AboutThe photographs tell the history of the fortress and the post-war construction of monuments to commemorate the fallen.
By kind permission of the Museum of the Brest Fortress in Belarus, and to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Belarus, an exhibition of photographs outlining the History of the Fortress will be visiting the United Kingdom with dates/venues to be announced on this page.
Brest, sometimes better known as Brest-Litovsk, is today situated just inside the Republic of Belarus on its border with Poland, at the confluence of the Bug and Mukhavets Rivers. The town is an ancient one, having been built where major trade routes from north to south and east to west have traditionally met. The city has been a scene of conflict for centuries, and was sacked by the Mongol Armies of Genghis Khan's grandson in 1241, and endured a siege by the Armies of the Teutonic Knights in 1379. In modern times it became the western most point of the former Soviet Union on the shortest railway link between Western Europe and Moscow. The construction of the fortress, on the site of a much older mediaeval structure, was sanctioned in the wake of Napoleon's invasion of 1812, when the need for a defensive strategy for Western Russia became evident, and commenced in 1832. By 1914, at the time of Russia's entry into the First World War, the fortress had become the largest military complex in the Tsarist Empire. On 25 August 1915, after a week of heavy fighting, the fortress succumbed to the combined forces of both Germany and Austro-Hungary, but not before the garrison had had time to empty it of all supplies and strip it of all but the heaviest weapons before retiring eastwards. In March 1918 it became the location for the Peace Conference between the Central Powers and the then new Bolshevik Government which culminated in the signing of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk marking Russia's withdrawal as a combatant from World War 1. The fortress was ceded to Poland in 1922, and in the interwar years was used as both a garrison and a prison. In September 1939 the fortress held out for 4 days during the German invasion of Poland, but in accordance with the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact the fortress was handed over to Soviet control after Poland's surrender. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 it became the site of the first major battle on the Eastern Front. The fortress took over a month to subdue, but the garrison never surrendered. The handful of survivors eventually managed to slip through the German cordon and join up with the partisans operating in the nearby forests. In August 1941 Hitler brought Mussolini to view the fortress as an example of his âtriumphs' in the east. In July 1944 the ruins of the fortress complex were abandoned by the retreating Germans after two days of heavy fighting, and reoccupied by the Red Army. For its epic defence in the summer of 1941, after the war the fortress was designated âHero Fortress of the Soviet Union.' placing it on a par with other such legendary locations as the âHero Cities' of Stalingrad, Leningrad and so on.