Słonim
Fot. Konrad Pruszyński

Slonim is a district city in Hrodna Voblast in western Belarus with a population in excess of 50,000. It is located in the Navahrudak Upland at the mouth of the Isa River to the Shchara River, a tributary of the Neman River. 

The early mentions of Slonim are connected with Grand Prince of Kiev Yaroslav who defeated the Lithuanians in the nearby fields in the mid-11th century. In the 13th century the castle of Slonim became part of the Lithuanian territory for good. In 1532, it was granted a town charter, becoming a district town of the Navahrudak voivodship of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The town owes its true boom to the Ogiński Family who had owned it from the mid-18th century. The last Grand Hetman of Lithuania, Michał Kazimierz Ogiński, who built the canal linking the Prypiat River with the Nemam River, had his residence in the town. He turned Slonim into a major cultural centre by establishing an opera house, orchestra and printing house there. During the Kościuszko Uprising in August 1794 the insurgents fought a victorious battle against Russian troops near Slonim. After the Third Partition of Poland the Slonim land became part of the Russian Empire.  In the Second Polish Republic Slonim was a district city in the Navahrudak voivodship. It was mostly inhabited by the Jews. Poles accounted for some 30% of its population. In addition, Slonim was also inhabited by Belarusians and Tartars. After the entry of Soviet troops in 1939 the city was in the area incorporated into the Soviet Union. In 1940, a major part of the Polish population was deported deep into the USSR. During the German occupation, in 1941 and 1942, there was a mass murder of a dozen or so thousand Jews in Slonim. Repressive measures extended also to the Polish population in the city (e.g., nuns Ewa Noiszewska and Marta Wołowska were executed by firing squad on Góra Pietralewicka; in 1999, they were recognized among the blessed of the Roman catholic church). Between 1945 and 1991, Slonim was part of the Belarusian SSR. Today, the Poles account for a few percent of its residents. There is the  Polish Educational Society active in the city, and the Polish minority organizes the International Polonaise Festival every year. 
Grzegorz Kaczorowski
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