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Lublin is the ninth largest city in Poland and the second largest city of Lesser Poland, a historical region that covers the south-eastern part of the country. With a population of around 350,000, it is the largest city east of the Vistula River. It is situated about 170 km (105 mi) from Poland’s capital city Warsaw.
Lublin was first settled in the early Middle Ages, most probably amongst the hills that today form the Old Town. Due to its proximity to the eastern Polish border, during the 10th and 11th centuries Lublin became an important trade center as well as military hub. Throughout the Middle Ages, the city was destroyed by the Tartars, the Ruthenes, the Yotvingians and the Lithuanians, and was consequently rebuilt. A masonry castle was built by Casimir the Great in 1341, which also resulted in the city being surrounded by walls. Since the second half of the 16th century, Lublin was home to one of Poland’s most important Jewish communities, a haven for students wishing to study yeshiva. This remained the case until the Nazi occupation from 1938-44. The city then remained under the Communist regime until the 1980s.