Vitebsk Governorate

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Coat of arms of the Vitebsk governorate
Map from 1821 (Russian-Polish)

The Vitebsk Governorate ( Russian Витебская губерния / Vitebskaja gubernija ) was an administrative unit of the Russian Empire . Today the area largely belongs to Belarus , the north-western part to Latvia and the northern and eastern part to Russia . It bordered the governorates of Pskov , Smolensk , Mogilev , Minsk , Vilnius , Courland and Livonia and covered 43,984 km² (according to Strelbitsky 45,166 km²) with the capital Vitebsk .

Around 1900 the governorate comprised eleven districts :

The last three belonged to Livonia during the time of the order and were later called " Polish Livonia ", by the country folk Niflant and Iflant . This is today's Latgale .

Vitebsk formerly formed part of the Polotsk principality , came to Lithuania in the 14th century and became a voivodeship ( Vitebsk Voivodeship ). It fell to Russia when Poland was first partitioned in 1772 and was united with Mohiljow to form the governorship of Belarus in 1796 , but separated from it again in 1802 and organized as a separate government. It existed until 1924.


The population comprised 1,489,246 inhabitants in 1897. It consisted of 788,599 Belarusians, 264,062 Latvians, 198,001 Russians, 174,240 Jews, 50,377 Poles and 7361 Germans. According to religion, in 1897 there were 24% Roman Catholics and 61% Orthodox. The urban population was predominantly Polish and Jewish, while the rural population consisted predominantly of Belarusians (in northwestern Latvians). As everywhere in the western parts of the Russian Empire, there were strong tendencies towards Russification in the 19th century , which intensified around 1890.

The swamps in this area took up over 4700 km². Of the area, 27.2 percent were in fields , 34.6 in forests , 18.6 in meadows and pastures , 19.6 percent in unland .

The number of marriages in 1885 was 8,044, the number of births 50,779 and the deceased 32,245.

Vitebsk was not one of the most fertile governorates, and the harvests were only sufficient for the population in the most favorable years. In 1887 the harvest yielded 2.6 million hectoliters of rye , 2.6 million hectoliters of potatoes and 1.9 million hectoliters of oats . The livestock amounted in 1883 to 455,312 pieces of cattle , 229,530 horses , 265,854 grobwollige sheep , 216,274 pigs . The potato often had to replace the bread . Flax was widely grown and was a major part of the export via Riga .

The industry was not significant late 19th century: 672 factories with 2,936 workers and a production value of 7,887,000 rubles. Major industries were flour mills , brandy production , leather processing , beer brewery and tobacco industry .

The trade was the Daugava River , the Beresinakanal (of the Dvina to the Dnepr connects) and by railway from Vitebsk to Smolensk as other, according Daugavpils transported and especially flax, linseed , lumber and skins sold. The imports consisted in significant quantities grain from Smolensk, cloths from Grodno , colonial and haberdashery from Riga and Moscow . The most important trading center was Vitebsk.

Vitebsk had 330 elementary schools with 12,433 pupils in 1885 , 9 middle schools with 1983 pupils and 2 technical schools with 282 pupils, namely a spiritual and a teacher seminar .

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