Brest ( be|Брэст|Brest, ; russian: Брест|Brest, ; pl|Brześć; lt|Brasta; uk|Берестя|Berestia; yi|בריסק|Brisk), formerly Brest-Litovsk ( be|links=no|Берасце, Берасце Літоўскі (Брэст-Лiтоўск); lt|links=no|Lietuvos Brasta; pl|links=no|Brześć Litewski, ), Brest-on-the-Bug ( pl|links=no|Brześć nad Bugiem), is a city (population 350,616 in 2019) in Belarus
at the border with Poland
opposite the Polish city of Terespol
, where the Bug
rivers meet. It is the capital city of the Brest Region
The city of Brest is a historic site of many cultures. It hosted the important historical events, such as the Union of Brest
and Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
. The Brest Fortress
was recognized by the Soviet Union
as the Hero Fortress
in honor of the defense of Brest Fortress
in June 1941.
For most of the medieval times, the city was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
. It became part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
in 1569. As a result of the Partitions of Poland
, it was incorporated into the Russian Empire
in 1795. After World War I
, the city was conquered by the Second Polish Republic
. During the Invasion of Poland
by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union in 1939, the city was first captured by the Wehrmacht
and soon passed on to the USSR in accordance with the German–Soviet Frontier Treaty
. In 1941, it was retaken by the Germans during Operation Barbarossa
. The city was part of the Belarusian SSR
until the breakup of the USSR in 1991. Brest is now a part of the independent Belarus
Several theories attempt to explain the origin of the city's name. It may have come from the Slavic root ''beresta'' meaning "birch
", or "bark"
. The name could also originate from the Slavic root ''berest'' meaning "elm
". Or it could have come from the Lithuanian
word ''brasta'' meaning "ford"
Once a center of Jewish scholarship, the city has the Yiddish
name (), hence the term "Brisker"
used to describe followers of the influential Soloveitchik
family of rabbi
s. Traditionally, Belarusian-speakers called the city ().
Brest became a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
in 1319. In the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
formed in 1569 the town became known in Polish
as , historically (literally: "Lithuanian Brest", in contradistinction to Brześć Kujawski
). became part of the Russian Empire
under the name or (russian: Брест-Литовск, , literally "Lithuanian Brest") in the course of the Third Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
in 1795. After World War I, and the rebirth of Poland in 1918, the government of the Second Polish Republic
renamed the city as ("Brest on the Bug") on March 20, 1923. After World War II the city became part of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic
with the name simplified as Brest.
Brest's coat of arms, adopted on January 26, 1991, features an arrow pointed upwards and a bow (both silver) on a sky-blue shield. An alternative coat of arms has a red shield. Sigismund II Augustus
, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, first granted Brest a coat of arms in 1554.
The city was founded by the Slavs
. As a town, Brest – ''Berestye'' in Kievan Rus
– was first mentioned in the ''Primary Chronicle
'' in 1019 when the Kievan Rus
took the stronghold from the Poles. It is one of the oldest cities in Belarus. It was hotly contested between the Polish rulers (kings, principal dukes and dukes of Masovia
) and Kievan Rus princes, laid waste by the Mongols
in 1241 (see: First Mongol invasion of Poland
), and was not rebuilt until 1275. Later it was part of the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
In the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
In 1390 Brest became the first city in the lands that now are Belarus to receive Magdeburg rights
. In 1419 it became a seat of the starost in the newly created Trakai Voivodeship
Its suburbs were burned by the Teutonic Knights
in 1379. In 1409 it was a meeting place of King Władysław II Jagiełło
, Grand Duke Vytautas the Great
and a Tatar khan
under the Archbishop Mikołaj Trąba
's initiative, to prepare for war with the Teutonic Knights. In 1410 the town mustered a cavalry banner that participated in the Polish-Lithuanian victory at the battle of Grunwald
In 1500 it was burned again by Crimean Tatars
. In 1566, following the decree of Sigismund II Augustus
, a new voivodeship was created - Brest Litovsk Voivodeship
During the union of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth
under king Sigismund III Vasa
), diets were held there. In 1594 and 1596 it was the meeting-place of two remarkable councils of regional bishops of the Roman-Catholic Church
and Eastern Orthodox Church
. The 1596 council established the Uniate Church
(known also as the Belarusian Greek Catholic Church
in Belarus and Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church
In 1657, and again in 1706, the town and castle were captured by the Swedes
during their invasions
of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. In an attack from the other direction, on January 13, 1660 the invading Muscovite
army under Ivan Andreyevich Khovansky
took the Brest Castle
in an early morning surprise attack, the town having been captured earlier, and massacred the 1,700 defenders and their families (according to an Austrian observer, Captain Rosestein).
On July 23, 1792 a battle was fought between the regiments of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania defending the town and the invading Russian Imperial Army.
On September 19, 1794 the area between Brest and Terespol
was the site of a battle
won by the invading Russian Imperial army led by Suvorov
over a Polish-Lithuanian division under General Karol Sierakowski
. Thereafter, Brest was annexed by Russia when the Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth was partitioned for the third time
During Russian rule in the 19th century, Brest Fortress
was built in and around the city. The Russians demolished the Polish Royal Castle and most of the Old Town "to make room" for the fortress.
World War I
During World War I
, the town was captured by the Imperial German Army
on August 25, 1915, during the Great Retreat of 1915
. Shortly after Brest fell into German hands, war poet August Stramm
, who has been called "the first of the Expressionist
s" and one of, "the most innovative poets of the First World War," was shot in the head during an attack on nearby Russian positions on September 1 1915.
In March 1918, in the Brest Fortress on the western outskirts of Brest at the confluence of the Bug River and Mukhavets Rivers, the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
was signed, ending the war between Soviet Russia
and the Central Powers
and transferring the city and its surrounding region to the sphere of influence of the German Empire. This treaty was subsequently annulled by the treaties which ended the war and even more so by events and developments in Germany and Eastern Europe. During 1918, the city became a part of the Podolia Governorate
of the Ukrainian People's Republic
as a result of negotiations and own treaty between delegation of the Ukrainian Central Rada
and Central Powers.
The Second Polish Republic
Following the Polish–Soviet War
Brest became part of the Second Polish Republic
, with borders formally recognized by the Treaty of Riga
of 1921. It was renamed Brześć nad Bugiem on March 20, 1923 (''Brest on the Bug'') in Poland, and named the capital of the Polesie Voivodeship
in accordance with the pre-1795
tradition. In the twenty years of Poland's sovereignty, of the total of 36 brand new schools established in the city, there were ten public, and five private Jewish schools inaugurated, with Yiddish
and Hebrew as the language of instruction. The first ever Jewish school in Brześć history opened in 1920, almost immediately after Poland's return to independence. In 1936 Jews constituted 41.3% of the Brześć population, or 21,518 citizens. Some 80.3% of private enterprises were run by Jews.
[Norman Davies, ''God's Playground'' (Polish edition), Second volume, p.512-513] [
] [Stosunki polsko-białoruskie pod okupacją sowiecką](_blank)
(''Polish-Byelorussian relations under the Soviet occupation''). ''Bialorus.pl''
The Polish Army
troops of the 9th Military District along with its headquarters were stationed in Brest Fortress.
During the German Invasion of Poland
in 1939 the city was defended by a small garrison of four infantry battalions under General Konstanty Plisowski
against the XIX Panzer Corps of General Heinz Guderian
. After four days of heavy fighting the Polish forces withdrew southwards on September 17 (see: Battle of Brześć Litewski
). The Soviet invasion of Poland
began on the same day and as a result the Soviet Red Army
entered the city at the end of September 1939 in accordance with the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact
's Secret Protocol, and a joint Nazi-Soviet military parade
took place on September 22, 1939. While Belarusians consider it a reunification of the Belarusian nation under one constituency (BSSR
at that time), Poles consider it the date when the city was lost. During the Soviet control (1939–41) the Polish population was subject to arrests, executions and mass deportations to Siberia
and the Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan
The city had an overwhelmingly Jewish population in the Russian Partition
: 30,000 out of 45,000 total population according to Russian 1897 census, which fell to 21,000 out of 50,000 according to the Polish census of 1931
[Christopher R. Browning, ''Nazi policy, Jewish workers, German killers']
Google Print, p.124
Operation Barbarossa and beyond
On June 22, 1941, Brest Fortress and the city were attacked by Nazi Germany on the first day of Operation Barbarossa, Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union. The fortress held out for six days. Abandoned by the Soviet army, nearly all its defenders perished. The Germans placed Brest under the administration of the ''Reichskommissariat Ukraine''. The remaining municipal Jewish population (about 20,000) was sequestered in the Brest ghetto established by the German authorities in December 1941, and later murdered in October 1942. Only seven Jews survived the Nazi executions.
[ The city was liberated by the Red Army on July 28, 1944.
In early 2019, a mass grave containing the remains of 1,214 people was found in the Brest Ghetto area during a construction project. Most are believed to have been Jews who were killed by the Nazis.
Brest lies astride the Mukhavets River, that is known to Bresters as "the river". The river flows west through the city, dividing it into north and south, and meets the Bug River in the Brest Fortress. The river flows slowly and gently. You can hop into a tire innertube and take a relaxing float down this river. Today the river looks quite broad in Brest. The terrain is fairly flat around Brest. The river has an extremely broad floodplain, that is about across. Brest was subject to flooding in the past. One of the worst floods in recorded history occurred in 1974.
A part of the floodplain was reclaimed by method of hydraulic mining. In the 1980s big cutter-suction dredgers were mining sand and clay from the riverbed, to build up the banks. After the dredging the river became deeper and the riverbanks higher. Today the river does not overflow its banks.
In the 2000s, two new residential areas were developed in the southwest of Brest.
To the east of Brest the Dnieper-Bug Canal was built in the mid-nineteenth century to join the river to the Pina, a tributary of the Pripyat River which in turn drains into the Dnieper River. Thus Brest has a shipping route all the way to the Black Sea. If not for a dam and neglected weirs west of Brest, north-western European shipping would be connected with the Black Sea also.
Brest has a humid continental climate, but slightly leans towards oceanic due to the irregular winter temperatures that mostly hover around the freezing point. Summers are warm and influenced by its inland position compared to areas nearer the Baltic sea.
Points of interest
thumb|A southern stretch of the ring barracks of the Citadel with a projecting semi-tower on the left
A majestic Soviet-era war memorial was constructed on the site of the 1941 battle to commemorate the known and unknown defenders of the Brest Fortress. This war memorial is the largest tourist attraction of the city. The Berestye Archeological Museum of the old city is located on the southern island of the Hero-Fortress. It has objects and huts dating from the 11th – 13th century, that were unearthed during excavations in the 1970s.
The Museum of Rescued Art Treasures has a collection of paintings and icons. Brest City Park is over 100 years old, and underwent renovations from 2004 to 2006 as part of a ceremony marking the park's centennial. In July 2009 the Millennium Monument of Brest was unveiled. Sovetskaya Street is a popular tourist destination in Brest; it was dramatically reconstructed in 2007–2009. Other important landmarks include the Brest Railway Museum.
Białowieża National Park is located north of Brest. This old-growth forest is home to rare European bison. There is a museum and a zoo where animals can be seen in enclosures. Two hotels and some restaurants and bars are there. Excursions can also be taken by horse and cart into the interior of the forest. The forest also features the residence of Ded Moroz ("Grandpa Frost", or the Eastern Slavic equivalent of Santa Claus). Kamyanets, Belarus, that lies on the way to the National park from Brest, features a landmark, the 13th-century tower of Kamyanets. The town of Kosava, near which Tadeusz Kościuszko was born, is also in the Brest region and features a 19th-century palace and a Roman Catholic church.
Brest is home to two Universities: A.S. Pushkin Brest State University and Brest State Technical University.
Being situated on the main railway line connecting Berlin and Moscow, and a transcontinental highway (the European route E30), Brest became a principal border crossing after World War II in Soviet times. Today it links the European Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
The city of Brest is served by Brest-Tsentralny railway station. Because of the break-of-gauge at Brest, where the Russian broad gauge meets the European standard gauge, all passenger trains, coming from Poland, must have their bogies replaced here, to travel on across Belarus, and the freight must be transloaded from cars of one gauge to cars of another. Some of the land in the Brest rail yards remains contaminated as a result of the transshipment of radioactive materials here since Soviet days although cleanup operations have been taking place.
The local airport, Brest Airport (code BQT), operates flights on a seasonal schedule to Kaliningrad in the Russian Federation and seasonal charter flights to Burgas and Antalya.
HC Meshkov Brest is the most successful team of the Belarusian Men's Handball Championship, as well as the current (2018-19)
champions. Also there is a Women's handball club in Brest - HC Victoria-Berestie.
HK Brest of the Belarusian Extraleague are the local pro hockey team.
The sport venues are located on the northern riverside on the hydraulic fill, consisting of an indoor track-and-field center, the Brest Ice Rink, and Belarus' first outdoor baseball stadium. On the opposite riverside is a large rowing course opened in 2007, home of the National Center for Olympic Training in Rowing. It meets international requirements and can host international competitions. It has accommodation and training facilities, favorable location, away from the border crossing along Warsaw Highway (the European route E30).
There are some newspapers in Brest: Brestskaya Gazeta, Brestskiy Kurier, Vecherniy Brest.
Visa-free entrance to Brest
From 1 January 2018, residents of 77 countries can travel to Brest without a visa and stay there for up to 10 days.
Sister cities of Brest iinclude:
* Astrakhan, Russia
* Dorogomilovo District (Moscow), Russia
* Izhevsk, Russia
* Kaliningrad, Russia
* Kovrov, Russia
* Malgobek, Russia
* Nevsky District (Saint Petersburg), Russia
* Nizhny Tagil, Russia
* Novorossiysk, Russia
* Oryol, Russia
* Petrozavodsk, Russia
* Ryazan, Russia
* Tyumen, Russia
* Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine
* Lutsk, Ukraine
* Odessa, Ukraine
* Biała Podlaska, Poland
* Lublin, Poland
* Siedlce County, Poland
* Terespol, Poland
* Baienfurt, Germany
* Baindt, Germany
* Berg, Germany
* Ravensburg, Germany
* Weingarten, Germany
* Baiyin, China
* Xiaogan, China
* Batumi, Georgia
* Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan
* Coevorden, Netherlands
* Port-sur-Saône, France
* Subotica, Serbia
Other forms of cooperation
Brest maintains partnership with:
* Ashdod, Israel
* Botoșani, Romania
* Brest, France
* Ludza, Latvia
* Maldon, England, United Kingdom
* Pleven, Bulgaria
A minor planet, 3232 Brest, discovered by the Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Ivanovna Chernykh in 1974, is named after the city.
* Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin, Rabbi of Brisk
* Menachem Begin, late Prime Minister of Israel
* Jarosław Dąbrowski, Polish revolutionary and general
* David Dubinsky, head of the International Ladies Garment Workers' Union
* Louis Gruenberg, composer
* Nikolay Karpol, Russian women's volleyball coach
* Pyotr Masherov, secretary of Belarusian committee of the Communist Party of Soviet Union
* Yulia Nesterenko, Olympian women's 100 m titlist
* The Soloveitchik rabbinical family associated with the Brisk yeshivas, and descendant Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik
* David B. Steinman, American structural engineer; the designer of the Mackinac Bridge called "Big Mac"
* Ganna Walska, Polish opera singer
* Liubov Charkashyna, Belarusian bronze medallist in the individual all around rhythmic gymnastics competition at the 2012 Summer Olympics
* Rabbi Aaron ben Meir of Brest, eighteenth-century rabbi
* Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, haredi rabbi in Israel
* Sara Szweber, Bundist
* Kristian Gantser hristian Ganzer Irina Yelenskaya, Yelena Pashkovich t al.(ed.): Brest. Leto 1941 g. Dokumenty, materiyaly, fotografii. Smolensk: Inbelkul’t, 2016.
* Names of European cities in different languages: B
''Brest Stories Guide'' - Audiotheatre on the history of anti-semitism and the Shoah in Brest from 1937 to 1944 by the independent Brest theatre "Krylja Cholopa"
Category:Archaeological sites in Belarus
Category:Belarus–Poland border crossings
Category:Cities in Belarus
Category:Brest Litovsk Voivodeship
Category:Populated places established in the 11th century
Category:Populated places in Brest Region
Category:1019 establishments in Europe
Category:Holocaust locations in Belarus