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Ternopil is one of the largest cities of Western Ukraine. This is a cozy, incredibly green city with a laid-back, relaxed and almost European feel. Ternopil region has a bright history and a plethora of interesting natural, historical and architectural sights.
The city was founded in 1540 by Polish commander and Hetman Jan Amor Tarnowski, as a military stronghold and castle. On 15 April 1540, the King of Poland Sigismund I in Krakow handed Tarnowski a permission for the establishment of Tarnopol settlement, in the vicinity of Sopilcze . Its Polish name "Tarnopol" means "Tarnowski's city" and stems from a combination of the founder's family name and the Greek term "polis". The etymology of the Tarnowski family surname, originating from the city of Tarnów (and thus the Ukrainian name "Ternopil"), is explained as derived from a field covered with thorns .
In 1544 the Tarnopol Castle was completed and repelled the first Tatar attacks. On 20 January 1548 Tarnopol was granted legal rights by the King of Poland Sigismund I the Old which allowed the town to hold three fairs annually, and the weekly trades on Mondays. Tarnopol received Magdeburg city rights two years later from Jan Tarnowski, regulating the duties of town residents. In 1548 the King of Poland also gave permission to create a pond near the Tarnopol suburb of Kutkovets. In 1549 the city managed to survive a Tatar siege by efforts of the Polish Duchess Eudokia Czartoryska (see House of Czartoryski). After the death of the Crown Hetman in 1561, Tarnopol became the property of his son Jan Krzysztof Tarnowski, who died childless in 1567. Since 1567 the city was owned by the daughter of Crown Hetman Zofia Tarnowska who was married to Konstanty Wasyl Ostrogski. In 1570 after her death while giving a birth, Tarnopol was passed to the Ostrogski family. In 1575 it was plundered by the Tatars. In 1623 the city passed to the Zamoyski family. In 1589 Tarnopol was visited by the Austrian diplomat who also mentioned the city's castle.
In the 17th century the town was burned down in the Khmelnytsky Uprising when most of its Jewish residents were chased out or killed. Tarnopol was almost completely destroyed by Turkish forces of Ibrahim Shishman Pasha in 1675 and rebuilt by Aleksander Koniecpolski but did not recover its previous glory until it passed to Marie Casimire, the wife of king John III Sobieski in 1690. The city was later sacked for the last time by Tatars in 1694, and twice by Russians in the course of the Great Northern War in 1710 and the War of the Polish Succession in 1733. In 1747 Józef Potocki invited the Dominicanes and founded the beautiful late-baroque Dominican Church (today the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of The Blessed Virgin Mary of the Ternopil-Zboriv archeparchy of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church). The city was looted during the Confederation of Bar (1768–1772) by the confederates, the king's army, and by the Russians. In 1770 it was devastated by an outbreak of smallpox.
In 1772, after the First Partition of Poland, the city came under Austrian rule. In 1809, after the War of the Fifth Coalition, the city came under Russian rule, incorporated into the newly created Ternopol krai. In 1815 the city (then with 11,000 residents) returned to Austrian rule in accordance with the Congress of Vienna. In 1820 Jesuits expelled from Polatsk by the Russians established a gymnasium in Tarnopol. In 1843 the last city's owner Jerzy Michal of Turkul sold the city to its residents for 175,000 florins. In 1870 the Galician Railway of Archduke Charles Louis connected Ternopil with Lviv, accelerating the city's growth. At that time Tarnopol had a population of about 25,000.
The region was part of Habsburg Galicia and was an ethnic mix of mainly Roman Catholic Poles, Greek Catholic Ruthenians, and Jews. Intermarriage between Poles and Ruthenians was common. Church of St. Mary of the Perpetual Assistance was consecrated in 1908 with its main tower reaching 62m. In 1954 the church was blown up by Communist authorities and in its place was built the city's central supermarket. During World War I the city passed from German and Austrian forces to Russia several times. In 1917 the city and its castle were burnt down by fleeing Russian forces. After the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the city was proclaimed as part of the West Ukrainian People's Republic on 11 November 1918. After Polish forces captured Lwów during the Polish-Ukrainian War, Tarnopol became the country's temporary capital . After the act of union between the West Ukrainian Republic and the Ukrainian People's Republic (UPR), Ternopol formally passed under the UPR's control. On 15 July 1919 the city was captured by Polish forces. In 1920 the exiled Ukrainian government of Symon Petlura accepted Polish control of Tarnopol and of the entire area after receiving the assurance of Józef Piłsudski, the Lithuanian born Field Marshal of the Polish Army, that there would be no peace with the Russians without creating a Ukrainian state. In July and August 1920 the Red Army captured Tarnopol in the course of the Polish-Soviet War. The city then served as the capital of the Galician Soviet Socialist Republic. Although the Poles and their Ukrainian allies badly defeated the Russians on the battle field and the Russians had offered to cede Ukraine and Belarus, Polish politicians in Warsaw refused to honor Piłsudski's promise. By the terms of the Riga treaty, the Soviets and Poles effectively partitioned Ukraine. For the next 19 years, the ethnically mixed Ternopol area remained in Polish control.
From 1922 to September 1939, Tarnopol served as the capital of the Tarnopol Voivodeship that consisted of 17 powiats. According to the Polish census of 1931, individuals speaking Ukrainian/Ruthenian accounted for 46% of the Tarnopol Voivodeship, while Polish speaking population consisted of 49%. The city itself consisted of 77.7% Poles, 14.0% Jewish and 8.05% Ukrainian/Ruthenian population. After World War II, Communist Party historians reported that Edward Szturm de Sztrem, the pre-war chairman of the Polish census statistical office, admitted that the census returns, particularly those from the south-east, had been altered at the executive level. Another account stated that he admitted "that officials had been directed to undercount minorities, especially those in the eastern provinces".
At the onset of World War II, the Soviet invasion of Poland began on September 17, 1939. The Red Army entered eastern Poland in furtherance of the secret Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact and contrary to the Soviet–Polish Non-Aggression Pact. Tarnopol was captured, renamed Ternopol, and incorporated into the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic under Ternopol Oblast. The Soviets made it their first priority to decimate Polish intelligentsia and destroy Polish culture. Ukrainian nationalist leaders were imprisoned. Mass arrests, torture and executions of Ukrainians and Poles followed. The Soviets also carried out mass deportations of the "enemies of the working class" to Kazakhstan. In practice, this translated into members of the former state administration, police, border service and land and business owners.
On 2 July 1941, the city was occupied by the Nazis who led the Jewish pogrom, and continued exterminating the population by creating the Tarnopol Ghetto. Thousands of Jews were murdered at the Belzec extermination camp. Many Ukrainians were sent as forced labour to Germany. In the years 1942–1943, the Polish Armia Krajowa was active opposing Nazi rule and defending ethnic Poles from violence from Ukrainian Nationalists. During the Soviet offensive in March and April 1944, the city was encircled. In March 1944, the city was declared a fortified place by Adolf Hitler, to be defended until the last round was fired. The stiff German resistance caused extensive use of heavy artillery by the Red Army on March 7–8, resulting in the complete destruction of the city and killing of nearly all German occupants (55 survivors out of 4,500). Unlike many other occasions, where the Germans had practised a scorched earth policy during their withdrawal from territories of the Soviet Union, the devastation was caused directly by the hostilities. Finally Ternopol was occupied by the Red Army on 15 April 1944. After the second Soviet occupation, 85% of the city's living quarters were destroyed. Due to heavy destruction, the regional seat was moved to Chortkiv.
Following the defeat of Nazi Germany, the ethnic Polish population of Tarnopol and its region was forcibly deported to postwar Poland and settled in, and near Wrocław (among other locations), as part of Stalinist ethnic cleansing in the Soviet Ukraine. In the following decades, Ternopol was rebuilt in a typical Soviet style and only a few buildings were reconstructed. Ternopil has been a part of sovereign Ukraine since August, 24 1991.