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Skyline of Okhtyrka
Flag of Okhtyrka
Official seal of Okhtyrka
Location of Okhtyrka
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Country Ukraine
Oblast Sumy
Founded 1641
 • Total 30 km2 (10 sq mi)
Elevation 110 m (360 ft)
Population (January 1, 2004)
 • Total 50,100
Website City website

Okhtyrka (Ukrainian: Охтирка; also known by its Russian variant Akhtyrka Russian: Ахтырка) is a small city in Ukraine, a raion (district) centre within Sumy Oblast (region) since 1975. Okhtyrka is a town of Hussar and Cossack Fame. It was also once a regional seat of Sloboda Ukraine and the Ukrainian SSR. Since the discovery of oil and gas in 1961 Okhtyrka has become an "oil capital of Ukraine". It is home to Okhtyrka air base, historical and religious places of interest. Population 50,400 (as of 2001), 25,965 (1900), 17,411 (1867).

The villages of Velyke Osero (274 inhabitants), Saluschany (28 inhabitants), Prystan (7 inhabitants) and Kosyatyn (6 inhabitants) belong to the Okhtyrka city administration which is designated into a separate subdivision of the Sumy Oblast.


There are many versions of the city's name origin. According to one of them, the most probable, its name descends from the name of the river with the same name that flows through the city. According to some local historians, the river's name in translation from Turkic language means "lazy river". In opinion of others, the city's name from the same Turkic language is translated as the "place of ambush", "white fort". Yet the Russian philologist Oleg Trubachyov considered that there are no serious grounds to accept the Turkic etymology and that the river's name is "insufficiently clear in origin".

The linguist Kostiantyn Tyshchenko points to the Gothic origin of the name "Okhtyrka".[1]

Geography and climate

Located in the south of the Sumy region in the center of a triangle created by regional centers – Sumy, Kharkiv and Poltava. The city is situated on the left bank of the Vorskla River – the blue pearl of Ukrainian rivers.

History and Legends

Okhtyrka was first established by former Polish citizens who had moved to the Right-bank Ukraine, Sloboda Ukraine and formed an outpost. The town was founded on the site of an ancient settlement of Severia principality that was destroyed during the Mongol invasion. The first written mention of Okhtyrka dates to 1641. In 1647, according to the act of demarcation of borders, Okhtyrka was ceded to Russia from Poland. When Poles vacated the town they destroyed the fortress but it was rebuilt by Orthodox peasants and Cossacks who decided to stay and be with new arrivals seeking the tax free life promised by Russia. Sloboda Ukraine territory at this time was heavily populated (both spontaneous and planned) on one hand by refugees, the Ukrainians from the territory formerly under the control of Poland, and on the other by musketeers and Cossacks. It was important for Russia to have an outpost established in this area, so it supported the settlers by removing tax collections for the time being. Okhtyrka's outpost served to strengthen the Belgorod defense line skirting the southern border of the Russian state in the middle of the 17th century. Being bolstered in this prominent position during the 17th and 18th centuries, Okhtyrka rose to such heights that it rivaled Kharkiv itself. The first census of the city was taken in 1655 by governor of Okhtyrka Trofim Khrushchev, listing 1339 residents.

The coat of arms

The town's coat of arms (blue field, golden cross and shining sun above) celebrates the city's great number of visiting pilgrims. It was introduced by Simon Bekenshtein[2] on September 21, 1781 and reinstated in 1991 by the city council.

Glory in Arms

In 1655-1658 the Okhtyrka Cossack Regiment was formed and it lasted until 1765, when by order of Catherine II, all of Cossack regiments had been dismantled. In 1709 the territory of the Cossack regiment became the scene of fierce fighting with the Swedes. More than a hundred years the Cossack regiment fought against the invasion of the Tatars, and the troops shared not only the bitterness of defeat but the majestic glory of victories over the Turks, Tartars, the Swedes. Later, Okhtyrka's Cossack regiment reformed into the Hussars. Bravery was always of the best qualities of fighters from Okhtyrka.

Okhtyrka Fortress

Okhtyrka, like all of Sloboda Ukraine, had a chaotic structure of buildings. The central core of the city was represented by the fortress, which occupied a dominant place in the strategic sense. The buildings ran around, fitting into the terrain without any order.

Okhtyrka's fort was sitting on a shore of a small Okhtyrka river, where it makes a loop, forming a natural protection. The fortress was surrounded by numerous lakes, complicating approaches to it.

The fortress had the shape of an irregular quadrilateral, and occupied a territory of the present city center, from the river to the area, where there is now "Intercession Cathedral" (outside the castle). It was surrounded by a wooden fence with five stone and fifteen wooden towers and two bastions. The fortress gates had drawbridges. Around the castle there was a moat that was dug and earth mound with caponier at the corners. The water filled moat gave the island fortress a situational advantage, strengthening its defense capacity.

The visit of Peter the Great

In the early 18th century warriors from Okhtyrka regiment took an active part in the Great Northern War recapturing the Swedish and Russian lands bordering the Baltic Sea. On December 26, 1707 Peter the First himself came to the city to personally verify the readiness of the garrison and hold a council of war. The Russian Tsar knew and appreciated soldiers from Okhtyrka, who have shown courage and perseverance during combat tours.


An important role in the fight against Napoleon's troops during the War of 1812 was played by Okhtyrka Hussars. They participated in the battles of Smolensk, Vyazma, Borodino. For services in battle the regiment was honored to open the parade of victors at the entry of Allied troops in Paris. In this regiment served, as one of the leaders of the partisan movement during the War in 1812 the Russian poet Dmitry Davydov, Russian composer AA Alyabyev. In 1823, the regiment was commanded by a future Decembrist A. Muravyev and Mikhail Lermontov - Russian poet.

Many people fought and died in WW-I and a lot more in WW-II defending the motherland. The fights around Okhtyrka were fearsome and resulted in having the common grave of Soviet soldiers in the area. The site is known to everyone in the city.

Soviet Times

During the Great Patriotic War (World War II), Okhtyrka was occupied by the German Army from 15 October 1941 to 23 February 1943 and again from 11 March to 25 August 1943. Okhtyrka was near the southern flank of the Kursk Bulge, and fighting for the possession of the city in the summer of 1943 got extremely fierce. That is why the city and its surroundings have so many monuments of the last war: the eternal flame of remembrance in the city park, Valley of Heroes, T-34 tank on a pedestal in one of the city's entrances, the Mound of Glory, etc. After the war, large army garrisons settled in the area of Okhtyrka and the new planes started circling the skies with swept wings. Military parades in the city, arranged on the occasion of Soviet holidays, could compete with the capital due to the number of participating vehicles and machinery of all kinds.

In the last decade of the Soviet Era Okhtyrka has been militarized. It housed many army regiments of all sorts. The Dachny precinct became a home to officers' families from all around the former USSR. Many of them served in Eastern Bloc countries (East Germany, Hungary, Czechoslovakia etc.), took part in Vietnam and Afghanistan wars and served as consultants in Cuba. As USSR started to fall apart all the machinery and ballistic rockets were transported back to Russian territory, however it took a very long time for the regiments to move or to transform. A lot of military personnel or their families stayed in Okhtyrka or still have connections to this city where they spent many years of their lives and that offered them home.


Okhtyrka was the first city in Ukraine to acquire a tobacco factory. The city has a beautiful Cathedral of the Holy Virgin (1753–62) [Russian: Собор Покрова Пресвятой Богородицы], formerly attributed to Bartolomeo Rastrelli and currently to Dmitry Ukhtomsky with managing architect S. Dudinsky. Its singular architecture is the complex medley of traditional Sloboda Ukraine Baroque with fashionable elements derived from the imperial capital. The interior is decorated with pilasters with Ionic capitals, and paintings on sails. It had suffered during the Great Patriotic War. The restorations started in 1970-1972 but were completed only after collapse of USSR. The construction is unique in its three-dimensional solution and has no analogy in the Ukrainian Baroque architecture. Near at hand stands the Nativity Church (1825), which resembles a palace rather than a church. The cathedral bell-tower was built in three tiers and adorned with statuary in 1783.

There are many more wooden and brick churches of importance and beauty in the area.


On a beautiful hill that locals always called "Monastery Hill", just outside Akhtyrka [Russian], nestles a Holy Trinity Monastery (http://www.ahtyr.org/en/history) overlooking the Vorskla river. It was established in 1654 about 4–5 km north of Akhtyrka. These holy grounds have been practically destroyed during the Soviet era with exception of its bell tower that kept a bit of its structure intact. October revolt, WWII and anti-religious policies of Soviet era played a big part here. It has been reopened following restoration of religious life in Ukraine and Russia, for the 4th time during its uneasy history it enjoys its rebirth. Mostly surviving on donations and on the work of enthusiastic monks and volunteers, with Kiev Church blessings, it has started to rebuild its former glory and has become one of the main religious places for Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox Christian worshipers in the region, becoming a notable landmark in Ukraine.

The beautiful Cathedral of the Holy Virgin and other churches in Akhtyrka serve the growing interest of the general population to religious traditions and Orthodox Christian worshipping.

Holy relics in Okhtyrka

File:Akhtyrka Cathedral.JPG
The Cathedral of the Theotokos (1753-68)

Miraculous Icon of Okhtyrka

Iconography of Akhtyrka's icon originates in the Italo-Greek art. Usually picturing - half-length image of the Blessed Virgin Mary with folded hands in supplication. To the left of it - the Lord Jesus Christ, crucified on the cross. (http://drevo-info.ru/articles/6725.html)

The Okhtyrka Miraculous Icon was revealed on July 2, 1739 in Okhtyrka. The image, which emanated radiance, was uncovered by priest Vasily (Basil) Danilov in the grassland of Protection Church while he was mowing. The icon was moved to his home. After three years from the date of bringing it into the house, when the priest entered the room on the day of the feast of the Protection, he was struck by the extraordinary light of the icon. This has been repeated numerous times. The priest prayed devoutly near this icon but never said anything to anyone else. Once in his sleep, the priest saw the Virgin, and heard her command to remove dust from his newfound icon and to clean it with water. On the priest's awakening from his sleep he executed the command. The water that he used to clean the icon he left in a vessel planning to take it to the river next morning to empty and to wash the vessel there. Again he fell asleep and dreamed, as if he was going to the river next morning. He heard the voice of Mother of God "Return home and keep this water, it will heal all who suffers from fever." He had a daughter, who had long experienced fevers and when he awoke, he gave her to drink this water, and the daughter soon recovered.

Then the priest asked Ioan (John) iconographer to repair paint damage on the icon. Knowing about the miraculous healing qualities of the icon from the priest, the icon painter washed it with water and watered his son, who suffered from fever, who also recovered. In preparation for the restoration that night he heard a voice coming from the icon: "Get up! Now is the time to return the icon to where you took it. Fix it you can not. " The painter was praying before the icon until the morning, and in the morning took it back to Basil, who being convinced of its miraculous power put it in the Protection Church. Fever sufferers began to resort to this icon prayerfully, receiving miraculous healings in great numbers.

The news of the miracles of the icon spread to the Imperial Court. The Mother of God appeared in a vivid dream to the widow Baroness von Veydel, who visited Okhtyrka in 1748. The Lady said to her that her days were numbered and ordered her to give away her estate distributing it to the needy and promised the protection to her two young daughters. Baroness rushed to distribute the property and actually died five days later. The news about this reached the Empress, and Elizabeth took the orphans to the court, raised them and married one to Count Panin, another to Count Chernyshov. Both of them made generous contributions to the cathedral, where the icon remained until the day they died.

In 1751 the Holy Synod decided to honor the icon of Okhtyrka as miraculous. In 1753 Empress Elizabeth donated funds and a stone Cathedral of the Holy Virgin was erected at the place where the icon was found. The icon was kept in the Cathedral until its abduction in 1903 during the voyage to St. Petersburg for restoration.

It is unknown how the holy icon found its way to Harbin, but that's where it was acquired by S A Stepanov. According to the Harbin Archpriest Nikolai Trufanova, who repeatedly visited Okhtyrka icon in Okhtyrka it was the very icon that had gone missing. He confirmed that Stepanov acquired that very same wonder-working icon of Okhtyrka. In the 1950s, the son of Stepanov brought it to Brazil and then to San Francisco, where he passed it to the Committee of the Russian Orthodox youth as a blessing. Then Okhtyrka icon was placed under the jurisdiction of Sydney Archbishop Hilarion (Kapral).

Blessed copies of Okhtyrka icon

The icon of Okhtyrka, which is revered as a healer of many diseases, has being copied with blessing of the church in small numbers that were distributed mainly in the south of Russia, in Kharkiv diocese. One such icon from the 18th or 19th century is kept in Moscow, in the main aisle of the church of Resurrection in the Arbat (ap. Philip) Jerusalem monastery. Okhtyrka icon is called "Samara" - the main shrine of Samara Nicholas male monastery.

In 1975, the information that the lost Okhtyrka icon was in San Francisco reached the Soviet Union. In 1995 the Metropolitan Nicodemus of Kharkiv (Rusnak) brought a copy of the icon, and handed it to Okhtyrka St. Basil's Cathedral. In the connection with this event there was a holy procession on the third day after the Holy Trinity with other icons to place the Okhtyrka icon into the Holy Trinity Monastery. These holy processions occurred yearly since 1844 on the Saturday of Pentecost, and later the icons were transferred back on the feast of All Saints. On June 15, 1999 Okhtyrka held celebrations to mark the 260th anniversary of the phenomenon of the miraculous Okhtyrka icon.

List of temples in honor of Okhtyrka icons

Temple in the village Chernetove Bryansk region; Akhtyrsky nunnery in the village Gusevka Volgograd region; Church in the village of Akhtyrka Sergiev Posad, Moscow Region; Chapel at the Republican Hospital in Petrozavodsk; Akhtyrsky Cathedral in City Orel.


People who live in Okhtyrka have origins in different nationalities with the main stream culture being predominantly Ukrainian and Russian, which is widely accepted by all. This is also influenced by Orthodox faith traditions, the surrounding Christian architecture, the religious life and history of this city. In recent years, following the independence of Ukraine there is a noticeable shift to Ukrainian culture. The spoken language is Ukrainian and Russian, or a mixture of both, with Ukrainian language dominating.


Okhtyrkivtsi (residents of Okhtyrka) celebrate the Day of the City on August 25, in honer of liberation of this city on this day in 1943 from Nazi invaders; Ukrainian independence day; Patronal feast days; Carnival; A festival in honor of the holiday of Ivan Kupala and many other.


Tobacco Manufacture

In 1718 the first Russian tobacco manufacture began, which was attributed to several villages (944 peasant households), but it proved unprofitable. And in 1727 the company sold its treasury to private individuals. The tobacco factory was served by an isolated plantation (50 acres), from which were collected seven thousand pounds of tobacco.

Oil and Gas

Since the discovery of oil and gas in 1961 Okhtyrka has become an "oil capital of Ukraine". Okhtyrka region produces the most oil in Ukraine.

Other Industries

There are manufacturers of light woollen stuffs and a trade in corn, cattle and the produce of domestic industries. The environs are fertile, the orchards producing excellent fruit. Obolon CJSC has a brewery in Okhtyrka producing excellent beer.

NGDU "Okhtyrkanaftogaz." JSC "Naftoprommash." JSC "Okhtyrsilmash." JSC "Okhtyrsky garment factory." JSC "Okhtyrsky brewery." JSC "Bakery Akhtyrsky." Branch "Cheese Okhtyrsky" PE "Ros"

The current city mayor is Iryna Demchenko.


Okhtyrka is home to the Ukrainian First League team FC Naftovyk-Ukrnafta Okhtyrka.

Notable people or residents born in Okhtyrka

  • Crimson, John P. - writer.
  • Batiuk, Nicholas Filippovich - Soviet military commander, one of the heroes of the defense of Stalingrad.
  • Borodaevsky, Sergey - economist.
  • Mikhail Gurevich. - Soviet aircraft designer, studied at the gymnasium Okhtyrka.
  • Ledenyov, Peter - Hero of the Soviet Union.
  • Rudinsky, Mikhail Yakovlevich - archaeologist.
  • Yaroslavsky, Peter Antonovich - architect.
  • Andrei Chikatilo - one of the most famous Soviet serial killer, he studied at the Technical College of Communications Okhtyrka.
  • Mykola Zerov - Ukrainian literary critic, poet - a master's sonnets.
  • Mykola Khvyliovyi - Soviet Ukrainian writer.
  • Svetlana Svetlichnaya - Soviet and Russian theater and film actress, Honoured Artist of the RSFSR (1974).
  • Oleksiy Berest - a Soviet officer, a veteran of World War II.
  • Paul Grabowski - Ukrainian poet, translator, member of the revolutionary movement.
  • Ostap Vyshnia - Soviet Ukrainian writer, humorist and satirist.
  • Borys Antonenko-Davydovych - Soviet and Ukrainian writer.
  • Leonid Pavlovych Maidan - Ukrainian/Russian/Canadian poet. Editor of Ukrainian language journal in Toronto (Canada) circa 1950. Also wrote under the pseudonym 'Dan-May'. Books of poetry published in Canada include 'V Pokhid' (Ukrainian).


  1. Tyshchenko, K. Ethno-linguistic history of the Ancient Ukraine. Kiev: "Akvilon-Plius", 2008
  2. Okhtyrka. Travel by Ukraine.

External links