Podlaskie Voivodship or Podlasian Province is located in north eastern Poland and covers an area of 20,200 sq km which constitutes 6.4% of the total area of Poland, making it the 6th largest voivodship in the country.
It is adjacent to three other polish provinces: Warmian-Mazurian on the west, Lublin and Mazovian on the south. In the north east it borders with Lithuania and in the east, Belarus. The Podlasie Voivodship borders with Lithuania are 102 km, and Belarus is 250 km in length. The region has an internal border with Lithuania and an external one with Belarus in respect of the European Union.
There are 5 road and 4 rail border crossing points.
The road border crossing points between Poland and Belarus are:
The road border crossing points between Poland and Lithuania are:
The Podlaskie Voivodship is divided into 17 Powiats (districts) including three town urban Powiats: Biaůystok, Ůomýa and Suwaůki. These are further divided into 118 gminas (13 urban, 23 urban-rural and 82 rural). The population of the region is 1.220 million people, which constitutes around 3.2% of the total population of Poland. The population density is 60 persons per km and 59% of the population is of working age. There are 36 towns and nearly 4,000 villages within the region.
The capital of the province is Biaůystok with a population of about 300,000 inhabitants making it the largest city in north east of Poland. It has the role of being the administrative, economic and scientific capital of the region and has 15 higher education institutions training students in various subjects.
The other major towns of the region are: Ůomýa, around 66,000 inhabitants, an important centre for trade and the agricultural processing industry. Suwaůki, has a population of around 70,000 people.
In 2002 there were around 95 thousand companies registered in the Podlaskie region, with 97% of them in the private sector, with; trade and servicing 33.2%, providing services in property 11.8%, construction 10.5%, industrial processing 9.7%, transport 8.3% and agriculture, hunting and forestry 4.5%.
The food, metal and light industries are of major importance to the region, as well as those based on the local wood industry. The amount of finance received by the region as a result of industry in 2002 amounted to 714.15 million zl split as follows: production of food and drinks 46.2%, production of wood, wood products and furniture 14.6%, production of and supplying electricity, gas and water 10.7%, production of machinery and appliances 4.8% and textiles 4.4%.
The Suwalki Special Economic Zone offers investment relief, creating favourable conditions for the development of private enterprises. At present, there are seven dairy companies within the province that are authorised to export to other EU countries. Also, the meat processing industry is very prosperous for the region with around 40 meat and poultry companies fulfilling the EU export trade.
Agriculture is important within the Voivodship economy and arable land constitutes around 60% of the total area of the region, most of which is ploughed land (about 40%) but also including forests, meadows and pastures. There are over a 120,000 farms registered, the majority of which (about 50%) are small farms of 1-5 ha in size or medium sized of 5–10 ha. The small farms prefer the intensive production of crops, whereas the larger ones have cattle and crop production. Those with cattle farms are mainly oriented for milk production.
The name of the region was probably derived from ‘las’ which in Polish means, forest. The area has been inhabited for centuries by peoples of different nations and religions including Belarussians, Lithuanians, Ukrainians, Russinas, Gypsies, Tatars, Jews and Filipons.
There are still many places of religious worship that remain in the region like the eighteenth century postcamedolite monastery on Wigry Lake, the postjesuit monastery complex in Drohiczyn, Christ’s Transfiguration Orthodox church on the Holy Mount of Grabarka, Saint Nicolaus the Miracle Worker Orthodox church in Biaůystok, seventeenth century synagogue in Tykocin or the oldest Polish mosque in Kruszyniany.
An interesting fact, about the town of Suchowola is that it was designated as the geographic centre of Europe in 1775. There is a place marked in the town where lines are drawn to form a cross, joining together the remotest places in Europe.
One of the most precious assets of Podlaskie is its natural surroundings. About 30% of the region is under protection. It has about 300 lakes including the deepest one in Poland, Lake Hancza. Rivers include the Bug, Narew and Biebrza.
There are four (Wigry, Biebrza, Biaůowieýa and Narew) National Parks, three (Suwaůki, Ůomýa – Narew Valley and Knyszyn Forest) landscape parks, 88 nature reserves and 15 protected landscape areas. The Voivodship constitutes a part of the ecologically clean area known as, ‘the Green Lungs of Poland’.
Podlaskie – Poland Travel Guide