On the territory which is occupied by the modern Chernihiv they
found traces of human activity of the 4th millenium B.C. At the
beginning of the 1st millenium 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. Chernihiv 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, Chernihiv 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.
Many ancient chronicles and other writings confirm the Ancient power
of Chernihiv. There are many interesting monuments which date back
to the 9th and 10th Centuries-the burial places of princes and boyars-men-at-arms.
During their excavations they unearthed objects, which characterize
social relations, lifestyle and culture of the townspeople. A unique
monument is the burial mound Chorna mohyla (the Black Grave),
which according to legends is the burial place of the Prince Chornyy.
In the burial mounds, many articles were located including swords,
sabres, spears, chain mails, a shield with a copper mount, tableware,
but the most precious find were two horns of an aurochs with silver
ornamentation. Boldyna Hill, located near the center also, is dominated
by two ancient and large burial mounds, Hulbishche and Bezimennyy.
A sword, a shield, a chain mail, a battle axe and other battle equipment,
which were founded in the Hulbishche mound. Due to the enormous
proportions of these mounds, compared to the many smaller mounds
surrounding them, is evidence that it was a burial place of a great
and mighty warrior-bogatyr.
Early in the 11th century, Chernihiv became the capital of a huge
and mighty principality. At the end of the 10th century the Grand
Duke Vladimir of Kyiv completed the unification of the Eastern Slavic
tribes in the Old Russian State Kyiv Rus. To strengthen his power,
the Grand Duke Vladimir replaced the local princes, who were in
vassalage from him, by his sons, who were appointed deputies. After
the death of Vladimir Svyatoslavich in 1015, the effort to succeed
him degenerated into a bloody battle for power. All began when Svyatopolk
the Damned ordered the assassination of his brothers Boris and Gleb
and seized the throne of the Grand Duke. As Yaroslav the Wise, who
reigned in Novgorod, was informed about the bloodshed. He sent his
Army south to campaign against Kyiv, and defeated Svyatopolk who
was forced into exile. But Yaroslav did not settle in the Kyiv,
instead he returned to Novgorod to reign his father's land.
Taking advantage of Yaroslav's absence, an energtic and enterprising
Mstislav the Brave entered Kyiv's gates. Mstislav had reigned in
T'mutarakan', which he received from his father, and demanded that
he should be accepted as the Grand Duke. But the Kyivites refused
to honor their self proclaimed Duke. After their refusal, Mstislav
came to Chernihiv, where at that time there was no prince and where
the local nobility and the clergy, who invited him to the throne,
hospitably accepted him.
But both, Yaroslav as well as Mstislav were eager to unite the great
country under proper power. Having used a war ruse, in 1024 in the
battle of Listven, 25 miles from Chernihiv where Mstislav comprehensively
defeated his brother. For the Slavs this victory was of a great
importance, since the army of Mstislav the Brave consisted of his
local subjects, while in the army of Yaroslav served the Vikings,
professional military, who were considered invincible. But not invane
Yaroslav got the alias the Wise: that, what he could not manage
to do with power, he managed to do with diplomacy - in two years
the brothers made it up and devided the Russian lands by the Dnieper.
Chernihiv became the capital of a principality, the lands of which
reached the Oka, the Don, the Sea of Azov. Having reigned in Chernihiv
for 10 years Mstislav suddenly died and the Chernihiv lands came
to Yaroslav the Wise. Shortly before his death, Yaroslav divided
all his lands between his three sons. Svyatoslav, who reigned in
it 19 years long and became the founder of the house of Svyatoslavychi,
inherited Chernihiv. Relations between all three princes of Chernihiv
were continually strained. In 1078, Vladimir Monomakh settled in
Chernihiv, but after 16 years, he had to pass the reign to Svyatoslav's
son Oleg. In 1097 the Princes Congress of Lyubech declared the hereditary
right to Chernihiv and the Chernihiv lands to Svyatoslavichi, who
reigned them for more than a hundred years.
The reign of Mstislav the Brave was the beginning of the Golden
Age of Chernihiv. 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 Chernihiv architectural
style appeared, beautiful edifices were erected, some of them have
preserved to the present. In its golden age Chernihiv was one of
the greatest cities of Europe, its fortificated area was about ?
square miles, and the population was 25 thousand people.
Having declined the principle of the dynastic allotment of Rus,
the Lyubech Congress of Princes allowed the Russian principalities
to become smaller and smaller in each generation. This feudal disintegration
further weakened the Principality of Chernihiv. This process opened
the region to the hoards of Batu Khan of the Golden Hord to which
soon captured the Russian lands. Chernihiv 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, Chernihiv was faced with a period
of stagnation and decay. From the middle of the 14th century, the
city was in possession of Lithuanian feudal lords. And at the beginning
of the 15th century, the Chernihiv 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 Chernihiv 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 Livoberezhna Ukraine to the successor
of Muscovy - the Russian State. During the period of the so called
Hetmanshchina - relative autonomy of the Livoberezhna Ukraine as
a part of Russia - began the renaissance of Chernihiv 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. The colonels had not only
military, but also civil power. And the whole autonomy was ruled
by the Hetman. From this comes the name Hetmanshchina.
With the beginning of active colonization of the Livoberezhna Ukraine
by Russia, which was accompanied by abolition Kozak freedoms and
the enslavment of peasantry, its regimental system was liquidated.
Chernihiv became the centre of a region ruled by governor-general,
and from 1797 it became the main city (capital) of the Malorossiyskaya
(from 1861 the Chernihiv) Province of the Russian Empire. The development
of the capital industry began after the reform of 1861. In 1913
the city had 30 enterprises, most of them were distilleries. For
a number of reasons, Chernihiv did not became an industrial city
and it did not managed to break away out from provincial chains.
The news about the Bolshevist October coup in the Empire's capital
Petrograd came to Chernihiv on the third day. During the years of
the Civil War and Foreign Intervention the city changed hands many
times to diffeent factions. After the final establishment of the
Soviet power in Chernihiv at the end of October 1919, they began
to restore the ruined economy. In 1932 the city became the capital
of the Chernihiv Region, which was formed in the Ukrainian Soviet
Socialist Republic, one of 15 republics of the Soviet Union. In
the course of the implementation of the Industrialization Program
in Chernihiv many new branches of industry appeared. In 1934 their
first output produced the factory for preliminary treatment of wool,
and a factory of musical instruments.
During World War II, and in particular the summer offensive of the
German troops in 1941 Chernihiv became a key point on their way
to Moscow around the Bryansk forests. The strategic significance
of Chernihiv 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 Chernihiv.
The German occupation of Chernihiv lasted from September 9 1941
till September 21 1943. In the city they created three concentration
camps. During the occupation, the Germans killed more that 52 thousand
local residents and Soviet war prisoners. Today, many monuments
stands to honor the many that died during those years. The woodlands
of the Chernihiv lands and of the neighboring regions created favourable
conditions for partisan warfare. The partisan movement in the land
gained a wide scope, more than 50 thousand people participated in
it. Under the guidance of the Soviet intelligence service in Chernihiv,
which acted as an anti-German underground organization, many of
the operations were well coordinated.
As a result of war actions Chernihiv was almost totally destroyed.
In September 1943 from its central square one could see the city's
outskirts and the fields around it. In Chernihiv they distroyed
all industrial enterprises, all schools, theatres, shops and stores,
many interesting architectural monuments and about 70% of housing.
Only 3 cities of the former USSR received more severe destruction
than Chernihiv: Stalingrad, Sevastopol and Voronezh.
The restoration of Chernihiv and its economy went on rapidly. As
early as 1950, all cities' enterprises reached their prewar 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
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 Chernihiv. News that "something has happened" came to the Chernihivites
through the refugees from the bedroom community of power specialists
Prypyat'. Firstly the fact of the incident and its possible consequences
were carefully concealed, then the Communist Propaganda Machine
brought down all the might of its criticism to the Western media,
which reported the truth about Chernobyl. In spite of the statements
of Moscow, that nothing serious had happened, the moods of the Chernihivites
were close to panic. Everybody was eager to send his or her children
out of the city, at least for a short period of time.
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 Chernihiv 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. Legend
has it happened because in one of Chernihiv's temples were kept
the imperishable remains of St.Theodosius, of the well known Ukrainian
church and political figure, who was the archbishop of Chernihiv
at the end of the XVII century.
At the beginning of 1990's, Chernihiv again reminded the Soviet
Union of it's existence, and much of the world during the tumultuous
years leading up to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Everything
began with a simple road incident: on January 6, the eve of the
Orthodox Christmas on one of the city's crossroads a "Volga" of
a region official struck a private "Zhiguli". In the opened trunk,
the passers-by saw something they couldn't see in their sweetest
dreams. There was… food! The people, who everyday had to scour the
shops in search of a piece of cheap sausage or a bottle of milk
seized the feeling of injustice, which immediately led to a spontaneous
From the crowd that gathered around the overturned "Volga", people
clambered through the trunk and began displaying their "trophies",
which they seized in the car. They took their frustration out from
their From this simple event, thousands of residents began to attend
meetings against the Communist regime. The January events in Chernihiv
became in the history of the USSR, "the Sausage Revolution". This
took place during Gorbachov's perestroika and relative democratization
of the Soviet society, people understood for the first time that
it was possible to express their claims to power openly.
From 1991 Chernihiv is the historical city, the region and district
centre of the young independent East European state Ukraine. In
September 1992 in Chernihiv 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.