belarus.org.uk

Minsk the capital of Belarus

The capital of Belarus Minsk is the capital of the Republic of Belarus and its industrial, political, scientific and cultural centre. Its population is about 1.8 million people. The city is situated in the heart of Belarus - on the crossroads of trade routes from the East to the West and from the North to the South.

The information below is very general and we believe it will be of use to all visitors to Minsk whether they are tourist or business people..

Historically Minsk is an ancient Russian town founded in 1067. In the 'Annals of Past Years' Minsk (or ancient Menesk and later Mensk called so up to the beginning of the 20th century). Minsk was mentioned in the entry of 1067 as a fortress in the Polotsk Principality situated on the banks of the Svisloch and the Nerniga rivers and surrounded by swamps and woods..

There are several opinions as to the city's name. Some historians refer to an old legend about Menesk (or Minch), a man of extraordinary physical strength who used to protect the town from enemies. Others believe that the name has something to do with the Menka River, some 16 km. to the West of the city's present location). Still others are sure that the towns name was derived from the Slavonic word "mena" (barter, exchange) because in the ancient times there used to be a barter market where the merchants from many countries of Europe and Asia struck deals and exchanged their goods.

These theories may appear sensible to an extent, but the fact is that Minsk has a very advantageous geographic position. This is why its history is full of blood-shedding warfare. The first one known to the scholars was registered in 'The Lay of lgor's Host'. The unknown author described the battle on the banks of the Nemiga River in March of 1067 as a vicious and senseless massacre, after which Minsk was ruined, its men murdered and women and children enslaved..

By the end of 11th century Minsk branched away from the Polotsk principality to form a separate Minsk Principality, Gleb Vseslavich being its 1st prince. In the beginning of the 14th century the Minsk Principality was incorporated by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, a powerful medieval state with the Belarussians taking up about 80% of its population. In 1499 under the Magdeburg Law the city was granted the right of self-government and land ownership, as well as certain privileges relating to crafts, commerce, duties, etc. In 1569 the Grand Duchy of Lithuania united with Polish Kingdom to form a joint state of Rzeczpospolita. Not idealising this union of the two countries we would like to note it was an example of European integration which took place more than 400 years ago to observe the common interests of the parties. Unfortunately, Rzeczpospolita was doomed to destruction and in 1793 the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was unified with the Russian Empire, Minsk being transformed into a gubernia (province) centre.