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How can the ancient town of Turov impress modern travelers?

Author: S. Plytkevich
Photo: by author


Looking forward to the next trip (which will be devoted to the Pripyat River floodplain) I decided to focus the on a very interesting place of Polesie. It is the ancient town of Turov, which was first mentioned in 980 AD.

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Vivid impressions of Turov bstart even before you’ve arrived to the town.


A magnificent panorama of the Pripyat River floodplain can be seen from a high bridge. 

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While the bridge itself looks fantastic from a height during a big flood.

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Turov is a small Belarusian town in Gomel area, where a little less than 2.8 thousand people live. It is the second oldest city in the country (after Polotzk), founded in the X century by Dregovichi tribes.

A handwritten book "The Turov Gospel" (one of the most ancient in the world)  was created in this town. Also Turov was mentioned as an important political and economic center in one of the key Slavonic manuscripts.

5 19f35edac45a60669e78b3a129cbe6f9.jpg The monument of Kirill Turovsky, an ancient Russian philosopher and wise man, was put on the Castle Hill on May 11, 1993.

In 1927 a local history museum was opened in Turov. This is the oldest museum in the Gomel region. Its exposition includes hundreds of objects of ancient everyday life, old printed books, as well as a hall dedicated to the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.

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The complex "Ancient Turov" is also a part of the local history museum. It is built on the site of a ruined temple. Now a glass dome-tent is erected over the remains of the ancient foundation.

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The foundation of the temple is really huge for those times.


Most likely the cathedral was of the same size as the largest ones of those days.


The museum shows how Turov used to look, and you can also find out what its residents used to do: there is an extensive collection of devices for handicrafts.


The city of Turov was founded at the confluence of the Yazda and Strumen rivers, tributaries of the Pripyat, which, in turn, flows into the Dnieper River and further to the Black Sea. This geographical location contributed to the development of the city located at a very important trade route "of those days. All kinds of crafts flourished here. In the XI century the city became one of the centers of Christianity.


When the Rurik’s dynasty began to rule in nearby Kiev, Turov was also ruled by a local branch of princes from this family (the Turov-Pinsky Principality). During this period Turov was an important trade center of Kievan Rus.

In the 1180s  the independent Pinsk Principality emerged from the Turov Principality.

In 1320-1330 the Turov-Pinsk lands became a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. At the end of the XV century Turov belonged to Mikhail Glinsky. In 1502 the town was destroyed by Tatars. After Glinsky was deposed and fled to the Russian state in 1508, the city was confiscated and transferred to the possession of Prince Konstantin Ostrogsky, who started its restoration.


However, this time was not lucky for the settlement: it was again destroyed by Tatars in 1521. The Ostrogskys ruled the city for more than a century until it was given as a ransom for the Princess Sapieha.


A stone sarcophagus, which can be seen in the museum on the ancient settlement. It is made of Ovruch shale. This was once mined in the vicinity of the Ukrainian city of Ovruch. By the way, sarcophaguses made of slate are only found in the regions of the Pripyat Polesie. 

In 1648 Cossack troops under the general leadership of Bohdan Khmelnitsky captured Turov. The city was severely damaged during the constant wars of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with the Russian state. In 1667 there were only 111 households in Turov, compared to 401 in 1648.

After the Second partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1793, Turov became a part of the Minsk Province of the Russian Empire and remained a provincial city for almost the entire XIX century. In 1940 Turov was a district center in the Polessky region. In 1962 the Turov district, which existed before, was abolished, and Turov was renamed from a town to the village and became part of the Zhitkovichsky district. On August 10, 2004, by the decision of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus, town Turov was again granted the status of a town.

The first cathedral church in Turov was built in the XII century, but in the XIII century, during the Tatar raids, the church was destroyed. It was decided to build a new cathedral in Turov at the beginning of the XX century, but the construction was prevented by the First World War. 

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Only in May 2010, the foundation stone of the future church was laid. 

The old wooden All-Holy Church in Turov was built in 1801-1810 by Archpriest Anthony Loiko on the site of an earlier church.


Numerous tourists come to this church to see the two-meter-high stone cross of the X century. According to the old legend, 2 crosses like that floated to Turov from Kiev along the Dnieper and Pripyat rivers in the year of the Baptism of Rus by Prince Vladimir.

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The second such cross was moved to its courtyard.


The Turov cemetery also attracts the attention of tourists. It turns into an island During the great flood in Pripyat. 

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There are also stone crosses in the cemetery.

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The city of Tours is famous not only for its rich history, but also for its natural resources. During seasonal migrations, millions of migratory birds stop in its vicinity to rest, and many of them remain to breed here.

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To preserve them, the only non- state nature reserve in Belarus, the Turovsky Meadow, was created on the bank of the Pripyat River. Annual floods turn it into a network of islands, where sandpipers, gulls, ducks and other birds arrange real colonies.


Perhaps, there is no other city in the country where, just a few kilometers from the central square, you can observe the Azure Tit (Cyanistes cyanus), Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis), Greater Spotted Eagle (Clanga clanga), Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus), Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybrida), and many other rare species red-listed in Belarus. 

Not only domestic bird lovers come to Turov to see them every year, but also hundreds of birdwatchers from all over Europe. It also operates the only ringing station on the territory of Belarus.

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In Turov, thanks to the efforts of the local public organization of birders “APB-BirdLife Belarus”, a monument to waders has been erected. It appeared on the central square of this city on May 1, 2009. It was designed by the sculptor Dmitry Vrublevsky. The figures in bronze set on a granite pedestal depict a couple of terek sandpipers. This bird species breeds in the tundra in northern Eurasia, however, there is a relatively small isolated population in Belarus. Today it is the only monument to Terek Sandpiper in the world.

Every year, the APB holds a bird festival in Turov.


Only in this city there is a beauty contest, where young artists portray different birds.


We recommend all travelers to see the nearest surroundings of Turov.


From the ground, you can see these colorful places.


While from the height, some of the surrounding villages look really amazing. This is a nearby village of Pogost. The picture was taken in April 2013.

Pogost in May 2013. Now the flood is less, but still impressive.

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In the vicinity of Turov, you can still see such pictures – ancient canoes have been preserved in several villages on the territory of the Pripyatsky National Park. And you can even experience one of them!

Translated by M.Shaturin

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