It is assumed that the name is derived from the old Slavic word “Vino”, meaning “bride price”. This name can be explained by the fact that Vinnytsia and the surrounding land were captured by Lithuanian Duke Algirdas in the 14th century, and then, they were given as a gift to his nephews. However, “vino” is a purely legal term in marriage law that applied only to women; in addition, the nephews remained vassals of the Grand Duke, and entered the land of Podillya with his “permission”, and not as a result of the so-called gift. Since the original name of the city is Venicha (according to the List of Rutenian cities) or Venitsa (according to Ruthenian-Lithuanian chronicles), which coincides with the name of a large creek of river Bog (Southern Bug), in the interfluve of which, in fact, began the sustainable development of Vinnytsia (first quarter of the thirteenth century), this name should be considered a hydronym of agrarian-symbolic (family-sacred) content. In this case, the monosyllabic words, in addition to vѣno, are primarily Old Slavic words вѣн – brother, relative, accomplice, вѣна – river, tributary, вѣнча – harvest festival, венды – family signs (and fishing hooks as a homonym), вѣ – branch, genus (as a homonym – also the pronoun “we”). In the passage of the “West-Ruthenium, or Belarusian chronicle Of the Podolian land” the variant of the name” Benitsa” is specified. The name of the city had many different transliteration options. But on January 27, 2010, Cabinet Resolution No. 55 defined a single version of the spelling “Vinnytsia”.
These areas were inhabited in ancient times. From the middle of the 10th century, the tribes of Ulychi and Tivertsi, which were part of Kyivan Rus, settled here. Later the region passed to the Galicia-Volyn principality. The Golden Horde ruled here for over a hundred years. Against the background of internal Horde strife, Bratslav (Brasia of the Arab authors ad-Dimashka and al-Idrisi, Proslavia or Braslavia of the Florentine chronicle M. Villani) first separated from the Horde as a result of the Hungarian-Bratslav and Hungarian-Bratslav-Polish campaigns which took place in 1352 and 1354 respectively.
At this time (not later than 1355) in the cities that were “Ruthenian burg” of the regional group “on the Field”, the ataman administrative system “according to custom” was finally established. It was with the atamans that the statesmen of Ruthenian-Lithuanian origin had to negotiate after the victory of the Lithuanian prince Algirdas’s troops over the Tatars in 1362, when Podillya (as Podolia was called, the region with the cities around the Velykyi Dol route from Cherkasy to Kamyanets) came under the rule of the Lithuanian principality.
Prince Algird’s nephews – Yuri, Alexander, Fedor and Konstantin Koriyatovich, began to build fortresses in Podillya cities as state residences, as well as to establish new fortress cities. In the historiography of the XIX-XX centuries it was believed that Vinnytsia could be among them, however, new archaeological and documentary information refute this.
The documents of 1363 do not mention Vinnytsia: the date on the principle of “not later” is as probable a hypothesis about the battle the day before (1362), as the foundation of Otamanian Vinnytsia on the ashes of the Ruthenian burg – not later than 1355 (relative to the campaign of 1354). The nominal beginning of the chronicle of Vinnytsia from 1363 is connected with the attempt of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to establish its rule in Podillya, to strengthen the defense capabilities of the region. Cities existed before: ancient Ruthenian “archeological” Vinnytsia within the old city territory – 150 years before the Lithuanian expansion, directly Vinnytsia under the rule of the ataman – about a decade before the conquest of Podillya by Lithuania. In the sense of choosing as a criterion for the organization of the city the existence of its administrative and self-governing functions, the date “not later than 1355” is probable.
Indirect evidence of primary sources about the pre-Lithuanian princely protection over the Vinnytsia territorial community, which was “primarily a land community” (V. Otamanovsky), is interesting. Among the written documents of the XIV century the most interesting for Vinnytsia are: The list of Ruthenian cities, compiled around the middle, edited at the end of the century, which recorded the territorial achievements of Ruthenia, including the XI-XIII centuries; a letter to Hrynko Sokiletsky from Fedor Koriyatovych in 1391, which mentions “Dutchess of Vinnytsia” (which in itself suggests the pre-Lithuanian feudal affiliation of Vinnytsia; the letter was found in the National Archives of the Republic of Belarus in 2001); report “Tales of Podillya” from the Ruthenian-Lithuanian chronicles about the assignation of the elders by Prince Vytautas in Bratslav, Sokilets and Vinnytsia (events of 1393).
Vinnytsia at the turn of the XIX-XX centuries
The construction of the Kyiv-Odessa railway in 1871 and the opening of the Kozyatyn-Zdolbuniv railway connection contributed to Vinnytsia’s strong economic growth. It became the center of a region with a rapidly growing sugar industry, largely due to German investment. Over the last 40 years of the XIX century, Vinnytsia has grown economically almost three and a half times. The city center, including schools, theater, hotel, water tower were built by a talented architect Grigory Artinov.
With the start of World War II in 1914 the city became the administrative center of Podolia, concidering the Kamenetz frontline location.
Headlong events took place in Vinnytsia during 1917–1920. Power was held by revolutionary committees, proteges of the Austro-Hungarian troops, Denikin’s army. Three structures applied for power in Vinnytsia:
- Council of public organizations (chairman – Z. Grokholsky);
- Podolian Provincial Ukrainian Council (chairman – D. Markovych);
- Council of Workers ‘and Soldiers’ Deputies of Podillya (chairman – E. Edelstein).
Later, at a rather difficult stage of the Ukrainian Revolution (November 1918 – May 1920), Vinnytsia became the seat of government structures of the Ukrainian National Republic three times, and it was here, at the Savoy Hotel, that fundamental decisions crucial to national statehood were made.
Not for the long time, but Vinnytsia was the capital. On February 2, 1919, the Directory of the Ukrainian National Republic moved to Vinnytsia due to the difficult political situation. The Directory was then the highest body of state power, so for a whole month Vinnytsia became the capital of Ukraine.