Kamianets-Podilskyi is a city located on the Smotrych River in southwestern Ukraine, to the north-east of Chernivtsi. Formerly the administrative center of the Kamianets-Podilskyi Oblast (Ukrainian: Кам’янець-Подільськa область, translit., Kamyanets-Podil'ska oblast’), the city is now the administrative center of the Kamianets-Podilskyi Raion (district) within the Khmelnytsky Oblast (province), after the administrative center of the oblast was moved from the city of Kamianets-Podilskyi to the city of Khmelnytskyi in 1941. The city itself is also designated as a separate raion within the oblast.
Kamianets historical coat of arms
The Kamianets-Podilskyi was first mentioned in 1062 as a town of the Kievan Rus' state. In 1241, it was destroyed by the Mongol Tatar invaders. In 1352, it was annexed by the Polish King Casimir III, and became the capital of Podole Voivodship and the seat of local civil and military administration. The ancient castle was reconstructed and substantially expanded by the Polish kings to defend Poland from the southwest against Ottoman and Tatar invasions.
During the Khmelnytsky uprising (1648-58) the Jewish community there suffered much from Chmielnicki's Cossacks on the one hand, and from the attacks of the Crimean Tatars (their main object being the extortion of ransoms) on the other.
After the Treaty of Buczacz of 1672 it was briefly part of Ottoman Empire and capital of Podolya eyalet. To counter the Turkish threat to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, King Jan III Sobieski built a fortress near by, Okopy Świętej Trójcy ("the Entrenchments of the Holy Trinity"). In 1699, the city was given back to Poland under King Augustus II the Strong according to Treaty of Karlowitz. The fortress was continually enlarged and was regarded as the strongest in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The preserved ruins of the fortress still contain the iron cannon balls stuck in them from various sieges.
A 1691 French map depicting the city's old town neighbourhood and castle, surrounded by the winding Smotrych River.
About the middle of the 18th century, Kamenets-Podilskkyi became celebrated as the center of the furious conflict then raging between the Talmudic Jews and the Frankists; the city was the residence of Bishop Dembowski, who sided with the Frankists and ordered the public burning of the Talmud, which sentence was carried into effect in the public streets in 1757.
From the Second Partition of Poland in 1793, the city belonged to the Russian Empire, where it was the capital of Podolskaya Guberniya. The Russian Tsar Peter the Great, who visited the fortress twice, was impressed by its fortifications. One of the towers was used as a prison cell for Ustym Karmeliuk (a prominent peasant rebel leader of the early 19th century), who managed to escape from it three times.
Kamenetz-Podolsk was also the residence of the wealthy Joseph Yozel Günzburg. During the latter half of the nineteenth century many Jews emigrated from that city to the United States, especially to New York, where they organized a number of societies.
The city was occupied by Austria-Hungary in 1915. With the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, the city was briefly incorporated into several short-lived Ukrainian states — the Ukrainian People's Republic, the Hetmanate, and the Directoriya — and ended up as part of the Ukrainian SSR when Ukraine fell under Bolshevik power. During the Directorate period the city was chosen as de-facto capital of Ukraine after the Russian Communist forces occupied Kyiv. During what is known in history as the Polish-Soviet War, the city was captured by the Polish Army, but it was later ceded to Soviet Russia in the 1921 Treaty of Riga, which determined the future of the area for the next seven decades as part of the Ukrainian SSR.
Poles and Ukrainians have always dominated the city's population. However, as a commercial center, Kamianets-Podilskyi has been a multiethnic and multi-religious city with substantial Jewish and Armenian minorities. Under Soviet rule it became subject to severe persecutions, and most of the Poles and the Ukrainians were forcibly deported to Siberia. Massacres such as the Vinnytsia massacre has taken place throughout the Podillya, the last resort of the independent Ukraine. Early on, Kamianets-Podilskyi was the capital of the Ukrainian SSR's Kamianets-Podilskyi Oblast, but the administrative center was later moved to Proskyriv (now Khmelnytskyi).
In 1927 there was a massive uprising of peasants and factory workers in Mohyliv-Podilskyi, Kamianets-Podilskyi, Tiraspol and other cities of southern Ukrainian SSR against Soviet authorities. Troops from Moscow were sent to the region and suppressed the unrest, causing around 4,000 deaths, according to US correspondents sent to report about the insurrection, which was at the time completely denied by the Kremlin official press.
One of the first and largest Holocaust mass-murder events occurred on August 27-28, 1941 near the city of Kamianets-Podilskyi. In those two days, 23,600 Jews were killed, most of them Hungarian Jews (14,000-16,000) and the rest local Polish Jews. As the researchers of the Holocaust point out, the Kamianets-Podilskyi massacre was the first mass action in the “final Solution” of the Nazis, and the number of its victims reached 5 figures. Eye-witnesses reported that the perpetrators made no effort to hide their deeds from the local population.
An old street in Kamianets-Podilskyi's old town quarter. Although the streets are in disrepair, recent restorational works are being conducted.
The Stephen Báthory Gate is part of the city's old fortification complex.
The different peoples and cultures that have lived in the city have each brought their own culture and architecture. Examples include the Polish, Ruthenian and Armenian markets. Famous tourist attraction include the ancient castle, and the numerous architectural attractions in the city's center, including the cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, the city hall building, and the numerous fortifications.
Ballooning activities in the canyon of the Smotrych River have also brought tourists. Since the late 1990s, the city has grown into one of the chief tourist centers of western Ukraine. Annual Cossack Games (Kozatski zabavy) and festivals, which include the open ballooning championship of Ukraine, car racing and various music, art and drama activities, attract an estimated 140,000 tourists and stimulate the local economy. More than a dozen privately owned hotels have recently opened, a large number for a provincial Ukrainian city.