City over the Bug

Brest has always attracted foreign tourist from the Ukraine and Poland and it is easy to understand that. All these streets and lanes of the City over the Bug, Ugrinka, Vetrennaya, Nalozki, Kustynskaya, Kovalskaya, Peskovskaya, Vilensky and Krakovsky tracts, preserve footprints of both the travelers from far abroad and neighboring countries… Deltiology trips around Brest can vary to a great extent. The same is in search of famous citizens and well-known inhabitants. The point is the time and paths we choose following our own inexhaustible desire to learn something new and unknown…
Brest has always attracted foreign tourist from the Ukraine and Poland and it is easy to understand that. All these streets and lanes of the City over the Bug, Ugrinka, Vetrennaya, Nalozki, Kustynskaya, Kovalskaya, Peskovskaya, Vilensky and Krakovsky tracts, preserve footprints of both the travelers from far abroad and neighboring countries… Deltiology trips around Brest can vary to a great extent. The same is in search of famous citizens and well-known inhabitants. The point is the time and paths we choose following our own inexhaustible desire to learn something new and unknown…

There are a lot of old buildings in the city. Post office at 32, Moskovskaya Street is a good example. Its history starts in the middle of the 19th century and today the building serves as a post office of Brest. Іn Sovetskaya street there has preserved a mansion from the middle of the 19th century. Its second half hosts the stone Brethren St. Nikolas Church. Sovetskaya Street used to bear different names — Milionnaya, Politseiskaya, Dambrovskaya… By the way, there is an interesting fact mentioned in the letter of the City Rada and magistrate to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Poland dated March 17, 1925: “Before the war there were 3670 houses in Brest. In 1915 during the occupation period in the process of civilian evacuation more than 2500 houses were ruined, and that makes 70 per cent. The most populated part of the city, built of stone, suffered the most — three fourth of the whole city, 75 per cent of the total cubic capacity.

We have been living in peace for eight years. France and Belgium look even better than before the war. What about us? Here are the figures. Before the year 1921 inclusively more than 60 houses were built, in 1922 — 150, in 1923 — 240, in 1924 — 100. For 7 years after the war — 540 objects, namely 21 per cent. In terms of cubic capacity it is half as large as it was before the war. So the total cubic capacity of the buildings ruined makes 15 per cent.

In 1923 the rate is high owing to the American–Jewish committee assistance. In 1924 we lived through economic crisis. We did not know where from we should wait for help. People were not able to restore their houses using their own resources… The refund committee managed to provide some money only to 136 people exhausting all credit opportunities in the amount of 130 thousand zloty allotted to Brest by the state treasury. The result was unpromising; there were only 130 thousand zloty of assistance for 2 thousand ruined houses…”

So these are real events from the history of the City over the Bug of the beginning of the ’20s. People witnessed the First World War, revolution, collapse of the Empire, civil war… But life went on... Brest expanses were rich in bright and talented people who gained knowledge and left an imprint in science and art, enriched writing with their genial discoveries.

It is not surprising that Brest was and will be the place of attraction for talents, and definitely a scientific and art capital of our country. And if you have doubts about it at least consider the recent scientific event, held in the City over the Bug. These are the comments of the Deputy Director of M. Gorki Brest regional library Alla Mikhailovna Mesniankina.

“Our old dream came true. We managed to hold the conference “Brest books: problems and perspectives of the research”. It is not by chance that the conference was of international character. The most honorable guests were: Saint Petersburg — Doctor of Historical Sciences Nikolai Viktorovich Nikolaev, Vilnius — Head of Rare books department of the library of the Academy of Sciences of Lithuania Daiva Narbutiene, Kiev — Doctor of Historical Sciences Galina Ivanovna Kovalchuk.”

It is not by chance that these events have an ancient historical basis. The first printing office on the territory of Belarus was opened in Brest in the autumn of 1553. And there were some grounds for that. Of course, it was a vigorous activity of the local landlords and ordinary citizens to develop education and culture. By the way, the person, who specified the location of the printing office and discovered some important ancient events, is a famous regional ethnographer, the academic physicist Anatoli Gladyshuk from Brest.

Let us go back to ancient history and get acquainted with Nikolay Fedorovich Zolotnitsky born in Brest-Litovsk in 1851. Being a teenager he happened to visit Germany, studied at the gymnasium in Dresden. Then he graduated from the 5th Moscow gymnasium and mathematical faculty of Moscow State University. From childhood he was fond of flora and fauna observations. Eventually, he became one of the most famous science popularizers, primarily in the sphere of botany, flower gardening and aquarian studies. He published his articles in the journals “Niva”, “Rodnik”, “Lover of Nature” as well as other periodical publications. The readers particularly appreciated the book “Akvarium amatara” by Nikolay Zolotnitsky, noted by golden medals of science associations in Moscow and Kiev, as well as by the Medal of Honor in Paris. On the initiative of Zolotnitsky in Moscow there was created an association of aquarium and house plants amateurs. Among the friends of the association there were a lot of famous scientists including Polotsk citizen Dmitry Kaigorodov, Leonid Sabaneev, well-known among fishermen, writer Vladimir Giliarovsky. The book “So skazok prirody” by Nikolay Fedorovich (“From nature fairy-tales”) achieved a wide readership. If only we had a chance to republish it once again!..

Brest is the motherland of Vikenty Vasilievich Makushev (1837–1883). Although a considerable part of his life is connected with Poland, our fellow countryman gained popularity in the world as a Russian historian-Slavicist. He graduated from Petersburg University. In the years 1862–1865 he worked as a secretary for the Russian consular department in Dubrovniki. In 1867 he defended a dissertation on the topic “Analysis of historical monuments and popular writers of Dubrovniki”. Then for some time he worked in Italian achieves and libraries searching for unknown historical sources. In 1871–1883 the Professor of Warsaw University issued a two-volume collection of documents “Historical monuments of South Slavs…”

The city over the Bug gave birth to a famous scientist Arseny Ivanovich Markevich (born on March 31, 1855 into the family of a priest). He graduated from a gymnasium in Poland, studied Slavic languages in Warsaw University. In 1883 he moved to Simferopol, taught the Russian language in a gymnasium for ladies and men. He contributed much to the opening of the University in the city, studied historical monuments of the Crimea. He wrote articles which are considered to be valuable sources of historical information even now, “To the History of the Khan Bakhchisarai Fountain”, “A Trip to Old Crimea” etc. In 1927 our contemporary was chosen a corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. Many works by Arseny Markevich are to be republished. For example, “Taurida Province During the Crimean War”, “Crimea Toponymy”, “Simpheropol, its Historical Fate, Old and Yesterday Past”. Tuning the pages of these works in the library I felt the impulse of Brest history. Writing his work about the Crimea, could Arseny Markevich dare to think about the fairs, which he knew from childhood, at the pasture-land of Bologna at the river meadow of Kobryn outskirts of your native town..?

…The time will come and Brest will certainly open its arms to one more museum of scientific glory of the city over the Bug and Brest region. One of the old premises of Brest fortress could serve as a good place for such a museum. Moreover, regional art museum is situated nearby… Generally, I personally think that the potential of museums and excursions of the memorial “Brest Fortress-Hero” is not depleted to the fullest extent.

Ales Karliukevich.
Postcards from the collection of Vladimir Likhodedov
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