Brest Fortress, one of the most important places in Belarus, dates back to the 19th century and became a key symbol of Soviet resistance in World War 2.
History of Brest Fortress
Brest Fortress was built in the 1830s-early 1840s at the meeting-point of the rivers Bug and Mukhavyets.During construction, the entire town was relocated to a new position 2km away. St Nicolas Church was built in 1851-1876. Much of it was severely damaged during World War 2.
The site occupies more than four square km, although many of the outer defences were damaged or destroyed during the wars of the 20th century.
There is a citadel at the centre of the fortress, linked to three artificial island fortifications by bridgeheads:
- Kobrin fortification (north-eastern side)
- Terespol fortification (western island)
- Volyn fortification (south-eastern island)
In 1939 Brest Fortress was assigned to the Soviet Union. It earned the title of Hero Fortress for the courage demonstrated by Soviet soldiers when they fought against the German army in 1941. Whilst the Nazis took the town of Brest – 90% of which was destroyed in the fighting – the two regiments garrisoned inside the fortress held out.
For the people of Belarus, Brest Fortress remains a famous symbol of the Soviet resistance during World war 2.
Brest Fortress today
Brest Fortress is one of the most important places to see in Belarus and by far the largest tourist attraction in Brest.
The fortress was not rebuilt at the end of the war, but instead became a shrine to the terrible and heroic events that took place there.
The entry of the fortress represents a huge star cut into a concrete block. The radio announcer informs about the invasion of the German army.
As you walk up to the centre of the fortress you see "Thirst", a large monument depicting an injured soldier trying to get some water from the river. The monument reflects the bravery of the last remaining soldiers who defended the Fortress for many days without food or water.
The main part of the memorial is the Square of Ceremonies, leading to the Museum of the Defence of Brest fortress and the ruins of the White Palace.
The Bayonet Obelisk, 100m high, can be seen from any part of the fortress, and is linked to the main Courage monument by 3 rows of tombstones. Only 216 of the 850 defenders who died here are known.
The Courage monument stands 33.5m high and tells the story of the heroic defence of the fortress through a series of carvings. There is an eternal flame which is guarded by 4 teenagers from the Pioneers Corps.
There is an Eternal Fire in front of the remnants of the former engineering department.
Further in to the Fortress you will find the iconic Kholmsky Gate, with its bullet-riddled walls.
This site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on January 30, 2004, in the Cultural category