Volhynia gubernia

Volhynia gubernia [Волинська губерня; Volynska hubernia]. An administrative-territorial unit in Russian-ruled Right-Bank Ukraine that replaced Volhynia vicegerency in 1797. The gubernial capital was Novohrad-Volynskyi and, from 1804, Zhytomyr. From 1799 the gubernia’s territory (71,737 sq km) was divided among 12 counties: Dubno, Kovel, Kremenets, Lutsk, Novohrad-Volynskyi, Ostroh, Ovruch, Rivne, Starokostiantyniv, Volodymyr-Volynskyi, Iziaslav (Zaslav), and Zhytomyr. The gubernia’s population grew from 1,212,800 in 1811 to 1,314,100 in 1838, 1,469,400 in 1851, 1,602,700 in 1863, 2,196,000 in 1885, 2,989,500 in 1897, and 4,189,000 in 1914. In 1897 the population was composed of Ukrainians (70.1 percent), Jews (13.2 percent), Poles (6.2 percent), Germans (5.7 percent), Russians (3.5 percent), Czechs (0.9 percent), and Belarusians (0.1 percent). Only 7.8 percent of the population was urban, of which nearly 51 percent was Jewish and 7.6 percent Polish. In 1914 the gubernia had the lowest percentage (8.4 percent) of urban dwellers among the nine Ukrainian gubernias.

In 1905 almost half of the gubernia’s land was still owned by the gentry, of which 69 percent was Polish in 1885. Land hunger and poverty forced many peasants to resettle in Siberia or to emigrate to North America. Industry—consisting primarily of sugar-beet refining, distilling, weaving, flour milling, and tanning—occupied only 7.4 percent of the population and was generally poorly developed, although the gubernia was the primary producer of woolen cloth in Ukraine. Under Soviet rule the gubernia’s western counties were ceded to Poland in the 1921 Peace Treaty of Riga. In 1925 the gubernia was abolished, and the territory of the remaining counties (31,860 sq km) was distributed among Korosten, Shepetivka, and Zhytomyr (later Novohrad-Volynskyi) okruhas.

Roman Senkus

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]




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