Zhitomir history began in ancient times. This territory was already inhabited in 2,000 B.C. 884 A.D. is considered the foundation date of the town. According to legends, the town received its name after princes Askold and Dir’s soldier Zhitomir who refused to serve the princes’ enemy and escaped to woods and, later, settled on the rock near the rivers Kamenka and Teterev.
In 1240, the settlement was attacked by Khan Batyi’s hordes. It was absolutely destroyed, locals were either killed or taken to slavery. In 1320, the fortress was occupied by Lithuanian princes. At the same time, nomads’ attacks became more frequent.
Local people constructed fortifications with numerous underground ways. Remains of these tunnels are sometimes found by builders even today.
More Historical Facts…
In 1399, Khan Yedigey of the Golden Horde defeated Lithuanian prince Vitovy, and the town was once again occupied and sacked. In 1444, it received Magdeburg right. The town gradually grew, handicrafts and trade developed. In 1569, Zhitomir was captured by Polish magnates.
The liberation war of Ukrainian people headed by Bohdan Khmelnitsky was a new stage in the folk movement against Polish ruling. In 1648, Bohdan Khmelnitsky’s army attacked Zhitomir fortress and occupied it.
In 1804, by the Russian Emperor’s decree, the town was officially declared the administrative center of Volyn gubernia. In 1846, Taras 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.
The abolition of serfdom and development of capitalist relations turned the town into an industrial and trade center.
After the Civil War, construction and restoration began. Volyn cast-iron foundry and mechanical plants were built.
During the World War II, when Zhitomir was occupied, almost all industrial plants, institutions, hospitals, monuments were destroyed.
It was just in late 1950s when the population numbered the pre-war level. Since that time, rapid growth of Zhitomir began.
Present day city is an important transport junction where the main rail and highway routs westward from Kiev are crossed by the north-south routes.
The main heavy industries are machine-building and metal-working. Light industries process wood for furniture, flax for linen. Musical instruments (especially accordions) are Zhitomir specialty.
A lot of outstanding personalities were born in Zhitomir: the writer V.G. Korolenko, the pianist S.T. Rihter, the space researcher and engineer S.P. Korolev. The famous Russian writer A.I. Kuprin lived in the city. V.V. Mayakovsky visited it in 1928.
The Holy Transfiguration Cathedral. This magnificent cathedral is the symbol of Zhitomir. It was built in the Byzantine-Russian style with some characteristic features of the ancient Russian architecture of the 11th-12th centuries. The height of the cathedral is 53 meters. Pobedy Square, 12/14.
St. Sophia’s Catholic Church. This church with a 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. In the 19th century, the church was renovated with the techniques of classicism. Zamkovaya Square, 2.
St. Michael’s Cathedral. This cathedral is an outstanding architectural monument of the 19th century, one of the oldest stone religious buildings in Zhitomir. In Soviet times, the building housed a puppet theater. The restoration of the cathedral began in 1991. Kiev Street, 18.
St. John’s Church. It is an architectural monument of national importance. The church was built in the neoclassical style in 1838-1842. It is located close to the central square. The church was renovated in 1993. Kiev Street, 4.
The 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 can be found in a small house where Korolev’s family lived.
The exhibition “Space” has originals and models of spacecraft, spacesuits and other cosmonauts’ equipment. One of the most valuable exhibit is a capsule with lunar soil, presented by NASA. Dmitriyevskaya Street, 5. Opening hours: 10:00-18:00, day off - Monday.
The Local History Museum (The Bishop’s House). This old mansion was built for the head of the Catholic Diocese of Zhitomir in the 19th century.
Today, it houses the museum founded in 1865. The collection has about 150 thousand monuments of history and culture.
The museum is known for its unique collection of art works made by Italian, Dutch, French, Polish and Russian artists of the 16th-20th centuries. Zamkovaya Square, 1. Opening hours: 10:00-18:00, days off - Saturday, Monday.
The Museum of Nature (The Church of the Holy Cross). This 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. Cathedral Street, 14. Opening hours: 10:00-18:00, days off - Sunday, Monday.
Other places of interest
Chatsky’s Head. It is a bizarre cliff over the Teterev River (30 meters), a 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 last name of the founder of Kremenets Lyceum T. Chatsky.
You can see it from the viewing platform on the dam of Teteresvskoye water reservoir and from the hill near the Monument of Glory. In summer, the area is a popular resort place. 2nd Kirovsky Street.
The Park of Culture and Rest named after Yuri Gagarin. This park is the most popular recreation area in Zhitomir. Created in the 19th century, the park covers an area of 36 hectares. More than 80 species of trees and shrubs grow on its territory. 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 - several observation platforms. The most picturesque place is a suspended pedestrian bridge (350 meters) across the Teterev River. Stariy Boulevard Street, 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. Pushkin Street, 24.
Filippov’s Mansion. This two-storey house, built in the Baroque style in the southern outskirts of the city, belonged to the 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. It is one of the lesser-known architectural gems of Zhitomir. Bolshaya Berdichevskaya Street, 61/18.
The Gymnasium. The construction of gymnasium buildings began in 1862. For many years, it was the largest and most authoritative educational institution, not only in Zhitomir, but in Volhynia region.
This complex of buildings is completely preserved. Today, it is Zhitomir State University named after I. Franko. Bolshaya Berdichevskaya Street, 40.
Zhitomir doesn’t have a lot of hotels. According to visitors’ reviews, the following hotels offer relatively good level of service.
Hotel “Reikartz Zhitomir”. This business hotel of “Reikartz Hotels and Resorts” is located in the historic and business center, close to Sobornaya Square.
62 rooms of different categories. There is a restaurant with 60 seats and a cozy coffee house “Perfect Coffee”, decorated in retro style. The price includes Wi-Fi, gym, parking. Zamkovaya Square, 5/8. Phone: +380 41 255 89 10.
Hotel “Dodo”. This new modern hotel of an entertainment complex “Dodo” is located in the central part of Zhitomir. The complex has a SPA-center offering a range of various health and restorative programs.
25 comfortable rooms of different categories. Each room has cable TV, air conditioning, mini - bar, in-room safe, internet. There is a restaurant “Gold Fish” and a night club. Vatutin Street, 13. Phone: +380 412 46 46 64.
Hotel “Gayki”. It is a modern restaurant and hotel complex located in the heart of Zhitomir. The hotel offers cozy double rooms and deluxe rooms.
30 rooms with air conditioning. Free Wi-Fi on the territory of the hotel. It is forbidden to smoke on the territory of the hotel. There are special places for smoking. Noviy bulvar Street, 6. Phone: +380 67 430 58 08.
Recreation Complex “Royal Barrel”. The complex is standing on the banks of the Teterev River near Smolyanskaya Square and has a swimming pool with sea water, gym, Russian banya, Finnish sauna.
Double rooms with Wi-Fi, air conditioning. The hotel has a restaurant, bar, nightclub. I. Gonty Street, 68. Phones: +380 412 51 96 73, +380 412 55 14 28.