Brest, Belarus

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Brest Montage (2017).jpg
Flag of Brest
Coat of arms of Brest
Brest is located in Belarus
Location of Brest in Belarus
Coordinates: 52°08′05″N 23°39′25″E / 52.13472°N 23.65694°E / 52.13472; 23.65694Coordinates: 52°08′05″N 23°39′25″E / 52.13472°N 23.65694°E / 52.13472; 23.65694
RegionBrest Region
First mentioned1017
 • Chairman of the Brest City Executive CommitteeAleksandr Rogachuk
 • Chairman of the Brest City Council of DeputiesNikolai Krasovsky
 • Total145 km2 (56 sq mi)
280.4 m (919.9 ft)
 • Total362,641 Increase
Time zoneUTC+3 (MSK)
Postal code
Area code+375 (0)162
License plate1
WebsiteCity executive committee's official website

Brest, formerly Brest-Litovsk and Brest-on-the-Bug,[a] is a city in Belarus at the border with Poland opposite the Polish city of Terespol, where the Bug and Mukhavets rivers meet, making it a border town. It is the capital city of the Brest Region. As of 2019, it has a population of 350,616.

Brest is a historical site for many cultures, as it hosted important historical events, such as the Union of Brest and Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Furthermore, the Brest Fortress was recognized by the Soviet Union as a Hero Fortress in honour of the defense of Brest Fortress in June 1941.

From the Late Middle Ages to 1795, the city was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which later became a part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1569. In 1795, it was incorporated into the Russian Empire with the Third Partition of Poland. After the Polish-Soviet War, the city became part of the Second Polish Republic. In 1939, during the Invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the city was first captured by the Wehrmacht and soon passed on to the USSR per the German–Soviet Frontier Treaty. In 1941, it was retaken by the Germans during Operation Barbarossa. In 1944, it was retaken by the Soviet Red Army during the Lublin–Brest offensive.[3] The city was part of the Byelorussian SSR until the breakup of the USSR in 1991. Since then, Brest has been part of independent Belarus.


Several theories attempt to explain the origin of the city's name. It may have the Slavic root beresta meaning "birch", or "bark". The name could also originate from Slavic root berest meaning "elm". It could likewise have come from the Lithuanian word brasta meaning "ford".[4]

Once a center of Jewish scholarship, the city has the Yiddish name בריסק (Brisk), hence the term "Brisker" used to describe followers of the influential Soloveitchik family of rabbis. Traditionally, Belarusian-speakers called the city Берасце (Bieraście).

Brest became a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in 1319.[5] In the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth formed in 1569, the town became known in Polish as Brześć, historically Brześć Litewski (literally: "Lithuanian Brest", in contradistinction to Brześć Kujawski). Brześć became part of the Russian Empire under the name Brest-Litovsk or Brest-Litovskii (Russian: Брест-Литовск, Брест-Литовский, 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 Brześć nad Bugiem ("Brest on the Bug") on 20 March 1923.[6] 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 26 January 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.


In 1019, Brest was first mentioned in chronicles as "Berestye"

The city was founded by the Slavs.[citation needed] 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.[7] 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.[citation needed]

Grand Duchy of Lithuania[edit]

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.

Lithuanian Crusade[edit]

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 military victory at the Battle of Grunwald.

Polish—Lithuanian Commonwealth[edit]

Historical affiliations

Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia (1241–1319)
Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1319–1320)
Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia (1320–1321)
Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1321–1569)
Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569–1795)
Russian Empire (1795–1812)
French occupation (1812)
Russian Empire (1812–1915)
German occupation (1915–1918)
Second Polish Republic (1918–1919)
SSR Byelorussia (1919)
Second Polish Republic (1919–1939)
 Soviet Union (1939–1941)
German occupation (1941–1944)
Soviet Union (1944–1991)
 Belarus (1991–present)

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 and the Swedish Empire under king Sigismund III Vasa (Polish–Swedish union), 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 (also known as the Belarusian Greek Catholic Church in Belarus and Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in Ukraine).

Siege of Brest by E. Dahlbergh, 1657

In 1657, and again in 1706, the town and castle were captured by the Swedish Army during its invasions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Then, in an attack from the other direction, on 13 January 1660, the invading Streltsy of the Tsardom of Russia 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 23 July 1792, the defending Grand Ducal Lithuanian Army, under the leadership of Szymon Zabiełło, and the invading Imperial Russian Army fought a battle near Grodno. On 19 September 1794, the area between Brest and Terespol was the site of another battle won by the Russian invaders led by Alexander 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 in 1795.

19th century[edit]

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 Old Town "to make room" for the fortress.[citation needed] The main Jewish synagogue in the city, the Choral Synagogue, was completed c. 1862.

World War I[edit]

Brest railway station during World War I, c. 1915

During World War I, the town was captured by the Imperial German Army under August von Mackensen on 25 August 1915, during the Great Retreat of 1915.[8] Shortly after Brest fell into German hands, war poet August Stramm, who has been called "the first of the Expressionists" and one of "the most innovative poets of the First World War,"[9] was shot in the head during an attack on nearby Russian positions on 1 September 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 Paris Peace Conference treaties which ended the war and even more so by events and developments in Central 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.[10]

The Second Polish Republic[edit]

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 20 March 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.[11][12][13] The Polish Army troops of the 9th Military District along with its headquarters were stationed in Brest Fortress.

German–Soviet military parade in Brest-Litovsk at the conclusion of the Invasion of Poland. In the centre are Major General Heinz Guderian from the Wehrmacht and Brigadier Semyon Krivoshein from the Red Army.

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 General Heinz Guderian's XIX Panzer Corps. After four days of heavy fighting, the Polish forces withdrew southwards on 17 September. The Soviet invasion of Poland began on the same day. As a result, the Soviet Red Army entered the city at the end of September 1939 following the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact's Secret Protocol, and a joint Nazi-Soviet military parade took place on 22 September 1939. While Belarusians consider it a reunification of the Belarusian nation under one constituency (the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic 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 Kazakh Soviet Socialist Republic.

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.[14][15]

Operation Barbarossa and beyond[edit]

12 December 1932 The Begin family of Brest-Litovsk Jewish community. Top left to right Herzl; Menahem; Rachel. In front their parents. Only Menahem and Rachel survived the Shoah
A monument in memory of the Jews of Brest who were murdered in the Holocaust. In Kiryat Shaul cemetery in Tel Aviv

On 22 June 1941, Brest Fortress and the city were attacked by Nazi Germany on the first day of Operation Barbarossa, Nazi Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union. The fortress held out for six days. Nearly all its Soviet army 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.[15] The city was liberated by the Red Army on 28 July 1944.

In early 2019, a mass grave containing the remains of 1,214 people were found in the Brest Ghetto area during a construction project. Most are believed to have been Jews murdered by Nazis.[16][17]


Brest lies astride the Mukhavets River, which 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 2 to 3 kilometres (1 to 2 miles) across. Brest was subject to flooding in the past. One of the worst floods in recorded history occurred in 1974.[citation needed]

Part of the floodplain was reclaimed with hydraulic mining. In the 1980s, big cutter-suction dredgers mined sand and clay from the riverbed to build up the banks.[citation needed]

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 Pina, a tributary of the Pripyat River which in turn drains into the Dnieper. 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. However, summers are warm and influenced by its inland position compared to areas nearer the Baltic Sea.

Climate data for Brest (1991–2020, extremes 1888–present)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 11.6
Average high °C (°F) 0.0
Daily mean °C (°F) −2.3
Average low °C (°F) −4.5
Record low °C (°F) −35.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 36
Average extreme snow depth cm (inches) 6
Average rainy days 11 9 12 12 16 16 16 12 15 14 14 13 160
Average snowy days 16 16 10 3 0.1 0 0 0 0 1 7 14 67
Average relative humidity (%) 85 82 75 66 66 69 70 71 78 81 86 87 76
Mean monthly sunshine hours 49 70 134 176 249 259 263 247 174 120 47 34 1,822
Percent possible sunshine 19 25 36 42 51 52 52 54 45 36 18 14 41
Source 1:[18]
Source 2: Belarus Department of Hydrometeorology (sun data from 1949–1951 and 1953–2000)[19]

Points of interest[edit]

Rowing course in Brest
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 in 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 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.


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 M1 highway is part of the European route E30 running from Cork to Omsk, where it links with Asian Highway 6 leading to Busan), Brest became a principal border crossing out of the Soviet Union in the postwar era. 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. 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 due to the transhipment of radioactive materials here since Soviet days. However, cleanup operations have been taking place.[citation needed]

The local airport, Brest Airport (code BQT), operates flights on a seasonal schedule to Kaliningrad[20] in the Russian Federation and seasonal charter flights to Burgas and Antalya.[21]


Regional Sport Complex Brestsky, Brest's largest stadium

HC Meshkov Brest is[when?] 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 sports venues are located on the northern riverside on the hydraulic fill, consisting of an indoor track-and-field centre, the Brest Ice Rink,[22] 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. Moreover, it has accommodation and training facilities, favourable location, 3 kilometres (2 miles) away from the border crossing along Warsaw Highway (the European route E30).


There are some newspapers in Brest: Brestskaya Gazeta, Brestskiy Kurier, Vecherniy Brest.

International relations[edit]

Sister cities[edit]

Sister cities of Brest include:[23]

Former twin towns:

In March 2022, the Polish city of Biała Podlaska suspended its partnership with Brest as a reaction to the Belarusian involvement in the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.[24]

Other forms of cooperation[edit]

Brest maintains partnership with:[23]


A minor planet, 3232 Brest, discovered by the Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Ivanovna Chernykh in 1974, is named after the city.[25]

Notable people[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Kristian Gantser [Christian Ganzer], Irina Yelenskaya, Yelena Pashkovich [et al.] (ed.): Brest. Leto 1941 g. Dokumenty, materiyaly, fotografii. Smolensk: Inbelkul’t, 2016. ISBN 978-5-00076-030-7 [1]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Brest: Belarusian: Брэст / Берасьце, Bieraście, pronounced [brɛs̪t̪]; Russian: Брест, pronounced [brʲes̪t̪]; Ukrainian: Берестя, romanizedBerestia; Lithuanian: Brasta; Polish: Brześć; Yiddish: בריסק, romanizedBrisk
    Brest-Litovsk: Russian: Брест-Литовск, lit.'Lithuanian Brest'; Belarusian: Берасце Літоўскі (Берасце), romanized: Berastze Litouski (Berastze); Lithuanian: Lietuvos Brasta; Polish: Brześć Litewski, Yiddish: בריסק דליטא
    Brest-on-the-Bug: Polish: Brześć nad Bugiem


  1. ^ "Brest, Belarus Population (2021) - Population Stat".
  2. ^ "The population of all cities and urban settlements in the Brest Region according to census results and latest official estimates". City Population. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  3. ^ "BREST-LITOVSK, BREST, BRISK, BRESTYE, BERESTIE, BERESTOV, BRZESC, sometimes Russia or Poland and now Belarus - Jewish Genealogy - Searching for our ancestors". Archived from the original on 9 May 2005. Retrieved 11 January 2022.
  4. ^ Encyclopedia Lituanica. Boston, Massachusetts, Vol. I, p.409. LCC74-114275
  5. ^ Auzias, Dominique; Labourdette, Jean-Paul (2010). "Brest et sa région". Biélorussie. Country Guides. Petit Futé. p. 121. ISBN 9782746937796. D'abord russe, ensuite polonaise, en 1319, Brest est conquis par le prince Gedimin et rattaché au grand-duché de Lituanie. [At first Russian, then Polish, Brest in 1319 was conquered by Prince Gediminas and absorbed into the grand Duchy of Lithuania.]
  6. ^ Kancelaria Sejmu RP (2013), Dz.U. 1923 nr 39 poz. 269 ISAP Archive. Link to PDF document.
  7. ^ "Brest as a tourist destination – private Minsk tours". 20 June 2011. Archived from the original on 18 March 2015. Retrieved 13 March 2015.
  8. ^ Robson, Stuart (2007). The First World War (1 ed.). Harrow, England: Pearson Longman. p. 30. ISBN 978-1-4058-2471-2 – via Archive Foundation.
  9. ^ Tim Cross (1988) The Lost Voices of World War I, page 124.
  10. ^ Ivan Katchanovski; Zenon E., Kohut; Bohdan Y., Nebesio; Myroslav, Yurkevich (2013). Historical Dictionary of Ukraine. Scarecrow Press. pp. 60–61. ISBN 9780810878471.
  11. ^ Norman Davies, God's Playground (Polish edition), Second volume, p.512-513
  12. ^ Alice Teichova; Herbert Matis; Jaroslav Pátek (2000). Economic Change and the National Question in Twentieth-century Europe. Cambridge University Press. pp. 342–344. ISBN 978-0-521-63037-5.
  13. ^ Stosunki polsko-białoruskie pod okupacją sowiecką, (Polish-Byelorussian relations under the Soviet occupation). (in Polish)
  14. ^ Joshua D. Zimmerman, Poles, Jews, and the politics of nationality, University of Wisconsin Press, 2004, ISBN 0-299-19464-7, Google Print, p.16
  15. ^ a b Christopher R. Browning, Nazi policy, Jewish workers, German killers', Google Print, p.124
  16. ^ Liphshiz, Cnaan (22 February 2019). "Remains of Hundreds of Bodies Unearthed at Former Jewish Ghetto in Belarus". The Jerusalem Post. Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Archived from the original on 28 February 2019. Retrieved 28 February 2019.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  17. ^ Higgins, Andrew (27 April 2019). "Belarus Building Site Yields the Bones of 1,214 Holocaust Victims". New York Times. Archived from the original on 12 May 2021. Retrieved 11 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  18. ^ "Weather and Climate- The Climate of Brest" (in Russian). Weather and Climate (Погода и климат). Retrieved 8 November 2021.
  19. ^ "Солнечное сияние. Обобщения III часть: Таблица 2.1. Характеристики продолжительности и суточный ход (доли часа) солнечного сияния. Продолжение" (in Russian). Department of Hydrometeorology. Archived from the original on 26 April 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  20. ^ "Авиасообщение между Брестом и Калининградом откроется 8 июня". Interfax. 4 June 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
  21. ^ "Что нас манит ввысь?". Vecherniy Brest. 4 June 2013. Archived from the original on 30 December 2013. Retrieved 21 June 2013.
  22. ^ Geering. "".
  23. ^ a b "Города-побратимы (партнеры) Бреста". (in Belarusian). Brest. Archived from the original on 27 November 2018. Retrieved 12 January 2020.
  24. ^ "Biała Podlaska: Miasto zawiesza współpracę z dwoma białoruskimi miastami" (in Polish). Retrieved 13 March 2022.
  25. ^ "3232 Brest 1974 SU – Google Search".
  26. ^ Andrej Dyńko of Naša Niva released on pledge to report when ordered
  27. ^ "Страціў вока на вайне. Як загінуў ва Ўкраіне беларускі добраахвотнік Зьміцер "Ганс" Рубашэўскі (Lost an eye on the war. How the Belarusian volunteer Dzmitryj "Hans" Rubašeŭski died in Ukraine) Радыё Свабода (Radio Liberty) (in Belarusian)". Retrieved 14 May 2022.
  28. ^ "They Don't Give Us Dad's Body Without Permission of the Investigative Committee"
  29. ^ ЦВІКЕВІЧ Аляксандр Іванавіч (Tsvikievich Alyaksandr Ivanavich)(in Belarusian)

External links[edit]