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Lviv (formerly Lemberg) is the largest city in the west of the Ukraine and is situated 80 km from the border with Poland. The political changes in the middle of the 1980s turned Lviv into the secret political capital of the Ukraine. The majority of its 830 000 inhabitants are Ukrainian, besides that there are Russians, White Russians, Polish and members of almost all the nationalities which made up the former Soviet Union. Lviv is one of the Ukraine's most important economic and cultural centres.
The origins of the city on the river Poltwa go back to a castle that was built around 1250 by the Ruthenic count Danylo Romanovyc to honour his son Lev. During the late middle ages and early modern times Lviv developed into an important centre of trade. In addition to its Polish and Ruthenic inhabitants, it was particularly Germans, Jews and Armenians who dominated Lviv in its early days. In 1772, Lviv fell to the Habsburg Empire, under which its character changed significantly and it experienced a new era of prosperity. It became the fourth largest city of the Habsburg Monarchy and was made the capital of the newly created Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria.
After World War One, Lemberg became a part of Poland. At that time, it had 361 000 inhabitants, one third of which was Jewish. The incorporation into the Soviet Union (1939-41) brought with it numerous arrests and deportations and thus shook the city's social structure to the core. After World War Two, Lviv fell under Soviet rule entirely.
Among other things, Lviv's cultural diversity shows itself in its wide selection of museums. The Historical Museum informs visitors of the city's history, the Museum of Religious History recounts the history of the church. Apart from that, there are about 20 other museums which provide an overview over the past and present of Lviv. The Art Gallery exhibits over 10 000 paintings by Russian, Ukrainian, Polish, Austrian and Soviet artists.
Lovers of the fine arts will be sure to enjoy a visit to the Ukrainian San'kowezka Theatre, the Russian Dramatic Theatre, the Philharmonia or the Academic Iwan Franco Opera and Ballet.
Economy and Tourism
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of the Ukraine brought with it grave economical problems which still confront Lviv today. Among the city's industries are mechanical engineering, food production, chemistry, building materials and wood-processing. The western part of the country has a long agricultural tradition in the cultivation of grain and sugar beet and the breeding of dairy cows and sheep. Apart from the promotion of industry, Lviv has always been renowned for its handicrafts. Folk art products made from wood or ceramics are popular souvenirs. Architectural and historical monuments have turned the Lviv of today into an attractive destination for tourists. Numerous Renaissance buildings give an impression of the earlier wealth of the Galician trade centre.
Lviv is the City of Lions. The name of the city founder Count Danylo's son was Lev, which means lion. Not only in Lviv's code of arms can the lion be found: over 500 stone lions can be seen throughout the city.
In the eastern part of the town lies the Lytschakow graveyard, one of the oldest graveyards in Europe. It hosts many remarkable tombs designed by famous Lviv sculptors from the 18th and 19th century.
Knowledge and Learning
During the Habsburg period, Lviv's first university, the Lemberg German University, was founded under Joseph II in 1784. Today Lviv has around 100 000 students. Among the major state institutions are the Iwan Franko University, a medical university, the Music Conservatory, a trade academy, an art academy and a university for forestry and wood technology. Important private institutions are a management institute, an academy of administration and a European university.