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Vitebsk
Pobeda ave, 45-39 - Tel.: +375 33 6495011
info@vitebskcity.by


Vitebsk or Vitsebsk is the capital of the Vitebsk Region, in 2004 it had 342,381 inhabitants, making it the country's fourth largest city.

It is served by Vitebsk Vostochny Airport and Vitebsk air base.

Vitebsk developed from a river harbor where the Vitba River, from which it derives its name, flows into the larger Western Dvina, which is spanned in the city by the Kirov Bridge.

Archaeological research indicates that at the mouth of Vitba there were settlements by Baltic tribes, which were replaced in the 9th century by Slavic tribes Krivichs. According to the Chronicle of Michael Brigandine (1760), Vitebsk (also known mentioned as Dbesk, Vidbesk, Videbsk, Vitepesk, Vitbesk) was founded by Princess Olga of Kiev in 974. Other versions give 947 or 914.

Academician Boris Rybakov and historian Leonid Alekseyev, based on the chronicles, have come to the conclusion that Princess Olga of Kiev could have established Vitebsk in 947. Leonid Alekseyev suggested that the chroniclers, moving the date from the account of the Byzantine era (since the creation of the world) to a new era, got the year 947, but later mistakenly written in copying manuscripts 974. An important place on trade route from the Varangians to the Greeks, by the end of the 12th century Vitebsk became a center of trade and commerce, became the center of an independent principality, following Polotsk, and at times, Smolensk and Kiev princes.

The official year of founding Vitebsk is 974, based on an anachronistic legend that it was founded by Olga of Kiev, but the first mention in historical record is from 1021, when Yaroslav the Wise of Kiev gave it to Bryachislav Izyaslavich, Prince of Polotsk

In the 12th and 13th centuries Vitebsk was the capital of the Principality of Vitebsk, an appanage principality which thrived at the crossroads of the river routes among the Baltic and Black seas. In 1320 the city was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as a dowry of the Princess Maria, the first wife of Grand Duke of Lithuania Algirdas. By 1351 the city had erected a stone Upper and Lower Castle, the prince's palace. In 1410 Vitebsk participated in the Battle of Grunwald. In 1597, the townsfolk of Vitebsk were privileged with Magdeburg rights. However, the rights were taken away in 1623 after the citizens revolted against the imposed Union of Brest and killed Archbishop Josaphat Kuntsevych. During the First Partition of Poland in 1772, Vitebsk was annexed by the Russian Empire.

Under the Russian Empire the historic centre of Vitebsk was rebuilt with Neoclassical architecture.

By World War II, Vitebsk had a significant Jewish population: according to Russian census of 1897, out of the total population of 65,900, Jews constituted 34,400 (around 52% percent). The most famous of its Jewish natives was the painter Marc Chagall.

During World War II, the city was under Nazi Germany occupation (10 July 1941 - 26 June 1944). Much of the old city was destroyed in the ensuing battles between the Germans and the Red Army soldiers. Most of the local Jews perished in the Vitebsk Ghetto massacre.


Leon Edgar Books