Paris? Where is it? You have to travel two thousand kilometers from Bobruisk to find Paris, right?

Bobruisk was first mentioned in writing in the historical chronicles of the middle of the 14th century. It was then a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.Investigations by archeologists revealed that in the 5th and 6th centuries there existed Slavic settlements up the river Berezina; findings of stone tools and weapons suggest that people had lived in the area since the stone age
Bobruisk was first mentioned in writing in the historical chronicles of the middle of the 14th century. It was then a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

Investigations by archeologists revealed that in the 5th and 6th centuries there existed Slavic settlements up the river Berezina; findings of stone tools and weapons suggest that people had lived in the area since the stone age.

For many centuries starting from 1649 Bobruisk was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and an important militarily fortified border post.
The city is also well known for its balnearies. Bobruisk is a city that enjoys intercontinental fame.

“When the word “Bobruisk” was uttered, all participants of the meeting groaned. Everyone was ready to hit the road for Bobruisk right then. It was considered to be a wonderful and developed city,” Ilf and Petrov (Ilf, Ilya and Petrov, Evgeny, satirical writers in the Soviet times) described Bobruisk in their novel The Golden Calf.

The modern city is just as beautiful as it was. Bobruisk’s main street Sozialisticheskaya may be easily compared to Arbat (an old street in Moscow). There are three theatres to visit in Bobruisk. To be praised most are its cozy clean streets.

The city was developing and growing very fast. It now includes busy industrial areas and quiet cultural sights. Its population has grown two times in recent years.

Bobruisk citizens take pride in their native city. They favor jokes and are ready to laugh at themselves. There are a lot of jokes about Bobruisk composed by its citizens. The key idea of them is that Bobruisk is a center of the world. “Paris? Where is it? — I guess you have to travel about two thousand kilometers from Bobruisk to find Paris.” It is one of the jokes favored by Bobruisk citizens.

Let’s try to travel to the times that sank into oblivion long ago. We may trace them today thanks to the ruins, mounds and historical data.

“On the right bank of the Berezina river, where the Bobruyka river falls into it, there is a city and a castle. There was only a little settlement back in 1508.

During the war between the prince Vasiliy and the king Sigismund Russian forces reached Bobruisk. A castle was built here that unfortunately fall prey to the fire of 1649.

After the city was incorporated into the Russian Empire it became a district center of the Minsk province. Tsar Alexander I sent out his military engineer Theodore Narbut to find a site suitable for building a fortress somewhere on the Dnieper, between Mogilev and Rogachev in order to prepare for the looming threat in Western Europe. After his investigation, Narbut advised that a more strategic position would be on the shore of the Berezina river near Bobruisk.

During the reign of the Russian emperor Nikolai I the fortress was renewed on a large scale. It was constructed in the historic center of the city, at the confluence of the Bobruyka and Berezina rivers. That was one of the western Russian fortresses. On the right bank of the Bobruyka river is the fort Frederic Wilhelm.

Bobruisk is quite a large city with a population of approximately 27,000 people. Tradesmen from the South provinces supply bread and salt to Bobruisk by river.” This description is taken from the book “Picturesque Russia”. It shows that Bobruisk was a hard nut to crack. Even Napoleon Bonaparte’s army suffered heavy losses when crossing the Berezina in November 1812 during his retreat from Russia and did not dare to assault the fortress on the river and managed only to besiege it.

By the way, the fortress is one of the most interesting Bobruisk military stories. Sergey Muravyov-Apostol and some other members of the Southern Society of Decembrists were among the 9th infantry division accommodated in Bobruisk.

Besides, one of the Decembrists programs to completely destroy the Czarist regime was called the Bobruisk plan. Later the participants of the revolt at the Senate Square met defeat and were convicted.

Bobruisk walls remember many historic events like this... May be, Boris Mikulich, a wonderful writer, the author of “Novel for myself”, walked here amid the ruins once. Among other famous people born in Bobruisk are the chess-player Misha Zeitlin and the speed skater Valentina Stenina, who twice took silver at the Winter Olympics in 1960 and 1964.
Nowadays Bobruisk has enough skating-rinks and good chess-players among children and adults.

Moses Ashkenazi who died in 1941 used to play some other games in his childhood. He was a famous artist and his paintings found admirers even after his death during the exhibition in Nizhni Novgorod (Russia) in 1990.
Alexander Orlov or Leiba Felbing a Soviet espionage administrator in Spain was also born in Bobruisk. I guess this boy admired James Bond in his childhood.

Generally speaking, adventure and espionage are among the hobbies of Bobruisk citizens and part of their mentality. Leonid Estrin almost an age mate of Orlov-Felbing is well-known in the world’s filmography thanks to his adventure movie “Golubaya Strela” (blue arrow). What wonderful actors have taken part in this movie: Pavel Luspekarev, Andrei Goncharov, Genrich Ostashevski and Yuri Bogolubov.

Of course, I am joking about adventures and espionage. Among the features of nature of Bobruisk citizens are thoroughness, responsibility, helpfulness and ability to empathize. These were my personal observations. It is not fortuitous that among the modern symbols of the city is a goody-goody beaver created by the sculptor Vladimir Gavrilenko.

by Ales Karlovsky
Postcards from Vladimir Lihodedov’s collection
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