Rich history of ancient city

Minsk’s mythical founder could gain status as historical-cultural treasure

By Oksana Shikut

The Minsk City Executive Committee has sent materials on Menesk — the mythical founder of the ancient city of Minsk (Mensk) — to the Culture Ministry. The legend was first published in the mid-19th century by famous Belarusian ethnographer and writer Pavel Shpilevsky.

Minsk has always been surrounded by legends. One says that Menesk settled near the Vilno postal road long ago, building a huge stone mill on the River Svisloch to grind flour not from wheat but from pebbles. Every night, Menesk gathered the strongest men to protect the area from enemy attacks. Eventually, they all settled near Menesk’s mill and the city was founded, initially known as Menesk before transforming into Mensk and Minsk.

According to documentation, the capital was named after the Menka River, on which it was founded. Another version is that the name originates from the Slavonic word ‘mena’ (Russian for ‘change’) — as the city was situated at a crossroads of trading routes and became a trading post itself.

The city is almost 11 centuries old and was first mentioned in the legendary Tale of Bygone Years, in 1067.

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