The chronicles indicate that Polotsk exists since 862. However, archeologists have found evidence that people lived here already in 780. In the middle of the 10th century, the Duchy of Polotsk formed.
The first information about the town is linked with Rogvolod – the first duke of Polotsk. Then his grandson Izyaslav, the son of Rogneda, ruled the town in 988-1001.
Bryachislav ruled in 1003-1044. He increased the territory of the Polotsk lands and founded the town of Braslav. Then Vseslav ruled the Duchy of Polotsk; the duchy was powerful at that time; St. Sophia’s Cathedral was built.
There was a stronghold behind fortifications on a high hill. Houses and streets were arranged chaotically outside the stronghold. The town grew rapidly: its area was 80 hectares by the XII century.
In 1132, the people of Polotsk raised a revolt, as a result they dethroned a duke and the duchy itself came out of Ancient Rus. In the same century, some territories of the Polotsk lands were conquered by the Dukes of Novgorod, Chernigov, and Smolensk, and Polotsk had to defend fr om the Crusaders and Lithuanians.
In the second half of the XVI century, Andrey Polotsky, one of the most significant dukes, ruled Polotsk. In 1498, the town received the Magdeburg right.
The town suffered fr om the Livonian, Smolensk and Russian-Polish wars. For 20 years as part of Russia, the town had been rebuilt and expanded, new buildings had appeared, the number of residents had increased, and trade had improved.
Since 1924, Polotsk was part of the BSSR. It was occupied by Nazi German troops in 1941-44. People lived in terrible conditions in the ghetto: 10-15 families lived in one unheated house, the prisoners received only 100 grams of bread with sawdust and thin broth, no water a day. About 8,000 Jews died here during the existence of the ghetto.
Euphrosyne of Polotsk is a famous enlightener of the Duchy of Polotsk, the granddaughter of Duke Vseslav. Euphrosyne rewrote and translated books. Two churches in Polotsk were built at her expense, women's and men's monasteries were opened, where colleges, libraries, almshouse, workshops of icon painting and jewelry functioned. At the end of her life, she made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, she was buried in the monastery of St. Theodosius. Today her relics are in the Intercession Church. The six-pointed cross made by Lazar Bogsha became the national relic of Belarus.
At the end of the XV century, Francisk Skorina was born in Polotsk. He graduated from the Krakow Academy, held a doctorate. Later he graduated from the Medical Faculty. In 1512, he held a doctorate in medicine from the University of Padua. In 1517, he founded the Prague printing house, wh ere he published the first printed Belarusian book "Psalter". For 2 years, he translated and published 23 books of the Bible. However, all of them violated the rules of rewriting church books, so they were not recognized by the Orthodox and Catholic church. In 1520, he opened the first printing house in Vilna, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
Polotsk with 85,000 inhabitants is considered the geographical center of Europe. Today, there are many architectural monuments of the past centuries.
In 2002, "Dozynki" took place in the regional center. In 2010, it was recognized as the cultural capital of Belarus. In 2012, the town celebrated its 1150th anniversary.
The question 'What to see in Polotsk?' Is in its own way uneasy, because the city of Polotsk is the birthplace of many historical personalities and a whole collection of unique places in its architecture.
Sightseeing of Polotsk should be started with the St. Sophia Cathedral, wh ere recently one of the rooms was equipped with a concert hall with an organ, and now festivals of music are held here. Spaso-Evfrosinievsky monastery is a real value for Belarus, because this is the only preserved ancient Polotsk monastery. It's worth paying attention to the Belarusian book printing museum, because it was in Polotsk that Francisk Skorina was born. But Polotsk of Belarus is valuable not only in the history reflected in architecture! Here is the monument 'Geographic Center of Europe' and a monument to the most Belarusian letter in the world - the letter Ў!
Among other things, in Polotsk is worth a look at:
Go to explore the city with a guide or look for interesting places on your own, enjoying one of the oldest cities in Belarus!