BEŁZ Belzas (Lith); BELZ (Ukr). A Palatinate in the Kingdom of Poland before the partitions in the 18th century, named from its capital, which is now in western Ukraine, southeast of Lublin and west of the River Bug.
Bełz belonged to the Russian principality of Volhynia, and, with Chełm to the north, it became Lithuanian in 1336 and Polish in 1366. In 1377 Louis the Great, King of Hungary from 1342 and of Poland from 1370, attached Bełz to Galicia (or Red Russia), which he regarded as part of his Hungarian dominions. After his death in 1382, Lithuania recovered the district. Shortly afterwards, the Great Prince of Lithuania married the heiress of Poland, King Louis’s younger daughter, and Bełz was given to the Duke of Mazovia, head of the senior surviving Polish branch of the Piasts, the old ruling dynasty in Poland, as compensation for his claims to the Polish Kingdom.
Bełz returned to the Kingdom in 1462 and became the capital of a Palatinate that lay mainly, though not completely, west of the River Bug. In the first partition of Poland in 1772, most of the Palatinate became Austrian, but the northeastern corner, lying east of the Bug, remained Polish until it became Russian in the final partition of 1795.
Polish again in 1918-9, the region was divided between Poland and the Soviet Union in 1945. The town of Bełz itself is now in the Ukraine; the town of Bełzec, about 40 kilometers to the west, is in Poland.