go to content go to search box go to global site navigation

Lviv

History

Lviv (luh-veev) has had as many names as rulers. It took its first name from Lev, the son of Prince Danylo Halytsky who founded a hill-top fort here on present-day Castle Hill in the 13th century. When the Poles took over 100 years later, the place became known as Lwow, as it still is in Poland. Austrians called it Lemberg between the 18th and 20th centuries, and haven’t stopped doing so today. The Russians, who later christened it Lvov, continue to use this historical name. Most of its names – apart from Lemberg, which has many competing origins – can be traced back to ‘lion’, and the city has always taken the big cat as its symbol.

Lviv had another set of unwelcome occupiers – the Nazis, who also called the place Lemberg. The Nazis invaded in 1941 and weren’t driven back by the Soviets until 1944. During these three years, 136, 000 people are reported to have died in Lviv’s Jewish ghetto and nearly 350, 000 in nearby concentration camps. For more about this era, read Robert Marshall’s In the Sewers of Lvov: A Heroic Story of Survival from the Holocaust.

The Galician capital played a major role in the movement that led to Ukrainian independence in 1991. Ukrainian nationalism and the Greek Catholic Church re-emerged here in the late 1980s, and in the early 1990s its people unanimously elected nationalist politicians and staged mass demonstrations. Today, it still has its eyes focused more on Europe than Russia and has been a stronghold for Western-oriented politicians like Viktor Yushchenko.