It is now  8:45 am  Friday,  June  22, 2001  in Belarus

Founded in the year 974 A.D. by Princess Olga Knyaginya

For Any and All of your needs in Vitebsk, contact Irina Nikonorova
Dialog-Irina Agency Owner.

Situated on the picturesque banks of the Western Dvina River (where the Vitsba and Luches Rivers flow into it), Vitebsk is the regional center of industry, science and culture in North-Eastern Belarus. With a population of 375,000 Vitebsk attracts many international visitors each year to its historic sites and such noteworthy celebrations as the annual Slavic Bazar Music Festival.

On June 26th the people of Vitebsk throng to Victory Square (one of the largest in Europe) to celebrate the 1944 liberation by the Red Army from German occupation in World War II. Many fountains, rose gardens and "Alpine" hills decorate the Square, as does the great memorial complex erected here. The roads from Moscow to Riga and from Petersburg to Kiev cross the Square.

While Lenin Street is the main thoroughfare of Vitebsk, Zamkovaya Street is the cultural and shopping heart of the city. The oldest in Vitebsk, it was built in the 16th century, destroyed in World War II, and rebuilt anew. Here are located the main department stores, the acclaimed Vitebsk Hotel (Home of Internationally Renowned Marriage Agency) Dialog-Irina and the Academic Drama Theater named after Yakub Kolas.

No trip to Vitebsk would be complete without a visit to #11 Pokrovskaja Street, the Mark Chagall Memorial Museum. The world famous artist was born near Vitebsk on July 6, 1887, and his family lived in a small brick house until the 1920's. Though he spent most of his life and died in Paris, Chagall always was inspired by his native town of Vitebsk, which he often depicted in his works, as did another famous Russian painter, Iliya Repin, whose works are displayed at the Vitebsk Art Museum.

Moscow Avenue stretches for almost 4 km. in the southern part of Vitebsk, ending with the road to Moscow. Vitebsk State University and Vitebsk Technological University are situated here.

Although through the centuries Vitebsk has been ravaged by wars, many significant architectural sites have survived. These include: the Rathaus (or Coloncha, former City Hall, 1775); the Governor's Palace (before 1772); St. Barbara's Catholic Church (1785, rebuilt late 1800's); St. Michael Church (18th century); some buildings of the Basilian and Bernardin monasteries (18th century); and some nice quarters of old town.

Quite possibly no other city in Belarus history has endured the devastations of invading conquerors and the subsequent rebirth and rejuvenation as has Vitebsk. Because of its strategic location at the confluence of three major rivers, Vitebsk has always been an important area where busy trade routes passed. Its history is tied intimately with that of Russia, Ukraine, Poland and Lithuania.

According to legend Vitebsk was founded in 974 by Princess Olga of Kiev after a successful campaign against the Baltic tribe Jacviahi. But the first chronicled information about the town dates to 1021. It had sprung up on a busy road "from Varangians to Greeks" and stood witness to a great number of glorious events and heroic deeds. Since early times the town had been known as a "warrior". So it is not by chance that its ancient emblem featured a horseman holding a spear and shield.

Vitebsk was an important fortress and merchant center at the North-Eastern border of the Polatsak Principality and later of the Grand Duche of Lithuania (GDL), a famous medieval state which became the cradle of Belarusians and Lithuanians. Vitebsk was included into the GDL in 1320 and its citizens obtained some merchant and self-government privileges. In 1597 Vitebsk was granted the Magdeburg Code of Law.

On July 15, 1410 a troop of armed Vitebsk citizens took part in a glorious battle near Grunwald (in Eastern Prussia) where the united army of the Grand Duche of Lithuania, the Polish Kingdom and volunteers from the Czech Kingdom defeated the army of German knights (Tevton Order).

The dramatic page in the town's history is its people's revolt of 1623 when they overthrew and drowned in the Zapadnaya Dvina the odious Iosafat Kuntsevich who was trying to put the Unia yoke upon the people.

In the 16th and 17th centuries Vitebsk much suffered from aggressive wars of the Moscow Principality (later Kingdom) against the GDL. About every year numerous but poorly armed hordes of Muscovites ruined Eastern Belarus. Vitebsk was burned to a crisp by soldiers of Ivan the Terrible (16th century), of the czar Alexei Mikhailovich (17th century) and of Peter the First (1708).

After unification with Russia (1772) Vitebsk became an ordinary provincial town of a huge military empire. Culture, public education, science and health service developed at a rapid pace.

During the Napoleon campaign in Russia (1812) Vitebsk noblemen supported Frenchmen because the latter promised to restore self-government in the former Polish - Lithuanian kingdom, but Belarusian peasants were mobilizing by Russian army. In 1812 Vitebsk was burned again. After war ended among few other cities the Russian czar ordered to put in Vitebsk the monument in honor of 1812 battles. In 1840 after suppression of the 1830-1831 insurrection, the Russian government abolished the ancient Belarusian constitution (the famous 1588-year Statute of the GDL) and open Russian colonization of Belarus began.

World War II was a very serious trial for the Vitebsk people. Soviet Army soldiers and people's voluntary detachments did their best to save the town. Yes, it was captured by Hitler's invaders but never subdued. On June 26, 1944 the Red Army troops cleared the town of fascist occupants laid in ruins and only 118 people survived in the basements from a population of about 170,000 before the war. Only by the end of the 1960s had the population achieved the level of 1939.

Since then every year Vitebsk people celebrate this date. In its centuries long history Vitebsk had never been devastated like that. The town's new life began after the liberation. New factories, plants, dwelling houses, schools, hospitals, streets and avenues were built in place of the charred ruins.













JULY 4TH 1999





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