 1904.
In the early stage of World War I, Lviv was captured by the Russian army in September 1914 but retaken by Austria–Hungary in June the following year.
After the collapse of the Habsburg Monarchy at the end of World War I Lviv became an arena of battle between the local Polish population and the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen. Both nations perceived the city as integral part of their new statehoods which at that time were forming in the former Austrian territories. On the night of 31 October – 1 November 1918 the Western Ukrainian National Republic was proclaimed with Lviv as its capital. 2,300 Ukrainian soldiers from the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen (Sichovi Striltsi), which had previously been a corps in the Austrian Army, took control over Lviv. The city’s Polish majority opposed the Ukrainian declaration and began to fight against the Ukrainian troops. During this combat an important role was taken by young Polish city defenders called Lwów Eaglets. For the courage of its inhabitants Lviv was awarded the Virtuti Militari cross by Józef Piłsudski on 22 November 1920.
The Ukrainian forces withdrew outside Lviv’s confines by 21 November 1918, after which elements of Polish soldiery begun to loot and burn much of the Jewish and Ukrainian quarters of the city, killing approximately 340 civilians (see: Lwów pogrom (1918)). The retreating Ukrainian forces besieged the city. The Sich riflemen reformed into the Ukrainian Galician Army (UHA). The Polish forces aided from central Poland, including general Haller’s Blue Army, equipped by the French, relieved the besieged city in May 1919 forcing the UHA to the east. Despite Entente mediation attempts to cease hostilities and reach a compromise between belligerents the Polish–Ukrainian War continued until July 1919 when the last UHA forces withdrew east of the river Zbruch. The border on the river Zbruch was confirmed at the Treaty of Warsaw, when in April 1920 Polish government signed an agreement with Symon Petlura where it was agreed that for military support against the Bolsheviks the Ukrainian People’s Republic renounced its claims to the territories of Eastern Galicia.
In August 1920 Lviv was attacked by the Red Army under the command of Aleksandr Yegorov and Stalin during Polish-Soviet War but the city repelled the attack.
Polish sovereignty over Lviv was internationally recognised when the Council of Ambassadors ultimately approved it in March 1923.
In the interbellum period Lviv held the rank of Poland’s third most populous city (after Warsaw and Łódź) and became the seat of the Lwów Voivodeship. Right after Warsaw, it was the second most important cultural and academic centre of interwar Poland. In the academic year 1937–38 there were 9,100 students attending 5 higher education facilities including the renowned university and institute of technology. In 1920 professor Rudolf Weigl of the Lwów University discovered the vaccine against typhus. The major trade fair called Targi Wschodnie was established 1921. Its geographic location gave it an important role in stimulating international trade and fostering city’s and Poland’s economic development.
While the eastern part of the Lwów Voivodeship had a relative Ukrainian majority in most of the rural areas the city itself did not (see table to the right). Prewar Lviv had also a large and thriving Jewish population. The Polish inhabitants of the city spoke the characteristic Lwów dialect.
Although Polish authorities obliged themselves internationally to provide Eastern Galicia with an autonomy (including a creation of a separate Ukrainian university in Lviv) and even though in September 1922 adequate Polish Sejm’s Bill was enacted, it was not fulfilled. Instead, the Polish government closed down many Ukrainian schools that had previously flourished during Austrian rule and closed down every Ukrainian university department at the University of Lviv with the exception of one. Unlike in Austrian times, when the size and amount of public parades or other cultural expressions corresponded to each cultural group’s relative population, the Polish government emphasized the Polish nature of the city and limited public displays of Jewish and Ukrainian culture. Military parades and commemorations of battles at particular streets within the city, all celebrating the Polish forces who fought against the Ukrainians in 1918, became frequent, and in the 1930s a vast memorial monument and burial ground of Polish soldiers from that conflict was built in the city’s Lychakiv Cemetery. The Polish government fostered the idea of Lviv as an eastern Polish outpost standing strong against eastern «hordes.»
World War II and Soviet occupation
Following the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939 and by 14 September Lviv was completely encircled by German units. Subsequently the Soviets invaded Poland on 17 September. The Soviet Union annexed the eastern part of Second Polish Republic including the city of Lviv which capitulated to the Red Army on 22 September 1939.
The city (named Lvov in Russian) became the capital of the newly formed Lviv Oblast. The Soviets opened many Ukrainian-language schools that had been closed by the Polish government and Ukrainian was reintroduced in the University of Lviv (where the Polish government had banished it during the interwar years), which became thoroughly Ukrainized and renamed after Ukrainian writer Ivan Franko.
The Soviets also started repressions against local Poles and Ukrainians deporting many of the citizens. Waves of deportations started with the Poles followed by the Jews who had refused Soviet passports and then the Ukrainian nationalists.
On 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany and several of its allies invaded the USSR.
In the initial stage of Operation Barbarossa (late June 1941) Lviv was taken by the Germans. The evacuating Soviets killed most of the prison population. Wehrmacht forces arriving in the city discovered evidence of the Soviet mass murders committed by the NKVD and NKGB. Ukrainian nationalists, organized as a militia, and the civilian population were allowed to take revenge on the «Jews and the Bolsheviks» and indulged in several mass killings in Lviv and the surrounding region, which resulted in the deaths estimated at between 4,000 and 10,000 Jews (see: Lviv pogroms). The Germans during the occupation of the city committed numerous other atrocities including the killing of Polish university professors.
On 30 June 1941 Yaroslav Stetsko proclaimed in Lviv the Government of an independent Ukrainian state allied with Nazi Germany. This was done without pre-approval from the Germans and after 15 September 1941 the organisers were arrested.
The Sikorski–Mayski Agreement signed in London on 30 July 1941 between Polish government-in-exile and USSR’s government invalidated the September 1939 Soviet-German partition of Poland, as the Soviets declared it null and void.
Meanwhile German-occupied Eastern Galicia at the beginning of August 1941 was incorporated into the General Government as Distrikt Galizien with Lviv as district’s capital.
Germany viewed Galicia, formerly Austrian crown land, as already aryanised and civilised. As a result the Ukrainian Galicians escaped the full extent of German acts in comparison to Ukrainians who lived in Reichskommissariat Ukraine and other parts of German occupied Ukraine. German policy towards the Polish population in this area was more harsh and comparable to the situation in the rest of the General Government. According to the Third Reich’s racial policies Galician Jews became the main target of German repressions. Following German occupation, Lwów Ghetto and Janowska concentration camp were set up. In 1931 there was a number of 75,316 Yiddish speaking inhabitants but in 1941 approximately 200,000 Jews living in Lviv. But this number seems far too high estimated and it may be suggested about 100,000 Jewish people at most in that year. Majority of Lviv Jews were deported to Belzec extermination camp or killed within the city. By the end of the war the Jewish population was virtually wiped out with only 200 to 300 Jews left alive after the Holocaust.
The Soviet 3rd Tank Army entered Lviv again after the Lvov–Sandomierz Offensive of 22–24 July 1944. After the city was taken by cooperating Soviet forces and local resistance soldiers of Armia Krajowa (see: Lwów Uprising), the local commanders of the Polish AK were invited to a meeting with the commanders of the Red Army where they were arrested by the NKVD.
In January 1945, the local NKVD arrested many Poles in Lviv where, according to Soviet sources, on 1 October 1944 Poles still made a clear majority – 66.7% of the population, to encourage their emigration from their city. Those arrested were released after they signed papers agreeing to emigrate to Poland which postwar borders were moved westwards with Lviv left within the borders of the Soviet Union, according to the Yalta conference settlements.
On 16 August 1945, a border agreement between the government of the Soviet Union and the Provisional Government of National Unity, installed by the Soviets, was signed in Moscow. In that treaty, Poland formally ceded its prewar eastern part to the Soviet Union agreeing to the Polish-Soviet border drawn according to the so-called Curzon Line. Consequently, the agreement was ratified on 5 February 1946. Thus, in February 1946, Lviv became a part of the Soviet Union.
It is estimated that from 100,000 to 140,000 Poles were resettled from the city into the so-called Recovered Territories as a part of postwar population transfers, many of them to the area of newly acquired Wrocław, formerly the German city of Breslau. Little remains of Polish culture in Lviv except for the Italian-influenced architecture. The Polish history of Lviv is still well remembered in Poland and those Poles who stayed in Lviv have formed their own organisation the Association of Polish Culture of the Lviv Land.
The remaining population, mostly Ukrainian, was subjected to forced Sovietisation. Immigration from Russia and Russian-speaking regions of Eastern Ukraine was encouraged. Despite this, Lviv remained a major center of dissident movement in Ukraine and played a key role in Ukraine’s independence in 1991.
Lviv and its population suffered greatly during the two world wars as many of the offensives were fought across the local geography causing significant collateral damage and disruption.
Expulsion of the Polish population together with migration from Ukrainian-speaking rural areas around the city and from other parts of the Soviet Union altered the ethnic composition of the city which became mostly Ukrainian.
In the 1950s and 1960s the city significantly expanded both in population and size mostly due to the city’s rapidly growing industrial base. Due to the fight of SMERSH with the guerrilla formations of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army the city obtained a nickname with a negative connotation of Banderstadt as the City of Stepan Bandera. The word stadt was added instead of the common Slavic grad to imply alienation. Over the years the residents of the city found this so ridiculous that even people not familiar with Bandera accepted it as a sarcasm in reference to the Soviet perception of western Ukraine. By the time of the fall of the Soviet Union the name became a proud mark for the Lviv natives culminating in the creation of a local rock band under the name Khloptsi z Bandershtadtu (Boys from Banderstadt).
In the period of liberalisation from the Soviet system in the 1980s the city became the centre of political movements advocating Ukrainian independence from the USSR.
Citizens of Lviv strongly supported Viktor Yushchenko during the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election and played a key role in the Orange Revolution. Hundreds of thousands of people would gather in freezing temperatures to demonstrate for the Orange camp. Acts of civil disobedience forced the head of the local police to resign and the local assembly issued a resolution refusing to accept the fraudulent first official results.
Lviv remains today one of the main centres of Ukrainian culture and the origin of much of the nation’s political class.