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The town’s name originates from the Slavic term, cholm, meaning domed hill[1.1] . At the beginning of the 13th century, Daniel Romanowicz (prince of Halych) established on the current Chelm land a fortified town[1.2] . Chelm was granted a city charter in 1392. A foundation charter under the Magdeburg Law, was made by the king Jogaila[1.3] . Chelm was situated on chalk soil, the only of its kind in Middle Europe.
From the 15th century until the period of partition, the town was the seat of a castellany and an administrative district. Chelm became a capital city and a very important religious centre.
In the middle of the 17th century, Chelm was destroyed by the Cossack’s, Swedish and Moscow’s army.
During the Kosciuszko Insurrection, in 1794, on the outskirts of the town, a bloody battle between general Jozef Zajaczek army and the Russian army took place.
Prior to partition, Chelm played a significant role in the Republic of Poland[1.4] . However, the third partition of Poland diminished the significance of Chelm. It was provoked, among others, by the liquidation of the Chelm district[1.5] .
In 1795, Chelm was under Austrian rule, in 1809 part of the Duchy of Warsaw and in 1815 part of the Kingdom of Poland. In 1797, there were 1,298 inhabitants in Chelm. In 1803, the number of inhabitants increased to an estimated 2,742[1.6] .
In 1810, the number of inhabitants diminished to 1,792. After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Chelm was no longer the district capital as Krasnystaw replaced its position as the capital.
In 1870, there were 4,517 inhabitants in Chelm, twenty years later – 11, 674. In 1877, notable economic developments took into effect as a result of the building of the Vistula Railway.[1.7] . As of 1914, the total population of Chelm was 26, 380[1.8] .
During the Second World War, on 8 September 1939, a German air raid on Chelm took place. A railway station and nearby streets (Okszowska St., Sienkiewicza St.) were targets of the air raid[1.9]. On 25 September 1939, the Red Army encroached upon Chelm. On 5 October 1939, the Russian army withdrew from Chelm. On 9 October 1939, the German army once more encroached upon the city [1.10].
During Nazi occupation, there were two camps for Soviet prisoners-of-war in the town. Chelm was liberated from Nazi occupation by the Soviet army in July 1944. On July 22, 1944, the Manifesto of the Polish Committee of National Liberation (PKWN) was proclaimed there. However, its text was personally amended by Joseph Stalin in Moscow[1.11] .
[1.1] S. Warchoł, Nazwy miast Lubelszczyzny, Lublin 1964, p. 35
[1.2] Województwo chełmskie. Informator turystyczny, Chełm 1997, p. 12
[1.3] A. Gruszka, Ziemia chełmska w polityce wschodniej Kazimierza Wielkiego [in:] „Rocznik Chełmski”, vol. 7, Chełm 2001, p. 46.
[1.4] W. Ćwik, Z dziejów Chełma XIX wieku [in:] „Rocznik Chełmski”, vol. 5, Chełm 1999, p. 133
[1.5] W. Ćwik, Z dziejów..., p. 134.
[1.6] P. Kiernikowski, Mieszkańcy miasta Chełma w latach 1914-1939 (struktura demograficzna i etniczna) [in:] „Rocznik Chełmski”, vol. 6, Chełm 2000, p. 72.
[1.7] Województwo chełmskie..., p. 12.
[1.8] P. Kiernikowski, Mieszkańcy miasta Chełma..., p. 73
[1.9] P. Kiernikowski, Wrzesień 1939 na ziemi chełmskiej [in:] „Rocznik Chełmski”, vol. 4, Chełm 1998, p. 123.
[1.10] P. Kiernikowski, Wrzesień 1939..., p. 144
[1.11] Województwo chełmskie..., p. 13
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