James Miller


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Sad Past of Belarus


Belarus is a medium-sized country, which covers an area just a bit smaller than the United Kingdom. But it only has a population of just under ten million. Minsk itself has a population of 1.7 million, so is just a bit larger than greater Birmingham.

But neither the UK or Birmingham have suffered as much in the last century as Belarus.

Around a quarter of the population of Belarus were murdered by the Nazis in the Second World War, which like the Russians they call the Great Patriotic War. It wasn't until 1973, that their population recovered to the levels of before the war. That level of death would be equivalent to the UK losing the whole population of Greater London.

No wonder many of those in the east feel so strongly about any threat perceived or otherwise that we may or may not pose to their existence.

Just down from the hotel is a monument to those lost in the ill-judged Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Island of Tears, Minsk
It is called the Island of Tears and it is a sombre place. Like much of Minsk, it is clean and tidy, with some pretty impressive statuary.

Padlocks on the Island of Tears, Minsk
But why do have all these padlocks on the gate? It must be something symbolic, but as there was nobody there who spoke English, I do not know the answer.

Later I went to Victory Square to see the main memorial to those who died in the Great Patriotic War.

Victory Square, Minsk
It is an impressive monument and dominates the square, which is actually more of an ellipse these days.

This picture gives a more detailed view of the base of the monument.

Victory Square, Minsk
Note that at the bottom there is a St. George's Cross.

English Wreath in Victory Square, Minsk
The wreath was laid by England Fans and bore the legend, Never Forget, in English and Russian.

Interestingly, this wreath does not seem to have been reported in the English press, but you will find mention of it on an official web site in Belarus.


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