Pruzhany is a district town in the Grodno province, situated on either side of the Muchawca river, which is formed by two small rivulets: Mucha and Wica, joined on the outskirts of town, along its left side. The river divides the town into two uneven segments, of which the greater is found on the right bank of the Muchawca river. The left bank is somewhat elevated and the part of town found here appears more picturesque, has wide tree lined streets, although still unpaved and as a result, muddy in the spring and fall. On the right bank only the more prominent streets are paved, and are generally quite narrow, full of debris and rot.
Pruzhany has a latitude of 52deg. 33sec, and a longitude of 42deg. 07 sec. It is located 189 verst from Grodno and 13 verst from the Linevo (properly known as Linovka) Moscow-Brest railway. It counts 983 houses, of which 64 are brick, has 7,291 inhabitants, of these 1,611 are Russian orthodox, 422 catholic, 6 protestant, and 5,252 Jews. In the year 1817, the town counted some 245 houses, all timber, and 824 inhabitants, of these 374 Jews. In the year 1860, the town had 577 houses and 5,665 inhabitants, of which 2,908 were Jews. The town spread over an area of 1,551 (dzies.) In the year 1878, there were some 7,044 inhabitants, of whom 1,746 were protestant, 543 catholic, 4,750 jews, and 5 moslem.
There are two Russian Orthodox parish churches (St. Alexander Nevsky and the church of Nativity). There is in addition an affiliate church and a chapel on the cemetery grounds, both of timber construction. Further down, a masonry church, by the name of St. Zygmont and Waclaw, built in 1881, on the site of an older church dating back to 1522, was consecrated in 1884 by the Reverent Karol Hrynewicky, the bishop of Wilno. There is a catholic chapel at the cemetery, made of brick, 9 Jewish houses of prayer, a post office, district offices, a judicial assembly (court of justice)?, a two-classroom district school, a one-classroom elementary school, a small private school, a municipal hospital, a Jewish hospital (of the Kahala). There are no public or charitable institutions in Pruzhany. An amateur theatre group stages charitable performances several times a year to benefit the poor.
Some dozen years ago the Jewish community began construction of a synagogue, however due to lack of funds, construction was halted. In the year 1877, there were 250 horses, owned by the town inhabitants, 785 cattle, 480 sheep, 643 pigs and 74 goats. Manufacturing consists of a tobacco factory, which employs 7 workers with a production of 12,600 rs., two breweries producing 19,340 rs., two match factories producing 1,997 rs., two tallow candle making plants, producing 1175 rs., and a large steam flour mill built in 1887, to date still not in use. Pruzhany has 476 craftsmen, the majority potters, who live on the outskirts of town known as Gorka, renowned throughout the whole district. There are 99 market stalls, of these 54 built of masonry. There is a weekly market, with larger fairs taking place four times a year: second day after White Sunday (seventh Sunday after Easter), the Friday, ten weeks after Easter, on August 6 (18) and October 14 (26). The primary trade is cattle and farming equipment. Pruzhany is linked by a telegraph line with Brest, via Kobryn, and directly with Wolkowysk.
Pruzhany first appears on record in the second half of the15th century, when Ivan Semenowich Kobrynsky attempted to establish a town in this vicinity. The original plans called for a manor belonging to the Kobrynsky principality, named Dobuchyn, which according to one account became known as Pruzhany. The name Prosiana, came from proso (millet), which grew here in great abundance. This theory is considered unreliable given that some 5 verst from present day Pruzhany, there is still today a large village named Dobuchyn. According to a different account the settlement was established by Prussians escaping persecution by the crusaders, who sought to hide in the Kobrinsky principality, and settled in the forested areas of the village Dobuchyn, giving their new settlement the name Prussany, also known as Prussiany.
In the year 1473, Ivan Semenowich Kobrynsky, with his wife Fedora, the daughter of Ivan Rohatynsky, funded here a Russian Orthodox church, in honour of the birth of the Holy Son. The inauguration, which took place October 9, 1473, and declared by Balinsky ( see Ancient Poland, volume III, 765), is found in the Lithuanian registry, as well as in the contemporary description in the book of gospels belonging to the church. Belinsky considers this document to have been falsified, however the essence appears to be authentic. The discrepancy may have taken place when the prototype was presented to Queen Anne for verification. The theory of forgery is supported by the fact that the document names Ivan Kobrynsky as the leaseholder of the entire territory of Zmudz, when in fact the chief foreman for this territory from 1450 to 1485, was Jan Kiezgajlowicz.
When the filial line of Kobrynsky came to an end, the lands reverted to the king, who bequeathing them to princess Fedora, married her in 1492 to Yury Pacewicz. Following that, the Kobrynsky lands pass on to Waclaw Kostewicz, Anneís husband and the sister of the last of the Kobrynsky princes, who after the death of his wife in 1513, received Kobryn in leasehold, becoming its first chief, and receiving the sum of 1000 kop. After his death, queen Bona was given rights to the lands, and in the year 1533 actual ownership of the lands. In 1522 Kostewicz funded the Pruzhany catholic church named St. Zygmont and Waclaw, and in 1534, queen Bona increased funding, which allowed for further renovations, transforming the Pruzhany settlement into a small town.
Following this, the lands were bequeathed, as part of her dowry, to the widowed queen Anne Jagiellonka, who in 1588 freed the town from (serfdom)?, replacing it with the Magdenburg law. At the same time the town received from the queen a coat of arms in the form of a sky blue snake, on a silver background, holding in its mouth a half visible form of a child. This coat of arms, which was the symbol of the Sforza family, has remained to this day. Zygmont III, affirming on May 6, 1589, the rights bestowed on the town by his aunt, the queen, allowed the town to have its own market stalls, (a beeswax press)?, and a scale for weighing of grain and honey. He offered the town an income, and for the free trade of honey and beer, imposed yearly tithes on each stall, in the amount of 60 gr. The lease tax for wine and liquor, collected yearly from the town was in the amount of 100 zl. and payable by the town chief to the chief or the book keeper of the Kobryn district, on St. Martinís day.
Aside from the Friday market, a fair was designated one day after the day of the Holy Trinity, and on the day of Christís Rising or the lifting of the Holy Cross. In 1570 a Russian Orthodox church was established on the outskirts of town, in an area known as Gorka. It was renovated in 1689 by Bulharyn. Sixty six villages form part of the Pruzhany economic district, which is headed by a district governor. After the last partitioning of Poland, the Empress Kathryn, gifted the lands to general Rumiancow, who soon thereafter sold them off to: Trembicky, Shwykowsky, Bulharyn, Wtodkow and others, whose descendants to this day own a large portion of the lands. In 1812 the French general Reynier was here with his 7th infantry division.
The parish of the catholic deanery counts 2,119 people. The chapel, and formerly a branch in Dolhem, of the Holy Alexander Newsky Orthodox parish, has 3,318 parishoners. Church of Nativity numbers 2,841 parishoners. The following was submitted by Klosy, volume XI, No. 276: the district of Pruzhany, located in the centre of the Grodno province, is surrounded by the district of Kobryn, Slonim, Wolkow and Brest. The site is somewhat elevated but level. The northern part of the district is situated on a plateau covered by mud. It is here that the river Muchawiec has its source, joining with the Bug river, which has its estuary in the Baltic Sea. The river Jasiodla also has its beginnings here, flooding the Pinsk mud fields, and emptying into the Black sea. This network of water can be considered the North-West boundary of Polesie. The western part of the district is covered by the primeval Bialowiez forest, which to this day is home to the only bison found in Europe. Their numbers however are dwindling, due to the rising of new villages and settlements, whose inhabitants cut down the grass and cultivate the fields, depriving the bison of their food source. This activity will inadvertently lead to the disappearance of the bison, whose extinction now remains only a question of time.
The soil in the district is in part black and in part clay, but overall fertile. The total area is 3,465 sq.verst, or 360,938 (dzies), of this 106, 653 government owned. The forests take up 123,223 (dz), (32,492 dz. private land and 90,731 crown land), i.e. 34.2% of total area. According to previous calculations, the district area measured 350,163 (dz), of this 4,335 settled land, 115,970 cultivated land, 48,074 fields, 28,623 pastures, 150,452 forests and 2696 barren land. In the year 1860, there were in the district 6550 horses, 24,986 cattle, 23,090 sheep, 20,305 pure bred, 21,650 pigs and 249 goats, in total 96,860 domestic animals. In the year 1877, the number rose to a total of 161,344, broken down as follows: 16,002 horses, 46,022 cattle, 49,541 regular sheep, 13,732 pure bred sheep, 35,645 pigs, 401 goats and 2 donkeys.
In 1878 there were in the district 96,865 inhabitants, i.e. 28 for each sq.verst. According to records, outside the town of Pruzhany, the inhabitants included 755 born nobility, 40 titled nobility, 222 clergy, 9,920 townspeople, 24,635 peasant (land owners)?, 315 settlers, 50,428 enfranchised peasants, 102 foreigners, the rest are military personnel and furloughed soldiers. As far as religious groups, the district was home to 67,735 Russian Orthodox, 12,320 Catholics, 397 Protestant and 9,369 Jews. In 1860 the population was divided into the following nationalities: 30,000 Orthodox Russians, 307 Orthodox Greatrussians, 22,103 Orthodox Lithuanians, 6,447 Polish Catholics, 5,507 Latvian Catholics, and 6,013 Jews.
The predominant occupation is agriculture. As far as manufacturing, records indicate that in 1877 there were 10 distilleries producing the equivalent of 131,415 rs. and employing 65 people, 4 breweries producing 26,500 rs, employing 17 people, and a steam mill producing 1,400 rs. and employing 5 people. In addition there were 4 turpentine plants, producing 4,810 rs. employing 17 people, 4 glue producing plants with an output of 855 rs. employing 4 people, 6 brick yards, producing 4000 rs. and employing 24 people, one cheese plant producing14,000 rs. and employing 3 people, 1 shoe parts factory, producing 12,000rs.and employing 4 people.
The district administration is divided into 5 police precincts: Sielec, Kartuz-Bereza, Pruzhany, Shershew and Narewka. 22 rural administrative districts: sielec, noskowsk, rudnicky, kotran, bereza, malech, rewiatyk, cherniakow, maciejew, nikityn, dobuchyn, michalow, linowski, bajkowsk, wielkosielsk, shershew, horodechansk, staronowsk, murawiew, suchopolsk, masiewsk and bialowiesk. In addition to Pruzhany, other towns found in the district are: Bereza, Malech, Narewka, Sielec and Shershew. The district is divided into three Russian Orthodox deaneries: poznan, sielec and shershew, with 27 parishes, in addition to the two in Pruzhany. There are 14 masonry churches and 23 of timber, one masonry chapel and 14 of timber construction. The Pruzhany deanery has 10 parishes and 19,325 parishoners. The Catholic parishes in the district form one deanery, and are made up of 4 parishes: Pruzhany, Shershow, Sienewich and Kiwatych. In the past Sielec and Bereza were also included. There are two churches constructed of masonry and two of timber construction as well as a masonry chapel. There are in addition two protestant prayer houses made of timber, two Jewish synagogues of masonry construction, one prayer school built of masonry, and 19 built of timber.
The postal stations are located in Pruzhany, Shereshew, Linowa, Bereza and Tewel, the last three serve also as train stops along the Moscow-Brest rail way. In the year 1794, the Bereza district was created out of the Pruzhany district, whose only marshal was the prince Francishek Lubecki. The marshal for the nobility for the district of Pruzhany was Felicyan Grabowski (1798-1800), coat of arms Dolega, Filip Chrzanowski (1805, 1807, coat of arms Korab, Wiktor Wislouch (1807), coat of arms Odyniec, Jozef Bulharyn (1812), coat of arms Dwa Miecze (two swords), Kazimierz Moraczewski ( 1817, 1825), coat of arms Cholewa (officerís boots), Valenty Szwynkowski (1854), coat of arms Ogonczyk.