Bialystok | Poland
Białystok (Polish: [bʲaˈwɨstɔk] (About this sound listen); Belarusian: Беласток, translit. Bielastok, Lithuanian: Balstogė, Russian: Белосток, translit. Belostok, Yiddish: ביאַליסטאָק, translit. Byalistok) is the largest city in northeastern Poland and the capital of the Podlaskie Voivodeship.
Located in the Białystok Uplands of the Podlaskie Plain on the banks of the Biała River, Białystok ranks second in terms of population density, eleventh in population, and thirteenth in area, of the cities of Poland. It has historically attracted migrants from elsewhere in Poland and beyond, particularly from Central and Eastern Europe. This is facilitated by the fact that the nearby border with Belarus is also the eastern border of the European Union, as well as the Schengen Area. The city and its adjacent municipalities constitute Metropolitan Białystok. The city has a Warm Summer Continental climate, characterized by warm summers and long frosty winters. Forests are an important part of Białystok's character, and occupy around 1,756 ha (4,340 acres) (17.2% of the administrative area of the city) which places it as the fifth most forested city in Poland.
The first settlers arrived in the 14th century. A town grew up and received its municipal charter in 1692. Białystok has traditionally been one of the leading centers of academic, cultural, and artistic life in Podlachia and the most important economic center in northeastern Poland. Białystok was once an important center for light industry, which was the reason for the substantial growth of the city's population. The city continues to reshape itself into a modern metropolis. Białystok in 2010, was on the short-list, but ultimately lost the competition to become a finalist for European Capital of Culture in 2016.
The end of the eighteenth century saw the division of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, in three steps, among the neighboring states. The Kingdom of Prussia acquired Białystok and the surrounding region during the third partition. The city became the capital of the New East Prussia province in 1795. Prussia lost the territory following Napoleon Bonaparte's victory in the War of the Fourth Coalition as the resultant 1807 Treaties of Tilsit awarded the area to the Russian Empire, which organized the region into the Belostok Oblast, with the city as the regional center.
At the end of the nineteenth century, the majority of the city's population was Jewish. According to Russian census of 1897, out of the total population of 66,000, Jews constituted 41,900 (so around 63% percent). This heritage can be seen on the Jewish Heritage Trail in Białystok. The Białystok pogrom occurred between 14–16 June 1906 in the city. During the pogrom between 81 and 88 people were killed, and about 80 people were wounded.
Part of Knyszyn Forest is preserved within the city limits by two nature reserves—a total area of 105 ha (260 acres). The Zwierzyniecki Forest Nature Reserve (Polish: Rezerwat przyrody Las Zwierzyniecki), which is contained within the city limits, is a fragment, 33.48 ha (82.7 acres), of the riparian forest with a dominant assemblage of oak and hornbeam. The Antoniuk Nature Reserve (Polish: Rezerwat Przyrody Antoniuk) is a 70.07 ha (173.1 acres) park in the city that preserves the natural state of a forest fragment characteristic of the Białystok Upland, with a dominant mixed forest of hazel and spruce.
The 40 ha (99 acres) of forests lying in the vicinity of the Dojlidy Ponds are administered by the Central Sports and Recreation Center in Białystok (Polish: Miejski Ośrodek Sportu i Rekreacji w Białymstoku – MOSiR). The Dojlidy Ponds recreation area includes a public beach, walking trails, birdwatching and fishing.
Białystok, like other major cities in Poland, is a city county (Polish: Miasto na prawach powiatu). The Legislative power in the city is vested in the unicameral Białystok City Council (Polish: Rada Miasta), which has 28 members. Council members are elected directly every four years, one of whom is the mayor, or President of Białystok (Polish: prezydent). Like most legislative bodies, the City Council divides itself into committees which have the oversight of various functions of the city government. Bills passed by a simple majority are sent to the mayor, who may sign them into law. If the mayor vetoes a bill, the Council has 30 days to override the veto by a two-thirds majority vote. The current President of Białystok, elected for his first term in 2006, is Tadeusz Truskolaski won the elections as the Civic Platform's candidate, however, he has no official connection with the party. In the first round of the elections he received 49% of the votes (42,889 votes altogether). In the later runoff he defeated his rival candidate Marek Kozlowski from Law and Justice (Polish: Prawo i Sprawiedliwość), receiving 67% of the votes cast (53,018 votes).
The city has a number of performing arts facilities including:
The Białystok Puppet Theater (Polish: Bialostocki Teatr Lalek), established in 1953, is one of the oldest Polish puppet theaters. The facility is located at Kalinowskiego 1 in Białystok. The repertoire includes performances for both children and puppet adaptations of world literature for adults. Because of the high artistic level of productions, the theater has been recognized as one of the best puppetry arts centers in Poland.
The Aleksandra Węgierki Drama Theatre. Housed in a building designed by Jarosław Girina, built in the years 1933–1938.
The Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic – European Art Centre in Białystok is the largest institute of arts in Northeastern Poland, and the most modern cultural center in this region of Europe. In its amphitheatre every year in the end of June Halfway Festival takes place.