About Belarus

The history of Glubokoye, northern Belarus

updated on 02/10/2015

Glubokoye, a city in the north of Belarus at the crossing of motorways Polotsk-Vilnius and Dokshitsy-Sharkovshina, has more than its USSR-famous condensed milk factory serving as tourist attraction. Its history is quite exciting and a few architectural monuments are still around.

Glubokoye (the Russian for deep) is located at the bottom of a small depression, hence the name. It was first mentioned in the chronicles in 1414 and a century later as a private property. Two magnate families had their manors evolving as the two parts that later became Glubokoye borough. In view of this Glubokoye developed two centers – market squares split by the Berezovka River and became a reputable marketplace.

South-western part owned by the Zenovichys family had a Uniate church with a hospital, a market square with shops and warehouses, also the beginning of seven streets. The Glubokoye castle was added later on the site of the Zenovichys’ manor. South-eastern part also featured a market square which was the beginning of roads to Polotsk and Disna. The area then passed to the Radziwill family as a dowry.

The wars with Moscovia in 1560s devastated the area.

Glubokoye old map

Old-time map of Glubokoye

The Korsak family - the owners of south-east of Glubokoye - invested handsomely into the borough. Their part gave a start to the roads to Disna and Polotsk.

During the Russian-Polish wars of the 1660s Glubokoye was ruined again with the development dwarfed by the following Northern War (1700s) and fires. In the early 1700s Joseph Korsak sponsored the construction of the Carmelite monastery with the Church of the Ascension of the Mother of God which was transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church after the 1863-1864 uprising, and, though rebuilt, still operates today. In the 18-19 centuries the monastery featured a school, a library, a pharmacy and a hospital.

glubokoye russian orthodox church

In the Soviet times a dairy factory was based on the premises affecting the complex even more.

The buildings of the Russian Orthodox monastery were damaged by fire in 1944.

In 1764-1782 next to the Carmelite monastery in the square a Catholic Church was built later consecrated in the name of the Holy Trinity. It saw a major upgrade in the early 1900s. In Berezvechye suburb a new Bazilian monastery was built from stone, nowadays the premises of the local prison. A chapel appeared later at the local cemetery.

Historically, most of the houses in Glubokoye were built of wood – in 1775 there were 310 dwelling houses. Even today a substantial number of houses in town are one-floor private houses.

The second partition of Rech Pospolitaya in 1793 saw Glubokoye included into Disna uezd of the Russian Empire.

glubokoye holy trinity church

Holy Trinity Church, Glubokoye

In 1812 Glubokoye was occupied by the French, Napoleon stayed there for a week.

Since 1842 south-east of Glubokoye was a state property while south-west remained in private ownership, now of the Witthenschtein family. In 1861 Glubokoye had 212 households with 2 161 people living there. In 1886 Glubokoye also had a public school, a couple of breweries, a brick factory. It hosted Sunday markets and two annual fairs.

The 1897 census revealed over 5564 residents in Glubokoye.

During the First World War a railway crossed the town. Soviet presence was quite brief and was followed by the German occupation in 1918. The latter was replaced by the Polish occupation in 1920 with large-scale engagements of the Polish and the Soviets leaving thousands of dead. Glubokoye was run by the Poles until 1939 when it became a Soviet city.

By 1939 Glubokoye, a Polish city, scored 9700 residents and had a confectionery, a leather factory, a mill, private shops, a Polish gymnasium and warehouses.

air views of GlubokoyeAir views of Glubokoye, 2015

Kagalnoye and Velikoye lakes, are one of the most scenic in the area, are located right inside the city. No doubt, the former reminds of the formerly vibrant Jewish community. 

Back in the old days the Jewish community was quite populous in Glubokoye. Since around 1500s the Jews were settling around the place and ran shops, workshops and later – factories. Jewish craftsmen were pretty skillful and the merchants were enterprising exporting wheat, linen and leather. An important development for any town - Glubokoye also got its barbers and doctors. The Jewish community officially shaped up in 1569.

Glubokoye Old Cemetery

Old Catholic cemetery, Glubokoye

The first synagogue was built in Glubokoye in 1742 - in the south-western part owned by the Radziwills. The Jews had about a dozen synagogues but after the Great Patriotic war the survivors by and by left the country.

In 1929 Jewish community of Grodno numbered 3600 persons and by the beginning of the Great Patriotic war increased to around 5500. At that point the town was a flourishing trade center mostly by the efforts of the Jewish merchants. Nevertheless, since mid-1930s the Polish government made the Jewish community pretty uncomfortable by introducing new taxes.

The arrival of the Soviet troops in 1939 – liberation to some and occupation to the others – saw the beginning of the new era. Private businesses were closed and the capitalists whose existence was wrong to the Bolsheviks were now under pressure: businesses got nationalized or closed down, those who failed to flee in time were deported to Siberia (which ironically enough saved their lives).

During the Nazi occupation there was a POW death camp close to Glubokoye in which about 27 000 Soviet and Italian prisoners of war were killed. The Jewish population of Glubokoye was forced into a ghetto which was destroyed in 1943, its total death toll amounting to around 2700 people. Executions were also conducted in the nearby Plisa.

After the war the city was gradually rebuilt but preserved the old-time hub-and-spoke planning system that developed in 17-18 centuries. The population of Glubokoye now amounts to over 19 000 people. If you would like to take a tour to Glubokoye, to see ancestral sights or for sightseeing, I will be happy to be your private guide in Belarus!

Questions are welcome!


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