The Republic of Belarus is located in the centre of Europe and is one of the 15 largest countries in this part of the world. Belarus is often called a ‘blue-eyed country’: there are thousands of lakes, rivers and protected forests. But the country is interesting not only for its unique nature. Each region of Belarus has its own modern industrial giants, amazing historical sites and sights.
Belarus consists of six regions: Brest, Vitebsk, Gomel, Grodno, Minsk and Mogilev. Minsk — the capital of the Republic of Belarus — retains an independent status and is not part of any regions. The MT presents the project called Belarusian Land Treasures and invites readers on an exciting journey. Let’s visit the Vitebsk Region — the cradle of the Belarusian statehood.
The President of Belarus, Aleksandr Lukashenko,
“The Vitebsk Region — the northernmost region of Belarus — has always been famous for the beauties of nature, unique monuments, crafts and craftsmen, as well as the valor and resilience of the inhabitants in the years of hard times, as it was during the Great Patriotic War. In the Vitebsk Region, they know the price of victory well, they know how to keep the people’s memory, traditions and loyalty to their native land. Thanks to the tireless work of many generations, agriculture is developing, advanced technologies are being mastered, new enterprises are being built, production facilities are being modernised, and a modern social infrastructure is being created. The grandiose festival of arts Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk is famous far beyond the borders of Belarus, which, strengthening friendship between peoples, gathers thousands of bright talents from all over the world every year.” From the greetings of the Head of State, January 15th, 2023
Historical digression, interesting facts
The Vitebsk Region celebrates its 85th anniversary in 2023. This is the cradle of Belarusian statehood: it was here that the first state formation on the Belarusian lands appeared in the 9th century — the Principality of Polotsk.
Founded in 862 on the banks of the Western Dvina, the city of Polotsk is the most ancient city in Belarus. During its long history, it survived the attack of the Vikings, the Crusaders, and was occupied more than once by various conquerors.
Vitebsk, as the legend says, was founded in 974 by the Equal-to-the-Apostles Blessed Great Princess Olga.
The Principality of Polotsk
The first woman of Belarus recognised as a saint was born on the Vitebsk lands — Euphrosyne of Polotsk, the founder of the East Slavic book printing and educator Francysk Skaryna, the Grand Hetman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Lev Sapieha, as well as the world-famous artist Marc Chagall.
In 1954, the first President of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko was born in the urban-type settlement of Kopys, Orsha District, the Vitebsk Region.
Centre of Europe — in Polotsk
The Vitebsk Region is the northernmost region of the country. In the northwest it borders with Latvia, in the west — with Lithuania, in the north and east — with the Russian Federation.
Area — 40,100 square kilometres.
Residents of the Vitebsk Region are justifiably proud of the fact that in their region there is not one centre of Europe, but two at once. The first, according to scientists’ calculations made in 2000, fell in the middle of Sho Lake. And in 2008, a memorial sign was erected in the centre of Polotsk, indicating that the centre of the continent is located in this city.
The Vitebsk Region is part of the Lake District Euroregion. There are more than 2800 lakes and more than 500 rivers here.
The population of the Vitebsk Region as of January 1st, 2022 was 1,103,833 people, including urban population — 861,519 people, and rural population — 242,314 people.
The Gavrilov family from Novopolotsk
The inhabitants of the regional centre are 360,419 people, and Vitebsk is the second oldest among the most ancient cities in the country.
Other major cities in the region: Orsha — 104,605 people, Novopolotsk — 97,182 people and Polotsk — 79,896 people.
The Vitebsk Region is a highly developed industrial region. The basis of industry is oil refining and chemical production, electricity production, food and beverage production, textile, clothing, and footwear production.
There are about 1,400 industrial enterprises in the Vitebsk Region.
The industrial complex of the region produces more than 27 percent of the gross value added. The production of the region is about 15 percent of the industry of the country.
Naftan, Polotsk-Steklovolokno, Belwest, Managing Company of the Holding Company Belarusian Leather and Footwear Company Marko, Dolomit, Vitebsk Concern Meat and Dairy Products, Vitebsk Carpets, Production Association Energokomplekt, Vityaz, Lukoml State District Power Plant and Novopolotsk Thermal Power Plant are the hallmarks of the region.
Enterprises of the Vitebsk Region provide 100 percent of the republican output of dolomite powder for liming, more than 90 percent of linen fabrics, ethylene polymers in the primary form, carpets and rugs, more than 50 percent of footwear, about 30 percent of the country’s electricity.
There are 231 agricultural organisations in the Vitebsk Region. Agriculture of the region is focused on the development of meat and dairy cattle breeding, fodder production, the cultivation of grain and fodder crops, rapeseed, potatoes, lake and fish farming is developed.
The share of animal husbandry in the volume of gross agricultural output is 63.1 percent, crop production — 36.9 percent.
Flax, which in Belarus is called the ‘golden fleece’, is the real pride of the Vitebsk Region. It is here that the largest flax mill in the CIS is located — Orsha, well known for its products in many parts of the world.
At the Polotsk-Steklovolokno
In August 1999, the Free Economic Zone Vitebsk was formed on the territory of the region.
Almost a thousand subjects of the Vitebsk Region participate in foreign economic activity, more than 1,500 items of products are exported. In 2022, it was possible to increase the share of deliveries to the countries of the ‘far arc’ by a third. Enterprises of the Vitebsk Region almost tripled the volume of products to China. The effectiveness of work in the markets of Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Georgia and Mongolia has increased significantly. Co-operation is being successfully established with partners from Tunisia, Ethiopia, Iraq, Myanmar, the Dominican Republic, North Macedonia, and the Philippines.
The region maintains foreign trade co-operation with 116 countries of the world. The basis of exports is oil products, insulated wires, cables, meat and dairy products, ethylene polymers, longitudinally sawn timber, fiberglass, compounds containing a functional nitrile group, televisions, monitors and projectors, carpets, excavators, tractor trailers, linen fabrics and products, rapeseed oil, as well as alcoholic beverages, vegetables, confectionery.
The main mineral resources of the Vitebsk Region are dolomite, sapropels, clay, building sands, sand gravel, peat, mineral and fresh underground waters.
Gralevo quarry — the largest deposit of dolomite in Belarus
The region has 100 percent of republican reserves of dolomite, about 70 percent of sapropel reserves, 40 percent of clay reserves, 33 percent of sand gravel reserves, 12 percent of building sand reserves, and about 30 percent of peat reserves.
The modern relief of the Vitebsk Region was formed during the retreat of the last glacier. The final ice age ended 14,000 years ago. It left behind more than 10 types of relief in the Braslav Lake District, which became one of the main features of the region. There are picturesque hills and moraine ridges, numerous swamps, rivers and lakes in the Vitebsk Region. However, numerous fragments of the Scandinavian mountains — huge boulders, which in pagan lands were the subject of special worship, are witnesses of that time are. The largest of them is located in the Shumilino District near the village of Gorki. Its length is 11 metres, width — 5.6 metres, visible height — 3 metres.
The Vitebsk Region ranks first in Belarus by the number and area of lakes. There are over 2800 lakes (the largest are Osveiskoye Lake, Lukomskoye Lake, Drivyaty Lake, Nescherdo Lake, Snudy Lake) and more than 500 rivers (Western Dvina River, Dnieper River, Drysa River, Obol River, Disna River and others).
A third of the region’s territory is occupied by forests, about 60 percent of which are centuries-old conifers. There are 1 nature reserve, 2 national parks, 25 national and 66 local reserves, 228 natural monuments in the region.
The Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve has the status of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and has been awarded a European Diploma for Protected Areas.
The Yelnya National Landscape Reserve is one of the largest massifs of ancient raised bogs and glacial lakes in Europe.
In 1995, the Braslav Lakes National Park was founded.
Culture and main attractions
The Vitebsk Region is a special spiritual and cultural region, which is geographically and historically located at the confluence of the cultures of Western and Eastern Europe. The cultural heritage of the Vitebsk Region is more than 3,000 monuments of archeology, history, culture and architecture. 3 monuments of architecture have the highest category of value — the Church of St. John the Baptist in the village of Kamai, Postavy District, Saint Sophia Cathedral and the Transfiguration Church in Polotsk.
Ilya Repin Zdravnevo Museum Estate
The ruins of the Bely Kovel castle have been preserved in the Vitebsk Region, agro-town of Smolyany, Orsha District, earthen castle fortifications in the agro-town of Drutsk, Tolochin District, and Disna, Miory District.
Guests of the region should definitely visit the Mark Chagall Museum in Vitebsk, Ilya Repin Zdravnevo Museum Estate, the Breakthrough Memorial Complex (one of the most significant creations of the monumental art of the BSSR).
The famous international festival of arts Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk is an iconic landmark of the region.
Photos are taken from sb.by, Belta and open sources