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VILNA, or WILNO

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V28, Page 89 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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VILNA, or WILNO  , a
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town of Russia, capital of the government of the same name, 436 M . S.S.W. of St
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Petersburg, at the intersection of the
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railways from St Petersburg to Warsaw and from Libau to the mouth of the Don . Pop . (1883) 93,760; (1900) 162,633 . With its suburbs Antokol, Lukishki, Pogulyanka and Sarechye, it stands on and around a knot of hills (2450 ft.) at the confluence of the Vileika with the Viliya . Its streets are in
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part narrow and not very clean; but Vilna is an old town, rich in
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historical associations . Its imperial palace, and the
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cathedral of St
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Stanislaus (1387, restored 18os), containing the
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silver sarcophagus of St Casimir and the tomb of Prince Vitoft, are
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fine buildings . There is a second cathedral, that of St Nicholas, built in 1596–1604; also several churches dating from the 14th to the 16th centuries . The
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Ostra Brama
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chapel contains an image of the Virgin greatly venerated by Orthodox Greeks and
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Roman Catholics alike . The museum of antiquities has valuable historical collections . The ancient castle of the Jagellones is now a mass of ruins . The old university, founded in 1578, was restored (1803) by Alexander I., but has been closed since 1832 for
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political reasons; the only departments which remain in activity are the astronomical
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observatory and a medical academy .

Vilna is an archiepiscopal see of the Orthodox

Greek Church and an episcopal see of the Roman Catholic Church, and the headquarters of the governor-general of the Lithuanian provinces and of the III. army corps . The city possesses a botanical garden and a public library, and is adorned with statues to Catherine II . (1903), the poet Pushkin and Count M . Muraviev (1898) . It is an important centre for trade in
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timber and grain, which are exported; and has theological seminaries, both Orthodox Greek and Roman Catholic, a military school, a normal school for teachers and professional
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schools . It is the seat of many scientific societies (
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geographical, medical and archaeological), and has a good antiquarian museum and a public library .
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History.—The territory of Vilna has been occupied by the
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Lithuanians since the loth century, and probably much earlier; their chief fortified town, Vilna, is first mentioned in 1128 . A temple to the
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god Perkunas stood on one of its hills till 1387, when it was destroyed by Prince Jagiello, after his
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baptism . After 1323, when Gedymin, prince of Lithuania, abandoned Troki, Vilna became the capital of Lithuania . The formerly
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independent principalities of
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Minsk and Lidy, as well as the territory of Disna, which belonged to the
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Polotsk principality, were annexed by the Lithuanian princes, and from that time Vilna, which was fortified by a stone wall, became the chief city of the Lithuanian state . It was
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united with Poland when its prince, Casimir IV., was elected (1447) to the
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Polish
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throne . The plague of 1588, a fire in 1610 and still more the
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wars between Russia and Poland, which began in the 17th century, checked its further growth .

The Russians took Vilna in 1655, and in the following

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year it was ceded to Russia . The Swedes captured it in 1702 and in 1706 . The Russians again took possession of it in 1788; and it was finally annexed to Russia in 1795, after the
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partition of Poland . Its Polish inhabitants took an active part in the risings of 1831 and 1863, for which they were severely punished by the
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Russian government .

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