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Volhynia geography

The blue line shows the boundary of the historic Volhynia gubernia. View Larger Map

Volhynia -- known as Wolhynien in German -- is in the northwest corner of Ukraine. There was a government district with that name for more than a century, and the region is still generally known as Volhynia even though the old government district is now split between five modern oblasts.

Major cities in Volhynia include Zhitomir, Korosten, Novograd-Volynsk, Rowno, Lutzk and Kowel.

The northern part of Volhynia is known for its forests and its marshes. The most common tree is pine, but oak may be found on richer soils, along with birch, alder, and linden. At one time almost the entire belt was covered with forest, but the spread of agriculture over the past 150 years means that less than 33 per cent of the forests remain.

Volhynia includes part of the Polessie, one of the largest European swampy areas. The Polessie also includes parts of Belarus, Russia and Poland.The swamp area of the Polessie -- which translates as "woodland" -- is known as the Pripiat Marsh, named after the major river that runs through it. The main highway between Korosten and Rokitnoe passes through the southern part of the marsh, with water-soaked soil clearly visible from the road.

Volhynia was heavily affected by radioactive fallout from the 1986 nuclear plant accident at Chernobyl. Huge areas in the northeastern region were so badly polluted that agriculture has been prohibited. This region is also considered unsuitable for living, so several villages have been abandoned.

Temperatures in Volhynia vary widely -- between -35 in winter and 38 Celsius (100 Fahrenheit) in summer. It gets about 600 millimetres of precipitation in an average year.

Today, Volhynia is home to about four million people. Its economy is primarily based on forestry and lumber milling, agriculture and food processing, granite mining, metalworking, and the manufacture of machinery and musical instruments.

The Foundation for East European Family History Studies has some maps of interest. The General Atlas of the Russian Empire is available online. Also check the map resources on the SGGEE website.

The JewishGen Gazetteer is the best way to find localities in Eastern Europe. Another option is to use

Find the your ancestral colony with this map of Germans from Russia settlement locations, based on a Google map. Not complete yet, but a superb work already.

1:200,000 topographic maps of Volhynia

These maps were published by the Austro-Hungarian empire in about 1910. There were three or four editions. The grid map below links to images of the original maps that are on a German map website. Click on the numbered squares to view the maps. Note that the longitude is measured from Ferro (on the Canary Islands) rather than from Greenwich. Use the slider on the left to increase the size of the image.


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