There are many beautiful cities and towns in the world. I would like to visit some of them, to see with my own eyes what I have read or heard about. But there is no place like home. I love my native town and that’s why I want to tell you about it. The Polotsk land! It is a land of old legends and people’s traditions, blue lakes and fast rivers, the captivating Lakeland of Belarus. This land was populated presumably in the VII-V centuries B. C.
At that period the Indo-European tribes, called the “Balts” by the archaeologists, lived in the Dvina- river basin. In the process of great people’s remigration, the Slavs came there from the Central Europe on the borderline of the VI and VII centuries A. D. , and the Slavonic spontaneity triumphed due to supplanting and assimilation of the Balts. The Slavonic tribe Krivichy settled down in the vast territories, in particular in the Dvina-river side, their tribal alliance played the paramount role in formation of the Belarusian State system.
The centre of the said alliance was Polotsk. The princes, who represented local dynasties governed there as early as the V century A. D. Polotsk sprang up on the Western Dvina offshoot of the world great mercantile marine route “from the Varangians to the Greeks” that favorably linked the lands of Polotsk and the Baltic, Scandinavian, Gothic shores and the Black Sea basin states, as well as with a distant Arabic Caliphate.
The destiny of Polotsk was to be the European road crossing, the meeting point of the western and the eastern civilizations, the junction of historical and cultural traditions, where the mutual influence of the Russian, Baltic, Polish, Hebraic and Belarusian constituents was obviously felt over the centuries, being the factor that predestined the unique cultural and spiritual milieu.
The foundation date of Polotsk, the most ancient city of Belarus and all Eastern Slavs, is eventually considered the date or its first mentioning in the ancient Slavonic Chronicle “The Narratives about Temporal Ages” nearly in 862, in relation to town assignation implemented by the legendary prince Rurikh to his warrior vassals. Among the assigned towns Polotsk was mentioned as well. The Chronicle reminds that the Krivichy Slavs settled on the river Polota and assumed the name Polotchane. The river Polota gave the name to the city.
The annals mention the town Polotesk, Poltesk, or – according Scandinavian sagas – Pallteskiuborg, Plateskia. Initially, the settlement founded by the Balts was located on the hills close to the river Polota, 800 m from the place where the Polota fell into the Western Dvina; the site of ancient settlement covered less than 1 hectare, and the entire non-fortified town occupied about 6 hectares. In the last quarter of the X century the prince Rogvolod, who was independent of Kiev and Novgorod, governed the town of Polotsk.
He was the first prince of Polotsk, mentioned in the chronicles, whose personal significance was stressed with the following chronicle words: “He held the lands of Polotsk and ruled them”. By the time, Polotsk had grown into the centre of the Principality – the first state in the Belarusian lands where an independent dynasty of Polotsk princes had been governing for two and a half centuries. In the times of Rogvolod, the Principality of Polotsk was quite strong, and became the cradle of the Belarusian state system, culture and spirituality, the original historical motherland of the Belarusians.
The Chronicle also reminded the events that occurred approximately in 980. The Svyatoslaviches – the princes Yaropolk of Kiev and Vladimir or Novgorod, being at enmity with each other for the throne of Kiev, were searching for backing or the Polotsk prince Rogvolod, both of them asked in marriage his beautiful daughter Rogneda. Rogvolod preferred to avoid interference in that dissension. Rogneda favoured the match-makers of Yaropolk and rejected Vladimir’s proposal notifying proudly: “I don’t want to take bondman’s shoes off, and those of Yaropolk I do”, that sounded like outrage for the prince Vladimir who was of the mixed blood.
In response to negative reply of Rogvolod and Rogneda, all the Northern Russia, having anticipated such events, broke out against Polotsk. Vladimir with the huge host attacked Polotsk, burned and sacked it. Rogvolod, his wife and their two sons were killed; Rogneda, Rogvolod’s recalcitrant daughter, was forced to become the wife of Vladimir. The latter with his host occupied the Grand-Prince throne of Kiev; Rogneda became one of his wives. She was not able to forgive Vladimir for his perpetration against her and her family, and had the courage to murderous assault, but her intent failed.
Vladimir, who was furious, exiled Rogneda and their son Isyaslav to their ancestral lands where he had built the town Isyaslav (Zaslavl). Isyaslav initiated the revival of the Polotsk. Isyaslav’s son Bryachislav, who was governing in Polotsk in the second half of the XI century, was able to reinforce his power and to oppose vigorously to Kiev. The Principality of Polotsk restored its independence. After the town near the Polota-river had been destroyed by the prince Vladimir of Novgorod, construction of the citadel started in a new place.
Such new site turned to be more advantageous from the defence angle, as it was the place where the Polota fell into the Western Dvina. The highland of more than 9 hectares area was entirely closed with water, – later it was called the High Castle. The citadel had been under construction for several centuries, and it had been an administrative and political centre till the XVII century. The citadel was reinforced with wooden walls, towers, surrounded by water. The wooden fortifications have not lasted out hitherto; stone ones have never existed in Polotsk.
The town continued its developing into a large commercial centre of the Krivichy Slavs on the Western Dvina. The mercantile shipping routes “from the Varangians to the Greeks” contributed to its development. The Polotsk residents ruled over the vast length of this route, and since the XIII century Polotsk has become a part of a commercial Hanse-Union and the main partner of Hanse in the basin of the Western Dvina till the XVII century, being involved in active commerce with Riga and German cities.
The Principality of Polotsk entered into its golden age in the XI century under the illustrious prince Vseslav Bryachislavich, called “the Wizard” by people. He ascended the throne at fifteen, and was governing for 57 long years. He went down in history as famous eastern-Slavonic political figure, became of the heroes of an Old Slavonic literary work “The Word of Igor’s Regiment”. Many years were spent by Vseslav in order to win independence of the Principality of Polotsk from Kiev.
In the second half of the XI century the lands of Polotsk reached the Bay of Riga, and Minsk was an outpost on the south border of the Principality. In the IX-X and particularly in the XI-XII centuries the Principality of Polotsk became the mighty and strong state structure in the territory of Central and North-East Belarus. It initiated formatted of the Belarusian State system, unity of its political, economical and ethnic structure. That remote age gave birth to pre-image of the Belarusians as a nation that became aware of its political and cultural significance.
Under the prince Vseslav the Wizard, the majestic Sophia Cathedral was constructed in the Upper Castle of the Principality’s capital-city. The Greek word “Sophia” means “wisdom, mastery”. Our ancestors interpreted that meaning much deeper: as a mighty human community, manifestation of unity of all population of the Principality. At the end of the X century The Christianity reached the lands of Polotsk from Byzantium; together with a new faith also the cross vaulting dome design of temples was adopted.
The cathedrals were built by the craftsmen from Polotsk and Byzantium, who used plinthos – flat bricks, and rough rubbles. The brickwork and masonry technique was a classical Byzantine “dipped course”, when every second course was hidden – “deepened” into the wall and rubbed with cemianka – lime mortar with admixture of grounded plinthos. Such technique became traditional for Polotsk architecture in the XI and XII centuries. The Cathedral was mighty in dimensions: 26. 4 m width, 31. 5 m length, and 31 m height. It had five, and later seven tops (according to different sources of data).
Its interior was decorated with frescos in the second half of the XI century. Erection of such a mighty Cathedral in Polotsk was not a sign of orientation toward the powerful neighbors but rather a gesture of confrontation, rivalry and parity with Kiev and Novgorod. In ancient times, the Sophia Cathedral represented not only a religious centre – it was the place for reception of the ambassadors, signing commercial agreements, declaration of war and peace, raising the princes to the throne, safe keeping of the princes` jewellery, and depositing the library founded by the prince Isyaslav.
Today one will hardly recognize the Cathedral built in the XI century. It was destroyed, burnt, reconstructed more than once. The gravest demolition dated back to the North war, when the cathedral was converted into the gunpowder and military uniform depot by the order of the Russian Tsar Peter I. In 1710 the powder exploded, and the Cathedral was heavily damaged. Its reconstruction from 1738 till 1750 was guided by Florian Grebnitsky, the Uniate archbishop; the Cathedral was reconstructed according to Vilensky or late Belarusian Baroque taste.
This taste originated from Italy and became widely spread in the territory of the great Lithuanian Duchy. Baroque, if translated from Italian, means “luxuriant, ornate, gorgeous, irregular”. The creators of the Cathedral of the XVIII century were the brilliant representatives who worked wonders: Yan Krishtoph Glaubits, the architect of Vilna, and B. Kosinsky from Warsaw, the Master of “Arts in construction and plasterwork”. The Sophia was a Uniate cathedral for 243 years.
Exactly there, in the sanctuary of the Uniates, the ecclesiastical synod signed the deed of Union liquidation on the 12th February 1839. The Uniates have treated the vestiges of the Christian sanctuary with great care and inserted them organically into a new temple, that reigns proudly over the city being its visiting card even today. Nowadays a Museum of Architecture of the XI-XVIII centuries and a concert hall of organ and chamber classical music are functioning in the Sophia Cathedral. The interior of the Cathedral impresses with its Baroque and Rococo decoration, rich gild ornamentation.
Magnificent are the altar dated back to the XVIII century, tempera painting “The Last Supper” over holy gates, alto-relievo “Trinity of the New Testament”. The altar apse, dated back to the XI century, is most impressive, being an organic combination of the elements of ancient Sophia and its transformation into the defence-type cathedral in the XV-XVI centuries, rebuilding of the XVIII century, and the restorers efforts of the 70th-80th of the XX century. The embedded rubble, with suppositional autograph names of the builders of the XI century inscribed, has remained intact and is today a museum exhibit.
The history o f the Sophia of Polotsk has not yet come to the end. Here the unique organ phonation merges with inspired work of architectures and painters from different epochs on a sublime harmony. After the death of the prince Vseslav the Wizard, the Polotsk lands were divided between his sons in the XII century. Like all Eastern Slavonic lands, Polotsk experienced the feudal division at that time. Urban boyar and merchant clique gained strength, and the prince power decayed. At that time existence of the Veche-government, i. e. ssembly of free citizenry (from the word vershit – to rule), was typical of Polotsk. The Veche has been the principal power of Polotsk till 1498 when the Magdeburg right was granted to the city. The Veche was held near the Sophia Cathedral. While the vital problems, the votes were not counted: the intensity of common shouting (hubbub) was enough to determine the acclamation or disapproval of people. It happened that people belonging to the “majority” jumped down the throats of those from the “minority” with their hats or fists.
The Veche restricted the power of the princes but not abolished it absolutely. The Polotsk inhabitants showed their devotion to the prince family by electing the princes from the local dynasty. At that time in Polotsk the stone architecture, painting, applied art were at their peak, the written language was developing – subsequently an important political and cultural experience was contributed to the Great Duchy of Lithuania. The Polotsk architecture school experienced its utmost ascend in the XII century.
Aesthetic ideals of Byzantium were developed there; the European influence was also present. The culture of the ancient Slavs cannot be pictured completely without the elucidative efforts of Euphrossinia of Polotsk, the enlightener. Being a daughter of the local prince, a granddaughter of Vseslav the Wizard, and a great-great granddaughter of the peer-apostle prince Vladimir Predslav, she took the veil and was given the name of Euphrossinia. She was a well-educated woman for those tomes, used to translate from Greek, spoke Latin, and was an author of peculiar pieces.
Being aware of significance of the Christian dogma, she founded two convents in Polotsk, under which schools, scriptoria for making clean copies of theological books were opened. One of the convents that dates back to the XII century and has survived until now – the Savior-Euphrossinia Convent, cherishes the enlightenment traditions and is the centre of spiritual life of Polotsk dwellers. The relics of Euphrossinia rest under the protection of the Convent. She went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem to the coffin of Jesus, and there she died.
Her relics were conveyed to Kiev in the XII century, and removed to Polotsk only in 1910. On Euphrossinia’s demand Ioan (the architect of Polotsk) built the Saint Saviour Transfiguration Church in the XII century. The Church has become the crown or architecture conception of Polotsk, the pearl of the Polotsk architecture school, the bright embodiment of the cultural heritage of Polotsk dwellers and intellectual wealth of the Belarusian nation. Having suffered minor rebuilding in the XIX century, even nowadays it impresses with its architecture and balanced blending with the surroundings.
Inside the Saint Saviour Transfiguration Church there are the frescos dated back to the XII century: creative remake of Byzantium canons, converging with monumental painting of Novgorod, as well as psychological intensity and emotionality perfect representation of faces of the Saints. The applied art masterpiece of that period was the Patronal Cross of Euphrossinia of Polotsk created by the jeweler Lazar Bogsha on Euphrossinia’s demand. In its plique-a-jour manufacture technique the cross does not yield to Byzantium patterns of that period.
The history of this sacral sacred thing bears a strong resemblance to a detective story. At the beginning of the Great Patriotic War it disappeared mysteriously from the storerooms. The search of the national sacred thing has produced no encouraging results hitherto. Nikolay Kuzmich, the talented Belarusian master, re-created the Cross of the XII century in its image and likeness, and presented this gift to Polotsk. The Ark-Cross has become a symbol of rebirth and consolidation of the nation, embodiment of our repentance, hope and love.
The memorial to Euphrossinia the enlightener of Polotsk was erected in the centre of the city in 2000. In the XII century, the written language was developing rapidly in Polotsk. The inscriptions on the Cross of Euphrossinia of Polotsk, the so-called “Stone of Boris” are the graphic evidence of this fact. One of such huge boulders with the cross incuse and the inscription dated back to the XII century is placed in the Upper Castle as the monument to epigraphy, i. e. the written language. In the XIII century, the Polochane were struggling against German crusaders encroachment on the Principality lands.
The Tartar-Mongols threatened from the East. Having found itself between the two hostile forces, the Slavdom suggested the idea of consolidation. But by the middles of the XIII century the centre of political life of the Belarusian territory has displaced to Novogrudok where a new power arose – the Great Duchy of Lithuania, Russia, Zhemayts and other lands (GDL). In 1307 Polotsk formed a part of the Duchy that has become our mother country for two and a half centuries. The regiments of Polotsk – gonfalons – participated in the battle of Grunwald with the Teutonic Order in 1410.
In 1498 the grand prince Alexander granted to Polotsk the Charter of Autonomy under the Magdeburg right, adopted by the European cities. The town hall was constructed in Polotsk at that time, and the town was governed by the Magistrate. In addition to the Magdeburg right Polotsk was granted its first emblem: a three-master ship in full sail against the blue background in silver water. The European countries entered the Renaissance. That was the time of epoch-making geographical discoveries, heyday of famous painters, enlighteners and prophets.
A little later, the concept of the Renaissance reached also the lands of Polotsk. Francisk Skoryna, our renowned dweller of Polotsk, who made a girt to his people: the printed Bible in the language close to Belarusian – lived and worked at that period. As a person who got his education in the Krakow University, was granted the academic degree of a Doctor of Medicine in the Padoa University of Italy. He assimilated the idea of the European Renaissance, understood the significance of the printed word for enlightenment of common people.
He treated the Bible as a source of extensive knowledge, therefore he devoted himself to book printing. His first book – the Psalter translated from the Czech language, was published in Prague in 1517. In the period from 1517 to 1519in Prague he has published 23 books or the Old Testament in the Belarusian version of the Church Slavonic language. Integration of the Belarusian language into the books of the Holy Scripture revealed its unlimited potential in all spheres of spiritual life, rose it to the same level with the ancient classical languages such as Latin, Greek and Hebrew.
In such Skoryna’s books the true Belarusian language of that time was present. Skoryna proceeded with printing in Vilna where he published the Short Wandering Book and the Apostle in years 1522 to 1525. the books of the Belarusian printing pioneer belong to the entire world, they are of inestimable intellectual value; bat unfortunately, for the time present there is not a single Skoryna’s book on his Motherland, the ancient Polotsk. The way to seeds sowed by Skoryna was paved by the Eastern Slavonic culture.
His ideas and his life-work were kept on by Simon Budny and Basil Tyapinsky in Belarus, Maxim Greck and Ivan Fedorov in the Moscow Power, Gerasim Smotritsky and Stephan Berinda in the Ukraine. In 1974 the monument to Skoryna was erected in his native town of Polotsk: Skoryna was sculptured in a scholar mantle with a book in his hand. The peaceful life or the Polotsk-dwellers was disrupted by the Livonia War. In the course of the war in 1563, the Moscow tsar Ivan the Terrible occupied the town after a long siege, sacked it, enslaved and led away to the Russian cities more than 11 thousand of the Polotsk-dwellers.
The Livonia War was the war of Polotsk. The Russian tsar gave an order to fortify the town. At that particular time the Down Castle of 6 hectares area was constructed close to citadel. The site was enclosed with an earth-wall named from those times the Wall of Ivan the Terrible. It was of no importance as a defensive installation, and nowadays it perfectly blended with the landscape of the town. In the 60s of the XX century the athletic centre named Spartak was constructed there. After the town had been captured by the hosts of Ivan the Terrible, Polotsk was a part of the Moscow Power during 16 years.
However, The Great Duchy of Lithuania and the lands of Polotsk entered into Rzeczpospolita after the Union of Lublin in 1569. Stefan Batory, who was ascended the royal throne in 1576, declared the martial Rada edict to take possession of Polotsk, the “key to Livonia and Lithuania itself”. In August 1579 the multilingual 40 thousand host of Batory besieged the town. The Moscow warriors capitulated after the two week bloody battle. Once and for all Polotsk lost the library of the Sophia Cathedral, which was robbed both by the Moscow warriors and Batory’s hosts.
By that time Polotsk and its outskirts have become so depopulated that the peasants from Mogilev province were required for completion of the fortification construction. The witnesses recorded a disastrous ravage: there was a desert land at 50 km from the town. Polotsk experienced certain ascents in the course of time, but the town had never recovered its former reputation, resplendence and eminence. The noble life-work of Francisk Skoryna was kept on by our another renowned compatriot – Simeon of Polotsk (Samuel Petrovsky-Sitnyanovich). He went down in history as a Belarusian and Russian author, playwright, enlightener and philosopher.
By the ideology, he was an advocate of unification of Catholicism and Orthodoxy, and the greater part of his life was spent by him in Orthodox Moscow. He founded a secular printing-house in the Kremlin, printed the ABC book, and wrote poetry. The man of Baroque epoch, he arranged the verses lines as geometrical figures: a star, cross, rhombus and heart-shape. In Moscow he elaborated his project of the first higher education establishment in Russia, stood at the cradle of the Russian theatre for which he wrote plays, was a tutor of children of the tsar’s family.
His poetic translations “The Psalters”, edition of “Vertograd Multiflorous” – a peculiar encyclopedia in history, geography and zoology brought fame to him. Feverish activity of Simeon of Polotsk fell at the second half of the XVII century. Having got his education at Kiev-Mogilyanskaya Collegium, at the University of Vilna, he lived and worked as a teacher at a congregation school under the Epiphany Monastery. The Monastery, founded in the XVI century, was a centre of the Orthodox congregation of Polotsk that served as a manifest of opposition of the Belarusians to Catholicism influence.
The congregation activities had rather national and patriotic than religious nature. The congregation carried out the elucidative mission, opened schools, theatres, a publishing house, printed literary and publicist works. When Polotsk formed a part of Rzeczpospolita in the XVI century, the representatives of various Catholic Orders started construction of Roman-Catholic churches and monasteries in there. The monks of the Jesuit order drew Polotsk into the field of their activities.
Neither fire no sword and inquisition were used by Jesuits for the Pope’s chair consolidation: they created the foremost education system in Europe for those times, opened the chemist’s shops, hospitals. They established the Jesuit Collegium in Polotsk, erected the Saint Roman-Catholic Church in the centre of the town and consecrated it in 1745. That Roman-Catholic Church, built according to baroque taste combined with rococo components under direct influence of the North Italian traditions, formed the oriented line of the central square.
The Church interior was embellished with stucco moulding and unique icons of the Italian painter Salvatore Rosa (Rosatti). Simon Chekhovich, the Belarusian painter participated in the arrangement of the chancel. The organ by Dominico Casparani was installed in the Church; the bells and the chiming clock by Gustav Mundi were fixed on the church towers. The Jesuit Collegium dates back to the 1581. At that time it looked like a united architectural ensemble. The Jesuit Academy, established on the Collegium basis and assigned the rights of a university, has been functioning since 1812.
The most famous professors worked within the precincts of that educational establishment, such as: Matthew Kazimir Sorbevsky, the Latin scholar, poet and philosopher; Kazimir Koyalovich, the public speaker; Martin Pochobut Adlenitsky, the person of encyclopaedic knowledge; Sigizmund Lauksmin, the rhetoric teacher; Andrey Zhebrovsky, Professor of architecture; Maxim Voicekhovsky, the author of the manual of Greek. In the last quarter of the XVIII century, after interdict of the Jesuit order in Europe, Jesuits from all over the world poured there.
Polotsk has become the capital of the Jesus community for the period of 40 years. The town experienced another upturn, changed into an intellectual capital of Europe. The Russian government treated the Academy as a powerful centre of clerical opposition. Therefore, the Academy was closed down by the order of the Russian tsar Alexander I, Jesuits were expelled from the country, and the Academy building devolved on the higher piarum school, which was also closed down in 1830. The property was sacked barbarously.
The destiny of the Saint Stephan Roman-Catholic Church was dramatic. It was re-consecrated to the Orthodox Nicholas Cathedral, which also suffered vandalism of the authorities. It was closed together with the Sophia Cathedral in 1921, and in 1964 it was destroyed. Its exterior form is known owing to Napoleon Orda’s drawing, and from photos. The Collegium buildings of the Academy were converted into military school that had existed for 83 years starting since 1835. More than 3 thousand of graduates – the future officers of the tsar’s army, got their education there.
Among them there were: Andrey Potebnya, one of the leaders of the revolt in Poland; Roman Kondratenko, the defender of Port-Arthur; Dmitry Kaygorodov, the naturalist from Polotsk; Joseph Stabrovsky, the historian and archaeologist; Basil and Mikhail the Semevskys, the Russian historians; Oleg – the son of the grand prince Konstantin Konstantinovich; Alexander Stepanov, the author of the historical novel Port-Arthur; and many others. At the very beginning if the XXI century, the history of those buildings found its unexpected continuation in a new capacity: the State University of Polotsk has started working there.
One of the premises gave shelter to the Art Gallery where works of fine arts, graphics, sculpture, arts and crafts represent perfectly the artistic life of the ancient town. The icons of Sophia Cathedral dated back to the XVIII century are the pearls of the artistic and spiritual heritage. The first division of Rzeczpospolita, lead to separation of Polotsk into two parts: the centre of the town passed to Russia, and the area near the Dvina-river remained a part of Poland for a certain time. When the French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte declared war on Russia, both the French and Russian hosts went through the lands of Polotsk.
The town was occupied by the French marshal Oudino on the 14th July 1812. Not far from Polotsk the retreating Russian hosts went into action against the French invaders attacking in the direction of Petersburg; the general Jacob Kulnev became famous and perished as a hero in that action. That battle near Polotsk close to Klyastitsy village was the first outstanding victory of the Russian hosts in the campaign of 1812. In October the raging battles for Polotsk started. The battle on the bridge across the Polota was especially fierce. The eyewitnesses described that in the morning of the 7th October the bridge was completely covered with blood.
Since then, for almost 200 years, it has been called the Red bridge. In 1975 a new bridge was constructed, its design reminds of those events. The first Russian revolution of 1905 and the October revolution in 1917 greatly influenced the life of Polotsk dwellers. In 1917 the Soviet power was established in Polotsk. The Great Patriotic War left the deepest traces in the history of the town: 96% of it was destroyed, every third citizen of Polotsk perished. The town over the Dvina was occupied by the Hitler troops on the 16th July 1941.
The nazi organized three concentration camps in that small town, where 150 thousand of people among the Polotsk dwellers, war-prisoners and people of other regions perished during the three severe years of occupation. Polotsk was liberated by the troops of the 1st Baltic Front. The Guardsmen commanded by Alexander Grigoriev displayed valour from the first days of liberating battles. They crossed a wooden bridge under a hurricane of fire of the enemy, reached the centre of the town and captured a bridgehead on the right bank of the Dvina. The soldiers perished having ensured river-crossing by considerable liberation forces.
The memorial designed by Lev Oganov, the sculptor from Novopolotsk, was erected at the place where the events have occurred. Polotsk was liberated on the 4th July 1944. “Lifeless, uninhabited” the journalists wrote at that time. The town was rebuilt within a short post-war period: the fact that Polotsk was the capital of the region during ten post war years contributed to its quicker rebuilding. Polotsk today is a district centre subordinated to the Vitebsk region authorities. Enterprises of chemical, metalworking, food, meat and diary industries are functioning there.
The products of the enterprises of Polotsk such as agricultural machines and equipment for livestock breeding and fodder plants, engines, glass fiber cloth, ski poles and fishing rods, furniture, ready-made garments, cultural and household articles – are well known far beyond the bounds of Belarus. The town has changed beyond recognition for the recent ten years. The National History and Culture Reserve of Polotsk is functioning there: over 10 its museums occupy a fitting place in the cultural life of the town. The ancient Polotsk has restored the traditions of its theatre. There is a University and four technical schools in the town.
The rebuilding of the Protection of the Holy Blessed Virgin Church (blown up in 1963) was a remarkable event in the spiritual life of the Polotsk-dwellers. The churches of other confessions were built there: the Roman-Catholic Church consecrated to saint Andrey Bobolya, the Old Belief Church of the Blessed Virgin Assumption, the Temple of Saint Paraskeva of Polotsk belonging to the Greco-Latin community, three Protestant churches are functioning in Polotsk. Each confession has left its traces in the history and culture of Polotsk. The catholic churches and monasteries once were of importance for formation of the urban aspect.
But today they are recalled as a lost heritage. The region of Polotsk has retained the profound strata of national culture, enriched over centuries with the traditions of the nearest neighbours. The lands of Polotsk have been called the cradle of the Dvina-side literature. The custodians of fame and spiritual strength of this land are the contemporary pen-masters: Iryna Dorofeichuk, Lera Som, Herman Kirillov, Nadezhda Solodkaya, Zmitrok Kunitsky, Nadezhda Ermak, Victor Leonenya, Pavel Nizkovsky, the creative group of the Free Literati Union headed by Ales Arkush, the poets of “Polotsk Branch” Literati Union.