Gomel Oblast History
The southwest of Belarus was populated about 100 000 years ago in the Palaeolithic period. Most ancient settlements on the territory of Belarus were discovered in Gomel oblast near the villages of Berdizh (Chechersk region) and Urovichy (Kalinkovichy region), on the banks of the Rivers Sozh and Pripiat. Fireplaces, remains of dwellings made of the bones of mammoth, stone tools were found there. The main activity of the ancient people was hunting and gathering. Agriculture and cattle breeding started developing in the 2nd millennium BC. Tribe exchange widened. Tools from bronze and copper appeared.
In the 7th-6th centuries BC people learnt to make iron tools. Iron was extracted from marsh minerals. Traces of settlements and burial places can be found on the banks of big and small rivers. Many monuments of the time were left by the Slavs. The Roman and Byzantine historians and geographers of the time called them the tribes of Veneds, Sclavs and Ants. The Slavs communicated with Celts, Skiffs, Romans. Jewellery, glass beads, clay crockery, fabrics were brought from the Ancient Greece to the Dnepr and Sozh regions.
The transformation of the ancient system into the feudal took place in the 1st millennium AD. At that time the difference between social classes strengthened.
Two eastern tribes are mentioned in the chronicle “Tale of Bygone Years” to live on the territory of the present Gomel oblast in the 9th-10th centuries. They were the Drigovichy and the Radimichy. Their main occupations were agriculture, cattle breeding, hunting, fishing, trade and handy craft.
The Drigovichy lived on the territory between the Dnepr, the Berezina and the Pripiat. At the end of the 1st millennium they formed a tribal principality with the center in Tur. Duke Tur is considered to be their first legendary duke. The Radimichy had their settlements on the banks of the river Sozh. According to the legend Radim was their leader. Together with his family he came from western Slavic territories. Till the end of the 10th century the tribes were comparatively independent and were governed by their dukes. Together with other tribes they participated in campaigns against the capital of Byzantium Constantinople. After joining the Old Russian state the tribes of Drigovichy and Rodimichy gradually assimilated into the single Old Russian nationality.
Since the end of the 10th century the territories of the Drygovichy were controlled by the dukes of Tur. In the 10th century the Tur principality became one of the strongest states of the Old Russia. In the 10th-12th centuries Tur became economic, political and cultural center of the Old Russia. The famous Tur Gospel created in the 11th century is one of the earliest monuments of the east Slavic written language. In 1113-1182 famous writer and church figure Kirill of Tur lived and worked there.
In the 11th-13th centuries the lands of the present Gomel oblast belonged to the dukes of Kiev, Chernigov and Tur.
In the middle of the 13th century the development of the lands was interrupted by the Mongol-Tatar invasion. This caused political, economic and cultural decay. The west lands fell into the rule of the Great Principality of Lithuania (GPL).
In the 14th-15th centuries the Belarusian nationality was being formed and the Belarusian language became the state language of the GPL.
In the late 15th – early 16th centuries the wars between Russia and the Rzecz Pospolita were held on the present territories of Gomel oblast.
In 1772 the eastern part of the region and in 1793 the western part were joined to Russia.
In the first part of the 19th century the feudal crisis was growing on the present territory of Gomel oblast. There was still feudal landownership, but some capitalistic manufactories started to appear. Duke Paskevich and Earls Rumiantsevs were the major landowners of the period.
The abolition of the serfdom in 1861 fostered the development of the capitalism in the oblast.
Steam navigation was launched on the Dnepr, the Sozh and the Pripiat. In 1873 Libavo-Romensk railroad was opened. The railroad construction was favorable for the development of the machine building.
The development of the capitalism changed the class structure of the society. A class of proletarians appeared.
The strike of the workers of the Libavo-Romensk railroad mechanic workshops in 1886 was the first significant proletarian rebellion. The demands of the workers were partially satisfied.
The overthrow of the Russian autocracy in Gomel oblast in 1917 was bloodless.
In March 1918 the territory of the oblast was occupied by the German Army. In 1920 the peace was restored. During the civil war and the foreign intervention the total volume of production shrank considerably.
On June 23, 1941 the Nazi started bombarding Gomel and other places of the region. Enterprises of Gomel oblast converted their production to make goods of military application. Numerous underground movement and partisan squads appeared in the region to fight against Nazi invaders.
On November 26, 1943 the region was completely liberated.
The consequences of the war were outrageous. All electric power stations, a great number of industrial enterprises and kolkhozes were destroyed; more than 1000 villages were burnt down. More than 80% of the city of Gomel was ruined. For the years of the occupation more that 209,000 people were killed; 40,000 people were taken to Germany for slave labour.
Nevertheless, Gomel oblast was able to restore its cities and rebuild its economy rather quickly.
In the post-war period Gomel oblast was part of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic. Now Gomel oblast is one of the six oblasts of the Republic of Belarus.