Vitebsk is one of the most ancient Belarusian cities. It is situated on the elevated coasts of the Zapadnaia Dvina River at the point of the influx of the Vitba e Luchosa Rivers. A great Princess Îlgà founded it in 974. After 1001 it became the centre of the specific Princedom of Vitebsk. In 1180 Brochislav Vasilkovich became a Vitebsk prince. Alexander Nevskii married his daughter and visited the city very often. In 1245 he participated in the defence of Vitebsk from the Lithuanian feudalists.
At the end of the XIV century Vitebsk — the centre of the great prince of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania — became the centre of the internecine fight between the sons and congeners of Olgerd for the right of the possession of this important commercial and strategic point in the eastern Belarus.
In the middle of the XV century Vitebsk became among the 15 largest cities in the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, it was given a limited autonomy. In the XVI century it had its own administration and a court. In the XV and XVI centuries Vitebsk became the commercial and handicraft centre. Trade ways connected it with the Baltic countries, Germany, Czechia, Italy, Hungary, and Moscow Empire. In about 1506 a Vitebsk voivodeship was created. In 1597 the city obtained the Magdeburg right and its own emblem. In 1772 the city became the part of Russia. In the second half of the XVIII century Vitebsk became the second (after Mogilev) largest city in Belarus.
15 January 1938 it became the centre of Vitebsk region. Nowadays Vitebsk is one of the largest republican centres with the well-developed industry, science and culture. 88 large industrial enterprises produce the metal-cutting machine tools, wood-working machines, the NC tools, the building materials, the fabrics, carpets and carpet products, footwear, television techniques, the watches, knitting and hosiery products, the furniture. The city became history as one of the artistic avante-garde centres. The art and creative work of the artists I. Trutnev, M. Dobuzhinsky, I. Repin. Y. Pan, K. Malevich, R. Falk, M. Shagal is closely connected with Vitebschina. Nowadays in Vitebsk there are about 228 architectural monuments. There are 136 historic and cultural monuments, 4 archeological monuments. In Vitebsk the buildings of the former city hall (1775), the church of St. Barbara with the fence (1785), Pokrovskaya church (1814), the church of the Annunciation (XII century) have been restored. The buildings of the former Alexander gymnasium (XVIII century) and the former Gubernatorial Palace (XVIII century, in 1812 it was used as the headquarters of Napoleon) are still in good condition.
The festival movement becomes more and more popular in the city. The most important musical event in Vitebsk is the international musical art festival "Slavianskii bazar". About 30 countries of the world take part in this festival.
Guide to towns and district centers of Republic of Belarus. A.V. Varivonchik [etc.]