Smolensk

Smolensk
/smoh lensk"/, Russ. /smu lyensk"/, n.
a city in the W Russian Federation in Europe, on the upper Dnieper, SW of Moscow: Russians defeated by Napoleon 1812. 338,000.

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City (pop., 1999 est.: 355,700), western Russia.

One of the oldest and most historic of Russian cities, it was a key stronghold on the Dnieper River by the 9th century and became a commercial centre on the trade route between the Baltic Sea and the Byzantine Empire. Sacked by the Tatars с 1240, it subsequently fell to Lithuania. Sieges led to its capture by Moscow in 1340 and recapture by Lithuania in 1408. It was fought over several times, then was finally taken by Russia in 1654. It was burned during Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812. The scene of heavy fighting in World War II, it was occupied by the Germans from 1941 to 1943. It is a light-industry and educational centre.

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Russia
 city and administrative centre of Smolensk oblast (province), western Russia. The city stands on both banks of the Dnieper River, 260 miles (418 km) west of Moscow. Smolensk is one of the oldest and most historic of Russian cities, dating back to the 9th century, but the ravages of war (particularly World War II) have left few of its ancient churches and other buildings extant.

      Smolensk was first mentioned in 863, when it was already a key stronghold controlling the portages between the Dnieper and the Western Dvina rivers and the route between the Moscow region and western Europe. The town also lay on the direct (waterborne) trade route between the Baltic Sea to the north and Kiev and the Byzantine Empire to the south. Smolensk's position gave it both trading importance and a remarkably stormy history. Sacked by the Tatars in their invasion of 1237–40, Smolensk subsequently passed to Lithuania. For over four centuries the town was the object of a bitter struggle between Lithuania-Poland and Russia. Sieges led to its capture by Moscow in 1340 and recapture by Lithuania in 1408; taken again by Russia by 1514, it fell in 1611 to the Poles and was finally taken by Russia in 1654.

      But its position on the main route from Moscow to Warsaw and western Europe gave the town no peace. During Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812, a major engagement took place at Smolensk on August 17–18, and the town was burned. On his retreat Napoleon vainly attempted to rally his army there. From July to September 1941 one of the bitterest battles of World War II was fought in and around Smolensk, helping prevent the Germans from advancing to Moscow before winter could set in. In September 1943 another great battle forced the Germans to abandon the city.

      Several historic churches survive and have now been restored, including the 12th-century Churches of Saints Peter and Paul and the Cathedral of the Assumption (17th–18th century). Parts of the old city walls also survive. Smolensk has engineering, linen, and other light industries as well as medical, veterinary, teacher-training, and physical-training institutes. Pop. (1991 est.) 349,800.

      oblast (province), western Russia. The oblast lies mostly in the upper Dnieper River basin. The terminal moraines of the Smolensk-Moscow Upland lie east-west across the oblast, rising to 1,050 feet (320 m) and dividing the Dnieper, Volga, and Western Dvina basins. Easy portages between these basins have made the area a focal route since earliest times. The natural vegetation of mixed forest has been largely cleared for agriculture and now covers less than one-fifth of the surface, but there are many swamp areas of peat bog and grass marsh in valleys and hollows amid the hummocky morainic relief. Agriculture is dominated by flax cultivation, potato growing, and dairying. There are widespread and long-established linen-making, timber-working, and food-processing industries, with engineering in the larger towns. Smolensk city is the administrative centre. Area 19,225 square miles (49,800 square km). Pop. (1991 est.) 1,165,800.

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Universalium. 2010.

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