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Przemyśl, Poland

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Przemyśl, Poland

For other uses, see Przemysl (disambiguation).


Coat of arms

Coordinates: 49°47′N 22°46′E / 49.783°N 22.767°E / 49.783; 22.767

Country  Poland
Voivodeship Powiat city county
Established 10th century
Town rights 1389
 • Mayor Robert Choma
 • Total 44 km2 (17 sq mi)
Population (2006)
 • Total 66,715
 • Density 1,500/km2 (3,900/sq mi)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
Postal code 37-700 to 37-720
Area code(s) +48 016
Car plates RP

Przemyśl [ˈpʂɛmɨɕl]Template:IPA audio link (Ukrainian: Перемишль, Peremyshl, German: Premissel) (Pronounced as Pshameshyl) is a city in south-eastern Poland with 66,756 inhabitants, as of June 2009.[1] In 1999, it became part of the Podkarpackie Voivodeship; it was previously the capital of Przemyśl Voivodeship.

Przemyśl owes its long and rich history to the advantages of its geographic location. The city lies in an area connecting mountains and lowlands known as the Przemyśl Gate, with open lines of transportation, and fertile soil. It also lies on the navigable San River. Important trade routes passed through Przemyśl and ensured the city's importance.


Different names in various languages have identified the city throughout its history. Selected languages include: Bulgarian: Пшемишъл (Pshemishl); Czech: Přemyšl; German: Premissel; Latin: Premislia; Russian: Перемышль (Pjerjemyshlj); Ukrainian: Перемишль (Peremyshlj); and Yiddish: פּשעמישל (Pshemishl).


Early history

Przemyśl, the second-oldest city in southern Poland (after Kraków), appears to date from as early as the 8th century. The region subsequently became part of the 9th-century Great Moravian state. Archeological remains testify to the presence of a monastic settlement as early as the 9th century. Upon the invasion of the Hungarian tribes into the heart of the Great Moravian Empire around 899, the Lendians of the area declared allegiance to the Hungarian authorities. The Przemyśl region then became a site of contention between Poland, Kievan Rus and Hungary beginning in at least the 9th century. The area was mentioned for the first time in 981 by Nestor, when Vladimir I of Kievan Rus took it over on the way into Poland.[2][3] In 1018 Przemyśl returned to Poland, and in 1031 it was retaken by Rus. Between the 11th and 12th century the city was a capital of the Principality of Peremyshl, one of the principalities that made up the Kievan Rus' state. Sometime before 1218 an Eastern Orthodox eparchy was founded in the city.[4] Przemyśl later became part of the Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia.

Within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

In 1340 Przemyśl was taken by Casimir III of Poland and became part of the Polish kingdom. Around this time the first Roman Catholic diocese was founded in the city,[4] and Przemyśl was granted city rights based on Magdeburg law, confirmed in 1389 by king Władysław II Jagiełło.

The city prospered as an important trade centre during the Renaissance period. Like nearby Lviv (Lwów in Polish), the city's population consisted of a great number of nationalities, including Ukrainians, Poles, Jews, Germans, Czechs, Armenians and Lipka Tatars. The long period of prosperity enabled the construction of such handsome public buildings as the Old Synagogue of 1559. A Jesuit college was founded in the city in 1617.[4] The prosperity came to an end in the middle of the 17th century, due to wartime destruction during The Deluge and the general decline of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth at this time. The city decline lasted for over a hundred years, and only at the end of the 18th century did it recover its former levels of population. In 1754, the Roman Catholic bishop founded Przemyśl's first public library, which was only the second public library in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Warsaw's Załuski Library was founded 7 years earlier). Przemyśl's importance at that time was such that when Austria annexed eastern Galicia in 1772 the Austrians considered making Przemyśl their provincial capital, before deciding on Lviv.[4]

In the mid-eighteenth century, people of Jewish faith constituted 55,6% (1692) of the population, Roman Catholics 39,5% (1202), and Greek Catholics 4,8% (147).[5]

As part of Austria

In 1772, as a consequence of the First Partition of Poland, Przemyśl became part of the Austrian empire, in what the Austrians called the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria. According to the Austrian census of 1830, the city was home to 7,538 people of whom 1,508 (20%) were members of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, a significantly larger number of Ukrainians than in most Galician cities.[4] In 1804 a Ruthenian (Ukrainian) library was established in Przemyśl. By 1822 its collection had over 33,000 books and its importance for Ukrainians was comparable to that held by the Ossolineum library in Lviv for Poles. Przemyśl also became the center of the revival of Byzantine choral music in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. Until eclipsed by Lviv in the 1830s, Przemyśl was the most important city in the Ruthenian/Ukrainian cultural awakening in the nineteenth century.[4]

In 1861 railways were built to connect Przemyśl with Kraków to the west and Lwów (Lemberg) to the east. In the middle of the 19th century, due to the growing conflict between Austria and Russia over the Balkans, Austria grew more mindful of Przemyśl's strategic location near the border with the Russian Empire. During the Crimean War, when tensions mounted between Russia and Austria, a series of massive fortresses, 15 km (9 mi) in circumference, were built around the city by the Austrians.

The census of 1910 showed that the city had 54,078 residents. Roman Catholics were the most numerous – 25,306 (46,8%), followed by Jews – 16,062 (29,7%) and Greek Catholics – 12,018 (22,2%).[6]

Przemyśl Fortress

With technological progress in artillery during the second half of the 19th century, the old fortifications rapidly became obsolete. The longer range of rifled artillery necessitated the redesign of fortresses so that they would be larger and able to resist the newly available guns. To achieve this, between the years 1888 and 1914 Przemyśl was turned into a first class fortress, the third largest in Europe out of about 200 that were built in this period. Around the city, in a circle of circumference 45 km (28 mi), 44 forts of various sizes were built. The older fortifications were modernised to provide the fortress with an internal defence ring. The fortress was designed to accommodate 85,000 soldiers and 956 cannons of all sorts, although eventually 120,000 soldiers were garrisoned there.[7]

In August 1914, at the start of the First World War, Russian forces defeated Austro-Hungarian forces in the opening engagements and advanced rapidly into Galicia. The Przemyśl fortress fulfilled its mission very effectively, helping to stop a 300,000 strong Russian army advancing upon the Carpathian Passes and Kraków, the Lesser Poland regional capital. The first siege was lifted by a temporary Austro-Hungarian advance. However, the Russian army resumed its advance and initiated a second siege of the fortress of Przemyśl in October, 1914. This time relief attempts were unsuccessful. Due to lack of food and exhaustion of its defenders, the fortress surrendered on March 22, 1915. The Russians captured 126,000 prisoners and 700 big guns. Before surrender, the complete destruction of all fortifications was carried out. The Russians did not linger in Przemyśl. A renewed offensive by the Central Powers recaptured the destroyed fortress on June 3, 1915. During the fighting around Przemyśl, both sides lost up to 115,000 killed, wounded, and missing.[7]

After World War I

At the end of World War I, Przemyśl became disputed between renascent Poland and the West Ukrainian People's Republic. On November 1, 1918, a local provisional government was formed of representatives of Polish, Jewish, and Ukrainian inhabitants of the area. However, on November 3 a Ukrainian army overthrew the government, arrested its leader, and captured the eastern part of the city. The Ukrainian army was checked by a small Polish self-defence unit formed of World War I veterans and Orlęta, an organisation of young volunteers from Przemyśl high schools. The battlefront divided the town, with the western borough of Zasanie in Polish hands. Since neither side could cross the San River, both opposing forces awaited relief from the outside. That race was won by the Polish relievers: the volunteer expeditionary unit formed in Kraków arrived in Przemyśl on November 10. When the Polish ultimatum to the Ukrainians remained unanswered, on November 11 and November 12 the Polish forces crossed the San and expelled the outnumbered Ukrainian army in what became known as the Battle of Przemyśl.

After the Polish-Bolshevik War, the town became a part of new Second Polish Republic. Although the capital of the voivodship was Lwów (see: Lwów Voivodeship), Przemyśl recovered its nodal position as a seat of local church administration, as well as the garrison of the 10th Corps of the Polish Army - a staff unit charged with organising the defence of roughly 10% of Poland. As of 1931 the town had a population of 62,272.

Population of Przemyśl, 1931
Roman Catholics 39 430 (63,3%)
Jews 18 376 (29,5%)
Greek Catholics 4 391 (7,0%)
Other denominations 85 (0,2%)
Total 62 272
Source: 1931 Polish census

Second World War

After the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the border between the two invaders ran through the middle of the city along the San river until June, 1941. The town's population increased due to a large influx of Jewish refugees from the General Government who sought to cross the border into the Soviet Union. It is estimated that by mid-1941 the Jewish population of the city had grown to roughly 16,500. In the 1941 Operation Barbarossa, the eastern (Soviet) part of the city was also occupied by Germany. On June 20, 1942, the first group of 1,000 Jews was transported from the Przemyśl area to the concentration camp at Janów, and on July 15, 1942 a ghetto was established for all Jewish inhabitants of Przemyśl and its vicinity – some 22,000 people altogether. Local Jews were given 24 hours to enter the Ghetto. Jewish communal buildings, including the Tempel Synagogue and the Old Synagogue were destroyed; the New Synagogue, Zasanie Synagogue, and all commercial and residential real estate belonging to Jews were expropriated.

The ghetto in Przemyśl was sealed off from the outside on July 14, 1942. By that time, there may have been as many as 24,000 Jews in the ghetto. On July 27, the Gestapo notified Judenrat about the forced resettlement program and posted notices that an "Aktion" (roundup for deportation) was to be implemented involving almost all occupants. Exceptions were made for some essential, and Gestapo workers, who would have their papers stamped accordingly. On the same day, Major Max Liedtke, military commander of Przemyśl, ordered his troops to seize the bridge across the San river that connected the divided city, and halt the evacuation. The Gestapo were forced to give him permission to retain the workers performing service for the Wehrmacht (up to 100 Jews with families). For the actions undertaken by Liedtke and his adjutant Albert Battel in Przemyśl, Yad Vashem later named them "Righteous Among the Nations".[8] The process of extermination of the Jews resumed thereafter. Until September 1943 almost all Jews were sent to the Auschwitz or Belzec extermination camps. The local branches of the Polish underground and the Żegota managed to save 415 Jews. According to a postwar investigation in German archives, 568 Poles were executed by the Germans for sheltering Jews in the area of Przemyśl, including Michał Kruk, hanged along with several others on September 6, 1943 in a public execution. Among the many Polish rescuers there, were the Banasiewicz, Kurpiel, Kuszek, Lewandowski, and Podgórski families.[9][10]

The Red Army retook the town from German forces on July 27, 1944.

After the war

In the postwar territorial settlement, the new border between Poland and the Soviet Union placed Przemyśl just within the Polish People's Republic. The border now ran only a few kilometers to the east of the city, cutting it off from much of its economic hinterland. Due to the murder of Jews in the Nazi Holocaust and the postwar expulsion of Ukrainians (in 1947's Operation Vistula or akcja Wisla), the city's population fell to 24,000, almost entirely Polish. However, the city welcomed thousands of Polish migrants from Eastern Galicia. Their numbers restored the population to its prewar level.

As a result of all these events, the growth of the city in the years after 1945 was stunted. In the 1990s, economic reforms in Ukraine after the fall of the Soviet Union allowed the border to be opened, improving the city's opportunities for trade.


Climate data for Przemyśl
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 14
Average high °C (°F) 0
Average low °C (°F) −7
Record low °C (°F) −26
Precipitation mm (inches) 27
Source: BBC Weather [11]

Main sights

Due to long and rich history of the city, there are many sights in and around Przemyśl, of special interest to tourists, including the Old Town with Rynek, the main market square. Among the historic buildings and museums, opened to visitors, are:

  • Muzeum Narodowe (the National Museum) - this has a splendid collection of icons, second only to the one in Sanok. It is free on Wednesdays.
  • Muzeum Dzwonów i Fajek (the Museum of Bells and Pipes) - free on Wednesdays.
  • Muzeum Diecezjalne (the diocesan museum)
  • Reformed Franciscan church and monastery, founded in 1627
  • Franciscan Church, from mid 18th-century in a baroque style
  • Uniate Cathedral, former 17th-century Jesuit church, now a Uniate cathedral with a nice iconostasis
  • Carmelite Church, 17th century late-Renaissance church
  • The Cathedral
  • Castle, built by Casimir III the Great in the 14th century.
  • Zasanie Synagogue
  • New Synagogue (Przemyśl)
  • Lubomirski Palace, an eclectic style palace of the Lubomirski family constructed in 1885.
  • Kopiec Tatarski - a mound to the south of the city where a 16th-century Tatar khan was supposedly buried.
  • WWI cemeteries (Cmentarz Wojskowy)


  • Wyższa Szkoła Administracji i Zarządzania
    • Wydział zamiejscowy w Rzeszowie
  • Wyższa Szkoła Gospodarcza
  • Wyższa Szkoła Informatyki i Zarządzania
  • Nauczycielskie Kolegium Języków Obcych
  • Nauczycielskie Kolegium Języka Polskiego


  • Czuwaj Przemyśl - football club
  • AZS Czuwaj Przemyśl - handball club
  • Polonia Przemyśl - football club


Krosno/Przemyśl constituency

Members of Sejm elected from Krosno/Przemyśl constituency

Twin towns

Przemyśl is twinned with:

Notable people

See also

  • Old Synagogue in Przemyśl destroyed by the Nazis in 1941

References and external links

  • (Polish) Municipal website
  • (Polish) Przemyśl County)
  • The Jewish Przemyśl Blog, its Sons and Daughters
  • Przemyśl on old postcards
  • Jewish Przemyśl
  • (Polish) Przemyśl 24/7
  • (Polish) Photo-blog about Przemyśl
  • Przemyśl Photo Gallery

Coordinates: 49°47′10″N 22°46′26″E / 49.78611°N 22.77389°E / 49.78611; 22.77389

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