Tovste is located in western Ukraine,
on the main north-south highway between the cities of
Ternopil and Chernivtsi – in a rural area bounded
by the Dniester river to the west and its tributary,
the Seret, to the east. It is situated about 25km north
of Zalishchyky and about 20 km south of Chortkiv, the
two closest towns of relatively large size.
To be even more precise, Tovste’s geographic
coordinates are 48°51’ N 25°44’
E. See also the current map on Mapquest.
This seemingly innocuous question is, however, more
complex than would first appear. To answer it adequately,
one must first delve into the history of the name of
the town, which goes by at least three appellations,
and appreciate the fact that there are several other
towns (both related and unrelated) in Ukraine that bear
the same name.
Adding to the complexity, at various times in the town’s
history, the area in which Tovste is located successively
formed part of the territory of, or was occupied by:
Poland (1387-1772), Austria (1772-1918), Poland again
(1920-1939), USSR (1939-1941), Nazi Germany (1941-1944)
and USSR again (1944-1991). Finally, following the collapse
of the Soviet Union in 1991, Tovste was once again part
of an independent Ukraine.
Tovste – which means “heavy”, “stout”
or “fat” in Ukrainian – was mentioned for
the first time in old chronicles in 1414, a discovery credited
to Peter Siredzhuk in 1994. It is surmised that Tovste was
named after a Halyts boyar, Vyacheslav Tovstyy, who was a
military man and diplomat serving under Prince Roman Mstislavych
in the late 12th / early 13th centuries.
However for most of its history, which was closely linked
to Polish administration, the town bore the Polish name of
, pronounced “twosteh”,
much like the English word for bread that has been browned
in an electric grill. Note the special accent on the second
letter – shown here for illustration purposes –
which, technically speaking, should always be used when the
town is spelled in Polish. (The accented character is generally
not shown on this website, since not all browsers will
automatically display it correctly.)
Tluste was explicitly mentioned for the first time in 1449,
and it was known by this name for several centuries. It was
not until after World War II, in 1944, while under Soviet
rule, that the name of the town reverted to Tovste –
or more accurately – Tolstoye, which is the Russian
equivalent for “fat”. Some modern atlases (eg.
National Geographic Atlas of the World, 5th ed., 1981) continued
to use this appellation at least through the 1980s, presumably
taking the lead from the United States Board on Geographic
The BGN has since recognised Tolstoye as being merely a variant
of the town's official Ukrainian name of Tovste, which took
precedence once again when Ukraine achieved independence in
(Curiously, the modern railway station in Tovste still bears
the name Tluste, written in Cyrillic letters. Apparently no
one ever bothered to change the name on the building; and
even today some train schedules continue to use this outdated
In summary, then, one finds in the literature at least three
different variants for the name of the same town: Tluste,
Tovste and Tolstoye. In this website, when the context clearly
warrants it – for example, when referring to a period
in history that entirely pre-dates 1944 – the term Tluste
is used when referring to the town.
Tluste Miasto vs. Tluste Wies
Things become a little more complicated
when one observes, on old Austro-Hungarian maps dating
from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, that there
are actually two places with the name Tluste in the
vicinity of 48°51’ N 25°44’ E. Namely,
Tluste Miasto and Tluste Wies.
These are used to distinguish the town of Tluste proper,
from the adjoining village (i.e. a smaller collection
of houses) that lies a little further south-southeast.
Historically, this distinction is also maintained in
the parish registry, where separate volumes were kept
for Tluste Miasto and Tluste Wies.
The other Tovste(s)
Finally, it is important to note that there are no fewer
than five other towns in Ukraine bearing the name Tovste or
slight variants thereof. The closest of these, in proximity,
is the Tovste (49°16’ N 26°05’E) situated
about 45 km southeast of Ternopil, not far from Skalat. For
part of its history, that town also went by the name “Touste”.
This one is worth singling out because it is easily confused
with our Tovste, which is only about 53 km straight-line distance
away, and is in the same oblast (administrative district).
Indeed, the State Archives of Ternopil Oblast possess a fine
map of Touste (49°16’) dating back to 1828, which
has been misfiled in the same folder that contains maps from
All of the other unrelated Tovste’s, bearing the variants
of the name Tolstoy/Tovste, lie much further to the north
and/or east, as follows:
Tolstaya/Tolstoye/Tovsta: 49°09’N 31°14’E
(south-southeast of Kyiv, in Kyiv oblast)
Tolstoye/Tolstaya/Tovste: 49°36’N 33°02’E
(west of Kharkiv, in Kharkiv oblast)
Tolstaya/Tolstoye/Tovsta: 50°54’N 34°09’E,
and nearby Tovste 50°42’N 34°01’E (northwest
of Kharkiv, in Sumi oblast)
Tolstoy/Tolstyy: 48°02’N 36°41’E (west
of Donetsk, in Donetsk oblast)
The relatively large spatial separation makes these five
towns less likely to be confused with the Tovste of Ternopil
oblast, however one still needs to take care in examining
vital records and other archival material, which may refer
to these unrelated places.
Read also some further observations on the name of Tovste and other similarly-named
Ukrainian towns, shared by an interested reader, Tony Kahane.
Useful modern, online map sources for Tovste, as well as other
cities and towns of the world (last consulted 23 January 2007):