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The history of Lida
One of the oldest cities in Grodno area, the city of Lida is based on the Lideya River. The area was a borderline between the tribes that now make Lithuanians and Dainovans. Some historians date it back to 1323 when the construction of the Lida castle commenced while others set it as far as 1180.
Lida castle had been built by 1328 and made a part of the defense line against crusaders who frequented the area until 1400s bringing chaos and destruction. Gradually, the city developed around the fortification. In 1382 Lida becomes the center of its own district in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and since 1413 it was in the Vilno District.
An old map of Lida, 1900s
Being the center of a vast area in the 15-16 centuries and in the top five Duchy’s wealthiest cities Lida became an important trade and crafts hub. Roads through Lida took a traveler to Vilno, Novogrudok, Minsk and other major cities. By that time Lida was divided into the castle area and the prince’s court, the town itself and the Zarechye Suburb. The prince’s court hosted all administrative services including court and archive.
The center of Lida - the marketplace – gave start to Vilno, Castle, Kamenskaya and Krivaya Streets. Zarechye Suburb was back then made up of just a few houses. Several churches operated in town – Catholic and Russian Orthodox – that later converted into Uniate (Greek Catholic) faith. The Church of Exaltation of the Holy Cross operated since 1387. King Stefan Batory granted the Lida Jewish community a privilege to build a synagogue which was constructed in 1597.
The main Catholic Church in Lida
In 1590 Lida obtained Magdeburg right and its coat of arms and quite soon after the country’s parliament established annual fairs.
The Russian-Polish wars in 1654-1667 and the Northern War in 1700-1721 badly affected the city. The damage to Lida was exacerbated by 1679 fire and only in the mid-18 century did the city revival begin. Residents were allowed to build a town hall, bridges, a school and host two annual fairs and weekly fairs on Saturdays. Industries were almost non-existent – just a few leather shops, forges and breweries.
In 1825 Lida had 684 men and 809 women living in it. There were 4 masonries, 269 wooden houses, 2 churches, 2 monasteries, 1 school, 2 elderly houses, a bathhouse and about fifty taverns. In 1860 over 4300 people are listed as Lida residents.
The new Baroque Church of Exaltation of the Holy Cross was built there in the 1740s. Another catholic church built by the Piar Order in the 1790s was converted into a Russian Orthodox Church or St. Michael following the 1863 uprising.
In the Russian Empire Lida was only a locality center. In 1834 a school for noblemen was open by which time Lida had scored 4856 residents. The 200 craftsmen, three leather factories and two candle workshops at that time were followed by two breweries and a tobacco factory.
Lida Old Cemetery chapel
Polessye Railways extending in the late 1800s boosted the economic development of Lida and respectively, the growth of its territory. In 1884 railroad connected Vilno and Luninets (Southern Belarus) passing through Lida. In 1907 a railroad connected Lida with Grodno and Molodechno. 1897 census revealed 8626 residents some of which worked at 14 small enterprises, 170 workshops and four hospitals. By 1914 the number of enterprises increased to 40.
The decadence of the area following the First World War was gross. The town was in Novogrudok area where until 1927 Slonim was the leader. Just over 300 persons were employed in the industrial sector of the whole area. A short economic revival was replaced by a crisis of the early 1930s though the latter was followed by steady economic growth well into 1939. At that time the population of Lida amounted to over 26000 people. Mostly, economy thrived by means of private capitals and initiative.
Between 1921 and 1939 Lida was still a district center in the Polish-controlled Western Belarus and its population in 1921 amounted to 13 400 people. In 1940 Lida was a Soviet district center.
At the outbreak of the Great Patriotic War in June 1941 the city of Lida was heavily bombed. The occupation that followed a two-year period of the Soviet ways being roughly introduced erased most of the Jewish population. Survivors including those coming back from Siberian prisons wave after wave moved to Poland. Decades that followed turned Lida into a rather plain Soviet city.
Looking for ancestors in the Lida province
Today’s population of Lida is about 10 000 people and the town itself features a few enterprises including the factory for paint and lacquer, footwear and agricultural products. Some of its top tourist highlights are Lida Castle in Sovetskaya Street, the Church of Exaltation of the Holy Cross, the Piar Order monastery buildings including the current Russian-Orthodox Church. The dwelling houses of the early 1900s can be seen in Komsomolskaya, Sovetskaya and Fabrichnaya Streets. The buildings of the brewery and post office can be found in Mitskevicha Street.
If you wish to tour Lida or Lida area to track your ancestry or as a part of your Belarus package tour, do not hesitate to contact your private Minsk guide!
Lida Jewish cemetery
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