Vitebsk vē´tĕpsk, vē´tyĭpsk [key], city (1989 pop. 350,000), Belarusian Vitsyebsk, capital of Vitebsk region, N Belarus, on the Western Dvina River. It is a river port and large railroad junction in an agricultural district. Manufactures include machine tools, electrical instruments, processed food, textiles, and building materials. It also is an important Belarusian cultural and educational center. Vitebsk dates from the 11th cent. and was the capital of a Russian principality that came under (14th cent.) Lithuanian rule. It passed to Russia again in 1772. Its Jewish community, which dated from the 16th cent., was stronghold of Orthodox Judaism; Jews constituted about half the population for much of 19th cent. and until World War I. The city became part of independent Belarus in 1991.
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