A small town located 15 kilometers fr om the center of Gomel region is known throughout the Republic as a town of the old believers. Vetka has been the centre of old believers for a long time , it has kept these traditions to this day thanks to the permanent exhibition in the Museum of folk art, which has a department located in Gomel.
There are four different versions of the origin of the name Vetka. Two of them are associated with the geographical location of the area:
1. Vetka (meaning “brunch” in Russian) is the place where river Sozh is divided into tributaries, like branches of a tree.
2. Once this area used to be famous for dense pine forests.
Two other versions of the origin of the name are interesting as well. Vetka was like a branch, a small copy of Moscow. Since it was founded by people with Russian roots, they sought to imitate their "big" home in many ways, and even the city's main square was called Red by analogy with those in the capital of the Russian state.
The fourth version is the most poetic of all. According to it, conservative old believers persecuted by the authorities floated down the river on rafts. In desperation, they put a branch of a tree into water and founded their settlement in the place where it came ashore.
The Foundation and establishment of the city
Vetka was founded in 1685 (some sources claim that in 1682). Among its founders were refugees-conservatives expelled from the territory of Russia; they brought their own religious traditions, which later became the basis of the local residents’ lifestyle and mindset. As a result, Vetka, as a part of Poland in the XVII century and being close to the border with Russia, became the centre of Russian old believers. This brunch of Christianity was banned in the Russian land; therefore, the old believers were subjected to persecution by both the Church and secular authorities.
In the beginning of XVIII century, Vetka village became the place wh ere people from the tribes of Polovtsy were concentrated, it was developing and growing. There were about 4 thousand people in the town, and together with the population of the surrounding villages it was believed to account ten times more people. In 1735 and 1764 punitive Russian troops destroyed the town twice, and a large part of old believers were forcibly evicted to the Eastern lands of Russia.
In 1772, the settlement was joined to Russia. Initially, Vetka was a part of the Belitskaya, then Gomel district. In 1925 it became a town, and a year later - a regional centre. The newspaper, which was renamed several times and now is known as "The Voice of Vetka’s neighborhood” (“Golos Vetkaushchyny”) has been edited in the town since 1931.
In 1941 Vetka was occupied by the Nazis. The town was liberated on 28 September 1943. During the war 665 civilians were killed in Vetka and the surrounding area.
Unfortunately, the town suffered not only during the war. Its territory was highly contaminated with radioactive precipitation that had fallen after Chernobyl disaster. However, despite this fact, nowadays Vetka is a small but rapidly growing town, which is supported by cultural traditions of their ancestors and has preserved its historical heritage.