Lviv History

Classic cars and retro chic Return of the Leopolis Grand Prix

Issue 33, March 2011.
The first motor car to appear on the streets of Habsburg Lviv arrived in 1897 – a brand new ‘Benz-Victoria’ which was owned and driven by Kazimierz Odrzywolski, the famed engineer and father of oil exploration in the West Ukrainian region. However, it took more than 30 years before the sport of auto racing reached the city. In 1930 the city hosted its first ever ‘Lviv Triangle’ auto rally, which took its unusual name from the triangular grid of Lviv streets which racing drivers were asked to navigate.

Happy birthday independent Ukraine!

Issue 26, July 2010.
Thanks to the country’s new geopolitical trajectory and the current administration’s revivalist approach to bilateral ties with the Kremlin, Ukraine’s Independence Day celebrations this August will likely carry added political potency and symbolism. But while parades and pomposity are likely to dominate proceedings in the capital city Kyiv, Leopolitans will be treated to a more cultured holiday programme which reflects Lviv’s status as modern Ukraine’s spiritual capital. Ukraine’s independence holiday celebrates the declaration which the country’s Soviet-era legislature issued on August 24, 1991 following the failure of a KGB coup in Moscow. By the summer of 1991 the Soviet empire was in total disarray, with Mikhail Gorbachev’s attempts to reform the USSR from within having resulted in a collapse of central authority and unleashed a Pandora’s Box of pent-up grievances against the totalitarian regime. Eastern Europe had been lost in the previous two years, and instability was seeping into the heart of empire. In this environment of imperial disintegration Ukraine’s declaration of independence was actually just one of many and as a result it came to be seen by some as merely a fait accompli rather than the final stage in a glorious struggle for national sovereignty.

Sweet Toothed City

Issue 17, October 2009.
Foreign visitors to Lviv are often quite surprised by the local passion for all things sweet and sugary. Many remark that the vast array of cake and chocolate delicatessens they see dotting the city streets and the sumptuous dessert menus they encounter are literally the last things they would have expected of a former Soviet city. Unfortunately, much of the outside world continues to labour under the delusion of the post-Soviet space as a bleak and sour region of the world, but in actual fact Ukraine excels in its desserts and Lviv in particular has a long and proud history as one of the sweetest-toothed towns in all Europe.

Literary Legends of Lviv

Issue 16, September 2009.
This month Lviv will play host to Ukraine’s largest annual literary event, a festival of Ukrainian language literature which consistently gathers the industry’s leading publishers and celebrity writers. It perhaps right and fitting that Lviv should host this annual literary gathering as for centuries the city has been the ancestral home of the Ukrainian printing tradition, with a tradition in publishing that dates back to the introduction of the region’s first printing press in the late sixteenth century. After a long enforced break with tradition throughout the Soviet period, the city is once more at the forefront of Ukrainian language publishing and is doing much to support the industry in the face of overwhelming competition from mass produced Russian language pulp fiction.

A Rich Habsburg Inheritance

Issue 5, September 2008.
This September Lviv will step back in time to an age of imperial spendour as the city celebrates its Habsburg past with a season of Austrian cultural highlights. This new event reflects a fresh bond between Lviv and Vienna that is rekindling the old Habsburg tradition of regional regeneration.

Ukraine’s most celebrated clock tower

Issue 5, September 2008.
Like London, Moscow and a select few other global cities, Lviv has its very own distinctive clock by which local time has been measured for centuries. Today’s distinctive clock tower is the work of a 19th century Habsburg administration but is in the same spot as numerous other Lviv city clocks down the ages.

Flying the Flag for Independence

Issue 4, August 2008.
In 1991 Ukraine was one of 15 constituent Soviet republics to gain independence amid the stunning collapse of the Soviet Empire. Each individual republic experienced its own wave of national independence protests in the lead-up to the collapse, with Lviv playing a key role in the Ukrainian movement which resulted in the eventual August 1991 declaration of independence. This is hardly surprising given the long history Lviv has as a focus of Ukrainian patriotic sentiment and the experience of successive generations of Lviv patriots who have laid down their lives in the fight for a free Ukraine.