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 the Civil War, construction and restoration of the town began. Volynsky cast-iron foundry and mechanical plants were formed.
During the 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.
Before the revolution of 1917, Zhitomir had several small plants. Also it was a seat of provincial government. Present day city is an important junction where the main rail and road routs westward from Kiev are crossed by north-south routes.
The main heavy industries of Zhitomir are machine-building and metal-working. Zhitomir light industries chiefly process wood for furniture and flax for linen. Synthetic fibres are a recent extension of Zhitomir textile industry. Musical instruments, notably accordions, are a specialty of the city.
A lot of outstanding personalities were born in the city: writer V.G.Korolenko, pianist S.T.Rihter, space researcher and engineer S.P.Korolev. A famous Russian writer A.I.Kuprin lived in Zhitomir. V.V.Mayakovsky visited Zhitomir in 1928.
Museum of Cosmonautics named after S. Korolev. The founder of the practical use of outer space was born in Zhitomir in 1907. The memorial part of the museum is in a small house where Korolev’s family lived. The exhibition “Space” has originals and models of spacecraft, spacesuits and other equipment of the cosmonauts. One of the most valuable exhibits is a capsule with the soil of the Moon, presented by NASA. Address: Zhitomir, Dmitriyevskaya Str., 5. Opening hours: 10:00-18:00, day off - Monday.
The Head of Chatsky. “Chatsky’s Head” is a bizarre cliff over Teterev River (30 meters), geological monument of national importance. According to local legend, Polish nobleman Chatsky, pursued by the Cossacks, threw himself into the river from this cliff. Another version is that the name is associated with the surname of the founder of Kremenets Lyceum T. Chatsky.
It is clearly visible from a viewing platform on the dam of Teteresvskoye water reservoir and from the hill near the Monument of Glory. The area is a popular summer resort place of people living in Zhitomir. Address: Zhitomir, 2nd Kirovsky Str.
Holy Transfiguration Cathedral. This magnificent cathedral is a symbol of the city. It was built in the Byzantine-Russian style with the characteristic features of ancient Russian architecture of the 11th-12th centuries. The height of the cathedral is 53 meters. Address: Zhitomir, Pobedy Square, 12/14.
Bishop’s House (Local History Museum). The old mansion, built in the 19th century for the head of the Catholic Diocese of Zhitomir. Today it houses Local History Museum, founded in 1865. The collection has about 150 thousand monuments of history and culture. The museum is known for unique collection of art works made by Italian, Dutch, French, Polish and Russian artists of the 16th-20th centuries. Address: Zhitomir, Zamkovaya Square, 1. Opening hours: 10:00-18:00, days off - Saturday, Monday.
Catholic Church of St. Sophia. The church with bell tower (26 meters) is an architectural monument of the late Renaissance and Baroque periods. It was built in the 18th century on Zamkovaya Square. The church was renovated in the 19th century with the techniques of classicism. Address: Zhitomir, Zamkovaya Square, 2.
Cathedral of St. Michael. This cathedral is an outstanding architectural monument of the 19th century, one of the oldest stone religious buildings in the city. In Soviet times the building housed a puppet theater. The restoration of the cathedral began in 1991. Address: Zhitomir, Kiev Str., 18.
Park of Culture and Rest named after Yuri Gagarin. The park is the most popular recreation area of Zhitomir residents. Created in the 19th century, the park covers an area of 36 hectares. More than 80 species of trees and shrubs are growing on the territory of the park. Some of them were brought from all over the world.
Prior to the main entrance you can see a beautiful cascade of fountains, behind the entrance - observation platforms. The most picturesque place is a suspended pedestrian bridge (350 meters) across the Teterev River. Address: Zhitomir, Stariy Boulevard Str., 34.
The Water Tower. This water tower built in the style of modernized Gothic is one of the symbols of the old Zhitomir. The tower was built in 1898. Address: Zhitomir, Pushkin Str., 24.
Holy Cross Church (Museum of Nature). The church built in the Byzantine style in the 19th century is located on Zamkoviy Hill. In the 1930’s, the church was closed by Soviet authorities. From 1987, it houses the museum of nature. Address: Zhitomir, Cathedral Str., 14. Opening hours: 10:00-18:00, days off - Sunday, Monday.
Church of St. John of Dukla. An architectural monument of national importance. The church was built in neoclassical style in 1838-1842. It is located close to the city’s central square. The church was renovated in 1993. Address: Zhitomir, Kiev Str., 4.
Filippov’s Mansion. This two-storey house built in the Baroque style in the southern outskirts of Zhitomir belonged to local notary, lawyer I. Filippov. Originally the house built in 1886 was made of wood. Filippov reconstructed it in 1903 and turned it into a stylish mansion. Filippov’s Mansion is one of the lesser-known architectural gems of Zhitomir. Address: Zhitomir, Bolshaya Berdichevskaya Str., 61/18.
Men’s Gymnasium. The construction of gymnasium buildings began in 1862. For many years it was the largest and most authoritative educational institution, not only of Zhitomir, but the whole Volhynia. The complex of the buildings is fully preserved. Today it is Zhitomir State University named after I. Franko. Address: Zhitomir, Bolshaya Berdichevskaya Str., 40.