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Podlasie - is a historical region in eastern part of Poland and western Belarus. It is located between Biebrza River (north) and Polesie area(south). Its name derives probably from Ruthenian language and means area near Poles. At present the name of Podlasie is used especially for Polish part of the region, which is traditionally divided between North (north of Bug River) and South Podlasie. The northern part of Podlasie is included in Podlasie Voivodship.

Major towns of this area:


The Podlasie area was inhabited through history by various tribes of different ethnic roots. There are known settlements of Goths from the first centuries A.D. In 9-10th centuries Podlasie was probably inhabited by Lekhitic tribes (south) and Baltic (Sudovians) tribes north. Between 10th and 13th centuries this are was occupied by Ruthenian tribes speaking in a dialect similar to modern Ukrainian. Till 14th century this are was part of Ruthenian states, later included into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In 1569 after Union of Lublin western part of Podlasie was ceded by to Poland. Southern Podlasie belonged to Lithuania until the Third Partition of Poland (1795).

Ethnic situation

Untill 19th century Podlasie was populated by Poles and Jews (towns), Polish speaking gentry and Ruthenians - Orthodox and Uniate Catholics - speaking a dialect related to modern Ukrainian language - so called Khakhlak (Chachlak), from the derogatory name of Ukrainians, khakhol, khokhol, referring to their traditional haircut. In 19th century inhabitans of Podlasie found themselves in Russian Empire. Southern Podlasie formed a part of Russian controlled Congress Kingdom. After 1831 Russian authorities forbidden Uniate confession in Northern Podlasie and Eastern Rite disapeared from this area. In 1875 Russians forbidden this rite in southern Podlasie as well and all Uniate inhabitans were forced to accept Orthodox confession. But resistance of local people was suprisingly strong. Ruthenian speakers from this area never accepted Orthodox faith. As reaction to those measures Ruthenians of Podlasie began to identificate them with Polish national movement. In 1912 Russian authorities issued tollerance edict which made possible to change confession from Orthodox to Roman Catholic (but not to Eastern Rite). Majority of inhabitans of Southern Podlasie changed their confession from Orthodox to Roman Catholic and quickly assimilated themsevles with Poles. At present very few people continue speaking Ruthenian (Ukrainian) and almost all consider themselves as Poles.

Very different situation exists in Northern Podlasie. The area west of Bialystok has been populated by Polish speaking majority for centuries. Eastern part of the area has ethnically mixed population. In Bielsk Podlaski area there is an Ukrainian speaking majority - because of isolation from the Ukrainian ethnic territory the inhabitans of this area usually do not consider themselves as Ukrainians. The counties along the border with Belarus are populated by Belarusians. There is a small Tatar minority as well.