POLOTSK, a district town of the government of Vitebsk, at the confluence of the Polota with the Dwina (Duna), 5 miles from the Smolensk and Riga Railway, is one of the oldest towns of Russia. The continuous wars, however, of which, owing to its position on the line of communica-tion between central Russia and the west, it was for many centuries the scene, have allowed almost nothing of its remarkable antiquities to remain. The " upper castle " which stood at the confluence of the rivers and had a stone-wall with seven towers, is now in ruins, as also is the " lower castle," formerly enclosed with strong walls and connected with the upper by a bridge. The numerous monasteries and convents also have disappeared. The cathedral of St Sophia in the upper castle, built in the 12th century, and successively used as a place of worship by the Greek, the Catholic, and the " United " Churches, fell to ruins in the 18th century, when the " United " bishop Grebnicki substituted a modern structure. The town is now of trifling importance, and the population (12,200 in 1880, against 13,800 in 1865) is decreasing. Upwards of two-thirds of the inhabitants are Jews ; the remainder have belonged mostly to the Greek Church since XIX. - K2 Polotesk or Poltesk is mentioned in 862 as one of the towns given by Rurik to his men, together with Byelo-ozero and Rostoff. In 980 it had a prince of its own, Rogvolod, whose daughter. is the subject of many legends. It remained an independent principality the 12th century, resisting the repeated attacks of the princes of Kieft.; those of Pskoil, Lithuania, and the Livonian knights, however, proved more powerful, and it fell under Lithuanian rule in the following century. About 1385 its independence was de-stroyed by the Lithuanian prince Witowt. It was five times besieged by Moscow in 1500-1S, and was taken by John the Terrible in 1563. Recaptured by Stephen Batory sixteen years later, it became Polish by the treaty of 1582. It was then a populous city, which, enjoying the privileges of "Magdeburg law " from I49S, carried on an active commerce, and covered a large area. Pestilenees and conflagrations were its ruin; the plague of 1566 wrought great havoc among its inhabitants, and that oi 1600 destroyed 15,000. The castles, the town, and its walls were burned in 160-7 and 1642. The Russians continued their attacks, burning and plundering the town, and twice taking possession of it for a few years, in 1633 and 1705. It was not definitively annexed, how-ever, to Russia until 1772, after the first dismemberment of Poland. In 1812 its inhabitants resisted the French invasion, and the town was partially destroyed.