The oblast was created as part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic on December 4, 1939 following the Soviet invasion of Poland. The territory of the former Drohobych Oblast was incorporated into the Lviv Oblast in 1959.
The oblast's strategic position at the heart of central Europe and as the gateway to the Carpathians has caused it to change hands many times over the centuries. It was ruled variously by Great Moravia, Kievan Rus', Poland, was independent as the state of Galicia-Volhynia (circa 1200 to 1340), and then ruled by the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (1340 to 1772), the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1772 to 1918), West Ukrainian People's Republic and Poland (1919 to 1939), when it was part of the Lwów Voivodeship of the Second Republic of Poland. The region's historically dominant Ukrainian population declared the area to be a part of an independent West Ukrainian National Republic in November 1918 — June 1919, but this endured only briefly. Local autonomy was provided in international treaties but later on those were not honoured by the Polish government and the area experienced much ethnic tension between the Polish and Ukrainian population.
The region and its capital city take their name from the time of Galicia-Volhynia, when Daniel of Galicia, the King of Rus', founded Lviv; naming the city after his son, Leo. During this time, the general region around Lviv was known as Red Ruthenia (Cherven' Rus').
The region only became part of the Soviet Union under the terms of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in 1939, when it was annexed to the Ukrainian SSR. It was occupied by Nazi Germany from 1941 to 1944, when almost all local Jews were killed, and remained in Soviet hands after World War II as was arranged during the Teheran and Yalta conferences. Local Poles were expelled and Ukrainians expelled from Poland arrived. Given its historical development, Lviv Oblast is one of the least Russified and Sovietized parts of Ukraine, with much of its Polish and Habsburg heritage still visible today.
The region is also notable for having declared independence from the central government during the 2014 Euromaidan protests.