Smarhon city in Grodno region is by no means backwater district on the map of Belarus.

In this district center there live more than 37 thousand of people. Though the history of the city is deeply connected with bears…

The fame of “Smarhon Academy”

In the 17th-18th centuries in Smarhon there was a well-known “bear academy” – it was a school of bears training. Lumbering bears from Smarhon amused people not only at the fairs of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania but also in Europe. Radziwill family, who owned the city, founded the bear’s school. Bears were brought from the nearby forests.

 There is a version, that successful bears were fed by baranki (ring-shaped rolls), that had been baked for two centuries in the city. Moreover, Smarhon is called the motherland of “baranki”.

The school of bears training was closed in 1870, and didn’t bring fame to Smarhon. Belarusian classic Ryhor Baradulin poetized “Smarhon Academy” in analogous poem, and the citizens set up a sculptural composition in the honor of bear’s school in 2014.

Black bear takes a central position on Smarhon emblem that was established in 2004. The bear stands in a rampant position and holds the emblem of Radziwill family in paws.

The origin of city’s name

There exist a wide range of interpretations of Smarhon toponym. According to one of them, the name of the city originated from the words combination “s morg goni”. In the distant past “morg” was a unit of land measurement (1 morg=0,7 ha), and “hon’” meant “an arable land”.  There is information that Zenovichy, that owned the borough, gave people no more than 1 morg. Hence the naming appeared. 

According to another version, among the first settlers there were some people  who after the territory clearance, uprooted stumps and distilled turpentine, which was called “smar”. Such people were called “smarhony”.

Seven milestones in Smarnon’s history

This west-belarusian city, located on the rivers Oksna and Hervyatka, has very rich and abundant history, but this fact not always spared the city from wars and devastation. Thus, during the 1st World War namely Russian troops for the first time in history used cloud attack by Smarhon. In 1921 there were barely 154 citizens in Smarhon.

  • 1503 – The first mention of (the building of the Church of St. Nickolas the Archangel  by Zenovich)
  • 1590 – The paper-mill was founded in Smarhon.
  • 1762-1790 – Smarhon was owned by Karol Stanislaw Radziwill ("Panie Kochanku") who founded “bear academy”.
  • 1812 (the 5th of December) – Napoleon hands over the administration of Smarhon army to Murat and goes to Paris. The French withdraw their troops. In few days Kutuzov’s headquarters was placed there.
  • 1940 (the 15th of January) – Smarhon became the regional center of Vilnius region as a part of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic
  • 1972 – 1976 – An optical machine, powdered milk and flax-processing plants were opened in Smarhon.
  • 2003 – Smarhon celebrated its 500s anniversary.

Oginski and Bahushevich’s land

Smarhon land became a birthplace and home to many wonderful people. Thus, a composer and diplomat Michael Kleofas Oginski,who wrote the famous polonaise "Farewell to the Homeland", lived in his  ancestral home by Smarhon ( Zales’e village). Oginski manor or (“northern Athens”) is a mandatory point of tourist’s route along Smarhon.

At Kushlyany, not far from the district center, there is the manor of Francishak Bahushevich, the father of Belarusian literature. In 2009 the monument in the honor of the writer was erected, the only one in Belarus.

Smarhon is a hometown for a well-known Belarusian poet and novelist Uladzimir Nyaklyayew.

To feel and understand this city, you should necessarily touch the walls of the Church of St. Nickolas the Archangel, visit rock garden and “Winter Garden” orangery, taste local “baranki” and not forget about the bears…


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