Area: 10.441 km²
in Ukraine: 5500 km²
in Romania: 4941 km²
Name dating from the 18th century
14 Painted Monasteries and Churches
8 of them are listed by UNESCO
German and Polish: Bukowina;
see also other languages
The territory of Bukovina had been part of Moldavia since the 14th century. It was first delineated as a separate district in 1775, and was made a nominal duchy within the Austrian Empire in 1849.
Bukovina acquired its own name and identity only in 1774, when it was ceded to Austria by the Turks, who then controlled Moldavia. Austria, which regarded Bukovina as a strategic link between Transylvania and Galicia, administered it first as a part of Galicia (1786–1849) and then as a duchy and a separate crown land. Austria also developed Bukovina’s chief city, Czernowitz (now Chernivtsi, Ukraine), into an important educational and commercial centre. The Austrians kept a balance between the various ethnic groups in Bukovina; the population was almost solidly Ukrainian in the north and Romanian in the south, while in the towns there were also a number of Germans, Poles, and Jews. When Romania achieved independence in 1878, it sought unification with Bukovina. It did so because Bukovina was not only the historical cradle of the Moldavian principality but also the repository of the finest examples of Romanian art and architecture, having unique painted monastic churches of the 15th and 16th centuries. Romania occupied Bukovina when Austria-Hungary collapsed in 1918. Although local Ukrainians had tried to incorporate their districts in northern Bukovina into the Western Ukrainian National Republic, Romania gained control of the whole province (Treaty of Saint-Germain; 1919) and pursued a Rumanization policy there. In June 1940 the Soviet Union occupied the northern part of Bukovina, but Romania temporarily regained this territory as Germany’s ally after the latter had invaded the U.S.S.R. in 1941. Soviet troops retook the northern districts in 1944. Northern Bukovina (as Chernivtsi oblast [province]) became part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic under the peace treaty of 1947; the ancient Moldavian capital Suceava and the surrounding area, including the most famous of the monasteries, became part of the Romanian People’s Republic.
The territory of the Romanian (or Southern) Bukovina is located in northeastern Romania and it is part of the Suceava County (plus three localities in Botoșani County), whereas the Ukrainian (or Northern) Bukovina is located in western Ukraine and it is part of the Chernivtsi Oblast.
The churches with external mural paintings of northern Moldavia, built from the late 15th century to the late 16th century, are masterpieces inspired by Byzantine art. These eight churches of northern Moldavia are unique in Europe. They are authentic and particularly well preserved. Far from being mere wall decorations, the paintings form a systematic covering on all the facades and represent complete cycles of religious themes. Their exceptional composition, the elegance of the characters, and the harmony of the colours blend perfectly with the surrounding countryside. (Source: UNESCO official website)
Photos by Silviu Monor