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Oszmiana • Ошмяны
St. Michael the Archangel Church in Ashmyany
St. Michael the Archangel Church in Ashmyany
Flag of Ashmyany
Coat of arms of Ashmyany
Ashmyany is located in Belarus
Ashmyany is located in Europe
Coordinates: 54°25′30″N 25°56′15″E / 54.42500°N 25.93750°E / 54.42500; 25.93750Coordinates: 54°25′30″N 25°56′15″E / 54.42500°N 25.93750°E / 54.42500; 25.93750
Country Belarus
RegionGrodno Region
DistrictAshmyany District

Ashmyany (Belarusian: Ашмя́ны; Łacinka: Ašmiany; Russian: Ошмя́ны; Lithuanian: Ašmena; Polish: Oszmiana; Yiddish: אָשמענע‎, Oshmene) is a town in Grodno Region, Belarus, located at 50 km from Vilnius. The town is Ashmyany District's capital. It lies in Ashmyanka's river basin.

The town was the birthplace of the general Lucjan Żeligowski and Jewish Soviet partisan Abba Kovner.


The Ašmena town and region were ethnic Lithuanian territory.[1] During the 17th and 18th centuries, many local Lithuanians died from war and famine, and the number of Slavic colonists grew.[1] With time Lithuanians were outnumbered by Slavs. Presently, its Lithuanian past is sealed in the towns's name, which is of Lithuanian origin.[2] The town's name is derived from the name of the Ašmena (modern Ashmyanka River), itself derived from the Lithuanian word akmuo (stone).[2] The link between consonants š and k is old and present in the Lithuanian words, respectively ašmuo (sharp blade) and akmuo (stone).[2] The present name Ashmyany uses the plural form of the name and is a modern invention. Through the ancient town's history, its name was recorded in the Lithuanian singular form.[2]


Grand Duchy of Lithuania[edit]

14th century[edit]

The first reliable mention of Ašmena is in the Lithuanian Chronicles, which tells that after Gediminas' death in 1341, Jaunutis inherited the town. In 1384, the Teutonic Order attacked and destroyed the town with the goal of destroying Jogaila's hereditary state. The Teutons recorded the town as "Aschemynne". The Teutons managed to destroy the town, but it quickly recovered.

15th century[edit]

In 1402, the Teutons attacked once more, but were bloodily repelled, so the Teutons withdrew to Medininkai. In 1413, the town became one of the most notable trade and commerce centres within the Vilnius Voivodship. Hence, in 1432 Ashmyany became the site of an important battle between the royal forces of Jogaila under Žygimantas Kęstutaitis and the forces of Švitrigaila, who was allied with the Teutonic Order. After the town was taken by the royalists, it became the private property of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and started to develop rapidly.

16th century[edit]

However, less than a century later, in 1519, the town was yet again destroyed and burnt to the ground, this time by Muscovite forces. Ashmyany did not recover as quickly as previously, and in 1537 the town was granted several royal privileges to facilitate its reconstruction. In 1566, the town finally received Magdeburg rights, which were confirmed in 1683 (along with the privileges for the local merchants and burghers) by king Jan III Sobieski. In the 16th century the town was one of the most notable centers of Calvinism in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, after Mikołaj "the Red" Radziwiłł founded a college and a church there.

Coat of arms, 1792

18th century[edit]

In 1792, King Stanisław August Poniatowski confirmed all previous privileges and the fact, that Oszmiany, as it was then called, was a free city, subordinate only to the king and the local city council. With this, the town received its first ever Coat of arms. Composed of three fields, it featured a shield, a hand holding scales and the bull from Ciołek coat of arms, the monarch's personal coat of arms.

In 1795, the town was annexed by the Russian Empire in the last Partition.

19th century[edit]

November Uprising (1830-1831)[edit]

During the November Uprising, it was liberated by the town's citizens, led by a local priest, Jasiński, and Colonel Count Karol Przeździecki. However, in April 1831, in the face of a Russian offensive, the fighters were forced to withdraw to the Naliboki forest. After a minor skirmish with Stelnicki's rearguard, the Russian punitive expeditionary force of some 1,500 officers and soldiers proceeded to burn the town and massacre the civilian population, including some 500 women, children and elderly, who sought refuge in the Dominican Catholic Church. Even the local priest was murdered. Nothing is known of the fate of Ashmyany's Jews.


Russian coat of arms of the town of Oszmiana, created after the November Uprising

In 1845, as the town was rebuilding, it received a new coat of arms, in recognition of its population increase. It never recovered from its earlier losses, and by the end of the 19th century it became rather a provincial town, inhabited primarily by Jewish immigrants from other parts of Russia 'beyond the Pale'.

20th century[edit]

In 1912 the local Jewish community built a large synagogue.

World War I[edit]

After the end of World War I and the withdrawal of the German army in 1919, Ashmyany was under Polish jurisdiction.[citation needed] Bolshevik activity threatened the town. The Polish armed forces defended the town against the invading Bolsheviks, and there still exist graves of Polish soldiers who died in that struggle.[citation needed] After the Polish–Soviet War, Ashmyany was given to Poland by the Treaty of Riga.


It was a county center, first of Wilno Land, then of Wilno Voivodeship during Polish rule.

World War II[edit]

Soviet occupation[edit]

Following the Invasion of Poland of 1939 and 1941 the town was occupied by the USSR. Ashmyany was a raion center in Vileyka Voblast between 1939 and 1941. At the very end of the Soviet occupation, on the night of June 22 and morning of June 23, 1941, the NKVD murdered and buried in one mass grave 57 Polish prisoners from Ashmyany.[citation needed]

German occupation[edit]

During the Nazi occupation, which began June 25, 1941, the Jews of Ashmyany and their spiritual leader Rabbi Zew Wawa Morejno were ghettoized. It was governed under the Nazis by Generalbezirk Litauen of Reichskommissariat Ostland.

Soviet reoccupation[edit]

On July 7, 1944, it was reoccupied by the Red Army during the Vilnius offensive. In 1945, town was annexed by the USSR to the Byelorussian SSR. After 1944, the town was once more part of Vileyka Voblast and between 1944 and 1960 it was incorporated into Molodechno Voblast until that Voblast was disestablished. At that point Ashmyany became part of the Hrodna Voblast, where it remains today.

Recent history[edit]

Since 1991, it has been a part of Belarus.

Map of Ashmyany


  • 1859 – 3,066 citizens [1]
  • 1871 – 4,546 citizens [2]
  • 1880 – 5,050 citizens (2501 Jews, 2175 Roman Catholics, 352 Orthodoxs) [3]
  • 1897 – 6,400 citizens [4] Archived 2007-10-21 at the Wayback Machine
  • 1907/08 – 8,300 citizens
  • 1921 – 6,000 citizens
  • 1939 – 8,500 citizens
  • 1974 – 10,000 citizens (Great Soviet Encyclopedia)
  • 1991 – 15,200 citizens [5]
  • 2004 – 14,900 citizens
  • 2006 – 14,600 citizens [6]
  • 2007 – 14,269 citizens [7]


Panorama view



  • Alternate names: Oshmianka (Polish), Oszmiana, Aschemynne, Oshmyany, Ašmena, Oshmana, Oshmene, Oshmina, Osmiany, Oszmiana, Ozmiana, Osmiana, Oßmiana, Possibly Oschmjansky (Middle Ages maps)
  • Mentioned in: Memoirs of Baron Lejeune, Volume II, Chapter VII.


This climatic region is typified by large seasonal temperature differences, with warm to hot (and often humid) summers and cold (sometimes severely cold) winters. According to the Köppen climate classification system, Ashmyany has a humid continental climate, abbreviated "Dfb" on climate maps.[3]



  • Gaučas, Petras (2002). "Ašmena". Visuotinė lietuvių enciklopedija. T. II (Arktis-Beketas). Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidybos institutas.
  • Zinkevičius, Zigmas (2007). Senosios Lietuvos valstybės vardynas. Vilnius: Science and Encyclopaedia Publishing Institute. ISBN 5-420-01606-0.

External links[edit]