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Belz cityhall
Belz cityhall
Flag of Belz
Belz Coat of Arms 1772
Coat of arms
Belz is located in Lviv Oblast
Location within Ukraine
Belz is located in Ukraine
Country Ukraine
Province Lviv Oblast
Named for See in article
 • Mayor Volodymyr Mukha
 • Total 5.85 km2 (2.26 sq mi)
Elevation 200 m (700 ft)
Population (2013)
 • Total 2,343
 • Density 403,25/km2 (104,440/sq mi)
Zip Code 80065
Area code(s) +380 3257

Belz (Ukrainian: Белз; Polish: Bełz; Yiddish: בעלזBelz), a small city in Sokal Raion of Lviv Oblast (region) of Western Ukraine, near the border with Poland, is located between the Solokiya river (a tributary of the Bug River) and the Rzeczyca stream. Prior to 15 February 1951 the town was located in central-eastern Poland, in the Lublin Voivodeship. Population: 2,343 (2013 est.)[1].


  • Origin of name 1
  • History 2
    • Early history 2.1
    • Modern history 2.2
  • Jewish history 3
  • Cultural trivia 4
  • Notable residents 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Origin of name

There are a few theories as to the origin of the name:

  1. Celtic languagebelz (water) or pelz (stream),
  2. German languagePelz/Belz (fur, furry)
  3. Old Slavic language and the Boyko language – «белз» or «бевз» (muddy place),
  4. Old East Slavic – «бълизь» (white place, a glade in the midst of dark woods).

The name occurs only in two other places, the first being a Celtic area in antiquity, and the second one being derived from its Romanian name:

  1. Belz (department Morbihan), Brittany, France
  2. Bălţi (Бельцы/Beljcy, also known in Yiddish as Beltz), Moldova (Bessarabia)


Historical affiliations

Early history

Belz is situated in a fertile plain which tribes of Indo-European origin settled in ancient times: Celtic Lugii,[2][3] next (2nd-5th century) German Goths,[4][5] slavized Sarmatians (White Croats),[6] and at last Slavic Lendians.[7]

The town has existed since at least the 10th century, as one of the Burgs of Czerwień[8] (Red Ruthenia) strongholds under Bohemian and Polish rule. In 981, Belz was incorporated into the Kievan Rus'.[9] In 1170 the town became a seat of the Duchy of Belz. In 1234 it was incorporated into the Duchy of Galicia–Volhynia, which would control Belz until 1340, when it came under Lithuanian rule.

Beltz was under Polish rule from 1366 to 1772, first as a fief then, from 1462 as part of the Kingdom of Poland. On October 5, 1377, the town was granted rights under the Magdeburg law by Władysław Opolczyk, Duke of Opole, then the Governor of Red Ruthenia. A charter, dated November 10, 1509, once again granted Belz privileges under the Magdeburg rights.[10]

In 1772, Belz was incorporated into the Habsburg Empire later (later the Austrian Empire and Austro-Hungarian Empire) where it was a part of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria.

Modern history

With the collapse of Austria-Hungary following World War I in November 1918, Belz was included in the Western Ukrainian People's Republic. It came under Polish control in 1919 during the Polish-Ukrainian War. In April 1920, the Second Polish Republic, represented by Józef Piłsudski, and the Ukrainian People's Republic, represented by Symon Petlura signed the Treaty of Warsaw, in which they agreed that the Polish-Ukrainian border in Western Ukraine would follow the Zbruch River. This left Beltz, along with the rest of Eastern Galicia in the Polish Republic.[11]

From 1919 to 1939 Belz was annexed to the Lviv Voivodeship, Second Polish Republic.

From 1939 to 1944 Belz was occupied by Germany as a part of the General Government. Belz is situated on left, north waterside of the Solokiya river (affluent of the Bug river), which was the German-Soviet border in 1939–1941.

After the war Belz reverted to Poland (where it was again within the Lublin Voivodeship) until 1951 when, after a border readjustment, it passed to the Soviet Union (Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic). (See: 1951 Polish–Soviet territorial exchange) Since 1991 it has been part of independent Ukraine.

Jewish history

Jewish hostel in Belz

The Karaites, believers in a literalist offshoot of Judaism (Karaite Judaism or Karaism, Hebrew: יהדות קראית‎), settled in Belz at the end of the 10th century, following the fall of the Khazar Khaganate.[12]

The Ashkenazi Jewish community in Belz was established circa 14th century. In 1665, the Jews in Belz received equal rights and duties.[13] The town became home to a Hasidic dynasty in the early 19th century.[14][15] At that time, the Rav of Belz, Rabbi Shalom Rokeach (1779–1855), also known as the Sar Shalom, joined the Hasidic movement by studying with the Maggid of Lutzk,[16] and was sent by him to Belz to establish the community and become the first Belzer Rebbe from 1817 to 1855.

The synagogue in Belz, dedicated in 1843, destroyed by the Nazis during World War II, and demolished in the 1950s.

A great Torah scholar, Rabbi Shalom Rokeach personally helped build the city's large and imposing synagogue, dedicated in 1843, which could seat 5,000 worshippers and had superb acoustics. When Rabbi Shalom died in 1855, his youngest son, Rabbi Yehoshua Rokeach (1855–1894), became the next Rebbe. Belzer Hasidism grew in size during Rebbe Yehoshua's tenure and the tenure of his son and successor, Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach (1894–1926). Rabbi Yissachar Dov's son and successor, Rabbi Aharon Rokeach, escaped from Nazi-occupied Europe to Israel in 1944, re-establishing the Hasidut first in Tel Aviv and then in Jerusalem.

At the beginning of World War I, Belz had 6100 inhabitants, including 3600 Jews, 1600 Ukrainians, and 900 Poles.[17] During the German and Soviet invasion of Poland (September 1939), most of the Jews of Belz fled to the Soviet Union in Autumn 1939 (the German–Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Demarcation). However, by May 1942, there were over 1,540 local Jewish residents and refugees in Belz. On June 2, 1942, 1,000 Jews were deported to Hrubieszów and from there to the Sobibór extermination camp. Another 504 were brought to Hrubieszów in September of that year, after they were no longer needed to work on the farms in the area.[18]

Cultural trivia

The Yiddish song “Beltz, Mayn Shtetele” is a moving evocation of a happy childhood spent in a shtetl. Originally this song was composed for a town which bears a similarly sounding name in Yiddish (belts), called Bălţi in Moldovan/Romanian, and is located in Bessarabia[19] (presently the Moldova Republic). Later interpretations may have had Belz in mind, though. The song has special significance in Holocaust history, as a 16-year-old playing the song was overheard by an SS guard at Auschwitz extermination camp, who then forced the child to play it repeatedly to ease the moods of Jews being herded into the gas chambers.[20]

Belz is also a very important place for Ukrainian Catholics and Polish Catholics as a place where the Black Madonna of Częstochowa (this icon was believed to have painted by St. Luke the Evangelist) had resided for several centuries until 1382, when Władysław Opolczyk, duke of Opole, took the icon home to his principality after ending his service as the Royal emissary for Halychyna for Louis I of Hungary.[21]

Literature – Belles-lettres: a poem Maria: A Tale of the Ukraine written by Antoni Malczewski, and a novel Starościna Bełska: opowiadanie historyczne 1770–1774 by Józef Ignacy Kraszewski.

Notable residents

Lev Danylovych (Leo I of Galicia)
Rabbi Yissachar Dov Rokeach of Belz

See also


  1. ^ "Чисельність наявного населення України (Actual population of Ukraine)" (in Ukrainian).  
  2. ^ Gaius Cornelius Tacitus, De Origine et situ Germanorum
  3. ^ Alexander Falileyev, Celto-Slavica. University of Ulster, 2004
  4. ^ Hrubieszowskie w dobie panowania Gotów
  5. ^ Andrzej Kokowski, Archeologia Gotów. Goci w Kotlinie Hrubieszowskiej, Lublin 1999
  6. ^ Kazimierz Godłowski, Z badań nad rozprzestrzenieniem się Słowian w V-VII w. n.e., Kraków 1979
  7. ^ Magdalena Mączyńska, Wędrówki Ludów. Kraków 1996
  8. ^,75476,8601329,Nazywam_sie_Czerwien.html
  9. ^ , Oficyna Wydawnicza "Rewasz", Warszawa 2009. ISBN 978-83-89188-87-8RoztoczeArtur Pawłowski,
  10. ^ Yehorova, Iryna. "Belz is 1,000 years old". 
  11. ^ Richard K Debo, Survival and Consolidation: The Foreign Policy of Soviet Russia, 1918–1921, pp. 210-211, McGill-Queen's Press, 1992, ISBN 0-7735-0828-7.
  12. ^ Cmentarze żydowskie; Bełz – Ukraina
  13. ^ Dr Fryderyk Papée, Zabytki przeszłości miasta Bełza. Lwów 1884
  14. ^ Rabinowicz, Rabbi Tsvi (1989). "Chassidic Rebbes: From the Baal Shem Tov to Modern Times".  
  15. ^ Yodlov, Yitshak Shlomo. "Sefer Yikhus Belz (The Lineage Book of the Grand Rabbis of Belz)". 
  16. ^ Preface to the Divras Shlomo signed by the Belzer Rebbe, 1997
  17. ^ Dr Mieczysław Orłowicz. Ilustrowany Przewodnik po Galicyi. Lwów 1919.
  18. ^ Spector, Shmuel and Wigoder, Geoffrey, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, p. 105. NY:NYU Press 2001.
  19. ^  
  20. ^ BBC Magazine
  21. ^ The Black Madonna
  22. ^ Personality of the Week – Spivak

External links

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