Minsk (mĭnsk, Rus. mēnsk) [key], city (1990 est. pop. 1,610,000), capital of Belarus and of the Minsk region, on a tributary of the Berezina. It is a railroad junction with machine, machine-tool, tractor, automobile, textile, and food-processing factories. It is the headquarters of the Commonwealth of Independent States. First mentioned in 1067, it was an outpost on the road from Kiev to Polotsk and was part of the Polotsk principality. It became the capital of the Minsk principality in 1101 and part of Lithuania in 1326. At the end of the 15th cent. it became a great craft and trade center. Joined to Poland in 1569, it passed to Russia in the second partition of Poland (1793). The city's industrial development began in the 1870s. It was one of the largest Jewish centers of Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages, and before World War II some 40% of the population was Jewish. From 1941 to 1943, Minsk was a concentration center for Jews prior to their extermination by the Nazis. Although the city was heavily damaged in the war, several monuments remain. These include a former 17th-century Bernardine convent and the 17th-century Ekaterin Cathedral (formerly called the Petropavlovsk church). Minsk is a major cultural, educational, and artistic center. It is the site of the Academy of Sciences of Belarus, the Belarusian State Univ., the Belarusian National Library, and the Minsk Art Museum.
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