Ternopil is a city in western Ukraine, located on the banks of the Seret River. Until 1944, it was known mostly as Tarnopol, and its Ruthenian (Ukrainian) name was rarely used. Ternopil is one of the major cities of Western Ukraine and the historical regions of Galicia and Podolia. It is served by Ternopil Airport. The population of Ternopil is 217 800 (year 2015).
The city was founded in 1540 by Polish commander and Hetman Jan Amor Tarnowski, as a military stronghold and castle. On 15 April 1540, the King of Poland Sigismund I in Cracow handed Tarnowski a permission for the establishment of Tarnopol settlement, in the vicinity of Sopilcze (Sopilche). Its Polish name "Tarnopol" means "Tarnowski's city" and stems from a combination of the founder's surname and Greek term "polis". The Ukrainian name "Ternopil" is explained as derived from a field covered with thorns (Ukrainian: терен поле, translit. teren opil, lit. 'thorn field').
In 1544 the Tarnopol Castle was completed and repelled the first Tatar attacks. On 20 January 1548 Tarnopol was granted legal rights by the King of Poland Sigismund I the Old which allowed the town to hold three fairs annually, and the weekly trades on Mondays. Tarnopol received Magdeburg city rights two years later from Jan Tarnowski, regulating the duties of town residents. In 1548 the King of Poland also gave permission to create a pond near the Tarnopol suburb of Kutkovets. In 1549 the city managed to survive a Tatar siege by efforts of the Polish Duchess Eudokia Czartoryska (see House of Czartoryski). After the death of the Crown Hetman in 1561, Tarnopol became the property of his son Jan Krzysztof Tarnowski, who died childless in 1567. Since 1567 the city was owned by the daughter of Crown Hetman Zofia Tarnowska who was married to Konstanty Wasyl Ostrogski. In 1570 after her death while giving a birth, Tarnopol was passed to the Ostrogski family. In 1575 it was plundered by the Tatars. In 1623 the city passed to the Zamoyski family. In 1589 Tarnopol was visited by the Austrian diplomat Erich Lassota von Steblau (de) who also mentioned the city's castle.
The region was part of Habsburg Galicia and was an ethnic mix of mainly Roman Catholic Poles, Greek Catholic Ruthenians, and Jews. Intermarriage between Poles and Ruthenians was common. Church of St. Mary of the Perpetual Assistance was consecrated in 1908 with its main tower reaching 62 m (203 ft). In 1954 the church was blown up by Communist authorities and in its place was built the city's central supermarket. During World War I the city passed from German and Austrian forces to Russia several times. In 1917 the city and its castle were burnt down by fleeing Russian forces. After the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the city was proclaimed as part of the West Ukrainian People's Republic on 11 November 1918. After Polish forces captured Lwów during the Polish-Ukrainian War, Tarnopol became the country's temporary capital (22 November to 30 December 1918). After the act of union between the West Ukrainian Republic and the Ukrainian People's Republic (UPR), Ternopol formally passed under the UPR's control. On 15 July 1919 the city was captured by Polish forces. In 1920 the exiled Ukrainian government of Symon Petlura accepted Polish control of Tarnopol and of the entire area after receiving the assurance of Józef Piłsudski, the Lithuanian born Field Marshal of the Polish Army, that there would be no peace with the Russians without creating a Ukrainian state. In July and August 1920 the Red Army captured Tarnopol in the course of the Polish-Soviet War. The city then served as the capital of the Galician Soviet Socialist Republic. Although the Poles and their Ukrainian allies badly defeated the Russians on the battle field and the Russians had offered to cede Ukraine and Belarus, Polish politicians in Warsaw refused to honor Piłsudski's promise. By the terms of the Riga treaty, the Soviets and Poles effectively partitioned Ukraine. For the next 19 years, the ethnically mixed Ternopol area remained in Polish control.
From 1922 to September 1939, Tarnopol served as the capital of the Tarnopol Voivodeship that consisted of 17 powiats. According to the Polish census of 1931, individuals speaking Ukrainian/Ruthenian accounted for 46% of the Tarnopol Voivodeship, while Polish speaking population consisted of 49%. The city itself consisted of 77.7% Poles, 14.0% Jewish and 8.05% Ukrainian/Ruthenian population. After World War II, Communist Party historians reported that Edward Szturm de Sztrem, the pre-war chairman of the Polish census statistical office, admitted that the census returns, particularly those from the south-east, had been altered at the executive level. Another account stated that he admitted "that officials had been directed to undercount minorities, especially those in the eastern provinces".
Ternopil has a moderate continental climate with cold winters and warm summers.