Brest Fortress

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Brest Fortress
The fortress in the 1830s
The fortress in 1941

Brest Fortress (Belarusian: Брэсцкая крэпасць, Brestskaya krepasts' ; Russian: Брестская крепость, Brestskaya krepost' ; Polish: Twierdza brzeska), formerly known as Brest-Litovsk Fortress, is a 19th-century Russian fortress in Brest, Belarus, the former Byelorussian SSR. In 1965, the title Hero Fortress was given to the Fortress to commemorate the defence of the frontier stronghold during the first week of the German-Soviet War, when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, with the launch of World War II's Operation Barbarossa. The title Hero Fortress corresponds to the title Hero City, that was awarded to an eventual total of twelve Soviet cities. Brest Fortress is situated at an altitude of 135 meters.[1]

The Brest fortress has sustained its original outline of a star shaped fortification since its construction in the early 19th century. The Citadel, the core of the fortress, was on the central island formed by the Bug River and the two branches of the Mukhavets River. The island was skirted by a ring of a two-storied barrack with 4 semi-towers. The 1.8 km long barrack comprised 500 rooms to accommodate 12,000 soldiers within thick walls built from super strong red bricks. Originally there were 4 gates to enter the Citadel. Today only Kholm Gate and Terespol Gate can be seen, most part of the barrack lies in ruins.

The Citadel was surrounded by 3 fortifications as bridgeheads, that were made up by branches of the Mukhavets River and moats (ditches), fortified by earthworks 10 m high with redbrick casemates inside. The 3 fortifications were named after two towns: Kobrin in Belarus, Terespol in Poland and Volyn, a region in Ukraine. The Kobrin Fortification was the biggest in the fortress, located in the northeastern part, shaped like a horseshoe, featured 4 fortification curtains, 3 detached ravelins and a lunette in the western part, East Fort and West Fort. The Terespol Fortification was the western bridgehead, featuring 4 detached lunettes. The Volyn Fortification was the southeastern bridgehead, featuring 2 fortification curtains with 2 detached ravelins.[2]

A ring of outlying forts was built later around the old fortress. As the post-1945 border along the Bug river runs through the fortress area, some of the fortification works are now in Poland, around the town of Terespol.

History

Construction

The Brest fortress was built as a star shaped fortification in the early 19th century by the Russian Empire.

During WWII

Battle of June-July 1941

Copy of the inscription found inside the citadel: "I'm dying, but I won't surrender! Farewell Motherland. 20.VII.41" exhibited in the Museum of the defense of the Brest fortress

At 4:15 (Moscow time) June 22, 1941 the German Wehrmacht attacked the Brest fortress with no warning. The attack started by artillery barrage, including 600 mm mortars of the second battery of the Heavy Artillery Battalion 833 Nr. III ("Thor") and Nr. IV ("Odin").[3] Defenders were taken by surprise and failed to form a solid front. By 9:00 the fortress was completely surrounded. The last defended object in the fortress was taken by June, 29. About 6800 Soviet soldiers and commanders were captured,[4] About 2000 soldiers and officers were killed, the Germans lost nearly 430 killed soldiers and officers.[5]

According to Soviet mythology the battle lasted until 20 of July with no-one surrendering to the Germans. This narrative became a testament to the resilience and courage of Red Army and Soviet people[6]

August 1941

During a journey to different parts of the Eastern front Hitler and Mussolini visited the fortress August, 26, 1941. Strong security measures were in place.

War Memorial Complex

"Courage" Monument

In the late 1960s, the construction of the war memorial complex "Brest Hero Fortress" was started. The complex was opened on September 25, 1971.[7] The memorial complex is a national place of grief and pride, a popular tourist attraction. It comprises the barracks, gunpowder bunkers, forts and other fortifications, the museum of the defence, located on the site of the old fortress, along with the new monumental structures: the Main Entrance, the Obelisk, the Main Monument, the sculpture "Thirst".

World Heritage Status

This site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on January 30, 2004, in the Cultural category.[8] Preservation and development is being carried out by the Brest Fortress Development Foundation.[9][10]

See also

References

  1. ^ Brest Fortress Height and Location
  2. ^ Суворов А.М. "Брестская крепость на ветрах истории", Brest, 2004 (text in Russian) ISBN 985-90040-1-3
  3. ^ Мортира КАРЛ
  4. ^ Christian Ganzer: German and Soviet Losses as an Indicator of the Length and Intensity of the Battle for the Brest Fortress (1941). In: The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, Volume 27, Issue 3, p. 449–466, here: p. 463.
  5. ^ Christian Ganzer: German and Soviet Losses as an Indicator of the Length and Intensity of the Battle for the Brest Fortress (1941). In: The Journal of Slavic Military Studies, Volume 27, Issue 3, p. 449–466, here: p. 458
  6. ^ Christian Ganzer: Soviet Prisoners of war in Soviet and post-Soviet commemorative culture. The Brest fortress: a case study. In: Frédéric Bonnesoeur et al. (eds.): Occupation - Annihilation - Forced Labour. Papers from the 20th Workshop on the History and Memory of National Socialist Concentration Camps. Berlin 2017, p. 193-209.
  7. ^ the official website of the war memorial
  8. ^ UNESCO Tentative List for Belarus
  9. ^ Brest Heritage
  10. ^ Brest Fortress Development Foundation to receive US Grant

External links

Coordinates: 52°04′55″N 23°39′29″E / 52.082°N 23.658°E / 52.082; 23.658

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