Vilnia (also Vilnius, Vilna, Wilno), second capital, after Navahradak, of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Ruś, and Samogitia (GDL) and since 1940 capital of the Lithuanian state. According to some researchers, the city was founded in the 11th century by the Slavic tribe of Kryvichans who had settled in the area around the sixth or seventh century and lived scattered among the Balts. The first mention of Vilnia in written sources appears in a treaty between the GDL and the Livonian Order in 1323. Much of Belarusian history is connected with Vilnia, where in 1511 there were 14 Orthodox churches and only seven Catholic ones. Many milestone Belarusian publications are connected with this city, among them Francišak Skaryna'sApostle, Leu Sapieha's third Code of the GDL, and Naša Niva. Vilnia University was alma mater to many outstanding figures in Belarusian history.
In 1795, the city was incorporated into the Russian Empire and became a hub of Belarusian, Polish, Jewish, Lithuanian, and Russian life and much of the political activity of all these nationalities. For a two-month period in 1919, Vilnia was the center of the Lithuanian-Belarusian SSR. After World War I, the city became a source of tension between Poland and Lithuania when the former annexed the city in 1920. In interwar Poland, Vilnia was a cultural center of Belarusian life. Belarusian political parties, publications, and cultural institutions were headquartered in Vilnia. In 1939, soon after West Belarus was incorporated into the Belarusian SSR, the Soviet government transferred the city to Lithuania. Under the Soviet regime, Belarusian life in Vilnia was almost extinguished mainly as a result of political repression and deportations of Belarusian leaders. Since the late 1980s, Belarusian activities in Vilnia have been renewed. According to the 1989 census, over 30,000 Belarusians live in the city. They have a cultural society, radio broadcasts, a school, and a newspaper. When the Belarusian Popular Front faced hurdles in getting organized in Miensk in 1989, Lithuanian authorities gave the organizers permission to hold their convention in Vilnia. Lithuanians continued to help the Belarusian democratic opposition when it faced censorship from the Łukašenka regime, to publish several independent newspapers in Vilnia, which were then disseminated in Belarus.