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Brest Fortress

A stretch of the ring barrack of the Citadel with projecting semi-tower on the left

The Main Entrance to the War Memorial

Satirical drawing from "Hasło Łódzkie" newspaper, 5 October 1930. The text: "From the series: 'Most popular Polish spa towns' - Brest-on-the-Bug." The picture is a reference to the Brest trial and the "Brest elections", when many Polish politicians of the Centrolew party were imprisoned in the Brest Fortress (pictured).

File:SOVIET WAR MONUMENT IN BREST - BELARUS.jpg

Monument commemorating the defense of the Brest Fortress

Brest Fortress (Belarusian language: Брэсцкая крэпасць, Brestskaya krepasts'; Russian: Брестская крепость, Brestskaya krepost'; Polish language: Twierdza brzeska ), formerly known as Brest-Litovsk Fortress, is a 19th-century Russian fortress in Brest, Belarus. It is one of the most important Soviet World War II war monuments commemorating the Soviet resistance against the German invasion on June 22, 1941 (Operation Barbarossa). Following the war, in 1965 the title Hero-Fortress was given to the Fortress to commemorate the defence of the frontier stronghold during the first weeks of the German-Soviet War. It was then part of the Byelorussian SSR. The title Hero-Fortress corresponds to the title Hero City, that was awarded to an eventual total of twelve Soviet cities.

History[edit | edit source]

Originally it was the largest 19th-century fortress of the Russian Empire, one of the western Russian fortresses. It is located at the confluence of the Mukhavets and Bug rivers with total area 4 km2. Its layout was developed by Russian general K.I.Opperman in 1830 and the initial phase of the construction lasted from 1836 until 1842. The fortifications were then progressively modernized and expanded throughout the 19th century, with forts added around the original fortress. The final works were carried out in 1914, the first year of World War I, culminating in a fortified area 30 km in circumference.

The fortress was captured by the German army in August 1915, after the Russian army abandoned it during its general withdrawal from Poland that summer. The fortress changed hands twice during the Polish-Soviet War and eventually stayed within Polish borders, a development that was formally recognised by the Treaty of Riga in 1921. In 1930, the fortress became notorious in Poland as a prison in the aftermath of the so-called "Brest elections" and the Brest trial. During the Invasion of Poland in 1939, the fortress was defended for four days by a small garrison of four infantry battalions and two tank companies under Gen. Konstanty Plisowski against the XIX Panzer Corps of Gen. Heinz Guderian. After four days of heavy fighting, the Polish forces withdrew southwards on 17 September.

On 17 September 1939, the control over Brest city and the Brest Fortress was transferred from Germans to the Soviet Union.

In the summer of 1941, it was defended by Soviet soldiers against the German Wehrmacht in the first days of Operation Barbarossa, earning it the title of Hero Fortress. The fortress had become a symbol of the Soviet resistance during the German-Soviet War, along with Stalingrad and Kursk, among others.

Organisation[edit | edit source]

Organisation of the fortress units in 1914 included:

  • Fortress Headquarters (1st Class)
  • 1st Fortress Telegraph Section
  • 1st Fortress Artillery Battalion (4 Companies)
  • 2nd Fortress Artillery Battalion (4 Companies)
  • 3rd Fortress Artillery Battalion (4 Companies)
  • 4th Fortress Artillery Battalion (4 Companies)
  • 5th Fortress Artillery Battalion (4 Companies)
  • 1st Fortress Sapper Company
  • 1st Fortress Engineer Depot

Fortress layout[edit | edit source]

File:BF plan.jpg

the layout of the Brest Fortress in June 1941. 1. Kobrin Fortification, 2. Volynskoye Fortification, 3. Terespol Fortification

The Brest fortress has sustained its original outline of a star shaped fortification since its construction in the early 19th century. The Citadel, the core of the fortress, was on the central island formed by the Bug River and the two branches of the Mukhavets River. The island was skirted by a ring of a two-storied barrack with 4 semi-towers. The 1.8 km long barrack comprised 500 rooms to accommodate 12,000 soldiers within thick walls built from super strong red bricks. Originally there were 4 gates to enter the Citadel. Today only Kholm Gate and Terespol Gate can be seen, most part of the barrack lies in ruins.

The Citadel was surrounded by 3 fortifications as bridgeheads, that were made up by branches of the Mukhavets River and moats (ditches), fortified by earthworks 10 m high with redbrick casemates inside. The 3 fortifications were named after two towns: Kobrin in Belarus, Terespol in Poland and Volyn, a region in the Ukraine. The Kobrin Fortification was the biggest in the fortress, located in the northeastern part, shaped like a horseshoe, featured 4 fortification curtains, 3 detached ravelins and a lunette in the western part, East Fort and West Fort. The Terespol Fortification was the western bridgehead, featuring 4 detached lunettes. The Volyn Fortification was the southeastern bridgehead, featuring 2 fortification curtains with 2 detached ravelins.[1]

A ring of outlying forts was built later around the old citadel. As the post-1945 border along the Bug river runs through the fortress area, many of the fortification works are now in Poland, around the town of Terespol.

A stretch of the rampart on the Kobrin Fortification by the contemporary Main Entrance to the War Memorial

World Heritage Status[edit | edit source]

This site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on January 30, 2004, in the Cultural category.[2]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Суворов А.М. "Брестская крепость на ветрах истории", Brest, 2004 (text in Russian) ISBN 985-90040-1-3
  2. UNESCO Tentative List for Belarus

External links[edit | edit source]

Coordinates: 52°04′55″N 23°39′29″E / 52.082°N 23.658°E / 52.082; 23.658

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