Minsk is the capital of Belarus and the biggest city in Belarus with 2 million inhabitants. Minsk is one of the least visited capitals of Europe among western tourists, which probably makes it more fun to go here. At the same time Minsk is a city that is really beautiful, both during summer when it houses a lot of nice street cafes and during the other three seasons. Winter may not be the best time of the year to visit Minsk but it’s one of the times when the city is considered to most beautiful, with a fabulous lighting.
First mentioned in the Medieval Chronicles under the year of 1067, Minsk, the capital of Belarus and its geographical heart, has a population of 2.0 million. The city is situated in a picturesque place on the banks of the Svisloch river which in old days used to be one of the busiest trade routes connecting the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. The climate is moderate continental with an average January temperature of –6°C and an average July temperature of +18°C.
Minsk of today is the city of wide streets, modern and old architectural ensembles, fountains, shady parks and green boulevards well deserving the opinion of being one of the best cities of the former Soviet Union.
Minsk is the city where one can find the best of the Belarusian cultural heritage — museums, exhibitions, theatres, world famous Belarusian ballet, folk dance and choir performances, etc.
Minsk is the city where everyone feels at ease. The city has lucrative geographic position (700 km West of Moscow, 900 km South of St. Petersburg, 500 km East of Warsaw, 650 km North of Kiev).
Minsk is the crossroads of the most popular European tours. It is connected by highways, railroads, and airlines with all the European capitals and with principal cities of Asia, Middle East, and North America as well.
Foreign visitors are attracted to this city by its surprisingly clean, beautiful, calm, optimistic and hospitable atmosphere just to see with their own eyes life, history, culture and traditions of the Belarusian people.
Short stories Minsk
The history of Minsk is astonishing and full of paradoxes. The city is firstly mentioned in manuscripts in connection with the battle on the Nemiga river, which took place on March 3, 1067. So the first news about the existence of the city is connected with disastrous events in its life. As for its original name — Mensk (the current name “Minsk” was acquired only in the late 17th century as a result of transferring the lands under the power of Rzecz Pospolita), there are two versions of its origin. The first one originates it from the word “menyat” (to change), which allows to make a conclusion about intensive trade activities here since ancient times. The second variant takes us to the world of legends, in which the kind giant Menesk crushes and grinds huge boulders so that the noise should scare evil people off. In any case the first mentioning of Mensk in connection with the bloody events seems to have left an imprint on its further life, which became a row of fierce battles, destructions, raids and revivals from ruins and ash. In the year 1084 Minsk was plundered and burned down by the Prince of Kiev Vladimir Monomakh. Since 1104 — Minsk is the centre of the Minsk Principality, since the 14th century — a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
The year 1241 — Minsk has hardly escaped the consequences of the Tatars’ raid, which were beaten in its environs. The year 1505 — attack on the city by the Crimean Khan Makhmet-Girey. In 1499 Minsk was granted the Magdeburg Rights. After the second partition of Rzecz Pospolita in 1793, Minsk was incorporated into the Russian Empire. The first Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party took place in Minsk on March 1–3, 1898. It declared the foundation of the party which assumed all the power in Russia in 1917, and was called later the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Situated on the cross-roads of the important trade routes, Minsk had wide commercial relations with the West and the East, during the war of 1654–1667 between Russia and Rzecz Pospolita, the North War of 1700–1721 the city was repeatedly destroyed. Early 17th century — the Northern war, early 18th century — invasion of Napoleon’s troops. In the history of Minsk it is difficult to find even 100 years, that were lived by the city peacefully and without shocks, the most horrible of which was WW II. When on July 3, 1944 the Soviet troops entered the liberated Minsk, the city was just a pile of smoking wreckage — 80 % of the buildings were ruined, only forty five thousand people out of 270,000 citizens of the capital survived. The view was really terrible, and for some time the government has been even considering restoration of the city inexpedient suggesting to transfer the capital to a new place. Fortunately, such extreme measures didn’t come true and, thanks to that, today you can get to know this city of hard and interesting fate.
On July 27, 1990 a Declaration of the State Sovereignty of the Republic of Belarus was adopted in Minsk. On December 8, 1991 the leaders of Belarus, Russia and the Ukraine signed an agreement on creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) with Minsk being the administrative centre.
Today Minsk is distinguished by its straight arrow-like wide avenues, freely-spread parks, comfortable labyrinths of streets and friendly people. The guests of the capital say that Minsk is one of the cleanest and most green cities of Europe, and that’s really true. Certainly, the destructive history has left its imprint on its face and other European cities can offer a traveller a considerably greater choice of ancient and architectural monuments. However, a curious mind will undoubtedly appreciate the bright originality of Minsk — perhaps, it’s the only city in the world with a one-thousand-year history, completely destroyed as a result of a war and restored due to the enthusiasm of architects and citizens within several decades. Quite unique is the planning of the city with its main road — Nezavisimosti avenue (Nezalezhnosti avenue), translated in English as Independence Avenue (more than 11 km long), which crosses four central squares (Oktyabrskaya, Victory, Kolas and Nezavisimosti (Independence) squares). The design of Nezavisimosti avenue is a marvellous example of the 20th century Soviet architecture, of the so-called “Stalinist” construction style.
The buildings decorated with arcs, columns and stucco moulding, look extremely solemn and remind the grandeur of the Ancient Rome, and the avenue width underlines the magnificent panorama. Modern planning of the city and its original architecture are the quintessence of the 20th century: from the modest house of the I Congress of the Russian social-democratic worker’s party — the leader of the great revolution, that had shaken the world, to the grandiose edifice of the Republic Palace, that has been under construction for 15 years and now surprises the guests with its gloomy colossal size. Not many real ancient monuments have remained in Minsk, that’s why even brighter shine these pearls embedded in the contemporary city scenery — architecturally various Orthodox and Catholic churches,
the oldest one of which is a small St. Peter and Paul church dated by 1613; dwelling houses of the 18–19th centuries, representing various styles from classicism to eclectics and neo-baroque.
One of the most interesting quarters in Minsk is the so called “Upper town”, ascending from the banks of the river Svisloch to the Freedom Square. Two main churches of two main confessions in Belarus are situated here — the Orthodox Saint Spirit Cathedral and the Catholic Saint Virgin Mary Cathedral. Medieval spirit hovers in these small streets, which is promoted by the houses in baroque and eclectics styles, and the building of Masons’ House, which is surrounded with legends even nowadays.
The Rakov suburb is of not less interest: here there is the Minsk castle area — the oldest part of the city. Excavations here resulted in finding marks and signs dated back to the XI century — the remnants of several streets and buildings.
The Troitskoye suburb is, perhaps, the most well-known part of the city. Frankly if cannot be called really historical — this is just a reconstruction of the 19th century buildings, but it is performed with such fantasy and love that no one can resist its fascination! Red tiled roofs, fairy-tale small houses, mysteriously tangled cobbled streets and comfortable yards — all this, mixed up with lots of pleasant cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops attract the citizens of Minsk and its guests to “Troyka”, as people use to call this place with sympathy. And still Minsk, as any other city, is just streets, bridges and buildings, no matter how old or modern they are. The fascination of Minsk is in its special aura, which is noticed by all people coming here. Tranquillity, tolerance and goodwill — these are the distinctive features of its people, transferred to their city. Guests, who come here for the first time, usually notice that they feel here as comfort- ably as at home. Walk slowly along wide streets, sit for a while in shady parks, plunge in the noisy fuss of markets and try to dream sitting at stone-framed Svisloch banks.
Minsk has always been a place of contact and mutual penetration of different cultures, the crossroads where the Catholic West and the Orthodox Russia met. For hundreds of years Minsk had seen peaceful coexistence of Belarusians, Jews, Russians, Poles, Lithuanians, and Tartars…
Minsk’s modern look was formed on the ruins after World War II. Minsk is considered one of the best cities of the former Soviet Union. The city is well planned and despite its spacious and wide streets and squares it looks quite compact. Two diameters lie in the core of the city’s layout — the most prestigious Nezavisimosti Avenue with the main squares (Independence, Oktyabrskaya, Victory and Yakub Kolas Squares) and perpendicularly to the Avenue a water-green diameter along Pobediteley (Pieramozhcau av.) Avenue, which can be translated in English as a Winners Avenue, making a cascade of water reservoirs, parks and public gardens.
The historical centre of the city is the recently restored Troitskoye Predmestie and the Upper Town (now the Liberty Square region). Take our advice and have a walk along Nezavisimosti Avenue from Independence Square with the House of Government (1933), Lenin Monument (1933) and the Red Sts. Simon and Alena Cathedral (1910) down to Victory Square with the Victory Monument (1954) and the house-museum of the first Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party.
Some interesting facts about Minsk and Belarus
Belarus Healthcare system
Since independence in 1991, the organizational structure of the health care system of the Republic of Belarus has not changed drastically. The health care system of the Republic of Belarus is regulated by the state. The private health care sector within the volume of the provided medical services amounts to about 7.0 %
By the Bloomberg data of healthcare system efficacy in 2015 Belarus was on 47th place and has highest rank among all post-Soviet countries and even more effective than in USA . In 2014 Belarus was on 42nd place.
Oncology - nowadays centralisation of oncological patients are occur in Belarus. The treatment of oncology patients are provided in special oncology centres, big city hospitals with University surgical chairs also licensened for surgery, but mainly oncology patients are directed to the oncology centres. N.N. Alexandrov Cancer Center of Belarus is head of all oncology institutions in country.
Famous people of Belarus
There are many interesting Famous People of Belarus, who changed the history of the world, were born in Belarus, lived in it or had a background in our country. Here are just about some famous Belarusians. You've heard those names, but did not know that Belarus has been their homeland.
Kazimir Semenovich - the inventor of the multi-stage rocket (1651), author of "The Great Art of Artillery".
Jakub Narkevich-Etka - discoverer of electrographic and transmission of electrical signals.
Ignatius Domeyko - Chilean national hero, the founder of the University of Santiago.
German Ninkovski - a great German mathematician and physicist.
Alexander Kovalevsky proved the unity of evolutionary animals. His brother Vladimir - the founder of evolutionary paleontology.
Shmuel Aaron and Isaac Vanskalasery - creators of the U.S. film company Warner Bros. (Their parents are originally from Belarus).
Louis Mayer - the founder and leader of the American film company Metro Goldwyn Mayer. Louis was born in Minsk.
Thaddeus Kosciuszko - a national hero of the United States, it is named after the tallest mountain in Australia.
Alexander Chizhevsky - founder heliobiology.
Aleksander Malinowski created the foundations of cybernetics.
Pavel Sukhoi - aircraft.
Rafal Charvyakovski - the father of Polish surgery.
Ilya Kopievich created the font, which we now use (a few decades, when Peter the Great called him "the Belarusian alphabet"), was a teacher at the Peter I, introduced in the printing Arabic numerals, published in 1700 Aesop's Fables, published the first map of the sky.
Composers: Mikhail Glinka, Stanislaw Moniuszko, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Modest Mussorgsky, Dmitri Shostakovich, Igor Stravinsky.
Artists: Kazimir Malevich, Marc Chagall, Evsey Moiseev, Nadezhda Khodasevich-Lazhe.
Printers: Ivan Fedorov, Francis Skaryna, Peter Mstislavets, Ivan Litvin.
Writers: Fyodor Dostoevsky, Dmitry Pisarev, Michael Isakovsky, Alexander Twardowski, Yaroslav Smelyakov, Yuri Alyosha, Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Aleksandr Griboyedov, Alexander Green, Vladimir Vysotsky.
Other facts about Belarus:
1. Popular Viber and MSQRD applications for electronic devices was created in Belarus by Belarusians.
2. Netgaming service and Visor interactive were founded by Belarusians.
3. (2013) Belarus was ranked the 30thamong the world’s best countries providing offshore programming services. World’s largest outsourcing companies are situated in Belarus – EPAM, Itransition.
4. Svetlana Alexievich, Winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 2015;
5. Marc Shagal, world famous painter;
6. Minsk is a very compact city. Its population density is nearly 2 times higher than for example the population density of Beijing, the capital of China.
7. About 30% of Belarus territory is covered with forests. Belarus has 4000 lakes and 3000 rivers.
8. Most of the oldest buildings in Belarus are from the Soviet times, as it was nearly completely destroyed during the World War II.
9. Every 4thBelarusian died during the World War II. You will find numerous monuments devoted to the war in Belarus.
10. There are 2 official languages in Belarus – Belarusian and Russian. Almost no one speaks Belarusian, but many feel guilty about it.
11. Belarusian national cuisine is evolving around potatoes. The most popular dish is potato pancakes.
12. It is not allowed to openly drink alcohol outside in public spaces.
13. Tractors Belarus, trucks and buses MAZ, fertilizers, dairy products, nylon stockings Conte, underwear Milavitsa and programming services are some of the most famous exports from Belarus. Large scale industry makes up the core of the Belarus economy.
14. Since gambling is prohibited in Ukraine and Russia, Belarusian casinos are very popular among the citizens of the neighboring countries. There are about 400 registered gambling establishments in Belarus.
Here are some video files about Belarus:
Welcome to Minsk — the city, where no one feel alien!