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The Imperiia Project: a spatial history of the Russian Empire

A German Traveler's Account of Minsk, 1893

April 11, 1893 ~

I recently arrived in Minsk by train from Warsaw. Although it is spring here, the deciduous trees have not yet started to sprout leaves. In fact, it's still quite cold. The town is large and seems to be new. Locals say the population is well over 100,000 people. Most buildings are made of stone, but there are still a good deal of wooden structures. The river running through town is clean, and their water is even drinkable! There is a nice gymnasium with a few hundred pupils. Many of the local businesses are factories, and almost all of them are run by Jewish families. To get around town, I have been using the horse-run tram, which is very efficient. The town has been under Russian rule for nearly 100 years, but I am surprised to not see more Russians here. There are many Poles, Jews, and Belarusians. Russian censorship can easily be seen in the way that the Belarusian culture is being suppressed in favor of Russian culture. Although, there is an odd feeling in the air -- one that makes me believe a revolution is looming. There are anonymous flyers on the streets that call for peasant uprisings, and there is talk of a new political party forming. The locals I have spoke with have told me in confidence that they wish to be an independent Belarus. In a few days, I will take the train to Moscow.

Sources:

Ioffe, Grigory. "Understanding Belarus: Belarusian Identity". Europe-Asia Studies 55, No. 8 (2003).

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