In various parts of Belarus, which lost every third citizen in 1941-1945, symbolical memorial complexes have been created and monuments have been erected to highlight events of the most tragic and devastating war that the much-suffered land has seen.
At present there are about 9,000 monuments and graves dating back to the Great Patriotic War in Belarus. They are part of military history tours but most importantly they represent sacred places where people come to honor the fallen and remember the value of peace…
Victory Square, Minsk
The stela Minsk Hero City was erected in 1985 in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Great Patriotic War. It is now part of the magnificent compound of the Great Patriotic War History Museum. In 1974 Minsk was honored with the title of hero city for the courage and bravery its residents demonstrated during the Nazi occupation that lasted for 1,100 days and nights. On top of the 45-meter obelisk is a Hero Star. At the bottom visitors can see an engraved text that describes the acquisition of the honorable title by the city. Standing with fanfares raised high, the symbolical figure of the Motherland is part of the compound. Nowadays majestic military parades and processions on the day of the key national holiday – Independence Day – take place near the stela Minsk Hero City.
Pobeditelei Avenue, Minsk
A communal grave is at the center of the memorial dedicated to the heroes, who liberated the city of Pinsk. Remains of 244 soldiers are in that grave. Close to it is a monument to the armored boat BK-92 and a symbolical sign erected in the place where the Dnieper flotilla landed. The famous reconstructed Molchanov’s Pillbox is nearby. In 1944 it was the command post of Major Georgy Molchanov, who commanded the 1323rd rifle regiment. It is the place where the first message about Pinsk’s liberation came from. The interior of the legendary command post has been recreated and now features plans of military operations, maps, a soldier memory journal. After reconstruction the memorial will get an open-air military hardware museum.
Pinsk, Brest Oblast
The huge partisan dugout made of concrete and a stela with a commemorative inscription were installed in the first kilometer of the Mogilev-Chausy motorway in 1982. It was the place of the Western Front command post in the early days of the Great Patriotic War. On 1 July 1941 the place saw the first conference on protecting the Dnieper River Line and creating underground resistance units behind enemy’s lines. The heroic defense of Mogilev began several days later. Soviet Union marshals K. Voroshilov and B. Shaposhnikov took part in the conference. Several days later the heroic defense of Mogilev began. The 172nd rifle division (General M. Romanov) and the 110th rifle division (Colonel V. Khlebtsev) of the 61st rifle corps of the 13th army, other Red Army units, who were moving from the west, and people’s militia, who rose up to protect the native city, kept the Nazi at bay there for 23 days and nights.
The memorial complex in the village of Borki, Kirovsk District, pays tribute to the memory of the villages burned down by the Nazis during the Great Patriotic War. There were hundreds of villages in Belarus who shared the tragic fate of Khatyn. The stories of many of them made part of the famous documentary book Out of the Fire by Belarusian writers Yanka Bryl, Ales Adamovich and Vladimir Kolesnik who recorded the stories of more than 300 eyewitnesses of those events... The bloody list includes the village of Borki which was burned down by the Nazis together with its residents on 15 June 1942. A wall of memory, six panels with the names of the destroyed villages, bells and a chapel in honor of the Icon of the Mother of God The Seeking of the Lost were built here decades later.
Village of Borki, Kirovsk District, Mogilev Oblast
Bykhov District, Mogilev Oblast
The memorial complex in Sychkovo is dedicated to the soldiers and partisans who in June 1944 took part in the decisive stage of the Bagration liberation operation. A 40,000-strong German army group Center was destroyed in the Bobruisk cauldron. In 1967, the locals immortalized the feat of the heroes-liberators in the Mound of Glory, with the capsules containing soil from 70 mass graves buried inside of it. The 18-meter pedestal is crowned with the sculpture of the two soldiers, the stelas with the statues of 6 heroes of the Soviet Union: Ivan Oryol, Nikolai Kolodko, Alexander Chernysh, Mikhail Seleznev, Ivan Maslovsky and Nikolai Izyumov. Later the memorial was completed with the Gate of Fame and 13 commemorative plaques in tribute to the heroes of the Soviet Union who died liberating the Mogilev land.
Bobruisk District, Mogilev Oblast
A large statue of the legendary weapon – combat rocket launcher BM-13 which the Soviet soldiers called Katyusha was installed on the banks of the Dnieper in Orsha. Its design and a firestorm effect remained a mystery for the Germans for years. It was in Orsha that on 14 July 1941 first Katyusha battery went in action: the experimental battery of seven machines under the command of Captain Flyorov bombarded the enemy’s trains at a railway station and positions at the river crossing. The memorial consists of 6 "mortar launchers" made of concrete. In the center of the pedestal there is an exact copy of Katyusha made in 1941. At the entrance to the complex there is a black cube with a commemorative inscription on the first use of the famous rocket launcher.
Mogilevskaya Street, Orsha
Condemnation of Fascism Memorial is dedicated to the tragedy of Dokshitsy District which saw more than 20,000 people killed and 97 villages razed to the ground during the Great Patriotic War. The village of Shunevka and 66 of its residents had their last day on 22 May 1943: all adults were burned alive in a shed and defenseless children were thrown into the well to die. The memory of the innocent lives is immortalized in the monument featuring the frame of a well, inside of which there is a "broken" kite made of bronze with the engraved children's names. In the center of the memorial there is the Gate of Sorrow with the desperate mother lifting her hands to the sky. Over it there are three bells; one of them is broken to symbolize the eternal memory of the dead. On the ground where the houses once stood, there are 22 house foundations with the steps and "frozen flame" bearing the names of the owners...
Shunevka, Dokshitsy District, Vitebsk Oblast
An impressive war memorial was created at the place of the legendary breakthrough of the Nazi blockade by the partisans of the Polotsk-Lepel zone, one of the biggest partisan zones in the occupied Belarus. The real partisan republic with its headquarters in Ushachi was set up in autumn 1942. In spring 1944 the Nazi Germany used 60,000 punishers, aviation, tanks and artillery against 17,000 partisans. On the tragic night of 4-5 May partisans destroyed the enemy and liberated 16,000 civilians… Hundreds of dead soldiers were buried in the mass grave named Breakthrough, with even more names perpetuated on its plaques. The memorial opens with a bronze map of defense. An arrow-shaped road goes past huge boulders pointing to the direction of the main attack. A fearless soldier "runs" on it with an automatic rifle in his hands. Nearby there are 16 oaks, a symbol of fortitude of 16 partisan brigades.
Paperino village, Ushachi District, Vitebsk Oblast
Gomel’s Mound of Glory was set up in 1967 to honor the feat of the soldiers and partisans who fell in the Great Patriotic War. At the foot of the memorial there are capsules with soil from more than 200 places of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine that witnessed the biggest war battles. Soil was also brought from the glorious hero cities such as Moscow, Kiev, Leningrad, Odessa and Belarus’ main citadel, Brest Fortress. The memorial also keeps the message for the future generations, the time capsule, which is to be opened in 2017 ahead of the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution and the 50th anniversary of the memorial. In 2013 the Eternal Flame was opened at the Mound of Glory as part of the large-scale reconstruction for the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Gomel.
The world’s first memorial to commemorate one of the biggest military operations in the human history was unveiled in Svetlogorsk District to mark the 70th anniversary of Belarus’ liberation from the Nazis. The large-scale offensive that lasted for more than two months was launched near the village of Rakovichi, at the 71st kilometer of the Bobruisk-Mozyr highway, on 23 June 1944. In the result of the operation, named after commander, Hero of the Patriotic War of 1812 Piotr Bagration, the Red Army liberated Belarus, partially liberated the Baltic states and Poland, and almost completely destroyed the German Army Group Centre…The 7-meter bas-relief features the figures of four commanders who took part in the operation...
According to the plan, the memorial will also include a museum dedicated to the first phase of the Bagration Operation, an exhibition of hardware and armament, and also fragments of dikes.
Rakovichi village, Svetlogorsk District, Gomel Oblast
The war memorial in Loyev commemorates one of the biggest battles of the Great Patriotic War – the operation to cross the Dnieper in October 1943. An 18-meter obelisk, a reduced copy of the Victory Memorial in Minsk, was erected in the center of the town in 1966. Following the reconstruction for the 70th anniversary of the Great Victory the central square was transformed into a memorial ensemble. To each side of the Alley of Glory there is an open-air exposition entitled the Museum of the Battle of the Dnieper that displays the samples of the military hardware that took part in the battle. Hundreds of names were perpetuated on the memorial plaques. 323 soldiers were awarded the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union for incredible bravery in the battles for Loyev, a unique fact in the history of the Great Patriotic War.
Loyev, Gomel Oblast
Dobrush, Gomel Oblast
The memorial in Grodno downtown was unveiled in 2004 to commemorate the Soviet soldiers who heroically defended the borders of the country from the very first days of the Great Patriotic War. The monument depicts a bronze sculpture of three soldiers that cover the border with their bodies, clasping weapons in their hands. On the back of the monument there are boundary pillars, the symbols of 15 Soviet Union member republics. The sign reads “To the soldiers of the Belarusian Border District, killed but not defeated” and is the leitmotif of the sculptural composition. The memorial is decorated with granite slabs that symbolize the mass graves of the courageous soldiers that were the first to face the enemy on 21 June 1941.
Trostenets was the largest Nazi extermination camp on the territory of the Soviet Union and the fourth largest in Europe following the infamous Auschwitz, Majdanek, and Treblinka. According to the official data, around 206,500 people were killed in the "death factory" in the neighborhood of Minsk. There is also evidence that the actual number of victims is much higher. Trostenets comprised several places of mass killings: the labor camp near the village of Maly Trostenets, Blagovshchina urochishche where mass executions were carried out, and Shashkovka urochishche where bodies were burnt in a huge pit oven… The foundation of a large memorial complex, the symbol of the memory of the victims of the Nazi atrocities was laid on the site of the former concentration camp in anticipation of the 70th anniversary of the Great Victory.
The Nazi death camp was used for killing civilians and prisoners of war, prisoners of the Minsk ghetto, members of the underground and partisan movements, and Jews brought from Poland, Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia, and other European countries…
The Pit, a memorial located in Minsk, is a painful reminder of the Nazi inhumanity and a symbol of the eternal sorrow for the genocide victims. One of the largest European ghettos for the Jews was established in the occupied Belarusian capital during the Great Patriotic War. Over 100,000 people were murdered there by late October 1943. The atrocity of 2 March 1942 when the Nazi executed more than 5,000 Jews including 200 orphans from a boarding school together with their teachers and medical staff was one of the multitude of atrocities that took place there. Thousands of corpses of those who were killed in the Minsk ghetto were dumped into the pit that today is marked with an impressive memorial. In the center of the memorial there is a black marble obelisk erected in 1947. The stairs lead to the deep pit form the Last Journey sculpture that features 27 bronze figures moving down the stairs like faceless ghosts…
The Alley of the Righteous Among Nations near the Pit commemorates the Belarusian people who saved Jews while jeopardizing their own lives. All in all, on the territory of Belarus there were over 100 ghettos for the Jews from Germany, Poland, Austria, and other countries…
Melnikaite Street, Minsk
…A heinous death camp existed for only two weeks, but within this short span the Nazis killed 20,000 people. the death camp was created in March 1944, upon the order of Adolf Hitler near the village of Ozarichi in Belarusian Polesye to torture prisoners and weaken the approaching Red Army. People suffering from spotted fever and other infectious diseases which could quickly contaminate local residents and Soviet soldiers were brought to this land of marshes. There were no buildings on the territory of the Ozarichi death zone: women, children and elderly people were kept outdoors; the territory around the death camp was mined. The liberators of the horrible death camp saved more than 30,000 prisoners, more than a half of who were children. The memorial made of three white walls symbolizing Ozarichi death camps with the portraits and names of prisoners was unveiled in 1965.
The museum of memory of the Ozarichi death zone victims was opened in 2004. It features unique materials such as the memories and voice recordings of eyewitnesses, documents, photographs, correspondence with former prisoners and liberators…
Kalinkovichi District, Gomel Oblast
A prison camp for Soviet soldiers was set up by the Nazis in the Lupolovo suburb of Mogilev in August 1941. Prisoners were starved, interrogated and severely tortured. Every day up to 250 people died behind the energized barbed-wire fence. About 80,000 people died in the prison camp, and only 389 names of victims are known. One of the prisoners was General Mikhail Romanov, commander of the famous 172nd rifle division which heroically defended the city of Mogilev in July 1941. The first monument commemorating the victims of the prison camp was erected in 1948. The memorial complex was unveiled in 1984 in honor of the 40th anniversary of the liberation of Mogilev.
On the site of the former Lupolovo concentration camp there is also a mass grave of the soldiers of the 238th and 369th rifle divisions of the 2nd Belarusian Front which took part in the liberation of Mogilev in June 1944.
All historical and regional museums in Belarus have halls and expositions dedicated to the Great Patriotic War. Every district in the country keeps the memory of those terrible years by collecting priceless rarities, military chronicles of towns and villages, tragedies of shattered lives, stories about the heroic deeds of people who made their contribution to the long-awaited Victory…
Rare exhibits are displayed in school museums where several generations of people have been collecting the evidence of the troubled years, memories of soldiers, partisans and underground fighters, prisoners of concentration camps and local residents for decades…
During the trip to Belarus you can see numerous local expositions and unique military collections.
The main storage of rarities is the world’s first Museum of the Great Patriotic War History which was founded in Minsk. In the run-up to the 70th anniversary of Belarus’ liberation from Nazi invaders the museum was opened in a new building and became an interactive historical complex. Today the Belarusian museum has one of the biggest collections of World War Two exhibits in the world.
Big collections of military artifacts can be seen in the following Belarusian museums: