Polotsk is a historical city in Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

, situated on the Dvina river. It is the center of Polotsk district in Vitsebsk Voblast
Vitsebsk Voblast
Vitsebsk Voblast or Vitebsk Oblast is a province of Belarus with its administrative center being Vitebsk .As of a 2009 estimate, the voblast has a population of 1,230,800...

. Its population is more than 80,000 people. It is served by Polotsk Airport
Polotsk Airport
Polotsk Airport is an airport in Belarus, located 9 km south of Polotsk. It is purely civilian use....

 and during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 was home to Borovitsy
Borovitsy is an air base in Belarus, located 16 km northwest of Polatsk. It is a Cold War air base with sprawling taxiway area and pads for about 40 aircraft...

 air base.


The Old East Slavic
Old East Slavic language
Old East Slavic or Old Ruthenian was a language used in 10th-15th centuries by East Slavs in the Kievan Rus' and states which evolved after the collapse of the Kievan Rus...

 name, Polotesk, is derived from the Polota river (the real meaning of the name is Puolauta and this in Lithuanian language means 'falling into', i.e. the river which flows into bigger river), that flows into the Dvina nearby. The Viking
The term Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.These Norsemen used their famed longships to...

s rendered that name as Palteskja.

Polotsk is one of the most ancient cities of the Eastern Slavs. Primary Chronicle
Primary Chronicle
The Primary Chronicle , Ruthenian Primary Chronicle or Russian Primary Chronicle, is a history of Kievan Rus' from about 850 to 1110, originally compiled in Kiev about 1113.- Three editions :...

 these chronicles were created during jekaterina 2 ruling time, so after the occupation of Lithuania listed Polotsk in 862 (as Полотескъ, /poloteskŭ/), together with Murom
Murom is a historic city in Vladimir Oblast, Russia, which sprawls along the left bank of Oka River. Population: -History:In the 9th century CE, the city marked the easternmost settlement of the Eastern Slavs in the land of the Finno-Ugric people called Muromians. The Russian Primary Chronicle...

 and Beloozero. However Polotsk was not yet in existence in the 9th century, and provided recorded was an invention of the compiler, but archaeological expedition of the Institute of History of National Academy of Sciences of Belarus
National Academy of Sciences of Belarus
The National Academy of Sciences of Belarus is the national academy of Belarus.-History:...

 suggests that Polotsk already existed in the first half of the 9th century. The Norse saga
Norse saga
The sagas are stories about ancient Scandinavian and Germanic history, about early Viking voyages, the battles that took place during the voyages, about migration to Iceland and of feuds between Icelandic families...

s describe the city as the most heavily fortified in all of Rus
Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus was a medieval polity in Eastern Europe, from the late 9th to the mid 13th century, when it disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of 1237–1240....


Between the 10th and 12th centuries, the Principality of Polotsk emerged as the dominant center of power in what is now Belarusian territory, with a lesser role played by the principality of Turaŭ
Turaŭ or Turaw is a town in the Zhytkavichy Raion of Homiel Province of Belarus and the former capital of the medieval Principality of Turov and Pinsk.-History:...

 to the south. It repeatedly asserted its sovereignty in relation to other centers of Kievan Rus, becoming a political capital, the episcopal see
Episcopal See
An episcopal see is, in the original sense, the official seat of a bishop. This seat, which is also referred to as the bishop's cathedra, is placed in the bishop's principal church, which is therefore called the bishop's cathedral...

 and the controller of vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

 territories among Balts in the west. Its most powerful ruler was prince Vseslav Bryachislavich, who reigned from 1044 to 1101. A 12th-century inscription commissioned by Vseslav's son Boris may still be seen on a huge boulder
Boris stones
Boris Stones , also called Dvina Stones , are seven medieval artifacts erected along the bank of the Western Dvina between Polotsk and Drissa, Belarus. They probably predate Christianity in the area, but were inscribed in the 12th century with text and an image of Christ...

 installed near the St. Sophia Cathedral. For a full list of Polotsk rulers, please see List of Belarusian rulers.
In 1240 Polotsk became a vassal of Lithuanian princes. Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytenis
Vytenis was the Grand Duke of Lithuania from c. 1295 to c. 1316. He became the first of the Gediminid dynasty to rule for a considerable amount of time. In the early 14th century his reputation outshone that of Gediminas, who is regarded by modern historians as one of the greatest Lithuanian rulers...

 annexed the city by military force back in 1307, completing the process which Lithuanian princes began in the 1250s. Polotsk received a charter of autonomy guaranteeing that the Grand Dukes ′will not introduce new, nor destroy the old′. It was the earliest to be so incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 12th /13th century until 1569 and then as a constituent part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1791 when Constitution of May 3, 1791 abolished it in favor of unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic...

. By doing so, Lithuanians manage to firmly grasp the Dvina trade route into their hands, securing important element for the surrounding economies. The Magdeburg law was adopted in 1498. Polotsk was a capital of Połock Voivodship of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was a dualistic state of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch. It was the largest and one of the most populous countries of 16th- and 17th‑century Europe with some and a multi-ethnic population of 11 million at its peak in the early 17th century...

 until 1772. Captured by the Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

n army of Ivan the Terrible in 1563, it was returned to Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 12th /13th century until 1569 and then as a constituent part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1791 when Constitution of May 3, 1791 abolished it in favor of unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic...

 just 15 years later.

That period of warfare started the gradual decline of the city. After the first partition of Poland
Partitions of Poland
The Partitions of Poland or Partitions of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in the second half of the 18th century and ended the existence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, resulting in the elimination of sovereign Poland for 123 years...

, Polotsk degraded to have the status of a small provincial town of the Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

. During the French invasion of Russia
French invasion of Russia
The French invasion of Russia of 1812 was a turning point in the Napoleonic Wars. It reduced the French and allied invasion forces to a tiny fraction of their initial strength and triggered a major shift in European politics as it dramatically weakened French hegemony in Europe...

 in 1812, it was the site of two battles: see First battle of Polotsk
First battle of Polotsk
In the First battle of Polotsk, which took place on 17–18 August 1812, Russian troops under the command of Peter Wittgenstein fought French and Bavarian troops led by Nicolas Oudinot and stopped their advance to Saint Petersburg...

 and Second battle of Polotsk
Second Battle of Polotsk
The Second Battle of Polotsk took place during Napoleon's invasion of Russia. In this encounter the Russians under General Peter Wittgenstein attacked and defeated a Franco-Bavarian force under Laurent Gouvion Saint-Cyr. In the aftermath of this success, the Russians took Polotsk and dismantled...

 for details.

Cultural heritage

The city's Cathedral of Saint Sophia in Polotsk (1044–1066) was a symbol of the independent-mindedness of Polotsk, rivaling churches of the same name in Novgorod and Kiev
Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and the largest city of Ukraine, located in the north central part of the country on the Dnieper River. The population as of the 2001 census was 2,611,300. However, higher numbers have been cited in the press....

 and referring to the original Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey...

in Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 (and thus to claims of imperial prestige, authority and sovereignty). The building of the cathedral had been ruined by the troops of Peter I of Russia
Peter I of Russia
Peter the Great, Peter I or Pyotr Alexeyevich Romanov Dates indicated by the letters "O.S." are Old Style. All other dates in this article are New Style. ruled the Tsardom of Russia and later the Russian Empire from until his death, jointly ruling before 1696 with his half-brother, Ivan V...

. Hence the present baroque building by Johann Christoph Glaubitz
Johann Christoph Glaubitz
Johann Christoph Glaubitz was an architect of German descent who is generally considered to be the most prominent Baroque architect in the lands of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania....

 dates from the mid-18th century. Some genuine 12th-century architecture survives in the Convent of Saint Euphrosyne, which also features a neo-Byzantine cathedral
Neo-Byzantine architecture
The Byzantine Revival was an architectural revival movement, most frequently seen in religious, institutional and public buildings. It emerged in 1840s in Western Europe and peaked in the last quarter of 19th century in the Russian Empire; an isolated Neo-Byzantine school was active in Yugoslavia...

, designed and built in 1893—1899 by Vladimir Korshikov.

Cultural achievements of the medieval period include the work of the nun Euphrosyne of Polotsk
Euphrosyne of Polatsk
Euphrosyne of Polotsk was the granddaughter of a prince of Polotsk, Vseslav....

 (1120–1173), who built monasteries, transcribed books, promoted literacy and sponsored art (including local artisan Lazarus Bohsha's famous "Cross of Euphrosyne," a national symbol and treasure lost during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

), and the prolific, original Church Slavonic sermons and writings of Bishop Cyril of Turaw
Cyril of Turaw
Cyril of Turaŭ was a bishop and saint. He was one of the first and finest theologians of Kievan Rus'; he lived in Turaw, now Southern Belarus...


Belarusian first printer Francysk Skaryna was born in Polotsk around 1490. He is famous for the first printing of the Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 in an East Slavic language (in Old Belarusian) in 1517, several decades after the first-ever printed book by Johann Gutenberg and just several years after the first Czech Bible (1506).

In September 2003, as "Days of Belarusian Literacy" were celebrated for the 10th time in Polotsk, city authorities opened a monument to honor the unique Cyrillic Belarusian letter Ў, which is not used in any other Slavic language. The original idea for the monument came from the Belarusian calligraphy
Calligraphy is a type of visual art. It is often called the art of fancy lettering . A contemporary definition of calligraphic practice is "the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner"...

 professor Paval Siemchanka, who has been studying Cyrillic scripts for many years.

Notable people

  • Rogvolod
  • Rogneda of Polotsk
    Rogneda of Polotsk
    Rogneda of Polotsk is the Slavic name for Ragnhild, whose father Ragnvald came from overseas and established himself at Polatsk in the mid-10th century....

  • Vseslav of Polotsk
    Vseslav of Polotsk
    Vseslav of Polotsk , also known as Vseslav the Sorcerer or Vseslav the Seer, was the most famous ruler of Polotsk and was briefly Grand Prince of Kiev in 1068–1069. Together with Rostislav Vladimirovich and voivode Vyshata made up a coalition against the Yaroslaviches triumvirate...

  • Sofia of Minsk, Queen of Denmark
    Sofia of Minsk
    Sophia of Minsk was a Danish mediaeval queen consort as the spouse of King Valdemar I of Denmark, and later a landgravine of Thuringia.-Biography:...

  • Andrei of Polotsk
    Andrei of Polotsk
    Andrei of Polotsk was the eldest son Algirdas, Grand Duke of Lithuania, and his first wife Maria of Vitebsk. He was Duke of Pskov and Polotsk . As the eldest son of the Grand Duke, Andrei claimed his right to the throne after his father's death in 1377...

  • Symeon of Polotsk
    Symeon of Polotsk
    Symeon of Polotsk or Symeon Polotsky , December 12, 1629, Polotsk - August 25, 1680, Moscow) was an academically-trained Baroque Belarusian-Russian poet, dramatist, churchman, and enlightener who laid the groundwork for the development of modern Russian literature.- Life :A...

  • Francysk Skaryna
  • Mary Antin
    Mary Antin
    Mary Antin was an American author and immigration rights activist.Born to a Jewish family in Polotsk, she immigrated to the Boston area with her mother and siblings in 1894. She married Amadeus William Grabau in 1901, and moved to New York City where she attended Teachers College of Columbia...

External links

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