Kolomyia (or better, to suit the Ukrainian spelling, Kolomyya,
Ukrainian: Коломия, Polish: Ko?omyja, Russian: Коломыя, German: Kolomea,
Romanian: Colomeea) is a city located on the Prut River in the
Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast (province), in western Ukraine. Serving as the
administrative center of the Kolomyisky Raion (district), the city is
also designated as a separate raion within the oblast. The city rests
approximately halfway between Lviv and Chernivtsi, in the center of the
historical region of Pokuttya, with which it shares much of its history.
The current estimated population was around 68,000 inhabitants as of
The city is a notable railroad hub, as well as an industrial center
(textiles, shoes, metallurgical plant, machine works, wood and paper
industry). It is a center of Hutsul culture.Contents [hide]
Under Kievan Rus’ and the principality of Halych-Volhynia (1241-1340)
The settlement of Kolomyia was first mentioned in 1241, during the
Mongol invasion of Rus. Initially part of Kievan Rus’, it later belonged
to one of its successor states, the principality of Halych-Volhynia.
Under Poland (1340-1498)
In 1340 it was annexed to Poland by King Casimir III, together with the
rest of the region of Red Ruthenia. In a short time the settlement
became one of the most notable centres of commerce in the area. Because
of that, the population rose rapidly.
Prior to 1353 there were two parishes in the settlement, one for
Catholics and the other for Orthodox. In 1412 King W?adys?aw Jagie??o
erected a Dominican order monastery and a stone-built church there.
About the same time, the king was forced by the war with the Teutonic
Order to pawn the area of Pokucie to the hospodar of Moldavia,
Alexander. Although the city remained under Polish sovereignty, the
income of the customs offices in the area was given to the Moldavians,
after which time the debt was repaid.
In 1424 the town’s city rights were confirmed and it was granted with
the Magdeburg Law, which allowed the burghers limited self-governance.
This move made the development of the area faster and Ko?omyja, as it
was called then, attracted many settlers from many parts of Europe.
Apart from the local Ruthenians and Poles, many Armenians, Jews, and
Hungarians settled there. In 1443, a year before his death, King
Wladislaus II of Poland granted the city yet another privilege which
allowed the burghers to trade salt, one of the most precious minerals of
the Middle Ages.
Since the castle gradually fell into disarray, in 1448 King Casimir IV
of Poland gave the castle on the hill above the town to Maria, widow of
Eliah, voivod of Moldavia as a dowry. In exchange, she refurbished the
castle and reinforced it. In 1456 the town was granted yet another
privilege. This time the king allowed the town authorities to stop all
merchants passing by the town, and force them to sell their goods at the
local market. This gave the town an additional boost, especially as the
region was one of three salt-producing areas in Poland (the other two
being Wieliczka and Bochnia), both not far from Krakow.
The area was relatively peaceful for the next century. However, the
vacuum after the decline of the Golden Horde started to be filled by yet
another power in the area: the Ottoman Empire. In 1485 Sultan Beyazid II
captured Belgorod and Kilia, two ports at the northern shores of the
Black Sea. This became a direct threat to Moldavia. In search of allies,
its ruler ?tefan cel Mare came to Ko?omyja and paid homage to the Polish
king, thus becoming a vassal of the Polish Crown. For the ceremony, both
monarchs came with roughly 20,000 knights, which was probably the
biggest festivity ever held in the town. After the festivity most
knights returned home, apart from 3,000 under Jan Karnkowski, who were
given to the Moldavian prince as support in his battles, which he won in
However, with the death of Stefan of Moldova, the neighbouring state
started to experience both internal and external pressure from the
Turks. In the effect of border skirmishes, as well as natural disasters,
the town was struck by fires in 1502, 1505, 1513, and 1520.
Under Moldova (1498-31)
W?adys?aw II Jagie??o, needing financial support in his battles against
the Teutonic Knights, used the region as a guarantee in a loan which he
obtained from Petru I of Moldavia, who thus gained control of Pokuttya
in 1388 , therefore, became the feodal property of the princes of
Moldavia, but remained within the Kingdom of Poland..
After the Battle of the Cosmin Forest, in 1498, Pokuttia was conquered
by Stephen the Great, annexed and retained by Moldavia until the Battle
of Obertyn in 1531, when it was recaptured by Poland’s hetman Jan
Tarnowski, who defeated Stephen’s son Petru Rare?. Minor
Polish-Moldavian clashes for Pokuttia continued for the next 15 years,
until Petru Rare?’s death.
Recapture by Poland (1531-89)
The following year hetman Jan Tarnowski recaptured the town, and
defeated the Moldavians in the Battle of Obertyn. This victory secured
the city’s existence for the following years, but the Ottoman power grew
and Poland’s southern border remained insecure.
In 1540 Jews were allowed to live in Kolomyia with some restrictions.
Under the Ottoman Empire
In 1589, the Turks crossed the border and seized Ko?omyja almost
immediately. All the burghers taking part in the defence were
slaughtered, while the rest were forced to pay high indemnities.
Return to Poland
The town was returned to Poland soon afterwards, but the city’s growth
lost its momentum. In 1616 Jews were permitted to
In 1620, another Polono-Turkish war broke out. After the Polish defeat
at ?u?ora, Ko?omyja was yet again seized by the Turks – this time the
town was burned to the ground, while all of the burghers were enslaved
in a jasyr.
Return again to Poland
After the war the area yet again returned to Poland. With the town in
ruins, the starosta of Kamieniec Podolski fortress financed its
reconstruction – slightly further away from the Prut River. The town was
rebuilt, but never regained its power and remained one of many
similar-scaled centres in the area.
In 1648-49, Chmielnick forces killed 300 Jews, nearly the entire
community. In 1700 Jews moved back to Kolomea, and by 1765 the Jewish
population was 1,072.
Annexation by and recovery under Austria
As a result of the Partitions of Poland of 1772, Ko?omyja was annexed by
Austria. Austris restricted Jewish trade in lumber and salt, and imposed
special taxes on Jews for marriage permits, kosher meat, synagogues, and
similar items. Marriage was restricted to the oldest Jewish son, and
quotas were placed on number of Jewish families that could reside in
In the 1790s, Jews, who had been subjected to conscription to the
Austro-Hungarian army, had conscription abolished and replaced by a 30
zloty levy for each Jewis???????????
However, as it provided very little profit, Ko?omyja was sold to the
castellan of Be?z, Ewaryst Kuropatnicki, who became the town’s owner.
The magnate financed a new Our Lady’s Church, but he lacked finance for
speeding-up the city’s growth.
In 1797 secular education was mandated for Jews. In 1812 the Jewish
population was 2,033. In 1814 Jews were prohibited from publishing or
importing Hebrew and Yiddish books, and in 1834 the Jews of Austria were
forbidden to have first names of Christian saints. In 1860 Jews were
finally allowed to own real estate and buy houses.
The prosperity returned to the town in mid-19th century, when it was
linked to the world through the Lemberg-Czernowitz railroad. By 1882 the
city had almost 24.000 inhabitants, including roughly 12,000 Jews, 6,000
Ruthenians, and 4,000 Poles. Until the end of that century, the commerce
attracted even more inhabitants from all-over the Galicia. Moreover, a
new Jesuit Catholic church was built in Kolomyja, as it was called by
German authorities, along with a Lutheran church built in 1874. By 1901
the number of inhabitants grew to 34,188, approximately half of them
In 1900 the Jewish population was 16,568, again nearly 50% of the town’s
population. The Jewish community had a Great Synagogue, and about 30
other synagogues. In 1910 Jews were prohibited from selling alcoholic
beverages. In 1911 they were prohibited from salt and wine occupations.
After the outbreak of the Great War, the town saw fierce battles between
the forces of
In 1915 the Austrians retook the town.
Under Austria-Hungary and the West Ukrainian People’s Republic
As a result of the collapse of Austria-Hungary, both the town itself and
the surrounding region became disputed between renascent Poland and the
West Ukrainian People’s Republic.
Under Romania and Poland
However, during the Polish-Ukrainian War of 1919, it was seized without
a fight by forces of Romania, and handed over to Polish authorities.
During the Polish-Bolshevik 1919 war in the Ukraine, a Polish division
under General Zeligowski tore through Bessarabia and Bukovina and
stopped in Kolomea during its winter march to Poland. Kolomea was then
temporarily occupied by the Rumanians and the border was near the shtetl
Otynia between Stanislav and Kolomea.
After the Polish-Soviet War it remained in Poland as a capital of a
powiat within the Stanis?awow Voivodship. By 1931 the number of
inhabitants grew to over 41,000. The ethnic mixture was composed of
Jews, Poles, Ukrainians, Hutsuls, Germans, Armenians, and Hungarians, as
well as of descendants of Valachians and other nationalities of former
Austria-Hungary. With the development of infrastructure, the town became
a major railroad hub, as well as the garrison city of the 49th Hutsul
Rifle Regiment, probably the only purely-Hutsul military unit in
history. In the interbellum period, every Thursday a market took place
at the main square of the town. The town did not have any monuments
other than a monument of Polish poet Franciszek Karpinski, and an
obelisk near the town, located in a spot where in 1485 hospodar Stephen
III of Moldavia paid tribute to king Kazimierz IV Jagiellon.
After the outbreak of World War II with the Polish Defensive War of
1939, the town was thought of as one of the centers of Polish defense of
the so-called Romanian Bridgehead.
Under the Soviet Union and the Ukrainian SSR
However, the Soviet invasion from the east made these plans obsolete,
and the town was captured by the Red Army.
As a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the town was attached by the
Soviet Union to the Ukrainian SSR. In 1940 most of the local Poles were
arrested by the NKVD, and sent to Gulag system or to various Soviet
Under Nazi Germany
In 1941, the town was seized by Nazi Germany.
During the German occupation most of the city’s Jews were murdered by
the Germans. Initial street executions of September and October 1941
took the lives of approximately 500 people. The following year the
remaining Jews were massed in a local ghetto, and then murdered in
various concentration camps, mostly in Be??ec. Several hundred Jews were
kept as slave workers in a work camp, and then murdered in 1943 in a
forest near Szeparowka.
Under the Soviet Ukraine
When the Soviet Army drove the Axis forces out, the town with the area
was attached to the Soviet Ukraine, and the remaining Poles were
expelled from their homes.
Under the independent Ukraine (1991-present)
It now remains a part of Ukraine, independent since 1991.
It is a twin town of Nysa in Poland, to where many of its former
inhabitants were expelled after the war.
Kolomyia administrative district
The Kolomyia raion (administrative district), a historic subdivision of
Galicia, was divided into the Kolomyia and Gwozdziec sub-districts. It
included such towns and shtetls as:
Books featuring Kolomyia
“Der Don Juan von Kolomea” (The Don Juan of Kolomyia), by Leopold von
Jimmy Berg (born Samuel Weinberg) (1909-88), composer
Stanis?aw “Rewera” Potocki
Sieniawski family members:
Hieronim Jarosz Sieniawski
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