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Smolensk

Smolensk (smōlĕnsk´, smô–, Rus. sməlyĕnsk´), city (1989 pop. 341,000), capital of Smolensk region, W European Russia, a port on the Dnieper River. It is an important rail junction, a distribution point for the region's agricultural products, and a commercial, cultural, and educational center. Smolensk is the head of navigation on the Dnieper. The city, a major linen producer, has one of Russia's largest flax-processing mills. Other industries include metalworking, machine building, flour milling, food processing, and the manufacture of textiles.

One of Russia's oldest cities, Smolensk derived its name from the resin [Rus., smola] extracted from the surrounding pine trees. The city was already a commercial center in the late 9th cent., when it was the capital of the Krivichi tribe and a fortress and settlement for traders and artisans. It then fell under Kiev's rule. Its control of the key portages between the Dnieper and Western Dvina rivers gave Smolensk its early strategic importance. It also lay astride the trade route from the Baltic to Constantinople; Smolensk was connected with the Black Sea by the Dnieper and with the Hanseatic cities of the Baltic Sea and with Moscow and Novgorod by some of the most important medieval trade links. The city declined in the 11th cent. but revived in the 12th cent. to become the capital of an independent Belarusian principality. Smolensk was sacked by the Mongols in 1238–40.

The westward expansion of the grand duchy of Moscow made Smolensk a target of prolonged struggle between Moscow and Poland-Lithuania. It was captured by the Lithuanians in 1408, taken by the Russians in 1514, occupied by the Poles in 1611, and reconquered in 1654 by the Russians, to whom it passed by the Treaty of Andrusov (1667). Its location on the main route from Moscow to Warsaw made Smolensk a target for Napoleon I, who seized the city in Aug., 1812, after a brief but heroic resistance. Having burned Moscow, Napoleon retreated in November to Smolensk but was forced by the Russians under General Kutuzov to continue his retreat.

The city, scene of some of World War II's heaviest fighting, was captured by the Germans in 1941 and retaken by Soviet troops in 1943. Virtually razed, Smolensk was rebuilt with its original pattern largely preserved. Historic buildings now restored include the famous kremlin and town walls (1596–1602), the Uspensky Cathedral (1677–79), several 12th-century churches, and monuments to Kutuzov and to the composer M. I. Glinka.

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Smolensk

Smolensk City on the upper reaches of the River Dnieper, near the Belarus border, e Russia; capital of Smolensk oblast. First mentioned in 882 bc, it was an important medieval commercial centre on the routes from Byzantium to the Baltic, and from Moscow to Warsaw. The capital of Belorussia in the 12th century, it was sacked (1238–1240) by the Mongols. In the 15th and 16th centuries, it was a battleground for Polish and Russian forces. In 1812, Napoleon I seized the city and burned it in retreat from the Russian Army. Occupied (1941–43) by German forces, it was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in World War 2. It remains an important transport and distribution centre. Industries: linen, textile machines, timber, electrical goods, flour milling, distilling, brewing. Pop. (2000) 353,400.

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Smolensk

SmolenskBasque, Monégasque •ask, bask, cask, flask, Krasnoyarsk, mask, masque, task •facemask •arabesque, burlesque, Dantesque, desk, grotesque, humoresque, Junoesque, Kafkaesque, Moresque, picaresque, picturesque, plateresque, Pythonesque, Romanesque, sculpturesque, statuesque •bisque, brisk, disc, disk, fisc, frisk, risk, whisk •laserdisc • obelisk • basilisk •odalisque • tamarisk • asterisk •mosque, Tosk •kiosk • Nynorsk • brusque •busk, dusk, husk, musk, rusk, tusk •subfusc • Novosibirsk •mollusc (US mollusk) • damask •Vitebsk •Aleksandrovsk, Sverdlovsk •Khabarovsk • Komsomolsk •Omsk, Tomsk •Gdansk, Murmansk, Saransk •Smolensk •Chelyabinsk, MinskDonetsk, Novokuznetsk •Irkutsk, Yakutsk

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Smolensk

SMOLENSK

SMOLENSK, city in western Russia. From 1404 to 1514 Smolensk was a Lithuanian possession and from 1611 to 1654 it came under Polish rule. Jews are first mentioned in Smolensk at the end of the 15th century; in 1489 there were three Jewish tax farmers in the city. Although King Sigismund ii prohibited Jews from residing in Smolensk when the city passed to Poland, Jews nevertheless continued to live there. According to the "Old Responsa" of the Bah (R. Joel Sirkes), about 80 Jews resided in Smolensk in 1616. When Smolensk was re-conquered by the Russians (1654), Jews were compelled to convert and those who did not do so were either put to death or taken captive and deported to the Russian interior. Jewish merchants from Lithuania, however, continued to visit Smolensk or pass through the city on their way to Moscow even after the Russian conquest. At the beginning of the 18th century Lithuanian Jews again began to settle in Smolensk and its vicinity. They engaged in commerce and the lease of various utilities. This activity aroused the jealousy of their Christian rivals, and in 1722 two Christian townsmen of Smolensk appealed to the Synod for Jews to be expelled from the region on the claim that the Jews derided Christianity. One Jew, Baruch b. Leib (who was also accused a few years later of having converted a Russian officer, Alexander *Voznitsin, to Judaism) had erected a synagogue in his home village of Zverovich, near Smolensk. In 1727, on the basis of Christian complaints, instructions were given for Baruch and his coreligionists to be expelled from the region of Smolensk. During the same year Czarina Anna ordered the expulsion of all the Jews of Russia, but by 1731 Jewish merchants were authorized to visit Smolensk for business purposes. For all practical purposes Jews continued to live in Smolensk on a permanent basis. When the *Pale of Settlement was established in 1791 the region of Smolensk was not included in it, and until the abolition of the Pale in 1917, Jews were officially prohibited from living in the Smolensk region. Even so, some Jews who fell into the categories of those authorized to live outside the Pale settled in Smolensk during the 19th century, where they continued to play an especially active role in the timber trade of the region. In 1897 the number of Jews in Smolensk was 4,651, forming 10% of the total population. In the whole of the region there were 11,185 Jews. The number of Jews in Smolensk increased considerably after the 1917 Revolution; in 1926 there were 12,887 Jews (16.2% of the population) in the city. In 1922 the Great Synagogue was confiscated by Soviet authorities. In 1929 the Jewish Teachers' Seminary, founded by the *Yevsektsiya, was transferred to Smolensk from Gomel. The Germans occupied the city in August 1941 and almost immediately established a ghetto for the Jews of Smolensk in Sadki. In June–July 1942 about 2,000 Jews were murdered. In the late 1960s there was a Jewish population of about 5,000. There was no synagogue. In the early 2000s, after the emigration of the 1990s, there were bearly 1,000 Jews in the entire Smolensk district. The city had a synagogue, a Jewish community center, a newspaper called Yachad, a youth club, a Sunday school, a drama club, a group of performers called Menora, and a social service that distributes food packages.

bibliography:

B. Katz, Le-Korot ha-Yehudim be-Rusyah, Polin ve-Lita (1898), 56; S. Ginsburg, Historishe Verk, 3 (1937), 142–3; R. Brainin, Fun Mayn Lebns Bukh (1946), 111–47; M. Osherowitch, Shtet un Shtetlekh in Ukraine, 2 (1948), 213–25; Kh.D. Rivkin, Yevrei v Smolenske (1910).

[Yehuda Slutsky]

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