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Suwalki

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Suwałki (Lithuanian Suvalkai, meaning "(A place for) those who came from everywhere") is a town in north-eastern Poland with 69,100 inhabitants (2003). The Czarna Hańcza river flows through the town.

It is the capital of the Powiat of Suwalki and one of the most important centres of commerce in Podlasie Voivodship. Until 1999 the town was the capital of Suwałki Voivodship. Suwałki is located about 30 km from the South western Lithuanian border. One Lithuanian ethnographic region is sometimes named Suvalkija, and that name came from this town; although Sūduva is preffered name for that region, in English it's known as Sudovia.

Contents

History

The area of Suwałki has been populated by local Yotvingian and Prussian tribes since early Middle Ages. However, with the arrival of the Teutonic Order to Sudovia, their lands were conquered and remained largely depopulated in the following several centuries. The village of Suwałki was founded by Camedulian monks, who in 1667 were granted the area surrounding the future city by king Jan Kazimierz of Poland. Soon afterwards the monastic order built its headquarters in Wigry, where a monastery and a church were built. The new owners of the area started fast economical exploitation and development of the forests and brought enough settlers (mainly from over-populated Masovia) to build several new villages in the area. Also, production of wood, lumber, tar and iron ore was started.

The village was first mentioned in 1688, two years later it was reported to have two houses. However, the growth of the village was fast and by 1700 it was split onto Małe Suwałki and Wielkie Suwałki (Large and Small Suwałki). The village was located almost exactly in the centre of Camedulian estate and it was located on the main trade route linking Grodno and Merecz with Koenigsberg. That is why in 1710 king August II of Poland granted the village a privilege to organise fairs and markets. Five years later, in 1715, the village was granted city rights by the grand master of the order, rev. Ildefons. The town was divided onto 300 lots for future houses and its inhabitants were all granted civil rights and freed from taxes for 7 years. In addition, the town was granted with 18.03 square kilometres of forest that was to be turned into arable land. On May 2, 1720, the city rights were approved by king August II, and the town was allowed to organise one fair a week and four markets a year. In addition, a coat of arms was approved, depicting Saint Roch and Saint Romuald.

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Aerial view of Suwałki

After the Partitions of Poland in 1794 the area was annexed by Prussia. In 1796 the monastery in Wigry was closed and its property confiscated by the Prussian government. The following year a seat of a local powiat authorities was moved to the town, as well as a military garrison. By the end of 18th century Suwałki had 1184 inhabitants and 216 houses. A large part of them were of Jewish faith.

In 1807 Suwałki was annexed by the newly-formed Duchy of Warsaw and became one of the centres of Department of Łomża. After the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Congress of Vienna, the area was incorporated into Kingdom of Poland. The status of a powiat capital was briefly withdrawn, but it was re-introduced on January 16, 1816, when Augustów Voivodship was created and its authorities were gradually moved to Suwałki. Soon afterwards the old city hall was demolished and replaced with a new one, and General Józef Zajączek financed the pavement of all the city's streets. Also, the cemetery was moved from the town centre to the outskirts, while the area was turned into a romantic city park. Also, a new road linking Warsaw with Petersburg was built, which added to city's prosperity.

Also, new streets were paved and new facilities opened. In 1820 a new church was built and the following year the first synagogue was opened. In 1829 a permanent post office was opened in Suwałki. Between 1806 and 1827 the town's population almost tripled and reached 3753 people living in 357 houses. During the November Uprising of 1831 the town's population took part in the struggles against Russia, but the city was taken by the Russian army on February 11. In 1835 tsar Nicholas I declined to move the capital of voivodship to Augustów and the fate of Suwałki was sealed. Two years later the voivodships of Poland were renamed to gubernias and so the town became the capital of Augustów Gubernia.

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Forests and lakes of Smolniki

In 1826 an investment plan was passed and new buildings were started by the state authorities. In 1835 a police station was finished, in 1844 a new town hall, orthodox and protestant churches. Soon afterwards a new marketplace was opened, as well as St. Peter's and Paul's hospital and gymnasium. In addition, between 1840 and 1849 the main Catholic church was refurbished by many of the most notable Polish architects of the era, including Piotr Aigner, Antoni Corazzi and Henryk Marconi. To change the city's climate and break with the rural past, in 1847 the city council passed a law banning construction of new wooden houses.

The city's population continued to grow rapidly. In 1857 it had 11273 inhabitants and in 1872 - almost 20 000. Newly-built factories needed workers and these were brought from all over the world. Because of that, the mixed Polish-Jewish population was soon joined by people of almost all denominations worshipped in the Russian Empire. Soon the city became the fourth most populous town in the Kingdom of Poland. After the January Uprising of 1863, the new administrational reform was passed to unify the Polish lands with Russia completely. In 1866 the gubernia of Augustów was finally renamed to Suwałki Gubernia". However, the newly-built Warsaw-Petersburg rail road passed by Suwałki and the town's prosperity ended. It was not until early 20th century, when arrival of new Russian army garrisons brought the economy back on track. Also a rail road line was finally completed, linking Suwałki with Grodno.

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Kościuszko street

After the Spring of 1905, when the Russians were forced to accept a limited liberalisation, the period of Polish cultural revival started. Although Polish language was still banned from the official use, new Polish schools were opened, as well as a Polish-language "Tygodnik Suwalski" weekly and a library. After the Great War broke out, heavy fights for the area erupted. Finally in 1915, the Germans broke the Russian front and Suwałki got under German occupation. The town and surrounding areas were detached from the rest of Polish lands and were directly administered by the German military commander of the Ober-Ost Army. Severe laws imposed by the German military command and tragic economical situation of the civilians led to the creation of various secret social organisations. Finally, in 1917 local branches of the Polska Organizacja Wojskowa were created.

After the collapse of the Central Powers in November of 1918, the local commander of the Ober-Ost signed an agreement with the Temporary Council of the Suwałki Region and de facto allowed for the region to be incorporated into Poland. However, the German army remained in the area and continued its economical exploitation. In February of 1919 the local inhabitants took part in the first free elections to the Polish Sejm, but soon afterwards the German commanders changed their mind and expelled the Polish military units from the area and in May passed it under Lithuanian authority. By the end of July the Paris Peace Conference granted the city to Poland and Lithuanians withdrew from the city, but some of the Polish-inhabitated lands were left on the Lithuanian side of the border while several Lithuanian villages were left on the Polish side of the so-called Foch Line. This led to an outbreak of Sejny Uprising on August 23, 1919. To secure the city, the following day the first regular units of the Polish Army entered Suwałki. A short Polish-Lithuanian War erupted and for several days limited fights were fought for the control over Suwałki, Sejny and other towns in the area. The war was ended on the insistence of the Entente in mid-September. During the Polish-Bolshevik War the city was captured by the Reds and after the Battle of Warsaw it was again passed to the Lithuanians, but it was retaken by the Polish Army with negligeable losses soon afterwards.

Hills surrounding the city
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Hills surrounding the city

In the interbellum Suwałki became an autonomous town within the Białystok Voivodship. This led to yet another period of prosperity, with the city's population rising from 16.780 in 1921 to almost 25.000 in 1935. The main source of income shifted from agriculture to trade and commerce. Also, in 1931 the new water works and a power plant were built. Also, Suwałki continued to serve as one of the biggest garrisons in Poland, with two regiments of the 29th Infantry Division and almost an entire Suwałki Cavalry Brigade stationed there. Since 1928 Suwałki was also the headquarters of one of the battalions of the Border Defence Corps.

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Chłodna street

During the later stages of the Polish Defence War of 1939 the town was briefly captured by the Red Army. However, on October 12 of the same year the Soviets withdrew and transferred the area to the Germans, in accordance with the Nazi-Soviet Alliance. The town was renamed to Sudauen and incorporated directly into German Reich's East Prussia. Severe laws and terror that erupted led to creation of several resistance organisations. Although most of them were at first destroyed by the Gestapo, by 1942 the area had one of the strongest ZWZ and AK networks. Despite the resistance, almost all of the city's once 7000-men strong Jewish community was murdered in German concentration camps. Also, in Suwałki's suburb of Krzywólka a POW camp for almost 120.000 Soviet prisoners of war was established. On October 23, 1944, the city was captured by the forces of Soviet 3rd Belarusian Front. The fights for the city and its surroundings lasted for several days and took the lives of almost 5.000 Soviet soldiers. The anti-Soviet resistance of former Armia Krajowa members lasted in the forests surrounding the city until early 1950's.

After the war, Suwałki remained a capital of powiat. However, the heavily-damaged town recovered very slowly and the communist economical system could not help the city's problems. This period came to an end in 1975, when a new administrative reform was passed and Suwałki yet again became the capital of a separate Suwałki Voivodship. The number of inhabitants rose rapidly and by the end of 1970's it was over 36.000. Large factories were built in the city and it became one of important industrial and commercial centres of Eastern Poland.

After the peaceful dissolution of the communist system in Poland in 1989 the city experienced a period of economical difficulties. Most of the city's major factories were inefficient and went bankrupt. However, the creation of Suwałki Special Economical Zone and the proximity of Russian and Lithuanian borders opened new possibilities for the local trade and commerce. In addition, the ecologically clean region started to attract many tourists from all around the world.


Holy Trinity Church in Suwałki
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Holy Trinity Church in Suwałki

Tourist attractions

  • Kościuszko street with classicist architecture
  • Romantic 19th century park
  • St. Alexander's Church
  • St. Peter and Paul's Church
  • Cemetery complex at Bakałarzewska street (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim)
  • Municipal museum
  • Old Town Hall
  • Former gymnasium building
  • Museum and monument to Maria Konopnicka
  • 19th century brewery of Wacław Kunc


Education

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Suwalki County Emblem
  • Wyższa Szkoła Służby Społecznej im. Ks. Franciszka Blachnickiego
  • Wyższa Szkoła Suwalsko-Mazurska im. Papieża Jana Pawła II

People

External link

Template:Podlasie Voivodship de:Suwałki lv:Suvalki na:Suwalki pl:Suwałki

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