The district centre of Orsha in Vitebsk region has been known since 1067. According to the "Tale of Bygone Years", it was first mentioned as a town of the Duchy of Polotsk. It is believed that its name derives fr om the Orshitsa river. According to chronicles, one of the most important historical events of antiquity took place here - Dukes Yaroslaviches invited Duke of Polotsk Vseslav to Orsha where he was captured and imprisoned.
At the very beginning of the 12th century, the town belonged to the Duchy of Minsk of Gleb Vseslavich, who built the Orsha fortress there in 1104-1116. The lands of Orsha returned to the Duchy of Polotsk in 1119. Since then, the Dnieper River formed the border between the lands of Polotsk and the Duchy of Smolensk.
Orsha became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1359. By the order of Duke Olgerd, fortifications appeared near the town; Duke Vitovt built a castle here by the end of the 14th century. At the beginning of the XVI century, the soldiers of the Russian garrison conquered the lands. Stanislaw Janowski managed to reconquer them. He gave them to Lithuania.
Orsha received the Magdeburg right and its own coat of arms in 1620. At that time, the town was a craft and transit centre. Trade was carried out with Russian, the Baltic states, Poland. A large trade route began here and laid from east to west through Belarussian lands.
Orsha became a centre of the Russian province after the first division of the Rcezcpospolita in 1772. In 1781, the inhabitants of Orsha had a new coat of arms, depicting a two-headed eagle with five arrows.
During the war of 1812, the army of Napoleon entered Orsha. Retreating, the soldiers looted and burned the town. In 1918, the town was occupied for some time by the German army and was severely damaged. In 1919, Orsha was part of different regions of the RSFSR - at first it was the land of Gomel region, then - Vitebsk region. Since 1924 it belonged to the BSSR.
World War II came to Orsha in July 1941. About 8,000 Jewish inhabitants lived in Orsha at that moment. Few of them could escape. Many Jewish people were killed in the ghetto.
During the war, the Katyusha multiple rocket launcher were used against the enemy in Orsha. There were no large-scale battles in the town but there was a large railway junction. Therefore, the bombardment was carried out regularly by both Soviet and Nazi German aircraft. The underground group led by the hero of the Soviet Union Konstantin Zaslonov functioned here.
The liberation of Orsha took place at the end of June 1944. In 1984, Orsha received the Order of the Patriotic War 1st class for the courage and fortitude shown during the Second World War.
116, 5 thousand inhabitants live in Orsha today. Orsha is a large and bright tourist town of Belarus. About 80 historical and architectural monuments have been preserved in Orsha. A burial mound was found on one of the banks of the Orsitsa River, dating back to the 11th-12th centuries. There is a reconstructed Jesuit collegium (XVII-XIX centuries), Epiphany Monastery (XVII century), monasteries of Basilians and Trinitarians (XVIII century). 25 enterprises function in Orsha, wh ere 19 thousand people work.
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