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© Douglas Hykle
2006-2012
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Where is Tovste?

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.

  Map of Tovste and surrounding region.  Adapted from Shell  EuroKarte Ukraine Nord/Mitte (1997) - 1:750,000


1999 MDA Earthsat 15m satellite photo of Tovste and surrounding region - GoogleEarth  

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 Names (http://earth-info.nga.mil/gns/html/index.html). 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 1991.

(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 nomenclature.)

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.

  Map of Tluste Miasto and Tluste Wies, 1913

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 Tovste (48°51’).

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):

http://www.fallingrain.com/world/

http://www.traveljournals.net/explore/