Białowieża [bʲawɔˈvʲɛʐa] (Ukrainian: Біловежа, Belarusian: Белавежа Biełavieža, Lithuanian: Bialovieža) is a village (population 2,000 as of 2002) in Poland's Podlasie Province, in the middle of the Białowieża Forest, for which it is named. The village is some 21 kilometres (13 mi) east of Hajnówka and 66 km (41 mi) southeast of the province capital, Białystok.
|Time zone||UTC+1 (CET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+2 (CEST)|
|Area code(s)||+48 85|
Białowieża is in northeast Poland, in Podlasie Province, near Poland's border with Belarus. The nearest city is Białystok, the province capital. Białowieża is also connected to the town of Hajnówka, some 20 km (12.43 mi) away. The Narewka River flows through Białowieża.
Białowieża is the seat of the administrative district of Gmina Białowieża, which encompasses an area of 203 km2 (78.38 sq mi) and has a population of 3068 (2000). Other villages in the district are Budy, Gródek, Pogorzelce, and Teremiski.
- For a more detailed history of Białowieża and the area see: Białowieża Forest
Before 1426, a wooden hunting lodge was built for King Władysław Jagiełło on the Łutownia River, in the middle of the Białowieża Forest. The lodge was probably one of the area's first permanent settlements, though the forest had already been penetrated by hunters from nearby areas and by the King himself, who hunted there. The wooden lodge was painted white and became the namesake for both the future village and the forest (Białowieża means White Tower in Polish).
From 1538 the forest was protected by the laws of King Sigismund I the Old. However, until the times of John Casimir the forest was mostly unpopulated. Sporadic settlements were established in various places, but the manor in Białowieża was the only one to be permanent. In the late 17th century, several small villages were started for development of local iron ore deposits and tar production. The villages were populated with settlers from Masovia and Podlaskie and many of them still exist.
After the Partitions of Poland the local population was turned into serfs and Białowieża quickly depopulated. Tsar Alexander I reintroduced the reserve in 1801 and hired a small amount of peasants for protection of the animals. Most of them were settled in the administrative centre of the area - Białowieża. However, since most of the foresters took part in the November Uprising (500 out of 502 in total), their posts were abolished and protection was again harmed. Yet again the village of Białowieża ceased to exist. Protection was reintroduced in 1860 and the village was repopulated with Russians.
During World War I most of the local Russian population fled before the advancing German army which seized the area in August 1915. The Germans built a lumber mill in Białowieża, connected to the nearby town of Hajnówka by a railway. However, the village did not recover until 1921 when the Białowieża National Park was established. The village became the administrative center of the Park and one of the most popular tourist attractions of the area. Following the Polish-Soviet War, Białowieża was returned to Poland.
During World War II, after the joint German and Soviet attack on Poland, the area came under Soviet occupation. In 1939 and 1940 most of the local inhabitants were arrested and sent to gulags. They were replaced with Russian forest workers, but in 1941 the forest came under German occupation and the Russian inhabitants were also deported. Hermann Göring planned to create the biggest hunting reserve in the world there, but those plans were never realized. After July 1941, the forest became a refuge for both Polish and Soviet partisans. The German authorities organized mass executions of people suspected of aiding the resistance. In July 1944 the area was captured by the Red Army. The withdrawing Wehrmacht blew up the historic Białowieża hunting manor.
After the war Białowieża yet again recovered and became the center of the re-established National Park in 1947. Nowadays it is one of the least populated areas in Poland, while at the same time it is one of the most important tourist attractions in the eastern part of the country with almost 100,000 visitors every year. The Reserve was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1992 and internationally recognized as a Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Program in 1993.
British historian Simon Schama devotes several chapters of his 1995 book Landscape and Memory to a consideration of the historical vicissitudes of the forests around Białowieża in an effort to explore the ways in which cultural imagination shapes humans' vision of the land.
Sites of interestEdit
- Białowieża National Park
- Palace park (Park Pałacowy) - covering the area of 470,000 m2 (5,059,037.90 sq ft), built in 1890. It is a park in English style with a large view to Białowieża National Park. Upon the ponds there is an obelisk for the memory of hunting in 1752 when king Augustus III hunted in Białowieża forests. There are also several tsarist red brick buildings from the 19th century, and a gate which is the only remnant of the wooden manor.
- Ecological Museum (Muzeum Przyrodniczo-Leśne im. prof. Jana Miklaszewskiego) - museum of natural history
- St. Nicholas the Miraculous' Orthodox Church - with a unique iconostasis from Chinese porcelain.
- Open-air folk museum (Skansen) - with original huts, windmills and wells
- PTTK Tourist Service
- Nature expert guides (birdwatching, bison and other wildlife observations) you can find at the Białowieża Forest website
- Graveyard Chapel of St. Cyril (Kaplica św. Cyryla) - from 1873 with an 18th-century icon.
- Gavriil Ilizarov, Soviet orthopedic surgeon, known for inventing the Ilizarov apparatus for lengthening limb bones and for his eponymous surgery.
- Igor Newerly, Polish novelist and educator, member of the Polish resistance during the Nazi German occupation of Poland.
- Aleksander Waszkiewicz, Soviet military officer
- "PTTK Białowieża - English - Puszcza Białowieska, atrakcje, wycieczki z przewodnikiem, organizacja imprez". Pttk.bialowieza.pl. Archived from the original on 2012-11-18. Retrieved 2013-02-02.
- "Białowieża Forest guide – Arek Szymura "Pygmy owl" Nature tours - With passion and knowledge - for passionate about nature..." bialowiezaforest.eu.