Brest Fortress

sights / Military

Brest Fortress information

Brest , Belarus
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Very little remains of Brest Fortress. Certainly don't come here expecting a medieval turreted affair – this is a Soviet WWII memorial to the devastating battle that resulted when German troops advanced into the Soviet Union in the early days of Operation Barbarossa in 1941. The large complex occupies a beautiful spot at the confluence of the Bug and Mukhavets Rivers, a 20-minute walk from the town centre or a short hop on bus 17 from outside Hotel Intourist.

The fortress was built between 1838 and 1842, but by WWII it was used mainly as a barracks. The two regiments bunking here when German troops launched a surprise attack in 1941 defended the fort for an astounding month and became venerated as national legends thanks to Stalin's propaganda machine.

The Brest Fortress main entrance is its most iconic building – a huge socialist star formed from concrete. Sombre music accompanies you through the tunnel and as you leave it; on the left and past a small hill, you'll see some tanks. Straight ahead is the stone Thirst statue , which depicts a water-starved soldier crawling for a drink. After you cross a small bridge, to your right are the brick ruins of the White Palace , where the 1918 Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed, marking Russia's exit from WWI. Further to the right is the Defence of Brest Fortress Museum . Its extensive and dramatic exhibits demonstrate the plight of the defenders. There's also a small collection of weaponry from 18th- to 20th-century warfare for which a separate ticket is required (BR10,000). Behind the museum is Café Tsitadel .

Heading to the main monuments – Courage , a large stone soldier's head projecting from a massive rock, and a skyscraping obelisk – you'll see an eternal flame and stones bearing the names of those who died (several are marked 'unknown'). Sombre orchestral music is played here too, to ensure you are suitably moved. CNN clearly weren't, however, when they added this sculpture to a list of the 'world's ugliest monuments' in 2014, something that caused outrage in Belarus and led to a formal complaint to CNN, who removed the list and apologised.

Behind the Valour rock is the attractive, recently renovated Byzantine Nikalaivsky Church , the oldest church in the city, which dates from when the town centre occupied the fortress site. It holds regular services.

To the south is Kholmskie Gate ; its bricks are decorated with crenulated turrets and its outer face is riddled with hundreds of bullet and shrapnel holes. Beyond is the Bereste Archaeological Museum , a large covered archaeological site where peasant and artisan huts from the 12th to 14th centuries have been uncovered.