Minsk is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Belarus, situated on the Svislach and Nyamiha rivers. It is the administrative centre of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). As the national capital, Minsk has a special administrative status in Belarus and is the administrative centre of Minsk Region (voblast) and Minsk raion (district). In 2013, it had a population of 2,002,600.
The earliest historical references to Minsk date to the 11th century (1067), when it was noted as a provincial city within the principality of Polotsk. The settlement developed on the rivers. In 1242, Minsk became a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It received town privileges in 1499.
From 1569, it was a capital of the Minsk Voivodeship in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was part of a region annexed by the Russian Empire in 1793, as a consequence of the Second Partition of Poland. From 1919 to 1991, after the Russian Revolution, Minsk was the capital of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic within the Soviet Union. Minsk will host the 2019 European Games.
Minsk is located on the southeastern slope of the Minsk Hills, a region of rolling hills running from the southwest (upper reaches of the river Nioman) to the northeast – that is, to Lukomskaye Lake in northwestern Belarus. The average altitude above sea level is 220 metres (720 ft). The physical geography of Minsk was shaped over the two most recent ice ages. The Svislach River, which flows across the city from the northwest to the southeast, is in the urstromtal, an ancient river valley formed by water flowing from melting ice sheets at the end of the last Ice Age. There are six smaller rivers within the city limits, all part of the Black Sea basin.
Minsk is in the area of mixed forests typical of most of Belarus. Pinewood and mixed forests border the edge of the city, especially in the north and east. Some of the forests were preserved as parks (for instance, the Chelyuskinites Park) as the city grew.
The city was initially built on the hills, which allowed for defensive fortifications, and the western parts of the city are the most hilly.
Minsk has a warm summer hemiboreal humid continental climate (Koppen Dfb), owing to its location between the strong influence of the moist air of the Atlantic Ocean and the dry air of the Eurasian landmass. Its weather is unstable and tends to change often. The average January temperature is −4.5 °C (23.9 °F), while the average July temperature is 18.5 °C (65.3 °F). The lowest temperature was recorded on 17 January 1940, at −40 °C (−40 °F) and the warmest on 29 July 1936 at 35 °C (95 °F), and on 3 August 2014 at 35 °C (95 °F). This results in frequent fogs, common in the autumn and spring. Minsk receives annual precipitation of 690 millimetres (27 in), of which one third falls during the cold period (as snow and rain) and two thirds in the warm period. Throughout the year, most winds are westerly and northwesterly, bringing cool and moist air from the Atlantic. Similar climatic regimes are found in Stockholm, Sweden and in Halifax, Canada.
The ecological situation is monitored by Republican Centre of Radioactive and Environmental Control.
During 2003–2008 the overall weight of contaminants increased from 186,000 to 247,400 tons. The change from gas as industrial fuel to mazut for financial reasons has worsened the ecological situation. However, the majority of overall air pollution is produced by cars. Belarusian traffic police DAI every year hold operation "Clean Air" to prevent the use of cars with extremely polluting engines. Sometimes the maximum normative concentration of formaldehyde and ammonia in air is exceeded in Zavodski District. Other major contaminants are Chromium-VI and nitrogen dioxide. Zavodski, Partyzanski and Leninski districts, which are situated in the southeastern part of Minsk, are the most polluted areas in the city.
Minsk is the economic capital of Belarus. It has developed industrial and services sectors which serve the needs not only of the city, but of the entire nation. Minsk's contributions form nearly 46% of Belarusian budget. According to 2010 results, Minsk paid 15 trillion BYR to state budget while the whole income from all other regions was 19.9 trillion BYR. In the period January 2013 to October 2013, 70.6% of taxes in the budget of Minsk were paid by non-state enterprises, 26.3% by state enterprises, and 1.8% by individual entrepreneurs. Among the top 10 taxpayers were five oil and gas companies (including two Gazprom's and one Lukoil's subsidiaries), two mobile network operators (MTS and Velcom), two companies producing alcoholic beverages (Minsk-Kristall and Minsk grape wines factory) and one producer of tobacco goods.
In 2012, Gross Regional Product of Minsk was formed mainly by industry (26.4%), wholesale (19.9%), transportation and communications (12.3%), retail (8.6%) and construction (5.8%). GRP of Minsk measured in rubles was nearly 120×1012 (trillions or millions of millions; BYR 120 trillion ≈ USD 12.76 billion), or 23.7% of Gross domestic product of Belarus.
Minsk is the major industrial centre of Belarus. According to 2012 statistics, Minsk-based companies produced 21.5% of electricity, 76% of trucks, 15.9% of footwear, 89.3% of television sets, 99.3% of washing machines, 30% of chocolate, 27.7% of distilled alcoholic beverages and 19.7% of tobacco goods in Belarus.
Today the city has over 250 factories and plants. Its industrial development started in the 1860s and was facilitated by the railways built in the 1870s. However, much of the industrial infrastructure was destroyed during World War I and especially during World War II. After the last war the development of the city was linked to the development of industry, especially of R&D-intensive sectors (heavy emphasis of R&D intensive industries in urban development in the USSR is known in Western geography as 'Minsk phenomenon'). Minsk was turned into a major production site for trucks, tractors, gears, optical equipment, refrigerators, television sets and radios, bicycles, motorcycles, watches, and metal-processing equipment. Outside machine-building and electronics, Minsk also had textiles, construction materials, food processing, and printing industries. During the Soviet period, development of the industries was linked to suppliers and markets within the USSR, and the break-up of the union in 1991 led to a serious economic meltdown in 1991–1994.
However, since the adoption of the neo-Keynesean policies under Alexander Lukashenko's government in 1995, much of the gross industrial production was regained. Unlike many other cities in the CIS and Eastern Europe Minsk was not heavily de-industrialised in the 1990s. About 40% of the work force is still employed in the manufacturing sector. Over 70% of produced goods are exported from Belarus, especially to Russia and other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States. However, the recent industrial revival did not lead to updating technologies and equipment (as FDI was discouraged), therefore much of the local industry is not highly competitive by international standards.
Minsk is the major educational centre of Belarus. It has about 500 kindergartens, 258 schools, 28 further education colleges, and 36 higher education institutions, including 12 major national universities.
Minsk is the major cultural centre of Belarus. Its first theatres and libraries were established in the middle of the 19th century. Now it has 11 theatres and 16 museums. There are 20 cinemas and 139 libraries.