History, interesting facts
Grodno Oblast is renowned for beautiful nature and unique architecture that combines specimens various eras and styles.
The history of Grodno Oblast goes back to ancient times. Its territory was inhabited by people in the Upper Paleolithic era. The most ancient sites were located on Svityaz Lake, near the villages of Chereshlya, Novogrudok District, Nesilovichi in Dyatlovo District, Zblyany in Lida District, near the mouth of the Kotra River.
It is known that at the end of the 1st millennium - early 2nd millennium the territory of Grodno Oblast was home to East Slavic tribes (the Dregovichi, the Krivichi, the Volhynians, the Drevlians), West Slavic (the Masovians), East Baltic (the Litvans), West Baltic (the Yotvingians). The second half of the first millennium marked the start of the Slavic colonization of the region.
The oldest city in Grodno Oblast is Volkovysk. It is also one of the five oldest cities in Belarus. The first mention of the city in the Turov chronicle dates back to 1005.
At various times, the city was under the influence of the Principality of Polotsk and the Principality of Galicia–Volhynia and at the end of the 13th century it became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
The rapid development of Volkovysk was facilitated by its favorable geographical position. The city was located on the route from the Varangians to the Greeks, which connected the Black Sea with the Baltic Sea through a system of rivers and portages.
The first major towns and cities on these lands were Novogrudok (1044), Grodno (1128), Slonim (1252), and Lida (1323).
The country’s largest innovative project - the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant - is being implemented in Grodno Oblast.
Grodno Oblast is the smallest region of the country with the total area of 25,100 km2.
It borders on Poland in the west and Lithuania in the north. Grodno Oblast maintains active ties with both Europe and Russia.
The region has a flat terrain. The central part of the region is occupied by the Neman lowland located in the valley of the Neman river. The point where the Neman flows outside the borders of the country is the country’s lowest point - 80m above sea level.
In the south and east of the region there are morainic smoothed uplands: Grodno, Volkovysk and Novogrudok uplands which are located on the highest point of the region named Zamkavaya Gora (Castle Hill) (323m).
Administrative and territorial division
- 17 districts (Berestovitsa, Volkovysk, Voronovo, Grodno, Dyatlovo, Zelva, Ivye, Korelichi, Lida, Mosty, Novogrudok, Ostrovets, Oshmyany, Svisloch, Slonim, Smorgon, Shchuchin);
- 1 city of oblast subordination;
- 14 towns of district subordination;
- 16 urban-type settlements;
- 4,295 rural settlements, including 226 agrotowns.
There are 155 rural councils in Grodno Oblast.
The administrative center is Grodno.
As of the beginning of 2020, the population of Grodno Oblast was 1,025,800, including 772,200 urban residents and 253,600 rural dwellers.
The largest cities of the region are Grodno (356,900) and Lida (102,700).
Major towns of the region also include Slonim (50,100), Volkovysk (42,600), Smorgon (36,300) and Novogrudok (28,500).
The chemical industry is the major industry in Grodno Oblast. The main production facilities are located in Grodno and Lida.
The industrial sector of Grodno Oblast contributes 10.2% to the country's industrial output. The region accounts for the 100% national output of caprolactam, ammonia, dry baby milk powder, cord fabric, 90.5% nitrogen fertilizers, and 73.5% hosiery products.
There are 1,563 manufacturing companies and enterprises in Grodno Oblast. The most well-known companies of the region include Grodno Azot, Grodno Tobacco Factory Neman, Belagroterminal, Kronospan, Grodno Meat-Packing Plant, Molochny Mir, Volkovysk Bellakt, Conte Spa, Krasnoselskstroymaterialy, Lakokraska, and Novogrudok Gas Equipment Plant.
Thanks to the great state support in recent years the agricultural industry has implemented large upgrade projects and increased economic efficiency. The main branches of agriculture are dairy and meat farming, pig farming, production of grain, sugar beet, rapeseed, potatoes, fruit and vegetable products.
The agricultural industry of Grodno Oblast features 155 companies. Major companies include Svisloch agricultural company, Senko agricultural company, Kremko agricultural company, Olekshitsy agricultural company, Mayak-Zapolye agricultural company, Svityazyanka-2003 agricultural company, Gudevichi agricultural company, Synkovichi agricultural company, AgroSoly agricultural company, and Negnevichi agricultural company.
The region is undertaking a large-scale transformation of its energy sector and is switching to renewable energy.
Grodno Oblast maintains trade and economic relations with 120 countries, supplying goods to Russia, China, Mongolia, Vietnam, Pakistan, Afghanistan, the UAE, Canada, the United States, Singapore, Serbia, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and other countries.
The free economic zone Grodnoinvest was set up in 2002.
The territory of the region is crossed by five railway lines connecting Grodno Oblast with Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Russia.
Natural and mineral resources
Eighty rivers flow through the territory of Grodno Oblast. The largest of them are the Neman, the Vilia, the Shchara and the Berezina.
There are 34 lakes in the region, including Beloye, Rybnitsa, Svityaz, Albertinskoye and Ozeryanskoye.
The region is home to large woodlands: Nalibokskaya, Lipichanskaya, Grafskaya, and partially Belovezhskaya Pushcha.
In Grodno Oblast there are 15 nature reserves of national importance, and 95 natural landmarks.
Minerals: iron ore, peat, chalk, brick and tile clay, cement and lime raw materials, silicate sands, sand-and-gravel.
Sport and tourism
Fifty-eight sports are practiced in Grodno Oblast.
Olympic champions hailing from Grodno Oblast are: Elena Volchetskaya (artistic gymnastics, 1964), Ivan Yedeshko (basketball, 1972), Olga Korbut (artistic gymnastics, 1972, 1976), Vladimir Romanovsky (canoe sprint, 1976), Irina Shilova (shooting, 1988), Sergei Gorlukovich (football, 1988), Aleksandr Kurlovich (weightlifting, 1988, 1992), Kanstanstin Lukashyk (shooting, 1992), Andrey Barbashinsky and Andrei Minevski (handball, 1992), Yanina Karolchyk (athletics, 2000).
Grodno Oblast has a favorable recreational and geographical position on the border on the European Union, a rich natural and historical and cultural heritage and an excellent transport system. All this creates good conditions for the development of various types of tourism in the region.
One of the region’s gems is the Augustow Canal - an object nominated for the UNESCO World Heritage List. Every year this site draws over 50,000 tourists.
There are 65 hotels and similar accommodation facilities in Grodno Oblast.
The number of farm stays increases every year, currently there are 399 of them in Grodno Oblast. There are 10 health resorts, namely Radon, Porechye, Ozerny, Energetik, Neman-72, Zhemchuzhina, Praleska, Raduga, Alfa Radon and Lesnaya Polyana.
Culture and main sights
In Grodno Oblast there are 19 museums, 3 theaters and a philharmonic hall.
Nine ancient castles, including the royal ones, dozens of ancient temples, monasteries and family manors, more than 700 objects from the State List of Historical and Cultural Values of the Republic of Belarus, the renovated unique Augustow Canal.
All this makes Grodno Oblast especially attractive for tourists from Belarus and abroad. As well as the realization that the largest towns and cities of Grodno Oblast began to play a significant role in the economic and cultural life as early as in the 12-16th centuries.
One of the most important places of pilgrimage in Belarus is the Holy Dormition Monastery in Zhirovichi (17-19th centuries).
Mir Castle is an outstanding fortified structure of the 16th century, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Other major sights of the region include Sts. Boris and Gleb Church (Kolozha Church , 12th century), Bernardine monastery (16-18th centuries), St. Francis Xavier Cathedral (Farny), Lida and Novogrudok castles, and the fortified church in Synkovichi (15th century).
Every year Grodno Oblast holds more than a hundred festivals and events that draw thousands of visitors. The most spectacular and popular of them is the Festival of National Cultures. Since 1996 the festival has united representatives of all ethnic groups living in the country.
Other popular events include the Festival of Orthodox Music Kolozhsky Blagovest, the national children’s art festival-contest The Lion Cub, the Mir Castle festival of arts, the Golshany Castle festival, the Lida Castle Sword medieval festival, St. Anna’s Fair, the festival of traditional culture Treasures of Grodno Oblast, and the folk art festival Augustow Canal in the Culture of Three Nations.
The Republic of Belarus respects the freedom of faith and religion as an inalienable right of its citizens, which translates into the country's great variety of religious denominations. Christianity is the most widely-spread religion in the country. The largest Christian communities in Grodno Oblast are Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Protestantism. All in all, there are 16 religious denominations in Grodno Oblast, including 485 religious communities.