Belarus
Brest  Oblast
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                       06 Dec 2007

 The Brest Oblast is located in the southwestern corner of Belarus and borders Ukraine to the south and Poland to the west.

 The 200-mile drive on Highway M10 from the city of Gomel to city of Pinsk in the Brest district passes through an area that was once unproductive swampland, peat bogs, and dense forests.  Today this area is the most productive farm land of Belarus.  A large network of canals, ditches and pumps are used to drain the swamps and thus, allow cultivation of vast tracks of the otherwise unproductive land.  Wheat, sugar beets, potatoes, and animal forage are the main crops grown here.  The farms are organized into large government collectives similar to what was done during the Soviet times. Very little farmland is privately owned.

 While farming is essential to the economy of the area, oil and natural gas provide the major source of income for both the Gomel and the Brest Oblasts.  The oil and gas fields of this area produce approximately 13% of the Republicís energy needs.

 Pinsk, a city with a population of 130,000, looks much like other large cities in Belarus. The Orthodox Church is the dominant religious organization.  Most people live in large apartment complexes as is the case throughout the Republic.  On the northern edge of the city, several new homes have been constructed or are under construction. These homes are for the few very wealthy people of the area.  The economy of Pinsk, unlike other cities, which are manufacturing centers is primarily dependent on farming, petroleum, the chemical industry and on forestry products.  Several flour mills within the city limits grind and package flour for regional consumption.

 Brest, 100 miles west of Pinsk, is the administrative center for the Brest Oblast.  With a population of 300,000, it is also part of the agricultural, petroleum and chemical operations of southern Belarus. In addition, manufacturing of heavy industrial equipment is important to the economy of the city. Brest has its share of large apartment buildings but most of these are new reflecting a vibrant economy.

  The Brest Fortress is the place to visit for tourists and residents alike. This fortress Ö constructed centuries ago using the natural defense barrier provided by the junction of the Bug and the Mukhavets Rivers Ö served well until 1941. This was when Hitlerís army over ran the fort despite the heroic efforts of the Russian defenders. For Americans, this time was comparable to defending the Alamo during the early history of the Unites States.

 More on the Brest Hero Fortress is provided in a separate chapter.  For now, the trip around Belarus must continue on to Grodno, the sixth and final oblast on this tour of Belarus.

 PRONUNCIATION GUIDE:

Brest                           BREH-st

Bug

Gomel                         GO-mal

Grodno

Mogilev                      MO-geh-lahv

Mukhavets

Pinsk                           PIN-sk

 

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