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History of Volochysk

Volochysk is an old town. Its name used to be “Volochyshche”. It derives from Ukrainian word “volochyty”, which means “to portage”. In the times of Halytsko-Volyn princedom and in the following centuries, the town was situated on the trade road from East to West. Merchants had to portage their goods through the river Zbruch and its waterlogged banks. A new settlement appeared in that place soon (on both banks of the river). It was called “Volochyshche”. The settlement on the right bank was later renamed to “Pidvolochysk”, which means “the place near (or under) Volochysk”.

Slavic tribes of “volyniany” used to live on the territory of contemporary Volochysk in ancient times. This region belonged to Kyiv Rus in IX and X centuries, later to Halytsko-Volyn princedom.

Volochysk area was ravaged in 1241 by Mongol-Tatar tribes, which were coming to conquer Halych after they had seized Kyiv.

Volochysk region, as a part of Halytsko-Volyn princedom, was conquered by Lithuanian princedom in the second quarter of XIV century. Volochysk was a part of Kuzmynsky povit (district) in that period of time.

Volochysk is first mentioned as “Volochyshche” in Podil statement of Zbarazh princes dated 9th of July 1463. Volochyshche belonged to Volyn baron, Prince Vasyl Zbarazhsky, but after his death the town was inherited by his son Semen Zbarazhsky in 1463.

There was “the Black Road” not far from Volochysk in the southern part of the region. It was one of the main roads for Tatar raids into Ukrainian territory. Kuzmynsky povit was vastly ravaged by Crimean horde at the end of XV century. Only few settlements survived.

The welfare of Volochysk grew after its people started trading with other towns of Ukraine. Landlord prince Vladyslav Andriovych Zbarazhsky received the right from the government to establish a village in the area of the settlement in 1557 and since 1558 Volochysk was called village. There were 135 households with 675 people. Volochysk became a trade-craftsmen community. Zbarazhsky family died out after Yuriy Zbarazhsky passed away and thus Volochysk was inherited by Vyshnevetsky princes in 1631.

The cossaks of Bohdan Khmelnytsky put an end to the Polish yoke and freed Volochysk, when they defeated Polish army in the battle of Pyliavtsi in 1648. But Volochysk wasn’t annexed by Russia in 1654 after the Treaty of Pereyaslav. It was still a part of Poland due to Zboriv treaty.

After the Vyshnevetsky family died out, their relative, governor of Kyiv province, Yuzef Pototsky inherited Volochysk in 1695.

Yuzef Pototsky sold Volochysk together with all his estates to crown Marshal Fridrikh Moshynsky for 1700 thousand zlots in 1772. Fridrikh Moshynsky was one of the richest Polish landlords, who owned 4 510 000 acres of land, 30 682 serfs, many shops and factories.

Fridrikh Morshynsky established a bank in Volochysk at the end of XVIII century. He also built a five-storied castle, a school, and also built another castle 3 miles to the east of the village, thus establishing a new settlement which was named after him – Fridrikhivka. There were already 58 households in Fridrikhivka in 1866.

The population of the village was illiterate at the beginning of XIX century, because there were no schools till that time. The first one-grade school was established there only in 1801, but only children of rich people studied there.
A number of manufacturing enterprises appeared in Volochysk in the second part of XIX century. There was a brewery and a candle plant in 1860. A sugar plant owned by German venture “Zbruch” was built in 1870.

A railway from Kyiv to Lviv and a railway station were built here in 1870. It was the first railroad joining Western and Eastern Ukraine.

Though not a big city, Volochysk was a famous place because Volochysk was the "gate" to Ukraine (from the West), the so-called "box of goodies" between Europe and Asia.

There were 190 private shops in 1913. 261 students studied in a one-, and a two-year schools, and also in a church school. Among the cultural establishments in Volochysk, there were a club, a cinema, two libraries and three book shops in 1913.

The last Russian tsar Nikolai II visited Volochysk, which was then a border town in Russian Empire, three times at the beginning of the XX century.

During WWI Volochysk was the first to taste the fire; its population was forced to leave the city and seek a place where they could be safe, away from the battlefields. Volochysk was known just about everywhere in Europe; three passenger trains entered and exited the city every single day since the station served the direct lines Odessa-Volochysk, Kyiv-Volochysk, and the one crossing he border to Pidvolochysk, Austria. Austrian trains entered Volochysk as well. In fact, three foreign train companies had agreements with the Russian authorities to use the lines. People could travel abroad with passports issued by the Russian-Province authorities. There were Russian tourists who travelled through here to warmer places; in the summer months they would go to Marienbad, Karlsbad, the various spas in the Carpathian Mountains, and many cities throughout Austria. Many foreigners travelled through here as well. This made for a very noisy and busy place, just like in the big cities. (World renowned Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem, on his way to America, passed through here too; he described the border-town in his writings.)

Freight trains were mostly filled with wheat from "fat Ukraine" on their way to Austria, Germany, England, and France; some continued to Pidvolochysk where the contents were transferred to other trains; some were transferred right here in Volochysk. Products that were unloaded in Volochysk were transported into town by ox-driven carts (the distance from the train station to the city was four kilometres.) Company representatives sold the stuff to Austrian merchants who then transported it across the border via the custom house. Every day thousand of tons of material passed through this custom check point - grains of all kinds, wheat, corn, barley, and so on. …also, Swiss cheese, and other food products…and live chicken, wool, bacon, fish, and what not…

Buyers would roam the neighbouring towns and villages to purchase all kinds of farm products, and then they would bring it to the warehouses where the dealing and wheeling took place. These buyers had middlemen all over - in nearby places and faraway places - all over the Ukraine. These middlemen would work on commission; anywhere from a hundred, to thousands of rubles, changed hands every day. Some of the middlemen’s profits were used to cover the cost of transporting eggs and other products abroad. At the train station one could find the "Otpravitelies", people who made a living from the train traffic. In town, one would find the "expeditors." At the customs station there were those who supervised everything that went through there, especially material that came off the trains and was shipped to the city (they made a good living, too). Then, there were the "agents" and "brokers", those with big offices in town… the men who negotiated for big foreign firms the purchase of Ukrainian and Russian imports of agricultural machinery and other products.

In the end everyone profited from the fact that the border was nearby. This, in short, is why for many Jews in town and surrounding towns, Volochysk was seen as a better place to live than elsewhere. All this happened because of the border. The Volochyskers actually dressed nicer. They went by the fashion trends in Vienna. They were more cosmopolitan, better educated, sent their children to schools abroad.

Many armies passed through Volochysk in the period from 1917 to 1920, when Ukraine gained its independence from Russia for a short period of time. They represented different powers: Russian Bolsheviks, Polish army of Pilsudski, Ukrainian Central Council (Tsentralna Rada), “Dyrektoriya”, and Petliura.

In November 1920, the army of the fighter for Ukraine’s independence Symon Petliura was defeated by the 8th Division of the Russian Red Army near Volochysk. Thus, the military struggle for Ukrainian independence was over and Volochysk became a part of the Soviet Union.

From 1923 Volochysk is the administrative centre of Volochyskyi rayon (district). The process of “collectivization” (when individual land and labour were consolidated into collective farms by force) was one of the fastest in the region. As the result, big numbers of people were oppressed and sent to concentration camps in Siberia in 1930-1931.

The first library for adults opened here in 1934, the library for children was opened in 1937. Local newspaper “Prykordonnyi Komunar” was established in 1930. Now it’s called “Zorya” and is still published.

In July 1941 German troops marched into the town. They occupied the town until March, 1944. In August 1942, 8634 Jews were shot dead by Nazis near Volochysk.

All together during the period of the Second World War, there were 9297 people killed in the town and 3982 were taken to Germany for forced labour.

On the 17th of March 1944 Volochysk was freed by the Soviet Army. Right after that the processes of rebuilding the town started. Most of the plants and factories restored their full functionality by 1950s.

Great changes came to the town’s industrial and socio-cultural development in 1960s. A canned food plant, a clothes factory, capacitors, brick, metal items, and bread plants were built then. The development of the town also continued in 1970s. A cheese plant and a machine-building plant were opened then.

As of today the core production in the region consists of portable electric power stations, bricks, metal items, capacitors, canned food, sugar, bread and bun goods, and more than 100 of other consumer products. Volochysk is developing with rapid strides, paying much attention to the service sector and new technologies.