SOKOLKA, the town and the common (gmina) in Podlasie province (wojewodztwo) has also, since 1999 been the administrative center of the Sokolka District (powiat). The town area is 11 km sq. with the population of approx. 19.7 thousand, the area of the Common is 314 km sq. with the population of approx. 28500. The Common of Sokolka includes 60 villages, 52 of which are principal villages (solectwa).

The District consists of 10 commons with a total population of approx. 80000.

The first mentions of Sokolka, then a Royal village date from the late XV century. In 1609 the township has been granted the town status conferred by the Royal Charter of the king Sigismundus III Vasa.

In the XVII century the king John III Sobieski , in lieu of overdue payments, granted his mercenary Tartar commanders and their soldiers the depopulated villages of Bohoniki, Kruszyniany, Drahle, Nietupa, Malawicze and Poniatowicze. From the beginning of the XVII century Sokolka had seen the arrivals of its first Jewish settlers. Their right to settle and reside here was confirmed by the king Augustus II in the Grodno Charter on 29 December 1698. In the second half of XVIII century, the activities of the Treasurer of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Antoni Tyzenhauz were instrumental in the development of the town and significantly influenced its later urban form and layout. After the Third Partition of Poland, Sokolka until 1807 was included in the Kingdom of Prussia and then, following the Peace of Tylza transferred to the Russian Empire. The Orthodox Church of St Alexander Nevsky dates from that period and has been erected by the Russians in the middle of the XIX century.

During the period between the world wars Sokolka was a typical small and sleepy district town, famous for its horse fairs; the main industry being animal hide processing.

The population, 6000 in 1921 increased to 6882 in 1936, and included 3232 Jews and 112 members of the Orthodox Church. Between 1921 and 1936 remaining Protestants have left Sokolka.

From 1939 to 1941 as a result of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact , Sokolka was incorporated into Belorussian Soviet Republic. The town returned to Poland permanently in 1944.

Today, Sokolka is an administrative, commercial and cultural centre for the Sokolka Common and Sokolka District, but the main attraction of this area lies in its cultural and ethnic composition.

Being a typical borderland area, the region’s population forms an interesting cultural and religious mix, seldom seen elsewhere in Poland. The local subculture indicates lack of antagonisms usually present to some degree in this kind of community. The best example of this will be found in the local dialect – the mixture of Polish, Belorussian and Russian influences with the elements of German. Even though the urban population tends to use Polish in its everyday communications, significant part of the rural population regardless of its religious affiliation and ethnic identification, still uses traditional dialect resembling Belorussian.

Equally varied and interesting is religious adherence of the local population, particularly in view of the relatively small size of the community as a whole.

All three main historical religions, Catholic, Orthodox and Islam have equal rights not only in the formal, legal sense but also due to the tolerance and understanding traditionally shown to the „Others” regardless of the respective numbers of the adherents of a particular faith.

Roman Catholics form the majority, and of course by the force of numbers dominate the community, however the remaining two cultures and religions and their clergy enjoy unquestionable social standing and respect amongst the wider community without any attempts by the majority to change the status quo.

Unfortunately the tragic events of the XX century have caused the disappearance of the remaining two great religions and cultures, the representatives of which have lived and worked in this area over several centuries.
Influences of both these cultures can be seen here to this day.

The last 7 Protestants, the descendants of the artisans brought here by Antoni Tyzenhauz in the XVIII century, have left Sokolka between 1928 and 1936.

And later in the period of Holocaust, during the liquidation of the Jewish Ghetto in 1942 and 1943, the entire community of Sokolka’s Jews have been murdered by the Nazis.

Source: https://naszasokolka.wordpress.com/