Away from Minsk to the East

We suggest going towards the East and find out that Barysay is not only its FC BATE and Smilavichy deserves a visit not only because Chaim Soutine was born there.




– Urban-type settlement Smilavichy is situated 25 kilometers east of Minsk. The first mention of the settlement dates back to 1582. Among the noblemen who owned the place were the Ahinskiya and the Manushka who left the palace and park ensemble that has been preserved up to now. According to the legend, while Mikhal Kazimir Ahiski, a famous public figure and political office holder, was trying to save Rzeczpospolita from destruction, his housekeeper Stanislau Manushka (grandfather of the famous composer) saved enough money to buy Smilavichy and the surrounding villages out from Ahinski. There’s written evidence that this former housekeeper together with his friend Frantsishak Ashtorp (who bought Dukora,  Belarusian village, from Ahinki) used to organize such grand balls that only Panie Kochanku could have beaten them holding even more splendid parties.

Smilavichy palace consisted of two stone buildings: an old one built in Russian-Gothic style was joined to a newer Neo-Gothic part with the help of a small construction where a greenhouse used to be. In addition to a big library, the noble family owned a number of paintings, one of them being a valuable masterpiece by the Belarusian painter Walenty Wańkowicz Adam Mickiewicz on Au-dag (now kept in Warsaw National Museum). The park had been planted with exotic trees but its layout was completely destroyed in the Soviet era when the Agricultural College was built in its territory.

Last but not the least to mention is that Smilavichy is the birthplace of the internationally renowned artist Chaim Soutine, to whose name is given the same weight as to that of Modigliani, Chagall, Picasso and others. Obviously, this should be taken pride in.





– This small village has a long history of more than a thousand years. The territory of modern settlements were once occupied by the Dregoviches. The name of the village means “a settlement located in the ditches” – where the Dregoviches once lived.

In this village you can see the palace and park ensemble of the Slatsvinski family built in the 19th century. The paintings of Napoleon Orda and the ruins of the Church of St. Anthony of Padua (also built in the 19th century) reflect its former beauty. Unfortunately, the roof of the building didn’t survive – the fire of the 1980s seriously damaged the building.





– This old Belarusian town was named after its founder, Prince Barys Usyaslavich, who built a fortress on the left bank of the Byarezina river. Today this place is referred to as part of Starabarysau village (4 kilometers away from Barysau itself).

In the 12th century Barysau was known as a big commercial and handicraft center: archaeological findings prove that foreign traders visited the place. At the end of the 13th century the town became a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and in 1507 it appeared on European maps for the first time. A new fortifying building at the confluence of the rivers Byarezina and Skha was built. When it was a part of the Russian Empire and during the First World War it served as a prison. Now the remains of the building can be seen near Gogol Street.

Before the second partition of Rzechpospolita (1792) its last King Stanislaw August Poniatowski granted to Barysau new privileges and the coat of arms. A loyal fan of the Empress Catherine II, Stanislaw soon would sign his last document - the refusal of the throne. It happened, by the way, in Grodno.

As for Barysau, while it was a part of the Russian Empire, its status changed to that of a powiat (a territorial unit equivalent to a county). The coat of arms also changed – from Peter the Apostle with the keys in his hand to two watchtowers.

The history of the town and the surrounding territories cannot be dissociated from the battles of 1812. In modern French the word ‘bérézina’ means disaster, catastrophe. The war against Napoleon was a catastrophe for the Belarusian lands too. In 100 years the French appeared in Barysau, but that time they were the allies. Today, one of the streets is named in honor of Normandy - Neman regiment.

Among the places that are worth visiting are Holy Resurrection Orthodox Cathedral and The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral.

The first church built in Retrospective-Russian style serves as a symbol of the town. It was designed in 1874 by a St. Petersburg architect and constructed in the place where a wooden church once stood (built in the middle of the 17th century but later burned down). In the 1930s the churche was closed, the decorations were looted and the domes were removed – the building was used as a warehouse for grain. In 1945 the church was returned to believers and new domes were brought from Moscow.

The second church, a Catholic one, was built in Classical style (in its late period). It has a history of 200 years. After the Uprising led by Kastus Kalinouski this church was closed like the majority of Catholic temples. Masses were not held until the end of the 19th century, in 1937 they stopped and at the end of the 1980s started again.

The former water tower on Engels Street is worth seeing. It is also known as Shukhov tower. There are two towers of this kind in Belarus and eleven – in the world (once there were 200 of them).





– Besides the site of ancient settlement where as we mentioned earlier the fortress was built we advise you to visit the mansion that belonged to the House of Romanov. Or, to be more exact, you can look at what has remained of the estate: on the shore of a lake a two-storey attachment to the palace has survived. This palace belonged to the Padzivily and later to the Romanov (to the brother of Nicolas the Emperor of Russia).
In 1812 Napoleon rested in the building and it’s said that in 1941 the place served as one of Hitler’s headquarters.


Other guides for short trips by 34mag:

Away from Minsk to the North   |  Away from Minsk to the West   |   Away from Minsk to the South

Translation by Alexandra