Zhitomir (also spelled Zhytomyr or Jitomir) is a city and administrative center of Zhitomir region of Western Ukraine. Zhitomir lies along the Teterev River where the latter runs between high, rocky banks. It is a railway and highway junction and has an airport.
History of Zhitomir began in ancient time. The territory was inhabited in 2,000 B.C. 884 A.D. is considered the date of its foundation. According to legends the town received its name after princes Askold’s and Dir’s soldier Zhitomir who refused to serve the princes’ enemy and escaped to woods and later he settled on the rock near the rivers Kamenka and Teterev.
In 1240 Zhitomir was attacked by Khan Batyi’s hordes. The town was absolutely destroyed and robbed, citizens were either killed or taken to slavery. In 1320 Zhitomirsky fortress was occupied by Lithuanian princes. At the same time nomads’ attacks became more frequent. Local population constructed fortifications with underground ways remnants of which are found by builders nowadays.
In 1399 khan Yedigey of the Golden Horde defeated Lithuanian prince Vitovy, Zhitomir was occupied and robbed. In 1444 Zhitomir received Magdeburg right. The town gradually grew, handicrafts and trade developed. In 1569 Zhitomir was captured by Polish magnates. Liberation war of Ukrainian people headed by Bogdan Khmelnitsky caused a new stage in folk movement against Polish ruling. In 1648 Bogdan Khmelnitsky’s army attacked Zhitomirsky castle and occupied it.
In 1804 by tsar’s decree Zhitomir was officially declared the administrative center of Volynskaya gubernia. In 1846 Taras Grigoryevich Shevchenko visited the town. He was interested in folk tales, songs, ancient monuments and history of the area. At that time Zhitomir grew, new streets and squares were formed with houses built of stone and brick.
Abolition of serfdom and development of capitalist relations promoted Zhitomir turning into an industrial and trade center. After civil war construction and restoration of the town began. Volynsky cast-iron foundry and mechanical plants were formed.
During World War II when the city was occupied nearly all industrial plants, institutions, hospitals, hundreds of houses, monuments were destroyed. It was just in late 1950s that the population in Zhitomir numbered the pre-war level. Since that time rapid growth of Zhitomir began.