Velizh (Russian: Велиж; Belarusian: Веліж; Polish: Wieliż; Lithuanian: Veližas) is a town and the administrative center of Velizhsky District of Smolensk Oblast, Russia, located on the bank of the Western Dvina, 134 kilometers (83 mi) from Smolensk. Population: 7,620 (2010 Census); 8,343 (2002 Census); 9,146 (1989 Census).
In the late 14th century, it used to be a border fortress of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Russians recaptured it in 1536, but it was restored to Lithuania after the Time of Troubles. The town was returned to Russia under the terms of the First Partition of Poland. The houses of Nikolai Przhevalsky and Aleksandr Rodzyanko in the proximity to Velizh are open to the public as museums.
In April 1823 Velizh was the site of a famous blood libel incident, in which local Jews were wrongly accused of the murder of Christian boy who was found dead in a field. Based on the testimony of a drunk prostitute, over 40 Jews of the town were arrested and 1826 the synagogues were closed. Some of the accused were not released until 1835.
Much of the town was destroyed during World War II. During World War II, Velizh was occupied by the German Army from July 14, 1941 to September 20, 1943. In September 1942, German occupation forces murdered all but 17 of the town's 1,440 Jewish residents.
Photographer and photojournalist Max Penson was born in Velizh in 1893.
- "Всероссийская перепись населения 2010 года. Том 1" [2010 All-Russian Population Census, vol. 1]. Всероссийская перепись населения 2010 года (2010 All-Russia Population Census) (in Russian). Federal State Statistics Service. 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2012.
- "Численность населения России, субъектов Российской Федерации в составе федеральных округов, районов, городских поселений, сельских населённых пунктов – районных центров и сельских населённых пунктов с населением 3 тысячи и более человек" [Population of Russia, its federal districts, federal subjects, districts, urban localities, rural localities—administrative centers, and rural localities with population of over 3,000]. Всероссийская перепись населения 2002 года (All-Russia Population Census of 2002) (in Russian). Federal State Statistics Service. May 21, 2004. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
- Demoscope Weekly (1989). "Всесоюзная перепись населения 1989 г. Численность наличного населения союзных и автономных республик, автономных областей и округов, краёв, областей, районов, городских поселений и сёл-райцентров." [All Union Population Census of 1989. Present population of union and autonomous republics, autonomous oblasts and okrugs, krais, oblasts, districts, urban settlements, and villages serving as district administrative centers]. Всесоюзная перепись населения 1989 года (All-Union Population Census of 1989) (in Russian). Institute of Demographics of the State University—Higher School of Economics. Retrieved February 9, 2012.
- Velizh, Jewish Virtual Library, http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0020_0_20358.html
- "Only Seventeen Jews Escape Massacre by Nazis in Russian Town of Velizh", Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 9 Sep 1942.
- (Russian) Mojgorod.ru. Entry on Velizh (Russian)