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Elbląg (pronounce: [:εlblɔ̃g], local Polish dialect: Elbiąg ([:εlbiɔ̃g]); German Elbing; (Old) Prussian Truso, Ilfing) is a city in northern Poland with 128,700 inhabitants. Capital of the Powiat of Elbląg, situated in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodship since 1999, previously capital of Elbląg Voivodship (1975–1998), and a county-site of Gdańsk Voivodship (1945–1975).

The city is located on the Elbląg river conecting the Drużno Lake to the Vistulan Bay.

Elblag history

(Old) Prussian city of Truso

The seaport of Truso on the Ilfing river was first mentioned in ca. 890 by Wulfstan of Hedeby, an Anglo-Saxon sailor, travelling on the south coast of the Baltic Sea. The exact location of Truso is not certain, as the seashore was significantly changed, but most of the historians trace the settlement inside or near to modern Elbląg.

It was an important seaport serving the Vistula river bay on the early medieval Baltic Sea trade routes. The main goods were amber, furs and slaves. The town was inhabited by the (old) Prussian tradesmen and craftsmen, but also visited by merchants from the Baltic territories (Poland, Scandinavia). Truso importance declined in 10th century, and its functions were taken over by Gdańsk and later by Elbląg.

Truso, situated on Lake Druzno, was an Old Prussian town near the Baltic Sea just east of the Vistula River. It was one of the trading posts on the Amber Road, and is thought to be the antecedent of the city of Elbląg.

Truso was situated in a central location upon the Eastern European trade routes, which led from Birka in the north to the island of Gotland and to Visby in the Baltic Sea and later included the Hanseatic League city of Elbląg. From there, traders continued further south to Carnuntium in the Alps. This was called the Amber Road. The ancient Amber Road or roads led further south-west and south-east to the Black Sea and eventually to Asia.

East-west trade route went from Truso, along the Baltic Sea to Jutland, and from there inland by river to Hedeby, a large trading center in Jutland. Hedeby, which lay near the modern city of Schleswig in Schleswig-Holstein, was pretty centrally located and could be reached from all four directions over land as well as from the North Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Baltic Sea.

Around the year 890, Wulfstan of Hedeby (by his own account) reportedly undertook a boat journey from Hedeby to Truso at the behest of king Alfred the Great. One possible reason for this expedition was because Harold needed aid in his defense against the Danes or Vikings, who had taken over most of England. The reasons for this journey are fundamentally unclear, since Truso was at the time little more than a trading center, and Alfred the Great, the West Saxon ruler, already kept in close contact with the continental Saxons and the Franks.

In 12th–13th centuries region of Pogesania was loosely dependent on the Polish duchy of Eastern Pomerania. The task of Christianization of the territory was given to the Christian, bishop of Prussia (Zantyr) and the Teutonic Order who received Chelmno Land as fief from the Polish duke Konrad of Mazovia. Conquest of Prussia was only accomplished with great bloodshed over more than 50 years, during which new castles were built and trade and administration cities were founded.

A city named Elblag in Pogesania was founded in 1237 by German tradesmen near the ruins of the Prussian fortress and trading settlement of Truso, on the ancient Amber Road. The Teutonic Knights built a castle, which the burghers later destroyed. When Prussia was divided into four dioceses, Elblag and Pogesania became part of one of the four dioceses named Pomesania.

In 1246 Elbląg received Lübeck Rights marking its importance as a seaport (unlike many other cities in east-central Europe, which received Magdeburg Rights). At this time it was a significant seaport, member of Hansa League, having important trading contacts with England, Flanders, France and Holland. The city received numerous merchant privileges from dukes of Poland, Pomerania and the Teutonic Order. e.g. in the privilege of the Elbląg Old Town was upgraded in 1343, in 1393 it was granted an emporium privilege for grains, metals and forest products. A separate settlement called Elbląg New Town was founded in ca. 1337 and it received a Lubeck law charter in 1347.

The oldest copy of the Polish common law, called the Book of Elbląg (Księga Elbląska) was written in the second half of 13th century. A vocabulary of the Baltic Old Prussian language, named the Elbing-Preussisches Wörterbuch (Elbląg Prussian Vocabulary), was written around 1350 by the leading administrators.

The trading cities of Elbląg, Gdańsk (Danzig), and Toruń (Thorn), under the leadership of Imperial Cologne, formed the Hanseatic League.

In 1440 the eastern Prussian cities formed the Prussian Confederation (Preussische Bund), which led the successful rising (1454) of Prussia against the rule of the Teutonic Order. The Prussian Confederation asked King of Poland Casimir IV of Poland for help in their struggle against the Teutonic Knights. On the request of the confederation Casimir IV annexed Prussia and this led to the Thirteen Years War. As a result of it the city of Elbląg became a part of the province of Royal Prussia under the sovereignty of the Polish crown. Since the 1569, Elbląg became the part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that respected local languages and law. The administration switched from Low German Language to use High German language, as was the case in all Hanseatic cities.

With the reformation the burghers became protestants and in 1535 the first Protestant Gymnasium was established in Elbląg.

From 1579 Elbing had close trade relations with England, to which the city accorded free trade. English and Scots merchants settled in Elbing and formed the Scots Reformed Church of Elblag (Schottische Reformierte Kirche Elbing). The Scottish newcomers remained and aided Protestant Sweden in the Thirty Years War. The rivalry of nearby Danzig/Gdańsk several times interrupted trading links. By 1618 Elbing left the Hanseatic League owing to its close business dealings with England.

Famous inhabitants of the city at that time included native sons Hans von Bodeck, Samuel Hartlib or Hartlieb and for six years the Moravian Brethren refugee Johann Amos Comenius.

Imperial Cartographer Johann Friedrich Endersch of Elbląg completed a map of Warmia in 1755 and also made a copper etching of the galiot, named Die Stadt Elbing (The City of Elblag).

At the time of the First Partition of Poland in 1772, the city lost its privileges and was annexed to the Kingdom of Prussia, which in 1871 became a part of the German Empire.


In 1828 the first steamship was built by Ignatz Grunau. In 1837 Ferdinand Schichau started the Schichau-Werke in Elbing and later a large shipyard in nearby Danzig as well. Schichau constructed the Borussia, the first screw-vessel in Germany. Elbings Schichau-Werke built hydraulic machinery, ships, steam engines and torpedoes. After the inauguration of the railroad to Königsberg in 1853, Elbing's industry began to grow. Schichau worked together with his son-in-law Carl H. Zise, who continued the industrial complex after Schichau's death. Schichau erected large complexes for his many thousands of workers.

Another Prussian engineer Baurat Georg Steenke from Königsberg, had connected Elbing near the Baltic Sea with the southern part of Prussia, by building the Oberland Kanal.

As Elbing became an industrialized city, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) got the majority of votes, in 1912 Reichstag elections even 51 %.

The LDS Mormons started filming church records of people affected. The Elbing church records (Kirchenbuch) vital statistics are available since 1577.

A large number of the German inhabitants of Elbing fled when the Soviet army approached the city. Almost all who had returned or remained, were expelled during and after the end of World War II, when the city came under Polish administration by order of the Soviet Union.

During the siege of February 1945 the Old Town was burnt down by the approaching Soviet Army. The city was destroyed in 65%, including most of the historical city centre. After the war some of it was demolished and the bricks were used to rebuild Warsaw and Gdańsk. Most of the ruins were demolished in the course of the sixties and seventies.

Elbing Concentration Camps

Elbląg in Nazi times was a location for the 3 German concentration camps Elbing, Elbing (Org. Todt), and Elbing (Schinau) that were subcamps of the concentration camp Stutthof.

History after 1945

After the German population has been expelled, the city was repopulated. 98% of new inhabitants were Poles expulsed from the areas annexed by the Soviet Union as well as Polish peasants from the over-populated villages in central Poland.

The communist authorities planned that the Old Town, utterly destroyed in 1945, be rebuilt with blocks of flats. However, economical difficulties twarthed this plan. The ruins of the old town were torn down in the sixties and only two churches were left for reconstruction.

Elbląg was the scene of one of the riots in the coastal cities in 1970 together with Tricity and Szczecin.

After 1989 restoration of the Old Town began. The local authorities passed the plan of rebuilding it with new houses that fit the same dimensions and size rather than historical buildings reconstructed. On some occasions the private investors have incorporated parts of preserved stonework into new architecture. So far approximately 2/3 of the Old Town has been reconstructed.

Since the begginning of the restoration, there is an extensive archaeological programme carried out. Most of the city's heritage was destroyed in the 19th century during the construction of basements and the 1945 bombardement, however the backyards oif the houses were not changed and the latrines are a source of priceless information on the city's history. Many pieces of art and utilities of everyday use can be binoculars preserved in Europe.

Since 1990 there has been an Elbing German minority group, named Elbinger Minderheit, it counts some hundred persons.

Tourist attractions

Until WWII there were many gothic, renaissance and baroque houses on Elbląg's Old Town, some of them are reconstructed. Other preserved builings are:

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Elblag".

This city is also known as: Elbląg.

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