Polatsk - the old Belarusian Capital

Sofijsky Cathedral

Polatsk, the Nation’s Cradle

Nowadays Polatsk is considered the cradle of Belarusian culture and statehood. Polatsk Principality which was the first centre of Belarusian state came into being here where a small river Polota runs into the deep West Dvina. According to historic chronicles it happened in 862.

Polatsk has witnessed a lot of events since that time. Kiev Prince Vladimir Svyatoi burnt down the city and forced into marriage Princess Rogneda. (Later she was exiled to Zaslavl for her attempt upon the life of her husband.) Polatsk Prince Vseslav Charodey (“Vseslav the Magician” in Belarusian language) waged wars against Kiev Russia so successfully that he was considered a magician who can easily turn into a wolf.

Princess Predslava took monastic vows at the age of 14 and became famous under the name Efrasinya Polatskaya. She made the first move for public education and enlightment. Nowadays she is canonized. Spaso-Efrasinyevskaya Church in Polatsk is considered a masterpiece of medieval architecture; there are some unique frescos in it, which date back to the 12th century!

Polatsk is also the birthplace of prominent Slavonic and Belarusian humanist Francis Skaryna. This by all means outstanding man had Master Degree in various sciences and was good at many trades. He was the first printer in these lands and contributed greatly to the public education.

Polatsk put up a strong resistance to the invaders. A huge defensive bulwark which is called “Ivan Grozniy bulwark” testifies to the fact. It was built in the times of Russian Tsar Ivan Grozniy (Ivan the Terrible) invasions to these lands. At present a city stadium is built in the middle of this bulwark.

Peter the First stopped in Polatsk during the war against the Swedes. He put a lot of gunpowder to the basement of Sofijsky Cathedral which “accidentally” blasted into the air. In this way Russian Tsar perhaps wanted to show the citizens who had the upper hand.

One of the bridges across the river Polota is called the Red Bridge. In the times of Napoleon invasions to Moscow the fight on the river Polota was so malicious that the bridge colored red with blood of warriors. Since that time when the bridge is rebuilt or reconstructed it is always colored red.

An unusual event surprised everyone in the times of Perestroika when people were short of many things, especially products. Numerous charitable parcels were sent from Germany. They contained oil, chocolate and some other things that were of great demand then. Those were hard times and the help was more than welcomed. Finally it turned out that the parcels were sent by a German who had been a military pilot. During the war his airplane was forced down near Polatsk and he was saved by a woman from Polatsk. Helping Polatsk citizens to live through hard times he wanted to thank people for their kindness and mercy.

Most of the territory of the city is part of the National Park of History and Culture.

St. Efrasinya Monastery is being restored at present. There are a lot of monuments to the prominent sons of Belarus who brought fame to their Motherland. Here you can hear the voices of history that tell fascinating stories about the past of these lands.

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