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Rezekne (Latvian: Rēzekne pronounced [ˈrɛːzekne] ( listen); Latgalian Rēzne pronounced [rʲæːzʲnʲæ] or Rēzekne pronounced [ˈrʲæːzʲækʲnʲæ]; German: Rositten; Polish: Rzeżyca) is a city in the
Latgalia region of eastern Latvia in Rēzekne River valley, also known by the nickname Latgales sirds (Latgalian Latgolys sirds) meaning The Heart of Latgalia. Built on seven hills,
Rēzekne is situated 242 kilometres (150 miles) east of Riga, and 63 kilometres (39 miles) west of the Latvian-Russian border, at the intersection of the Moscow – Riga and
Warsaw – Saint Petersburg Railways. It has a population of 35,883 (2008), making it the 7th largest city in Latvia.
In the 19th century, the population of Rēzekne was around 2/3 Jewish. As a result of the Pale of Settlement many Jews settled in Latgalia and were confined to the cities. The remainder of the population included Poles, Germans, Russians, and an extreme minority of native Latgalians. With the economic development and the arrival of the railroad, the population grew steadily, reaching 23,000 by the eve of World War I.
After Latvia's independence in 1918, the population of ethnic Latvians in the city grew substantially, but Jews still made up slightly over a quarter of the population (25.4% in 1935.) In 1939, the population was 13,000. During World War II, the Jewish population was annihilated, and most other residents were either deported to Gulag camps in Siberia, or fled westwards. As a result, the post-war population was 5,000.
As part of the Soviet Union's policy of Russification, many ethnic Slavs, such as Russians and Belarusians, moved to the city. By 1989, Russians accounted for the majority of the population, at 53%. After Latvia's independence in 1991, however, many people repatriated to Russia.
In 1991, the population of Rēzekne was 43,156. Since then, the population has decreased to 32,295 (2011), caused by a low birth rate, an old population (the average age in Rēzekne is 40.3 years) (see ageing of Europe), and a high rate of emigration to larger cities such as Riga.