According to ancient Scandinavian sagas Polotsk is the most ancient city of Belarus and one of the ancient Slavic city. In the written sources for the first time it was mentioned in the "Story of the temporal ages". In X— XIII centuries it was the center of the large Princedom of Polotsk. A favorable geographic position at the trade ways (the west Dvina part of the way "from the Varangians to the Greeks") contributed to the rapid economic and political development of Polotsk.
In the middle of the XII century the Polotsk Architecture School was formed. Under the governance of the prince Vseslav Charodei (1044—1101) the Princedom of Polotsk reached the highest prosperity. Even after the division of Polotsk between the sons of Vseslav the city remained the large political center and the main Kiev competitor.
In 1110 an enlightener of the ancient belarusian lands Efrosinia Polotskaya was born here. She contributed greatly to the culture development not only of Polotsk land but all the east Slavic cities. She was the Mother Superior of the Polotsk monastery of St. Saviour and was consecrated saint in Belarus. In 1307 Polotsk finally became the part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and its largest city. In XIV—XVI centuries it had special rights — Polotsk privileges.
In about 1490 the first belarusian printer, enlightener and an outstanding personality of the Renaissance F. Skorina was born in Polotsk.
In 1498 Polotsk obtained the Magdeburg right, the municipal government was created. Under the Baptist monastery the brotherhoods and the school existed where since 1656 a famous teacher, publicist, poet, play-writer and churchman Simeon Polotsky has worked.
Nowadays Polotsk is a large industrial and cultural center with the population of more than 80 thousand people. The chemical and petrochemical industry (64% in the total production output) is the base of the industrial development. Here we can find about 30 enterprises with different patterns of ownership. In Polotsk the architectural monuments are preserved: the Sophiisky cathedral (XI century), the Saviour and Transfiguration church (XII century). The witnesses of the historical events are the Upper and Lower castles with the arbor of Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great house, the Baptist cathedral, the brotherhood school, the Jesuit collegium.
Guide to towns and district centers of Republic of Belarus. A.V. Varivonchik [etc.]