Brest

Administrative center of the Brest Oblast in South-Eastern Belarus (52°08′N 23°40′E) on the confluence of the river Western Bug and its right tributary Mukhavets. It is located on the border with Poland, 346 km (215 mi) from Belarusian capital Minsk, and 70 km (nearly 45 mi) from the border with Ukraine. The third oldest city in Belarus, and the first one to which Magdeburg rights were granted, Brest is the country's important industrial, transport and cultural center.

Former names: Berestye, Brest-on-the-Bug and Brest-Litovsk.

Population: 316,000 (Belarusians, 82.13%; Russians, 10.67%; Ukrainians, 4.16%).

Area: 145 sq km (56 sq mi).

First mentioned: 1019.

Signed the Memorandum of Cooperation with the Association of Local Governments "The Gediminids’ Way" on November 27, 2013.

Official site of Brest:
city.brest.by

Tourist site:
tour.brest.by

Photo album:
Brest


A town in Kyivan Rus, Berestye was founded by Slavs on a crossroad of important trade routes running through the lands of the East Slavs. It was first mentioned in the Primary Chronicle as a town in the Duchy of Turov and Pinsk where wounded Sviatopolk, Prince of Turov and Grand Prince of Kyiv, had fled to in 1019 after losing fight for the Kyiv throne to his brother Yaroslav the Wise, Grand Prince of Novgorod and Kyiv.

In the 11th century, Berestye was a trade center and a stronghold of Kyivan Rus on its frontiers with Polish and Lithuanian lands. The advantageous location of the town, which allowed it to control waterways to the Baltic Sea, made princes of Galicia–Volhynia, Volhynia, Kyiv and Turov as well as Polish rulers contest for Berestye for three centuries with varying success.

In the 12th c., Polish duke Casimir II the Just constructed a wooden castle and fortifications for trade caravans in Berestye. In the second half of the 13th c., Prince of Volhynia Volodymyr Vasylkovych rebuilt the castle and erected a stone tower, which served as the town's defense center for five centuries.

In 1319, Grand Duke of Lithuania Gedinimas annexed Berestye and its lands. In 1388, his son Vitautas the Great granted the Jewish community of Berestye a privilege that assured their right of residence, freedom of confession and certain rights in finances and trade. The synagogue, which was constructed in Berestye later, is considered to be the first one in the GDL, and the town was the Grand Duchy's main center of Jewish communities in the 14th–17th c.

In 1390, Vitautas granted the Magdeburg rights to Berestye, which thus became the second town in the GDL after Vilnius to receive these rights.

Like other lands, Berestye was often attacked by the Teutonic Knights, who burned the town's suburbs in 1379. In 1409, Vitautas and Władysław II Jagiełło (Jogaila), King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, secretly met in Berestye to develop a plan of war against the Order. A Berestye Cavalry Company (Banner) participated in the victorious Battle of Grunwald on July 15, 1410.

In 1413, the Berestye Starostwo ("eldership," an administrative unit governed by appointed starost) became part of the Trakai Voivodship just established by Vitautas. Nearly 30 years later, by a privilege of 1441, Berestye was officially recognized as one of the GDL's 15 main cities.

In 1566, the Berestey Voivodship of the GDL was formed, which became part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with the signing of the Union of Lublin on June 28, 1569. After that, Berestey was renamed Brest-Litovsk.

No architectural monument from the epoch of the Gediminids and GDL has survived in Brest.