Construction of the fortress and its fate
The first association that emerges in connection with the Brest Fortress was the unprecedented heroic resistance of Soviet soldiers in 1941. Indeed, this is the most important and tragic event in the history of the Brest Fortress. However, the chronicle of the legendary Brest Fortress had begun much earlier - a century before that. It was erected from 1836 to 1842 and was a real masterpiece of military engineering at the time. The central part of the fortress - the Citadel - is located on an island formed by the river Bug and the two arms of the Mukhavets River, and the lifting bridges united three other artificial islands into one space. The Brest Fortress had been completed before World War I, but the architectural ideas were not fully implemented. The citadel was surrounded by a two-storey defensive building almost two kilometres long. It housed barracks for 12,000 people, and in the lower floor there were casemates, which could not be destroyed by the artillery of the time. The fortress was also protected by over six kilometres of ramparts up to 10 metres high.
It was an important outpost on the edge of the Russian Empire. It was so important that the Russian Tsar Nicholas I, for example, visited Brest Fortress seven times during his reign.
In 1915, the Brest Fortress was occupied by German troops and remained there until 1918, when the Brest Peace Treaty was signed and the fortress was taken over by Poland. From 1920 to 1939, the Polish garrison was stationed there.
The first German bombardment of the fortress occured on the second day after the beginning of World War II, on 2 September 1939. 20 days later, Brest and the Brest Fortress were handed over to the Red Army and thus became part of the USSR.
Everyone knows the further heroic history of the Brest Fortress. On 22 June 1941, the German army treacherously attacked the USSR, and the garrison of the Brest Fortress was the first to stand in its way. The Nazis had planned to capture it within a matter of hours, but this did not happen. The Germans were taught an unprecedented lesson of courage and from the very beginning Hitler was made aware that the Soviet Union would not fall at his feet, as it had happened to many European countries.
Fortress in the post-war years
After the war, the fortress was a grim ruin, and only the ruins knew how long the battles had been going on there. Do you remember the winged phrase "ruins speak"? It's about the Brest Fortress. According to the inscriptions left by its defenders on the walls, in the openings of the windows and doors, it became clear that the German troops hurried to report that the fortress had fallen by 1 July. In fact - and this was confirmed by the survived inhabitants of Brest - the gunfire could be heard from the fortress up to the first days of August, after which the Hitlerites were bringing their soldiers and officers with injuries to hospital in the city. The defenders of the Brest Fortress resisted to the last cartridge.
The memorial complex in its present form, in which we know it, was opened in 1971, on the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the World War II.
Why should we visit Brest Fortress?
Because only there can you realise the horror of war. Instead of thousands of words, the scrawled walls of the fortress and molten bricks speak for themselves, and the impression of the monument “Thirst” is so strong that you can never forget it.
There is another object on the castle's territory that always attracts tourists' interest. This is the Berestye archaeological museum. It is located on the Volyn fortification. There you can see real log houses and cobblestone streets of the ancient settlement of the 13th century, which miraculously survived thanks to the boggy soil and were discovered by archaeologists. Household and cultural objects of that time are also on display here. It is highly recommended that you visit this museum to see the preserved medieval city from which Brest began.