Švenčionys ( pronunciation (help·info), known also by several alternative names) is a city located 84 kilometers (52 mi) north of Vilnius in Lithuania. It is the capital of the Švenčionys district municipality. As of 2011, it had population of 4,963 of which about 17% is part of the Polish minority in Lithuania.
There are two established hypotheses about the etymology of the Švenčionys' name: one that the city bears the name of the nearby lake Šventas (literally: saint) with the addition of the Lithuanian suffix -onys. Another hypothesis states that it is derived from a personal name, Švenčionis. In other languages the name is rendered as Polish: Święciany, Belarusian: Свянцяны/Svjacjany, Russian: Свентяны/Sventiany, Yiddish: סווענציאן /Sventzion, and German: Swenziany.
One of the oldest towns in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the settlement was a major center of Nalšia. Grand Duke Vytautas brought Lipka Tatars to the town and built a Catholic church in 1414. The city grew during the 14–16th centuries when it was the site of a local court and monastery. Since 1801 the town was part of the Russian Vilna Governorate. It grew significantly after completion of the nearby Saint Petersburg – Warsaw Railway in 1862, but eventually lost competition to Švenčionėliai, which grew around the train station. Around the turn to the 20th century the town had one Greek Orhodox church and one Roman Catholic church.
During the 1812 French invasion of Russia, Napoleon stayed in the town for 12 hours to write orders and receive an envoy from the King of Naples. The town was one of the main centers of the November Uprising (1830–1831) in Poland and Lithuania against the Russian Empire. During World War I, it was the location of the German Sventiany Offensive. The city was part of the Second Polish Republic for most of the interwar period. It had a significant Jewish population (according to the 1897 Russian census – 52%), but during World War II its ghetto was destroyed and the inhabitants deported and murdered. It was a powiat centre in Wilno Voivodeship as Święciany during Polish rule between 1920-1939. Soviets placed it firstly in as part of Vileyka Oblast of Belarussian SSR in 1939 but incorporated into Lithuanian SSR in 1940. In 1942 Lithuanian Security Police murdered around 1,200 Poles in the village. Later, it was part of the Lithuanian SSR except Oszmiana region was reincorporated into Belarussia in 1944.
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