By: NATASHA SMITH
SURROUNDED BY hills and flat plains, Minsk is situated on the Svislach and Niamiha rivers. It is the capital of Belarus and a diamond in the rough of the east.
It is widely accepted that Minsk was founded in 1067 but it was already in existence and settled by Early East Slavs as early as the ninth century.
Today, it has a population of more than 1.8 million and is the largest city in Belarus.
Minsk has been dogged by centuries of wars and suffered significant damage during the Second World War, when German
forces occupied the city. Citizens were persecuted and forced into slave labour, but before the end of the war, Minsk had become a major centre of the Soviet partisan resistance movement.
Unfortunately, the city saw most of its buildings and roads reduced to rubble during the fighting.
Prior to the Second World War, it was fought over by Poland and Russia for many centuries but it was the latter that finally ruled in the 20th Century.
Until 1991, Minsk was the capital of the Byelorussian SSR, which was one of the founding republics of the USSR.
It has always been considered
a key economic and geographical centre as it was a gateway from east to west. The city is also a key industrial centre and this is what has largely facilitated the population growth.
Russian is the language spoken but many of the younger generation speak English and German.
Minsk is the only city in Belarus with an underground metro system, so it is easy to get around and the airport is only 42km east of the city.
There are many beautiful sights to visit, including Freedom Square and
The Cathedral of the Holy Spirit is a beautiful landmark as is the main library, which is a feat of modern architecture.
Minsk is the cultural centre of Belarus and has around 11 theatres and 16 museums.
It is well worth a visit to the Belarusian Great Patriotic War Museum, the Belarusian National Arts Museum and the Ethnography and Folklore Museum.