Kamyanets-Podilsky, one of the oldest cities in Ukraine, is considered a phenomenon of great cultural importance. A rocky island skirted by the tight loop of the Smotrich River flowing in a picturesque canyon, served as a unique pedestal on which over more than a thousand years both well-known and anonymous masters created a miracle in stone. Kamyanets-Podilsky is striking for the harmonious blend of landscape and architecture.
The Old City’s past is full of mystery. The precise age of Kamyanets-Podilsky has not until recently been ascertained. Some historians claimed that the city was founded at the beginning of our era by the Dacians during the Roman-Dacian wars. Allegedly, it was named Petridava or Klepidava (from the Greek “petra” or the Latin “lapis” meaning “stone” and the Dacian “dava” meaning “city”).
Thanks to the efforts of numerous research workers, the date of the city’s foundation is unequi-vocally attributed to the period of Old Rus. Researchers have found remnants of dwellings and fortifications of the 11th-13th centuries, and this evidence discredited the version claiming that the city emerged in late 14th century.
In 1196, early Old Rus chronicles mentioned Kamyanets as one of the cities belonging to the Gali-cian-Volhynian principality. The city survived the tide of Batu Khan invasion. Ruins of the 12th-13th -century fortifications were unearthed in the grounds of the castle, while in the central section of the Old City the restorers encountered wooden dwellings of the same period destroyed by fire.
In the 14th-18th centuries, due to the favourable geographic position, Kamyanets-Podilsky was coveted by numerous invaders who considered the city a fine stronghold. After a short period under the rule of the Lithuanian feudal lords from 1374 to 1430, the city laboured under the Polish yoke (1434-1793). Polish masters marked their protracted rule by building numerous churches, dwellings and fortified structures which, to a great extent, defined the general aspect of the city. Turkish rule, short as it was, 1672- 1699, also left its imprint on the city’s architecture. As early as the beginning of the 15th century, the main principles of the city planning and construction were established in accordance with Old Rus tradition which predominated over both West European and Muslim architectural traditions.
During its century-long history, the city greatly suffered from destruction and rebuilding. However, the old section has in the main preserved its unique architectural aspect.
For many centuries Kamyanets-Podilsky was a major cultural centre for Podillya area. Armenian historians Ovanes and Stepanos Roshka, authors of the history of the Khotyn war, lived and worked there in the 17th century, while the artists I.Prakhtl, and D.Sam-pini worked in Kamyanets-Podilsky in the 18th and 19th century respectively.
Two theological schools were active in the city and in the 1840s, the first Russian gymnasium was opened. The year 1899 saw the inauguration of the Pushkin Enlightenment Centre, later a technical school (early 20th c.) and a university (1918) were set up. The names of T. H. Shevchenko, S. V. Rudansky, A. P. Svidnitsky, V. K. Rozvadovsky, S. M. Sergeev-Tsensky, P. G. Zhitetsky, M. D. Le-ontovych, M. V. Molchanovsky, and M. 0. Hrinchenko are associated with the city. E. Yo. Sitsynsky and A. Prusevych, well-known historians of Podillya area lived and worked in Kamyanets-Podilsky.
In 1977, to preserve the historical and architectural heritage of the city which numbers over 200 monuments, by a decree passed by the Ukrainian SSR Council of Ministers, Kamyanets-Podilsky was proclaimed a historical and architectural preserve.