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Coordinates: 50°44′20″N 25°19′24″E / 50.73889°N 25.32333°E / 50.73889; 25.32333
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Lubart's Castle in Lutsk
Wiśniowiecki Palace in Vyshnivets
Ostrogski Castle in Starokostiantyniv
Dormition Cathedral in Volodymyr
Lake Svitiaz
Coat of arms of Volhynia
Location of Volhynia (yellow) in Ukraine
Location of Volhynia (yellow) in Ukraine
Coordinates: 50°44′20″N 25°19′24″E / 50.73889°N 25.32333°E / 50.73889; 25.32333
Country Poland
RegionSoutheastern Poland, Southwestern Belarus, Western Ukraine
PartsVolyn Oblast, Rivne Oblast, Zhytomyr Oblast, Ternopil Oblast, Khmelnytskyi Oblast, Lublin Voivodeship, Brest Region

Volhynia (also spelled Volynia) (/vˈlɪniə/ voh-LIN-ee-ə; Ukrainian: Волинь, romanizedVolynʹ, Polish: Wołyń, Russian: Волынь, romanizedVolynʹ, Yiddish: װאָלין, romanizedVolin) is a historic region in Central and Eastern Europe, between southeastern Poland, southwestern Belarus, and western Ukraine. The borders of the region are not clearly defined, but the territory that still carries the name is Volyn Oblast, in western Ukraine.

Volhynia has changed hands numerous times throughout history and been divided among competing powers. For centuries it was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. After the Russian annexation during the Partitions of Poland, all of Volhynia was made part of the Pale of Settlement on the southwestern border of the Russian Empire. Important cities include Rivne, Lutsk, Zviahel, and Volodymyr.

Names and etymology


The alternative name for the region is Lodomeria after the city of Volodymyr, which was once a political capital of the medieval Volhynian Principality.

According to some historians, the region is named after a semi-legendary city of Volin or Velin, said to have been located on the Southern Bug River,[1] whose name may come from the Proto-Slavic root *vol/vel- 'wet'. In other versions, the city was located over 20 km (12 mi) to the west of Volodymyr near the mouth of the Huczwa [pl] River, a tributary of the Western Bug.


Mezhyrich Abbey in Ostroh was endowed by the Ostrogski princes in the 15th century.
Olyka Castle

Geographically it occupies northern areas of the Volhynian-Podolian Upland and western areas of Polesian Lowland along the Pripyat valley as part of the vast East European Plain, between the Western Bug in the west and upper streams of Uzh and Teteriv rivers.[2] Before the partitions of Poland, the eastern edge stretched a little west along the right-banks of the Sluch River or just east of it. Within the territory of Volhynia is located Little Polisie, a lowland that actually divides the Volhynian-Podolian Upland into separate Volhynian Upland and northern outskirts of Podolian Upland, the so-called Kremenets Hills. Volhynia is located in the basins of the Western Bug and Pripyat, therefore most of its rivers flow either in a northern or a western direction.

Relative to other historical regions, it is northeast of Galicia, east of Lesser Poland and northwest of Podolia. The borders of the region are not clearly defined, and it is often considered to overlap a number of other regions, among which are Polesia and Podlasie.

The territories of historical Volhynia are now part of the Volyn, Rivne and parts of the Zhytomyr, Ternopil and Khmelnytskyi oblsts of Ukraine, as well as parts of Poland (see Chełm). Major cities include Lutsk, Rivne, Kovel, Volodymyr, Kremenets (Ternopil Oblast) and Starokostiantyniv (Khmelnytskyi Oblast). Before World War II, many Jewish shtetls (small towns), such as Trochenbrod and Lozisht, were an integral part of the region.[3]: 770  At one time all of Volhynia was part of the Pale of Settlement designated by Imperial Russia on its southwesternmost border.[4]

Volhynia (French: Volhinie) in red on a map by French cartographer Henri Chatelain in 1712. White Ruthenia in white, Black Ruthenia in black, and Podolia in yellow.



The first records can be traced to the Ruthenian chronicles, such as the Primary Chronicle, which mentions tribes of the Dulebes, Buzhans and Volhynians. The land was mentioned in the works of Al-Masudi and Abraham ben Jacob that in ancient times the Walitābā and king Mājik, which some read as Walīnānā and identified with the Volhynians, were "the original, pure-blooded Saqaliba, the most highly honoured" and dominated the rest of the Slavic tribes, but due to "dissent" their "original organization was destroyed" and "the people divided into factions, each of them ruled by their own king", implying existence of a Slavic federation which perished after the attack of the Pannonian Avars.[5][6]: 37 

Volhynia may have been included in (or was in the sphere of influence of) the Grand Duchy of Kiev (Ruthenia) as early as the tenth century. At that time Princess Olga sent a punitive raid against the Drevlians to avenge the death of her husband Grand Prince Igor (Ingvar Röreksson); she later established pogosts along the Luha River. In the opinion of the Ukrainian historian Yuriy Dyba, the chronicle phrase «и оустави по мьстѣ. погосты и дань. и по лузѣ погосты и дань и ѡброкы» (and established in place pogosts and tribute along Luha), the path of pogosts and tribute reflects the actual route of Olga's raid against the Drevlians further to the west, up to the Western Bug's right tributary Luha River.

As early as 983, Vladimir the Great appointed his son Vsevolod as the ruler of the Volhynian principality. In 988, he established the city of Volodymer (Володимѣръ).

Volhynia's early history coincides with that of the duchies or principalities of Galicia and Volhynia. These two successor states of the Kievan Rus formed Galicia–Volhynia between the 12th and the 14th centuries.

Pochaiv Lavra, the spiritual heart of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Volhynia.
Zymne Monastery
Great Synagogue, Lutsk
Tarakaniv Fort near Dubno

After the disintegration of the Galicia–Volhynia circa 1340, the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania divided the region between them, Poland taking Western Volhynia and Lithuania taking Eastern Volhynia (1352–1366). After 1569, Volhynia was organized as a province of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. During this period many Poles and Jews settled in the area. The Roman and Greek Catholic churches became established in the province. In 1375, a Roman Catholic Diocese of Lodomeria was established, but it was suppressed in 1425. Many Orthodox churches joined the latter organization in order to benefit from a more attractive legal status. Records of the first agricultural colonies of Mennonites, Protestants from Germany, date from 1783.

After the Third partition of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795, Volhynia was annexed as the Volhynian Governorate of the Russian Empire. It covered an area of 71,852.7 square kilometres. Following this annexation, the Russian government greatly changed the religious make-up of the area: it forcibly liquidated the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, transferring all of its buildings to the ownership and control of the Russian Orthodox Church. Many Roman Catholic church buildings were also given to the Russian Church. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Lutsk was suppressed by order of Empress Catherine II.

In 1897, the population amounted to 2,989,482 people (41.7 per square kilometre). It consisted of 73.7 percent East Slavs (predominantly Ukrainians), 13.2 percent--400,000 Jews, 6.2 percent Poles, and 5.7 percent Germans.[7] Most of the German settlers had immigrated from Congress Poland. A small number of Czech settlers also had migrated here. Although economically the area was developing rather quickly, upon the eve of the First World War it was still the most rural province in Western Russia.

Ukrainian People's Republic


After the February Revolution and the formation of the Russian Provisional Government, Ukrainian nationalists declared the autonomous Ukrainian People's Republic. The territory of Volhynia was split in half by a frontline just west of the city of Lutsk. Due to an invasion of the Bolsheviks, the government of Ukraine was forced to retreat to Volhynia after the sack of Kyiv. Military aid from the Central Powers as a result of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk brought peace in the region and some degree of stability. Until the end of the war, the area saw a revival of Ukrainian culture after years of Russian oppression and the denial of Ukrainian traditions. After German troops were withdrawn, the whole region was engulfed by a new wave of military actions by Poles and Russians competing for control of the territory. The Ukrainian People's Army was forced to fight on three fronts: Bolsheviks, Poles and a Volunteer Army of Imperial Russia.

Interwar period

Map of divided Volhynia (blue) between Ukrainian and Polish (Wołyń) part, and Eastern Galicia (orange) in 1939
A card sent on the occasion of the Jewish New Year 5691 (September 1930) from Tel Aviv to Volhynia. The card shows a drawing of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, and a photograph of the sender. The Hebrew inscriptions say: "A Good Happy New Year, the year of the redemption of our sanctuaries, Tel Aviv E.Y. (=Eretz Yisrael), year 5731

In 1921, after the end of the Polish–Soviet War, the treaty known as the Peace of Riga divided the Volhynian Governorate between Poland and the Soviet Union. Poland took the larger part and established Volhynian Voivodeship.

Most of eastern Volhynian Governorate became part of the Ukrainian SSR, eventually being split into smaller districts. During that period, a number of national districts were formed within the Soviet Ukraine as part of cultural liberalization. The policies of Polonization in Poland led to formations of various resistance movements in West Ukraine and West Belarus, including Volhynia. In 1931, the Vatican of the Roman Catholic Church established a Ukrainian Catholic Apostolic Exarchate of Volhynia, Polesia and Pidliashia (Wolhynien, Polissia und Pidliashia in German), where the congregation practiced the Byzantine Rite in Ukrainian language.

From 1935 to 1938, the government of the Soviet Union deported numerous nationals from Volhynia in a population transfer to Siberia and Central Asia, as part of the dekulakization, an effort to suppress peasant farmers in the region. These people included Poles of Eastern Volhynia (see Population transfer in the Soviet Union).

World War II


Following the signing of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in 1939, and the subsequent invasion and division of Polish territories between the Reich and the USSR, the Soviet Union invaded and occupied the Polish part of Volhynia. In the course of the Nazi–Soviet population transfers which followed this (temporary) German-Soviet alliance, most of the ethnic German-minority population of Volhynia were transferred to those Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany. Following the mass deportations and arrests carried out by the NKVD, and repressive actions against Poles taken by Germany, including deportation to the Reich to forced labour camps, arrests, detention in camps and mass executions, by 1943 ethnic Poles constituted only 10–12% of the entire population of Volhynia.

During the German invasion,the Jewish population in Volhynia was approximately 460,000. About 400,000–450,000 Jews[citation needed] and 100,000 Poles (men, women and children) in Volhynia were massacred by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and Ukraine collaborators. The Jews were shot and thousands buried in large pits. The main massacre took place between August and October 1942. It is estimated that about 1.5% survived the Holocaust. The number of Ukrainian victims of Polish retaliatory attacks until the spring of 1945 is estimated at approx. 2,000−3,000 in Volhynia.[8] In 1945, Soviet Ukraine expelled ethnic Germans from Volhynia following the end of the war, claiming that Nazi Germany had used ethnic Germans in eastern Europe as part of its Generalplan Ost. The expulsion of Germans from eastern Europe was part of broader mass population transfers after the war.

The Soviet Union annexed Volhynia to Ukraine after the end of World War II. In 1944, the communists in Volyhnia suppressed the Ukrainian Catholic Apostolic Exarchate. Most of the remaining ethnic Polish population were expelled to Poland in 1945. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, Volhynia has been an integral part of Ukraine.

Important relics


Famous personalities


See also



  1. ^ Pospelov, E. M. [in Russian] (1998). Ageeva, R. A. [in Russian] (ed.). Географические названия мира. Топонимический словарь [Geographic Names of the World: Toponymic Dictionary] (in Russian). Moscow: Russkiye slovari. p. 104. ISBN 9785892160292.
  2. ^ Portnov, A. V. (2006). Волинь [Volhynia]. Encyclopedia of Modern Ukraine (in Ukrainian) (Online ed.). Kyiv: NASU Institute of Encyclopaedic Research. ISBN 9789660220744. Archived from the original on 2021-06-30. Retrieved 2021-09-28.
  3. ^ Kollmann, Nancy Shields (2000). "The Principalities of Rus' in the Fourteenth Century". In Jones, Michael (ed.). The New Cambridge Medieval History. Vol. VI. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 764–794. ISBN 9780521362900. Archived from the original on 2021-10-03. Retrieved 2023-02-11 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ Slutsky, Yehuda (2007). "Pale of Settlement". Encyclopaedia Judaica (2nd ed.). Macmillan Reference USA. ISBN 9780028660974. Archived from the original on 2021-08-11. Retrieved 2021-09-28 – via Encyclopedia.com.
  5. ^ Ibn Fadlan and the Land of Darkness: Arab Travellers in the Far North. Translated by Lunde, Paul; Stone, Caroline. Penguin. 2012. pp. 128, 146, 200. ISBN 9780140455076 – via the Internet Archive.
  6. ^ Cross, Samuel Hazzard; Sherbowitz-Wetzor, Olgerd P. (1953). "Introduction". The Russian Primary Chronicle: Laurentian Text (PDF). Cambridge, MA: Mediaeval Academy of America. pp. 3–50. OCLC 268919. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2021-08-27 – via MGH-Bibliothek.
  7. ^ "Wolynien". Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon (in German). Vol. 20 (6th ed.). Leipzig & Vienna: Bibliographisches Institut. 1908. pp. 744–745. OL 7001513M – via the Internet Archive.
  8. ^ "The Effects of the Volhynian Massacres". Volhynia Massacre. Institute of National Remembrance. Archived from the original on 2021-05-01. Retrieved 2021-09-28.