Lviv ( L'viv, ; L'vov, , , , , Latin: Leopolis, the city of the lion) is a city in western Ukraine that was once a major population centre of the Halych-Volyn Principality, the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland, the Habsburg Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, and later the capital of Lwów Voivodeship during the Second Polish Republic.
Formerly 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 streets has survived Soviet and Nazi occupation during World War II 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.
The archaeological traces of settlement on the site of Lviv city date from as early as the 5th century. Archaeological excavations in 1977 showed Lendian settlement between the 8th and 10th centuries AD. In 1031 the settlement site with the rest of adjacent region was conquered from Mieszko II Lambert King of Poland by prince Yaroslav the Wise. After the invasion of Batu Khan, the city was rebuilt in 1240 by King Daniel of the Rurik Dynasty, ruler of the medieval Ruthenian kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia, and named after his son, Lev.
The first record of Lviv in chronicles dates from 1256. In 1340 Galicia including Lviv were incorporated into the Kingdom of Poland by Casimir III the Great by inheritance from prince Bolesław Jerzy II of Mazovia. In 1356, Lviv received Magdeburg Rights from King Casimir III the Great. Lviv belonged to the Kingdom of Poland till 1772. Under subsequent partitions, Lviv became part of the Austrian Empire. From 1918, the city of Lviv became the capital of the Lwów Voivodeship of the Second Polish Republic, until the Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939; it later fell into German hands. On 22 July 1944, following the successful Lwów Uprising, Lviv was liberated from Nazi occupation by Polish troops, cooperating with advancing Soviet forces.
From the 15th century the city acted as a major Polish and later also as a Jewish cultural centre, with Poles and Jews comprising a demographic majority of the city until the outbreak of World War II, and the Holocaust, and the population transfers of Poles that followed. The other ethnic groups living within the city – Germans, Ruthenians (Ukrainians), and Armenians – also contributed greatly to Lviv's culture. With the joint German–Soviet Invasion of Poland at the outbreak of World War II, the city of Lwów and its province were annexed by the Soviet Union and became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic from 1939 to 1941. Between 30 June 1941 and 27 July 1944 Lwów was under German occupation, and was located in the General Government. On 27 July 1944 it was captured by the Soviet Red Army. According to the agreements of the Yalta Conference, Lwów was transferred to the Ukrainian SSR, most of the Poles living in Lwów were deported into lands newly acquired from Germany under terms of the Potsdam Agreement (officially termed Recovered Territories in Poland), and the city became the main centre of the western part of Soviet Ukraine, inhabited predominantly by Ukrainians with a significant Russian minority.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the city of Lviv 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 has earned it the nickname the "Little Paris of Ukraine" . The city expected a sharp increase in the number of foreign visitors as a venue for UEFA Euro 2012, and as a result a major new airport terminal has been built.
Archaeologists 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 9th century in the area of present-day Lviv, between Castle Hill and the river Poltva, there existed a Lendian settlement – in the 10th 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.
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 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. Only St. Nicholas church remains from this time period. 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 more Germans 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.
Kingdom of Poland
As part of the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland Lviv (Polish: Lwów) became the capital of the Ruthenian Voivodeship founded in 1389. Before that happened, on 17 April 1356 King Casimir III the Great granted it Magdeburg rights. The city's prosperity during the following centuries is owed to the trade privileges granted to it by Casimir, Queen Jadwiga and the subsequent Polish monarchs.
In 1412 the city became the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, which since 1375 had been in Halych. First Catholic Archibshop who resided in Lviv was Jan Rzeszowski. In 1444 the city was granted with the staple right, which resulted in its 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, and was a royal city, like Kraków or Gdańsk. In the 17th century Lviv was the second biggest city of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; with the population of 30,000.
In 1572 one of the first publishers of books in what is now Ukraine, Ivan Fedorov, a graduate of the University of Kraków, settled here 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 printer which published the first full versions of the Bible in Church Slavonic in 1580. A Jesuit Collegium was founded in 1608, and on 20 January 1661 King John II Casimir of Poland issued a decree granting it "the honour of the academy and the title of the university".
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 the town. They captured the High Castle, murdering its defenders, but the city itself was not sacked due to the fact that the leader of the revolution Bohdan Khmelnytsky accepted a ransom of 250,000 ducats, and the Cossacks marched northwest towards Zamość. It was one of two major cities in Poland which was not captured during the so-called Deluge: the other one was Gdańsk (Danzig). At that time, Lviv witnessed a historic scene, as here King John II Casimir made his famous Lwów Oath. Two years later, John Casmir, in honour of bravery of its residents, declared Lviv to be equal to two historic capitals of the Commonwealth, Kraków and Wilno. In the same year, 1658, Pope Alexander VII declared the city to be Semper fidelis, in recognition of the its key role in defending Europe and Roman-Catholicism from Muslim invasion.
In 1672 it was surrounded by the Ottomans who also failed to conquer it. Three years later, the Battle of Lwów (1675) took place near the city. Lviv was captured for the first time since Middle Ages 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 Austrians and German-speaking Czech bureaucrats gave the city a character that by the 1840s was quite Austrian, in its orderliness and in the appearance and popularity of Austrian 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 Lviv Theatre of Opera and Ballet 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. At that time, Lviv was home to a number of renowned Polish – language institutions, such as:
At the same time Lviv became the city where famous Ukrainian writers (such as Ivan Franko, Panteleimon Kulish, and Ivan Nechuy-Levytsky) published their work. It was a center of Ukrainian cultural revival. 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 Battle of Galicia at the early stages of World War I, Lviv was captured by the Russian army in September 1914 but retaken by Austria–Hungary in June the following year. Lviv and its population therefore suffered greatly during the World War as many of the offensives were fought across its local geography causing significant collateral damage and disruption.
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 an 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.
The Ukrainian forces withdrew outside Lwów's confines by 21 November 1918, after which elements of Polish soldiery began to loot and burn much of the Jewish and Ukrainian quarters of the city, killing approximately 340 civilians (see: Lwów pogrom). 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 Field Marshal Pilsudski 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 Lwów was attacked by the Red Army under the command of Aleksandr Yegorov and Stalin during the Polish-Soviet War but the city repelled the attack. For the courage of its inhabitants Lwów was awarded the Virtuti Militari cross by Józef Piłsudski on 22 November 1920. Polish sovereignty over Lwów 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—after Warsaw, it was the second most important cultural and academic centre of interwar Poland. For example, in 1920 professor Rudolf Weigl of the Lwów University discovered the vaccine against typhus. Further, Lviv's geographic location gave it an important role in stimulating international trade and fostering city's and Poland's economic development. The major trade fair called Targi Wschodnie was established in 1921. In the academic year 1937–38 there were 9,100 students attending five higher education facilities including the renowned university and institute of technology.
While about two-thirds of the city's inhabitants were Poles, some of who spoke the characteristic Lwów dialect, the eastern part of the Lwów Voivodeship had a relative Ukrainian majority in most of its rural areas. 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. Pre-war Lviv also had a large and thriving Jewish community, which constituted about a quarter of the population.
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 banned 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 into the Asiatic part of the USSR or gulags.
On 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany and several of its allies invaded the USSR. In the initial stage of Operation Barbarossa (30 June 1941) Lviv was taken by the Germans. The evacuating Soviets killed most of the prison population, with arriving Wehrmacht forces easily discovering evidence of the Soviet mass murders in the city 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. 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.
According to the Third Reich's racial policies local Jews then became the main target of German repressions in the region. Following German occupation, the Jewish population was concentrated in the Lwów Ghetto established in the city's Zamarstynów (today Zamarstyniv) district, and the Janowska concentration camp was also set up. In 1931 there were 75,316 Yiddish speaking inhabitants, but by 1941 approximately 100,000 Jews were present in Lviv. The majority of these Jews were either killed within the city or deported to Belzec extermination camp. In the summer of 1943, on the orders of Heinrich Himmler, SS-Standartenführer Paul Blobel was tasked with the destruction of any evidence of Nazi mass murders in the Lviv area. On 15 June Blobel, using forced labourers from Janowska, dug up a number of mass graves and incinerated the remains. Later, on 19 November 1943, inmates at Janowska staged an uprising and attempted a mass escape. A few succeeded, but most were recaptured and killed. The SS staff and their local auxiliaries then, at the time of the Janowska camp's liquidation, murdered at least 6,000 more inmates, as well as Jews in other forced labour camps in Galicia. By the end of the war the Jewish population of the city was virtually eliminated, with only around 200 to 800 survivors remaining.
After the successful Lvov–Sandomierz Offensive of 22–24 July 1944, the Soviet 3rd Tank Army recaptured Lviv on 27 July 1944, with cooperation from the local Armia Krajowa resistance (see: Lwów Uprising). Soon thereafter, 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. Later, in January 1945, the local NKVD also arrested many Poles in Lviv (which, according to Soviet sources, still had a clear Polish majority of 66.7% on 1 October 1944) to encourage their emigration from their city. Those arrested were released after they signed papers agreeing to emigrate to Poland, whose postwar borders were then moved westwards according to the Yalta conference settlements, with Lviv left within the borders of the Soviet Union. 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 pre-war 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.
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.
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. Immigration from Russia and Russian-speaking regions of Eastern Ukraine was encouraged. Despite this, Lviv remained a major centre of dissident movement in Ukraine and played a key role in Ukraine's independence in 1991.
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 German suffix for city stadt was added instead of the Russian 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. 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. 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).
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.