Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.


(smōlĕnsk`, smô–, Rus. sməlyĕnsk`), city (1989 pop. 341,000), capital of Smolensk region, W European Russia, a port on the Dnieper River. It is an important rail junction, a distribution point for the region's agricultural products, and a commercial, cultural, and educational center. Smolensk is the head of navigation on the Dnieper. The city, a major linen producer, has one of Russia's largest flax-processing mills. Other industries include metalworking, machine building, flour milling, food processing, and the manufacture of textiles.

One of Russia's oldest cities, Smolensk derived its name from the resin [Rus., smola] extracted from the surrounding pine trees. The city was already a commercial center in the late 9th cent., when it was the capital of the Krivichi tribe and a fortress and settlement for traders and artisans. It then fell under Kiev's rule. Its control of the key portages between the Dnieper and Western Dvina rivers gave Smolensk its early strategic importance. It also lay astride the trade route from the Baltic to Constantinople; Smolensk was connected with the Black Sea by the Dnieper and with the Hanseatic cities of the Baltic Sea and with Moscow and Novgorod by some of the most important medieval trade links. The city declined in the 11th cent. but revived in the 12th cent. to become the capital of an independent Belarusian principality. Smolensk was sacked by the Mongols in 1238–40.

The westward expansion of the grand duchy of Moscow made Smolensk a target of prolonged struggle between Moscow and Poland-Lithuania. It was captured by the Lithuanians in 1408, taken by the Russians in 1514, occupied by the Poles in 1611, and reconquered in 1654 by the Russians, to whom it passed by the Treaty of Andrusov (1667). Its location on the main route from Moscow to Warsaw made Smolensk a target for Napoleon I, who seized the city in Aug., 1812, after a brief but heroic resistance. Having burned Moscow, Napoleon retreated in November to Smolensk but was forced by the Russians under General Kutuzov to continue his retreat.

The city, scene of some of World War II's heaviest fighting, was captured by the Germans in 1941 and retaken by Soviet troops in 1943. Virtually razed, Smolensk was rebuilt with its original pattern largely preserved. Historic buildings now restored include the famous kremlin and town walls (1596–1602), the Uspensky Cathedral (1677–79), several 12th-century churches, and monuments to Kutuzov and to the composer M. I. Glinka.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a city and administrative center of Smolensk Oblast, RSFSR. Junction of railroad lines to Moscow, Briansk, Minsk, Vitebsk, and Polotsk; highway junction. Landing on the Dnieper River. Population, 250,000 (1975; 79,000 in 1926, 157,000 in 1939, 147,000 in 1959, and 211,000 in 1970). Area, 145 sq km.

Smolensk is known to have existed since 863. It once was the capital of the Slavic Krivichi tribes and a major trade and artisan settlement on the route “from the Varangians to the Greeks.” Incorporated into Kievan Rus’ in 882, the city became the capital of the Smolensk Principality in the 12th century. It was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from 1404 to 1514, when it was included in the Muscovite State, serving as the most important Russian fortress along the western border. After the Smolensk Defense of 1609–11, the city was captured by Poland, which returned it to Russia in 1667 under the Armistice of An-drusovo. In 1708 the city was designated the capital of Smolensk Gubernia, and between 1719 and 1726 it was the administrative center of a provintsia in Riga Gubernia. From 1776 to 1796, Smolensk was the administrative center of a namest-nichestvo (vicegerency) and thereafter of a gubernia. During the Patriotic War of 1812, the battle of Smolensk was fought in its vicinity. In the second half of the 19th century the Riga-Orel railroad (1868) and Moscow-Brest railroad (1870) were built through the city, promoting its economic development. Marxist groups were founded in Smolensk in the mid–1890’s. V. I. Lenin visited the city in 1900, and the Smolensk Committee of the RSDLP was organized in 1902.

After Soviet power was established in the city on Oct. 31 (Nov. 13), 1917, Smolensk became the administrative center of Zapadnaia Oblast in 1929 and of Smolensk Oblast in 1937. From July 16, 1941, to Sept. 25, 1943, the city was occupied by fascist German troops (the Trans-Dnieper area was captured on July 29, 1941). The battle of Smolensk in 1941 delayed the German offensive against Moscow for three months. During the occupation, underground party and Komsomol organizations operated here. Almost completely destroyed during the war, the city was rebuilt and its economy restored in the postwar period. On Dec. 3, 1966, it was awarded the Order of the Patriotic War First Class.

Smolensk provides more than 40 percent of the oblast’s gross industrial output. Its machine-building and light industries produce automation equipment, light bulbs, refrigerators, radio parts, calculating machines, aircraft, automotive parts, and experimental road equipment. The city also has a printing combine and a factory for the production of hosiery and knitwear.

Smolensk is divided into two administrative districts: the Promyshlennyi (Industrial) District on the left bank, where the old section of the city is located, and the Zadneprovskii (Trans-Dnieper) District. The historical center of the city is dominated by the architectural ensemble on Sobornia (Cathedral) Hill, which includes the Uspenskii Cathedral (1677-79, architect A. Korol’kov), rebuilt in the baroque style between 1732 and 1740 by the architect A. I. Shedel’. This part of the city is still ringed by the thick fortress walls and towers that were erected between 1595 and 1602 by F. Kon’. After 1812, Smolensk developed in accordance with a plan, officially adopted in 1818, establishing a grid layout for the center of the city without destroying the old town.

Noteworthy architectural works include the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul at Gorodianka, built in 1146, rebuilt between 1753-1757, and restored in 1962-63; the Church of St. John at Variazhki, built in the 12th century and rebuilt in the 18th century; the Church of the Archangel Michael (Svirskaia), erected between 1191 and 1194; and the former Assembly of the Nobility (now the administrative building of the medical institute), built in the classical style in 1825 by the architect A. I. Mel’ni-kov. In the years of Soviet power, residential complexes and public buildings were built in accordance with a general plan worked out in the 1930’s by the architect N. G. Kondratenko. One of the best works of this period is the House of Soviets, built in 1932 (architect S. A. Il’inskaia) and rebuilt between 1946 and 1954 (architect V. A. Iaroshevskii). After the war a plan for the rebuilding and expansion of the city was developed by G. P. Gol’ts and other architects. A new general plan adopted in 1969 (principal architect M. R. Naumov) provides for the preservation of the city’s historic center and the modernization of its main thoroughfares. Public buildings have been erected, and residential districts (Sputnik, Popovka, Sitniki) have been built. The city has a housing construction combine.

There are monuments honoring the heroic defenders of Smolensk on Aug. 4-5, 1812 (cast iron, 1841, architect A. Adamini), M. I. Glinka (bronze and labradorite, 1885, sculptor A. R. Bok, architect I. S. Bogoliubov), the heroes of the Patriotic War of 1812 (stone and bronze, 1912-13, architect N. S. Shutsman), M. I. Kutuzov-Smolenskii (bronze and granite, 1954, sculptor G. I. Motovilov, architect L. M. Poliakov), and V. I. Lenin (granite, 1967, sculptor L. E. Kerbel’, architect B. I. Tkhor). Also outstanding are the monument Grieving Mother on the mass grave of underground activists and partisans in Rea-dovskii Park (granite, 1965, sculptor A. G. Sergeev, artist S. S. Novikov, architect A. G. Stemparzhitskii); the obelisk Bayonet (1969), commemorating the soldiers of the Sixteenth Army, who heroically defended Smolensk in July 1941; and the memorial Barrow of Immortality (granite, 1970), erected in memory of those who perished in the struggle against the fascist invaders during the Great Patriotic War. The last two monuments were executed by the architect D. P. Kovalenko and the sculptor A. G. Sergeev.

Systematic archaeological research was initiated in 1951 (D. A. Avdusin) and archaeological-architectural studies in 1958 (D. A. Abdusin, N. N. Voronin, P. A. Rappoport). Within the fortress walls and in places along the right bank of the Dnieper archaeologists have discovered cultural levels up to 8 m thick dating from the 11th to 20th centuries, as well as traces of a destroyed tenth-century cultural level. Archaeological excavations have uncovered wooden street pavements (21 layers), drainage structures (some from the tenth century), and the remains of dwellings, outbuildings, and workshops. Numerous household articles, tools, weapons, and writings on birchbark have been found, as well as the remains of a 12th-century round stone church.

The city has several higher educational institutions: medical, teacher-training, and physical culture institutes and branches of the Moscow Power Engineering Institute, the Moscow Agricultural Academy, and the All-Union Correspondence Institute of Finance and Economics. There are also 14 specialized secondary schools. Cultural institutions include the Oblast Museum of Local Lore, the Museum of Fine and Applied Art (whose branches include the S. T. Konenkov Museum of Sculpture), the Oblast Drama Theater, and a puppet theater.

On Jan. 1, 1975, the city had 17 hospitals, with 5,100 beds, and 2,000 physicians. There were 113 children’s preschool institutions for 15,600 children (37 for 2,766 children in 1940). Medical personnel are trained at a medical school and a medical institute (founded 1930) with faculties of general medicine, pediatrics, and stomatology. Also in the city are a children’s tuberculosis sanatorium and a house of rest.


Avdusin, D. A. Vozniknovenie Smolenska. Smolensk, 1957.
Avdusin, D. A. “K voprosu o proiskhozhdenii Smolenska i ego pervonachal’noi topografii.” In the collection Smolensk: K 1100-letiiu pervogo upominaniia goroda ν letopisi. Smolensk, 1967.
Vozrozhdennyi iz ruin: Sb. dokumentov i materialov o vosstanovlenii i raz-vitii g. Smolenska, 1943–1962 gg. Smolensk, 1963.
Kotov, L. V. Smolenskoe podpol’e. Moscow, 1966.
Ocherki istorii Smolenskoi organizatsii KPSS. Moscow, 1970.
Kostochkin, V. V. Starym smolenskim traktom. Moscow, 1972.
Smolensk: Putevoditel’, 6th ed. Moscow, 1974.
Smolensk (picture book). Moscow, 1973. [23–1833–]
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a city in W Russia, on the Dnieper River: a major commercial centre in medieval times; scene of severe fighting (1941 and 1943) in World War II. Pop.: 323 000 (2005 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The products available on Smolensk region market are "Altay-Batushka" consumer-size flour produced at Rebrikha milling plant, Altay territory, and sold by weight flour designed mainly for bread baking companies, produced at Mikhailovsky milling plant."
The party was headed to Smolensk to honour 22,000 Polish officers slain by the Soviet secret police in 1940 in the western Soviet Union.
"It clipped the tops of the trees, crashed down and broke into pieces," Russia-24 quoted Sergei Antufiev, Smolensk Governor, as saying.
DEAD: Poland's President DEATH SECENE: the crash site near Smolensk
Sergei Antufiev, the governor of Russia's Smolensk region, told official media there were no survivors from the crash.
The Polish Foreign Ministry confirmed that Kaczynski and his wife were on board the Tu-154 plane, flying from Moscow to Smolensk.
The Polish government official in Smolensk said there was no information about survivors.
As Smolensk's Jewish population grew in the three decades before World War One, divisions within the Jewish community mirrored the city's basic social cleavages.(7) Social divisions underlay one of the central themes of Jewish politics - class struggle: even before the formation of socialist party organizations in the city, Jewish artisans and clerks saw themselves as workers in conflict with the Jewish bourgeoisie.(8) Tsarist legal inequities provided a second, and interlocking theme: to most Jews, obtaining civil rights required either a revolution, the establishment of an independent Jewish homeland, or both.