Top Historic Sights in Polotsk, Belarus

Explore the historic highlights of Polotsk

St. Sophia Cathedral

The Cathedral of Holy Wisdom in Polotsk was built by Prince Vseslav Briacheslavich between 1044-1066. It is first mentioned in the Voskresenskaia Chronicle under the year 1056. It is probably the oldest church in Belarus. The cathedral is, like the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev and Saint Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod, named after the Holy Wisdom of God. After building his own cathedral, Vseslav tried to seize the Kievan ...
Founded: 1044-1066 | Location: Polotsk, Belarus

Transfiguration Church

Transfiguration Church of the St. Euphrosine monastery is a well-preserved monument of Pre-Mongol Rus architecture. It was built between 1152 and 1161 by the Polatsk architect Ioann by the order of the princess St. Euphrosyne of Polatsk as a cathedral church of the Convent of the Saviour and St. Euphrosyne. In 1582, King Stefan Batory gave the church to the Order of Jesuits. In 1832, the church was placed under the Orthod ...
Founded: 1152 | Location: Polotsk, Belarus

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Derbent Fortress

Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.

Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.

A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.

The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.

The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.

In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.

In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.