Berdychiv is a provincial town of a hundred thousand inhabitants. At the same time, it is a cultural phenomenon worth studying, since in the nineteenth-century Ukraine it was looked upon as an embodiment of the very idea of provincialism. It is a town of several ethnic groups, each of which has contributed to the town's cultural makeup. A book published in Paris in 1884 about Russia and Ukraine (La Russie et les Russes. Kiev et Moscou, by Victor Tissot) gave more space to Berdychiv than to Kyiv or Moscow.
The town of Berdychiv is believed to have been founded in the 11th or possibly even in the 10th century. The first settlers were, in all probability, the Berendey is, people of the steppe who defended the lands, ruled by Kyiv, against incursions of other nomads. The name Berdychiv is thought to have been given to the town by these Berendeyis. Its good luck, some say that the town did not get named after the nearby river Hnylopyat (hnyl means putrid). The devastating Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century reduced the town to rubble. It was resurrected back to life only to come into possession of the Polish and Lithuanians. For a considerable stretch of time, beginning from 1320, the Tyszkevyches, a Polish noble family, had the town as their estate.In 1850, Honore de Balzac married Ewelina Haska in Berdychiv at St. Barbara Church.