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Słownik Geograficzny Translations

Oszmiana [now Ashmyany, Hrodna, Belarus]

- (the name derives from the Lithuanian "Azymertas"- the edge; erroneously called "Osmiana", and known as "Aschemynne" in the Chronicles of the Teutonic Knights). It is the provincial (powiat) capital town in Wilno gubernia, lying amidst the fertile, hilly environs of the Osmianka river basin, 49 miles from Wilno, on the highway to Minsk. In 1880, there were 5,050 inhabitants (352 Orthodox, 2,175 Catholics, 3 Evangelical Protestants, 2,501 Jews and 18 Moslems). It contains the wooden Orthodox church called "Bogojawlenska" established in 1840, the brick Holy Archangel Michael Catholic church, 4 Jewish prayer-houses, a hospital, 4 tanneries, 3 breweries, and 33 shops. In 1871 there were 4,546 inhabitants; in 1859 only 3,066. Municipal revenues in 1859 totaled 1,214 rubles. In educational composition, there was a 2nd-class provincial school, a Catholic parish school and a Jewish school in Oszmiana.


An ancient settlement existed on this site, probably from around 1040. The town stepped onto center stage in 1384, when the Teutonic Knights attempted an expedition aiming at the destruction of the hereditary state of Jagiello, then Prince of Krewie, by approaching for a first strike at Oszmiana. They then turned towards Wilno, halted and encamped at Miednikam, where sallies against Oszmiana disturbed the garrison there. When preparations in 1432 had been made for the removal of Swidrigall for his intolerable conduct in governing Lithuania, a meeting was held at Oszmiana resulting in his banishment from the kingdom. He and his retinue crossed over the border near Oszmiana to a small Russian/Tartar outpost, when they were unexpectedly attacked. The force was led by Zygmunt Kjestut, Prince of Starodubowsk, destined to rule the Kingdom of Lithuania at Jagiello's pleasure, and by Prince Holzansk, another of the Voivods and Boyars who possessed significant numbers of warriors. Swidrigall's retinue scattered, and with scarcely 14 riders accompanying him was able to carry out an escape. Not deterred, Swidrigall made his return in the autumn of that year at Polotsk, encountering Zygmunt's forces in a pitched battle and losing 10,000 men killed, 4,000 prisoners-of-war, and 8 standard-bearers, was forced to surrender the field of battle. Zygmunt, as thanks to God for the victory, established a college near the parish church there, but was forced to be the financial supporter by either Jagiello or Witold. Indeed, he was bankrupted by it in later times.


In this epochal period, Oszmiana, which had served originally as a princely court, began to be built up as a town. Dating from the time the original settlers had given it its name and known today as "Old Oszmiana", a Franciscan mission was installed about a quarter-league away by Alexander Jagiello in 1505, with a wooden church and monastery. Later a brick church was erected at the same spot in 1822. Other items were also funded there by Witold following his defeat at Vorskla. New Oszmiana had already been a town under Zygmunt the Old, its freedom and fortunes entrusted to his laws. A revision in 1537 at the behest of the Crown defined a law of compulsory markets and citizen obligations, in which each market stall had to pay 7.5 clean small coins [ed.-- some known value] to the Royal Treasury, 5 clean coins for streets, as well as 2.5 coins for gardens and twigs [ed. --collection of firewood?] for the settlement. For each morg [ed.-1.38 acres] of garden space, they paid 3 grozy; for twigs, a single grosz; for rental of 30 farming acres, 40 groszy; and for locating suitable acreage, 3 groszy. For each mead-, beer- and liquor tavern, the town paid a single 30-grosz lump sum to the Crown. Other than these taxes, they would not be subject to any other financial obligations, including nothing for the stage (transportation), defense, or distributing the mail. Jan III confirmed these privileges by law beginning in 1683.


On January 18, 1667, new funding increased for the town. Andrew (Clerk of Oszmiana territory) and Dorothy Poczobutow from Oborski built Holy Trinity Catholic Church and a monastery (out of wood) at their own expense and settled Dominicans there. The Dominican monastery was later abolished in 1850. Nicholas Rudy Radziwill, brother to Queen Barbara and Voivod of Wilno, upon becoming Sheriff of Oszmiana, erected a Calvinist meeting-hall there in the second half of the 16th Century.


Following a suit filed by the mayor, council and aldermen of Oszmiana challenging abolition of local privileges, King Stanislaus Augustus published an acknowledgement of renewed privileges, dated May 22, 1792 from Warsaw, holding Oszmiana accountable for a Great Parliament in a suitable location for court and assemblies, as a free town and independent of any other direct administration except his own royal magistrates. The privileges removed any other jurisdictional control and at the same time the influence of the Sheriff, assuring the town property and insuring against arbitrary taxes. A local citizen had consistency in the verdict of a local court, and was able to appeal decisions to the Appellate Court in Wilno or to the Court Assessor of the Prince of Lithuania. At the same time the town coat-of-arms was conferred, just as freely chosen- on one portion a hand holding a scale, and on the second escutcheon, a Poniatowski calf with the inscription and nothing else: "In memory of (King) Stanislaus Augustus, 1792".


During the time of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Oszmiana was the capital town of a very large province, according to the Constitution of 1717 counting 84,200 inhabitants. It happened not by court decree of lands and fenced areas, but through the free election of the Sejm itself. The Marshal was the foremost government official of the province. Following the dismemberment of the Commonwealth during the Partitions, Oszmiana was destined as a provincial town under the governorship of Wilno and presented with General Major Konczialow; from 1842, the town was consigned as court property. The town endured a great deal in 1831 [ed.--the year of a Polish-Lithuanian rebellion against the Tsar]. Occupied at first during the rebellion under the rule of Colonel Karl Przezdziecki and Prince Jasinski, the Dominicans, who carried off there 100,000 zlotys, 10,000 loads and many other provisions, were deprived [ed.-relieved? This section is unclear.] of them on April 11th by Colonel Werzulina, the story as known through his memoirs.


The castle domains of the Sheriff of Oszmiana were included in the Wilno Voivoidship, Oszmiana province. In 1771, Oszmiana province was constituted as the town and adjacent areas. It is true that the Sejms of 1590 and 1609 allowed the Sheriffs of Oszmiana to have all the swearings-in of Clerks at the townlet of Miadzole, before which bailiff accounts and sundry wrongdoings had be be presented to the Prince. In 1766, Michael Brzostowski, Treasurer of Lithuania, occupied the position of Sheriff and following him, Tadeusz Kociell, who both paid the army tax of 1157 zlotys.

[ed.- In the listing which follows, the name, untranslated coat-of-arms (h.), and the dates are provided.] The Sheriffs of Oszmiana were (from around 1530 to 1794 in alphabetical order): Cyprian Paul Brzostowski, h. Strzemie (1668-74); Jerome & Michael Brzostowski (1765-72); Gregory Chodkiewicz, h. Kosciesza (1544); Ludwig Jacob Chominski, h. Poraj (1734-36), Wincenty Gąsiewski, h. Slepowron (1651); Michael Kopec, h. Kroje (1727); Tadeusz Kociell, h. Pelikan (elected 1764-88); Bogdan Narbut, h. Trąby & Tadeusz Oginski, his own person (1740-55); Andrew Ignace Oginski son of Tadeusz (1755-62), Hilary Alexander Polubinski, h. Jastrzębiec (1667); Casimir Michael Pac, h.Gozdowa (1685); Nicholas Radziwill, h. Trąby (1557); Paul Stephen Sapieha. h. Lis (1598); Alexander Sapieha (1622); Christian Sapieha (1662); Michael Sapieha (1683); Adam Matthew Sakowicz, h. Korwin from a change, John Anselm Wilczek, h. Poraj (1634); N. Wolodzko (1740); John Zabrezinski, h. Leliwa (1530); George Deszpot Zenowicz, h. his own person (1629); and Christian Deszpot Zenowicz (1701-24).

The Catholic parish within the Oszmiana deaconate has 8,000 parishioners. Chapels are found in Olany, Horodnike, Polany as well as a cemetery. The Orthodox parish deaconate [ed.- also identified as **błahoczynia**] for Oszmiana has 489 parishioners................... (262 men and 197 women).


Editor's Note: All Slownik longitudes in this article have been converted to modern coordinates which is based on the Greenwich zero meridian. All Polish measurement units (land areas, distances, height above sea level, etc.) were converted to American-English equivalents.  Monetary units, where identified, were left in zlotys/zl. or rubles/rs.


Source: Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego - Warsaw [1886, vol. 7, pp. 752-753]


This translation, by Mike Gansecki, is used by permission.

Oszmiana powiat [now Ashmyany rayon, Hrodna, Belarus]

Oszmiana powiat- Lying within Wilno gubernia, it borders with Lida province on the west, on the northwest with Wilno, on the northeast with Swiecian province, to the east with Wilia province as well as Minsk gubernia, which borders it for equal distances on the southeast and east. The province contains 2,727 square miles (another count has it at 2,696 square miles) of which there are 1,742,800 acres in total; 69,550 acres (4%) in settlements, 490,460 arable acres (28.1%), 153,650 acres of (grazable) moors (8.8%), 194,400 acres pasturage and meadow (11.2%), 727,300 acres of forests (41.7%), and 107,400 acres barrens or water bodies (6.2%). In 1859, 385,290 acres belonged to the government (22.1%), 5,087 acres to towns (.3%), 6,720 acres to Orthodox and Catholic churches (.4%), with the remaining 1,345,500 acres in private hands (77.2%).


In the northern part of the province, the topography is elevated and hilly, occasioned by the [ed.-- morainal] hill chain Awratyn. The highest locations are found near the villages Topiszki (1175 feet above sea level), Lojce (1049'), Donkni (766'), Widnopol estate (729' asl.) and the town of Jewie (610' asl.). The southern part in the Berezina river basin is lowlands, marshes and covered in forest. The central part consists of evenly rolling hills. Soils in the northern part are clayey or sandy; in the south marshy and humic. Bog-iron mines are found in the marshy lowlands, with especially rich deposits in the vicinity of Naliboki and Wisznew where deposits contain up to 50% iron. Oszmiana province, having the highest topography in the entire gubernia near Wilno, is very poorly endowed with lakes with none very large. Some of the most important are: Dub, Dubina, Kroman, and Reczuny, "The Swamp", as well as many small ones in the southern part of the province contributing to the notable Purwilski Marsh, out of which flows the Purvil river in turn contributing to the Olszanka River. The Wilia River flows from this same area to the northwestern border, and is the largest in Oszmiana province. The Nieman River flows along the southwestern border, fed by the Berezina, the Olszanka, the Wolozyn, and Isloch, Usze, and the Sutle tributaries. Towards the western border, the Zyzma flows into the Gawia which itself originates from the Klewa River (the Gawia emptying into the Nieman).


In 1880, there were 162,285 inhabitants in the province [ed.-- unclear if the statistics include the town of Oszmiana which had special privileges], broken down as follows: 5,749 gentry, 287 clergy of all faiths, 69 honorary [ed.- major or titled?] landowners, 22,827 townspeople, 128,011 peasants, 5,084 military men, 220 foreigners, and 38 of uncertain status. By religion, there were 50,440 Orthodox, 891 Roskolnikovs (Old Believers), 99,020 Catholics, 162 Evangelicals (Protestants), 11,131 Jews, and 641 Moslems. In 1859 there were 128,666 inhabitants in the province (60,515 men and 63,547 women), counting 27,394 White Russian Orthodox, 20,650 Catholic Poles, 62,571 Catholic Lithuanians, and 2,527 Lithuanian Orthodox. In 1871, 142,688 inhabitants; in 1875, 152,261; and in 1878, 156,218. According to 1858 tax receipts, there were 15,425 horses [ed.--registered breeding horses?], 38,873 horned cattle, 18,911 common sheep, 8,974 specialty sheep, 7,980 plow or work horses, and 20,636 pigs, which comes to .19 animals per acre. The population is a mixture of Lithuanians and White Russians. The predominant language of the inhabitants is changing from Polish to White Russian, with additionally incorporated Lithuanian expressions.


The most recent province administration consists of four (state) police districts: Zuprany, Smorgon, Dziewieniszki, and Wolozyn. There are 2 peacetime (civil) courts for peasant legal affairs at Oszmiana and Poloczany; 4 districts for performance of military obligations in Oszmiana, Smorgon, Subotniki, and Wolozyn; 3 District Inquiry Courts, with bureau offices in Oszmiana, (G)Holszany, and Smorgon, namely the 4th-tier District Circuit of Lida for 8 gminas, and three district review boards at Smorgon for the rest of the gminas. The province is further composed of 23 gminas: Polany, Soly, Holszany, Grauzyszki, Kucewicze (1st police district); Smorgon, Bienica, Krewo, Poloczany and Horodzki (2nd police district); Dziewieniszki, Subotniki, Lipniszki, Siedliszcze, Iwie, Lugomowicze, Traby, Juratiszki (3rd police district); and Wolozyn, Wiszniew, Naliboki, Derewno, and Bakszty (4th police district). Those gminas are broken down into 142 rural districts (sheriffs domains), 1,353 villages and other residential units, and 12,340 huts or cabins. The following are identified towns within the province: (1st police district) Slobodka, Zuprany, Soly, Holszany, Oszmiana Murowana, Boruny and Grauzyszki; (2nd police district) Zaskiewicze, Bienica, Smorgon, and Krewo; (3rd police district) Subotniki, Lipniszki, Konwaliszki, Gieranony, Hermaniszki, Dziewieniszki, Trobiele, Iwie, Mikolajow, Dudy, Lazduny, Traby, Surwiliszki, and Juratishki; (4th police district) Wolozyn, Wiszniew, Slowiensk, Zabrzez, Derewno, and Naliboki.


The chief occupations of the inhabitants are mainly agriculture and lumbering with transportation down the Berezina. Industrial fabrication is poorly represented. Of the industrial facilities, the one notable exception is the iron foundry of Prince Witgenstein in Naliboki [ed.- Kletistche, destroyed in World War II], manufacturing various forged and cast iron products with an annual revenue of 44,025 rubles. Other factories worth mentioning: a pottery factory at Krewo, and wool products made at Holszany (belts, stockings, and socks).


Regarding churches: Oszmiana province is divided into the two Orthodox deaconates of Oszmiana and Wolozyn, the first of which contains 14 parishes: Oszmiana, Smorgon (two-- the Transfiguration of Christ and St. Michael), Bienica, Krewo (two: Holy Trinity and St. Alexander Nevsky) Zalesie, Losk, Holszany, Traby, Cycyn, Juratiski, Sutkowo, and Michalowszczyzna. There are 14 Orthodox parish churches, 8 affiliates, 9 cemeteries, 4 chapels, and 23,392 parishioners (11,693 men and 11,699 women). The Wolozyn Orthodox deaconate has 12 parishes: Wolozyn (two: St. Joseph and St. Constance), Wiszniew, Zabrzezie, Mikolajow, Slowiensk, Dubina, Horodzilow, Hruzdow, Douwbeny, Bakszty and Horodzki, with 12 parish churches, 3 affiliates, 6 cemeteries, 3 chapels, and a count of 27,400 parishioners (13,515 men and 13,885 women). Within the borders of the province are 52 Orthodox churches and 7 chapels.


Oszmiana province equally has two Catholic deaconates: Oszmiana and Wiszniew. The first contains 6 parishes: Oszmiana with chapels in Olany, Horodniky and Polany (8,040 parishioners), Holszany with an affiliate in Bohdanowie and a chapel in Holszany (8,457 faithful); Soly with an affiliate in Daukszyszke and a chapel in Soly; Slobodka, Raczuny, Proniuny, and Gudogaje (8,591 parishioners); Grauzyszki (3,013 parishioners); Zuprany also with a chapel there (5,030 faithful); and Oszmiana Murowany (4,309 parishioners). All told, there are 37,440 Catholic parishioners in this deaconate. Previously there were also parishes in Smorgon, Krewo and Bienica. The Wiszniew deaconate contains 12 parishes: Wiszniew with a chapel and cemetery (4,877 parishioners); Gieranony with an affiliate in Dziewieniszki and a chapel in Berkowszczyzna (7,421 faithful); Hruzdowo-Oborek with a chapel in Cholchlo, Czernowo and a burial cemetery (3,312 faithful); Derewna (4,842 par.); Iwie with an affiliate in Dudy and a chapel in Jatoltowicze and a burial cemetery (11,460 parishioners); Konwaliszki with a chapel in Stolki (2,525 faithful); Lipniszki with a chapel in Zygmunszczyske (5,900 par.); Naliboki (4,344 faithful); Subotniki with an affiliate in Lazduny and a chapel in Kwiatkowce (9,545 par.); Surwiliszki with a chapel in Klewica (3,041 faithful); Traby with a chapel in Jancewicze and a burial cemetery (3,592 parishioners); and Zabrzezie with a chapel in Rozeslawie (3,891 parishioners). In all there are 65,110 parishioners in the Wiszniew deaconate. Formerly, there were also parish churches in Losku, Wolozyn, and Horodzilowie.


Concerning central communications linkages in the northern part of the province, there is the Lipawa [ed.- today Lith. Klaipeda]-Roniny rail line with stations at Soly, Smorgon, and Zalesie. Postal roads take one from Soly station through Oszmiana and Holszany to Subotniki; from Holszany station to Wolozyn; from the town of Smorgon to Wojstom station (in Swiecian province), as well as from Smorgon to the town of Krewo. Postal stations are at Oszmiana, Smorgon, Subotniki, Soly, Wolozyn, Holszany, Iwie, and Krewo. The Oszmiana provincial coat-of-arms, confirmed in the Ukaze of June 9, 1845, exhibits an escutcheon divided into two fields, on the higher the symbol of Wilno gubernia represented by a Lithuanian blazon on a black field, and in the lower a bear on a blue field.


The provincial Marshals of Oszmiana before the Partitions were (in alphabetical order): Ludwig Jacob Chominski, h. Poraj (1717), Nicholas Chrapowicki, h. Gozdawa & Samuel Jerome Kociell, h. Pelikan (1683); Marcin Oskierko, h. Murdelio (1765); Nicholas Wladyslaw Przezdziecki (1672); Nicholas Kristof Szors, h. Mora (1637); Anthony Sulistrowski, h. Lubicz (1747); Kristof Stachowski, h. Oronczyk & Thoma s Wolan, h. Lis (1632); Alexander Wolan & Jan Zenowicz from Bratozyna Deszpot (1648); and Kristof Zenowicz, h. his own person (1697). After the Commonwealth Partitions, marshals were: N. Achmatowicz (1863); Brochocki, h. Osorya (1862); Casimir Czechowicz, h. Ostoja (1825); Aurelian Dmochowski, h. Pobog (1853); Casimir Feldman & Jan Lubanski, h. Poraj (1853); Francis Pozniak, h. Belty (1798); Adam Przeciszewski, h. Grzymala (1805); Wladyslaw Puslowski, h. Szeliga following a change & Joseph Sulistrowski, h. Lubicz (1846); Joseph Tyszkiewicz, h. Leliwa (1831); Alexander Tiufiajew (1871); Thomas and Jacob Umiastowski, h. Roch (1809); Konstanty Umiastowski (1858); Casimir Umiastowski & Marcin Skarbek Wazynski, h. Abdank (1820); Edward Wazynski (1840), Ignace Zaba, h. Kosciesza (1811); and Anthony Zaba (1812).


Editor's Note: All Slownik longitudes in this article have been converted to modern coordinates which is based on the Greenwich zero meridian. All Polish measurement units (land areas, distances, height above sea level, etc.) were converted to American-English equivalents. Monetary units, where identified, were left in zlotys/zl. or rubles/rs.


Source: Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego - Warsaw [1886, vol. 7, pp. 753-754]


This translation, by Mike Gansecki, is used by permission.

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