Nizhyn is a town with the population about 80.000 people on the Oster River and a district center in Chernihiv region. It was first mentioned as Unenizh under the year 1147 in the Chronicle. The town was destroyed by the Tatars in 1239, and it recovered slowly. In the mid-14th century it was under Lithuanian rule, and in 1514 it was renamed Nizhyn. In 1618 it was taken by Poland. In the Hetman state it was a regiment centre (1648-1782) and then a county center of Chernihiv gubernia (1802-1917).
Situated at the junction of several major trade routes, Nizhyn developed into an important manufacturing and trade centre in the 17th and 18th centuries. A large Greek merchant colony sprang up in the second half of the 17th century and received special privileges from Hetman B.Khmelnytsky. When Russia gained a foothold on the Black Sea, the trade routes shifted to the Black Sea and Azov Sea ports, and the Greek merchants moved there. The town's commercial importance declined, but its cultural influence grew. In 1820 a gymnasium was opened, which in 1832 was reorganized into the Nizhyn Lyceum (now Nizhyn University).
In the mid-19th century the town became a railway junction. Today Nizhyn's plants build machinery, household chemicals, clothes, and building materials. The city is known for its vegetable trade. Nizhyn has three museums - the Gogol Memorial Museum, the Rare Books Museum, the Natural History museum and the Art Gallery. There are over 20 architectural monuments in the town, including the cathedrals of St. Nicholas (1668), the Annunciation (1702), and the Presentation at the Temple (1778), the churches of St. John Chrysostom (1752), the Holy Trinity (1733), and the Transfiguration (1757), the Greek churches of All Saints (1780s) and St. Michael (1731), the lyceum building (1807-20) and the 18th-century residential buildings.
Nizhyn Lyceum is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in Ukraine. Founded as the Bezborodko Gymnasium of Higher Education in 1820 with an endowment of 210,000 rubles from Count I.Bezborodko, it emphasized the humanities and was initially a gymnasium for the sons of the gentry. Its nine-year program offered a classical education with instruction in religion, classical and modern languages, geography, history, physics and mathematics, political economy, military science, and the arts. The first director was V.Kukolnyk. By 1832 from the gymnasium had graduated over 100 students, including the writers N.Gogol and Ye.Hrebinka and the ethnographer V.Tarnovsky.
In 1832 the gymnasium was transformed into a technical lyceum for training military officers, and in 1840 it became a law school preparing officials for the juridical bureaucracy. In this period 1,000 students graduated from the lyceum, including O.Lazarevsky and L.Hlibov. In 1875 it was reorganized as the Prince Oleksander Bezborodko Historical-Philological Institute, named after the brother of its founder. The institute taught classical languages, Russian language, and history, and prepared teachers for the secondary school system.
After the revolution the institute was transformed into the Nizhyn Institute of People's education (1922) and then the Nizhyn Pedagogical Institute in 1934.
In 1939 it was named after N.Gogol, who studied at the lyceum during the 1820s. It consists of five faculties: philology, natural sciences, physics-mathematics, instrumental and vocal music, and foreign languages. It has a rich library of over 500,000 volumes and the Gogol Museum. Among its alumni are writers Ye.Hutsalo, Yu.Zbanatsky and scholars P.Bohach.