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Vitebsk Oblast
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About Location

Vitebsk is a city in Belarus, near the border with Russia.The capital of the Vitebsk Oblast,in 2004 it had 342,381 inhabitants, making it the country's fourth largest city.It is served by Vitebsk Vostochny Airport and Vitebsk air base.Vitebsk developed from a river harbor where the Vitba River flows into the larger Dvina, which is spanned in the city by the Kirov Bridge.Its official founding year is 947 (or perhaps 974, or 914), based on an anachronistic legend that it was founded by Olga of Kiev, but the first mention in historical record is in 1021, when Yaroslav the Wise of Kiev gave it to Bryachislav Ezyaslavovitch, Duke of Polotsk.

In the 12th and 13th centuries Vitebsk was the seat of a minor principality which thrived at the crossroads of the river routes among the Baltic, Black, and Mediterranean seas.In 1320 the city was incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania; in 1569 it became a part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.In 1597 Vitebsk was granted the Magdeburg Rights.In 1772 it was taken over by Russian Empire in the First Partition of Poland.Under Imperial Russia the ancient center of Vitebsk was rebuilt in the Neoclassical style.The town was a significant shtot in the Pale of Settlement, with around half its population Orthodox Jewish at the turn of the 20th century.The most famous of its Jewish natives was the painter Marc Chagall.Up to the Second World War, like many other cities in Europe, Vitebsk had a significant Jewish population: according to Russian census of 1897, out of the total population of 65,900, Jews constituted 34,400 (so around 52% percent).

The city long preserved one of the oldest buildings in the country: the Annunciation Church.This magnificent six-pillared building dates back to the period of Kievan Rus.It was constructed in the 1140s, rebuilt in the 14th and 17th centuries, repaired in 1883 and destroyed by the Communist administration in 1961. Scarce remains of the church were conserved until 1992, when it was restored to its presumed original appearance, although it's a moot point how the church looked like when it was first built.Churches from the Polish-Lithuanian period were likewise destroyed, although the Resurrection Church (1772–77) has been rebuilt. The Orthodox cathedral, dedicated to the Intercession of the Theotokos, was erected in 1760. There are also the town hall (1775); the Russian governor's palace, where Napoleon celebrated his 43rd birthday in 1812; the Neo-Romanesque Roman Catholic cathedral (1884–85); and an obelisk commemorating the centenary of the Russian victory over Napoleon.

Vitebsk is also home to a lattice steel TV tower carrying a horizontal cross on which the antenna mast is guyed. This tower, which is nearly identical to that at Grodno, but a few metres shorter ( 245 metres in Vitebsk versus 254 metres at Grodno) was completed in 1983.Vitebsk is home to the Vitebsk State Technological University, Vitebsk State Medical University and Vitebsk State University of P.M. Masherova.

How to Reach

By Air

Vitebsk Vostochny Airport (also given as Vitebsk Southeast) (ICAO: UMII) is an airport in Belarus located 12 km southeast of Vitebsk.It accommodates small airliners up to the size of Tupolev Tu-154. Also can accommodate Il-76.While Belarus and Russia don't formally have a monitored border (i.e. you may hop on a train and get from one country to the other), train crew normally checks your passport before getting on the train to make sure you possess the visa.Gomel airport situated in Gomel, south Belarus, accepting flights from far abroad, might be a good connection to reach Vitebsk, however you need to verify that before planning your trip.

By Train

Vitebsk sits on the major train route from Minsk, capital of Belarus, to Saint Petersburg, Russia. Moscow is also easily accessible by train.Vitebsk also serves as a regional hub.

By Bus

Regular buses travel between Vitebsk and Minsk or Moscow, as well as to numerous other smaller regional towns.Buses to Lithuania and Latvia are also available."Route buses" or "marshrutka" from Minsk is a good way of transportation - they are fast, convinient and can often can drop you off nearby the hotel or the house in Vitebsk, which you point at.Getting to Riga takes about 11 hours by coach from Vitebsk.Getting to Moscow - around 9 hours, Saint Petersburg - around 12 hours, Kiev(Kyiv) - around 9 hours.Please consider that getting to places outside Belarus by coach can be time-consuming due to border controls.

Key places to visit
National Academic Dramatic Theatre, International Festival of Modern Choreography, Ratusha City Hall, Vitebsk State Technological University


Places to Visit

National Academic Dramatic Theatre

This company has seen considerable success internationally.It is especially notable for being one of the last two professional theatres in the world performing exclusively in the Belarusian language. Foreign travellers unable to understand Belarusian should not be afraid of attending a performance, however, given that much of the work directed by Artistic Director Vital Barkouski is both visually striking and frequently of such an avant garde nature that they can be appreciated without an understanding of the language.Traditional works with charismatic flair are frequently directed by Yuri Lizianhevich.

International Festival of Modern Choreography

which plays host to dance companies from around the world.Finally, Vitebsk is the home of the "Slaviansky Bazaar"a huge festival of music from across the Slavic-speaking world.It is hosted in a stunning amphitheatre near the center.Other cultural events and activities, such as exhibitions and traditional crafts also play a significant part in the festival, and guest theatre productions are hosted in the Yakub Kolas Theatre.

Ratusha City Hall

The Ratusha city hall, with its renowned clock tower, is a beautiful piece of 19th century architecture, as is St. Varvara's Catholic Church.The church of Alexander Nevsky, sitting on the River Dvina across ul. Zamkovaya from the Yakub Kolas Theatre is also a beautiful example of old wooden style Orthodox churches.

Vitebsk State Technological University

Vitebsk State Technological University is an entire academic-scientific-production complex, which trains specialists with higher education for the light industry and other branches of national economy, prepares highly qualified scientific personnel, provides qualification improvement and employees retraining in different spheres, implements fundamental and applied scientific research on broad aspects, manufactures light industry products, develops international cooperation with higher educational establishments and enterprises. The University provides the high level of professional training of specialists which is located in Vitebsk, Belarus.

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