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(bĕlfăst`), Gaelic Béal Feirste, city (1991 pop. 297,000), capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast dist. It is on Belfast Lough, an inlet of the North Channel of the Irish Sea, and at the mouth of the Lagan River. The harbor, 8.5 mi (13.7 km) long, is navigable to the largest ships. The great shipyards of Belfast have built some of the world's largest ocean liners. The city is also the center of the Irish linen industry; other industries include tobacco and food processing, packaging, and the manufacture of rayon, aircraft, tools and machinery, clothing, carpets, and rope. Agricultural and livestock products are the chief exports. Queen's Univ. (founded 1845) and Victoria College (founded 1859), one of the oldest women's grammar schools in the British Isles, are among the educational institutions there. The Protestant Cathedral of St. Anne, the Waterfront concert hall, and the Odyssey Center, housing a sports arena and a science museum, are notable. The Parliament House of Northern Ireland is at Stormont, a suburb.

Belfast was founded in 1177 when a castle in defense of a ford over the Lagan was built, but the present city is a product of the Industrial Revolution. French HuguenotsHuguenots
, French Protestants, followers of John Calvin. The term is derived from the German Eidgenossen, meaning sworn companions or confederates. Origins

Prior to Calvin's publication in 1536 of his Institutes of the Christian Religion,
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, coming there after the revocation of the Edict of NantesNantes, Edict of,
1598, decree promulgated at Nantes by King Henry IV to restore internal peace in France, which had been torn by the Wars of Religion; the edict defined the rights of the French Protestants (see Huguenots).
..... Click the link for more information.
 (1685), stimulated the growth of the town's linen industry. Serious rioting between Catholics and Protestants, who live in distinct sections of the city, has scarred Belfast many times since the 19th cent.; sectarian terrorist violence was a significant problem in the late 20th cent. The city and the surrounding country were subjected to heavy air raids in 1941. Belfast suffers from high unemployment, and its population has decreased markedly due to the violence and the planned economic development of outlying areas.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a county borough in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Political and economic center of Northern Ireland. Founded (originally as a fortified castle) at the end of the 12th century. Area, 73 sq km. Population, 399,300 (1966).

Belfast has a port on the shore of the Northern Straits at the point where the Lagan River flows into Belfast Lough. It is connected with the interior regions by a railroad network and a canal. Belfast’s airport is located at Sydenham. It is an industrial center and has approximately 60 percent of the industrial employment in Northern Ireland. Belfast and its environs are a very old region of the linen industry, which came into being in the 17th century, based on local raw material. During the middle of the 19th century the shipyards of the Harland and Wolff Company began operations; they produce as much as 7 or 8 percent of the ships built in Great Britain. It was here that ships such as the Titanic were built. Closely connected to shipbuilding are ship machinery construction, rope and cable manufacture, and other allied fields. Also located in Belfast are a major aircraft plant and enterprises of the electrical engineering, textile machine building, tobacco, food, and garment industries. Woolen fabrics, rugs, and synthetic fibers are also produced. There is a university (since 1845), an engineering college, and an art gallery.

Belfast is a major center of the workers’ and democratic movement. At the end of the 1960’s, along with other cities in Northern Ireland, it became an arena for the workers’ struggle for civil and social rights.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. the capital of Northern Ireland, a port on Belfast Lough in Belfast district, Co. Antrim and Co. Down: became the centre of Irish Protestantism and of the linen industry in the 17th century; seat of the Northern Ireland assembly and executive. Pop.: 276 459 (2001)
2. a district of W Northern Ireland, in Co. Antrim and Co. Down. Pop.: 271 596 (2003 est.). Area: 115 sq. km (44 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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