How old is Uzhhorod in fact?

Uzgorod is preparing to celebrate the Day of the City. According to the "official" version, we will be celebrating a jubilee – the 1120th anniversary of its foundation. But is that date justified?


In an interview with a researcher of known and unknown pages of Uzhgorod history Yosyp Kobal we talked about how old the city really is, how and when it got its name (initially, this interview, which, we believe, is still relevant, was published in the newspaper "Uzhgorod "-


Yosyp Kobal, a historian, the head of the archaeological department of the Transcarpathian museum and the author of the book on the history of our hometown "Uzhgorod known and unknown", is an uncompromising explorer. Citing facts, he claims that the city is younger than it is officially believed to be, complains about changes of historical names of streets and about the fact that in Uzhgorod still there is not the "Black Eagle" hotel. Yosyp Kobal emphasizes that there are still plenty of "blind spots" in the history of Uzhgorod, and it also applies to persons who at different times worked for development and glory of the city. In the interview with the historian we learned some facts and names from the history of Uzhgorod.


– Uzhgorod recently celebrated its official 1118th anniversary. We know that this date is relative and it can hardly be called correct…


– Yes, this date is not quite correct, or rather entirely incorrect. Still there are no precise data that would enable us to establish the age of Uzhgorod, and these celebrations of the 1115th or 1118th anniversary are relative, even more – based on misconceptions that have nothing to do with historical events. If we consider scientific data, the first written mention of Uzhgorod is dated from 1154 – the Arab geographer Al Idrisi marks Uzhgorod on his map and in the comments to it he states that Uzhgorod is a large sprawling city on the border with Poland. This is the first authentic record of Uzhgorod.

– As for the age of the city – only archaeological science can say the truth?


– When establishing the age of the city we can confidently rely on archaeological data. This is the X – beginning of the XI century, the period of the establishment of the Hungarian state. Archaeological materials that we have on the Castle Hill show that the settlement, which is genetically related to our city, to its historic center, emerged not before the end of the X – the beginning of the XI century. There is no archaeological evidence from the times of ancient Ugrians’ arrival (at the end of IX century). We have the materials that indicate the existence of the Slavic settlement on the territory of modern Uzhgorod at that time, but not in the historical center: in Horyany, Radvanka, Velyky Halahov (now Zahorska street).


– As for the name of the city – there are also hypotheses far from reality, aren’t there?


– The origin of the name is not an easy question. In my research I came to the following conclusion by finding the same names of rivers in present-day Central Asia, as, for example, Unguz where the root "Ung" simply means "river, water". So I think that our river, which before that had probably had Slavic name, because Slavs had been living here since the VI century, was named Ung by some people who spoke a Turkic language. And the city or fortification, which emerged on its banks, was named Ungvar where "var" means "fortification" in Hungarian, which in turn borrowed this word from the Iranian language.


– And when did Ungvar become Uzhgorod?


– In all historical sources, beginning from Al Idrisi and until the XIX century, our city always appears under the name Ungvar (the spelling sometimes varies). The name Uzhgorod first appears at the end of 1840s.


– In general, are there many "blind spots" in the history of our city?


– There are "blind spots" – where not everything has yet been studied. But there are many relative "blind spots" – when certain facts are not known to the public, but known to scientists. We know the name of the first administrator of Uzhgorod from 1371. Which city can boast such a fact from the XIV century – who knows their, so to speak, mayors from such ancient times? Back then they were not yet called mayors, such persons were called "officiales" – constables.


– Since what period do we know more about people who ran the city?


– Well, in the XVII century, citizens elected several people, and out them, the Druget – the ruler of the city – appointed one "Chief Justice", who had subordinates – a scribe and others who received salaries from the city treasury. In 1838 Uzhgorod received the right for self-government. By the way, I think that the celebration of the Day of Uzhgorod should coincide with that very date, and maybe they should associate these celebrations with earlier times – namely, the royal endowment to hold the city fair at the beginning of the XV century, which was a remarkable event for the city…

– Mr. Kobal, which one of the mayors do you as a researcher of Uzhgorod history consider the most successful one?

– Speaking of the times of self-government formation, then surely it is Mihai Fintsytsky, known lawyer, translator and folklorist, journalist, who was elected three times. Once he refused to head the city again, but in general he ran the city for quite a long time. And it was during his term (late XIX century – first decades of the XX century) when Uzhgorod began to modernize itself. Roads were paved, sewage and engineering networks were arranged… He bought from the treasury the Pidzamkovy Park (formerly the Drugets’ Menagerie and before that – the garden of Paulician monks). And during his term, the active construction of buildings in the downtown area and around it continued. Many of those private and public buildings are now considered the architectural decoration of the city. This was the heyday of Uzhgorod, and the head of the city was deeply revered, as a very intelligent, honest and decent person. Thus, we can note Fintsytsky as a person who gave impetus to the development of Uzhgorod, stimulated its modernization. But the city was developing most actively during the term of Kostyantin Hrabar: in 1927-1935, most of the buildings in the Halahov neighborhood were built. Hrabar was also an excellent engraver, painter, whose works are still preserved in museums and private collections. In addition, he was the head of the Subcarpathian Bank – the first local banking institution, took active part in public life, so no wonder that eventually he was appointed as the governor.


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