Multiculturalism and multiethnicity in the cityscape: The case of Białystok religious landscape
Białystok is the capital of a province in north-eastern Poland. In the past the city featured ethnic, cultural and religious diversity, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Protestants, and Jews coexisted here in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Jewish communities shaped the city’s religious landscape and local identity significantly since the second half of the 19th century and until World War II when they constituted half of the city’s population. This was the biggest minority group among Polish cities. The post-Jewish landscape became invisible and silent by now. It was the result of the Nazi policy of extermination, and the anti-Semitic policy of the communist Polish authorities, as well as the attitude of Polish society towards the Jewish minority until the late 1960s. From among almost 60 synagogues and prayer houses which operated before the war, only three have survived, but they have not been in use for religious service for a long time. Białystok has also been inhabited by the so-called Polish Tatars. The Muslim community, which for centuries consisted mainly of Polish Tatars, is increasingly visible in the city, which is also the seat of Muslim Religious Union, the largest Muslim union in Poland. There is also the Białystok Centre of Islam and a house of prayer. Today’s religious landscape of the city is mostly formed by both Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. As a result of the city’s demographic and spatial development, the number of churches has grown significantly as compared to the inter-war period. The strongest and the most visible qualitative changes were observed after World War II. Multiculturalism is still important asset of the city. This paper presents the transformation of the cultural and religious landscape of Bialystok in the context of the impact of the politics and ideology from the 19th century to the present. It also highlights the importance of multiculturalism in the city landscape for the promotion and development of tourism and city branding.
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