From here on there the places I have visited have less and less to do with the fantastic adventure of the steppe peoples that has been, in this travelogue, the common thread between China and the various countries born of the disintegrating Soviet Empire.
It can be mentioned however that the Belarussian principalities that had been annexed by the Kievan Rus in the 10th century became vassals to the Mongols when Batu ravaged Moscow, Souzdal and Vladimir and Yaroslav in 1238. They were fortunate in their misery however for had not Ogodai died in 1241 Batu's hordes would have no doubt continued their ravages north to the Baltic and west to god knows where instead of returning to Mongolia for the election of Ogodai's successor.
From then on, Belarus fell under the growing power of Lithuania and of its partner Poland in the 16th century until the partition of Poland in the 18th century when it became part of the Russian empire.
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I arrived in Minsk at 7:00 AM, crossed the Ploshchad Pryvakzalnaja (shown here), in front of the train station and walked three blocks to Hotel Svislach.
This is the Hotel Svislach where I had a nice room for 13 $US. It is well located in the center of the city and the hotel people were much friendlier than those in Kiev's Druzba (friendship) Hotel. That put me in a good mood.
I had to be out of the country in 48 hours, it was a beautiful day and the center of Minsk is rather small so I set off to visit what I could on foot. This ploshchad Nezalezhnastsi (it used to be called ploshchad Lenina), with its government buildings and the red belfry of the St-Simon Polish Catholic Church could be called the heart of the city.
Subdued Mac Donald visual pollution on the corner of prospect Francyska and ulitsa Lenina.
Trade Union's Culture Palace. In soviet times, "culture" was a powerful vehicle of political indoctrination and consequently had a high priority in the state budget. Things have changed radically inside of only a few years and now there is very little funding for cultural activities except in non-russian countries who are now free to re-affirm their own distinct cultural identity.
And of course, Minsk has a Circus as every good Russian city should. State funded, popular cultural manifestations have fallen off sharply but there has been a vigorous revival of painting everywhere now that subject matter and content are no longer controlled.
St Dukhawski Cathedral with the shy St Bernardine Church hiding behind the big tree. I have also observed a strong revival of religious sentiment but mostly with the Orthodox who appear to be building new places of worship and training new clergy at a much higher rate than the Muslims.
Svislach River with Hotel Planeta on the left, a soviet style apartment block in the right background. Minsk was very badly mauled in WW II, the few restored old houses in front is all that is left of the old city..
I stayed only a day and a half in Minsk. I would have liked to stay longer but the government obviously wants to keep tourists out (it cost me 30$US and two hours of kowtowing to a stupid bureaucrat to get a transit visa in Kiev). Therefore, I left by bus and enjoyed the countryside on the way to Vilnius.
A farmhouse shot from the bus on the way to Vilnius.