part of the Byelorussian SSR. Formed Jan. 15, 1938. Located in the central part of the republic. Area, 40,800 sq km. Population, 1,533,000 (1973; excluding the city of Minsk). The oblast is divided into 22 raions and has 17 cities and 22 urban-type settlements. Its capital is the city of Minsk. Minsk Oblast has been awarded two Orders of Lenin (Feb. 1, 1967, and Dec. 23, 1970).
Natural features. The surface of Minsk Oblast is a hilly plain. The northwest is occupied by the strongly dissected Minsk Upland, which has the highest elevations in the oblast (maximum, 345 m). In the east is the Central Berezina plain. The Byelorussian Poles’e occupies the southern region of the oblast.
The climate is moderately continental and moist. The average January temperature is—5.8°C in the southwest and—7.2°C in the northeast, and the average July temperatures are 17.3°C and 18.3°C, respectively. The total annual precipitation is 550–700 mm. The growing season, which is defined as the period with temperatures above 5°C, is 185–195 days long.
The main rivers in Minsk Oblast are the Berezina and its tributaries (for example, the Usha, Bobr, Gaina, and Svisloch’), the Ptich’ and the Sluch’ (tributaries of the Pripiat’), the upper reaches of the Neman and its tributaries (the Ussa, Sula, Berezina, and Losha), and the upper reaches of the Vilia and its tributaries (the Ilia, Usha, and Servech’). Among the oblast’s major lakes are the Naroch’, Miadel’, Miastro, Svir’, Vishnevskoe, Seliava, and Palik.
The most common soils are soddy-podzolic (56.4 percent of all agricultural lands) and peaty-swampy and alluvial (21.8 percent). Forests, which have been extensively cut, occupy 36.8 percent of the oblast’s territory. Pine (62 percent) and spruce (14 percent) prevail. Of the deciduous species, birch and alder are the most widely distributed. The largest forest tracts are located in the east, where forests cover 50–52 percent of the land in some places. Swamps (primarily floodplains) occupy 14 percent of the territory.
The most typical animal species are the wolf, fox, elk, roe deer, badger, mink, hare, squirrel, boar, marten, ermine, and raccoon dog. The bear, fallow deer, hamster, and speckled gopher are also encountered. The most prevalent birds are the black grouse, hazel grouse, partridge, and duck. The pike, perch, crucian, bream, ide, and eel are the most common fishes. The carp, trout, white amur, and silver carp are found in ponds. Part of the Berezina Preserve is located in the northeastern region of the oblast.
Population. The population of Minsk Oblast includes Byelorussians (88.8 percent in 1970), Russians (6.9 percent), Poles (2.0 percent), and Ukrainians (1.3 percent). Excluding the city of Minsk, the average population density was 37.7 persons per sq km in 1973. The southwestern and central regions of the oblast are the most densely populated areas. The northeast is less densely settled. Of the total population, 29 percent is urban. Among the largest cities are Borisov (population, 92,000 as of 1973), Molodechno, and Slutsk. New cities have been built (Soligorsk, Zhodino, Liuban’, Smolevichi, Berezino, and Mar’ina Gorka).
Economy. Minsk Oblast is one of the highly industrialized oblasts of the Byelorussian SSR. Machine building and chemicals are the most important industries, but light industry and food processing are also significant. Agriculture is intensive and diversified. Until the October Revolution of 1917 the industry of the territory of contemporary Minsk Oblast was represented chiefly by small sawmilling, wine-making, brick-making, flour-milling, and leather goods enterprises. Under the prewar five-year plans the oblast was very successful in developing its economy. But during the Great Patriotic War (1941–45) the fascist German aggressors seriously damaged the oblast’s economy. During the postwar years industry was rapidly reconstructed and greatly expanded. The gross industrial product in 1972 was 12 times that of 1940. Substantial changes were made in the structure of industry. In particular, branches of heavy industry became the most important components of the economy. Excluding the city of Minsk, in 1972 the oblast accounted for 100 percent of the potassium fertilizers produced in the Byelorussian SSR (48 percent of the total output of the USSR), 100 percent of the pianos produced in the republic, 32 percent of the metal-cutting lathes, 31 percent of the fuel peat, 36 percent of the peat briquettes and semibriquettes, 50 percent of the matches, 48 percent of the granulated sugar, and 81 percent of the macaroni products. In addition, 22 percent of the logging done in the Byelorussian SSR was concentrated in Minsk Oblast.
The energy base depends on local fuel (peat) and on imports (coal, petroleum products, and natural gas). In reserves and output of peat Minsk Oblast ranks first in the Byelorussian SSR. The largest peat enterprises are the Krasnoe Znamia, the Ordzhonikidze, the Smolevichskoe (Smolevichi Raion), the Chistik (Logoisk Raion), and the Sergeevichskoe (Pukhovichskii Raion). Peat briquettes are manufactured at a number of plants, including the Usiazh (Smolevichi Raion), Berezinskii (Molodechno Raion), Neman (Stolbtsy Raion), and Radichevo (Slutsk Raion). In 1972, 3,310,000 tons of fuel peat were extracted (in 1940, 949,000 tons), and 746,000 tons of peat briquettes and semibriquettes were produced. Natural gas is brought into the oblast via the Dashava (Ukrainian SSR)-Minsk pipeline. The oblast obtains most of its electric power from the Byelorussian electrical power system.
Machine building and metal working, which are represented by diverse branches (transportation machine building, the machine-tool industry, and the production of equipment for various branches of industry) produce 21 percent of the total industrial output of Minsk Oblast. The majority of enterprises are located in Zhodino (the Byelorussian Motor Vehicle Plant—BelAZ), Borisov (plants for the production of electrical equipment for motor vehicles and tractors and automotive hydraulic actuators), Molodechno (machine-tool industry, semiconductor valves for the motor vehicle industry, and metal structures), Slutsk (sanitary engineering equipment), and Dzerzhinsk (metal-working shops and motor repair shops).
The chemical industry has developed a great deal owing to the availability of potassium salts (the Starobin deposits). In 1972, Soligorsk’s three potassium combines produced 6,246,000 tons (in standard units) of potassium fertilizers. (A fourth combine was under construction in 1976.) Located in Borisov are plants producing plastic articles, industrial-rubber and chemical products, polymeric packing materials, and pharmaceutical products.
The building materials industry is well developed. Among its products are reinforced-concrete goods (Borisov, Molodechno, Slutsk, Soligorsk, and Smolevichi), structural components (Vileika), and ceramic and drainage pipes (the village of Prudy). The plywood and match industry, wood products combines, the piano plant (Borisov), furniture factories (Molodechno and Borisov), and a sawmill (Stolbtsy) use local and imported lumber.
Among the branches of light industry the most important are the garment industry (Borisov, Dzerzhinsk, and Molodechno), flax processing (seven plants), glassworks (Borisov; the Zales’e Plant, Vilia Raion), leather footwear (Molodechno and Smilovichi), and knitwear (Soligorsk). There is a musical instruments factory. One of the leading industries is food processing, which accounts for a third of the oblast’s industrial output. Minsk Oblast has four meat-packing plants (Borisov, Molodechno, Slutsk, and Stolbtsy); milling combines (Borisov, Molodechno, and Slutsk); butter and cheese plants; dairy, canning, and starch plants; wineries, distilleries, and sugar refineries (Slutsk and Gorodeia); and macaroni factories (Borisov and Slutsk). Enterprises manufacturing handicrafts are located in Slutsk, Molodechno, and Borisov, and there is a ceramics and embroidered goods factory in the settlement of Ivenets.
Agriculture specializes in meat-and-dairy animal husbandry in combination with hog raising and the cultivation of potatoes. As of the beginning of 1973 there were 369 kolkhozes and 215 sovkhozes. In 1972, 48.1 percent of the oblast’s territory consisted of agricultural lands, of which 32.1 percent was plowland, 7.3 percent hayfields, and 7.9 percent pastures. Swamps are being drained to expand the crop area. In 1972 there were 485,800 hectares (ha) of reclaimed land, of which 377,600 ha were cultivated. The total crop area was 1,288,200 ha in 1972, 40.6 percent of which was planted with cereal crops (barley, rye, wheat, oats, and buckwheat) and legumes, 5.6 percent with industrial crops (flax and sugar beets), 16.6 percent with potatoes, 1.0 percent with vegetables, and 36.2 percent with fodder crops. Orchards and berry patches occupy 37,100 ha. Minsk Oblast ranks first in the republic in the areas of potato, fruit, and berry plantings and second in the planting and harvest of fiber flax and sugar beets.
The most important branches of animal husbandry are meatand-dairy cattle raising and hog raising. At the beginning of 1973, there were 1,184,700 head of cattle, including 542,200 cows, 999,600 pigs, and 106,500 sheep. Poultry raising is well developed in suburban areas. The oblast leads the republic in egg production.
The main form of transportation is the railroads. In 1972 the total length of tracks was 835 km, of which about 186 km were electrified (the Minsk-Molodechno and Minsk-Osipovichi lines). The main lines are Moscow-Minsk-Brest, Vilnius-Minsk-Gomel’, and Osipovichi-Slutsk-Baranovichi. There were 6,900 km of paved motor vehicle roads in 1972. The highways are Moscow-Minsk-Brest, Mogilev-Bobruisk-Slutsk-Ivatsevichi, Minsk-Vilnius, Minsk-Mogilev, and Minsk-Naroch’. The Berezina is navigable. There is a large wharf at Borisov. Many cities and raions are linked to Minsk, the capital, by air routes.
Education, cultural affairs, and public health. Excluding the city of Minsk, in the 1972–73 academic year there were 2,074 general education schools of all types with more than 331,700 students and 13 secondary specialized schools with 14,000 students. In 1972 about 40,500 children were enrolled in 439 pre-school institutions. As of Jan. 1, 1973, there were 1,270 public libraries (9,883,000 copies of books and journals), 1,246 clubs, and 1,311 motion-picture projectors in Minsk Oblast. The oblast has six museums located outside its capital city: the Minsk Oblast Museum of Local Lore (Molodechno), the museums of local lore in Borisov and Slutsk, the F. E. Dzerzhinskii Memorial Museum in the settlement of Ivenets, and “national glory” museums in Liuban’ and in the settlement of Miadel’.
The oblast’s Byelorussian-language newspaper is Minskaia prauda (Minsk Pravda, since 1950). The same amount of programs of Central and Republic Television, all-Union Radio, and Republic Broadcasting as are received in Minsk are received throughout the oblast.
As of Jan. 1, 1973, there were 185 hospitals with 16,900 beds in Minsk Oblast (11.1 beds per 1,000 inhabitants). At that time the oblast had 3,200 physicians (one per 479 inhabitants). There are two mineral springs on the site of the Minsk Oblast Hospital. Naroch’ and Zhdanovichi are major health-resort centers of the oblast and the republic.
REFERENCESNekhai, G. O. Belorusskaia SSR: Minskaia oblast’. Minsk, 1968.
“Belorussiia.” Moscow, 1967. (Sovetskii Soiuz series.)
Geografiia Belorussii. Minsk, 1965.
Ekonomicheskaia geografiia BSSR. Minsk, 1967.
N. T. ROMANOVSKII