Historically the capital of the Warmia region, Olsztyn has been the capital of the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship since 1999. It was previously in Olsztyn Voivodeship (1945-75 and 1975-98 in differing units).
The city is situated in a lake region of forests and plains. There are 15 lakes inside the administrative bounds of the city (13 with an area greater than 1 ha). The overall area of lakes in Olsztyn is about 725 ha, which constitutes 8.25 % of the total city area.
|Lake||Area (ha)||Maximum depth (m)|
|Lake Ukiel (Jezioro Lopsided, Jezioro Krzywe)||412||43|
|Long Lake (Jezioro Długie)||26.8||17.2|
|Lake Tyrsko (Jezioro Gutkowskie)||18.6||30.6|
|Lake Old Manor (Jezioro Stary Dwór, Jezioro Old-Manor, Jezioro Starodworskie )||6.0||23.3|
|Lake Siginek (Jezioro Hoof, Kopytko, Jezioro Horseshoe, Jezioro Podkówka, Jezioro Styginek)||6.0||insufficient data|
|Black Lake (Jezioro czarne)||approximately 1.3||insufficient data|
|Lake Wildcat (Jezioro Żbik)||approximately 1.2||insufficient data|
|Lake Pereszkowo (Jezioro Pyszkowo)||approximately 1.2||insufficient data|
|Lake Mummel (Jezioro Mumel)||approximately 0.3||insufficient data|
|Larch Lake (Jezioro Modrzewiowe)||0.25||insufficient data|
More than half of the forests occupying 21.2 % of the city area form a single complex of the Municipal Forest (1050 ha) used mainly for recreation and tourism purposes. Within the Municipal Forest area are situated two sanctuaries of the peat-land flora, Mszar and Redykajny. Municipal greenery (560 ha, 6.5 % of the town area) developed in the form of numerous parks, green spots and three over a century-old cemeteries. The greenery includes 910 monuments of nature and groups of protected trees in the form of beech, oak, maple and lime-lined avenues.
In 1346, ancient forests along the Alna River to make way for a new settlement for German settlers in Prussian Warmia. The Teutonic Knights began construction of an Ordensburg castle in 1347 to protect against Old Prussians, and the settlement of Allenstein was first mentioned the following year. The German name Allenstein meant stone [castle] on the Alle River; this became known to Masurian settlers as Olsztyn. The settlement received municipal rights from Johannes von Leysen, on 31 October 1353, and the castle was completed in 1397. Allenstein was captured by Polish troops in 1410 during the Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic War and in 1414 during the Hunger War, but was returned to the monastic state of the Teutonic Knights after hostilities ended.
Allenstein joined the Prussian Confederation in 1440. It rebelled against the Teutonic Knights in 1454 upon the outbreak of the Thirteen Years' War and requested protection from the Polish Crown. Although the Teutonic Knights captured the town in the next year, it was retaken by Polish troops in 1463. The Second Peace of Thorn (1466) allocated Allenstein and the Bishopric of Warmia as part of Royal Prussia under the sovereignty of the Crown of Poland. From 1516–21, Nicolaus Copernicus lived at the castle as administrator of Allenstein and Mehlsack (Pieniężno); he was in charge of the defenses of the town and Warmia during another war with the Teutonic Knights. Allenstein was sacked by Swedish troops in 1655 and 1708 during the Polish-Swedish wars, and the town was nearly wiped out in 1710 from epidemics of bubonic plague and cholera.
Allenstein was annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia in 1772 during the First Partition of Poland. A Prussian census recorded a population of 1,770 people, predominantly farmers, in Allenstein, which was administered within the Province of East Prussia. It was visited by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1807 after his victories over the Prussian Army at Jena and Auerstedt. The German language Allensteiner Zeitung newspaper was first published in 1841. The town hospital was founded in 1867.
Allenstein became part of the German Empire in 1871 during the Prussian-led unification of Germany. Two years later the city was connected by railway to Thorn (Toruń). Its first Polish language newspaper, Gazeta Olsztyńska, was founded in 1886. Allenstein's infrastructure developed rapidly: gas was installed in 1890, telephones in 1892, public water supply in 1898, and electricity in 1907. The city became the capital of Regierungsbezirk Allenstein, a government administrative region in East Prussia, in 1905. From 1818–1910 the city was administered within the East Prussia Allenstein District, after which it became an independent city.
Shortly after the outbreak of World War I, troops of the Russian Empire captured Allenstein in 1914, but it was recovered by the Imperial German Army. In 1920 during the East Prussian plebiscite, Allenstein voted to remain in German East Prussia instead of becoming part of the Second Polish Republic. The football club SV Hindenburg Allenstein played in Allenstein from 1921–45. After the Nazi seizure of power in 1933, Poles and Jews in Allenstein were increasingly persecuted. In 1935 the Wehrmacht made the city the seat of the Allenstein Militärische Bereich. It was the home of the 11th Infanterie Division, the 11th Artillery Regiment, and the 217th Infanterie Division.
On 12 October 1939, after the invasion of Poland beginning World War II, the Wehrmacht established an Area Headquarters of Wehrkreis I that controlled the sub-areas of Allenstein, Lötzen (Giżycko) and Zichenau (Ciechanów). Beginning in 1939, members of the Polish-speaking minority, especially members of the Union of Poles in Germany, were deported to Nazi concentration camps. Allenstein was plundered and burnt by the invading Soviet Red Army on 22 January 1945, as the Eastern Front reached the city. Allenstein's German population evacuated the region or were subsequently expelled. On 2 August 1945, the city was placed under Polish administration according to the Potsdam Agreement and officially renamed to the traditional Polish Olsztyn.
A tire factory was founded in Olsztyn in 1967.
In 1920 a plebiscite was held to determine whether the city's populace wished to remain in East Prussia or became part of Poland. In order to advertise the plebiscite, special postage stamps were produced by overprinting German stamps and sold from 3 April. One kind of overprint read PLÉBISCITE / OLSZTYN / ALLENSTEIN, while the other read TRAITÉ / DE / VERSAILLES / ART. 94 et 95 inside an oval whose border gave the full name of the plebiscite commission. Each overprint was applied to 14 denominations ranging from 5 Pf to 3 M.
The plebiscite was held on 11 July, and produced 362,209 votes (97.8 %) for East Prussia and 7,980 votes (2.2 %) for Poland. The stamps became invalid on 20 August. Despite the short period of use, almost all of the stamps are cheaply available both used and unused.
|2005 (December 31)||174,950|
Olsztyn is divided into 22 districts:
|Cormorant (Kormoran)||16,166||1.1 km²||14,696.4/km²|
|Long Lake (Nad Jeziorem Długim)||2,408||4.23 km²||569.3/km²|
|Lakeland (Pojezierze)||13,001||2.39 km²||5,439.7/km²|
|City Centre (Śródmieście)||3,448||0.58 km²||5,944.8/km²|
|Army of Poland (Wojska Polskiego)||6,759||5.03 km²||1,343.7/km²|
|Green Hillock (Zielona Górka)||1,015||6.44 km²||157.6/km²|
Members of Senate elected from Olsztyn constituency in 2005
Olsztyn is twinned with:
Olsztyn belongs to the Federation of Copernicus Cities, an association of cities where Copernicus lived and worked, such as Bologna, Frombork, Kraków, and Toruń. The main office of the federation is situated at Olsztyn Planetarium and Astronomical Observatory, located on St. Andrew's Hill (143 m) in a former water tower erected in 1897.