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BALVI (BOLWA)

           The city of Balvi is located in the northern part of the Eastern Latvian Lowland, on the shores of the Balvi and Pērkons lakes (220 km from Riga). Today Balvi is no longer the town of single storey houses and gardens that it was in the early 20th century, however the ancient neighbourhoods of Balvi still have the flavour of the region’s unusual cultural and historical past.
          History and places of interest. In ancient Latvia the present territory of Balvi included the Atzele region. After the division of the ands of 1224 (and until 1561) it belonged to the Archbishopric of Riga, and after that ruled by Poland. In 1772 the Balvi region was annexed by Russia. Initially it was merged with Pskov Province, but from 1802 it was part of Vitebsk Province.
          The present day Balvi began forming as an inhabited place in the second half of the 18th century when the wife of the Viļaka Steward District founded half a manor by the shores of Lake Balvi. The development of Balvi was facilitated by its proximity to the busy Ostrova – Riga trading road. In 1865 Balvi had the right to hold four annual fairs. In 1917 the first private trading school in Latgale was opened there, which became the State Commercial School in 1921 (this was later transferred to Rēzekne). Balvi gained a city charter in 1928. The inhabitants were mainly employed in crafts, small-scale manufacturing and trading.
          The city was badly damaged during World War II. However, the Balvi that was rebuilt and expanded after the war retains the urban atmosphere of a small trading town in late 19th – early 20th century Latgale. Those who want to savour the feeling of historic Balvi should visit the three houses of worship in the city: Holy Trinity Catholic (1804), Orthodox (1871) and Lutheran (1915) churches. The first of these is the most unusual in terms of its architectural style, combining a centric and horizontal layout.

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