Chernihiv, the capital of the northernmost region of Ukraine, is situated on the right (western) bank of the Desna River 87 miles (140 km) north of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv along the international highway Odessa-St.Petersburg. It is also located 50 miles (80 km) east as the crow flies from the Lenin Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Chernihiv is slightly more than 30 square miles (more than 78 sq km) with a poplation of 310,000.

Most of Chernihvites (about 75%) are Ukrainians, but there also many Russians, Jews, Belorussians and people of other nationalities. Traditionally, Chernihiv is an orthodox city, but today many faiths are practiced here. A small part of its population are the adherents of Protestantism and Catholicism, and a few belong to the other religions as Judaists, Greek Catholics, Krishnas, Buddhists.

Like in many countries, which are evolving from totalitarian to democratic forms of government, the political landscape in Ukraine is a quagmire of political parties and movements. Hence, it is very difficult to effectively define the political liking of Chernihivites. One can say with certainty only that a considerable part of them support Communists. The Communist party draws many of it's adherents from the older generation. This can be attributed by the historical fact that much of the city's population is made up of retirees. As far back as in the Tsarist times, retired military officers made Chernihiv their home.

Many elderly people believe that with the return to the plan economy, making the Russian an official state language and the restoration of the disintegrated USSR, their lives will drastically improve. As they could during the past, they will be able to buy food, if not of high quality, but affordable. At the same time it must be noted that in Chernihiv, there are many political organizations with center and right wing leanings.

The climate of Chernihiv is temperate continental, the average temperatures of January and July, the coldest and the warmest months of the year are accordingly: 19,2 F (-7,1C) and 66,7 F (+18,7). In April, the Desna overflows its banks and often there are floods, which cause troubles to the Chernihivites, like, for example, the great flood of 1970, which caused to the city a great financial damage.

The main branches of industry of today's Chernihiv are light, chemical and alimentary, in addition to motor-car assembling. After the downfall of the plan system of economy many enterprises of the city have not managed to make a successful transformation to the market economy. The largest example of this suffering is the Chernihiv's air terminal, which has been practically idled for several years. In addition, the Chernihiv food processing industry continues to grow, both with output and with the number of facilities. A considerable part of Chernihivites make their living by petty trade.

Of the educational establishments it is worth of mention the Chernihiv Taras Shevchenko Pedagogical University, the Chernihiv Technological University, the Chernihiv Institute of Economy and Management, the Chernihiv Levko Revutskyy Musical College. The science is represented first of all by the Institute of Agricultural Microbiology of the Ukrainian Academy of Agricultural Sciences, by the Public Joint-Stock Company "Khimtekstil'mash" (projecting of machines for production of synthetic fiber) and the Chernihiv Branch of the Ukrainian State Institute for Geological Survey. In the city there are three theaters, a Philharmonic Society and several stadiums.

Chernihiv is rich in ancient and historical sights. Here is a fact that speaks for itself: the city has preserved one quarter of all architectural monuments of Ukraine of the pre-Mongol period. In Chernihiv's museums there are rich collections of Ukrainian antiquities and folk painting. An advantageous geographical location of the city, favourable climatic and natural conditions create great possibilities for development of tourism.


The origin of the city's name - Chernihiv - is not known for sure. Some people consider that the name came from forests which once surrounded the city and were so dense that from far away seemed to be black. (Chornyy in English means black.) But it is hard to believe in this version since at this particular time, the whole Europe was covered by dense forests, which gradually disappeared as the result of activity of man. There is also an opinion, that the city derived its name from the ancient people Chorni klobuki, that is those who wore black hats.

The most romantic version about the origin of the city's name is connected with the legend about Prince Chornyy, who ruled here in the 10th century, and his daughter Chorna (or Tsorna) by name. As the legend has it, the Princess distinguished herself with unusual beauty, she liked hunting, horse-riding and was a good archer. The rumours about the girl's beauty reached the ears of the Khosar's Kagan, whome Prince Chornyy's payed tribute. The Kagan sent to Chernihiv his match-makers with rich presents. But the girl refused to marry her people's enemy.

The Kagan tried to capture the city and to take the girl away by force but the townspeople with fortitude beat off one attack after another and there was nothing left to the Khosars as to lay siege. Since at that time Prince Chornyy was at odds with the Grand Duke Oleg of Kyiv, and he couldn't expect any help, he decided to break the siege while there was still enough man power, food and water.

As soon as the Prince with his druzhyna and armed commoners left the city walls, a gang of traitors rushed into the girl's room on the upper floor of the mansion, which, as the story goes, was as high as old oak-trees, which grew around it. The Princess managed to hit some of the enemies from her bow, but when she ran out of arrows, the girl threw herself out of the window.

No matter how beautiful this legend is, it is not in any way connected with the city's name, since the first written record of Chernihiv refers to 860, much earlier that the traditional legend. Most historians have come to the conclusion that the city got its name from the name of a chief of a local tribe or the first settler Cherniga or Chernega. This theory is strengthened due to the fact that this name is founded with the kindred Slavonic people Poles and Czechs. For an indirect corroboration of this version serves the origin of the Ukrainian capital: Kyiv got its name after the name of its Prince Kyy.


druzhyna - prince's armed force, men-at-arms
Kagan - prince of Khazar(s)
Khazar(s) - normadic tribes, south-east neighbours of the Eastern Slavs


© Sergie & Elena Kolesnyk, Alex Liubenko, Svetlana Kokorina
July, 2002