Lepel (Belarusian: Ле́пель Lepiel; Polish: Lepel; Russian: Ле́пель, pronounced [ˈlʲepʲɪlʲ]; Yiddish: ליעפּליע, Li'epli'e) is a town located in the center of the Lepiel Raion (district) in the Vitebsk Province of Belarus near Lepiel Lake. Lepiel is situated at about and its population in the 1998 census was 19,400.
|Time zone||UTC+2 (EET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+3 (EEST)|
|Area code(s)||+375 2132|
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There are three theories about the origin of the name Lepel. The first is that the name 'Lepel' come from the word "lepene" which means "lake between the lime-groves". The second is that the name comes from the Belarusian word "лепей" meaning "the best place to live in". The third theory for the name Lepel is that it derives from the Belarusian word "ляпiць" meaning "well-developed pottery".
The first known mention of Lepel dates back to 1439. In the 15th century, the town belonged to the Lithuanian Grand Duchy. In 1439, thanks to efforts of a Roman Catholic priest, Kucharski, Grand Lithuanian Duke Sigismund Kęstutaitis' son Michael gave Lepel to the Vitebsk Roman Catholic church. King Sigismund I the Old subsequently confirmed the gift and in 1541 by approbation of pontiff, the townlands were given to the Vitebsk Cathedral.
After Polatsk was captured by the Russian army in 1563, the Vitebsk government was no longer able to protect its property from the attacks of the Grand Duchy of Moscow. The decision was made to donate Lepel to King Sigismund II Augustus on the erroneous assumption that the king would return the gift by awarding the Vitebsk government with other property of the same value. Instead, the king gave the property by way of life tenure to Yury Zenovich, the mayor of Smolensk. After Yury Zenovich died, Sigismund gave the town to Michael Daragastaisky and it then came into the hands of Stefan Batory. Batory eventually returned the property to the Vitebsk government when Polatsk was liberated.
It remained difficult for the Vitebsk authorities to protect their holdings in Lepel and thus the decision was made in 1586 to sell the townlands to Lew Sapieha, a leading politician. Sapieha eventually donated Lepel in 1609 to Bernardine nuns in Vilnius (Wilno) who lived next to St. Michael's Church.
After the annexation of Belarus to Russia in 1772, Lepel remained in Lithuania due to the border being traced by the river Dvina. After the second division of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1793, Lepel was annexed by Russia and in 1802 the town became the center of the region. The town suffered greatly in the 1812 French invasion of Russia due to the passing troops razing many buildings to the ground. On 9 September 1852 Lepel was awarded its own coat of arms. Jan Czeczot worked as an engineer on the Berezina Canal in Lepel between 1833 and 1839. In 1880, the population of Lepel consisted of 5,284 people, including 2,458 Jews, 2,281 Orthodox, and 536 Roman Catholics.
By 1913 Lepel had lost its strategic and economic importance and was a quiet regional town center.
On November 10, 1919 in the neighbourhood of Lepel there was a clash between the company of the 13th infantry regiment of the Polish Army sitting in an ambush and the Soviet troops advancing into the region. The fighting was successful for the Poles though their commanding officer, lieutenant Stanisław Jacheć, was the only Polish victim of the clash. Heavy fighting between the Bolshevik troops and the Polish Army's 30th regiment of the Rifles of Kaniów of the XX brigade continued through November 1919 and the Polish-Soviet frontline was established there until spring 1920.
On 22 June 1941, Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, began. Lepiel was captured by the rapidly advancing German troops on 3 July. While the Lepel's Jewish population had once been as high as 3,379 (53.7%) in 1897, by 1941 this had dwindled to only 1,919, or 13.6 percent of the townspeople. The German occupation authorities created a ghetto and appointed a Jewish elder. On February 28, 1942, almost all of the 1,000 residents remaining in the ghetto were shot  by an Einsatzgruppe. During Operation Bagration, the summer 1944 Soviet strategic offensive in Belarus, Lepiel was liberated on 3 July.
- 4 secondary schools
- An agrotechnical college
- A professional college
- "The Untold Stories: The Murder Sites of Jews in Occupied Territories of the former USSR: Lepel". www.yadvashem.org. Yad Vashem. Retrieved 12 April 2017.