Polotsk is an ancient city in the Vitebsk region of Belarus, which has preserved many attractions from past centuries. Standing on the banks of the Western Dvina, Polotsk was first mentioned in chronicles in the 9th century. Although, according to historians, as early as the 8th century the city was inhabited by people from the tribe of Kriviches.
In the 11th century Polotsk rapidly developed and became an important cultural and political center in eastern Europe. An independent principality was organized around it, which later came under the rule of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
As part of the next partition of Poland, Polotsk became part of the Russian Empire, and then became part of the Belarusian SSR within the Soviet Union. Today it is an important economic, scientific, cultural and tourist center of independent Belarus.
Top 14 attractions of Polotsk
We offer a brief description of the sights of Polotsk with photos and recommend you to visit this wonderful city. So, what can you see in Polotsk, what can it surprise?
This is the oldest and largest women’s Orthodox monastery in Belarus. It was founded in the 12th century by Princess Euphrosyne, when she and her sisters took monastic vows. Thanks to the nuns, a temple was built in a few years in the convent.
After the capture of Polotsk by the troops of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the monastery was given to the Jesuits, who owned it until the early 19th century. Later the Jesuits were expelled from the city, and the monastery was transferred to the sovereign’s treasury.
During Soviet times, the monastery was closed, almost destroyed along with the churches. Today it has been restored, the nuns live there, and tourists come here for guided tours.
Monument to Francis Skorina
This native of Polotsk is one of the great figures of the Renaissance. He was interested in philosophy, medicine, and other sciences. In his desire for new knowledge, Francis Scorina left his paternal home and traveled to Europe.
After studying at several universities, he earned his doctorate. Skoryn was the first to translate the Bible from Church Slavonic into Belarusian. He became interested in printing books, printing and distributing spiritual literature.
Belarus cherishes the memory of this great man and appreciates all his achievements. Here there are two state awards named after. And in the 1970s, a monument to Skorina was erected.
Museum of Chivalry
This museum was created by a resident of Polotsk, who claims to be a direct descendant of the Rurikovich family. Today, the museum is widely known, not only in Belarus but also in Russia and Europe, is extremely popular among tourists.
Here you can learn a lot of interesting things about the ancient history of Polotsk, see the revived Polotsk princes, knights in armor, ancient weapons. Inside the museum, the interiors of the rooms fully correspond to the interiors of medieval castles.
There is also a torture room, one of those so common in the Middle Ages. Here you can look at torture instruments, shackles, etc. The museum has a souvenir shop where you can buy some trinkets as a memento when you leave this place.
Center of Europe
The Belarusians are convinced that their oldest city in Belarus is the center of the European continent. The corresponding sign is installed on one of the city’s avenues, it is one of the landmarks of Polotsk.
The opinion of Belarusian geographers is fully supported by Russian scientists, confirming it with their own calculations. Tourists vacationing in Belarus are happy to receive documents that they were in the center of Europe.
This sign depicts the northern hemisphere with the city’s coat of arms in the form of a small ship. It stands in a convenient place for walks of citizens and guests of the city, on a beautiful and well-maintained avenue Skorina.
The shaft of Ivan the Terrible
In the 1660s, during the Livonian War, after the capture of Polotsk by Russian troops, Tsar Ivan IV ordered the construction of the Lower Castle. This is a giant earthwork rampart, encircled by walls of logs assembled around its perimeter.
So Ivan the Terrible wanted to build here a powerful fortification of frightening appearance. However, it was of little real use in defending the city. As a result, the Lower Castle was simply inhabited by the Tsar’s streltsys.
Over time, the log walls collapsed and the earthen rampart shrank in size by a third. Outwardly, it has become like a large hill of natural origin. In the 1960s, a soccer stadium was built inside the rampart.
Peter the Great House
The time of its construction is not exactly known, but historians are confident that the house is more than three hundred years old. They claim that in the early 18th century, the Russian Emperor Peter I stayed and lived there for some time.
The house of Peter the Great today is in a rather poor condition, has not been restored for a long time. It has no architectural value, but as a historical site it is worth seeing in Polotsk.
It is a one-story residential structure with stucco on the facade and wood carvings on the entrance doors. Here, during research work, a table service of the early 18th century was discovered, apparently formerly belonging to the tsar.
The Jesuit School
Ancient Polotsk is not only the center of Europe; Orthodoxy and Catholicism, Russia and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth collided intimately here. A striking example of the clash of cultures is the Jesuit collegium, which appeared in the city in the 16th century.
In the 18th century, the activities of the Catholic Jesuit order were forbidden in Europe, and in Russia they were treated indifferently. That is why the Collegium, previously dormant in oblivion in Polotsk, blossomed in full force at the end of the 18th century.
A very good education was given here, as the school attracted Jesuit scholars from all over Europe. That is why Emperor Alexander I ordered to organize an academy on the basis of the collegium. Today it houses the faculty of the University of Polotsk.
Mound of Immortality
This Kurgan was built by the people of Polotsk immediately after the liberation of the city by the Soviet army in memory of the soldiers and civilians who gave their lives in the fight against German Nazism during the Great Patriotic War.
At the creation of the Kurgan in it brought the cooled embers of burned villages, the earth from mass graves, from the fields where the giant battles that have not yet been on earth, from the heroic cities – the burned, but not surrendered, from the Brest Fortress.
Every year grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the victims come to this mound to thank them once again for winning the bloodiest war in human history and giving them a happy peaceful life.
Museum of Printing
This museum is dedicated to the activities of Francis Skorina as a first printer. It was opened almost 30 years ago in honor of the 500th anniversary of the birth of the great scholar and thinker of the Belarusian land.
The museum is located in the parochial school of the Epiphany Monastery in Polotsk, it has a dozen and a half large rooms, where the exposition – the best printed books published by Skoryna – is on display.
Also on display here are the scribes’ tools that they used before the invention of the printing press. It is known that ancient books were copied by the monks themselves. Next, more modern prints are shown in the halls.
These are huge boulders, reaching up to several meters in diameter, on which the man carved images of crosses with inscriptions, usually in the name of a certain Boris. Such stones are found in the Western Dvina basin. There is one such stone in Polotsk.
Historians have established that most of the found Boris Stones are written in the name of the famous Polotsk Prince Boris Vseslavich, who lived in the city in the 12th century. To date, six such stones have been found.
The first Borisov stone used to be 5 km from Polotsk downstream of the Northern Dvina. Today it has been lifted from the river and installed next to the Cathedral of St. Sophia. It’s a must-see attraction in Polotsk.
St. Sophia Cathedral
This Orthodox cathedral is the first stone building erected in Belarus, as well as a monument of architecture. It was built in the 11th century in the Byzantine style, over the centuries it has been repeatedly rebuilt and survives in the Baroque architectural style.
At the end of the 16th century, after the capture of Polotsk by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the only Orthodox church in the city went to the Uniates. At the beginning of the 18th century, Peter the Great was here, and he drove the Uniates out of St. Sophia Cathedral and closed it. In the 19th century he became Orthodox again.
In Soviet times, the St. Sophia Cathedral housed a museum. Then an organ was built here and organ music concerts were given. Today the concerts continue, famous organists come. On St. John’s Day. The church of St. Euphrosyne holds Orthodox services.
The bridge over the river Polota near Polotsk is called Red not to emphasize its beauty, but to remind you that during the Patriotic War with Napoleon in one of the battles between the Russians and the French, this bridge was red with blood.
The blood of the opponents flowed in streams into the river, but no one wanted to admit defeat. As a result, Russian troops after fierce fighting gained the upper hand, seized the bridge, went to Polotsk and liberated it from the enemy.
In the 1970s, a reinforced concrete bridge was erected in place of the decayed wooden bridge, a very similar configuration in appearance. Near the bridge is a sign with the inscription that it was here that Napoleon’s expulsion from Russia began.
Monument to Simeon Polotskiy
This monument was opened in the early 21st century, dedicated to another thinker, poet and writer born in Polotsk – Simeon. He lived in the Russian kingdom for a long time, brought up the children of Tsar Alexei (Mikhailov), including. of the future Peter the Great.
Simeon had a literary gift, and wrote much poetry and prose in Russian. He did a lot for the formation and development of the Belarusian language. In Moscow he founded a school with instruction in the Latin alphabet, and there he lived until the end of his days.
The residents of Polotsk hold sacred the memory of their great enlightener. And Simeon loved his hometown, too. The Polotsk Library holds his published works and manuscripts, poetic and theological works.
This Protestant church was built in Polotsk at the end of the 19th century. Its architecture bears the hallmarks of Neo-Gothic: tall and narrow lancet windows, towers with spires, etc. It is the only example of Neo-Gothic architecture in the city. It is the only example of Neo-Gothic architecture in the city.
It is interesting that this church survived two world wars, but rather little damage, is now in decent condition. After the October Revolution the church was closed. At one time it housed a movie theater, today it is a museum of local history.
The museum has a very large and valuable exhibition, which is extremely useful for Polotsk schoolchildren. Here you can learn a lot about the life of hunger in the old days, in times of war and peace, about the history and culture of Polotsk.