Crossroads of Slavic Routes

Millions of years ago Gomel Region was a part of ocean bed. This romantic version of region's historical inception is to Gomel residents' liking
From ocean bed to Formula-1

Millions of years ago Gomel Region was a part of ocean bed. This romantic version of region`s historical inception is to Gomel residents` liking. As is the other, which most modern historians find more credible, that Eastern Polesje - the name is occasionally used to refer to Gomel Region - has become the place, from which Slavs originated. This is not the only moot point that elicits heated disputes even today. The keen interest that specialists take in the south-east of Belarus is showing no signs of waning weak, but instead is acquiring new shades each year.
If legends and numerous versions are left aside, the present-day Gomel Region is characterised as being the carrefour of Slavic roads, a geographic fact beyond dispute. While in IX-XII centuries a great trading way from Varangians to Greeks ran through the territory of the region, today it borders about Russia and Ukraine and is a European transport corridor. Such highways as St.Petersburg-Kyiv-Odessa, Bryansk-Kobrin and Gomel-Minsk speed up through the region. The region centre stands on the intersection of Bakhmach-Vilnius and Bryansk-Brest railroads. Flights to Minsk, Kaliningrad, Nizhnevartovsk and Noyabrsk are organized from Gomel. So, it is the benefits of three Slavic cultures closely intertwined and vicinity of Europe that Gomel Region enjoys.
Who knows, maybe it is a mixture of Russian gambling spirit, Ukrainian thrift and Belarusian prudence that moulded this particular mentality that helps Gomel residents stoically endure the strokes of fate and each time arise from the ashes like phoenix. One of the latest hardships that the region suffered is a Chernobyl catastrophe. Back in the mid-90s it seemed that it would take quite a while for Gomel Region to recover and restore its economic and scientific potential after such a heavy radiation blow that forced half of the region population to migrate (now it has 1.5 million residents). However, at the end of 2004 it became clear that all troubles and worries are behind. Today, Gomel Region is not only a highly developed industrialised area, but Belarus` second region in terms of economic power. There are over 300 large and medium manufacturing companies operating in the areas of fuel, chemical, oil-extracting, food, timber, wood-working, pulp-and-paper and metallurgical sectors here.
Large-scale industrial production is the heart of the region economy. Such manufacturing giants as Mozyr Oil Refinery, Gomelselmash and Khimvolokno Production Associations and OJSC Gomelsteklo are situated here. All of them are well-known abroad. Thus, Gomel-made harvesters are heat-resistant and well-suited for the hot climate of South Africa, Brazil and Argentina, while BMZ-produced metal cord used in car tyre production "participates" in Formula-1 races. Gomel-Raton Free Economic Zone founded in 1998 to attract domestic and foreign investments has recently become another "place of interest" in the region. More than 40 companies from 33 countries of the world have been lured by the favourable investment climate and eventually settled here.
This all contributes to the consolidation of Gomel`s status as a centre of inter-regional connections, especially border areas of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Slavic Unity festival is one of the annual events organised on the border of the three brotherly states. Spring in Gomel universal fair-exhibition that gathers business partners from both the CIS and non-CIS states has gained currency and popularity. An international investment forum is gradually earning a status of traditional with representatives of more and more reputed companies from Italy, Germany, the USA, Holland and Austria coming for talks.
The momentum that the regional economic development has gained allows making favourable forecasts that the area will soon turn into one of the most celebrated crossroads of both Slavic and European routes and international centre of communications. Well, the French city of Clermont-Ferrand has opened a French-Belarusian University here, while Scottish Aberdeen forwarded a proposal to Gomel State Medical University on organising internship and training programmes for doctors. There are a great many of routes and ways. Time is needed to try them all.

Tourist Mecca

Pilgrims feel the magnetism of Turov growing cross, while the lovers of the extreme - the phantom of the countess.
Legends, the authors of which prefer to stay unnamed (possibly in order not to face the consequences), have it that the first man arrived to Gomel by boat, in which a lynx was drowsing. That is why the city coat-of-arms features a dignified posture of a forest cat that symbolises Gomel, while a monument to the first Gomel resident - a man standing in a boat - will be soon erected on the riverbank. It is just one of the episodes of Gomel Region`s rich historical past, where man appeared 3 or 2 millenniums B.C.
In fact, Gomel Region and its architectural monuments and natural reserves as well as a unique cultural potential are still unexplored by home and foreign tourists. It happened so that the Belarusian Polesje has been attracting humanitarians, who try to clear the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. And only those, who visited the area, had a chance to witness the real value of the south-east. The Golden Ring of Gomel Region, a newly-launched tourist project, is supposed to iron out the misunderstanding. The Golden Ring will connect the most curious points of the region map, which are unique and cannot be found anywhere else.
And, surprisingly, there is a choice. The region shelters 2.500 various memorials, including 1.360 obelisks of history and culture, 140 architectural and 1.040 archaeological monuments. While the latter - sites of ancient settlements, burial grounds and early stations - can entice interest with a few "devotees" - archaeologists and historians, the rest of the sightseeing places are sure to attract the attention of all voyageurs, which travel in search of new impressions, dreamers, and adventurers, connoisseurs of masterpieces of architecture and arts and history lovers.
The land of Turov is often referred to as Gomel Region "Mecca" or "Second Palestine" (there were up to 75 churches here in ancient times). Turov is now a small provincial town, but back in the late X century it was something and to learn more about it you should go to the museum of local history and culture. Turov, which was the only town on the territory where dregovichy settled, is now a political, economic and cultural centre of the rich Turov Principality. One of the first Russian Orthodox bishop offices emerged here. The Gospel of Turov that dates back to XI century and was founded in 1865 is believed to be one of the earliest monuments of the Eastern Slavic written language. Kirilla of Turov, the celebrated figure of Eastern Slavic culture, a poet, public speaker, theologian and enlightener, is said to be the author of Story about Igor`s Regiment, the famous example of Old Russian literature. A monument to the legendary ancient is towering on Castle Mount in Turov. Here you can honour the saint.
There is another place in Turov where you`d want to bow. Anyway, local residents recommend doing it and waiting for miracle to happen. A stone cross is growing at St. Boris and Gleb cemetery. Some say after Prince Vladimir was baptised, three stone crosses were shipped from Kyiv to Turov and one of them revealed itself several years ago at St. Boris and Gleb cemetery. Each year, the cross gets several centimetres higher. People say, the cross possesses miraculous qualities. It is believed to cure, fulfil good wishes and return belief in oneself.
When one arrives in Turov, he finds himself in a fairytale. A quite town is "a capital" of an 82.000-kilometre Pripyatsky National Park, which houses a nature museum. It is a unique variety of flora and fauna of the park, not its area that is a merit. Ornithologists have always preferred this place to many other tourist attractions. The list of registered birds living here counts 250 kinds of birds and bison, deer and roes peacefully strolling along forest paths give a sense of return to primeval nature.
The town of Vetka, a sanctuary of popular traditions and Old Russian art founded in 1680 by Moscow Old Believers, is another place to visit. Many resisting new ceremonial rites emigrated from Moscow provinces to settle down here. The exhibits of Vetka Museum of Popular Art tell a lot about this. It houses a number of treasures, including black-letter books, editions by Ivan Fedorovich, Petr Mstislavets, ancient icons, handicraft samples, etc. By the way, one of the offices of the UN headquarters in New York is decorated with breath-taking embroidered towels from the village of Neglyubka, Vetka District.
Gomel Region and its architectural monuments and natural reserves as well as a unique cultural potential are still unexplored by home and foreign tourists. The Golden Ring of Gomel Region, a newly-launched tourist project, is supposed to iron out the misunderstanding
After getting acquainted with simple pleasures of popular art, one can draw inspiration from a more majestic view. The main point of interest and the pride of place in Gomel, one of the most ancient cities of Belarus, is a Cathedral and Park Ensemble of Rumyantsevs and Paskeviches. It was created in XVIII century by Earl Petr Rumyantsev-Zadunaisky, which received the land and the castle from Yekaterina II as a gift for his outstanding merits. The castle had been under construction till mid-XIX. City dwellers and visitors love to enjoy romantic saunters in the picturesque park that lies above the River Sozh. Such exotic trees as Lombardy oak, Scotch fir, weeping ash and Manchu nut-tree grow here. Last year, the central part of the castle was open for visitors after restoration. In the northern corner of the park one can venture a tour around a chapel with a shrine of the Paskeviches, which wrapped in a veil of weird stories. A ghost of Countess Irina Paskevich is said to occasionally appear there. When she died, she was buried outside the family shrine, and now she sometimes makes a visit to her relatives and forebears. However, the ghost is believed to be of good nature. The countess was an extremely kind person and performed many a good deed. Recently, a monument to the countess, the only woman that city residents decided to commemorate 80 years after her death, was unveiled in Gomel.
A lot more can be told about Gomel Region, about Rechitsa museum and paintings by the world-famous artist Alexander Isachev, Sineye dead sea in Svetlogorsk District, a fishermen championship near the River Pripyat in Mozyr District, Jesuitic collegiums and a XVIII-century cathedral in the village of Yurovichi, Kalinkovichi District...
Gomel Region is a treasury with a lot of valuable pieces that are able to strike the imagination of true voyageurs, collectors of magnificent views and unforgettable images. Tourists have just started opening the lid of this treasury, where the Past and the Present are intricately intermixed. Therefore, you have a rare chance of becoming a path-breaker.

Violetta Dralyuk
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