History of Białystok

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This is a sub-article to Białystok

The city of Białystok has existed for five centuries, during all this time the fate of the city has passed between various political and economic forces.

From surviving documentation we know that around 1437, a representative of the family Raczków, Jakub Tabutowicz with the coat of arms of Łabędź, received from Michael Žygimantaitis son of Sigismund Kęstutaitis, Duke of Lithuania, a wilderness areas located along the river Biała that marked the beginning of Białystok as a settlement.[1][2]

During the years 1617–1626, the first brick church and the beautiful castle on a rectangular plan, two floors, the Gothic-Renaissance style built by Job Bretfus. Extension of the castle continued by Krzysztof Wiesiołowski, since 1635 Grand Marshal of Lithuania and the owner of several administrative and royal and married Aleksandra Marianna Sobieska. In 1637 he died childless, thus Bialystok came under the management of his widow. After her death in 1645 the Wiesiołowskis estate, including Białystok, passed to the Commonwealth, to maintain Tykocin Castle. In the years 1645–1659 Bialystok managed by governors of Tykocin. It was then a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.[3][4]

In 1661 it was given to Stefan Czarniecki as a reward for his service in the victory over the Swedes. Four years later, as a dowry of his daughter Aleksandra who married Jan Klemens Branicki, thus passing into the hands of the Branicki family.[5][6] In 1692 Stefan Mikołaj Branicki, the son of Jan Klemens Branicki (Marshal of the Crown Court), obtained the rights to the city of Białystok from King John III Sobieski and built Branicki Palace in the city on the foundations of former defensive castle of Wiesiołowskis' family.[7] In the second half of the 18th century the ownership of the city was inherited by Field Crown Hetman Jan Klemens Branicki.[1] It was he who transformed the previously existing palace built by his father into the magnificent residence of a great noble.[8][9]

At the end of the 19th century, the majority of the city's population was Jewish. According to Russian census of 1897, out of the total population of 66,000, Jews constituted 41,900 (so around 63% percent).[10] This heritage can be viewed on the Jewish Heritage Trail in Bialystok.[11]

Białystok Ghetto, 1941–1943

From the very beginning, the Nazis pursued a ruthless policy of pillage and removal of the non-German population during World War II. The 56,000 Jewish residents of the town were confined in a ghetto.[12] On 15 August 1943, the Białystok Ghetto Uprising began, and several hundred Polish Jews and members of the Anti-Fascist Military Organisation (Polish: Antyfaszystowska Organizacja Bojowa) started an armed struggle against the German troops who were carrying out the planned liquidation of the ghetto.[13][14]

Capital of administrative divisions
Over the course of the last 200 years, the city has been the capital of numerous administrative divisions of a number of countries or occupying powers;

Białystok was, from 1945 until 1975, the capital city of the Białystok Voivodeship.[27] After the 1975 administrative reorganization of the People's Republic of Poland, the city was the capital of the smaller Białystok Voivodeship which lasted until 1998.[28]

Since 1999 it has been the capital of the Podlaskie Voivodeship, Republic of Poland.[28]

Prehistory and Protohistory[edit]

Archaeological discoveries show that the first people settled on the territory of the present Bialystok already in the Stone Age. Tombs of ancient settlers found in the district Pieczurki, Dojlidy and in some other parts of the city.[29]

In the early Iron Age a mix of Prussians, Yotvingians and population Wielbark culture, after which the remaining kurgan – probably the tombs of the chiefs in the area in the village Rostołty.[30]

Since then, the Białystok area has been at the crossroads of cultures. Trade routes linking the Baltic to the Black Sea favored the development of settlements with Yotvingia-Ruthenian-Polish cultural characteristics.[30]

Middle Ages[edit]

From surviving documentation we know that around 1437, a representative of the family Raczków, Jakub Tabutowicz with the coat of arms of Łabędź, received from Michael Žygimantaitis son of Sigismund Kęstutaitis, Duke of Lithuania, wilderness areas located along the river called the Biała River.[31]

Jakub Raczków divided the land between his four sons: Nicholas, John, Wenceslas and Jundziłła. Nicholas inherited the estate in 1462 in Bialystok and erected a mansion near the current location of the Branicki Palace. After the year 1479 Bialystok took good son Nicholas, Nicholas is also known as Bachelor, because he studied at Cracow Academy. He was secretary to King Alexander Jagiello and a member of the Privy Council.

Early Modern era[edit]

Wiesiołowski Estate (1514–1661)[edit]

It is precisely for these times comes the first written reference (1514), listing the good of Bialystok. Bachelor's son Nicholas, Nicholas Bakałarzewicz, realized in 1524, his wife Catherine Wołłowiczówna, Bogorya coat of arms. After his death in 1547, according to the good will of the deceased Catherine has inherited. In the same year his widow, Catherine Wołłowiczówna, married again to Peter Wiesiołowski (Ogończyk coat of arms) – a courtier of the Polish kings: King Sigismund the Old and Sigismund Augustus. He started in Bialystok on the borderlands of Lithuania and Polish residence. After his death in 1556, took a good Bialystok sons: Peter and John Wiesiołowski. However, after the death of the latter in 1570 became the property of Bialystok Peter Wiesiołowski (the Younger). In 1579 he married Zofią Lubomirską.

In his time began the development of Bialystok. In 1581, the parish church next to the existing Peter Wiesiołowski funded school for children. In addition, built in the years 1617–1626, the first brick church and the beautiful castle on a rectangular plan, two floors, the Gothic-Renaissance style built by Job Bretfus. Extension office continued by his son Krzysztof Wiesiołowski, since 1635 Grand Marshal of Lithuania and the owner of several administrative and royal and married Aleksandra Marianna Sobieska.[32] In 1637 he died childless, thus Bialystok came under the management of his widow. After her death in 1645 the Wiesiołowskis estate, including Białystok, passed to the Commonwealth, to maintain the castle in Tykocin. In the years 1645–1659 Bialystok managed by governors of Tykocin.[33] It was then a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Branicki Estate (1661–1802)[edit]

In 1661 it was given to Stefan Czarniecki as a reward for his service in the victory over the Swedes.[34][35] Four years later, as a dowry of his daughter Aleksandra who married Jan Klemens Branicki, thus passing into the hands of the Branicki family.

In 1692 Stefan Mikołaj Branicki, the son of Jan Klemens Branicki, obtained the rights to the city of Białystok from King John III Sobieski and built Branicki Palace in the city on the foundations of former defensive castle of Wiesiołowskis' family.[36] The project's author is a prominent architect: Tylman of Gameren.[36] In the second half of the 18th century the ownership of the city was inherited by Field Crown Hetman Jan Klemens Branicki. It was he who transformed the previously existing palace built by his father into the magnificent residence of a great noble.[8][37] Numerous artists and scientists came to Białystok to take advantage of Branicki's patronage. In 1745 Branicki established a Poland's first military college, School of Civil and Military Engineering and a theatre in the city. On 19 November 1748 marries Izabella Poniatowska as his third wife Hetman Jan Klemens Branicki. Białystok received its city charter on 1 February 1749 from King Augustus III .

Modern Era[edit]

New East Prussia Province (1795–1807)[edit]

Lubomirski née. Rüdigerów Palace
  • 1 March 1802 – the signing of an agreement between Izabella Poniatowska-Branicka and Nowowshodnią Prussian and the War – Economic Camera. Prussians agreed to the rule of law in
  • 2 April 1802 – Izabella Poniatowska-Branicka sells Bialystok to the Prussian authorities for an amount over 270 thousand talarów

Belostok Oblast (1807–1842)[edit]

During the period of Russian control the city was the capital of the Belostok Oblast, from 1807–1842. After the Peace of Tilsit were signed in 1807 the city passed to Russia.

  • 14 February 1808 – Izabella Poniatowska-Branicka dies
  • 3 July 1812 – Napoleon's army enters the city,
  • 13 July 1812 – Declaration of the inhabitants of communication with the Commonwealth,
  • 4 August 1812 – Russian army enters the city
  • 8 August 1812 – giving a new coat of the city by Tsar Alexander I
  • 13 December 1830 – announcement of martial law by the Russian authorities in connection with the outbreak of the November Uprising,
  • 1 February 1831 – setting up headquarters in the Russian army commander, Field Marshal Hans Karl von Diebitsch, whose task was to suppress the November Uprising
  • 1834 – a ban on teaching in schools in the Polish language

Belоstok Province (1842–1914)[edit]

During the period of Russian control the city was the capital of the Belostok Oblast, from 1807–1842, afterward it was a provincial capital within the Grodno Governorate.

Hasbach Palace
  • 15 December 1859 – was born Ludwik Zamenhof – the creator of the international language Esperanto,
  • 13 June 1860 – the beginning of a patriotic demonstration under the banner of national unity and fight against colonization,
  • 9 June 1861 – arrive in the city representative of the Whites, Andrzej Artur Zamoyski
  • 1862 – Opening of the Saint Petersburg – Warsaw Railway through the city
  • 24 April 1863 – the beginning of the January Uprising in the Bialystok area
  • 1877 – expanding the city limits: integrated railway station, the village of Piaski and Las Zwierzyniecki
  • 1886 – the railway line Bialystok – Vawkavysk – Baranovichi
  • 1891 – Launch of the first telephone exchange
  • 1895 – launch of three lines of horse tram
  • 1898 – establishment of the Volunteer Fire Department

During the 19th century the city became a major center of textile industry. Due to an industrial boom the population grew from 13,787 in 1857, and 56,629 in 1889, to 65,781 in 1901.

At the end of the 19th century, the majority of the city's population was Jewish. According to Russian census of 1897, out of the total population of 66,000, Jews constituted 41,900 (so around 63% percent).[38]

Early 20th Century

Market Square 1900

The first Anarchist groups to attract a significant following of Russian workers or peasants, were the Anarcho-Communist Chernoe-Znamia groups, founded in Białystok in 1903.[39][40] Their ranks included mostly students, factory workers and artisans, though there were also peasants, unemployed laborers, drifters, and self-professed Nietzschean supermen.[40] They drew their support mainly from the impoverished and persecuted working-class Jews of the "Pale"-the places on the Western borders of the Russian Empire where Jews were "allowed" to live.[41]

During the 1905 Russian Revolution the city was a center of the radical labor movement, with strong organizations of the General Jewish Labour Bund and the Polish Socialist Party as well as the more radical anarchists of the Chernoe-Znamia (Black Banner) association.

The Białystok pogrom occurred between 14–16 June 1906 in the city. During the pogrom between 81 and 88 people were killed, and about 80 people were wounded.[42][43][44]

World War I / Polish-Soviet War (1914–1920)[edit]

After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the first heavy bombing of the town took place on 20 April 1915. On 13 August 1915 German soldiers appeared in Białystok. The city was included in the Ober Ost occupational region as the capital of the Bialystok-Grodno District.[18][45] On 18 March 1918 it was declared part of the Belarusian National Republic[46] until 19 February 1919 when the city was taken by Poland.[47]

In 1920, when overrun by Soviet forces during the Polish-Soviet War, it briefly served as headquarters of the Polish Revolutionary Committee headed by Julian Marchlewski, which attempted to declare the Polish Soviet Socialist Republic.[48][49] The city again changed hands after the Battle of Białystok. The Peace of Riga, signed 18 March 1921, formally included the city in the Second Polish Republic.

Second Polish Republic (1920–1939)[edit]

In the years 1920–1939, the city was part of the Second Polish Republic as the seat of the Białystok Voivodeship. The city, whose population reached 107,000 in 1939, was the Voivodeship's lone industrial center.

Jewish Life in Bialystok, is a rare documentary, produced in 1939 by Shaul and Yitzhak Goskind of the Warsaw-based Sektor Films, into the people, communities and institutions of Białystok just prior to the start of World War II. Images of smokestacks, power looms, and textile workers; downtown shops and buses, market day with peasants and horses; schools, synagogues, the Sholem Aleichem Library, the TOZ sanatorium, and a community-run summer camp reflect the diversity of the city's 200-year-old Jewish community. In addition to the tile-roofed home of Dr. Zamenhof, creator of Esperanto, Jewish Life in Białystok features memorable images of a spacious park where young adults relax and children play.[50]

A rare silent 16mm color Kodachrome film of the Jewish Quarter of the city by Dr. Benjamin Gasul gives an insight into everyday life in July 1939.[51]

The Torah education system in Białystok during the 1930s was unique in that the Cheder and the Mesivta Yeshiva were both in the same city and under the same educational system. Most other cities only had a cheder.[52]

According to the Polish national census of 1921, there were around 1 million Belarusians in the country. There are historians, however, who estimate the number of Belarusians in Poland at that time to be 1.7 million[7] or even up to 2 million.[8] In the 1921–1926 period Poland did not have a consistent policy towards its ethnic minorities. Belarusian schools, not being subsidised by the Polish government, were facing severe financial problems by 1921.

World War II (1939–1945)[edit]

Soviet bombing damages in German occupied Białystok in 1944
Branicki Palace destroyed by Germans in 1944

In September 1939, Białystok was occupied by the German army, but then passed on to the Soviet Union with respect to the secret protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact,[53] when it was annexed into the Byelorussian SSR.

On 22 October 1939, less than two weeks after the invasion, the Soviet occupational administration organized elections into a National assembly of West Belarus (Belarusian: Народны сход Заходняй Беларусі). The Elections to the People's Assemblies of Western Ukraine and Western Belarus took place under control of NKVD and the Communist Party. On 30 October the National Assembly session held in Belastok passed the decision of West Belarus joining the USSR and its unification with the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic. These petitions were officially accepted by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on 2 November and by the Supreme Soviet of the BSSR on 12 November.[54] The Belastok Voblast with the center in Belastok was created in 1939.

After entering the Soviet Union, thousands ethnic Poles, Belarusians and Jews, were forcibly deported to Siberia by the NKVD, which resulted in over 100,000 people deported to eastern parts of the USSR.[55] Among the deported Poles were civil servants, judges, police officers, professional army officers, factory owners, landlords, political activists, leaders of cultural, educational and religious organizations, and others activists in the community. All of them were dubbed enemies of the people.[56]

Polish resistance against the Soviets in the area of Bialystok (especially along the swampy Biebrza river) began immediately after the September Campaign and in mid-1940 there were conspiratorial organizations in 161 towns and villages in the future area of Bezirk Bialystok.[57] Skirmishes with the NKVD were common, mostly around Jedwabne, where the anti-Soviet feelings were the strongest.

In the aftermath of the June 1941 Battle of Białystok–Minsk, part of the German attack on the Soviet Union, Białystok was placed under German Civilian Occupation (Zivilverwaltungsgebiet) as Bezirk Bialystok. The area was under German rule from 1941 to 1944/45, without ever formally being incorporated into the German Reich.

It has been established that at beginning on 22 June 1941 the withdrawing Soviet troops, that were forced out by the German army, committed regular crimes against the inhabitants of Białystok and its area.[58] Civilians who happened to be in the vicinity of the passing Soviet troops were shot dead. There were cases of the whole families being dragged out of their houses and executed by firing squads in Białystok and the areas surrounding.[58]

Both Nazis and Communists referred to the Polish insurgents and their relatives as bandits and bandit families, and treated them with similar barbarity.[59] As the years went by, German terror in Bezirk Bialystok worsened and most atrocities on civilian population were committed by German units and police from neighboring East Prussia.[60]

In July 1943 the Uderzeniowe Bataliony Kadrowe (UBK) units, active in Bezirk Bialystok, consisted of five Battalions. Altogether, there were 200 fighters, and during a number of skirmishes with the Germans (including the Raid on Mittenheide in 1943), 138 of them were killed. These heavy losses were criticized by the headquarters of the Home Army, who claimed that the UBK was profusely using lives of young Polish soldiers. On 17 August 1943, upon the order of General Tadeusz Bor-Komorowski, the UBK was included into the Home Army. Soon afterwards, all battalions were transferred to the area of Nowogrodek.

Białystok Ghetto, 1941–1943

From the very beginning, the Nazis pursued a ruthless policy of pillage and removal of the non-German population. The 56,000 Jewish residents of the town were confined in a ghetto, which during August 1943 was removed.

Great Synagogue in Białystok

On the morning of 27 June 1941, Nazi troops from Order Police Battalion 309[61] surrounded the town square by the Great Synagogue, the largest wooden synagogue in Eastern Europe, and forced residents from their homes into the street. Some were shoved up against building walls and shot dead. Others– some 800 men, women and children– were locked in the synagogue, which was subsequently set on fire; there they were burned to death. The Nazi onslaught continued with the demolition of numerous homes and further shootings. As the flames from the synagogue spread and merged with the grenade fires, the entire square was engulfed. Some 2,000 Jews lost their lives that day (27 June 1941), out of an estimated population of 50,000 Jews living in the city at that time.[62]

In the last year of the occupation, a clandestine upper Commercial School came into existence. The pupils of the school also took part in the underground resistance movement. As a result, some of them were jailed, some killed and others deported to Nazi concentration camps.

A number of anti-fascist groups came into existence in Białystok during the first weeks of the occupation. In the following years, there developed a well-organized resistance movement.

On 15 August 1943, the Białystok Ghetto Uprising began, and several hundred Polish Jews and members of the Anti-Fascist Military Organisation (Polish: Antyfaszystowska Organizacja Bojowa) started an armed struggle against the German troops who were carrying out the planned liquidation of the ghetto.

After the securing of the city, during the Belostock Offensive of Operation Bagration, by the Soviet army on 27 July 1944, it was administered by the Byelorussian SSR as the capital of the restored Belastok Voblast. With the Border Agreement between Poland and the USSR of 16 August 1945, Białystok, with the surrounding area, was passed on to the People's Republic of Poland.

People's Republic (1945–1989)[edit]

Queue to Paper shop. People want to buy Toilet paper

Białystok was, from 1945 until 1975, the capital city of the Białystok Voivodeship. After the 1975 administrative reorganization of the People's Republic of Poland, the city was the capital of the smaller Białystok Voivodeship which lasted until 1998.

w Białymstoku, a short 15 minute film from 1958 provides insights into life in the city during the middle of the last century. The filming was done by a team of cameramen (Kosińsiego, Krzyżańskiego, Jankowska and Szawłowskiego) with narration by Michael Radgowskiego.[63]

1 Maja w Białymstoku, a 14 minute film from 1961 provides a view into the activities surrounding International Workers' Day (May Day) events in the city during the early 1960s.[64]

Documentary, an 11 minute film form 1972 provides insight into life in the city.[65]

The network of Solidarity branches of the key factories of Poland was created on 14 April 1981 in Gdańsk. It was made of representatives of seventeen factories; each stood for the most important factory of every voivodeship of the pre-1975 Poland. The workers from the Białystok Voivodeship were represented by the Cotton Works Fasty in Białystok

On 24 March 1981, Solidarity decided to go on a nationwide strike in protest against the Bydgoszcz events. The strike was planned by the National Strike Committee for Tuesday, 31 March 1981. On 25 March, Lech Wałęsa met Deputy Prime Minister Mieczysław Rakowski, but their talks were fruitless. Two days later, a four-hour national warning strike took place. It was the biggest strike in the history of the Soviet Bloc,[66][67] it has also been called the largest strike in the history of Communism.[68] According to several sources, between 12 million [69][70] and 14 million Poles took part in it.[71] Apart from the National Strike Committee, several Interfactory Founding Committees (MKZ) were created in major cities. For security reasons, these offices were moved to large factories for the time of the strike, no matter how long it was planned to be. The MZK Białystok Committee was placed in the Factory of Instruments and Handles in Białystok.

In the days following the initial hunger demonstration on 25 July 1981 in Kutno, additional demonstrations were organized in numerous cities across whole country including Białystok. Most of participants were women and their children,[72] with men walking on the sides and trying to protect the demonstrators. As Jacek Kuroń later said: “Those crowds wielding banners broke the principle of not leaving factories to take to the streets. They created an atmosphere of such tension that the government probably panicked”.[73]

On 1 May 1982 Many thousands participants in independent 1 May demonstrations in Gdańsk, Białystok, Toruń, Łódź, Szczecin and other cities.[74]

Contemporary Era[edit]

The White Gallery

Third Polish Republic (1989 – present)[edit]

Pope John Paul II on 5 June 1991, during a visit to Bialystok, announced the decision to set up the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Białystok.[75]

On 1 January 1999 Białystok was named the capital of the newly organized Podlaskie Voivodeship, which was created out of the former Białystok and Łomża Voivodeships and the eastern half of the former Suwałki Voivodeship, pursuant to the Polish local government reforms adopted in 1998.

Since the beginning of the century Białystok has significantly extended its area, incorporating neighboring villages such as Bialostoczek, Dziesieciny or Starosielce. The most recent incorporations were those of Zawady on the north and Dojlidy Gorne on the south. They have significantly increased the administrative area of the city.

References[edit]

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  59. ^ Marek Jan Chodakiewicz Communist and Nazi Occupation Policies in Jedwabne, 1939–49
  60. ^ Kazimierz Krajewski, Shock in the Reich, Rzeczpospolita Daily
  61. ^ Goldhagen, Daniel J. Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust New York, NY: Vintage Books, 1997
  62. ^ Sara Bender, The Jews of Byalistok, p. 93.
  63. ^ Film o Białymstoku z 1958 roku
  64. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRl5b-h8_7E
  65. ^ 1972 Documentary
  66. ^ US Intelligence and the Confrontation in Poland, 1980–1981. Douglas J. MacEachin, page 120
  67. ^ The Polish Revolution. Timothy Garton Ash, page 165
  68. ^ From Solidarity to Martial Law. By Andrzej Paczkowski, page XXXVIII
  69. ^ The biggest strike in history of Poland, J. Polonus
  70. ^ Kalendarium 1980 — 1981, Jaroslaw Szarek
  71. ^ Bydgoszcz March
  72. ^ Encyclopedia of Solidarity, July 1981
  73. ^ History of Solidarity, July–August 1981
  74. ^ NSZZ Solidarity – History in dates
  75. ^ Archidiecezja Białostocka
  1. ^ Żarnowski, p. 373
  2. ^ Mironowicz, p. 80

Bibliography[edit]

  1. Janusz Żarnowski, "Społeczeństwo Drugiej Rzeczypospolitej 1918–1939" (in Polish language), Warszawa 1973
  2. Eugeniusz Mironowicz, "Białoruś" (in Polish language), Trio, Warszawa, 1999, ISBN 83-85660-82-8

Sources and External links[edit]