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Białystok (also known by alternative names) is the largest city in northeastern Polandmarker and the second most densely populated city of the country. It is located near Poland's border with Belarusmarker and is the capital of the Podlachia region. In 2006, its population was 294,830 . From 1921 to 1998, it lay within Białystok Voivodeshipmarker; since 1999, it has been the capital of Podlaskie Voivodeshipmarker.


An English translation of Białystok would be "white slope" or "clean stream" (in Old Polish language). The city has been known in Belarusian as Беласток (Biełastok, ), in Yiddish as ביאַליסטאָק (Byalistok, Bjalistok). It has been known in Russian as Белосток or Belostok, a variant also used sometimes in English.

According to legend, Białystok was given its name by the Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas ca. 1320.


The first mention of the place in historical sources dates from 1437 when the land around the Biala river (which is called "Bialka" by inhabitants) was given by Grand Duke of Lithuania Casimir IV Jagiellon to Raczko Tabutowicz, then in 1547 it passed to the Wiesiołowski family. They built a brick castle and a church here. It was then a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In 1645 after the death of Krzysztof Wiesiołowski, the last of the clan, Białystok became the property of the Commonwealth. 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, it passed to the Branicki family.

View of the gardens seen from the Branicki Palace, 1750s.

In the second half of the 18th century Field Crown Hetman Jan Klemens Branicki, a commander in chief, became the heir of the Białystok area. It was he who transformed the previously existing abode into the magnificent residence of a great noble. Several artists and scientists came to Białystok to take advantage of Branicki's patronage. Białystok received its city charter in 1749.

After the third partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795 it first belonged to the Prussian Kingdommarker, then after the Peace of Tilsit signed in 1807 it passed to Russiamarker. During the 19th century the city became a major centre 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 this time, 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).

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. In March 1918 it was declared part of the Belarusian National Republic; in July 1918 it was made part of Lithuanian Province and became capital of the Southern Lithuania government precinct. On February 19, 1919 the city was taken by Polandmarker. In 1920, when overrun by Sovietmarker 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.

Lubomirski Palace.

In the years 1920–1939, the city was again part of independent Poland. 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, when it was annexed into the Byelorussian SSR. The Belastok Voblastmarker with the centre in Bielystok was created in 1939.

On June 27, 1941, Białystok fell into Nazi hands as a result of the invasion of the Soviet Unionmarker. From the very beginning, the Nazis pursued a ruthless policy of pillage and extermination of the non-German population. The 56,000 Jewish members of the town were confined in a ghetto, which during August 1941 was exterminated. On the morning of June 27, 1941, Nazi troops from Order Policemarker Battalion 309 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 2000 men, women and children– were locked in the synagogue, which was subsequently set on fire; there they burned to death. The Nazi onslaught continued with the grenading of numerous homes and further shootings. As the flames from the synagogue spread and merged with the grenade fires, the entire square was engulfed. On that day– June 27, 1941– some 3,000 Jews lost their lives.

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 concentration camp.

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 August 15, 1943, the Białystok Ghetto Uprising began, and several hundred Polish Jews started an armed struggle against the German troops who were carrying out the planned liquidation of the ghetto.

After the expulsion of the Nazis by the Soviet army in September 1944, the city was administered by the Byelorussian SSR, but according to the Polish-Soviet border treaty in August 1945, Białystok, with the surrounding area, was passed on to Poland. Since that time Bialystok 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.

Geography and climate

Bialystok is situated on the river Biala, which is the left tributary of Suprasl. The city is located in the region known as Podlachia lowland and therefore Bialystok is primarily flat. The climate, however, is substantially different from most of the other Polish lowlands. The region is one of the coldest in Poland, with the average temperature in January being -5°C. 7°C is the average temperature in a year.

The city lies in a direct proximity to Lithuanianmarker and Belarussianmarker borders, with a nearest border checkpoint with Belarus in Bobrownikimarker only away. Since border with Belarus is also the eastern border of the European Union as well as the Schengen Area, Bialystok plays an important role in managing the border's security.


Bialystok is home to one principal public university (Bialystok Universitymarker) and two other public specialist universities (Bialystok Technical University and Medical University of Bialystokmarker). Some institutions, such as Musical Academy in Bialystok, are branches of their parent institutions in other cities, usually in Warsawmarker. Since the fall of communism many private-funded institutions of higher educations were founded and their number is still increasing.


Municipal politics

Last municipal elections were won by Civic Platform which has majority of the seats in the City Council. The current city mayor, Tadeusz Truskolaski, won the elections as the Platform's candidate, however he has no official connection with the party. Platform's major opponents, Law and Justice, have minority of the seats in the City Council and were running the city administration before 2006. During the last mayoral elections, a humorous and peculiar TV spot of one of the candidates, Krzysztof Kononowicz, became an Internet phenomenon and gained the city a lot of popularity in Polish media.

Administrative division

Districts of Białystok.

The City of Białystok is divided into 28 districts:1. Centrum 2. Białostoczek 3. Sienkiewicza 4. Bojary 5. Piaski 6. Przydworcowe 7. Młodych 8. Antoniuk 9. Jaroszówka 10. Wygoda 11. Piasta I 12. Piasta II 13. Skorupy 14. Mickiewicza 15. Dojlidy 16. Bema 17. Kawaleryjskie 18. Nowe Miasto 19. Zielone Wzgórza 20. Starosielce 21. Słoneczny Stok 22. Leśna Dolina 23. Wysoki Stoczek 24. Dziesięciny I 25. Dziesięciny II 26. Bacieczki 27. Zawady 28. Dojlidy Górne


Before World War II Bialystok had a horse tram network. After the war the plans of the electrification of the lines proved to be too costly and the lines were pulled down. Since then buses have been the only means of public transportation. There are 28 city lines, 5 metropolitan lines and 3 night lines (weekends only) served by 3 bus operators partially owned by the municipality - KPKM, KPK and KZKM, each sharing approximately a third of the lines and the bus fleet. There are also plans of developing a rapid city rail system in the near future, using existing railways lying within the city limits, to improve the reliability of the public transport.

Krywlany airport lies within the city limits. It is currently used only by Aeroklub Krywlany, an air sports and recreational flying association, and by private airplanes. The city is aiming to modernize the airport by 2010 to make it suitable for civic air transport and is aiming to attract low cost carriers. Previously the other suggested location for a future Bialystok airport was Topolany, a village 30 km south-east of Bialystok, but the plans were subsequently abandoned in favour of Krywlany. Currently the nearest airport to Bialystok is the Hrodna Airportmarker in Belarus, however it operates only flights to Belarus and Russia. Bialystok citizens usually use Warsaw Frederic Chopin Airportmarker.


Bialystok is an important centre of production of alcoholic beverages. Brewery Browar Dojlidy in Dojlidy belonging to the Kompampania Piwowarska group produces popular Zubr beer featuring the motif of the European bison (one of Podlachia's tourist attractions) in its marketing campaign. Polmos Bialystok, the biggest vodka manufacturer in Poland, is located in the city district of Starosielce. The company is the producer of Absolwent and Zubrowka (bison grass vodka) - one of major Polish vodka exports abroad.

Bialystok was in the 19th century a primary centre of light industry and this was the reason for the substantial growth of the city's population. The tradition continued with many garment factories established in the 20th century, such as Fasty in the district of Bacieczki. However, after the fall of communism in 1989 many of those faced severe problems and subsequently closed down. Currently in Bialystok there is one major Polish producer of carpets and similar products, Agnella, located in the district of Bialostoczek.


Notable residents



Cultural references

International relations

Twin towns - Sister cities

Białystok is twinned with the following cities and towns:


Versailles de Podlachie

Białystok was turned in the first half of the 18th century by its owner Jan Klemens Branicki, a wealthy Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth hetman, into a residence suitable for a pearson whose ambition was to become king of Poland. The palace complex with gardens, pavillons, sculptures, outbuildings and other structures and the city with churches, city hall and monastery, all built almost at the same time according to french models was the reason why the city was known in the 18th century as Versailles de Podlachie (Versailles of Podlachia).File:Palac Branickich pn-wsch.jpg|Branicki Palace corps de logis, rebuilt 1726File:Figura 3.jpg|Rococo sculpture of Hercules, 1758File:Town hall in Białystok.png|Hôtel de ville in Białystok built between 1745-1761File:Palacyk goscinny.JPG|Pavillon des Invités was built in 1771

Other architectural monuments

File:Bialystok Kosciol.jpg|Białystok Archcathedral from the 17th centuryFile:Palac Hasbacha.jpg|Hasbach Palace, 1880sFile:Cerkiew sw.Mikolaja.jpg|St. Nicolas Orthodox Church, built 1843-1846File:CerkiewStDuchaBialystok.JPG|Modern Holy Spirit Orthodox Church

See also

Sources and external links


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