Hrodna (Grodno) Travel Guide

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Hrodna

Hrodna

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History

    The first mention of Hrodna (Grodno in Russian and Harodnya in old Belarusian) appeared in 1128 A.D. in the Ipat'ev Chronicle. The name of the city stems from the eastern Slavonic work for town, "gorad," and refers to a "fenced settlement." Hrodna was founded on a high hill overlooking the confluence of the rivers Nyoman and Hradnichanka. Located today in Belarus ("White Rus","Litva") it was a center of Chornaia Rus' ("Black Rus") until the early 13th century.

The symbol of Hrodna since XVI is St. Hubert's Deer jumping over the fence.
Apparently, St. Hubert was a saint of hunters and the very first nature conservationist! An avid hunter he stopped hunting and sworn to protect Nature when a deer with a golden cross between horns miraculously appeared in front of him during his last hunt.

    In 1496 Hrodna was awarded a Magdeburg "Right" to promote its economy and the 500th anniversary of that important event was celebrated in 1996.

    From the second half of the XII Century Hrodna was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (Belarus), and in 1569 it merged with the Kingdom of Poland to form Recz Paspalitaja Polska-Litouskaja  - the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania(Old Belarus). The name Belarus appears only later. During the period of the Vitaut Duchy and the reign of King Stefan Batory of Rzhech Pospolita Hrodna was their residence and the capital of entire state.
    In 1588, there were two castles in Hrodna, nine Orthodox and three Catholic churches, one synagogue, 31 streets and 4,000 inhabitants.

Between 1760 and 1780 the major of Hrodna, Antonij Tyzenhaus, founded a number of royal manufacturing businesses. Also, during that period there was a medical academy in Hrodna with Dr. Jan Emmanuel Giliber, a French surgeon and botanist, serving as rector. He founded the botanical garden in Hrodna which at the time was considered the best in Europe. The Central City Park is located now in place of his garden.

    In 1795 Hrodna was incorporated into the Russian Empire.  Hrodna was occupied in 1812 as Napoleon's Army marched toward Moscow. It was liberated in the wake of Napoleon's defeat.

Famous Belarusian poet Maksim Bahdanovich was living in Hrodna. His house is nowadays a museum of Bahdanovich. 

    Hrodna was in the front lines of World War I. From September of 1915 it was occupied by the German Army. In the subsequent turmoil caused by the end of the war and the onset of the Russian Revolution Hrodna was captured by the Pilsudski Army in 1920, was ceded to Poland by the Treaty of Riga and remained part of Poland until 1939.

    In September 1939 Poland has been occupied and divided between Nazi Germany and USSR according to Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement. At this time Western Belarus (including Hrodna) rejoined Eastern Belarus (BSSR).

    At the beginning of the Nazi attack on the USSR, June 22, 1941, Hrodna was bombed by the Luftwaffe. It was occupied the next day by the Nazi Army. My Grandmother stayed in fascist occupation with my Mother and Aunt (6 and 5 year old girls) for three long years. Hrodna buildings did not suffer the massive destruction during the war - the fate of other major cities between Berlin and Moscow. The population, however, did suffer at Nazi hands, especially the Jews who had lived in three large ghettos. The population of Hrodna decreased more than in half - from 57,200 in 1939 to 25,000 in 1944.

    The Soviet Army liberated Hrodna from Nazis in 1944. Most of the battles were conducted on the banks of Nioman outside the city. There were no battles in the streets. My Grandmother told me that one day she simply saw a lone Russian soldier walking down the street and started to cry out in happiness. She was hiding with her daughters for two last weeks under the bridge listening to approaching cannonade, because fascists were executing people from their black lists and destroying strategically important objects before their retreat.

    Ever since, Hrodna has been a part of Belarus. Many of the old churches survived the war and the destruction of the Nazis, but in the late 1950s the huge XIV Century "Garrison Catholic Church" was criminally destroyed by they Soviets in their effort to stamp out religion. Today Hrodna has more of the old architecture than any other Belarusian city.

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1990 Belarus has been an independent country.

Contributors

May 02, 2007 change by zmiter (1 point)

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