Last updated

Lutsk castle tower.jpg
Lubart's Castle (Lutsk) was the seat of the medieval princes of Volhynia.
Alex Volhynia.svg
Coat of arms
Volhynia (yellow) in modern Ukraine
Coordinates: 50°44′42.0″N25°21′13.7″E / 50.745000°N 25.353806°E / 50.745000; 25.353806 Coordinates: 50°44′42.0″N25°21′13.7″E / 50.745000°N 25.353806°E / 50.745000; 25.353806
CountryPoland, Belarus, Ukraine
Region Southeastern Poland, Southwestern Belarus, Western Ukraine
Parts Volyn Oblast, Rivne Oblast, Zhytomyr Oblast, Ternopil Oblast, Khmelnytskyi Oblast, Lublin Voivodeship, Brest Region

Volhynia ( /vˈlɪniə/ ; Polish : Wołyń, Ukrainian : Волинь, romanized: Volyń), is a historic region in Central and Eastern Europe, situated between south-eastern Poland, south-western Belarus, and western Ukraine. While the borders of the region are not clearly defined, the territory that still carries the name is Volyn Oblast, located in western Ukraine. Volhynia has changed hands numerous times throughout history and been divided among competing powers. At one time all of Volhynia was part of the Pale of Settlement designated by Imperial Russia on its southwestern-most border.


Important cities include Lutsk, Rivne, Volodymyr-Volynskyi (Volodymyr), Iziaslav, and Novohrad-Volynskyi (Zviahel). After the annexation of Volhynia by the Russian Empire as part of the Partitions of Poland, it also included the cities of Zhytomyr, Ovruch, Korosten. The city of Zviahel was renamed Novohrad-Volynsky, and Volodymyr became Volodymyr-Volynskyi.

Names and etymology

Volynia Ukrainian : Волинь, romanized: Volyń); Polish : Wołyń, Lithuanian : Voluinė or Volynė; Czech : Volyň, Hungarian : Volhínia, German : Wolhynien[vo.ˈlyː.ni̯ən] or Wolynien[vo.ˈlyː.ni̯ən] (Volhynian German: Wolhynien/Wolhinien[vo.ˈliː.ni̯ən] or Wolynien/Wolinien[vo.ˈliː.ni̯ən]), Yiddish : װאָלין, romanized: Volin)

The alternative name for the region is Lodomeria after the city of Volodymyr-Volynsky (previously known as Volodymer), 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-Volynskyi 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. Mezhirich.jpg
Mezhyrich Abbey in Ostroh was endowed by the Ostrogski princes in the 15th century.
Olyka Castle Olika1.jpg
Olyka Castle

Geographically it occupies northern areas of the Volhynian-Podolian Upland and western areas of Polesian Lowland along the Prypyat 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 Prypyat, 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 Oblasts of Ukraine, as well as parts of Poland (see Chełm). Major cities include Lutsk, Rivne, Kovel, Volodymyr-Volynskyi, Kremenets (Ternopil Oblast) and Starokostiantyniv (Khmelnytskyi Oblast). Before World War II, many Jewish shtetls (villages), such as Trochenbrod and Lozisht, were an integral part of the region. [3] At one time all of Volhynia was part of the Pale of Settlement designated by Imperial Russia on its southwesternmost border. [4]


The land was mentioned in the works of Arabian scholar Al-Masudi, who denoted the local tribe as "people of Valin". In his work of 947–948, Al-Masudi mentions the Valinians as an intertribal union ruled by their leader Madjak.

Volhynia may have been included (or was in the sphere of influence) in the Grand Duchy of Kiev (Ruthenia) as early as the 10th 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 (лузѣ), 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).

The first records can be traced to the Ruthenian chronicles, such as the Primary Chronicle, which mentions tribes of the Dulebe, Buzhan and Volhynian peoples in the year of 1077.

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

Pochayiv Lavra, the spiritual heart of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Volhynia. Pochaev.jpg
Pochayiv Lavra, the spiritual heart of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Volhynia.
Zymne Monastery Zimnee.jpg
Zymne Monastery
Great Synagogue, Lutsk Luts'kSinagogaGol.jpg
Great Synagogue, Lutsk
Tarakaniv Fort near Dubno Tarakanovskii fort.jpg
Tarakaniv Fort near Dubno

After the disintegration of the Grand Duchy of Halych-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 Jews, 6.2 percent Poles, and 5.7 percent Germans. [5] 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.

World War I and the German settlements in Volhynia

Ukrainian Nationalist at the end of World War I

At the end of the First World War, nationalists tried to form the Ukrainian National Autonomy. 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 Kiev. Military aid from the Central Powers 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. Ukraine was forced to fight on three fronts - Bolsheviks, Poles and a Volunteer Army of Imperial Russia.

Post World War I

Map of divided Volhynia (blue) between Ukrainian and Polish (Wolyn) part, and Eastern Galicia (orange) in 1939 East Galicia and Volhynia 1939.png
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 PikiWiki Israel 299 Jewish new year card 1930 SHnh tvbh trTSA.jpg
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: 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, around 40,000–60,000 Polish people in Volhynia were massacred by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. The number of Ukrainian victims of Polish retaliatory attacks until the spring of 1945 is estimated at approx. 2,000−3,000 in Volhynia. [6] In 1945 Soviet Ukraine expelled ethnic Germans from Volhynia following the end of the war, because Nazi Germany had used ethnic Germans in eastern Europe as an excuse to invade those areas. The expulsion of Germans from eastern Europe was part of a mass population transfer after the war.

Soviet Ukraine annexed Volhynia 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

Notable residents

See also

Related Research Articles

Volyn Oblast Oblast (region) of Ukraine

Volyn Oblast is an oblast (province) in northwestern Ukraine. Its administrative center is Lutsk. Kovel is the westernmost town and the last station in Ukraine of the rail line running from Kiev to Warsaw. Population: 1,042,918 (2015 est.)

Podolia Historical Region

Podolia or Podilia is a historic region in Eastern Europe, located in the west-central and south-western parts of Ukraine and in northeastern Moldova. The name derives from Old Slavic po, meaning "by/next to/along" and dol, "valley".

Galicia (Eastern Europe) Historical region in Central Europe

Galicia is a historical and geographic region between Central and Eastern Europe. It was once the small Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia and later a crown land of Austria-Hungary, the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, which straddled the modern-day border between Poland and Ukraine. The area, named after the medieval city of Halych, was first mentioned in Hungarian historical chronicles in the year 1206 as Galiciæ. In 1253 Prince Daniel of Galicia was crowned the King of Rus or King of Ruthenia following the Mongol invasion in Ruthenia. In 1352 the Kingdom of Poland annexed the Kingdom of Galicia and Volhynia as the Ruthenian Voivodeship.

Massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia Genocide of Poles by Ukrainians during World War II in Volhynia region

The massacres of Poles in Volhynia and Eastern Galicia, were carried out in German-occupied Poland by the Ukrainian Insurgent Army, or UPA, with the active and frequent support of the local Ukrainian population against the Polish minority in Volhynia, Eastern Galicia, parts of Polesia and Lublin region from 1943 to 1945. The peak of the massacres took place in July and August 1943. Most of the victims were women and children. UPA's methods were particularly brutal, with many of the victims being tortured and mutilated, and resulted in 40,000–60,000 Polish deaths in Volhynia and 30,000–40,000 in Eastern Galicia, with the total in other regions about 100,000.

Ternopil Oblast Oblast (region) of Ukraine

Ternopil Oblast is an oblast (province) of Ukraine. Its administrative center is Ternopil, through which flows the Seret, a tributary of the Dnister.

Lutsk City of regional significance in Ukraine

Lutsk is a city on the Styr River in northwestern Ukraine. It is the administrative center of the Volyn Oblast (province) and the administrative center of the surrounding Lutsk Raion (district) within the oblast, though it is not a part of the raion. Lutsk has the status of a city of oblast significance, equivalent to that of a raion. Population: 217,103 (2015 est.)

Volodymyr-Volynskyi City of regional significance in Volyn Oblast, Ukraine

Volodymyr-Volynskyi is a small city located in Volyn Oblast, in north-western Ukraine. Serving as the administrative centre of the Volodymyr-Volynskyi Raion, the city itself is also designated as a separate municipality within the oblast as the city of regional significance. The city is the historic centre of the region of Volhynia and the historic capital of the Principality of Volhynia. Population: 39,074 (2015 est.)

Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria former country

The Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria, also known simply as Galicia or Austrian Poland, was established in 1772 as a crownland of the Habsburg Monarchy as a result of the First Partition of Poland. After the Third Partition of Poland in 1795, it became a kingdom under Habsburg rule. In 1804 it became a crownland of the Austrian Empire. From 1867 it was a Polish-administered autonomous crownland under Cisleithanian Austria-Hungary, until its dissolution in 1918. The country was carved from the entire south-western part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Among the many ceremonial titles of the princes of Hungary was "ruler of Galicia and Lodomeria". Following the Napoleonic Wars and the Congress of Vienna, the Austrian Empire ceded portions of Galicia to the Russian Empire, West Galicia and Tarnopol District.

Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia Kingdom in Central Europe

The Kingdom or Principality of Galicia–Volhynia, also known as the Kingdom of Rus' since 1253, was a state in the regions of Galicia and Volhynia that existed 1199 to 1349. Upon its annexation by the King of Poland in 1349, Casimir III the Great became titled as the King of Poland and Russia, while the territory was transformed into Palatinate of Russia in 1434. The territory is today to be found in the modern states of Poland, Ukraine and the Slovakia. Galicia was conquered by the Prince of Volhynia Roman the Great with the help of Leszek the White of Poland. Roman the Great united the principalities of Halych and Volhynia into a single state. Along with Novgorod and Vladimir-Suzdal, it was one of the three most important powers to emerge from the collapse of Kievan Rus'.


Lodomeria is a derivative name (Latinized) of Vladimir which was a name of the Ruthenian duchy, Volhyn a western Kievan Rus' principality founded by the Rurik dynasty in 987 centered in the region of Volhynia, straddling the borders of modern-day Poland, Ukraine and Belarus. The duchy of Vladimir arose in the course of the 12th century along with the duchy of Halitch (Halicz).

Zhytomyr Oblast Oblast (region) of Ukraine

Zhytomyr Oblast is an oblast (province) of northern Ukraine. The administrative center of the oblast is the city of Zhytomyr. Its population is approximately 1,240,482 (2017 est.).

Volhynians ethnic group

The Volhynians were an East Slavic tribe of the Early Middle Ages and the Principality of Volhynia in 987–1199.

Western Ukraine geographical and historical region in the western territories of Ukraine

Western Ukraine or the Ukrainian West is a geographical and historical relative term used in reference to the western territories of Ukraine. The form Ukrainian West is used but not emphasized often. The territory includes several historical regions such as Transcarpathia, Halychyna including Pokuttia, most of Volhynia, northern Bukovina as well as western Podolia. The main historical areas that the territory covers are Volhynia and Russia, today more known as Galicia or, locally, Halychyna. Russia in the Ukrainian West has nothing to do with the country to the east from Ukraine. The control over the territory the Muscovite Russia obtained only in the 20th century, particularly, during World War II when it was known as the Soviet Union and along with the Nazi Germany participated in another partitioning of Poland. Less often the Ukrainian West includes areas of eastern Volhynia, Podolia, and small portion of northern Bessarabia. The city of Lviv is the main cultural center of the region and historical capital of kingdom and palatinatus of Russia. Other important cities are Buchach, Chernivtsi, Drohobych, Halych, Ivano-Frankivsk, Khotyn, Lutsk, Mukacheve, Rivne, Ternopil, Uzhhorod and others. Strong association with the Rusyn or the Ruthenian nation in the region existed until the World War II, including Galician Rusyns and Carpathian Rusyns. The Ukrainian West is not an administrative category within Ukraine.

Andrew of Galicia King of Galicia

Andriy II Yuriyevych or Andrew of Galicia was the last Rus' king of Galicia-Volhynia in 1308–1323. He was the son of Yuriy I (1252–1308) whom he succeeded on the royal throne of Galicia. His mother was Euphemia of Kuyavia. After the death of his father, he ruled the kingdom together with his brother Lev II. Though the kingdom was one being managed together, there are sources informing that Andrew was seated in Volodymyr-Volynskyi and Lev II in Galicia.

Wołyń Voivodeship (1921–1939)

Wołyń Voivodeship or Volhynian Voivodeship was an administrative region of interwar Poland (1918–1939) with an area of 35,754 km², 22 cities, and provincial capital in Łuck. The voivodeship was divided into 11 districts (powiaty). The area comprised part of the historical region of Volhynia. At the end of World War II, at the insistence of Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union during the Tehran Conference of 1943, Poland's borders were redrawn by the Allies. The Polish population was forcibly resettled westward; and the Voivodeship territory was incorporated into the Ukrainian SSR of the Soviet Union. Since 1991 it has been divided between the Rivne and Volyn Oblasts of sovereign Ukraine.

History of the Ukrainian minority in Poland

The history of the Ukrainian minority in Poland dates back to the Late Middle Ages, preceding the 14th century Galicia–Volhynia Wars between Casimir III the Great of Poland, and Liubartas of Lithuania. Following the extinction of the Rurikid dynasty in 1323, the Polish Kingdom extended further east in 1340 to include the lands of Przemyśl and in 1366, Kamianets-Podilskyi. After the Union of Lublin (1569), principalities of Galicia and Western Volhynia became, what is known as, the Ruthenian Voivodeship of the Polish Crown, while the rest of Red Ruthenia together with Kiev came under Lithuanian control. The Polish borders reached as far east as Zaporizhia, and Poltava.

Galicia–Volhynia Wars

Galicia–Volhynia Wars were several wars fought in the years 1340–1392 over the succession in the Principality of Galicia–Volhynia. After Boleslaw-Yuri II was poisoned by local nobles in 1340, both Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Kingdom of Poland advanced claims over the principality. After a prolonged conflict, Galicia–Volhynia was divided between Poland (Galicia) and Lithuania (Volhynia) and the principality ceased to exist as an independent state. Poland acquired a territory of approximately 52,000 square kilometres (20,000 sq mi) with 200,000 inhabitants.

Novohrad-Volynskyi City of regional significance in Zhytomyr Oblast, Ukraine

Novohrad-Volynskyi is a city in the Zhytomyr Oblast (province) of northern Ukraine. Originally known as Zvyahel, the city was renamed in 1795 after annexation of territories of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth by the Russian Empire soon after the third Partition of Poland.

The Volhynia Experiment was a cultural and political program by the interwar Polish government in the province of Volhynia whose purpose was to create a Ukrainian identity that was also loyal to the Polish state. It was hoped that this program would furthermore lead to pro-Polish sympathies in Soviet Ukraine and serve as a potential aid to Polish plans concerning the Soviet Union. The Volhynia Experiment was opposed both by Ukrainian nationalists from neighboring Galicia and by pro-Soviet communists.

With the arrival of the Hungarians into the heart of the Central European Plain around 899, Slavic tribes of Vistulans, White Croats, and Lendians found themselves under Hungarian rule. In 955 those areas north of the Carpathian Mountains constituted an autonomous part of the Duchy of Bohemia and remained so until around 972, when the first Polish territorial claims began to emerge. This area was mentioned in 981, when Vladimir the Great of Kievan Rus' claimed the area on his westward way. In the 11th century the area belonged to Poland, then reverted to Kievan Rus'. However, at the end of the 12th century the Hungarian claims to the principality turned up. Finally Casimir III of Poland annexed it in 1340–1349. Low Germans from Prussia and Middle Germany settled parts of northern and western Galicia from the 13th to 18th centuries, although the vast majority of the historic province remained independent from German and Austrian rule.


  1. E.M. Pospelov, Geograficheskie nazvaniya mira (Moscow, 1998), p. 104.
  2. Portnov, A. Volyn . Encyclopedia of Modern Ukraine.
  3. Michael Jones (2000). The New Cambridge Medieval History. Cambridge University Press. p. 770. ISBN   0-521-36290-3.
  4. Oreck, Alden. "Jewish Virtual Library-The Pale of Settlement". Jewish Virtual Library. Jewish Virtual Library. Archived from the original on October 18, 2013. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
  5. Meyers Konversations-Lexikon. 6th edition, Vol. 20, Leipzig and Vienna" 1909, pp. 744-745.
  6. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-12-24. Retrieved 2014-12-23.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)