The small town of Rakaw. Volozhin district, Belarus


Rakov town (on RU), Rakaw – on Belarussian, Raków – on Polish. This place has been inhabited since ancient times. This was proven when the settlement ‘Valy’ (‘Валы’) was found here on the river Isloch. In the XVI century these ruins were used as a platform for feudal castle building. The Rakaw castle can be found on the map created by Tomash Makovski in 1613. In XIV century documents, settlements near contemporary Rakaw are mentioned for the first time. Rakow itself is mentioned in XV century chronicles. In 1465 Kazimir Yagelon gave Rakaw as a gift to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania chancellor Mihail Kyazhgailo. Kyazhgailo’s family owned Rakaw for almost 100 years. Only in the middle of the XVI century Rakaw went to Zavish family as a part of inheritance. In the XVII century the village belonged to Sangushki family. They constructed there a Dominican Catholic cloister in 1686 and a wooden castle, the Basilian Uniat cloister, in 1702.

Some sources state that by the end of the 18th century Rakaw belonged to the Oginskiya family. At that time, the territory of Belarus was a part of Rech’ Pospolitaya. And this was the time when the Belarusian territory was divided between Rech’ Pospolitaya and the Russian Empire three times. Difficult political situations provoked Kastus Kalinovsky Rebel in 1863-1864. There is information that the famous composer Mihail Kleofas Oginski participated in it. To punish the rebellious Oginskiya family, the Russian Empress Catherine the Great (Catherine II) took Rakov from Oginskiya and gave it to General Saltykov.

In 1793 Rakaw become a part of the Russian Empire. Also in 1793 the first stone castle was built in Rakow. After Kastus’ Kalinovski Rebel it was turned into an Orthodox Our Saviour and Transformation church. To do this they removed towers and built a cupola. This church still exists.

In 1804 the Zdzehovskiya family bought Rakow from Saltykov and owned it until 1939. This was the time of prosperity in this place. In 1843 they opened manufactures to produce agricultural machines. By 1880 about 16 glass manufactures worked in Rakaw. The village had Magdenburg rights – privileges. There were two watermills, brick manufacture and lumber mill, postal telegraph office (its ruins still remain). By the end of the 19th century the population of Rakow was about 3,6 thousand people, almost 60% of them were Jews.

In 1904–1906 the construction of the Mother of God Rosaria and the Holy Spirit castle was finished. It was done on donations of the local people and it is an example of Neo-Gothic architecture.

In 1921-1939 the Rakaw was in Poland. 1500m from the town was a border with the Soviet Union, which contributed to its great economic recovery. At this time, Rakaw was a favorite place of smugglers, spies on both sides, there were many restaurants and even a brothels. After 1939 Rakaw was in the USSR. All bourgeois infrastructure had been destroyed.

Pictures of Rakaw photo gallery taken at 10 of July, 2010