|Grodno / Hrodna|
|Гроднa / Гроднo|
|• Mayor||Barys Kaziałkoŭ|
|Time zone||EET (UTC+2)|
|• Summer (DST)||EEST (UTC+3)|
Grodno or Hrodna (Belarusian: Гро́дна, [ˈɣrodna]; Russian: Гродно, [ˈɡrodnə]; Polish: Grodno; Lithuanian: Gardinas; Yiddish: גראָדנע; Latin: Grodna, Grodnae), is a city in Belarus. It is located on the Neman River (Нёман), close to the borders of Poland and Lithuania (about 20 km and 30 km away respectively). It has 327,540 inhabitants (2009 census). It is the capital of Hrodna Voblasts (Grodno Oblast) and Hrodna Rayon (district).
Geography[edit | edit source]
History[edit | edit source]
Medieval origin[edit | edit source]
The modern city of Grodno originated as a small fortress and a fortified trading outpost maintained by the Rurikid princes on the border with the lands of the Baltic tribal union Yotvingians. Its name derives from the Old East Slavic verb gorodit', i.e., to enclose, to fence (see "grad" for details).
Mentioned in the Primary Chronicle under 1127 as Goroden' and located at a crossing of numerous trading routes, this Slavic settlement, possibly originating as far as the late 10th century, became the capital of a poorly attested but separate principality, ruled by Yaroslav the Wise's grandson and his descendants.
Along with Navahrudak, Grodno was regarded as the main city on the far west of so-called Black Ruthenia, a border region that was neighbouring the original Lithuania. It was often attacked by various invaders, especially the Teutonic Knights. In the 1240-1250s the Grodno area, as well as the most of Black Ruthenia, was controlled by princes of Lithuanian origin (Mindaugas and others) to form the Baltic-Slavic state - Grand Duchy of Lithuania on these territories. After the Prussian uprisings a large population of Old Prussians moved to the region. The famous Lithuanian Grand Duke Vytautas was the prince of Grodno from 1376 to 1392, and he stayed there during his preparations for the Battle of Grunwald (1410). Since 1413, Grodno had been the administrative center of a powiat in Trakai Voivodeship.
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth[edit | edit source]
To aid the reconstruction of trade and commerce, the grand dukes allowed the creation of a Jewish commune in 1389. It was one of the first Jewish communities in the grand duchy. In 1441 the city received its charter, based on the Magdeburg Law. After the First Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Grodno became the capital of the short-lived Grodno Voivodeship in 1793.
As an important centre of trade, commerce, and culture, Grodno remained one of the places where the Sejms were held. Also, the Old and New Castles were often visited by the Commonwealth monarchs including famous Stephen Báthory of Poland who made a royal residence here. In 1793 the last Sejm in the history of the Commonwealth occurred at Grodno. Two years afterwards, in 1795, Russia obtained the city in the Third Partition of Poland. It was in the New Castle on November 25 of that year that the last Polish king and Lithuanian grand duke Stanisław August Poniatowski abdicated. In the Russian Empire, the city continued to serve its role as a seat of Grodno Governorate since 1801. The industrial activities, started in the late 18th century by Antoni Tyzenhaus, continued to develop.
Up to the Second World War and the Holocaust, like many other cities in Europe, Hrodna had a significant Jewish population: according to Russian census of 1897, out of the total population of 46,900, Jews constituted 22,700 (so around 48% percent).
World War I[edit | edit source]
After the outbreak of World War I, Grodno was occupied by Germany (1915) and ceded by Bolshevist Russia under the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in 1918. After the war the German government permitted a short-lived state to be set up there, the first one with a Belarusian name - the Belarusian National Republic. This declared its independence from Russia in March 1918 in Minsk (known at that time as Mensk), but then the BNR's Rada (Council) had to leave Minsk and fled to Grodno. All this time the military authority in the city remained in German hands.
After the outbreak of the Polish-Bolshevik War, the German commanders of the Ober Ost feared that the city might fall to Soviet Russia, so on April 27, 1919 they passed authority to Poland. The city was taken over by the Polish Army the following day and Polish administration was established in the city. The city was lost to the Red Army on July 19, 1920 because of the Kiev Offensive. The city was also claimed by Lithuanian government, after it was agreed by the Soviet-Lithuanian Treaty of 1920 signed on July 12, 1920 in Moscow that the city would be transferred to Lithuania. However, Soviet defeat in the Battle of Warsaw made these plans obsolete, and Lithuanian authority was never established in the city. Instead, the Red Army organised its last stand in the city and the Battle of Neman took place there. On September 23 the Polish Army recaptured the city. After the Peace Treaty of Riga, Grodno remained in Poland.
Initially, prosperity was reduced due to the fact that the city remained only the capital of a powiat, while the capital of the voivodship was moved to Białystok. However, in the late 1920s the city became one of the biggest Polish Army garrisons. This brought the local economy back on track. Also, the city was a notable centre of Jewish culture, with roughly 37% of the city's population being Jewish.
World War II[edit | edit source]
During the Polish Defensive War of 1939 the garrison of Hrodna was mostly used for the creation of numerous military units fighting against the invading Wehrmacht. In the course of the Soviet invasion of Poland initiated on September 17, there was heavy fighting in the city between Soviet and improvised Polish forces, composed mostly of march battalions and volunteers. In the course of the Battle of Grodno (September 20–September 22), the Red Army lost some hundred men (by the Polish sources; by the Soviet sources - 57 killed and 159 wounded) and also 19 tanks and 4 APCs destroyed or damaged. The Polish side suffered at least 100 killed in action, military and civil, but losses still remain uncertain in detail (Soviet sources claim 644 killed and 1543 captives with many guns and machine guns etc. captured). Many more were shot in mass executions after being imprisoned. After the engaged Polish units were surrounded, the remaining units withdrew to Lithuania.
In accordance with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact the city was transferred to the Belarusian SSR of the Soviet Union, and several thousand of the city's Polish inhabitants were deported to remote areas of the Soviet Union. On June 23, 1941 the city came under German occupation that lasted until 16 July 1944. In the course of World War II, the majority of Hrodna's remaining Jews were exterminated in German concentration camps. Being the part of extended East Prussia Hrodna was renamed by Germans to Garten (meaning "garden") in 1942.
Since 1945 the city has been a centre of one of provinces of the Belarusian SSR, now of the independent Republic of Belarus.
Modern city[edit | edit source]
The city has one of the largest concentrations of Roman Catholics in Belarus. It is also a center of Polish culture, with the considerable number of Poles living in Belarus, residing in the city and its surroundings. All the while, the Eastern Orthodox population is also widely present here.
This city is known for its very important Medical University, where many students from different parts of Belarus acquire an academic degree, as do a good number of foreign students as well. Other higher educational establishments are Yanka Kupala State University (the largest education center in Hrodna province) and Agricultural university.
Architecture[edit | edit source]
The town was planned to be dominated by the Old Grodno Castle, first built in stone by Grand Duke Vytautas and thoroughly rebuilt in the Renaissance style by Scotto from Parma at the behest of Stefan Batory, who made the castle his principal residence. Batory died at this palace seven years later (December, 1586) and originally was interred in Hrodna. (His autopsy there was the first to take place in Eastern Europe.) After his death, the castle was altered on numerous occasions, although a 17th-century stone arch bridge linking it with the city still survives. The Saxon monarchs of Poland were dissatisfied with the old residence and commissioned Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann to design the New Grodno Castle, whose once sumptuous Baroque interiors were destroyed during World War II.
Medieval[edit | edit source]
The oldest extant structure in Hrodna is the Kolozha church of Sts. Boris and Gleb (Belarusian: Kalozhskaya). It is the only surviving monument of ancient Black Ruthenian architecture, distinguished from other Orthodox churches by prolific use of polychrome faceted stones of blue, green or red tint which could be arranged to form crosses or other figures on the wall. The church is a cross-domed building supported by six circular pillars. The outside is articulated with projecting pilasters, which have rounded corners, as does the building itself. The ante-nave contains the choir loft, accessed by a narrow gradatory in the western wall. Two other stairs were discovered in the walls of the side apses; their purpose is not clear. The floor is lined with ceramic tiles forming decorative patterns. The interior was lined with innumerable built-in jugs, which usually serve in Eastern Orthodox churches as resonators but in this case were scored to produce decorative effects. For this reason, the central nave has never been painted.
The church was built before 1183 and survived intact until 1853, when the south wall collapsed, due to its perilous location on the high bank of the Neman. During restoration works, some fragments of 12th-century frescoes were discovered in the apses. Remains of four other churches in the same style, decorated with pitchers and coloured stones instead of frescoes, were discovered in Hrodna and Vaŭkavysk. They all date back to the turn of the 13th century, as do remains of the first stone palace in the Old Castle.
Baroque[edit | edit source]
Probably the most spectacular landmark of Hrodna is the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier, the former (until 1773) Jesuit church on Batory Square (now: Soviet Square). This confident specimen of high Baroque architecture, exceeding 50 metres in height, was started in 1678. Due to wars that rocked Poland-Lithuania at that time, the cathedral was consecrated only 27 years later, in the presence of Peter the Great and Augustus the Strong. Its late Baroque frescoes were executed in 1752.
The extensive grounds of the Bernardine monastery (1602–18), renovated in 1680 and 1738, display all the styles flourishing in the 17th century, from Gothic to Baroque. The interior is considered a masterpiece of so-called Vilnius Baroque. Other monastic establishments include the old Franciscan cloister (1635), Basilian convent (1720–51, by Giuseppe Fontana III), the church of the Bridgettine cloister (1642, one of the earliest Baroque buildings in the region) with the wooden two-storey dormitory (1630s) still standing on the grounds, and the 18th-century buildings of the Dominican monastery (its cathedral was demolished in 1874).
Among other sights in Hrodna and its environs, we should mention the Orthodox cathedral, a polychrome Russian Revival extravaganza from 1904; the botanical garden, the first in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, founded in 1774; a curiously curved building on the central square (1780s); a 254-metre-high TV tower (1984); and Stanisławów, a summer residence of the last Polish king.
Famous people from Hrodna[edit | edit source]
- Moisey Ostrogorsky or Moisei Ostrogorski, political scientist, historian, jurist and sociologist, he is considered one of the founders of political sociology, especially in the field of theories about Party Systems and Political Parties (alongside with Max Weber and his disciple Robert Michels)
- Olga Korbut who won gold medals in gymnastics at the 1972 and 1976 Olympics
- Valery Levaneuski entrepreneur, politician, former political prisoner
- Eitan Livni, Israeli politician, Irgun activist and father of Tzipi Livni
- Meyer Lansky, central figure in the Jewish Mafia and highly influential figure in the Italian Mafia
- Solomon Perel, a German Jew who survived World War II by masquerading as an ethnic German. He spent two years at a Komsomol-run orphanage in Hrodna, prior to Operation Barbarossa
- Yehuda Rabin, world renowned Domra player and founder of Diecraft Australia
- Alexander Milinkevich, politician, candidate in the 2006 presidential elections
- Paul Baran, Internet pioneer and technology entrepreneur
- Zelik Epstein, prominent Orthodox Rabbi and head of Yeshiva
- David Rubinoff, popular violinist on various radio programs during the 1930s and 1940s
See also[edit | edit source]
- Battle of Grodno (1939)
- Disputed territories of Baltic States
- List of early East Slavic states
- Great Synagogue (Hrodna)
- Gordon (name)
References[edit | edit source]
[edit | edit source]
- (Polish) Grodno in the Geographical Dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland (1881)
- forum.grodno.net - Grodno Forum
- Photo Grodno - Grodno photo blog
- Old Photos of Grodno - Old Photos of Grodno
- Wedding Grodno - Wedding in Grodno
- Coat of Arms
- Photos on Radzima.org
- Hrodna online - regional info portal
- History of the Jewish community in Hrodna
- Lost Jewish Worlds - Grodno at Yad Vashem
- Sights of Grodno
- JewishGrodno.com - The Jewish Community of Grodno of Today
- Grodno in the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS site
- Harodnia.com - News about Modern destructions of Old architecture, photos
- Hrodna.belarda.org - Hrodna regional information
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