20 December 2010

The 5-language city

In July 2009 I visited once again Cernauti (Чернівці, Czerniowce, Czernowitz, Tschernowitz, Chernivtsi), former capital of Bukovina (1775-1918), the easternmost province of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today, together with Lviv, it is the main cultural center of western Ukraine. Named as Little Vienna, the city still keeps alive the Austrian atmosphere, mainly thanks to the works carried out to celebrate, in 2008, the 600 years of its first documentary mention. In the picture [by the author], the cinegogue, how it is popularly known the cinema hall installed in the old building's central synagogue, a striking testimony of the former Jewish presence.

With the end of World War I, Cernauti became part of the territory of Romania. According to data from the 1930 census, from the 113,000 inhabitants of this city, possibly the most multiethnic one in Central and Eastern Europe, 43,000 were Jews who lived in harmony with Romanians, Germans, Ukrainians and Poles. More than half of the Jewish population was decimated during World War II by the regime of Marshal Antonescu, in collaboration with Nazi Germany. With the establishment of Soviet rule in 1944, when the northern part of Bukovina became part of Soviet Ukraine, Jews, Germans, Romanians, Poles and Ukrainians were deported, the city was repopulated with people deeply connected to Russian culture come from different regions of the Soviet Union.

The current population, according to the census of 2001, amount to 240,000 inhabitants, among them 1,300 Jews. Throughout its history, the city welcomed and gave birth to great personalities of Jewish origin, such as Rose Ausländer, Paul Celan, Joseph Schmidt, Karl Emil Franzos, Abraham Goldfaden, Nathan Birnbaum, Alfred Margulis-Sperber, Wilhelm Reich and Joseph Schumpeter.

Lying 35km from Siret, at the Romanian border, the city and its surroundings are a major tourist attraction with many historical monuments that bear witness to its rich multicultural past.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Fernando.

    I come from this city, which I left in 1976.
    Visited twice already since.
    We love this city and will never forget our childhood and youth while there.
    I wish you all the best.