History, interesting facts
Minsk Oblast has a rich history. The French expression C'est la bérézina ("It's Berezina") is related to the events of 1812 near the village of Studenka in the current territory of Minsk Oblast where Napoleon's army was finally defeated when crossing the Berezina. Khatyn Memorial Complex is also world famous as a symbol of the unconquered spirit and a tribute to the victims of the Great Patriotic War.
Human settlement of the territory of Minsk Oblast and the entire Belarus took place during a long period from 300 to 40,000 years ago. Neanderthals lived here initially. Later in the Upper Paleolithic period (40,000-14,000 years ago), these lands were inhabited by representatives of Homo sapiens (the Cro-Magnons).
Later in the 12th century, The Tale of Bygone Days described the settlement of the territory of the modern Minsk Oblast by Slavic tribes: "Slavs came and settled on the Dnieper. They called themselves Polyanians. Others had the name of the Derevlians because they lived in forests. Some lived between the Pripyat and the Dvina and were known as the Dregovichi".
The oldest cities of Minsk Oblast are Zaslavl (originally Izyaslavl, which dates back to 985), Logoisk (1078), Borisov (known since 1102), Slutsk (1116), Kletsk (1127), Kopyl (1274).
For several centuries the Minsk land was home to many noble families: the Radziwill, the Sapieha, the Tyszkiewicz, the Oginski, the Pruszynski, the Wankowicz, the Yelsky, and the Czapski families. The Slutsk belt, one of the national treasures of the Belarusians, a highly artistic item of decorative and applied art that has become a symbol of Belarus, has its roots in the region's culture.
Minsk Oblast is the central region of the country. Its area is 39,900 km2.
The geographical center of Belarus is located in Minsk Oblast, near Maryina Gorka. The highest point of the country is Dzerzhinsk Hill (345m). Here you can also find 900-meter mines of Soligorsk.
The relief of the region is diverse: hills alternate with plains and lowlands.
Administrative and territorial division
- 22 district (Berezina, Borisov, Vileika, Volozhin, Dzerzhinsk, Kletsk, Kopyl, Krupki, Logoisk, Luban, Minsk, Molodechno, Myadel, Nesvizh, Minsk, Slutsk, Smolevichi, Soligorsk, Starye Dorogi, Stolbtsy, Uzda, Cherven);
- 24 cities and town, including 1 of oblast subordination;
- 18 urban-type settlements;
- 5,191 rural settlements, including 307 agrotowns.
There are 216 rural councils and 5 settlement councils in Minsk Oblast.
As of 1 January 2020 the population of Minsk Oblast was 1,472,000. The major cities of Minsk Oblast are Borisov (140,700), Soligorsk (101,400), Molodechno (91,900), Zhodino (64,900) and Slutsk (61,700).
The largest agrotowns in terms of population are Lesnoy (Minsk District) – 19,500, Loshnitsa (Borisov District) – 6,452 people, Sloboda (Ozeritsko-Sloboda village council of Smolevichi District) – 3,148 people.
The industrial sector of Minsk Oblast produces a fifth of the national industrial output. It manufactures potash fertilizers, light vehicles, dump trucks, tanned and crafted leather and much more.
There are 1,661 industrial companies in Minsk Oblast. The flagship companies are: Belaruskali, BelAZ, Slutsk Cheese-Making Plant, Borisov Plant of Medical Preparations, Minsk Dairy Plant No. 1, Coca-Cola HBC Belarus, August-Bel, BelGee, AluminTechno, and Stadler Minsk, a factory producing modern rolling-stock.
Minsk Oblast is the largest agricultural region in Belarus. Most districts specialize in meat and dairy farming, poultry farming, grain production, potato growing, flax cultivation. Beet growing is more developed in the south-west of the region. Agricultural enterprises near cities also grow vegetables and fruit.
There are 310 agricultural companies in Minsk Oblast. Major ones include: Agrokombinat Snov, Agrokombinat Dzerzhinsky, Agrokombinat Zhdanovichi, Lebedevo agricultural company of Minskenergo, Ozeritsky-Agro, Veliky Dvor, Gorodeya, Gastellovskoye, 1s Minsk Poultry Factory, and Raps.
Minsk Oblast carries out foreign trade operations with 176 countries, supplying goods to the markets of 148 countries. Major trading partners are Russia, China, Ukraine, Brazil, Poland, Germany, and India.
The free economic zone Minsk was set up in 1998, which operates sites both in the city of Minsk and in Minsk Oblast.
The China-Belarus Industrial Park Great Stone is located in Minsk Oblast. This is the largest project in the history of bilateral relations between Belarus and China, one of the hubs of the Silk Road Economic Belt.
Minsk Oblast is located at the intersection of the main transport routes connecting West Europe and the East, the regions of the Black Sea and the Baltic states.
The regional railway network connects Russia and Europe, the Baltic states and the southern CIS countries. The main air hub of the country, Minsk National Airport, operates near the town of Smolevichi.
Natural and mineral resources
Minsk Oblast has the country’s second biggest number of water bodies and watercourses, with 599 rivers flowing through the region. The Neman and the Berezina are classified as large rivers, the Vilia, the Ptich and the Svisloch are medium-sized rivers.
There are 194 lakes in the region. The largest are Naroch, Svir, Myadel, Selyava, and Myastro.
The watershed between the Neman and the Dnieper, the rivers of the Baltic Sea and Black Sea basins passes through the territory of Minsk Oblast. Most of the region's lakes are of glacial origin.
Swamps occupy 14% of the region’s territory, with 37% of the area covered by forests.
The Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve is partially located in Minsk Oblast. It has the status of a natural area of international importance. The Narochansky National Park and a number of other protected areas are located within the region.
Minsk Oblast is rich in the following minerals: deposits of potassium and rock salt, peat, clay, iron ore, sapropel as well as sand and gravel, oil shale, and mineral water.
Sport and tourism
Thirty-eight sports are practiced in Minsk Oblast.
Olympic champions hailing from Minsk Oblast are: Romuald Klim (athletics, 1964), Antonina Koshel (gymnastics, 1972), Valery Shary (weightlifting, 1976), Marina Lobatch (rhythmic gymnastics, 1988), Yuri Shevtsov (handball, 1988), Mikhail Yakimovich (handball, 1992), Ekaterina Karsten (rowing, 1996, 2000), Andrei Aramnau (weightlifting, 2008).
Minsk Oblast offers the following types of tourism: cultural and educational tourism, recreational tourism, ecotourism, hunting, event tourism, industrial tourism.
The region has 126 hotels and similar accommodation facilities, 42 hunting lodges, 840 farm stays.
There are 33 health resorts located in the territory of Minsk Oblast. Health resorts Sosny, Priozerny, Yunost, Rassvet-Lyuban, Bogatyr, Nadezhda, Solnyshko, Berezka, Sluch and children's rehabilitation and wellness centre Zhdanovichi are popular among Belarusians and foreign tourists.
Culture and main sights
There are 23 museums, 2 theaters and one castle in Minsk Oblast.
The central region of Belarus abounds in monuments reflecting all the milestones in its long history. The State List of Historical and Cultural Values includes 680 names. Among them is the world-famous landmark Architectural, Residential and Cultural Complex of the Radziwill Family at Nesvizh. The palace and park ensemble and the complex of the former Jesuit monastery of the 16-19th centuries were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Other famous architectural and historical monuments include the complex of the former 18-century Bernardine monastery in the agrotown of Budslav, Myadel District, the palace and park ensembles of the 18-19th centuries in the village of Stankovo, Dzerzhinsk District, and in the agrotown of Priluki, Minsk District associated with the Chapsky family. The list also features St. Joseph's Church and the Palace and Park Ensemble of the Tyszkiewicz family (18th-19th centuries) in Volozhin. The oldest town in Minsk Oblast is Zaslavl. It boasts 24 monuments of archaeology and architecture, including Zaslavl Castle (16th-17th centuries).
Tourists should definitely visit St. Michael the Archangel Church (1909), the Franciscan Monastery in Ivenets (1606), and the Slutsk Church (18th century), the Belarusian State Museum of Folk Architecture and Rural Life in the village of Ozertso near the capital, the Museum of Belarusian Folk Art in Raubichi, the Museum complex of ancient folk crafts Dudutki.
Folk rites and traditions are still alive in Minsk Oblast. The "Tsars" rite in Semezhevo village of Kopyl District and the Budslau Fest that celebrates the Budslav Icon of the Mother of God in the agrotown of Budslav, Myadel District, are included in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
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 the country. The largest Christian communities in Minsk Oblast are Orthodoxy, Catholicism and Protestantism. There are 13 religious denominations with a total of 709 religious communities in Minsk Oblast.