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How the cities of Belarus have changed: the capital of Polesie Pinsk

The joint project of the local history portal "Planet Belarus" and the search engine Yandex represents the top 10 Belarusian cities, which have changed most over the last quarter of the century. Showing new micro-districts and the most interesting architectural constructions, we speak briefly about the history of cities.

Much more information about the iconic places of Pinsk is available in the section "Sightseeing". And you can find them, read reviews of the most popular and route directly from the search for Yandex.


Pinsk has long been the unofficial capital of Polesie. It is second only to Grodno in size and the degree of preservation of the historic center.

Some researchers calculate the history of Pinsk from the VIII century. It was then that one of the oldest Slavic settlements found in Belarus was founded near the village of Horodishche. It is often considered to be the predecessor of the modern city, which for unknown reasons was moved to another place.

The first written mention of Pinsk dates back to 1097. At that time it was a part of Kievan Rus and eventually became the capital of an independent princedom, which in the XIV century joined the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as a province. In 1521, when the last representative of the Pinsk princely dynasty died, the Polish king Sigismund the Old gave these lands to his wife Bona Sforza, who left her memory with successful reforms and the first experience in building artificial waterways and draining swamps.

+2-DJI_0062_1330.jpg Remains of the Royal Canal in the village of Gorodets

In 1581, according to the privilege of Stefan Batoria, the city of Pinsk received the Magdeburg Law and Coat of Arms - and was rich year after year thanks to its favorable location. Numerous wars and uprisings in the second half of the 17th and early 18th centuries certainly did not pass this region by. Pinsk was robbed and burnt almost to the ground several times, a significant part of the population died - in 1648 during the suppression of the uprising of the citizens, in 1655 during the Russian-Polish war of 1654-1667, in 1706 during the Great Northern War. But every time the city was rising from the ruins.

The large economic and spiritual center of Pinsk Polesie was in dire need of reliable access to Baltic ports, as well as land and water roads on Pinsk Polesie, entirely covered with impassable swamps. The construction of two canals at once - Mukhavetsky (1775-1783), later renamed the Royal Canal, and Oginsky (1767-1783) - began during the reign of the last king of the Rzeczpospolita Stanislaw August Poniatowski.

A great role in the implementation of these grandiose projects was played by the reformer of Polesie, Pinsky's eldest, and the city judge Mateusz Butrimowicz (grandfather of the famous artist and composer Napoleon Horde). He supervised all the construction works and sent ships loaded with smoked fish, honey, wax and other local goods to Warsaw and Gdansk via the channel connecting Pripyat and Vistula, making an excellent advertisement to the city and the region. In September of the same year Pinsk was visited by King Stanislaw Augustus of Poniatowski, who officially opened shipping on the Royal Canal, sailing on it with his retinue about a mile. The king saw both the Gornowski Trakt, which Butrimowicz started to build on the marshy Zarechie, and the Oginski Canal, the construction of which was financed by Hetman Michael Kazimir Oginski, who inherited the property of his grandfather Hetman Michael Kazimir Vishniewiecki in Polesie. Thus, Pinsk became a port of international importance on the navigable Dnieper-Bug waterway that connected the Baltic and Black Seas.

Both channels certainly contributed to the economic development of the whole region and the city of Pinsk.

+3-2018-09-01-4--DJI_0112_1330.jpg The Pina River flows into the Pripyat River within the city limits

In 1793, after the second partition of the Rzeczpospolita, the city of Pinsk became part of the Russian Empire. A little later, in 1801, by the decree of Paul I, Pinsk was joined by Caroline - an old rival of the city, whose pier was the first to receive ships and goods that came to the Pripyat. Administratively, Pinsk was part of the Minsk Province (at that time it was still called a viceroyalty), had the status of a county town and was one of the largest cities in the province together with Minsk and Bobruisk. At the same time, all the buildings in the city, except for the cult objects, remained wooden for a long time. 

The economic development of the region was entirely connected with waterways and, as Jozef Kraszewski wrote, from the end of navigation to the beginning of life here as if it was freezing... The construction of the railway gave a new impetus to the development of the city. In 1882 the southern branch of the Polesie railways passed through Pinsk. At the same time in 1880s such large enterprises as match and plywood factories and steam-shipbuilding plant started to appear in Pinsk.

In the XIX and early XX centuries, the canal was not only of economic but also of strategic importance to the Russian Empire, as it was the only inland waterway connecting the Baltic and Black Seas. In 1837 reconstruction of the canal began, the main works were carried out from 1846 to 1848. Twenty-two wooden dams were built, which made it possible to maintain the water level necessary for stable navigation at all times. The width along the bottom of the canal was increased to 14 m, and the maximum draught of vessels was 70 cm. In 1886 and 1890, five destroyers were transferred by tugboat of the wheeled steamer and by clamshells along the canal from the construction site from the town of Elbinga to Sevastopol.

Hard times for Pinsk came in World War I. After a series of defeats suffered by the Russian army, Pinsk became a front-line city, and on September 15, 1915 it was occupied by the Kaiser troops. More than two years the front line from three sides surrounded Pinsk, passing closely to the city on Oginsk channel, Yaselda and Strumen. Kaiserovtsy have left city only in the beginning of 1919.

+4-old_postcard_pinsk_014_800.jpg German troops in Pinsk

At that turbulent time, power in Pinsk was changing rapidly. The Kaiserovs and Petlyurovs were driven out of Pinsk by rebel regiments of the Polesie uprising. Soviet power was replaced by Polish power - and again the Red Army was part of Pinsk... 

+5-phoca_thumb_l_0022-pinsk_1094.jpg The city of Pinsk in the interwar period


The results of the Soviet-Polish war (1919-1921), which ended with the signing of the Riga Peace Treaty, were not in favor of the USSR. As a result, Western Belarus, including the former Pinsk district, withdrew to Poland (II Rzeczpospolita). Pinsk had a chance to become the capital of a huge Polesie voivodship - the poorest one, entirely covered with swamps and a dense river network. This status soon passed to Brest - about a third of the city was destroyed by a terrible fire in 1921.

Almost 20 peaceful years were marked by the construction of the first bridge over Pina, the first road from Brest to Pinsk on Polesie, paved with hexagonal tiles "trilink", which can still be seen on the main street of the Old Town. In Pinsk until September 1939, the Pinsk Navy of Poland was stationed, which brought the features of Pinsk and urban life inherent in military ports ... In 1926 in Pinsk was opened the first museum on the Polesie. The Polish Local Lore Society and the Orbis Tourist Company were active here. Especially popular were water tourism on the rivers and canals of Polesie, as well as colorful Polesie fairs held in the modern city park.

In September 1939 Pinsk became part of the USSR. December 4, 1939 was issued a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, according to which a separate region with a center in Pinsk was created. But already on July 4, 1941 the city was occupied by Wehrmacht troops. The occupation lasted three years and ten days. Pinsk owns the honor of creating one of the first partisan detachments in the history of the Great Patriotic War. Komarov's fighter squad (V.Z. Korzh) was formed from the partisan and Komsomol workers of Pinsk on the fifth day of the war. It received baptism of fire two days later, suffered heavy losses in the battle with the enemy on the outskirts of Pinsk, but despite this, it retained its fighting ability and grew into a large partisan brigade. The war caused terrible damage to the city: in the mass graves near Posenic, Kozlyakovic, in the tract of Good Will and in the Pinsk ghetto at least 26 thousand Pinsk Jews, who had been associated with Pinsk and Polesie for almost 5 centuries, died. On July 14, 1944, the ruined city, where 5-7 thousand inhabitants remained alive, was liberated as a result of a joint operation of the 61st Army of the First Belarusian Front and the Dnieper Military Flotilla.

In the postwar years, many industrial enterprises were built, which turned the city into one of the industrial centers of Belarus. In 1954, the Pinsk region was abolished. And the city received the status of a district center in the Brest region. 

+7-2018-08-31-6--DJI_0279_1330.jpgThe building of a former Jesuit colleague

Not all the monuments of prewar Pinsk have survived...

Today the business card of Pinsk is the building of the former Jesuit collegium. This monument of the XVII century, which absorbed the features of Renaissance and Baroque, is rightly called the "patriarch of Pinsk antiquity". The Collegium, as well as the entire Jesuit monastery, was erected in the 17th century on the money of Chancellor Albrecht Radziwill of Pinsk and Vilna. Construction was suspended and continued for 44 years (1631-1675).


Architectural dominance of the monastic ensemble and the whole Pinsk for several centuries was the church of St. Stanislav - the largest for almost half a century, the cult building of the GDL. The majestic shrine served for the Jesuits, Basilians, was an Orthodox Epiphany Cathedral and then returned to Catholics again.


The imperishable relics of St. Andrew Boboli rested in her crypt. In 1706 the Swedish King Charles XII looked at the swamps of Poles from the church tower. But to this day only a colleague and two other unremarkable buildings have survived from the grandiose ensemble.


That was Pinsk's panorama with St. Stanislav's Church.

+11 4456649a50b75550a7f5d7564242aecd.jpg

The interwar photo of the collegium and the church from the Pina River and graphic reconstructions of Alexander Nevar, which show how these objects would look now.



A look at the virtual church from the real Lenin Square and Lenin pedestrian street.


Symbolic work, isn't it? Especially since the leader of the proletariat himself still walks along the walls of his former colleague...


After the destruction of the Church of St. Stanislaus, the freestanding building of a former Jesuit colleague was almost demolished, as insisted some capital official from the Ministry of Culture. But nobody's hand this time did not infringe on the oldest building in Pinsk. Even today it impresses with the thickness of its walls, cross vaults of halls and corridors, curvaceous pediments, broken tiled roof and a lighthouse-like faceted counterfort tower.


Even today it impresses with the thickness of its walls, cross vaults of halls and corridors, curvaceous pediments, broken tiled roof and a lighthouse-like faceted counterfort tower.


From this "alma mater" came the historian Adam Narushevich, philosopher Karol Vyrvich, political and economic figure Mateusz Butrimovic. A rich library was collected in the collegium (in 1940 it was exported to Leningrad), physical and chemical laboratories were created, the first pharmacy on Polesie, a printing house and a student theatre operated here. The Pinsk collegium, along with Polotsk ones, were considered the best educational institutions of the GDL, which were not inferior to the universities. Education was free and accessible to people from different walks of life, regardless of their religion, for 12-13 years.

In the 19th century there was a bursa in the building of the collegium where Alexander Vlasau, a Belarusian public figure, editor and publisher of the legendary Nashaia Niva, studied. Today the marble steps of the collegium lead to the Museum of Belarusian Polesie.


Among the many exhibits kept in the museum, we note an unusual bicycle made by a local craftsman from wood. It is in working condition!

+19-bdb37e73e5e0110df9fdb5346b32b85b_1330.jpgFormer Franciscan monastery complex

Another business card of Pinsk is the unique cult complex of the former Franciscan monastery - the only surviving Baroque ensemble in Pinsk. Its memorable silhouette with steep tiled roofs, graceful signature above the Cathedral Church, four-story bell tower and figured gables of the seminary impress all the guests of Pinsk.


The Franciscan monastery, one of the oldest in the GDL, was founded in 1396 by the future Grand Duke Sigismund Keystutovich. The Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is an amazing monument, where the Gothic power of the side walls and the apse are combined with the graceful Baroque facade, the upper part of which is surrounded by an openwork ribbon in Art Nouveau style. The main aisle of the basilica is adjoined on both sides by chapels.


The temple has 7 altars (6 wooden and one knock). The elegant wooden carving, the creator of which is considered to be Vilna master Jan Schmidt and his students, is amazing. The real masterpiece is a carved pulpit with a canopy made of a single trunk of linden. A special place in the church is occupied by a painting by Alfred Romer "The Madonna of Pinska Madonna" (Madonna with bangs), written for this shrine in 1894. The walls and vaults of the church were decorated in 1909 in the Art Nouveau style by Warsaw artists. The old organ, consisting of 1498 metal and wooden pipes, was made in 1836. The crypt beneath the main altar houses the ashes of Cardinal Kazimir Świątk, the first in the history of Belarus. The former shrine of Franciscans has been a cathedral church since 1925, and in 1996 Pope John Paul II awarded it the status of the Small Basilica, one of three in Belarus.


In the former monastery buildings there is the Administration of the Pinsk Catholic Diocese and the Higher Spiritual Catholic Seminary named after St. Thomas Aquinas, which was revived in 2001. The early 18th century frescoes dedicated to the acts of St. Francis have been preserved in its cross gallery.

+22-2017-09-10-1--6480_1330.jpgButrimovich Palace

Just next to the church there is a palace, which went down in the history of the city as "Pinsk mur". Three glorious Polish families - Butrimovichi, Horde and Skirmunt - owned this palace one by one. In the past, the palace was the main repository of Napoleon Horde's creative heritage. It is a beautiful building with antique porticoes on its side wings and the first stone civil building of Pinsk acting in the center of the risalite. The palace belonged to Mateusz Butrimowicz, the youngest of Pinsk, a member of the Lithuanian Tribunal, an ambassador to the 4-year-old Sejm, whose efforts made Pinsk a port of international importance with two accesses to the Baltic Sea through the Oginsky and Royal Canals. The first stone in the foundation of the palace was laid on September 9, 1784 by the hand of King Stanislav August Poniatowski.


Many famous people have lived and visited this palace. Napoleon Orda, grandson of M. Butrimovich, artist and musician, created here when he returned from emigration. Jozef Kraszewski, an incredibly prolific novelist, ethnographer, author of 600 volumes of works, including 223 novels and novels, often visited the palace. The last mistress of the palace was the writer Constance Skirmunt, then the curia of Bishop K. Bukraba was accommodated here. Cognizant of desolation and decay, the "Pinsk Moore" was restored in 2008. Today, the ancient building houses the Wedding Palace, and in its right wing there is a small museum dedicated to the history of the palace.


This church, similar to a miniature fortress, is the only sanctuary of "communist monks" in the GDL territory. In 1695, at the invitation of Marshal Jan Carol Dolski, the owner of the castle and founder of the Pinsk suburb Caroline, representatives of the Order of the Secular Priestesses, who were in the commune, or "monks-communists", or "bartolomites", arrived to Pinsk from Italy. The "Communists" lived in a community (commune), had a common cash register and prepared young people to enter the spiritual field. Originally the monastery and the church were wooden, and at the end of the XVIII century the church was rebuilt in stone, combining Baroque stylistics and techniques of defense architecture. The powerful walls, which in some places are more than two meters thick, are cut with small arched openings. The two-story bell tower with a hipped roof hides a spiral staircase with polished steps from more than two centuries. A small Baroque altar, similar to a triumphal arch, has long been lost. In the 1830s, the derelict church was almost a Lutheran Kirch.

In 1860 it was consecrated again - in the name of the Holy Trinity, and a century later it was closed in the era of atheism. Writer Vladimir Korotkevich, having visited Pinsk, called the former shrine of "communists" "barokaway tsatsachkai". Since 1992 the city concert hall with an electronic organ has been opened in the former church.

+25-dc40688645228238242f6de1d72ac503_1330.jpg St. Varvarin Cathedral is located in the re-consecrated Bernardine Church, built in the Baroque style in 1770-1786.

After the November Uprising of 1830-1831, the Bernardines were evicted from Pinsk and their shrine was given to the Orthodox. In the cells of the Bernardines were accommodated a mother hegumen and several nuns. Later the monastery served as a city prison, then as a hospital. Here, "in the capital on Bernardinskaya", in 1932 the future famous writer and journalist Ryshard Kapustinsky was born. Back in the XIX century, when the temple was not used for a long time due to the small size of the Orthodox population, but served as a granary, "optical" altars disappeared from its walls.


St. Varvarinsky Cathedral - a monument of Baroque architecture, where you can see the grisaille painting in the traditions of early classicism and a large number of icons of the XVII-XIX centuries, including "Mother of God Hodegetria of Jerusalem" (XVI century), "The Cover" (1732), "The Three Saints" (1765), "Mother of God's Patience" (1751).


The Church of the Resurrection of St. Barbara Monastery is located in the historical center of Pinsk. In Soviet times the premises of the monastery were used as a hospital. It resumed its activity only in 1993, when all the buildings were returned to the believers.


Showing religious sights in Pinsk, we must also remember about the Jews. This was the look of the Big Synagogue, which was located in the central part of the city. In 1847 there were 5050 Jews living in Pinsk, in 1871 - 13 681 Jews (77.7% of the population), in 1896 - 21 819 Jews (77.3%), in 1914. - 28,063 Jews (72.5%).

Since the early 1820s the economic importance of Pinsk increased, which became a major center of trade in agricultural products and forestry. Jews, especially members of the Lourieu and Levine families, played a major role in this process.


The oldest gymnasium in Polesie, which was turned into a noble school. Famous people studied in this building: Haim Weizman (1874-1952) - a chemist scientist, the author of hundreds of scientific discoveries, the first president of Israel, the inventor Isaac Schoenberg (1880-1963), awarded the title Lord of Great Britain for his services to the creation of the English television system, academician of architecture Ivan Zholtovsky (1867-1959) - one of the major representatives of neoclassicism in European architecture of the XX century. ; Mikhail Mashkovsky (1908-2002), the largest Soviet pharmacologist, and others...


Now on the place of the Jewish suburb of Carolin is a campus of Polesie State University, which was opened in Pinsk on September 1, 2006.


The architectural solution of the university complex is quite unusual for Pinsk, but teachers and students like it.


The main building of the university stands in the place of convergence and divergence of Pripyat and Pina. By the way, Pina is probably the only river in Belarus, whose waters flow into two other rivers...


The Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Pinsk was built in 2008 on the site where the famous Leschinsky Monastery, known since 1263, used to be located. Behind it you can see the university stadium and the ice palace.


In Pinsk in the first half of the XX century there were two theaters: the Korzhenevsky Theater and the Goltsmanov Brothers Theater. In 1940 in Pinsk in the building of the Goltsmanov Theatre the Pinsk Regional Drama Theatre started working. The modern Polesie theatre started its work in 2006. After the restoration was completed, it was housed in the historical building of the oldest Pinsk theatre "Casino", built in 1911-1912 on the money of David Boyarsky in Art Nouveau style. One of the Art Nouveau techniques was used here - on the corner of the building there is a miniature tower with a dome. Inside there is an auditorium for 110 seats, foyer with mirrors and chandeliers. The visiting card of the theatre is the play "The Pinsk gentry" based on the play by Vincent Dunin-Martinkevich.


Opposite to the confluence of Pina and Pripyat in the park named after the Dnieper Flotilla there is a monument dedicated to sailors - a real combat armored vehicle "BK-92". The monument is dedicated to the feat of the paratroopers' seamen who landed on the shore of Pina in the night from 11 to 12 July 1944.


Occupied by the Nazis, Pinsk was well prepared for a circular defense: the enemy group consisted of about 50 thousand soldiers and officers, was built 7 reinforced concrete bunkers, the city is surrounded by two lines of trenches, and all the approaches to the city - mined.

The first tier of the assault consisted of Dnieper sailors and soldiers of the 1323rd regiment of the 415th Infantry Division. This was one of the few operations to liberate the cities with the help of the landing force. The Soviet troops captured 185 river vessels in Pinsk thanks to the guerrillas' actions, which during the operation "Dnepro-Bug" disabled the sluice systems of the Dnieper-Bug canal, and 120 km of waterway became impassable.


Speaking about modern Pinsk, I would like to mention some residents of the city who have done a lot for its development and popularization. First of all, the former general director of the enterprise "Dniprobugvodput" Ivan Mykhaylovych Kyivtsi, whose name is given to the embankment of the river Pripyat. As Butrimovich laid canals in the XVIII century, so Kievitsa restored them at the turn of XX and XXI.


Opening of the renovated Duboé airlock, September 30, 2006.


The first barge passes through the airlock, and Ivan Mikhailovich with "trophies" of his employee. There was no time to pick mushrooms during the business trip, just took a picture...


Tatyana Arkadyevna Khvagina is taking a tour of the city of Pinsk. This is her information I use in this report, she is a patriot of the city, knows its history perfectly well and has made several books about Pinsk.


The summer of 2017. Work is underway to improve the city center.


Lenin Street has become a pedestrian street.


Due to the demolition of houses of the private sector, the Belov Street was extended and the transport problem of crossing the city centre and reaching the bridge over the Pina river was solved.


Pervomayskaya Street has also become a pedestrian street.


In 2018 a symbolic monument to Pinchuk appeared in Pinsk.


In 2018 a symbolic monument to Pinchuk appeared in Pinsk.


And every guest of the city can come up with his own arguments for the Poleshooks, who are very proud of their unincorporated capital.


Year 2019, the reconstruction of the bridge over the Pina River began and new districts of Pinsk appeared. I think that these pictures will be interesting for the Pinchuk themselves - for sure, they are not often on the outskirts of the city.

48-2019-10-27-20--DJI_0988_1330.jpg Football academy on Solnechnaya Street
49-2019-10-27-20--DJI_0998_1330.jpg Raduzhny" microdistrict, intersection of Solnechnaya Street and Zholtovsky Avenue
50-2019-10-27-20--DJI_0996.jpg New houses in the neighborhood "Solnechny", Yevgeniya Yanishchitsy Street and General Nordman Street
Feodorovsky Cathedral on Parkova Street
52-2019-10-27-24--DJI_0019_1330.jpg Novikova Street
53-2019-10-27-7--DJI_0122_1330.jpg Impressive and cottage development of the outskirts of Pinsk. Krainovichi microdistrict
54-2019-10-27-7--DJI_0140_1330.jpg Logishinskaya Street
55-2019-10-27-7--DJI_0111_1330.jpg Production buildings of Amkodor, a branch of Amkodor Machine Building Holding
56-2019-10-28-1--DJI_0108_1330.jpg Construction hypermarket "Bild" on Industrial Street
57-2019-10-28-1--DJI_0113_1330.jpg Brestskaya Street

I'm glad that the city started building houses with individual design. Pinsk, like the rest of Belarus, is moving forward, overcoming difficulties!


And this picture of the villagers in the very center of Pinsk we place at the end of the report as a symbol of the traditional Pinsk Polesie.

Let the identity of this region be preserved!

P.S. The material uses information from the local history portal "Planet Belarus" and other open sources. The author expresses her gratitude to the local historian Tatsiana Khvagina for the historical consultation, to the chairman of the public association "Belarusian Voluntary Society for Protection of Monuments of History and Culture" Anton Astapovich and collector Vladimir Bogdanov for the provided archive photos.

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