The blue line shows the boundary of the historic Volhynia gubernia. View Larger Map
The name Volhynia comes from the fortified town of Volyn, near Volodymyr-Volynsk. It was mentioned in documents dating from 1018, so it is nearly 1,000 years old. It was on a historic east-west route linking Kiev with the west through Brest, in today's Belarus, as well as a north-south route between Scandinavia and Constantinople, now Istanbul, Turkey.
1199: Galicia and Volhynia were brought together under Prince Roman Mstyslavych.
1349: Poland and Lithuania went to war. Volhynia ended up within the grand duchy of Lithuania in 1352. Poland seized the western part, including Chelm, in 1366. The two countries started working together in 1385. Volhynia was considered a principality until 1452, then a province.
1569: Poland and Lithuania were brought together under one government through the Union of Lublin. Volhynia region was incorporated into the Polish kingdom. The administrative system in the area remained unchanged for the next two centuries. The local government was the Volhynia voivodship.
1793: With the second partition of Poland, Volhynia was incorporated into Russia. Ukraine was divided along the Dniper River, which runs through Kiev. Zhitomir became the centre of the western side of Ukraine, and courts and other government institutions were moved there. Germans -- and Czechs, and French -- started moving to Volhynia around the time of the second partition.
1797: The Volhynian gubernia was established, with its capital in Zhitomir. The government had 17 districts: Novograd-Volynsk, Labunsk, Volodymersk, Kovel, Zaslavsk, Ostrog, Rovno, Dombrovyts, Ovruch, Zhitomir, Chudniv, Lutsk, Dubno, Kremenetsk, Yampilsk, Bazalivsk and Starokanstantinovka. Radomyshl, northwest of the city of Zhitomir and part of today's Zhitomir oblast, was transferred to the Kiev gubernia.
There were minor internal changes to the Volhynia gubernia over the years. The Chudniv district was liquidated and its territory transferred to Zhitomir and Novograd-Volynskiy districts. In 1846 Berdichev with adjoining territories was separated from Zhitomir district and became the key centre in a new district.
1861: Tsar Alexander II granted freedom to serfs, the peasants who worked for large farms. As a result, some of the nobility started selling land, and a large-scale migration of Germans into the area took place.
1917: By the time of the Russian revolution Volhynia was one of 10 gubernias on Ukrainian ethnic territory, with eight more in ethnically mixed areas. The district unit within the gubernia was the uezdy or powity. Think of the gubernia as a state and the uuezdy as a county.
1918: Ukraine was declared independent, and Zhitomir was named the capital. This lasted until 1922.
1920: Civil registration started.
1921: According to the Riga peace treaty betwen Poland and Russia, signed on March 18, 1921, some of Volhynia's western districts were turned over to Poland. The districts included Kovel, Lutsk, Dubno, Rovno, Ostrog, as well as most of Kremenetsk and two regions in the Novograd-Volynsk district, Korez and Kysorytsk (today, Rokitno).
1923: The gubernia system replaced by okrugs. The Volhynian okrug was established in 1925.
Mid 1920s: Individual farms are seized by the government, and collective farms established.
1926-1928: Wave of migration out of Volhynia.
1932: Oblasts were introduced, replacing okrugs. The district government became known as the raion. The Zhitomir area was one oblast; the Rovno and Lutzk areas were not part of this, because they were in Poland.
1932: Famine in Ukraine, with crops from Volhynia seized for redistribution elsewhere.
1936-37: The great terror, with mass arrests and executions throughout the regions of Volhynia under Soviet control.
1939: The Soviets took western Volhynia. A new oblast was Volhynia, with the capital in Lutzk, and another was Rovno, with Rovno as the capital.
1941: The Germans invade in June. They were driven out by the Russian army in late 1943. The Germans imposed their own system of regional governments, replacing the oblasts.
1944: The oblasts returned.
1945: Volhynia reunified, with Poland was pushed west.
1956-1958: Many of the victims of the 1930s purges are "rehabilitated," meaning the government declared that they had not been guilty.
1991: Ukraine established as an independent state. The former Soviet oblast and raion system was retained.
Sources include a Russian encyclopedia from 1865, the Encyclopedia Britannica from 1964, atlases, and an unpublished thesis prepared by a university student in Zhitomir.