Giżycko Castle, 14th century
Coat of arms
|Gmina||Giżycko (urban gmina)|
|• Mayor||Wojciech Iwaszkiewicz|
|• Total||13.87 km2 (5.36 sq mi)|
|Highest elevation||142 m (466 ft)|
|Lowest elevation||116 m (381 ft)|
|• Density||2,100/km2 (5,500/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+1 (CET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+2 (CEST)|
|Area code(s)||+48 87|
Giżycko [ɡʲiˈʐɨt͡skɔ] (former Polish: Lec or Łuczany, German: Lötzen (help·info) or "Castrum Leicze", Lithuanian: Leičių pilis) is a town in northeastern Poland with 29,642 inhabitants (2016). It is situated between Lake Mamry and Lake Niegocin in the region of Masuria, and has been within the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship since 1999, having previously been in the Suwałki Voivodeship (1975–1998). It is the seat of Giżycko County.
The first known settlements in the area of todays Giżycko were recorded in Roman times by Tacitus in his Germania and are connected to Amber Road in vicinity of which Giżycko was located. A defensive settlement of the Baltic Prussians was known to exist in the area, and in IX was recorded as being ruled by king known as Izegup or Jesegup.
After his failed attempt in 997 AD Bolesław I the Brave sent another expedition in 1008 to conquer/Christianize the Old Prussians. Just like St. Adalbert the missionary Bruno of Querfurt was killed by Sudovians near Lake Niegocin in 1009, and a memorial the Bruno – cross was erected near in 1910.
The Teutonic Knights built a castle in Prussia named Lötzen (Łuczany in Polish, later also Lec) in 1340, located at the isthmus between two lakes in todays Masuria. Lötzen was administered within the Komturei of Balga. Since the Late Middle Ages, it was mainly populated by Poles from nearby Mazovia, known as Masurians.
In 1454, Polish King Casimir IV Jagiellon incorporated the region to the Kingdom of Poland upon the request of the Prussian Confederation, and after the subsequent outbreak of the Thirteen Years’ War in 1454, Łuczany sided with Poland. The settlement was captured by the Teutonic Knights in 1455, but the Poles recaptured it the next year. After the peace treaty signed in Toruń in 1466 it became part of Poland as a fief held by the Teutonic Order, until the dissolution of the Teutonic state in 1525.
The settlement near the castle received town privileges, with a coat of arms and seal, in 1612, while part of the Duchy of Prussia (under Polish suzerainty till 1701). The first mayor was Paweł Rudzki. The Polish name of the town, used by its overwhelmingly Polish population, at the time was Łuczany.
Lötzen became part of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1701 and was made part of the newly established province of East Prussia in 1773. In 1709/10 the plague claimed 800 victims, only 119 inhabitants survived. In the 19th century, a new Lutheran church based on design by Karl Friedrich Schinkel was erected in the centre of the town. Lötzen became part of the German Empire in 1871 during the Prussian-led unification of Germany.
In June 1807, the Polish corps of generals Józef Zajączek and Jan Henryk Dąbrowski were stationed in the town. After the Napoleonic Wars, the town was hit by fire and famine. King Frederick William IV of Prussia, during his visit in 1845, was received in the town by 10,000 impoverished people chanting Chleba! (Bread! in Polish). The King replied to the crowd in Polish as the last Prussian ruler to speak Polish. From 1875 to 1892 the Polish-language weekly newspaper Gazeta Lecka was published.
In 1844–1848 the Boyen Fortress, a fortress named after the Prussian war-minister Hermann von Boyen, was built on a small landtongue between lake Mamry (Mauersee) and lake Niegocin (Löwentinsee). This fortress is one of the largest and best conditioned fortresses of the 19th century. In 1942–1945 it was the headquarters of the German military intelligence service (Fremde Heere Ost) under Reinhard Gehlen.
As a result of the treaty of Versailles, the 1920 East Prussian plebiscite was organized under the control of the League of Nations. During the preparations for the plebiscite, a German militia attacked a pro-Polish rally with around 1,000 people. Speakers and people attending the rally were severely beaten; the main pro-Polish leader of the rally Fryderyk Leyk was beaten so badly that he just barely survived. Afterwards the attitude of Polish population in the town was resigned and part of the population boycotted the vote while others openly voted for Germany fearing revenge; 4,900 votes were cast to remain in East Prussia, and therefore Germany, and none for Poland. Afterwards aggressive Germanisation was intensified, and during Nazi rule in Germany, there was practical ban on speaking Polish in public places in the town.
In the 1930s Lötzen was the garrison of several military units of the Wehrmacht as a Sub-area Headquarter of Wehrkreis I, which was headquartered at Königsberg. Staff-, maintenance- and guardtroops of Hitler's headquarter Wolfsschanze and the Oberkommando des Heeres (OKH, army high command) were also based in or nearby Lötzen. The OKH was based at the Mauerwald area, ca. 10 km north of Giżycko, an undestroyed bunker system.
The town was occupied by the Soviet Union's Red Army in 1945 during World War II and placed under Polish administration after the war ended. The German-speaking populace who had not been evacuated during the war were subsequently expelled westward. The remaining Polish populace was joined by Poles displaced from former eastern Poland annexed by the Soviet Union, particularly from the Vilnius Region. The town was renamed Giżycko in 1946 in honor of the Masurian folklorist Gustaw Gizewiusz, a 19th-century Evangelical-Lutheran pastor in southern Masuria, who had greatly supported Polish language and Polish culture and stood against Germanisation of Masuria.
Up to 19th century, Polish population formed majority in the city, with small presence of Germans. By middle of 19th century German minority became much more numerous and Germanization made rapid progress in the city.
Giżycko is twinned with:
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