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OSZMIANA TOWN- (the name derives from the Lithuanian "Azymertas"- the edge; erroneously called "Osmiana", and known as "Aschemynne" in the Chronicles of the Teutonic Knights). It is the provincial (powiat) capital town in Wilno gubernia, lying amidst the fertile, hilly environs of the Osmianka river basin, 49 miles from Wilno, on the highway to Minsk. In 1880, there were 5,050 inhabitants (352 Orthodox, 2,175 Catholics, 3 Evangelical Protestants, 2,501 Jews and 18 Moslems). It contains the wooden Orthodox church called "Bogojawlenska" established in 1840, the brick Holy Archangel Michael Catholic church, 4 Jewish prayer-houses, a hospital, 4 tanneries, 3 breweries, and 33 shops. In 1871 there were 4,546 inhabitants; in 1859 only 3,066. Municipal revenues in 1859 totaled 1,214 rubles. In educational composition, there was a 2nd-class provincial school, a Catholic parish school and a Jewish school in Oszmiana.
An ancient settlement existed on this site, probably from around 1040. The town stepped onto center stage in 1384, when the Teutonic Knights attempted an expedition aiming at the destruction of the hereditary state of Jagiello, then Prince of Krewie, by approaching for a first strike at Oszmiana. They then turned towards Wilno, halted and encamped at Miednikam, where sallies against Oszmiana disturbed the garrison there. When preparations in 1432 had been made for the removal of Swidrigall for his intolerable conduct in governing Lithuania, a meeting was held at Oszmiana resulting in his banishment from the kingdom. He and his retinue crossed over the border near Oszmiana to a small Russian/Tartar outpost, when they were unexpectedly attacked. The force was led by Zygmunt Kjestut, Prince of Starodubowsk, destined to rule the Kingdom of Lithuania at Jagiello's pleasure, and by Prince Holzansk, another of the Voivods and Boyars who possessed significant numbers of warriors. Swidrigall's retinue scattered, and with scarcely 14 riders accompanying him was able to carry out an escape. Not deterred, Swidrigall made his return in the autumn of that year at Polotsk, encountering Zygmunt's forces in a pitched battle and losing 10,000 men killed, 4,000 prisoners-of-war, and 8 standard-bearers, was forced to surrender the field of battle. Zygmunt, as thanks to God for the victory, established a college near the parish church there, but was forced to be the financial supporter by either Jagiello or Witold. Indeed, he was bankrupted by it in later times.
In this epochal period, Oszmiana, which had served originally as a princely court, began to be built up as a town. Dating from the time the original settlers had given it its name and known today as "Old Oszmiana", a Franciscan mission was installed about a quarter-league away by Alexander Jagiello in 1505, with a wooden church and monastery. Later a brick church was erected at the same spot in 1822. Other items were also funded there by Witold following his defeat at Vorskla. New Oszmiana had already been a town under Zygmunt the Old, its freedom and fortunes entrusted to his laws. A revision in 1537 at the behest of the Crown defined a law of compulsory markets and citizen obligations, in which each market stall had to pay 7.5 clean small coins [ed.-- some known value] to the Royal Treasury, 5 clean coins for streets, as well as 2.5 coins for gardens and twigs [ed. --collection of firewood?] for the settlement. For each morg [ed.-1.38 acres] of garden space, they paid 3 grozy; for twigs, a single grosz; for rental of 30 farming acres, 40 groszy; and for locating suitable acreage, 3 groszy. For each mead-, beer- and liquor tavern, the town paid a single 30-grosz lump sum to the Crown. Other than these taxes, they would not be subject to any other financial obligations, including nothing for the stage (transportation), defense, or distributing the mail. Jan III confirmed these privileges by law beginning in 1683.
On January 18, 1667, new funding increased for the town. Andrew (Clerk of Oszmiana territory) and Dorothy Poczobutow from Oborski built Holy Trinity Catholic Church and a monastery (out of wood) at their own expense and settled Dominicans there. The Dominican monastery was later abolished in 1850. Nicholas Rudy Radziwill, brother to Queen Barbara and Voivod of Wilno, upon becoming Sheriff of Oszmiana, erected a Calvinist meeting-hall there in the second half of the 16th Century.
Following a suit filed by the mayor, council and aldermen of Oszmiana challenging abolition of local privileges, King Stanislaus Augustus published an acknowledgement of renewed privileges, dated May 22, 1792 from Warsaw, holding Oszmiana accountable for a Great Parliament in a suitable location for court and assemblies, as a free town and independent of any other direct administration except his own royal magistrates. The privileges removed any other jurisdictional control and at the same time the influence of the Sheriff, assuring the town property and insuring against arbitrary taxes. A local citizen had consistency in the verdict of a local court, and was able to appeal decisions to the Appellate Court in Wilno or to the Court Assessor of the Prince of Lithuania. At the same time the town coat-of-arms was conferred, just as freely chosen- on one portion a hand holding a scale, and on the second escutcheon, a Poniatowski calf with the inscription and nothing else: "In memory of (King) Stanislaus Augustus, 1792".
During the time of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Oszmiana was the capital town of a very large province, according to the Constitution of 1717 counting 84,200 inhabitants. It happened not by court decree of lands and fenced areas, but through the free election of the Sejm itself. The Marshal was the foremost government official of the province. Following the dismemberment of the Commonwealth during the Partitions, Oszmiana was destined as a provincial town under the governorship of Wilno and presented with General Major Konczialow; from 1842, the town was consigned as court property. The town endured a great deal in 1831 [ed.--the year of a Polish-Lithuanian rebellion against the Tsar]. Occupied at first during the rebellion under the rule of Colonel Karl Przezdziecki and Prince Jasinski, the Dominicans, who carried off there 100,000 zlotys, 10,000 loads and many other provisions, were deprived [ed.-relieved? This section is unclear.] of them on April 11th by Colonel Werzulina, the story as known through his memoirs.
The castle domains of the Sheriff of Oszmiana were included in the Wilno Voivoidship, Oszmiana province. In 1771, Oszmiana province was constituted as the town and adjacent areas. It is true that the Sejms of 1590 and 1609 allowed the Sheriffs of Oszmiana to have all the swearings-in of Clerks at the townlet of Miadzole, before which bailiff accounts and sundry wrongdoings had be be presented to the Prince. In 1766, Michael Brzostowski, Treasurer of Lithuania, occupied the position of Sheriff and following him, Tadeusz Kociell, who both paid the army tax of 1157 zlotys.
[ed.- In the listing which follows, the name, untranslated coat-of-arms (h.), and the dates are provided.] The Sheriffs of Oszmiana were (from around 1530 to 1794 in alphabetical order): Cyprian Paul Brzostowski, h. Strzemie (1668-74); Jerome & Michael Brzostowski (1765-72); Gregory Chodkiewicz, h. Kosciesza (1544); Ludwig Jacob Chominski, h. Poraj (1734-36), Wincenty Ga~siewski, h. Slepowron (1651); Michael Kopec, h. Kroje (1727); Tadeusz Kociell, h. Pelikan (elected 1764-88); Bogdan Narbut, h. Tra~by & Tadeusz Oginski, his own person (1740-55); Andrew Ignace Oginski son of Tadeusz (1755-62), Hilary Alexander Polubinski, h. Jastrze~biec (1667); Casimir Michael Pac, h.Gozdowa (1685); Nicholas Radziwill, h. Tra~by (1557); Paul Stephen Sapieha. h. Lis (1598); Alexander Sapieha (1622); Christian Sapieha (1662); Michael Sapieha (1683); Adam Matthew Sakowicz, h. Korwin from a change, John Anselm Wilczek, h. Poraj (1634); N. Wolodzko (1740); John Zabrezinski, h. Leliwa (1530); George Deszpot Zenowicz, h. his own person (1629); and Christian Deszpot Zenowicz (1701-24).
The Catholic parish within the Oszmiana deaconate has 8,000 parishioners. Chapels are found in Olany, Horodnike, Polany as well as a cemetery. The Orthodox parish deaconate [ed.- also identified as **bl~ahoczynia**] for Oszmiana has 489 parishioners................... (262 men and 197 women).
Editor's Note: All Slownik longitudes in this article have been converted to modern coordinates which is based on the Greenwich zero meridian. All Polish measurement units (land areas, distances, height above sea level, etc.) were converted to American-English equivalents. Monetary units, where identified, were left in zlotys/zl. or rubles/rs.
Source: Slownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego - Warsaw [1886, vol. 7, pp. 752-753]