Minsk is the capital of the Republic of Belarus, the centre of the Minsk region and the Minsk district. It is located on Minsk upland along the river Svisloch. The total area of the city is 256 square kilometres. Minsk is divided into nine administration districts. It is Belarus’ largest city with the population of over 1.79 million people or about 17% of the whole Belarusian population. It is ranked 116th among other cities worldwide in the number of residents. Belarusians account for more than half of Minsk dwellers. There are also Russians, Ukrainians, Polish, Jews and Lithuanians.
Minsk is the capital of the state. It is the country’s political, financial, industrial, scientific and cultural centre. The President of the Republic of Belarus, the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus, the Parliament and the Government – the Council of Ministers – reside in Minsk. It is also home to the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth of Independent States, diplomatic corps, consulates and representative offices of international organizations in the Republic of Belarus.
Minsk has its own official symbols: a statute, a Coat of Arms and an anthem. The city marks its anniversary every second Saturday of September. In 2007 Minsk celebrated its 940th anniversary.
Today the city faces new challenges: it has to introduce changes to its economy, industry and infrastructure. Due to the general plan of Minsk reconstruction by 2030 the city will acquire a new impressive look. In accordance with the general plan, Minsk will be extended and will have a clear division between residential, recreational and manufacturing areas. The general plan contains a set of rules and regulations which can be used by investors.
Minsk is a large industrial sector. It manufactures almost a quarter of the country’s industrial products, including a half of automotive industry output.
The acknowledged leaders of industrial sector are “Minsk Tractor Works” PA, “MAZ” RUE (Minsk Automobile Plant), “Atlant” CJSC, “Minsk Motor Plant” UE, “Minsk Mechanical Plant” named after S.I.Vavilov UE, Belarusian tramway “Belkommunmash”, “Horizont” JSC, “Integral” SPA, “Keramin” JSC. More than 300 industrial enterprises of the city manufacture cargo trucks, tractors, powerful wheel-tire tractors, comfortable buses, trolley buses and trams, motorcycles and bicycles, refrigerators and TV sets, furniture, fabrics and many other products. Recently, many enterprises of the capital’s industrial complex have made a great leap in terms of the quality of products manufactured. Thus, each fifths enterprise has certified system of products quality control in conformity with the international standards. More than 68% of products are certified.
Investment activity of enterprises allowed them to boost production together with reduction of output ratio and, basically, due to an increase in labour efficiency. Its average increase in industry made 12%.
A significant part in the capital’s economy is played by foreign funds. Nowadays, Minsk numbers more than 1.8 thous. enterprises with its participation, with their number constantly increasing. Foreign and joint ventures are established with the participation of investors from more than 60 countries of the world. The city’s share in foreign trade turnover of Belarus makes 40%. The capital of Belarus is scientific and educational centre. It has 164 research institutions and the National Academy of Sciences operating here.
Scientific researches are carried out at higher educational establishments with the largest of them being the Belarusian State University, the Belarusian National Technical University and Minsk State Linguistic University. Minsk numbers 34 higher educational establishments. Moreover, there are 28 specialised secondary educational establishments, 258 high schools and more than 500 infant schools.
Practically all newcomers note that Minsk is a very green city. According to the estimates, there are over 2 million trees in the city. There are about 34 square meters of greenery per every Minsk resident. Minsk is considered to be one of Europe’s most compact cities stretching for about 20km from north to south and 22km from west to east owing to the clever combination of buildings, green recreation zones and river semi-rings.
Minsk lies in upland on the watershed of the Baltic and Black Seas, that is why all the rivers flow not into the city but from it. The main water artery of the city, the river Svisloch, is not very big. The rapid development of manufacture in the post-war years increased the city’s demand for water (today underground waters satisfy about 60 % of the city’s demand). Three decades ago the Vileika-Minsk water system was constructed: waters of the river Neris were pumped via a 62-km canal to the river Svisloch. By the way, the Svisloch belongs to the Black Sea basin while the Neris belongs to the Baltic Sea basin. Thus, the Neris was turned around to become a river flowing to the Black Sea. Owing to the project the Minsk industrial complex was supplied with water, scenic recreation zones featuring a cascade of 14 reservoirs appeared in the Minsk suburbs and two river semi-rings now belt the city.
A special pride of Minsk residents is a zoological reserve Lebyazhy located in Pobeditelei Avenue. This comparatively small park occupying less than 60 hectares is home to ten species of birds listed in the Red Book of Belarus. Nesting in the reserve are crakes as well as other 14 species which are on the verge of extinction in Europe.
In the last few years several new impressive buildings appeared in Minsk, namely, the Central Railway Terminal, the National Library, Football Manege, Hôtel d’Europe. Soon the capital will see an entire architectural compound Minsk City replacing the old airport Minsk 1. However not only state-of-the-art buildings are built in Minsk. One of the country’s state priorities is reproduction of the historical centre of the Belarusian capital. On July 14, 2004, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko signed the decree “On the development of Minsk historic downtown”. In October 2004, the Council of Ministers adopted a 2004–2010 comprehensive programme of reconstruction and restoration of Minsk historic downtown. This means that in the near future Minsk will regain its original look lost over many decades. Some steps have already been made in this direction: the Minsk City Hall was recreated in Svobody Square. It first appeared in Minsk in 1499 when the town received the Magdeburg Right allowing it to set up a town council.
The possibilty of inscribing this architectural complex on the UNESCO World Heritage List is under discussion. The unique building hosting the National Library of the Republic of Belarus is also located in Prospekt Nezavisimosty.
Minsk is a large industrial centre. It produces almost one fourth of the industrial output of the country with trucks and tractors accounting for half of it. The major manufactures include Minsk Tractor Works (MTZ), Minsk Automobile Works (MAZ), Atlant, Minsk Motor Works, Minsk Mechanical Works named after S. I. Vavilov, Belkommunmash, Horizont, Integral, Keramin, etc. Over 300 manufactures produce trucks, tractors, wheel-tire tractors, buses and coaches, trolleybuses, trams, motorcycles and bicycles, refrigerators and TV sets, furniture, fabrics and many others. In the last few years Minsk manufacturers made a significant progress by introducing quality management systems. Every fifth factory has international quality management standard certificates. About 70 % of products are certified. Due to the investment activities companies managed to boost the output and simultaneously cut the material intensity and increase the labour productivity. The average labour productivity in the industrial sector grew by more than 12 %.
Foreign investments play an important role in the economy of the Belarusian capital. Now Minsk has over 1,800 companies with foreign participation in the statutory fund and their number has been constantly growing. Foreign companies and joint ventures were set up in partnership with investors from 60 countries. Minsk accounts for over 40 % of the foreign trade turnover of Belarus.
The capital of Belarus is a large scientific and education centre. There are 164 research institutions and the National Academy of Sciences in Minsk. Minsk-based universities also conduct scientific research. The major ones are Belarusian State University, Belarusian National Technical University, and Minsk State Linguistic University. There are 34 universities and colleges, 28 specialised secondary schools, 258 general secondary schools, over 500 preschool facilities in Minsk.
The capital of Belarus boasts a broad network of cultural centres which include 139 public libraries, 18 museums (including the National Arts Museum and the Belarusian State Museum of the Great Patriotic War), 12 theatres (including the Gorky National Drama Theatre, Yanka Kupala National Academic Theatre, National Academic Bolshoi Ballet Theatre), 36 clubs, 27 children’s arts schools, 20 cinema halls. There are about 300 magazines and 700 newspapers printed in the city.