Brest Fortress

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Brest Fortress
The fortress in the 1830s
The fortress in 1941

Brest Fortress (Belarusian: Брэсцкая крэпасць, Brestskaya krepasts' ; Russian: Брестская крепость, Brestskaya krepost' ; Polish: Twierdza brzeska), formerly known as Brest-Litovsk Fortress, is a 19th-century Russian fortress in Brest, Belarus, the former Byelorussian SSR. In 1965, the title Hero Fortress was given to the Fortress to commemorate the defence of the frontier stronghold during the first week of the German-Soviet War, when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, with the launch of World War II's Operation Barbarossa. The title Hero Fortress corresponds to the title Hero City, that was awarded to an eventual total of twelve Soviet cities. Brest Fortress is situated at a height of 135 meters.[1]

The Brest fortress has sustained its original outline of a star shaped fortification since its construction in the early 19th century. The Citadel, the core of the fortress, was on the central island formed by the Bug River and the two branches of the Mukhavets River. The island was skirted by a ring of a two-storied barrack with 4 semi-towers. The 1.8 km long barrack comprised 500 rooms to accommodate 12,000 soldiers within thick walls built from super strong red bricks. Originally there were 4 gates to enter the Citadel. Today only Kholm Gate and Terespol Gate can be seen, most part of the barrack lies in ruins.

The Citadel was surrounded by 3 fortifications as bridgeheads, that were made up by branches of the Mukhavets River and moats (ditches), fortified by earthworks 10 m high with redbrick casemates inside. The 3 fortifications were named after two towns: Kobrin in Belarus, Terespol in Poland and Volyn, a region in Ukraine. The Kobrin Fortification was the biggest in the fortress, located in the northeastern part, shaped like a horseshoe, featured 4 fortification curtains, 3 detached ravelins and a lunette in the western part, East Fort and West Fort. The Terespol Fortification was the western bridgehead, featuring 4 detached lunettes. The Volyn Fortification was the southeastern bridgehead, featuring 2 fortification curtains with 2 detached ravelins.[2]

A ring of outlying forts was built later around the old fortress. As the post-1945 border along the Bug river runs through the fortress area, some of the fortification works are now in Poland, around the town of Terespol.



The Brest fortress was built as a star shaped fortification in the early 19th century by the Russian Empire.

During WWII[edit]

Battle of June-July 1941[edit]

Copy of the inscription found inside the citadel: "I'm dying, but I won't surrender! Farewell Motherland. 20.VII.41" exhibited in the Museum of the defense of the Brest fortress

At 4:15 June 22, 1941 the German Wehrmacht attacked the Brest fortress with no warning. Attack started by artillery barrage, including 600 mm mortars of the second battery of the Heavy Artillery Battalion 833 Nr. III ("Thor") and Nr. IV ("Odin").[3] Defenders were taken by surprise and failed to form a solid front. By 9:00 the fortress was completely surrounded. Most parts of the fortress were taken by the 30 of June. 25 officers and 2877 soviet soldiers were captured,[4] 1877 soldiers and officers died.[5]

Yet despite being stunned by the surprise attack, heavy losses from the initial shelling, shortage of food and ammunition and being cut off from the outside world the remaining Red Army soldiers took a stand in the Citadel of the fortress. Officers families caught up in the Citadel tended to the wounded and even took part in defence effort. Pockets of resistance held until 20 of July. Their sacrifice became a testament to the resilience and courage of Red Army and Soviet people.

August 1941[edit]

On August 8 Hitler and Mussolini visited the fortress. Unprecedented security measures were in place because of fear of Red Army defenders possibly still remain in the fortress.[6] During the visit Hitler picked up a stone off the bridge to the Citadel. After the war this stone was found in his workroom.[7]

War Memorial Complex[edit]

"Courage" Monument

In the late 1960s, the construction of the war memorial complex "Brest Hero Fortress" was started. The complex was opened on September 25, 1971.[8] The memorial complex is a national place of grief and pride, a popular tourist attraction. It comprises the barracks, gunpowder bunkers, forts and other fortifications, the museum of the defence, located on the site of the old fortress, along with the new monumental structures: the Main Entrance, the Obelisk, the Main Monument, the sculpture "Thirst".

World Heritage Status[edit]

This site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on January 30, 2004, in the Cultural category.[9] Preservation and development is being carried out by the Brest Fortress Development Foundation.[10][11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brest Fortress Height and Location
  2. ^ Суворов А.М. "Брестская крепость на ветрах истории", Brest, 2004 (text in Russian) ISBN 985-90040-1-3
  3. ^ Мортира КАРЛ
  4. ^ The German text is published in Kristian Gantser [Christian Ganzer], Irina Yelenskaya, Yelena Pashkovich [et al.] (ed.): Brest. Leto 1941 g. Dokumenty, materiyaly, fotografii. Smolensk: Inbelkul’t, 2016, p. 290-298.
  5. ^ Брестская крепость // Передача радиостанции «Эхо Москвы»
  6. ^ Mussolini and Hitler at Brest
  7. ^ Albert Axell, Russia’s Heroes, 1941-45, Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2002, ISBN 0-7867-1011-X, Google Print, p.39-40
  8. ^ the official website of the war memorial
  9. ^ UNESCO Tentative List for Belarus
  10. ^ Brest Heritage
  11. ^ Brest Fortress Development Foundation to receive US Grant

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°04′55″N 23°39′29″E / 52.082°N 23.658°E / 52.082; 23.658