Minsk city is the capital of Belarus. It is the political, economic, scientific and cultural center of the country and the administrative center of the Minsk region. Minsk is the most economically developed city in Belarus. The city lies along the Svisloch River. First mentioned in 1067, it became the seat of a principality in 1101. Minsk passed to Lithuania in the 14th century and later to Poland and was regained by Russia in the Second Partition of Poland in 1793. The city has suffered many disasters, including frequent destruction by fire, sacking by the Crimean Tatars in 1505, occupation and damage by French troops in 1812, German occupation in 1918, Polish occupation in 1919–20, and almost total destruction in World War II, especially during the Soviet advance in 1944. Nevertheless, Minsk steadily increased in importance, first as a provincial center after 1793 and later as an industrial center after the building of the Moscow-Warsaw and Liepaja-Romny railways through Minsk in the 1870s. In 1919 it became the capital of the Belorussian republic.
Minsk is famous for its Soviet architecture, with big concrete buildings and wide avenues, and many hail Minsk as the perfect example of a Soviet city, even claiming that the isolated dictatorship is frozen in time.
Data and facts
- Minsk city plus its built-up surrounding urban area measures 165 square miles (427 square kilometers).
- An estimated of almost two million people lived within Minsk’s built-up urbanized area in 2015.
- In contrast, the land area for all of Belarus is 80,155 square miles (207,601 square kilometres), which is almost ten times the size of Minsk. The overall Belarusian population is 9.5 million.
- Belarus was liberated from German troops on July 3, 1944, and subsequently broke from the Soviet Union on August 25, 1991. Belarusians celebrate Independence Day as a public holiday each July 3.
- Minsk is one of the least visited capitals of Europe among western tourists, but it is a city that is beautiful, both during summer, when it houses a lot of charming street cafes and during the other three seasons. Winter may not be the best time of the year to visit Minsk, but it’s one of the times when the city is considered to most beautiful, with fabulous lighting.
- The economy of Belarus is the world's 72nd largest economy by GDP based on purchasing power parity (PPP), which in 2019 stood at $195 billion, or $20,900 per capita.
- Minsk city average altitude is 220 meters (720 feet) above sea level.
- From 1919 to 1991, after the Russian Revolution, Minsk was the capital of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, in the Soviet Union. Minsk remained the capital when Belarus gained independence in 1991.
- The longest street in Belarus – Independence Avenue in Minsk is 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) long.
Currently, there are nine administrative divisions of Minsk, called raions (districts). The first subdivision of Minsk was carried out in August 1921: the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Belarus divided Minsk into three-party administration districts. Aleksandrovsky (Александровский), Lyakhovsky (Ляховский), and Central (Центральный). On July 20, 1957, the Kaganovich district was renamed into Oktyabrski (October district). On November 2, 1961, the Stalin district was renamed to the Factory district and the Voroshilov district into the Soviet district.
As with many former Soviet cities, Minsk benefits from ever-increasing urbanization. Just like Moscow and those who flock there from across the Russian Federation, the people who flock to Minsk believe, either accurately or not, that the city harbors more opportunities for a better life than their more rural hometowns ever could. As a result, throughout Belarusian independence, Minsk grew from only 16.5 percent of the country’s population in 1989 to a level higher than 20 percent today.
The city growth significantly affects the national economy, and as such a large portion of foreign investment usually ends up in the national capital. The city’s importance in the national economic picture warrants exploration of the different key sectors of the Minsk economy, hopefully, one that paints a complete picture of how the city creates revenue. The economy of Belarus is the world's 72nd largest economy by GDP based on purchasing power parity (PPP), which in 2019 stood at $195 billion, or $20,900 per capita.
Minsktrans boasts at being the oldest public transportation system in the country. Founded in 1892, the system originally operated horse-drawn trams. However, by the 1950s, the system grew to include electrical trams, buses, and trolleybuses. In 1984, the Minsk Metro opened, and even today, the subterranean railroad system and its 35.5 kilometers (22 miles) of the track continue to expand, with a third line scheduled to open in 2017. It serves, as the fifth largest subway system in the former Soviet Union (behind Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia, and Kyiv and Kharkiv in Ukraine), more than 800,000 passengers daily.
Minsk’s commuter rail system currently operates out of a single central hub at the main Passenger Rail Station. The surface rail routes reach out to suburban stations using trains designated with a red emblem depicting an Aster flower. However, increased commuter demand prompted a review of that system, and as a result, authorities plan to move most commuter lines to “Uskhodni” (East), “Paudnyovi” (South), and “Paunochny” (North) stations by 2020. Most likely the new Minsk-National Airport line will continue to serve the centralized Passenger Rail Station. The highway system, meanwhile, continues to improve. In 2002, the MKAD, a 30-year road project that allowed truck traffic to bypass Minsk’s city center and free up city roads to local traffic, opened as a modern beltway, providing high-speed dual-carriageway routes for trucks and other long-distance travelers to go from one end of Minsk to the other, or even to get to different areas of the city’s suburbs quickly.
Even more so than industry, the vast majority of Belarusian information and communication technologies (ICT) businesses reside in Minsk. The reasons usually given for this include access to the country’s best universities (and their graduating classes, with a typical total of 16,000 IT graduates annually), superior infrastructure (buildings, communication network, transportation, etc.), and political support. Regarding the last category, support from the Belarusian government, the biggest demonstration of this came when President Lukashenko decreed the opening of the High Technologies Park (HTP) in Minsk. Situated adjacent to the Museum of Stones, this 124-acre site opened in June 2009. Only a short distance from Uruchcha Metro Station, it served as home to 141 companies (as of June 2105), the majority of which partnered with at least one foreign entity. Beyond software development, companies settled into the HTP include those associated with nanoelectronics, telecommunications, radio navigation, and data protection, among other similar enterprises. Belarus’ three top companies that provide outsourcing services – EPAM Systems, the IBA Group, and Intetics Co. – maintain addresses in the park.