The history of Grodno oblast is rooted in hoary antiquity. Its territory was inhabited in late Paleolithic age. The most ancient sites were situated at Lake Svityaz, near Chereshlya village, the Novogrudok region, Nesilovichi village, the Dyatlov region and Zblyany village, the Lida region and near the mouth of the River Kotra.
In the end of the first– beginning of the second millennium inter-ethnic relations in Grodno oblast were strained. The territory was inhabited by eastern Slavic tribes (Dregovichi, Krivichi, Volynyane, Drevlyane), western Slavic tribes (Mozovshane), eastern Baltic tribes (Lithuania) and western Baltic tribes (Yatvagi). In the second half of the first millennium the Slavic colonization began. Advancing deeper into the territory of Grodno oblast, the Slavic people gradually assimilated the Baltic pagan tribes who had lived there from time immemorial. The assimilation continued until the 12th – 13th centuries.
By the beginning of the 12th century a significant part of Ponemanye (territory along the Neman River) was ruled by the Kievan Rus. At that time big cities began to emerge – Grodno (1128), Novogrudok (1212), Volkovysk, Slonim (1252) and Lida (1380). The 12th – first half of the 14th centuries witnessed the Grodno, Novogrudok and Volkovysk principalities on the territory of the present-day oblast. Those independent formations visualized the common pattern of political and socio-economic development of the eastern Slavic lands which formed a part of the Kievan Rus. The latter was a spring of the fraternal Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian peoples. The principalities, like other western Russian territories, were constantly raided into by the Mongolians. More than two centuries the territories served as an outpost fighting back the Crusaders.
The above-mentioned circumstances were the reason for founding of a multinational state in 13th – 14th centuries – the Great Principality of Lithuania, Russia and Jemoit. Novogrudok became the first capital of that country.
Given the war on the Crusaders, in 1385 in Krewo Castle, the Smorgon region, a well-known the Union Treaty of Krewo was concluded which kick-started unification of the Great Principality of Lithuania and Poland.
The Battle of Grunwald, 1410, was a milestone in the war for independence against foreign aggression. Troops from Grodno, Volkovysk, Lida and other towns fought next to the Belarusian, Russian and Polish regiments in the battle and contributed to the great victory against the Teutonic Knights. At that time, when the Belarusian state only started to take shape, typical traits of the Belarusians were visualized including national tolerance, desire to cooperate with other peoples, respect for their culture and traditions and no aggression towards the neighbors.
In the 12th-16th centuries towns and villages of Grodno oblast gained political and economic importance. Some of them (Grodno, Novogrudok, Slonim and others) were granted the Magdeburg Right. Grodno region, as an administrative and territorial unit, was one of the most advanced and prosperous in the country.
After the second and the third partitions of the Rzecz Pospolita in 1793 and 1795 the territory of the present-day Grodno oblast was included into the Russian Empire. In 1801 Grodno province was founded which soon developed into one of the best economic performers among other Russian provinces. In 1890 there were more than 70 factories and plants in Grodno alone which employed more than two thousand people. The biggest enterprise in Belarus was Grodno tobacco factory. Wood-working industry was flourishing in Slonim, production of stockings – in Dyatlovo, tanning manufacture – in Smorgon and Oshmyany.
Following the provisions of the Treaty of Riga, in 1921 the territory of Grodno oblast was included into Poland and in September 1939 was made part of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1939-1941 in Grodno manufacturers opened a footwear store, sewing and furniture companies, bakery plant. Also there appeared an educational establishment to train teachers, a Polish theater and historic and regional archives.
During the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) partisans in the region offered stiff and valiant resistance against the Nazis. Thousands of Grodno residents showed valor fighting with the enemy. The Nazis destroyed more than 120 industrial enterprises, almost all kolkhozes and machine-building and tractor stations.
On September 20, 1944 Grodno oblast was proclaimed with the center in Grodno. With up-tempo revival and reconstruction efforts underway, 1945 saw inaugurations of cement factory Pobeda (Victory), Mosty veneer factory, a tobacco factory and tannery, etc. New branches of economy appeared, such as textile, chemical and machine-building. Agriculture was given a considerable boost. In 1967, in recognition of the economic achievements, Grodno oblast was awarded with the Order of Lenin. Titles of the Hero of Socialist Labor were bestowed upon 49 Grodno residents. Medals and orders were conferred on another 14 thousand oblast dwellers.