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Vitebsk is located in Belarus
Coordinates: 55°11′N 30°10′E / 55.183, 30.167
Founded 947
 • Mayor
 • Total 124.54 km2 (48.09 sq mi)
Elevation 172 m (564 ft)
Population (2009)
 • Total 347,928
 • Density 2,800/km2 (7,200/sq mi)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Postal code 210000
Area code(s) +375-212
License plate 2
Website Official website

Coordinates: 55°11′N 30°10′E / 55.183, 30.167

Vitebsk, also known as Viciebsk, Vitsebsk or Vitsyebsk (Belarusian: Ві́цебск, Łacinka: Viciebsk, pronounced [ˈvʲitsʲepsk]; Russian: Ви́тебск, pronounced [ˈvʲitʲɪpsk]; Polish: Witebsk, Yiddish: Vitebsk ,וויטעבסק, Lithuanian: Vitebskas), is a city in Belarus. The capital of the Vitsebsk Voblasts, 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.


View of Vitebsk in the early 19th century.

Downtown of Vitsebsk

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

Its official founding year is 947 , based on an anachronistic legend that it was founded by Olga of Kiev, but the first mention in historical record is in 1021, when Yaroslav the Wise of Kiev gave it to Bryachislav Izyaslavich, Prince of Polotsk.[2]

In the 12th and 13th centuries Vitebsk was the capital of 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 Algirdas. In 1597, the townsfolk of Vitebsk were privileged with the 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 Lithuanian-Polish Commonwealth in 1772, Vitsebsk was annexed by Russian Empire.

Under Imperial Russia the historic centre of Vitebsk was rebuilt with the Neoclassical architecture.

By the Second World War, Vitebsk had a significant Jewish population: according to Russian census of 1897, out of the total population of 65,900, Jews constituted 34,400 (so around 52% percent).[3] The most famous of its Jewish natives was the painter Marc Chagall.

In 1919, Vitebsk was proclaimed as a part of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia, but soon transferred to the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic and later to the short-lived Litbel. In 1924, it was returned to Belarus.

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

In January 1991, Vitebsk celebrated the first Marc Chagall Festival. In June 1992, a monument to Chagall was erected on his native Pokrovskaja street and a memorial inscription placed on the wall of his house.

Since 1992, Vitebsk has been hosting the annual Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk, an international art festival. The main participants are artists from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, with guests from many other countries, both Slavic and non-Slavic.


St. Barbara church in Viciebsk

Early 12th-century Annunciation Church was rebuilt and covered with white plaster in 1992.

Vitebsk Town Hall (1775).

Trinitarian Catholic Church in Viciebsk

The city long preserved one of the oldest buildings in the country: the Annunciation Church. This magnificent six-pillared building dates back to the period of Kievan Rus. It was constructed in the 1140s, rebuilt in the 14th and 17th centuries, repaired in 1883 and destroyed by the Communist administration in 1961. Scarce remains of the church were conserved until 1992, when it was restored to its presumed original appearance, although it's a moot point how the church looked like when it was first built.[4]

Churches from the Polish-Lithuanian period were likewise destroyed, although the Resurrection Church (1772–77) has been rebuilt. The Orthodox cathedral, dedicated to the Intercession of the Theotokos, was erected in 1760. There are also the town hall (1775); the Russian governor's palace, where Napoleon celebrated his 43rd birthday in 1812; the Neo-Romanesque Roman Catholic cathedral (1884–85); and an obelisk commemorating the centenary of the Russian victory over Napoleon.

Vitebsk is also home to a lattice steel TV tower carrying a horizontal cross on which the antenna mast is guyed. This tower, which is nearly identical to that at Grodno, but a few metres shorter ( 245 metres in Vitebsk versus 254 metres at Grodno) was completed in 1983. The city is also home to the Marc Chagall Museum and the Vitebsk regional museum.

Climate data for Vitebsk, Belarus
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) −2.9
Average low °C (°F) −7.7
Precipitation mm (inches) 38
Avg. precipitation days 20 16 14 12 10 12 13 11 14 14 20 23 179
humidity 85 83 78 72 67 71 75 77 81 84 87 88 79
Source: [5]


The main universities of Vitebsk are Vitebsk State Technological University, Vitebsk State Medical University and Vitebsk State University named in honor of Pyotr Masherov.

Notable people[]

art festival in Vitebsk

  • Zhores Ivanovich Alferov, physicist, 2000 Nobel Prize Winner for Physics
  • S. Ansky, playwright, The Dybbuk.
  • Marc Chagall, artist
  • El Lissitzky, artist
  • Yehuda Pen, artist
  • Joseph Günzburg
  • Leon Kobrin, playwright
  • Marcelo Koc (1918–2006), composer
  • Immanuel Velikovsky, psychiatrist/psychoanalyst and author
  • Kazimierz Siemienowicz, engineer, pioneer of rocketry
  • Simeon Strunsky (born 1879), author in New York City
  • Joseph Solman (born 1909), American painter
  • Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk (born 1730), Hasidic Rebbe
  • Isser Harel (1912-2003), Israel intelligence chief
  • Tanya Dziahileva (born 1991), model
  • Leonid Afremov, artist
  • Lazar Lagin, writer
  • Sergei Kornilenko, footballer
  • Max Danish (1881-1964), labor journalist, editor "Justice" (ILGWU)
  • Valery Gaydenko, artist, guitarist


  • "Shishanov V. A. Vitebsk Museum of Modern Art: history of creation and collection. 1918-1941. - Minsk: Medisont, 2007. - 144 p. In Russian.
  • Любезный мне город Витебск…. Мемуары и документы. Конец XVIII — начало XIX в. / Вступ. ст., науч., коммент., сост., публ. В. А. Шишанова. Мн.: Асобны Дах, 2005. 40 с.
  • Шишанов В. 974, 947 или 914? // Витебский проспект. 2005. №45. 10 нояб. С.3.
  • Изобразительное искусство Витебска 1918 - 1923 гг. в местной периодической печати : библиограф. указ. и тексты публ. / сост. В. А. Шишанов. - Минск : Медисонт,2010. - 264 с.


  1. ^ World Gazetteer
  2. ^ History, Vitebsk Regional Executive Committee
  3. ^ Joshua D. Zimmerman, Poles, Jews, and the politics of nationality, Univ of Wisconsin Press, 2004, ISBN 0-299-19464-7, Google Print, p.16
  4. ^ The Annunciation Church is a six-pillared building with one apse. It is built of hewn limestone quadras, each row being separated by two rows of brick, covered with a thin layer of stucco so as to emulate large blocks of stone. This technique was widespread in Byzantium; but there are only two examples north of Crimea — one in Vitebsk and another, unfinished and long ruined church in Navahradak, probably by the same team of Byzantine builders. Another extraordinary feature of the church is that its bays are equal and the central nave is square in plan. The choir gallery occupies the western bay; it adjoins two secluded chapels over the lateral aisles. Stairs leading to the gallery are built into the western wall.
  5. ^ "Weatherbase". Weatherbase. Retrieved December 10, 2012. 

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This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Vitebsk. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.