Konotop History Translated and summarized by
Angela Semakova
Kiev, Ukraine, 2003
Excerpted and edited by
Robert S. Sherins, MD
Pacific Palisades, California
April 27, 2003

Evidence of human inhabitation in the region has been estimated about 15,000 years ago. It would appear that the area supported migratory groups of hunter near the rivers. The largest settlements were located near the present-day village of Shapovalivka and Vyrivka, where wooden axe tools have been found. From 500–600 C.E. (6th to 7th centuries), the region was inhabited by Siveriany Tribes. They were agriculturally based peoples, who had industries consisting of pottery and iron production from their local mines. The pottery was colored in gray and brown pigments. Archeological findings date the pottery from the 7th and 8th centuries.

Konotople is a word the meant swamp area. It was an expression that was used after the Tatars, who died while crossing through that region. It can be dated to the time of the earliest Tatar-Mongol presence in Russia, [1] and during the era of the Kievan Rus culture. However, the modern town of Konotop, from which our ancestors emanated, was first described in 1634 as a boundary town. Konotop was built as a country estate [2] by Poles, who founded the first settlement in order to defend against wars waged by the Russian Empire. They called the fort of that settlement, Konotop, which was a swamp along the bank of the Ezuch River. Later, the Cossacks, who joined Bogdan Chmielnicki, ejected the Poles. However, the Poles did govern Konotop for a period of time. Apparently, King Vladislav IV of Poland gave the towns of Konotop, Gorodische, and Ezuch, to a Polish vassal, Mikola Cetisovu. The fortress of Konotop had historical importance since the 1600’s. It has retained several gates, walls, and deep moat adjacent to the river. At that time, wealthy farmers and merchants could live on the streets that were located within the walled area of the fortress.

The original town of Konotop was divided into three parts: the “Big town,” which housed the poorest people; the “Small town,” which was located in the middle of the larger “Big town” and was inhabited by the Cossack Sotnya [3] ; and finally the Owner’s yard (area), which was located within the fortress and housed the wealthiest of the inhabitants. Documents from the 1600’s listed 474 yards [4] that were taxed by the state. Wheat farming consumed 210 yards and 107 yards were listed for handicrafts and trades. There were also records of 6 water mills that were owned by the wealthy people and were used for the purpose of milling flour. In 1666, there were 801 men registered in the town of Konotop. Women and children were not counted.

Konotop served a very important role as a trade center in the region. They traded grains, flour, wine and other products. Merchant fairs were opened for trading of merchandise from the regional towns of Orel, Kursk, and Gomel.

1659 marked the year of the Ukrainian Independence from Poland. In June, the Ukrainians, Poles, Germans, and Tatars surrounded the town. The Russians won the battle. One month later, the Cossacks from the Ukrainian army defeated the Russians. The swamp area made it very difficult for the Russian army to maneuver or defend its cavalry and artillery.

In 1672, Konotop articles [5] were signed and a new Hetman [6] was elected. By 1711, Konotop had 701 yards, 5 churches, and a population of 6,000 people. Cossacks settled an additional 297 yards. Apparently, there were Ottoman towns in the region as well. Also during the 1700’s, Konotop became the district center of the Novogorod-Seversky region, Uyezd. Konotop develop into a vital trade route between Moscow and Kiev. Cultural developments can be traced to the influence of the Dutch, who built many of the estates, and the Scots and Italians, who contributed to the arts and architecture.

In 1796, Konotop was part of Malorussia. [7] They had significant honey production, mechanical factories for making agricultural machines, and sugar plants. Slaves supplied the labor. Later they had a beer brewery. By 1805, Konotop had achieved an official Coat of Arms, which symbolized its victory over the Muslims (Ottomans and former Tatars). By 1880, they had three brick plants and grain mills.

The first railroad was built in 1868. However, the railway was extended to Moscow in 1875 for the important trade and product distribution. By 1897, Konotop’s population was 17,000. It rose to 20,000 in the 20th century, but Konotop remained a provincial town. In 1870, there was only one hospital. Roads were still made from dirt and were in poor condition. There was one road made from bricks, but there was a toll collected for using the road. Konotop was destroyed several times by fires.

After 1812, Konotop had better facilities. There was a school for the gentry’s children and one for the bourgeois. Two more private schools were built in 1842. A library was opened in 1901. In 1905, a commercial school [8] was added.

The Russian revolution occurred in 1917. It was very destructive. At first, the farm workers overthrew the monarchy. Later, the workers took all power from the landowners. In 1932, Konotop became part of Sumy Gubernya, and was called, Sumska Oblast. [9] Konotop had a population of 50,000. There was an electric power station, a water supply system, a sauna, more doctors, 2 maternity homes and 2 children’s clinics. There were 8 kindergartens, 15 schools, 3 technical schools, and a school for training teachers.

World War II ushered in the Fascists to political power. In 1941, there was a ghetto for Jews, mass repression, and the Holocaust. Fascists killed 2,870 people and took 27,000 prisoners of war. September 6, 1943, marked the day that the town was relieved of the Germans. The Red Army established soviet control.

In the present 21st century, Konotop became an industrial center for exporting to Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Poland, and Vietnam. They manufacture oil industry equipment and operate a sewing factory with partners in America and Canada. There are 12 schools, 2 lyceums, schools for medical training, technical and pedagogical schools, a business management school in cooperation with Finland, a museum of local history, a museum of World War II history, a library, and 3 cultural centers.

    End Notes:
  • ↑ [1] Tatar Asians were present in Russia as early as the 6ᵗʰ century. The later Tatar-Mongol invasion of Europe under Genghis Khan and his descendants occurred during the 13ᵗʰ century.
  • ↑ [2] Probably the name was meant as a provincial property rather than a luxury country estate as the term may be used in modern times.
  • ↑ [3] Sotnya is a term that denotes a military unit of 100 Cossacks.
  • ↑ [4] Properties.
  • ↑ [5] Laws.
  • ↑ [6] Cossack political leader.
  • ↑ [7] Russians are ethnically considered to be one three divisions of people: Great Russians, Malorussians from Eastern Ukraine, and Belorussians (White Russians). Galicians, who occupied Western Ukraine, were not considered to be Russians.
  • ↑ [8] Probably a school for business education.
  • ↑ [9] The term Oblast has replaced the use of the word Gubernya.