History, interesting facts
Brest Oblast is the western gate of Belarus, an important tourist, transit, industrial and agricultural region. The city of Brest is one of the oldest cities in Belarus. It was first mentioned in the Tale of Bygone Days as a large, well-fortified settlement of 1019.
Over the course of centuries, Brest repeatedly became part of different states, was destroyed and rebuilt several times. The city still preserves the architecture of different eras: from the ancient settlement of Berestye to the buildings of the Imperial Brest-Litovsk, the Polish Brest-on-the-Bug and the Soviet Brest.
Since the very beginning of its history, Brest was an apple of discord for the Polish Principality and Kievan Rus, later - the Principality of Galicia–Volhynia and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
The convenient geographical location of settlements on the banks of navigable rivers has turned these places into the international crossroads. Important trade routes which connected Western Europe with the Middle East and the Black Sea region passed through Brest land. In the 14th century, it became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and then the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita).
The construction of Brest Fortress, which started in the 1830s, was a milestone event in the history of Brest Oblast. It was supposed to become one of the largest and most modern fortifications in the world.
On 22 June 1941, on the first day of the Great Patriotic War, Brest Oblast and the city of Brest with its fortress were first attacked by German troops. Brest Fortress with its small garrison did not surrender until 30 July 1941.
In 1991, it was in Brest Oblast, in the Viskuli residence located in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, where the historical document on the dissolution of the Soviet Union was signed. A new international organization - the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) - was also established there.
The region is located in the southwestern part of the country, it borders Ukraine in the south and Poland in the west.
There is the extreme western point of the country in the territory of Brest Oblast - on the Bug River, southwest to the town of Vysokoye. Its coordinates are 52°17'N and 23°11'E.
The area of the region is 32.8 km2.
The terrain is flat.
Administrative and territorial division
- 16 districts (Baranovichi, Bereza, Brest, Gantsevichi, Drogichin, Zhabinka, Ivanovo, Ivatsevichi, Kamenets, Kobrin, Luninets, Lyakhovichi, Malorita, Pinsk, Pruzhany, Stolin);
- 3 cities of oblast subordination;
- 18 towns of district subordination;
- 8 urban-type settlements;
- 2,153 rural settlements, including 210 agrotowns.
There are 195 rural councils in Brest Oblast.
The city of Brest is the regional center. In 2019, Brest celebrated its 1000th anniversary.
Brest Oblast has a population of 1.347 million (as of 1 January 2020), including 339,700 residents in the city of Brest.
In other major cities of the region - Baranovichi and Pinsk - there are 175,000 and 126,300 residents, respectively.
The largest agrotowns in terms of population are Olshany (7,742), Zhemchuzhny (4,543), Motol (3,742), Cherni (3,365), Rubel (3,252).
Brest Oblast has a great capacity in agriculture and industry. Food production enterprises, machine-building, textile and garment manufacturing, furniture and construction materials production are well-developed there.
The industry of Brest Oblast provides a third of the gross regional product. Its share in the country's industrial production is 10.6%.
There are 1,795 industrial enterprises in the region. The leading companies are Savushkin Product, 558 Aircraft Repair Plant, Santa Bremor, Brest Meat-Packing Plant, Brestenergo, Baranovichi Cotton Production Association, Polesie, Brestgazoapparat, Granit, Belsolod, Pinskdrev Holding Company, Belalko Distillery.
Even in the Soviet times, Brest Oblast was a "food donor" of the republic and more than once became the winner of the All-USSR socialist competition. In July 1967, the region was awarded the Order of Lenin. The first Dazhynki harvest festival in the history of independent Belarus was held in Brest Oblast in 1996.
There are 207 agricultural organizations in the region. The largest of them are Poultry Plant Druzhba, Baranovichi Poultry Farm, Kroshin, Ostromechevo, Selection and Hybrid Center Zapadny, Komarovka, Belovezhsky, Zherebkovichi, Ruzhany-Agro, Zhuravlinoye, Agro-Kolyadichi, Parokhonskoye, Fedorsky.
The concept of a village of the future is currently implemented in Brest Oblast, with three agrotowns: Ostromechevo in Brest District, Belovezhsky in Kamenets District, and Parokhonsk in Pinsk District selected for this purpose. The village of the future is a modern and well-organized community with increasingly vibrant production, social services, engineering and transport infrastructure relying on strong traditions of a rural lifestyle.
Brest Oblast has well-developed light industry. Clothing and hosiery from Brest Oblast are in great demand far beyond the country's borders.
In general, the products manufactured in Brest Oblast are exported to 100 countries, including Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Germany, Lithuania, China. The region is an attractive investment destination. Since 1996, the free economic zone Brest has been operating in the region.
Since 1988, Brest Oblast has been a member of the transboundary union Euroregion Bug, which also includes Lublin Voivodeship of Poland and Volyn region of Ukraine.
There are five transport and logistics centers in Brest Oblast. The major Berlin-Warsaw-Brest-Minsk-Moscow transit corridor is running through the region. Around 80% of the CIS-made products, which are transported to Western Europe by land, pass through the region. The oil pipeline Druzhba and gas pipelines Torzhok – Minsk - Ivatsevichi and Kobrin – Brest – Warsaw pass through the region as well.
The Brest railway junction occupies one of the key positions in the railway transport network connecting Europe and Asia. Brest International Airport can accommodate all types of aircraft.
Natural and mineral resources
There are 279 rivers in Brest Oblast, the largest of them are the Western Bug, the Pripyat, the Goryn, the Shchara, and the Yaselda.
There are 663 lakes in Brest Oblast, the largest of them are Vygonoshchanskoye, Bobrovichskoye, Sporovskoye, Chernoye, and Beloye.
Brest Oblast is the heart of Belarusian Polesye. Europe's largest open lowland swamps and heavily watered floodplains of lowland rivers have been preserved in their natural condition. They are important for the conservation of biodiversity and are involved in shaping the climate of Europe.
In the north-west of Brest Oblast there is a unique natural monument, the oldest protected natural area in Europe – the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park. In 1992, Belovezhskaya Pushcha was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The West Polesie Transboundary Biosphere Reserve (Belarus-Poland-Ukraine) in the territory of Brest District and Malorita District is included in the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves as well as the Pripyat Polesye Biosphere Reserve in Stolin District.
Apart from that, there are 18 reserves of national significance and 32 reserves of local significance, 29 national and 67 local natural monuments in the region.
Ten natural areas in Brest Oblast are included in the List of Wetlands of International Importance (the Ramsar List), mainly as waterfowl habitats.
Brest Oblast has abundant deposits of the following minerals: building stone, clay, building sand, gravel, oil shale, and brown coal.
Sport and tourism
Forty-nine sports are practiced in the region.
Brest Oblast is the birthplace of the first Belarusian Olympic champion in canoe and kayak rowing Sergei Makarenko, who won a gold medal in Rome in 1960. Leonid Taranenko (weightlifting, 1980; silver medalist in 1992), and Yuliya Nesterenko (athletics, 2004) became Olympic champions as well.
A great variety of natural and historical landmarks makes Brest Oblast a very popular destination for tourists. The region is promoting environmental, rural, border, transit, cultural and ethnographic, health, active (cycling, water), excursion and educational, hunting and scientific types of tourism.
About 90 hotels and 388 farm stays and ecotourism facilities are available in Brest Oblast. Farm stays are open in all districts of the region. The largest number of them is in Brest District (70), Kamenets District (68), Kobrin District (34), and Baranovichi District (29).
There are 15 health resorts in Brest Oblast. The following resorts are popular with Belarusians and foreigners : Alesya, Bug, Ruzhansky, Belaya Vezha, Yaselda, Chaborok, Nadzeya, Solnechny, Zhemchuzhny, Brestagrozdravnitsa.
Culture and major sights
Over 2,500 monuments of culture, history and architecture are located in Brest Oblast. There are two castles, three theaters, 21 museums (three national museums), three exhibition halls, and a philharmonic hall in the region.
A total of 774 monuments are included in the State Register of Historical and Cultural Values of the Republic of Belarus. Two objects – Belovezhskaya Pushcha and the Struve Geodetic Arc - are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Struve Geodetic Arc is a unique monument of history, a masterpiece of science and engineering of the 19th century. It was named after the astronomer and mathematician, the first director of the Pulkovo Observatory, Vasily Ya. Struve (Friedrich Georg Wilhelm von Struve). He was the initiator of the project, which took 40 years, to build the world’s longest (2,820km) and most precise geodetic instrument. It consists of 265 triangulation points located in ten European countries. The largest number of objects of the Struve Geodetic Arc - 19 (according to historical data, 31 stone cubes were laid in the territory of the country) - has been preserved in Belarus. The Leskovichi, Osovnitsa, and Chekutsk points are located in Brest Oblast.
Other popular tourist attractions in Brest Oblast are the world famous memorial complex Brest Hero Fortress, the Kossovo Palace and Park Ensemble, Ruzhany Palace Complex of the Sapieha family, the Nemtsevich Manor, and Berestye Archeological Museum, which is the only museum of medieval Eastern Slavic urban construction in Europe.
The landmark of Kamenets District is a recognizable architectural symbol of Belarus. This 700-year-old 30-meter donjon tower is known as the White Tower.
The architectural landmarks of Brest are its railway station (the largest and most beautiful railway station in the Russian Empire which was built on the order of Emperor Alexander II), the pedestrian street Sovetskaya, and a monument celebrating the millennium of Brest.
Another popular tourist attraction – the residence of Belarusian Father Frost – is located in the oldest pristine forest in Brest Oblast.
The Republic of Belarus respects the freedom of faith and religion as an inalienable right of its citizens, which translates into the country's great variety of religious denominations. Christianity is the most widely-spread religion in Belarus. The biggest Christian communities in Brest Oblast are Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Protestantism. In total, there are 17 religious denominations in Brest Oblast with 764 religious communities.