Brest Fortress

Brest Fortress (Belarusian: Брэсцкая крэпасць, Brestskaya krepasts' ; Russian: Брестская крепость, Brestskaya krepost' ; Polish: Twierdza brzeska), formerly known as Brest-Litovsk Fortress (the Polish name of the city was Brześć Litewski), is a 19th century Russian fortress in Brest, Belarus. It is one of the most important Soviet World War II war monuments commemorating the Soviet resistance against the German invasion on June 22, 1941 (Operation Barbarossa). Following the war, in 1965 the title Hero-Fortress was given to the Fortress to commemorate the heroic defence of the frontier stronghold during the very first weeks of the German-Soviet War. It was then part of the Byelorussian SSR. The title Hero-Fortress corresponds to the title Hero City, that has been awarded to the total of twelve Soviet cities.


Originally it was the largest 19th century fortress of the Russian Empire, one of the western Russian fortresses. It is located at the confluence of the Mukhavets and Bug rivers with total area 4 km². Its layout was developed by Russian general K.I.Opperman in 1830 and the initial phase of the construction lasted from 1836 until 1842. The fortifications were then progressively modernized and expanded throughout the 19th century, with forts added around the original fortress. The final works were carried out in 1914, the first year of World War I, culminating in a fortified area 30 km in circumference.

The fortress was captured by the German army in August, 1915, after the Russian army abandoned it during its general withdrawal from Poland that summer. The fortress changed hands twice during the Polish-Soviet War and eventually stayed within Polish borders, a development that was formally recognised by the Treaty of Riga in 1921. In 1930 the fortress became infamous in Poland as a prison in the aftermath of the so-called "Brest elections" and the Brest trial. During the Invasion of Poland in 1939 the fortress was defended for four days by a small garrison of four infantry battalions and two tank companies under Gen. Konstanty Plisowski against the XIX Panzer Corps of Gen. Heinz Guderian. After four days of heavy fighting, the Polish forces withdrew southwards on September 17.

On 17 September 1939 the Soviet Union invaded Poland in accordance with the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact and occupied the Eastern part of Poland including the Brest Fortress.

In the summer of 1941 it was defended by Soviet soldiers against the German Wehrmacht in the first days of Operation Barbarossa, earning it the title of Hero Fortress. The fortress had become a symbol of the Soviet resistance during the German-Soviet War, along with Stalingrad and Kursk.

Fortress layout

The Brest fortress had a star shaped fortification. The core of the fortress, the Citadel, was a red-brick two-storied ring-shaped barrack (rondo), 1.8 km long, with 500 rooms, that was to accommodate 12,000 soldiers. It had originally 4 gates, 4 semi-towers. Today only Kholm Gate and Terespol Gate can be seen.

The Citadel was on the island formed by the Bug River and the two branches of the Mukhavets River. The Citadel was surrounded by 3 bridgeheads, made up by the branches of the Mukhavets River and ditches, fortified by earthworks that were 10 m high with redbrick casemates inside. Those 3 fortifications were named after the towns:Kobrin, Terespol and Volyn. The Kobrin Fortification, the northeastern biggest bridgehead, shaped like a horseshoe, featured 4 fortification curtains, 3 detached ravelins and a lunette in the western part. The Terespol Fortification was the western bridgehead, featuring 4 detached lunettes. The Volyn Fortification was the southeastern bridgehead, featuring 2 fortification curtains with 2 detached ravelins.

The outer ring of fortifications built later surrounds the old citadel. As the post-1945 border along the Bug river runs through the fortress area, many of the fortification works are now in Poland, around the town of Terespol.

Building Activity

  • removed a media and updated 2 digital references
    about 6 years ago via
  • Kiril Pavlov
    Kiril Pavlov updated
    about 6 years ago via