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Minsk name history: different versions

“In the year 1067, Izyaslav, Sviatoslav, and Vsevolod assembled troops to wage war against Vseslav in severe cold. They came to Minsk and its residents closed themselves in the town. The brothers conquered Minsk, killed all the men, captured the women and the children as trophies and headed for the Niamiha where they met Vsevolod on March 3. It was snowing heavily and the troops clashed in a fierce fight where many people were killed.”

It was the first time Minsk had been mentioned in the Tale of Bygone Years. March 3, 1067 is the birthday of Minsk, but nobody celebrates it, as it was the time of bloody events that destroyed the town. Later, Minsk birthday was decided to be celebrated in autumn.

As the precise time of Belarus’ capital foundation is not known (if it was conquered, it had already existed), Minsk’s ancient location still remains a mystery for scientists.

There’re two versions nowadays. According to the first one, annalistic Minsk was located beyond today’s town limits and stood on the Menka River, a tributary of the Ptsich. Here, near village Gorodishche, ruins of earthworks still remain. So the troops of the Yaroslavichi family came to Miensk, conquered it and headed for the Niamiha where the detinets (prototype of contemporary town) with the same name was situated. This detinets was later renamed Miensk. This version is considered to be the most verisimilar.

The second version says Minsk was founded in approximately 1063 at the same place it is situated nowadays and has never been moved.

There is also a supposition that the river Niamiha gave the name to the town, as it was pronounced ‘Meniga’ in ancient times.

One more mystery is connected with the name of the city. Mienesk, Miensk, Minsk. The ‘sk’ suffix was typical of cities built on rivers. Polotsk on the Polota River, Slutsk on the Sluch River, Kletsk on the Klech River. But Minsk was situated on the bank of the Niamiha.

Many suppositions appeared. There’re versions about a legendary epical hero Mienesk, a fish torsk (‘menyok’ in Russian) of the cod family, a lot of money changers (‘menyala’ in Russian) because of the town’s crossroad location, and many other.

Nowadays, historians have divided into opposing groups. The most numerous can’t show preference to any of these versions, as the proofs are based on logic only. Nevertheless, it is known for certain that a settlement on the territory of today’s Minsk existed long before it was mentioned in the Tale of Bygone Years for the first time.

Archaeologists confirm that human settlements stood here 15,000 years ago, which was the Mesolithic period. Various tools dating back to the Neolithic, Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages were found during different excavations in the central part of the city. Many remains of burial mounds dating back to the second half of the first millennium AD may be found in Minsk even these days.

However, all the research work done is only the beginning. In order to get closer to the mystery’s answer, serious archaeological explorations in Pobediteley Avenue area should be carried out, the arterial highway blocked and little-known areas of the city explored. At the moment, only the eastern part of the town near the Minsk Metro station Niamiha is being examined. Hopefully, in the future, historians will discover new facts about the capital’s history.

Minsk history: name history and places for further researches