Belarus of today is a combination of technological progress and ancient traditions, religious and secular customs, urbanization and virgin nature.
The development of tourism is one of the priorities in Belarus today. An advantageous geographic location, great nature, convenient transport communication make Belarus an enticing holiday destination for travel freaks from around the world. Everyone can find something to his or her liking in Belarus. Whether you love avant-garde or classical art, cinema, theater, sport, clubs, or no-fuss recreation - Belarus has it all.
Moderate continental climate, crystal-clear air, and virgin landscapes attract the lovers of peaceful and solitary alfresco recreation; they can visit national parks and numerous nature reserves. The country is divided into 27 tourist zones, considering each zone's historical and natural potential.
More and more tourists lean toward recreation tourism. There are nearly one hundred sanatoria in Belarus, which offer a wide range of medical services at a great value for money price.
Agroecotourism is becoming increasingly popular. As of 1 January 2010, there were 884 facilities of agroecotourism in Belarus. Also, there were 17 tourism complexes, a center for the promotion of agricultural entrepreneurship and three ethnographic museums. Tourists from 46 countries visited Belarusian rural mansions in 2009. The rural mansions still have a unique ethnographic color of the everyday life of Belarusians, but at that the recreation of tourists is organized here in accordance with the most demanding international standards.
Travelers wishing to discover Belarus can choose from over 750 tours and itineraries offered by Belarusian travel agencies.
Comfortable country cottages feature Russian baths, saunas and cozy pergolas; they offer a breathtaking view of the picturesque rivers and lakes and specially allocated fishing and bathing sites - all this attracts a huge amount of tourists every year. You can visit these places not only in summer but also in winter and take your children with you to celebrate the New Year and Christmas in the beautiful forest.
There are over 270 hotels in Belarus, of them 30 in Minsk. The best hotels are the five-star Hotel D'Europe and Crowne Plaza and the four-star Victoria and Minsk.
7 REASONS TO VISIT BELARUS
1. PRISTINE NATURE
One third of the territory of the country. In Belarus, you can visit a forest which is 900 year old. You can do that by visiting Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, which was the most visited tourist site in Belarus in 2009 (over 235,000 tourists). In the Pushcha there is the residence of the Belarusian Father Frost Pripyatsky National Park lies in the center of Polesye swamplands which are called "the lungs" of Europe. It is a kingdom of water, floodplain meadows and oak-grooves. It is for a reason that Belarus is called the "blue-eyed" country, since there are over 10,000 lakes and around 20,800 rivers in this country. There is the meandering lace of the Braslav Lakes - 30 water reservoirs interconnected with each other by an intricate network of rivulets in north-western Belarus. The River Pripyat is rightly called the Belarusian Amazon (its total length is 761km, including 495km in Belarus), and the Augustow Canal is one of the pinnacles of the nineteenth-century engineering.
2. UNIQUE ARCHITECTURE OF THE 12TH-17TH CENTURIES
History lovers should definitely visit the Mir Castle. Also mysterious and beautiful are the castles in Lida, the ruins of the castle in Novogrudok, the palaces in Nesvizh and Kosovo. Traveling around Belarus, you cannot but visit the Kamenets Tower, which is a specimen of the thirteenth-century defense architecture. The pearls of ancient Belarusian architecture are also the monuments of the twelfth-seventeenth centuries: the Gothic castle-temple in Synkovichi, Savior Transfiguration Church and St. Sophia Cathedral in Polotsk, palace and park ensemble in the style of Classicism in Gomel. The churches in Slutsk and Kozhan-Gorod - the unsurpassable monuments of ancient architecture of the second half of the seventeenth - late nineteenth centuries - retain the spirit of the Eastern Orthodox religion. You will be impressed by the Baroque-style splendor of the Roman Catholic churches in Grodno, St. Xavier (or Farny) Roman Catholic Church in Nesvizh.
3. A VARIETY OF FOLK CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS
The roots of traditional Belarusian holidays are moored to paganism and ancient Slavic beliefs which are closely related to Christianity. The principal holidays are
Christmas and Easter, which are celebrated twice a year, namely in accordance with the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic religious calendars. The essential attributes of Christmas holidays are a richly decorated Christmas tree and Father Frost . On the Easter's Eve people clean their homes, put everything in good order, cook a variety of dishes, paint eggs and bake homemade Easter cakes, kulichi. On the night of July 6-7, Belarusians celebrate Kupalye, or the Kupala night, the shortest night of the year and the most ancient holiday in Belarus. This night witnesses the performance of ancient rites, the singing of songs, dancing in a ring. The essential attributes of this holiday are the ritual jumping over bon-fire and bathing. Shrovetide comes as a sea of joy filling people with merriment and happiness. A great opportunity to get a glimpse of Belarusian culture is to visit Vernacular Architecture and Ethnic Heritage Museum near the village of Ozertso (4km away from Minsk), and the Dudutki open air museum (40km away from Minsk).
4. GREAT OPPORTUNITIES FOR DOING SPORTS
The European-standard sport and recreation complex Logoisk, a short drive from Minsk, is a good option if mountain skiing and snowboarding are what you are after, both professionally or just for fun. The national ski resort Silichi offers seven tracks with different complexity levels. In the summer, you can take up diving or underwater fishing on the beautiful local lakes, or hunting , take a ride in a motor-boat . As for those who want to see as much as possible at a time, there are bicycle and horseback tours, as well as kayak and raft tours.
5. CULTURAL LIFE
There are 149 museums in Belarus, which have over 60 regional offices around the country. The country's leading history museum is the Belarus National History and Culture Museum in Minsk. Pieces of fine art created by famous painters are on display at the National Arts Museum in Minsk. Those who know the nuances of the dramatic art will be pleased to find out that there is a vibrant theater scene in Belarus. Recently medieval cultural festivals have become increasingly popular in Belarus. Usually they are carried out in the warm time of the year in Minsk, Zaslavl, Mir, Nesvizh, Novogrudok, Lida, Kamenets. Following the tradition, these events feature knights' tournaments , storms of castles and scenes from the everyday life of medieval warriors; there you can also enjoy medieval music and dances. At the Vitebsk Fine Arts Museum there is a priceless collection of etchings created by the world-renowned artist Marc Chagall for Nikolai V. Gogol's Dead Souls.
6. BELARUSIAN CUISINE
Cozy cafes and restaurants in the traditional Belarusian style offer a wide range of dishes re-created to ancient recipes. An essential attribute of all dishes is the food products that are essentially Belarusian, like lard, mushrooms, cranberries and pickled cabbage. It is believed that potato dishes are the main dishes on the Belarusian table. Even if you are not a big fan of this glorious vegetable, you will not be able to resist the temptation to degust the delicious Belarusian draniki, a thin potato pancake with sourcream sauce. If you are not a veggie, however, you should try Belarusian traditional pork dishes, which occupy a special place in Belarusian cuisine, for example, roasted meat on a spit, would be a nice choice if you are having a great time during the sports holiday "Minsk Ski Track" in Raubichi (Minsk Oblast). The Belarusians' drinks of choice are cranberry water, sbiten (a hot drink made from water, honey and spices) and mead. Another gem of Belarusian cuisine is krambambulya, an alcoholic beverage brewed on a variety of spices; it was devised by the Belarusian nobility, or schlachta, about 200 years ago.
7. RURAL MANSIONS
Today there are 884 rural mansions specifically dedicated for tourist purposes in Belarus. They lie in the most charming places of the country. Price depends on the services and your wishes, but some things remain unvarying at all times: eco-friendly food, fresh air, and cordial hospitality of the landowners. The entertainment programs include rafting on rivers and lakes; walking, horse riding or bicycle tours; tours to historic sites; skiing, skating, sleigh riding; hunting, fishing ; picking mushrooms, visiting out-of-the-way places. Tourists are also offered master classes in bread bakery and cooking dishes to ancient Belarusian recipes, evenings in a real banya (a traditional Russian sauna) with bunch of green birch twigs.
Visiting the regions of Belarus
Minsk is the capital of the Republic of Belarus, the center of Minsk Oblast and Minsk district. It is located on the banks of the Svisloch River. Its population is 1.836 million people, or about 17 percent of the entire population of Belarus. Minsk is the 116th largest city in the world in terms of the number of residents. Although Minsk looks quite young today, it is one of Europe's oldest cities. It was first mentioned in the chronicle as the settlement located on the banks of the Nemiga River in the year 1067.
Minsk is home to the state residence of the President of the Republic of Belarus. The Belarusian Parliament - the National Assembly - and the Government - the Council of Ministers - as well as the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus have their headquarters in Minsk. Minsk is also the seat of the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth of Independent States, home to residences of diplomatic missions, the city where consulates and offices of international institutions and organizations have their headquarters in the Republic of Belarus.
During the Great Patriotic War of 1941- 1945 over 80 percent of all buildings in Minsk were destroyed. But from the ashes and ruins there rose a new Minsk. Very few ancient buildings have survived in Minsk, but the hospitable Minskers are proud of the wide sun-lit avenues and spacious squares, diverse architectural ensembles, verdurous streets, boulevards and parks of their home city (there is about 17 sq. m. of greenery per resident in Minsk).
Minsk is a large industrial center responsible for nearly one fourth of the nation's industrial output; half of all Belarus's trucks and tractors are manufactured in Minsk. There are now over 1,800 businesses with foreign participation in Minsk and the number of these companies has been growing steadily. Foreign companies and joint ventures illustrate partnership with investors from more than 60 countries. Minsk accounts for over 40 percent of Belarus's international trade turnover.
Minsk is Belarus's major center of education and research. Minsk is the seat of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. In addition to the academy, R&D projects are also carried out at institutions of higher learning, the biggest of which are Belarusian State University and Belarusian National Technical University.
In Minsk, there are 18 museums (the National Arts Museum, National Belarusian History and Culture Museum, Belarusian State Museum of the Great Patriotic War, among others) and 12 theaters (National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet
Theater, Yanka Kupala National Academic Theater, Gorky National Drama Theater, among others).
Minsk Oblast is located in the central part of the country. The population is 1,422,500 people. It includes 22 districts. The administrative center of the oblast is Minsk, the capital of the Republic of Belarus.
It is one of the country's most economically advanced regions. Exports account for about 50 percent of the region's industrial output. The oblast trades with more than 120 countries.
The major manufacturing centers are the towns of Soligorsk, Borisov, Zhodino, Slutsk, and Molodechno. The leading manufactures are Belaruskali (potassium fertilizers), BelAZ (large and small-capacity trucks, quarry equipment).
Minsk Oblast is the largest agricultural area of Belarus. In most districts there are advanced meat and milk production facilities. Also, the oblast produces grain, potato in combination with flax, and in the south-west potato in combination with sugar beet.
Minsk Oblast is located at the crossroads of the major transport routes connecting Western Europe with the East and the regions of the Black Sea with the regions of the Baltic Sea. One of the main railway lines, Brest-Minsk-Russian border, crosses the region. Near the town of Smolevichi there is the nation's hub airport, Minsk International Airport.
In 1998, with the purpose of attracting foreign investment in Minsk Oblast, the Minsk free economic zone was established.
The major historical and architectural specimens include the eighteenth-century Roman Catholic Church in Borisov, an ancient settlement, a park, a nineteenth-century wooden church in Logoisk, the ruins of a sixteenth-seventeenth-century castle in Zaslavl, St. Bernardine Roman Catholic Church in the village of Budslav in Myadel district, the sixteenth-century palace and castle complex in Nesvizh.
The largest collections of traditional Belarusian artifacts can be found at the Nesvizh National History and Culture Reserve Museum, Belarusian State Vernacular Architecture and Ethnic Heritage Museum in the village of Ozertso, Belarusian Folk Crafts Museum in Raubichi, Dudutki open-air museum.
The country's two largest ski resorts, Silichi and Logoisk Alpine Ski Centers, are located in Minsk Oblast.
In Minsk Oblast there are over 100 hotels, motels, sanatoria, boarding houses and other tourist facilities.
The town of Nesvizh is one of the historical landmarks of Belarus. For a long time it belonged to the Radziwills, one of the richest families in Europe. In Nesvizh you will find a unique castle and park ensemble of the sixteenth-eighteenth centuries; Corpus Christi Cathedral, which is a masterpiece of sixteenth-century architecture; the old town hall, and the town gate (also known as the Slutsk gate). Nesvizh is the cradle of Belarusian traditional crafts, theater, music, literature, book printing, enlightenment, philosophy... The Nesvizh castle is currently being refurbished to open its doors to visitors in a new appearance. Travelers can take a one-and-a-half-hour tour of the castle and park ensemble in an elegant carriage. Corpus Christi Cathedral, also known as St. Francisek Xavier church, was the first Baroque-style Jesuit temple in Rzeczpospolita. The cathedral is home to one of the biggest necropolis in Europe, which contains 102 sarcophagi of the Radziwills. The castle and park ensemble and Corpus Christi Cathedral together form the Radziwills' Residence complex.
The village of Khatyn is the symbol of all 186 Belarusian villages wiped out by the Nazis during the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. Khatyn was burnt down by the Nazis in March 1943; 149 Khatyn villagers were burnt alive, including 75 children. Today in this place there is a memorial complex, one of the most impressive monuments to all victims of World War II. The silence disturbed only by the mournful tolling of the bells reminds everyone who comes to this place about the tragic events.
Naroch region is located in the north of the oblast. Its highlights are Lake Naroch, a pearl of Belarusian nature, and the Blue Lakes. To preserve these areas, the Narochansky National Park was formed (160 km away from Minsk). The Naroch Lakes are famous for perch, zander, barbot, eel (25 species of fish in all). There are more pine forests in the Narochansky National Park than anywhere else in Belarus. The region is also well-known for its mineral waters: the country's largest recuperation and spa center is located in here.
Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve
The Berezinsky State Biosphere Reserve covers several oblasts of Belarus, but its biggest part is in Minsk Oblast. It has been awarded the European diploma of biogenetic reserves. The reserve is located 120km north of Minsk. Within its grounds you will find one of the biggest swamp areas in Europe. The reserve is one of the few places on the continent where nature is truly pristine. Every year around 25,000 tourists visit the reserve. They are offered a range of entertainment programs from day-long visits to the Nature Museum to taking a peek at wild animals that are kept in enclosures, to several-day tours into the wild.
Dudutki Open-air Museum
Dudutki Open-air Museum of local arts and crafts is located 40km away from Minsk in the village of Ptich, Pukhovichi district, on the picturesque banks of the River Ptich. It was opened in 1994 within the grounds of what was once the country estate of the Yelsky family. The museum has become very popular not only among tourists but also among Belarusians who often come here to hold family celebrations, wedding parties, etc. In Dudutki you plunge into the atmosphere of the nineteenth-century rural life in Belarus, with its quaint lifestyle, customs and traditions. Here you can try your hand at popular crafts, like making clay pots, forging a horse shoe; you can also tour the local indoor museum, take a look at the interior of the local active windmill and taste the fresh rye bread cooked in the old bakery.
Brest Oblast is located in the south-west of Belarus. Its population is 1,401.2 million people. The oblast borders on Poland in the west and Ukraine in the south. The oblast comprises 16 districts.
The city of Brest (309,800 people) is the administrative center of the oblast.
The Brest of today is the main western gate of Belarus. This is the first city most of the travelers crossing through Belarus by car or by bus get into.
The city's industrial potential is mainly channeled into production of consumer goods.
Products offered by some companies are unparalleled in Belarus. The products are primarily gas stoves marketed under the Gefest trademark, and electric bulbs made by Brest Electric Bulbs Plant. Food industry makes a major contribution to the city economy. The largest companies include Brest Meat-Packing Plant, Savushkin Product Dairy. Products made by Brest companies are sold in over 40 countries, including Russia, Italy, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, and others. The oblast local lore museum can tell a lot about the history of the city.
In Brest there are two theaters: Brest Drama and Music Theater and Brest Puppet Theater as well as Brest Oblast Philharmonic.
Around 80 percent of the CIS states' land export to Western Europe passes through the oblast. Brest Oblast maintains trade and economic cooperation with 112 countries. In March 1996 the Brest free economic zone was created.
Brest Oblast is well-known outside Belarus due to the Brest Hero Fortress and Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, which have become its unique feature.
There are many unique natural complexes and natural monuments in the oblast.
Visitors of Brest city and the oblast can use over 50 hotels, motels, sanatoriums, recreation centers and tourist camps.
Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park is a unique forest land in Europe. It features the centuries-old forests, unique plants, rare animals, primarily wisents. This is the oldest forest in Belarus. The first written record of the Pushcha dates back to 983. The territory of Belovezhskaya Pushcha was first taken under protection in the early sixteenth century. Today this is a national park which has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Walking, horseback and car itineraries have been developed for tourists here to make it possible for them to get to know both the natural and architectural monuments of the Pushcha and its surroundings.
Brest Hero Fortress
The Brest Hero Fortress memorial is a symbol of the feat of arms of the Soviet people in the Great Patriotic War. Brest Fortress was among the first military outposts of the USSR to take the brunt of the Nazi assault on 22 June 1941. The valor and heroism of its defenders have become exemplary. The fortress was built in the nineteenth century; it was officially opened on 26 April 1842. The memorial was built in 1969-1971, and the dedication ceremony took place on 25 September 1971. One of the many unique features of the memorial is the Defense Museum; more than 20 million tourists from all over the world have visited this museum since its opening.
The Nine-Hundred-Year-Old Town
Pinsk is one of the oldest towns of Belarus. Taking a tour of the town, you will see why they call Pinsk the unofficial capital city of the Polesye. The tour includes visits to the Jesuit collegiums, Franciscan monastery, St. Barbara Church, St. Charles Borromeo Cathedral, Mateusz Butrymowicz's palace (late seventeenth century)
A prominent figure in Russian and world literature, Fyodor Dostoyevsky owes its surname to the village of Dostoyevo, Ivanovo district. It was in this place that his paternal ancestors lived for nearly three centuries. His grand-son Andrei wrote that the village of Dostoyevo was the birthplace of the Dostoyevsky family, the family that gave birth to the great Russian writer.
In the village, in the vicinity of Holy Trinity Church, there is a monument to Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
Rynkovka Tourist Center
The center is located on the banks of the Lesnaya River (Brest district). The distinguishing feature of the center is that it is built almost entirely without nails. The center is easily noticeable due to its heavy cast-iron gate, the imposing reed-roofed country mansion and the traditional Belarusian-style park. On the first floor of the mansion there is a restaurant, on the second a hotel. Within the grounds of the center there is also an equestrian school. The visitors may go canoeing, riding a bicycle, or may visit a traditional Belarusian-style sauna.
Vitebsk Oblast is located in the northern part of Belarus. The population totals 1,230.8 million people. It borders on Lithuania, Latvia and Russia and comprises 21 administrative territories.
The city of Vitebsk (population: 347,900), a major cultural and industrial center of Belarus, is the administrative center of the oblast. Vitebsk-made TV sets Vityas, silk, carpets, BelWest and Marko footwear are known in many countries.
Vitebsk companies maintain trade links with 40 countries. The major trading partners are Russia, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Moldova.
The core of the Vitebsk oblast industry is power generation (Lukoml State District Power Plant, Novopolotsk Combined Heat and Power Plant), oil processing and petrochemistry (Naftan, Polymir, Polotsk Steklovolokno), mechanical engineering, light and food industries. The oblast produces all of the country's linen cloth, polyethylene, half of the petrochemical products and energy. Half of the oblast's make is exported to almost 80 countries.
The agriculture specializes in grain and forage crops as well as flax. Fishery is well-developed. The oblast has the country's largest density of rivers and the largest lake area. Vitebsk Oblast makes part of the Euroregion "The Lake Region." In August 1999 the Vitebsk free economic zone, also named Vitebsk, was established.
The past and the present are "on display" in 27 museums, including the Vitebsk oblast local lore museum, the Ilya Repin museum reserve, and the National Polotsk Historical Cultural Museum-Preserve.
Vitebsk has long been awarded the title of the cultural center of Belarus.
Such prominent painters as I.Repin, I.Khrutsky, M. Dobuzhinsky, Y. Pen, K.Malevich, R. Falk and others have found their inspiration in the narrow cobbled streets and cozy quarters of Vitebsk. But arguably the most well-known resident of Vitebsk is the famous painter Marc Chagall.
The Slavonic Bazaar international art festival in Vitebsk, which has been organized annually since 1992, has become a symbol of festival movement in Belarus.
In the oblast there are 9 sanatoria and 15 health rehabilitation centers and tourist recreational centers.
Polotsk: the Cultural Capital of Belarus of 2010
Polotsk is nearly 1,150 years old, which makes it the oldest town in Belarus and one of the oldest towns in the Slavic world at large. It was the first capital of Belarusian culture, the birthplace of Belarusian statehood, the source of Belarusian intellectuality and the unique ethnic identity. A sightseeing tour of Polotsk reveals the historic and cultural heritage of this ancient Belarusian town. The extant architectural monuments include St. Sophia Cathedral (a specimen of the eleventh-eighteenth-century architecture), the Monastery of St. Euphrosyne and Our Lord the Savior with the twelve-century Transfiguration Church (a unique specimen of Slavonic architecture), the Theophany monastery (a Baroque-style monument). Polotsk is the native town of Francysk Skaryna. Due to Francysk Skaryna, Belarusians became one of the first nations to have their own printed Bible as long ago as in 1517.
On 21 January 2010 the national project "The Cultural Capital of Belarus" was launched in Polotsk to give the town dwellers and tourists an opportunity to get in touch with the Belarusian intellectual and cultural heritage.
The sightseeing tour of the oblast reveals fifteenth-nineteenth-century architectural monuments in Glubokoye district: the Trinity Cathedral in the town of Glubokoye, the Cathedral of the Ascension of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the village of Prozoroki, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the village of Udelo. The pearl of the oblast is the dendrological complex and the eighteenth-century St. Anna Cathedral in the village of Mosar, which is known far beyond Belarus, and the picturesque surroundings of the cathedral are called "the Mosar Versailles".
Braslav Lakes National Park
The park was founded in 1995. It occupies the area of 70,000ha and stretches 56km from north to south, its width ranges from 7km to 29km. There are over 800 species of plants in the park, including 20 endangered species inscribed on the List of Endangered Species of the Republic of Belarus. There are nearly 30 species of fish in the lakes, including eel; over 200 species of birds, including 45 endangered species; 189 species of birds nest within the grounds of the park. As for big animals, there are elks, bears, wild boars, roes, wolves, lynxes in the park. There are excellent accommodation opportunities for tourists at the local tourist centers.
"The land of lakes, cathedrals, parks..."
The tour of the wonderful Belarusian Lake Region begins in the village of Kamai, with John the Baptist Cathedral in the center, a specimen of the seventeenth-century architecture. In the village of Lyntupy you will find a splendid palace and park ensemble of the late nineteenth-early twentieth century. Then the route leads to the town of Postavy. There tourists visit the eighteenth-century palace and park ensemble founded by Count Antoni Tyzenhaus, St. Nicholas temple church, the Stary Mlyn local crafts center, St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral, a specimen of the late nineteenth-century architecture and many other places of interest. The tour goes on to the eco-tourist center called Solovyinaya Roscha ("Nightingales' Grove").
Vitebsk - the Town of Marc Chagall
Vitebsk is the main theme of the art of Marc Chagall. "I love my dear Vitebsk with all my heart not just because I was born here, but in the first place because it gave me the palette for my entire life ...," he said. This excursion will take you on a tour of Vitebsk to the places where Marc Chagall lived and worked, to his well-known museum.
Gomel Oblast is located in the south-eastern part of Belarus along the state border with Russia and Ukraine. The population of the oblast is 1,440.7 million people. This is the largest oblast of Belarus; it is divided into 21 districts.
The administrative center of the oblast is the city of Gomel (482,700 people), the second largest city in Belarus. Gomel industrial enterprises produce 44 percent of the oblast's aggregate output. The following companies are well-known far beyond the bounds of Belarus: Gomselmash (farm machines to cultivate and harvest crops), Spartak (chocolate and confectionery), Gomeldrev (furniture) and Gomelsteklo (glassware).
Gomel is a scientific and cultural center of the oblast. In the city there are four universities; Gomel researchers deal with the consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe by conducting research in the related branches of science. The only one of its kind in the world, Polesye Radiation Ecological Reserve is a testing ground for examining and preserving Chernobyl-affected territories in their natural state.
Industrial facilities play a central role in the oblast's economic sector. Industrial manufacturers produce steel and rolled metal, products of mechanical engineering, chemical and woodworking products, light industry goods and foodstuffs. About one third of all products are exported to 70 countries.
Business contacts with the neighboring countries are promoted within the framework of the Euroregion Dnieper. In 1998 the Gomel-Raton economic zone was established.
There are over 20 museums in the oblast including the Gomel oblast local lore museum, the Vetka arts and crafts museum and two picture galleries.
One of the main features of Gomel is the palace and park ensemble, one of the most successful specimens of park art in Belarus. There is the Gavriil Vaschenko picture gallery in Gomel. Gavriil Vaschenko is a People's Artist of the Republic of Belarus, an Honored Art Worker, a State Prize-winner of the Republic of Belarus. There are three theaters in Gomel: the oblast drama theater, the puppet show, and a youth experimental theater-studio. Gomel Circus is one of the best in Belarus.
The Gomel oblast hosts traditional musical art festivals "Belarusian Musical Autumn", "Sozh Round Dance", "Slavonic Brotherhood" and an instrumental music festival.
More than 30 hotels and motels offer their services to Gomel guests.
The palace and park ensemble of Gomel has been among the highlights of this Belarusian city for the past two hundred years. The palace is one of the best specimens of Classicism in architecture not only in Belarus, but also in the CIS as a whole. The palace and park ensemble was built in late eighteenth - early nineteenth centuries by the well-known personalities, statesmen, and servicemen of the Russian Empire, the Rumyantsev and Paskevich families. This unique natural and architectural ensemble, which stands on the banks of the River Sozh in the historic center of Gomel, includes a palace, Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral, the chapel and the burial vault of the Paskevich family, a winter garden, an observation tower, and a beautiful park.
The ancient Turov is the heart of Polesye. It is one of the oldest towns in Belarus, the former capital of the Turov principality. The town was first mentioned in chronicles in 980. Legend has it that there used to be 75 churches in Turov, for which the town was named the second Jerusalem. On the Castle Hill there stands a monument to the philosopher and preacher of the twelfth century Kirill who lived and worked in Turov, also known as Kirill of Turov. In the Turov nature museum travelers will learn the history of the Polesye region and the Pripyatsky National
At the end of the twentieth-century in the old part of the cemetery in Turov there began to emerge a cross which, according to Turov residents, emits warmth and "grows"! It has grown several centimeters in the last years. In 2005 researchers completed their archaeological work on the site of a twelfth-century church. Some time afterwards the "Skripta" building was constructed there, in which you can see fragments of the foundation of that old twelfth-century temple.
Pripyatsky National Park
The Pripyatsky National Park lies in the center of Polesye, the land of bogs, the "lungs" of Europe, as they call it. Lakes, forests, groves... It is a true heaven for ornithologists and people interested in birds. The park offers unique and virtually pristine landscapes. It is the only place on the planet where you can find virgin inundated forests. In the park there is the Lyaskovichi travel center situated in the vicinity of the River Pripyat. Near the center, there is a boat station where you can hire a boat to take a ride down the river; you can also take a motorboat for the ride.
Vetka Local Crafts Museum
In 1987 a local crafts museum was opened in the town of Vetka, Gomel Oblast, which offers a collection of items providing an insight into the culture of this region. The unique collection attracts numerous tourists by a fascinating display of articles ranging from ancient icons to modern-day towels.
Grodno Oblast is located in the north-western part of Belarus and borders on Poland and Lithuania. The population of the oblast is 1,072,400 people. It is divided into 17 districts.
The city of Grodno (population: 327,500 people) is the administrative center of Grodno Oblast. Grodno is one of Belarus's oldest cities - it was first mentioned in the chronicles more than 800 years ago. Grodno is located at the intersection of important trade routes and is a connecting link between the countries of Eastern and Western Europe. Grodno is a large industrial city. There are several universities and colleges in Grodno including the Grodno State University, Grodno State Medical University and Grodno Higher Theological Seminary.
Located close to the national border, Grodno offers great opportunities for trade with Poland, Lithuania, and Russia (Kaliningrad Oblast) within the Neman Euroregion project. Grodno Oblast has an advanced industry, with the largest industrial centers located in Lida, Slonim, Volkovysk, Novogrudok, Smorgon. The Grodno oblast companies specialize in the production of nitric fertilizers and chemical fiber, truck spare and component parts, technological equipment, furniture, footwear, textile and tobacco goods, ready-made garments, woodworking products and construction materials.
In 2002 the Grodnoinvest free economic zone was established.
There are two theaters in Grodno: the Grodno Oblast Drama Theater and the Grodno Puppet Show. Grodno Oblast traditionally hosts many festivals. Among them are the All-Belarusian Festival of National Cultures, the Mir Castle national festival of arts, and others.
Several castles survive in Grodno Oblast. Among them is Mir Castle, an ancient specimen of architecture which was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage
Grodno Architectural Ensembles
Grodno is a city of temples, castles and royal palaces, one of the most beautiful and colorful cities of Belarus. Of special attention are monuments of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture: the Old and the New Castles, St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, the monasteries of the Bernardines, the Jesuits, St. Bridget, the
Franciscans, and the Basilians. St. Francis Xavier Cathedral and the monastery used to be the richest in entire Rzeczpospolita. Near the cathedral there stands the oldest drug store in Belarus, which was opened in 1709! Sts. Boris and Gleb (Kolozha) church is a unique specimen of ancient Russian stone architecture and a pearl of Grodno architecture.
The monastery is situated in the village of Zhirovichi, Slonim district. In the late seventeenth century this monastery was considered the richest in Belarus and Lithuania. This is a place of non-stop pilgrimage of the believers wishing to kneel before the miracle-working icon of Our Lady of Zhirovichi, one of the main Christian icons, the patron saint of Belarus.
The town of Novogrudok was the first capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In Novogrudok you can also tour the ruins of the castle built in the thirteenth-sixteenth centuries, temples dating back to the fifteenth-eighteenth centuries. Novogrudok is where the well-known Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz lived and worked. Adam Mickiewicz was born in the village of Zaosye near Novogrudok. There is a museum in Novogrudok where you can learn more about the life and work of this outstanding man who rose to international prominence.
The Augustow Canal is a monument of hydraulic engineering. There are more than 50 historic and cultural monuments located within the basin of the canal, landscape and biological reserves with unique flora and fauna. The canal runs through Grodno Oblast in Belarus and Suwalki province in Poland. Its total length is 102km, with 21.2km running through Belarus. The canal was built in 1824-1839 as a water way for transporting cargo from the basin of the Vistula and Neman rivers to the Baltic Sea. The Belarusian part of the canal was completely overhauled in 2006. Today the canal is very popular among Belarusian and foreign tourists who can take a ride down the canal in catamarans and motor boats.
The Augustow Canal is a unique hydraulic installation built in the first half of the nineteenth century. It is an intricate system of water ways, rivers, lakes and the adjacent locks. There are two similar canals outside Belarus: the Caledonian Canal in Great Britain and the Gota Canal in Sweden. The canal was designed in the early nineteenth century with the aim of transporting grain to the Baltic ports by using a direct way, bypassing Eastern Prussia. The idea of the canal first came to Franciszek Ksawery Drucki-Lubecki, who belonged to Grodno nobility. The decision to connect the Wisla with the Neman was approved in 1825 by Russian Emperor Alexander I.
The village of Mir, Korelichi district, with a population of 2,500 residents, is known far beyond Belarus due to its main sightseeing landmark: the castle. The work on Mir Castle started in the 1520s and continued into the late sixteenth century. Over the centuries the castle has taken on features of the various epochs, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. The castle is a living legend of Belarus. It has been refurbished, and today concerts, festivals and Medieval re-enactment events are held in front of its walls.
Mogilev Oblast is located in the eastern part of Belarus and borders on Smolensk and Bryansk oblasts of Russia. The population of the oblast is 1,099,400 people. The oblast is divided into 21 administrative territories.
The administrative center of the oblast is the city of Mogilev (population: 358,300). The leading industries are chemical and petrochemical industries, mechanical engineering and metalworking, food industry and light industry. In 2002 the Mogilev free economic zone was established in the oblast.
Mogilev Oblast has an enormous industrial potential. It is the only producer of truck and car tires, elevators, curtain lace and tape recorders in the country. Its companies also produce chemical fiber and yarn, rubber footwear and electric motors.
Mogilev, Bobruisk, Krichev and Osipovichi are the oblast industrial centers. Products made by two industrial giants - Mogilevkhimvolokno and Belshina -account for more than 25 percent of the total output of the oblast.
There are 27 museums and their affiliates in Mogilev. There are three theaters and the oblast Philharmonic Hall. The biggest cultural events are the international contest of religious music Magutny Bozha ("God the Almighty") and the Golden Hit international pop song festival.
The most prominent architectural monuments include the seventeenth-century St. Nicolas Monastery in Mogilev, the Jesuit cathedral and a monastery of the early seventeenth century in Mstislavl, the palace and park ensemble of the eighteenth century in the village of Zhilichi in Kirovsk district, the palace of Duke Potyomkin of the eighteenth century in Krichev.
There are two national hydrological reserves Zaozerye and Ostrova and 72 local reserves in the oblast.
Mogilev Oblast has 37 health and recuperation centers and about 40 hotels and motels.
Shklov is the administrative center of Shklov district, one of the most beautiful towns of Belarus. Its main feature is the town hall, a unique architectural monument in the Classicism style built in the second half of the eighteenth century. Shklov district is the homeland of the President of the Republic of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko.
The village of Lesnaya lies 40km away from Mogilev, in Slavgorod district. It was here that the Swedish army under the command of Adam Ludwig Lewenhaupt was defeated on 28 September 1708, marking a watershed in the Great Northern War. "The mother of the battle of Poltava" was the definition given to the Lesnaya battle by none other than Peter the Great. On 28 September 1908 a monument was erected there to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle. In 1912 a chapel was built here (today it is Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral). The travel route was named accordingly, "The mother of the battle of Poltava".
One of the most memorable moments in the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet people against the Nazi invaders was the defense of Mogilev, with the fiercest battles taking place on the Buinichi field. In July 1941 the defenders of the city, both the regular Soviet army troops and Mogilev residents who took up arms, managed to halt the progress of the 2nd Panzer Army under the command of Heinz Guderian for almost a month, which saved time for building up strategic reserves. A memorial was built in Mogilev in 1995 to commemorate the defenders of the city.
Travelers are advised to visit the ethnographic open-air museum Belarusian Village near Mogilev in the village of Buinichi. The museum includes the entertainment center Korchma with a comfortable hotel, cafes and restaurants in the ancient Belarusian style. There is a town of craftsmen where you will see how Belarusian craftsmen used to live and work in the past. You can also see how they make their articles; there is a weaver's shop, baker's shop, potter's shop, carpenter's workshop, blacksmith's. Moreover, you can even try to make things yourself. In advance of the New Year, travelers are welcomed by Father Frost and Snow Maiden here, as well as other fairytale creatures.