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Orša city
Orša city
Flag of Orša  Орша
Coat of arms of Orša  Орша
Coat of arms
Vitebsk Region
Orsha Raion
Mentioned 1067
 • Total 38.90 km2 (15.02 sq mi)
Elevation 192 m (630 ft)
Population (2009)[1]
 • Total 117,225
 • Density 3,000/km2 (7,800/sq mi)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST) EEST (UTC+3)
Postal code 211030, 211381 - 211394, 211396 - 211398
Area code(s) +375 216
License plate 2
Website Official website

Orša (Belarusian: О́рша, Ворша; Russian: О́рша Russian pronunciation: ) is a city in Belarus in Vitebsk Region on the fork of the Dnieper and Arshytsa rivers.


  • Facts 1
  • History 2
    • Sports 2.1
    • Population change 2.2
  • Transportation 3
  • Military 4
  • Health problems 5
  • Famous natives of Orša 6
  • Sister cities 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


  • Location:
  • Population: 125,000 (est. 2004)
  • Phone code: +375 216
  • Postal codes: 211030, 211381–211394, 211396–211398


Coat of Arms, 1781.
Coat of Arms, 1967, made for 900th anniversary.

Orša was first mentioned in 1067 as Rsha, making it one of the oldest towns in Belarus. The town was named after the river, which was originally also named Rsha, probably from a Baltic root *rus 'slowly flowing.'[2]

In 1320, Orša became a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In 1398-1407, the Orša castle was built. On September 8, 1514 the famous Battle of Orsha occurred, between allied Grand Duchy of Lithuania with Kingdom of Poland and Muscovite army.[3] Muscovites suffered significant defeat, however victorious Grand Duchy of Lithuania did not fully avail its victory.[3]

In 1555, Mikołaj "Czarny" Radziwiłł founded a Calvinist (Protestant) order in Orša, one of the first in the Belarusian lands. From the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries Orša was a notable religious centre, with dozens of Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic churches and orders. The town was also home to a large Jewish population.

Orša was granted Magdeburg Rights in 1620. In 1630, S. Sobal opened the first printing house at the Kuciejna monastery, which became a well-known centre of Cyrillic-alphabet publishing. The town was damaged during the Russo-Polish War (1654-1667), which was a disaster for Grand Duchy of Lithuania. During the First Polish partition the city was taken over by the Russian Empire in 1772, and became part of the Mogilyov Gubernia. Under Russian rule, it was stripped of its Magdeburg Rights in 1776 and went into cultural and economic decline. The population dropped sharply to just about 2,000 inhabitants. The city symbol in 1781 was changed to one which included the symbol of the Russian empire and five arrows.

Orsha. Orthodox church of Saint Illa (1880).
During Napoleon's invasion the French writer Stendhal served in Orša in the rank of intendant

In 1812, the city was badly burned during Napoleon's invasion. At the time of Orsha had been taken under control of French troops, there was a French writer Marie-Henri Beyle (also known under the pen name Stendhal) in a rank of intendant.[4]

During the First World War, the city was occupied by German forces in February–October 1918. From February 2, 1919, Orša became a part of Homyel region (Vitebsk region, 1920) of Soviet Russia. After the formation of the Soviet Union, it was transferred to the Byelorussian SSR in 1924.

The population before World War II was about 37,000. The city was occupied by Germany on July 16, 1941. The occupiers founded several concentration camps in the city, where an estimated 19,000 people were killed.

There is a widespread Soviet myth of Katyusha Katyusha multiple rocket launcher's maiden attack of July 14, 1941 at Orša, destroying a station with several supply trains. This legend obviously conflicts the fact that Orša remained at the hands of the Soviet Army on July 14 and through July 15, 1941. And even on July 16, 1941 the German troops were unlikely to invade Orša aboard their supply trains. Thus, had the Katyusha’s rockets fallen on any supply trains on July 16, 1941 those would have been the Soviet trains unable to have left Orša railroad station. See Russian WorldHeritage's article "Гвардейские реактивные минометы" ("Guards Mortars").

The multiple rocket launchers were top secret in the beginning of World War II and any records of their actions in July 1941 were forbidden, which fact led to numerous rumors and myths. The Soviets encouraged and co-ordinated undercover anti-fascist resistance groups, and one of the most famous was a partisan brigade under the command of Konstantin Zaslonov, operating from the Orša train depot. His group planted ninety-three bombs on German trains in just three months. After March 1942, he went into hiding in the forest, where he and his group continued guerrilla warfare. He was killed in action on 14 November 1942. Soviet troops liberated Orša on 27 June 1944.


The bandy club Start has produced players for the Belarus national bandy team.[5]

Population change

  • 16th-17th century: est. 5,000
  • 1776: less than 2,000
  • 1939: 37,000
  • 1970: 100,000
  • 2004: 125,000


Railway station.

Orša became an important transportation center after the construction of a Dnieper River port. The coming of railway lines in the second half of the nineteenth century greatly contributed to the city growth:

Today, Orša is a major railway node where the Minsk–Moscow crosses the northern Viciebsk line, which branches south to Mogilev and Kryčaŭ. All trains from Moscow and Saint-Petersburg bound for Western Europe pass through Orša.

The city is also a junction of the important motorways: The M1 (E30) Moscow-Brest and the M8/M20 (E95) Saint Petersburg - Odessa.


OSGOEINT recently reported on the 571st Aircraft Repair Plant (ARP) located at Orša (also called Bolbasovo) Airfield. Accordingly, the 571st ARP repairs Mi-8-17 HIP, Mi-24-35 HIND, as well as the Tu-134 CRUSTY and possibly the IL-76 CANDID. The report goes on to mention recent investment agreements with the Ukraine where private firms plan on providing $12 million to finance facility upgrades during the 2012-2016 period. Press reporting states that the investors plan on building a modern warehouse terminal as well as office buildings for customs services, banking, and a leasing company.[6]

Health problems

Recently, a high rate of oncological diseases attracted attention to this city. Before 1987 there were less than 100 new cancer patients registered each year. Since then the number grew fivefold, with more than 500 new patients registered per year as of 2004. The biggest growth was registered in 2003–04 (178%). This was widely reported in independent media, but Belarusian officials are silent about the alarming health situation and possible reasons for this high cancer rate. Two possible factors mentioned in the independent media are old Soviet military installations in Orša, and the Chernobyl disaster.

Famous natives of Orša

  • Francis Dzierozynski, Jesuit
  • Piotra Holub (Golub Petr Semionovich) (1913–1953), artist, author of many well-known Soviet propaganda posters, such as "болтун находка для шпиона" and many others
  • Uladzimir Karatkievich, Belarusian writer
  • Mikhail Marynich, opposition politician, who was imprisoned in Orša
  • Georgy Mondzolevsky, 2-time Olympic volleyball champion
  • Gershon Shufman, Hebrew author, known as 'Gimel Shufman'
  • Frida Vigdorova, Soviet writer and journalist, famous for writing "White book" after Joseph Brodsky trial, in support of human rights in USSR (Вигдорова, Фрида Абрамовна)
  • Lev Vygotsky, psychologist
  • Nathan Zarkhi (1900–1935), Soviet playwright and film writer
  • Igor Zhelezovsky (Ihar Zhalezouski), Olympic medalist speed skater

Sister cities


  1. ^ "World Gazetteer". Archived from the original on 2013-01-11. 
  2. ^ E. M. Pospelov, Geograficheskie nazvaniya mira (Moscow, 1998), p. 314.
  3. ^ a b (Lithuanian) (Battle of Orša - biggest military victory of Grand Duchy of Lithuania against Russia)Oršos mūšis – didžiausia Lietuvos karinė pergalė prieš RusijąTomas Baranauskas. . Retrieved on 2008-01-18
  4. ^ (Belarusian) Viktar Korbut. «Галоўная краса горада — манастыры», або Па слядах Стэндаля і Напалеона
  5. ^
  6. ^ Retrieved on 2012-06-06Belarus: Orsha's 571st Aircraft Repair Plant
  7. ^ Orša and Spitak became sister cities (in Armenia)

External links

  • RUPE "Machine-tool plant "Krasny borets"
  • Orsha - city Орша - сити!
  • Coat of Arms (GIF file)
  • Photos on
  • Map of Orsha
  • Memories from a childhood in Orsha
  • Jewish Encyclopedia
  • Орша - город мой! Orsha is my city
  • Travel Guide to Orsha
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