Chernivtsi arose out of an ancient Slavic settlement on the left bank of the Prut. This is where Galician princes built a fortress by the name of Chern, which literally means black. The oak-and-mud walls of the fortress were black, possibly hence the name. Chern was built most probably under the rule of prince Yaroslav Osmomysl (1153-1187) to protect south-western borders of the Galician principality and to control a major trade route along the Prut.
During the Tartar-Mongol invasion the fortress was burned to ground. Evidently, this happened in 1259, when the Tartar warlord Burundaj demanded that prince Daniel Romanovich destroy all the fortifications in his realm.
The inhabitants of Chern moved to the right bank of the river, where they founded a new settlement. The neighboring settlement of Lenkivtsi continued to exist on the left bank of the Prut. The old ramparts continued to be used for defense. In the XVII century they were augmented with several bastions, one of which still exists.
In the middle of the XIV century the Galician lands were divided by the neighboring powers. Chernivtsi was incorporated into the Moldovan state. In the XIV-XVI centuries the major trade route from L'viv to Sucaeva went through Chernivtsi.
On October 8, 1408 the Moldovan gospodar (prince) Alexander the Kind promulgated a customs code, which for the first time mentioned Chernivtsi, an important customs point on the trade route between L'viv and the Black Sea. In the late 1480s, under gospodar Shtefan the Great, Chernivtsi became a county center and a town. The gospodar's deed of March 15, 1490 mentions two churches in the "town of Chernovtsykh." Appurtenance to trade and the presence of a customs point, part of revenues of which remained in the town budget, promoted its economic well-being. Despite this, Chernivtsi had little resemblance to a "town". In 1618 there were only 5 artisans, the character of construction remained rural. Considerable areas of the settlement were used for pastures, and the inhabitants were employed mostly in agriculture.
The rate of economic growth decreased substantially starting with the 1530s due to the fact that Moldova became a vassal of the Ottoman Turkey.
Until the middle of the XVIII century Chernivtsi remained an essentially rural settlement. In 1782, there were about 200 families, or around 1,000 people. The nearby villages of Gorecha, Kalichanka, Klokuchka, Rosha belonged to the town as well. The population of the town together with these villages numbered 456 families or 2,280 people.
As the outcome of the Russian-Turkish war of 1768-1774 Bukovina became a part of Austria. A period of rapid growth followed. In 1796, the town becomes the center of a district in the Duchy of Galicia, in 1849 -- the capital of the Duchy of Bukovina.
[to be continued]