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Chernihov - The Princely city of Ukraine

The Princely city of Ukraine

On the territory which is occupied by the modern Chernihov they found traces of human activity of the 4th millennium B.C. At the beginning of the 1st millennium A.D. Slavonic tribes settled in this area. Their settlements grew and became stronger and by the second half of the 7th century several of these settlements fused and thus formed a town. Chernihov was mentioned in the first time in a Chronicle, which gives an account of the first treaty of Rus with Bysantium. This treaty was concluded in summer 860 by the Prince Askold after a successful campaign of the Kyiv army against the armies of Constantinople. In the list of the Russian cities, to which according to the treaty, the Greeks were obliged to pay tribute, Chernihov stood on the second place after Kyiv and this is an evidence importance of the main city of the Slavic tribe Siveryane as an economical and cultural centre of the Russian land.

Chernihov was established at the end of the 7th centuries. In the 9th centuries it was the capital of the Slavic Siverian tribes. In the late 9th centuries the city was the part of Kyivan Rus. In 1024 the city became the capital of the Chernihov Principality. The reign of Mstislav the Brave was the beginning of the Golden Age of Chernihov. The taxes came to the prince's exchequer from an area equal in size to modern France. Arts and crafts rapidly developed, chronicles were written, the Chernihov architectural style appeared, beautiful edifices were erected, some of them have preserved to the present. In its golden age Chernihov was one of the greatest cities of Europe, its fortificated area was about 2 square miles, and the population was 25 thousand people.

Chernihov was taken by storm by Mengu Khan on October 19 1239 and ransacked and devastated. The city was so thoroughly destroyed that only in the 18th century did the city grow to its former borders. But the city never managed to return itself the bygone fame.

For more than four centuries, Chernihov was faced with a period of stagnation and decay. In the 14th centuries the city was captured by Lithuanian princes who built a fortress in the city. And at the beginning of the 15th century, the Chernihov lands fell under the power of the princes of the Moscow State. At these Times of Troubles the city more than once was the subject of attacks of Crimean Tatars. The most devastating raids were those of Khan Mengli-Girei, who burned the town in 1482 and 1497. In 1618 the Moscow State ceded the Chernihov lands to Poland.
The national-liberation war of the Ukrainian people under the leadership of Bohdan Khmel'nitskyy against the Polish gentry ended in 1648 with the annexation of the Levoberezhnaya Ukraine to the successor of the Russian State. During the period of the so called Hetmanshina - relative autonomy of the Levoberezhnaya Ukraine as a part of Russia - began the renaissance of Chernihov as of political, economical and cultural centre. The city became the centre of a Kozak Regiment since a regiment in those times was an administrative territorial rather than a military unit.

During World War II, and in particular the summer offensive of the German troops in 1941 Chernihov became a key point on their way to Moscow around the Bryansk forests. The strategic significance of Chernihov was understood by the Soviet command as well, which placed here strong defensive lines. The first raids of the German air force on the city began as early as at the end of June. The bombings caused great destruction to Chernihov. As a result of war actions Chernihov was almost totally destroyed. Only 3 cities of the former USSR received more severe destruction than Chernihov: Stalingrad, Sevastopol and Voronezh.

The restoration of Chernihov and its economy went on rapidly. As early as 1950, all cities' enterprises reached their pre-war level of production. Soon they started to build the industrial giants: the chemical fiber plant and the worsted cloth mill. In the 1970s the plant for automobile spare parts and the radio instrument plant were constructed.

1986 came into history as a year of the greatest nuclear catastrophe of the 20th century, which was the consequence of an accident on April 26 at the Chernobyl nuclear power station. The sprawling plant, named after V.I.Lenin (the Lenin Nuclear Power Station), which is situated only in 50 miles (80 km) as the crow flies to the West from Chernihov.
The main negative consequences of the catastrophe were the numerous health problems of the fireman and other accident response teams, the men and women who built the sarcophagus and of local children. After the catastrophe they diagnosed 56 cases of thyroid gland cancer in children in the Chernihov Region, while before the wreck there was not a single such case. Nevertheless, thanks to the wind, which blew in the opposite direction, Chernihivites suffered relatively little compared to residents West and North of the site.

From 1991 Chernihov is the historical city, the region and district centre of the young independent East European state Ukraine. In September 1992 in Chernihov celebrated 1300-year anniversary of the founding of the city. The central event of the holiday was the unveiling of the monument to the great Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, in which participated the first President of Ukraine Leonid Kravchuk.