Astrashytski Haradok and the Tyszkiewicz

On the way from Minsk to Lahojsk, a picturesque small town with a melodious name Astrashytski Haradok, whose history goes back centuries, is spread out over the banks of a small forest stream Usyazha. Counts Tyszkiewicz lived here for many centuries. The surroundings of Astrashytski Haradok hide lots of interesting things and tell us stories, about the dim and distant past, that poured out of the mouths of old-timers.

The very name "Astrashytski Haradok" implies that this town is of ancient origin. In the past, the ancient fortified settlements that appeared in the most important trade routes (eg, Davyd-Haradok, a town near Vitebsk, etc.) were called "haradok".

There are several legends about the origin of the name of the place. According to one legend, for the first time the descendants of the princely family Ostrogski chose these high-yielding croplands in the far XIV or, more likely, in the XV century. This famous princely family descended from Pinsk and Turaw feudal princes. The Ostrogski held senior official positions in The Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and they were great landowners. They opposed the proliferation of Catholicism in Belarus and were active defenders of Orthodoxy. They built churches, founded schools.

But the Ostrogski treated anti-feudal uprisings very aggressively and took part in suppressing uprisings. The most famous member of this notable family was Prince Konstanty Iwanowicz  Ostrogski, a Grand Hetman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. He became famous for successful campaigns against the Crimean Tatars - he won more than 60 battles. However, during a war with Muscovy he was defeated in the Battle of the Vedrosha River in 1500 and was taken prisoner.

Konstanty Ostrogski was married to Princess Alexandra Slucka and got her large estates throughout Belarus. Thanks to his wealth he was one of the most influential men of his time in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Thus, according to the legend, the name of the town сame from a princely Ostrogski family.

According to the other legend, first of all, the prison, fortified with a wooden fence, was built. It could also be a mobile tower - "ostrozhok", which was used during the siege and storming of a city. As time went by, the place "ostrozhok" was spread out over a wide area and became a small town - ''gorodok''.

Unfortunately, the history of Astrashytski Haradok is represented in fragmentary information.

From 1567 to 1590 the name of the town changed several times: Ostroshichi, Ostrozhchichi, Ostrozhchitsy. At that time, the town was the center of the estate of little-known Gabriel (Hawryła) Hornostaj. In 1590, his widow, Barbara together with her son sold the estate to K.Radziwiłł, who took possession of the castle, yard, farm and villages. Then the place became known as Gorodok Ostrozhchitsky.

Documents of the year 1650 contain a description of the Renaissance castle in Gorodok. Already at that time the town and the surrounding area belonged to the Count Tyszkiewicz family and the place was known as a "Town of Pan Tyszkiewicz''. It was a small town with the castle well-fortified for those days and probably built at the beginning of the XVII century as it was called «old» in the document. He stood on a hill on the bank of the river Usyazha and was surrounded on all sides by water-filled ditches and ponds. The castle was built of wood like most Belarusian castles of those days. The castle surrounded by powerful walls had four corner turrets and the fifth tower – gate-tower - guarded the entrance to the citadel from the side of the village, from which the bridge to the castle over the moat was built.

Дворец Тышкевичей в Острошицком Городке

The Tyszkiewicz Palace in Astrashytski Haradok. By Napoleon Orda.

As the castle served functions that were not only related to defense and served as a manor of the owner and was the administrative centre of the volost, he was of the form of a fortified magnate courtyard, which was typical for the castles of Belarus of that time. At the detinets (citadel), to the left of the gate was a palace.

Part of the premises of the wooden palace had hand-painted walls, the rooms had beautiful ovens, faced with tiles of green colour, and fireplaces. A garden was set up near the palace, a kind of green pharmacy, where medicinal plants, used in folk medicine of that time, were grown. Behind the garden, on the left side of the gate were placed outbuildings, and on the right - the house of the «prussian mure», which served as a shelter for the princely servants and guards.

That small town Haradok , which was formed around the castle, consisted of a market and three streets. The market square was built up with country-seats of merchants and artisans on four sides. There was a church and a tavern.

Unfortunately, the castle was not preserved to our time. Evidently it was destroyed during the Russian-Polish war of 1654-1667.

The general economic decline of Rzeczpospolita in the second half of XVII-XVIII centuries had a negative effect on the development of Belarusian cities and towns. This negative impact of the crisis also affected the developement of Astrashytski Haradok where in 1721 existed only 21 inhabited homesteads, and 24 others were empty.

But the economic crisis of that time almost had no impact on everyday life of magnates. As earlier, they lived in their rich estates, which gradually lost their defensive elements and turned into the palace and park residences. Such a palace and park ensemble also appeared in Astrashytski Haradok in the first half of the XVIII century.

The Tyszkiewicz estate was one kilometer away from the village on a broad hill in the picturesque forest, near a large lake. The main building of the manor was a wooden palace with decorative chimneys.

Комната дворца в Острошицком Городке

Room of the palace in Astrashytski Haradok

The only illustration, which gives an idea of the palace-and-park residence, is a watercolor by the famous Polish artist of those days Napoleon Orda, written by him in the 70-ies of the XIX century. The picture shows the rebuilt part of the palace and the newly-built part beside the first one. The annex did not break the architectural integrity of the building. Near the palace were the remains of the burnt wing with a high square four-storey tower, and on the other side a small pavilion in the form of a classical villa with two columns on the front porch joined the palace. Behind the palace а picturesque park is spread over a distance of more than 6 kilometers where the zoo was also located.

After the death of Michael Tyszkiewicz there lived his widow Mary (she died in 1902.) Then the eldest son of Michael, Józef Tyszkiewicz, became the owner of the estate of about 8500 acres. After the death of his mother he gave it to his daughter in law Clementine Potocki. The last owner of the estate was her husband Alfred Tyszkiewicz.

In the second half of the XIX century Astrashytski Haradok was considered to be a brisk trade and industrial center. There were lots of mills and a workshop on manufacturing copperware, which was famous far beyond the neighbourhood. Also there were mineral springs frequented by people not only from nearby villages, but also from distant places of Minsk region with a view to being treated.

As for the Palace and Park Ensemble of Count Tyszkiewicz, it existed until the First World War. After the revolution, on its base the orphanage was created. Then before the Great Patriotic War it became a cottage of Tymoshenko, the commander of the Belorussian Military District. (Today, there is a government residence).

Внутреннее убранство Острошицкого дворца

The interior of the Astrashytski Palace

There was a large lake in the form of a semicircle in the center of the town. The history of its origin had many mysteries to unveil. It is said that the lake was dug in the time of Count Tyszkiewicz and the earth ,thrown off, created a sublime peninsula 20 hectares in size. At present, here old pines, spruces and other trees grow and the building of the Republican Children Sanatorium is placed.

The lake has its beginning from a small meandering river Usyazha. This river is shallow with clean rocky bottom in some places. It is inhabited by rare and precious fish - trout.

Flowing from the lake, the river widens and goes to the place where the palace of Count Tyszkiewicz once stood. Almost opposite that place, on the river there is a small island, overgrown with high alders.

The old people told us that the island was a favourite place of counts. There was a gazebo, and serfs transported there owners and their guests with carpets and products for the tea parties, festive pastime by boats.

The surroundings of Astrashytski Haradok, numerous hills and mounds conceal many interesting things. A brisk forest rivulet weaves around them…

In the wasteland of swamps of Belarusian land,

On the coast of the river that flow noisily

Memo of days  relegated to oblivion slumbers,-

In stiff mound forever.

Just on the shore of the Astrashytski lake Y. Kupala wrote the poem ""The Barrow". Even before the war, hazels, aspens, and other wild shrubs grew on the slopes of the barrow. And at the top, on the southern slope, there are two - century-old oak trees, also mentioned by the poet in his poem. From here one can see clearly a picturesque lake, the entire smooth surface of the lake with creeks, meadows,the centuries-old spruce-pine forest on a long, horseshoe-shaped peninsula, which juts out into the water area and sticks out its high cliff.

Unfortunately, history has not preserved the majestic palaces. But several other old buildings in the town escaped destruction.  One of them was a wooden church at the cemetery, built in 1843. At present it is a brick-lined building with modified shape of the tower. All these changes have surely affected the original appearance of the church.

Elena Alpher
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