The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







Minsk (Belarusian: Мінск (offical spelling in Belarus), Менск; Russian: Минск) (population 1.8 million) is the capital of Belarus and headquarters of the Commonwealth of Independent States. As a capital, Minsk has a special administrative status.

During 19191991 Minsk was the capital of the Byelorussian SSR.

Minsk is also the capital of Minsk voblast (Minsk province) and Minsk raion.

Minsk is situated by the Svislach and Niamiha rivers.



Legend has it that a giant called Menesk or Mincz had a mill on the banks of a river nearby the city. He used to grind stones for making bread in order to feed his warriors. The name "Minsk", also known as Mensk in the Belarusian language, more likely comes from the word мена (miena, "barter" in English) based on the city's long commercial history.

By the 10th century, Prince Rahvalod (Ragnvald in Norse), of Viking origin, ruled a principality named Polotsk, which included Minsk. The first recorded mention of Minsk dates from 1067, when a bloody battle between Polotsk and Kiev principalities took place on Niamiha river banks.

In 1326 Minsk became a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, a common Belarusian-Lithuanian state that after the Union of Lublin in 1569 formed part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In 1499 Minsk received its city charter.

In 1655 Minsk was conquered by Tsar Alexei of Russia but it was soon regained by Jan Kasimir, King of Poland (1648-1668). It was annexed by Russia in 1793 as a consequence of the Second Partition of Poland.

In the 19th century under Russian rule the city grew, becoming an important rail junction. In 1897 the city had 91,494 inhabitants, with about one third of them being Jews.

In 1919 and in 1920 the city was controlled by the Second Polish Republic in the course of the Polish-Bolshevik war. Later it was occupied by the Soviet Russia under the terms of the Peace of Riga and became the capital of Byelorussian SSR, one of the constitutent republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The Minsk area became a centre for the Soviet partisan movement behind enemy lines during the Great Patriotic War, and therefore Minsk was awarded the communist title Hero City in 1974. During the war the city was almost completely destroyed and only a few historical buildings were standing. Most of the churches were destroyed during World War II and in the years after blown up by the communist authorities, there are just several remaining ones, for example, Catholic Kalvaryja.

The first section of the Minsk subway opened in 1984 and now the network, which is called Metro like in many other European cities, consists of two lines. Both of the lines have extensions that are presently under construction. In addition, Minsk has extensive networks of buses, trolleybuses and trams.

The city grew rather rapidly after World War II, so that surrounding villages became mikrorayons, districts of high-density apartment housing. After the Chernobyl disaster, some of the displaced residents of the affected areas moved into Minsk, particularly into the Malinauka and Shabany mikrorayons. Even though the Minsk Ring Automobile Road surrounds the city, there are now some mikrorayons beyond the ring, such as Uruchye and Shabany. A new mikrorayon called Loshitsa was developed during the 1990's, though it is inside the ring. There is a Kurapaty forest in the outskirts, near the Ring Road, where in 1937-1941 tens of thousands of Belarusans were shot by the Communists.

Historical names

  • Mensk (Менск), the historical name the Belarusian opposition tends to use.
  • Polish: Mińsk, used when Belarus was under the Polish rule.


Minsk has two airports. Minsk-1 is located just south of the city center and has mostly domestic flights. It might be redeveloped into a housing district sometime in the future. The other airport, located far east of town, is Minsk-2. It is an international airport with flights to Austria, Cyprus, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Poland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and other countries, operated by the national carrier Belavia. The Minsk central train station was modernized recently.

Minsk is very industrialized and produces tractors, gears, trucks, textiles, ice cream, refrigerators, television sets, radios, bicycles and countless other consumer items. However, unemployment and underemployment are quite common these days.

External links

Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04