The history of Zaslavl
ZASLAVL name and foundation are directly related to the legend about insubmisive princess Rahnieda, daughter of the Polack Principality ruler Ragnvald (Russian: Rogvolod, Belarusian: Rahvalod). She was forcedly married to Prince of Noŭharad Uladzimier Sviataslavavič after his occupation of The Principality of Polack in 978 AD. Later, as a result of unlucky assassination attempt on her husband, the disgraced princess was saved by her brave son Iziaslaŭ, returned home, and settled down in upper Svislač river land, in a frontier fortress, named by Uladzimier in honor of the brave young prince Iziaslaŭ. Remains of this fortress, also known as “Zamečak”, draw attention of the historians, locals, and visitors in Culture and History Museum-Preserve “Zaslaŭje”.
In the 12th century, Zaslaŭje was the center of a regional princedom of the Polack Principality; in 1345 it became a private property of Lithuanian Duke Jaŭnut Hiedzimin, the founder of the dynasty of Zaslaŭski Dukes. In the 16-18th centuries, the town was owned by the influential families of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth – Republic of the Both Nations (Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów): the Hliabovič's, Sapiehas and Przezdzieckies families.
On April 22, 1583, Zaslaŭje castle and surrounding territories were inherited by Jan Janavič Hliabovič (1544-1590), land treasurer and writer-secretary of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (from 1586 voivod of Troki). The magnate intended to make Zaslaŭje his main residence and launched major reconstruction of the castle: enlarged its territory and strengthened the walls with fortifications and bastions. The castle moats, ditches and low-lands were filled with waters from Svislač river dam; an artificial lake appeared around the fortifications; the entrances to the castle were massively fortified by defensive stone walls. A beautiful palace was built inside, competing in beauty only with a new majestic Calvinist cathedral nearby. The cathedral suffered numerous historical catastrophes, but survived until our days as an exceptionally outstanding example of Gothic-Renaissance architectural talent.
From 1753 to 1760, Zaslaŭje county was owned by Antoni Tadeusz Przeździecki (1718-1772), the Mayor of Minsk, Lithuanian referndarius, and from 1764 sub-chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. At the sunset of his life he initiated construction of the Roman Catholic Church of Mary’s Nativity, on the place of the wooden one erected at the market square at times of Mikalaj, son of Jan Hliabovič.
After the second partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the central Belarus, including Minsk, and Zaslaŭje, became the part of the largest and most ethnically diverse country – The Russian Empire. Zaslaŭje changed into a typical small market town with agriculture focus. The grand Zaslaŭje castle and the beautiful Przeździeckies’ Palace declined and decayed.
In the 19th century, Zaslaŭje changed owners a number of times. Przeździecki sold their property to Michał Prószyński, succamerarius of Ihumien. In 1867, 40 years later, Zaslaŭje land was bought by headquarters-captain Paval Chamiantoŭski. Libava-Romenskaja railway, the first commercial railway line of the Russian Empire, passed through Zaslaŭje in 1874. It connected grain territories of Ukraine and Central Russia with the Baltic Sea ports.