Witebsk is one of the oldest towns in modern day Belarus, in the olden times it was part of the Polish province of Polesie. An exact date of the town's beginning hasn't been determined as yet. The first mention of the town dates back to the 12th century in connection with a war between the Kijow and the Polotsk Principalities . The prince of Kijow Jaroslaw Mudry gave the town on the Vitsba River to the prince of Polotsk Bryacheslav.
Witebsk first arose as a fortress for defence against invaders. It was built on the high bank of the Western Dwina River, at the point where the Witsba and the Luches rivers flow into it . Its fortifications were formed from the Upper Castle (13th century) and the Lower Castle (14th century). At the end of the 16th century and at the beginning of the 17th centuries Wzgorski Castle was also erected as a fortification.
In 1320 the Witebsk Principality was included into the structure of Lithuania. Witebsk regiments took part in the rout of the Knights of the Teutonic Order at the battle of Grunwald . At the beginning of the 18th century, during the Northern War of Sweden against Russia and Poland, Witebsk was almost completely burnt down.