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Słownik Geograficzny Translations

Wołożyn [now Volozhin, Minsk oblast, Belarus]

- a town on the Wołożynska River, a left tributary of the Isloch River. It and Wołożyn gmina are located at 54° 6' N and 26° 11' E within the 4th police district of Oszmiana province, on a line 37 mi. south-east from Oszmiana and 74 mi. from Wilno. It contains 523 homes (2 brick or stone) and 2,446 inhabitants (406 Orthodox, 140 Catholics, and 1,900 Jews), 3 Orthodox churches, a synagogue, 3 Jewish prayer houses, the central administration of the police districts and gminas, a bureau for civil affairs and court of inquiry, a postal-telegraph station, a pharmacy, 2 doctors, and a ** hospital for peasants [ed.-- does "mkiem" translate as outpatient?]. The markets occur on Sunday. Trade fairs in the town occur four times a year and provide returns of around 10-12,000 rubles. The chief articles of trade are cattle, horses, linen, and leather hides.


Formerly the population was much larger, in part due to the renown of Wołożyn as a very early rabbinical and * special teacher* [ed.-- "melamedow" is an unfamiliar Jewish term] school called the "Jewish Academy". It was conducted in a strict Orthodox Jewish spirit, and its joint guidance with Ashkenazi rabbis was very popular throughout greater Lithuania. This school reckoned special scholars originating not only from the best among the local town population but also from foreign countries like England, Austria, Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere. It was these rabbinical emigrants celebrating their love of learning who may have been responsible for the well known proverb: "Erudite but cunning like a Wołożyn rabbi".


In 1892, the Minister of Instruction reformed this school and Yeshiva, bringing it under common [ed.-- Tsarist] law as a public school for Jewish people. In light of circumstances like the repeated fires in Wołożyn (the worst in 1885), the dismissal of foreign alumni, and emigration to America, all these factors have contributed to a reduction in the town population. In the area around Wołożyn, one can see the degradation typical of today's small Jewish towns: dirty, neglected, and marshy. Not surprisingly, Wołożyn suffers from a lack of good drinking water. Jewish mercantile booths are commonplace but with dubious characters likely to cause some kind of chicanery: orderly, prosperous craftsmen are noticeable by their absence. In 1890, tax receipts from real estate transactions amount to only 109 rubles.


The first of the Orthodox churches in Wołożyn, a Catholic church converted in 1866, is constructed of brick with a front in the Grecian Attic-Ionic style (other parts have newer features); the second of wood and funded by the Sluszka family was converted in 1710; the third and last, equally wooden, was converted in 1866. Two Orthodox parishes in the Wołożyn (Blahoczynia) deaconate lie within Wołożyn itself. St. Joseph with 3,464 parishioners and Sts. Constantine and Helen with 2,631 parishoners, also having an affiliate church and chapel. The deaconate itself contains 12 parishes in its entirety: Wołożyn (2), Bakszty, Dowbenie (or Douwbenie), Dubina, Horodzilow, Horodzkow, Hruzdowo, Mikolajow, Slowiensk, Wiszniew, and Zabrzezie. It includes 12 parish churches, 3 affiliates, 7 cemeteries, 5 chapels, and 28,660 parishioners. In composition, the rural district surrounding Wołożyn contains the villages: Augustow, Gonczary, Gordynowo, Jewlasze, Konowaly, Mincie, Podblocie, Sakowiki, Sidercewicze, Ulanowszczyzna as well as the settlements Rudniki, with 879 land-holding peasants (from the 1865 revision lists) and 10 Treasury peasants.

The gmina, belonging to the 3rd peace court for peasant affairs has 7 rural districts: Wołożyn, Czartowicze, Jackowo, Kibudzcie, Luzany, Ponizie and Suchwozdy (Sugwozdy). Together these comprise 83 settlements, 1,013 homes, and 8,157 free peasants (3,420 according to the revision lists), owning land totaling 23,960 acres (18,000 tillable acres). The rest of property acreage within gmina boundaries is 61,480 acres (9,480 tillable) [ed.-- probably owned by a few wealthy families]. Of these, the Orthodox churches own 788 acres (470 tillable). The entire gmina area comprises 86,200 acres (29,800 arable) and has 10,108 inhabitants. Gmina schools are found in Wołożyn, with Orthodox church schools in Wołożyn, Augustow, Cimkowiczach, Czartowicze, Domanowszczyznie, Mincie, Poliksowszczynie, Ulazowicze, Wedernik, and Zurawce. The (Tsarist state) police district of Wołożyn contains five provincial gminas: Bakszty, Derewno, Naliboki, Wiszniew, and Wołożyn.


An estate is located near the town, a brick and stone palace in Classical style with outbuildings, several greenhouses, a pineapple plantation, parks and fruit orchards, a large brick granary for storing the corn (wheat) harvest from the entire estate, as well a warehouse for holding peasant corn stocks. The estate also manages a rational horse breeding program. There is a private chapel in the estate (Zabrzezie parish, Wisniew deaconate).


Wołożyn Estate, also known as the "Wołożynski Countship", lies between Oszmiana province and Minsk and was constructed in the 15th and 16th centuries by the owner Prince Wołożynski. [ed.-- unclear regarding "ida-cych..."] It apparently passed from his own heirs first to Prince Holzansk, later to the Gasztold family, from 1614 into the Sluszka family, and by the end of the 17th Century in the hands of Marian Denhoff the Voivod of Polotsk. Following this it was owned by Prince Czartoryski, from whom Count Joseph Tyszkiewicz (Sheriff of Wielaty) acquired it in 1803, who then passed it on to his sons Count Michael (Polish regiment commander; died 1839) and Count Joseph (died 1844), and later Count Jan (Marshal of Wilno province; died 1892). Since 1894, it has been the property of Count Michael Tyszkiewicz.


Prior to the land-grant enfranchisement of the peasants [ed.-- following the Ukasze of 1863?], this estate comprised: the town of Wołożyn, 81 peasant villages and 17 farmsteads. Overall it contained upwards of 100,000 acres. After the enfranchisement, which conferred almost 43,000 acres (to the peasants), the estate still had about 81,000 acres. The holdings are found in six different domains: Wołożyn, Sakowszczyzna, Adampolski, Maryangorski, Dubinski, and Łojewski... [ed.-- translation ends here. What follows is a lengthy list of towns, villages, forests and individual manors under these different domains. The estate was quite enormous.].


Editor's Note: All Słownik longitudes in this article have been converted to modern coordinates which is based on the Greenwich zero meridian. All Polish measurement units (land areas, distances, height above sea level, etc.) were converted to American-English equivalents.  Monetary units, where identified, were left in zlotys/zl. or rubles/rs.


Source: Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego - Warsaw [1893, vol. 13, p. 910-912]


This translation, by Mike Gansecki, is used by permission.

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