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First mentioned in 1067 and capital since 1101 (first of the Minsk principality, later of the Belarusian province of the Russian Empire and more recently of an independent Belarus) Minsk has been pushed to the brink of extinction several times. It has been frequently destroyed by fire, sacked by Crimean Tatars in 1505, trampled to ruin by the French in 1812, and damaged by the Germans in 1918 and the Poles in 1919-20. Its greatest suffering came in WWII, when half the city's population died, including most of its 50,000 Jews. Virtually every building here has been erected since 1944, when Minsk's recapture by the Soviet army left barely a stone standing.

Over the past 50 years Minsk has watched its population triple with the pouring in of industry. Before independence, it was the industrial and economic powerhouse of the western USSR. It is currently the headquarters of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).