Daugavpils is the second largest Latvian city, it is located on the banks of the river Daugava (Zapadnaja Dvina), in the southeastern part of the Republic, 232 km away from the capital Riga. The city has changed its name many times: Dinaburg (1275), Borisoglebsk (1656-1667), Dvinsk (1893-1920), Daugavpils – since 1920.
The city’s history dates to medieval period, when Latvian land was invaded by German knights – crusaders. According to historical chronicles, Dinaburg castle was founded by Livonian Order Master Ernst von Ratcburg in 1275, on a trade route “from Varangians to Greeks”, which went along the river Daugava and was located close to Russian and Lithuanian land borders. The castle became an important defensive point near which a trading settlement was established.
Dinaburg castle was in such a vulnerable position in relation to Polotsk and Lithuanian principalities that Russian and Lithuanian army forces repeatedly tried to smash it. The first battle at the castle walls took place in 1277, when Lithuanian prince Troiden unsuccessfully tried to win the castle of Order for the whole month. The castle survived.
In the 14th-15th century, Dinaburg castle was repeatedly attacked by Lithuanian and Russian princess, it was destroyed and rebuilt, because it played an important strategic role. Livonian Order did not spare resources on the castle strengthening. In 1347 Master of Order Gosvin Gerik strengthened it with four towers.
At the beginning of the 15th century, the komtur of Dinaburg became one of the most authorized persons of German Order. During this period, using Dinaburg castle garrison, Livonian Order attacked Russian lands many times, threatening to Pskov and Novgorod. However, after its adding to Moscow principality, Prince of Moscow Ivan III, in order to ensure the western borders, began a crusade to Livonia. At the end of the 15th century Livonia lost its grandeur and experienced a decline.
In 1481 20 thousand large army force of Ivan III won Dinaburg castle for a short period. Under the conditions of a peace agreement between Ivan III and Master of Order Walter von Pletenberg, all conquered territory was returned to Livonia, which had to pay tribute to Moscow principality for 50 years. This agreement prolonged Livonia existence for over half of a century. Only Livonian War (1558-1582) finally destroyed the diminishing state.
In the second half of the 16th century Livonia could not repulse the attack of Russian army forces any more and turned for help to Poland. Since 1559 Dinaburg castle together with other fortresses belonged to Polish King Sigusmund II August. In 1561 Livonian Order ceased to exist. For two centuries (1561-1772) Latgale was a Polish province – Inflantia. Since 1566 Dinaburg became the administrative center of the province Inflantia.
On August 11 in the year of 1577, the army forces of Ivan the Great conquered the castle. Dinaburg castle and trade lines were destroyed during the long Livonian War. The castle lost its military importance.
The army forces of Ivan the Great at Dinaburg castle walls in 1577.
But the strategic importance became quite significant at this territory, where the intermediate stage of the river Daugava was located and Russian and Polish interests crossed. Ivan the Great built a new fortress 19 km down to the river Daugava from the old castle, where now Daugavpils is located. Poles continued to construct it, because in January 1582 an agreement was signed between Poland and Russia, and the entire territory of Latgale, including the new fortress, was included in the composition of Poland.
In 1582 Polish king Stefan Batory granted Dinaburg with Magdeburg rights. It was an important legal act, that declared the existence of legal city near the fortifications. Urban affairs were managed by the magistrate.
King S. Batory.
In the 17th century Dinaburg became an important trade and customs point. During this time, Poland, Russia and Sweden were fighting for the Baltic states. New Dinaburg fortress and the city experienced enemy attacks several times: it was conquered by the Swedes in 1600 and 1655.
In June 1656 Russian Tsar Alexei Mihailovich together with army forces attacked Dinaburg castle and forced out Swedes.
Alexei Mihailovich. The conquered city was named Borisoglebsk and it was the part of Russia for 11 years. In 1667 according to Andrusov armistice, the city was returned to Poland where it was till 1772 with the former name Dinaburg. In 1677 Dinaburg became the administrative center of the province Inflantia and the bishop’s residence.
The beginning of the 18th century brought new challenges for the city, Northern War (1700 – 1721) became the last phase in the solving of the Baltic, making significant changes in the Baltic political map. The war started in February 1700 with failure attack of Russia’s compound Saxon army forces on Riga. Saxon army force spent the winter in Dinaburg at that time. The war brought about terrible misery, impoverishment, diseases and epidemics to the locals. In 1710 there was a plague on the territory of Latgale and the city suffered a lot from it. Almost whole Dinaburg garrison died, the fortress was disarmed, the guns were brought to Vilnius. Since that time, the fortress and the town itself were declined.
In the 18th century domestic division process, starting in the middle of the 17th century, continued in Poland. Sharp irreconcilable class contradictions slowly brought the country to collapse. Prussia and Austria had repeatedly raised the issue of the so-called Polish heritage division. The negotiations lasted from 1769 till 1772 and ended with the agreement of three great states – Prussia, Austria and Russia. According to this agreement, Russia got Latgale, Mstislav, Polotsk and Vitebsk provinces.
In 1722 after the first division of Poland, Dinaburg was joined to Russia and it became the district city of Polotsk province, but since 1802 – Vitebsk province.
On September 21 in 1781 Dinaburg got a new emblem that existed till 1917.
The construction of new Dinaburg fortress that began in 1810 due to the threat of Napoleon attack, brought the major changes in the city life. By the beginning of the war in 1812, the construction work had not been completed yet, but the fortress played an important role in protecting Russia’s north border. After the war, the construction of the fortress continued, in May 1833 the solemn consecration of it took place, but the construction works continued till1878.
In the middle of the 19th century together with the railway building in Russia, Dinaburg became an important railway junction. Such important motorways as Petersburg – Warsaw, Riga – Orel went through the city. The railway construction contributed to the city’s economic development.
In 1893 according to Emperor Alexander III order, Dinaburg was renamed to Dvinsk.
During the 19th-20th centuries Dvinsk became the largest industrial and cultural center in the Northwest area. 112,848 people lived in the city in 1913, it was more than in Minsk.
During WWI Dvinsk became the front city, the 5th Russian army headquarter was located there. The city was greatly damaged during the war years, the population declined sharply, many industries were exported to Central Russia. From February to December in 1918, the Germans were staying in Dvinsk, then the city was occupied by Bolsheviks.
On January 3 in 1920, the city was released from Bolsheviks with the help of united forces of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland and it was renamed to Daugavpils.
With the time the city economy was restored and education and culture were developed during the years of independence. In the middle of the 30s the monumental building – Unity House, as well as Unity Bridge – was built.
In June 1940 Latvian Republic was incorporated into the USSR, but in 1941 Soviet occupation was replaced by Hitler occupation. Germans established Jewish ghetto and the camp for Russian war prisoners Shtalag-340 in the fortress. More than 125 thousand people were killed on the territory of the city during the war years.
During WWII more than 70% of the buildings were destroyed in the city. On July 27 in 1944, the part of Red Army went into the city.
The city economy and culture was quickly restored after the war. New enterprises, educational and cultural institutions were built; new city micro-districts were created.
In 1991 the independent Latvian Republic was restored, the city development continued under new circumstances. Daugavpils is Eastern cultural and educational center of Latvia. It is known as the commonwealth miniature model, because historically Daugavpils was developed as a multinational city. The multinational culture is reflected in architecture, art and household traditions. Now (2003) there are 112 132 residents in the city: Latvians – 16.37%, Russians – 54.97%, Poles – 14.99%, Belarusians – 8.6%, others – 6.02%.