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The name Chełm originates from the Slavic term cholm meaning domed hill.[1.1] At the beginning of the 13th century, Daniel Romanowicz, prince of Halych, established a fortified town in the area that is now Chełm[1.2] Chełm was granted a city charter in 1392 by King Jogaila, which placed the town under the Magdeburg Law.[1.3]Chełm was situated on a unique bed of chalk soil, the only geological area of its kind in Central Europe.

From the 15th century until the Partitions, the town was the seat of a castellany and an administrative district. Chełm became a capital city and an important religious centrer of the region.

In the middle of the 17th century, Chełm was destroyed by the Cossack, Swedish and Muscovite armies.

During the Kosciuszko Uprising in 1794, a bloody battle took place between general Jozef Zajaczek army and the Russian army on the outskirts of the town.
Prior to the Partitions, Chełm played a significant role in the Republic of Poland[1.4] . However, the third partition of Poland diminished the town's significance. This was the result of the liquidation of the Chelm district, among other factors.[1.5]

In 1795, Chełm was under Austrian rule and in 1809 became part of the Duchy of Warsaw. In 1815, it was subsumed into the Kingdom of Poland. In 1797, there were 1,298 inhabitants in Chełm. 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, Chełm was no longer the district capital, as Krasnystaw replaced its former position.

In 1870, there were 4,517 people living in Chełm, twenty years later the population boomed to 11,674. In 1877, notable economic development followed the construction of the Vistula Railway.[1.7]  By 1914, the total population of Chełm was 26,380.[1.8]

During the Second World War, on 8 September 1939, a German air raid on Chełm 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 arrived in Chełm. On 5 October 1939, the Russian army withdrew from Chełm. 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 in the town. However, its text was personally amended by Joseph Stalin in Moscow.[1.11]


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[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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