Gomel (also Homieĺ, Homiel, Homel or Homyel’; Belarusian:
Го́мель, Łacinka: Homiel, pronounced [ˈɣomʲelʲ],
Russian: Го́мель, pronounced [ˈɡomʲɪlʲ]) is the
administrative centre of
Gomel Region and with 526,872 inhabitants
(2015 census) the second-most populous city of Belarus.
1.1 Origin of the name
Gomel under Kievan Rus'
Gomel in the
Great Duchy of Lithuania
Great Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish-Lithuanian
Gomel in the Russian Empire
1.5 Ukrainian period
1.6 Soviet period
1.7 World War II
1.8 The post-war period
1.9 Chernobyl disaster
1.10 Establishment of the Republic of Belarus
1.11.1 Jewish community
7 Notable residents
8 International relations
8.1 Twin towns and sister cities
10 External links
Origin of the name
There are at least six narratives of the origin of the city’s
Belarusian name. One of the more plausible is that the name is derived
from the name of the stream Homeyuk, which flowed into river Sozh near
the foot of the hill where the first settlement was founded. Names of
other Belarusian cities are formed along these lines: for example, the
Minsk is derived from the river Menka,
Polatsk from the river
Vitsebsk from the river Vitsba. In historical sources from
1142 to the 16th century, the city is mentioned as
Hom', Homye, Homiy, Homey, or Homyi. These forms are tentatively
explained as derivatives of an unattested *gomŭ of uncertain
meaning. The modern name for the city has been in use only since
the 16th–17th centuries.
During the Soviet period, another story about the city's name was
popular: raftsmen on the river Sozh supposedly warned each other about
the danger of running into sandy shallows by shouting «Ho! Ho!
Mel!». A more recent narrative, propagated by some modern
researchers, is that the name is derived from an ancient Belarusian
greeting: «Dats u homel», which means «to pat on the
Gomel under Kievan Rus'
Gomel's inner fortress in the 12th century
Gomel was founded at the end of the 1st millennium AD on the lands of
the Eastern Slavic tribal union of Radimichs. It lays on the banks of
Sozh river and the Homeyuk stream. Sozh's high right bank, cut
through by canyons, provided a natural fortification. For some time,
Gomel was the capital of the
Gomel Principality, before it became part
of the Principality of Chernigov.
Gomel is first mentioned in the
Hypatian Codex under the year of 1142 as being territory of the
princes of Chernigov. For some time,
Gomel was ruled by the prince of
Rostislav Mstislavich before it was re-captured by Iziaslav
III Davidovich, after whose death it belonged to Sviatoslav Olgovich
and then to Sviatoslav's son Oleg. Under Oleg,
Gomel went to the
Principality of Novhorod-Siverskyi. The next ruler was Igor
Svyatoslavich – the hero of "The Tale of Igor's Campaign". During
this period, the town was a fortified point and the centre of a
volost. In the 12th–13th centuries the city's area was not less than
40 ha, and it had developed various crafts and was connected by
trading routes with the cities of Northern and Southern Rus'.
Archeological data have shown that the city was badly damaged during
the Mongol-Tatar assault in the first half of the 13th century.
Gomel in the
Great Duchy of Lithuania
Great Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish-Lithuanian
Gomel fortress in the 16th century
In 1335, the
Gomel region was joined to the Great Duchy of Lithuania
by Algirdas. From 1335 to 1406 it was under the ownership of prince
Patricia Narymuntovich and his sons, from 1406 to 1419 the city was
ruled by the Great Duke's deputies, from 1419 to 1435 it belonged to
prince Svitrigaila, from 1446 to 1452 to prince Vasiliy Yaroslavich,
from 1452 to 1483 to
Mozhaysk prince Ivan Andreyevich, and from 1483
to 1505 to his son Semyon, who transferred it to the Grand Duchy of
During the Second
Muscovite-Lithuanian War of 1500–1503 Lithuania
tried to regain
Gomel and other lands transferred to Moscow, but
suffered defeat and lost one-third of its territory. In 1535,
Lithuanian and Polish forces under Jerzy Radziwiłł, Jan Tarnowski
and Andrzej Niemirowicz re-captured the city after the surrender of
Moscow's deputy, D. Shchepin-Obolensky. In the same year, the Great
Duke of Lithuania
Sigismund Kęstutaitis founded the
According to the peace agreement of 1537,
Gomel together with its
volost remained a Lithuanian possession. In 1535–1565
Gomel is the
centre of starostwo, and from 1565 onwards
Gomel is in the Rechytsa
Powiat of the
Coat of Arms of Gomel, 1560
In 1560, the city's first coat of arms was introduced. In 1569, Gomel
became part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. From this moment
on, the city became the arena of numerous attacks and battles between
Russia and the Polish-Lithuania Commonwealth. In 1572, Gomel
Starostwo was given to B. Sapega. At the beginning of the 1570s, Gomel
was captured by the forces of Ivan the Terrible, but in 1576 it was
re-captured by J. Radziwiłł. In 1581,
Gomel was again attacked by
Russian troops, and in 1595–1596 it was in the hands of Severyn
After the beginning of the struggle against
Orthodox Christianity in
Lithuania, Orthodox Nikolayevskiy Cathedral was closed on the order of
Josaphat Kuntsevych in 1621. In 1633 the city
was besieged by the
Cossaks of Bulgakov and Yermolin, in 1648 captured
by the Golovatskiy's Cossack detachment, and in 1649 by Martyn
Nebaba's detachment. After that,
Gomel got through several sieges in
1651 but in 1654 was captured by Ivan Zolotarenko's detachment. He and
his sons held the city until 1667 and then began to serve under Alexis
of Russia, however, after the
Truce of Andrusovo
Truce of Andrusovo
Gomel at last
returned to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, where it first
belonged to M. K. Radziwiłł and then – till the annexation by the
Russian Empire – to the Czartoryski family. During the Great
Northern War Russian forces under
Aleksandr Danilovich Menshikov
Aleksandr Danilovich Menshikov stood
in Gomel. In 1670,
Gomel got the Magdeburg rights. Towards the middle
of the 17th century, the city fell into crisis mainly due to the
struggles mentioned above. It suffered significant damage, the
population decreased severely, and many crafts disappeared.
Gomel in the Russian Empire
Pyotr Alexandrovich Rumyantsev-Zadunaisky
Pyotr Alexandrovich Rumyantsev-Zadunaisky (1725 - 1796)
Nikolay Petrovich Rumyantsev
Nikolay Petrovich Rumyantsev (1754 - 1826)
Sergei Petrovich Rumyantsev (1755 - 1838)
Ivan Fyodorovich Paskevich
Ivan Fyodorovich Paskevich (1782 - 1856)
Fyodor Ivanovich Paskevich (1823 - 1903)
Irina Ivanovna Paskevich (1835 - 1925)
The period when
Gomel was part of the
Russian Empire was marked by
rapid growth of the population, urban infrastructure, and industrial
Gomel in 1799
Gomel became part of the
Russian Empire after the first partition of
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1772 and was confiscated by the
imperial treasury. In 1775, Empress Catherine II gave
Gomel and Gomel
eldership in the eternal hereditary possession of Russian military
commander Pyotr Rumyantsev.
The Peter and Paul Cathedral, designed by architect John Clark, was
built in 1809–1819.
Nikolay Rumyantsev opened the first high school,
hotel courtyard, glass, tile, distilleries, weaving and spinning
factories, and he built a church, a synagogue, a pharmacy, a hospice
and a permanent wooden bridge across the Sozh river.
After the death of Nikolay Rumyantsev, the city came in possession of
his brother Sergei Petrovich Rumyantsev. However, due to lack of
money, Sergei indebted
Gomel with the state treasury of the Russian
Empire. Subsequently, after not being able to pay off the debt, the
treasury sold the city.
Gomel palace was acquired by Prince Ivan
Paskevich, and the rest of the city by Nicholas I (1838). Paskevich
had an English garden made around the palace, which is still in place
today. In 1856, the estate passed on to his son Fyodor Ivanovich
Gomel was a major industrial city and counted 104.500
Following the treaty of Brest-Litovsk, in 1918 the city was liberated
from Bolshevik troops by German forces. The city became part of
Chernihiv Governorate of the Ukrainian State.
On 14 January 1919,
Gomel was occupied by the Red Army, leading to a
major revolt. Insurgents took control of strategic objects and
executed members of the Soviet leadership of the city. The rebels were
Gomel became the centre of the
Gomel Governorate in the
Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic. After the end of the
hostilities, restoration of industry and transport began. In the
1920s, a number of large businesses had been created: shipyards, a
factory named "Polespechat", a shoe factory named "Trud", a bakery,
and the first phase of a municipal power plant. In 1926 the city was
passed to the Belarusian SSR.
By 1940, 264 industrial enterprises had been established
World War II
During World War II,
Gomel was under Nazi occupation from August 19,
1941 until the November 26, 1943. The city was liberated by
Rokossovsky's Belorussian Front during the Gomel-Rechitsa Offensive.
Eighty percent of the city was destroyed. The population of
dropped dramatically. According to the data of the registry, the
Gomel numbered less than 15,000 of inhabitants, compared
to 144,000 inhabitants in 1940.
The post-war period
After the war, restoration of
Gomel began promptly. The majority of
pre-revolutionary buildings were lost. City streets were considerably
expanded, and buildings in Stalinist Empire style were erected. In
1950, almost all of the pre-war enterprises resumed their work.
As a result of the catastrophe at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on
26 April 1986,
Gomel suffered radioactive contamination. This
significantly worsened both the ecological situation and the
socio-economic crisis that had struck the USSR in the late 1980s. It
caused a sharp decline in living standards and a gradual depopulation
that lasted until the early 21st century.
At the beginning of the 21st century, a scientific centre and practice
for radiation medicine and human ecology was built in
overcome and study the consequences of the catastrophe at Chernobyl.
The development of radiological dose values varies between individual
villages in severely contaminated regions, depending on the
surroundings and the economic orientation. In general, life is
possible in these areas today, even in some parts of formerly
closed-off zones, if appropriate behavioural rules are observed.
Establishment of the Republic of Belarus
On 27 July 1990, the Declaration of State Sovereignty of the
Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic was drafted.
Gomel became a city
in the independent state of the Republic of Belarus.
In the first half of the 1990s, Gomel, like the whole of Belarus, was
struck by an acute socio-economic crisis: living standards fell
sharply, the death rate exceeded the birth rate, the volume of
industrial production fell sharply, and the crime rate increased. From
1996 onwards the situation in the country and in
Gomel began to
stabilize and improve gradually.
of Gomel, 1775–2015
In 2013, the city's population numbered 515,325, indicating a
positive population growth and hence a reversal of the demographic
crisis that began in 1993.
After the annexation of
Gomel by the
Russian Empire and the creation
of the Pale of Settlement,
Gomel gradually became a centre of
resettlement for the Jewish population of Russia. According to the
1897 census, 55% of the population of
Gomel were Jews. In 1903, there
was a violent pogrom against the Jewish population of the city. From
that moment on, a gradual decrease of the number of
Jews in the city
Jews lived in
Gomel in 1939, when they comprised 29.4
percent of the total population. Most
Jews had left the city in
anticipation of German occupation, but still between 3,000-4,000 Gomel
Jews fell victim to the Holocaust. The end of the 1980s and
beginning of the 1990s saw mass emigration of
Jews from Gomel, but at
the same time restoration of Jewish institutions in the city by the
remaining Jewish inhabitants.
Gomel is situated in the southeastern part of the country, on the
right bank of the river Sozh, 302 km (188 mi) south-east of
Minsk, 534 km (332 mi) east of Brest, 171 km
(106 mi) south of Mogilev, 237 km (147 mi) west of
Bryansk and 111 km (69 mi) north of Chernihiv.
The terrain on which the city as a whole is built, is flat. On the
right bank of the river, it is a gradually decreasing plain
water-glacial and fluvial terrace of the Sozh river. The left bank is
a low-lying alluvial plain. The highest elevation of 144 meters above
sea level is found at the northern outskirts of Gomel, the lowest
elevation of 115 m at the water boundary Sozh river. Novobelitskiy
district, which is located on the left bank of the river (i.e.,
towards the south), has elevations averaging of 10–15 meters lower
than the northern and central parts of the city.
On the left bank of the Sozh many kilometers of beaches can be found.
The climate of
Gomel is moderate and continental. Warm summers and
cold winters are caused by frequent arrival of warm sea air masses
from the Atlantic and the dominating western transfer.
Climate data for Gomel
Record high °C (°F)
Average high °C (°F)
Daily mean °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Record low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Average rainy days
Average snowy days
Average relative humidity (%)
Mean monthly sunshine hours
Percent possible sunshine
Source #1: Pogoda.ru.net
Belarus Department of Hydrometeorology (sun data from
1957–1960 and 1973–2000)
The public transportation system consists of over 1,000 buses and
trolleybuses. Public transportation is generally inexpensive ($14
monthly). Over 210 million passenger rides were registered in
2006. Taxi services ($10 for a one-way intra-city ride) are
available 24 hours a day. The city is an important railroad hub in the
southeastern part of Belarus, as it is situated midway on the
Kiev rail link. The strategic location of
Gomel near the border
Ukraine provides a direct connection to the vast
railroad networks of those countries.
A trolleybus network opened on 20 May 1962 and consists of 23 routes
(not counting variations). On 15 December 2010, after constructing an
overhead wire network in the streets of Egorenko, Sviridov and
Chechersk, a new trolley line opened to the terminus "Neighborhood
Klinkowski" that resulted in a change of trolleybus routes 9, 16, 17.
The length of the network is about 74 km (46 mi) and the
total length of trolleybus routes is 475 km (295 mi).
Rolling stock consist of types ACSM-201, ACSM-321, ACSM-213, ACSM-101,
ZIU-682. There are more than 60 bus routes totaling 670 kilometers,
and a number of express routes. Rolling stock consists mainly of buses
MAZ-105, MAZ-107, MAZ-103 and Ikarus 280, and to a lesser extent
MAZ-104, MAZ-203, MAZ-206, and since 2014, the extra-large-capacity,
low-MAZ-215. Express routes use Rodemich-A type buses. The 24 minibus
lines use Ford Transit, GAZelle, Mercedes-Benz, and Peugeot vans.
Gomel Airport is located 8 km (5 mi) north-east of the city.
To overcome the consequences of the
Chernobyl disaster and to improve
the health of the population, the government has paid considerable
attention to sports and sports facilities.[clarification needed]
Gomel is home to a wide range of sports facilities that have been
developed and improved in recent years. These facilities, including
eight stadiums and the Ice Palace, which has two ice arenas, support
common activities such as hockey, track and field, and football
(American Soccer). The Central Stadium is the home of Gomel’s local
football club, FC Gomel.
Gomel hosts multiple international
competitions in these facilities, the annual “Bells of Chernobyl”
competition being one of the many. In addition to sports
Gomel has a multitude of Olympic Reserve Schools, which is
more commonly referred to as sports schools.
Many of Gomel's sports schools prepare athletes from a young age.
Numerous champions have been trained by schools such as these. For
example, one school, Gomel’s Olympic Reserve Number 4, has trained
97 World and European champions as well as two Olympic athletes. Gomel
State College of Olympic Reserve, on the other hand, trains coaches
rather than athletes. From this school, 44 graduates have participated
in the Olympics, European championships, and World championships.
Gomel also participates in the
Deaflympics and, between the years
2007-2009, has been awarded: two gold medals, one silver medal, and
two bronze medals.
P.O. Sukhoy Homiel State Technical University
P.O. Sukhoy Homiel State Technical University and Gomel
State Medical University have attracted many international students
from countries around the world, including the United States, Germany,
China, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Syria, Russia, Ukraine, Egypt, Iran
and countries in Latin America.
Gomel State Medical University
provides classes in both English and Russian. Many prominent
scientists work here as senior lecturers.
Yitzchak Eizik Epstein (1770–1857), Hasidic rabbi, author of several
works of Chabad philosophy
Yuri Foreman, the first Israeli boxing world champion
Leonid Geishtor, Belarusian Olympic champion and world champion sprint
Elena Ginko, athlete
Andrei Gromyko, a Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs (1957–1985) and
Chairman of the
Presidium of the Supreme Soviet
Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (1985–1988)
Gennady Korotkevich, competitive programming champion
Mikhail Grabovski, professional ice hockey player, currently with the
New York Islanders
Aaron Lebedeff, (1873–1960) Yiddish singer
Dick Manning, American songwriter
Andrey Melnichenko, Russian businessman and billionaire
Larisa Shchiryakova, journalist
Bella Shumiatcher (1911–1990), pianist and music educator
Sergei Sidorsky, Prime Minister of
Belarus from 2003 until December
Kanstantsin Sivtsov, professional road cyclist
Lev Vygotsky (1896–1934), psychologist
Iryna Yatchanka, Belarusian Olympic medal winner
See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in Belarus
Twin towns and sister cities
Gomel is twinned with:
Chernihiv Oblast, Ukraine
Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine
United Kingdom (since 1990)
České Budějovice, Czech Republic
Greater Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
Clermont-Ferrand, Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France
Iron Knob, SA, Australia
Bryansk Oblast, Russia
Radom, Masovian Voivodeship, Poland
Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England, United Kingdom
Novi Sad, Serbia
Belarus - The regions of the Republic of
Belarus as well as all
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^ Petro Zoriy, Herbert Dederichs, Jürgen Pillath, Burkhard
Heuel-Fabianek, Peter Hill, Reinhard Lennartz: Long-Term Measurements
of the Radiation Exposure of the Inhabitants of Radioactively
Contaminated Regions of
Belarus – The Korma Report II (1998 –
Forschungszentrum Jülich 2016,
ISBN 978-3-95806-181-1. PDF, 10,6 MB
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Jews in the occupied territories of the
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Gomel history". Paul Zoglin. 2009-12-16. Retrieved
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(Погода и климат). Retrieved 28 November 2015.
^ "Солнечное сияние. Обобщения III часть:
Таблица 2.1. Характеристики
продолжительности и суточный ход
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Aberdeen City Council. Retrieved 2 March 2008.
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pour l’Action Extérieure des Collectivités Territoriales
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Radom - Partnership cities]. Miasto
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April 2013. Retrieved 7 August 2013.
Radom - miasta partnerskie" (in Polish). radom.naszestrony.pl.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Gomel.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Homel.
Photos on Radzima.org
History of Gomel
The Korma-Report (Korma-Studie) of the German Research Centre Juelich
(Forschungszentrum Jülich) published new data on internal radiation
exposure of the inhabitants of a region close to
Gomel more than 20
years after the Chernobyl disaster. The data show a significant
decrease of the exposure. Resettlement may even be possible in
prohibited areas provided that people comply with appropriate dietary
Statistical information about
Gomel at the
Wayback Machine (archived
24 October 2007)
Map of Gomel
The murder of the
Gomel during World War II, at Yad Vashem
Belarus at JewishGen
Gomel Region, Belarus
Administrative seats of Voblasts of Belarus