As a city seemingly still trapped in the cold war years, Belarusian capital Minsk is an often frosty but invariably fascinating experience for its small number of foreign visitors. The 21st century is slowly creeping into this eastern European oddity, with nightclubs playing the latest in fashionable indie rock and branded coffee shops vying for space amongst the blocky buildings of the soviet occupation. Huge open streets, columned buildings and an oppressive feel keep the communist vibes strong, but don’t take away from the sense that underneath it all, this simple city is a lot of fun. Rumors that the (former) KGB still have fingers in plenty of pies still persist, however.
To the east, Vitsebsk lies at the point where three major rivers join, and has a notable artistic heritage. Having once lost all but 118 of its 170,000 population to Ivan the Terrible, Vitsebsk has a shocking past, but has since rebuilt into a relaxed border town that takes its influences as much from nearby Russia as Belarus.
Overall every forth Belarusian has perished during WWII-2.2 million people, including 380,000 deported to Germany as laborers.209 cities and townships and 9,200 villages had been destroyed in Belarus during WWII. The pre-WWII population of Belarus was only re-established in 1971. Every tourist in Belarus is striken by a number of WWII memorials. Peace is the highest and the most prescious quality of life that Belarusians cherrish. Not a single ethnical conflict has broken out in Belarus during the volatile post-USSR years. It is because Belarusians KNOW that any solution is better than the horror of war.