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(brĕst), city (1990 pop. 153,099), Finistère dept., NW France, on an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a commercial port, an important naval station, and the seat of the French Naval Academy. There is a national engineering school in Brest and nearby is the Oceanographic Center of Brittany. Electronics equipment, metals, paper, and clothing are the chief manufactures. The city dates from Gallo-Roman times. The spacious, landlocked harbor was created in 1631 by Cardinal Richelieu as a military base and arsenal. In 1683, during the reign of Louis XIV, Marshal Vauban built the ramparts and a castle. The French repulsed the English in 1694 off Brest; in 1794 the English, under Lord Howe, defeated the French fleet. During World War II the Germans had a huge submarine base at Brest. Their heavily fortified submarine pens showed few cracks under Allied air raids; but the city itself was almost completely destroyed. The German garrison capitulated to U.S. troops in 1944.


(brĕst), formerly


(–lĭtôfsk`), Pol. Brześć nad Bugiem, city (1989 pop. 258,016), capital of Brest region, W Belarus, at the confluence of the Western Bug and Mukhavets rivers near the Polish border. As a point of entry into Belarus, it has industrial, commercial, and transportation concerns. Industries include food processing and the production of metals, textiles, and electrical machinery. Founded by Slavs in 1017 as Bereste, the city was conquered by the Mongols in 1241 and by Lithuania in 1319. During the 14th cent. it was renamed Brest-Litovsk. In 1569 it became capital of the newly merged Polish and Lithuanian state. Brest passed to Russia in the third partition of Poland (1795). German forces took the city in 1915 and three years later signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with Soviet Russia there. Held by Poland between the world wars, Brest was regained by the USSR in 1939, occupied by Germany from 1941–44, and finally liberated by the Soviet army.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a city, the administrative center of Brest Oblast, Byelorussian SSR. Situated on the elevated right bank of the Mukhavets River at its influx into the Bug River, on the border of the USSR and Poland. Major railroad and highway junction and a river port, connecting the Dnieper basin to the Bug by canal. Population, 122, 000 (1970; in 1959, 74, 000).

Brest is an ancient Slavic settlement; it was first mentioned under 1017 in the Novgorod (Synod) chronicle. The Hypatian and Laurentian chronicles mention it for 1019 under the name of Berest’e (from the Old Slavic berest, elm). In the 11th century, Brest was in the domain of the Turov princes. In 1044, Yaroslav the Wise conquered the city, and it remained a possession of the Kiev princes until the mid-12th century, when it became part of the Volynsk principality. Lithuania conquered it circa 1319 and it was renamed Brest-Litovsk. It became part of Poland according to the Union of Lublin of 1569. The Council of Brest, pronouncing the union of the Western Orthodox and Catholic churches, took place in the city in 1596. In 1648, during the war of liberation under the leadership of Bogdan Khmel’ —nitskii, the people of Brest rose in revolt against the Polish authorities. Brest was annexed by Russia in 1795 and became a district city in 1796. Fortifications were built in Brest in the 1830’s; by the beginning of the 20th century, Brest was converted into a primary fortress on Russia’s western frontier. Peace negotiations between Soviet Russia and Germany took place in Brest from Dec. 9 (22), 1917, to Mar. 3, 1918. The city was seized by the White Poles in 1919; it became part of the USSR in 1939.

During the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, Brest was the arena of furious battles. After its liberation on July 28, 1944, the city was fully restored and reconstructed. A new industrial district with high-rise apartment buildings and wide streets arose on the eastern outskirts of Brest.

Modern Brest is an important industrial and cultural center. It is responsible for about one-quarter of the gross industrial output of the oblast. The leading industry is instrument engineering, represented by plants for the manufacture of electrical lighting fixtures, gas apparatus, and electronic measuring devices. Light industry includes a rug combine and factories producing shoes, hosiery, cloth, garments, and knitwear. The food-processing industry is represented by a meat combine, a flour-milling combine, a winery and brewery combine, and a dairy plant. There is also a furniture factory, a reinforced-concrete products plant, and a brickyard. Construction began in 1970 on a plant to produce enameled drainage pipes. The city’s fuel supply is almost exclusively gas (natural gas supplied from Dashava).

Brest has a pedagogical institute and construction engineering institute, railroad and construction technicums, schools of medicine and music, a drama theater, a museum of the defense of the Brest fortress, and a museum of local lore.


Zhuchkevich, V. A., A. Ia. Malyshev, and N. E. Rogozin. Goroda i sela Belorusskoi SSR: Istoriko-geograficheskie ocherki. Minsk, 1959.
Rashevskii, N. Belorusskaia SSR: Brestskaia oblast’. Minsk, 1968.
Brestskaia krepost’: Putevoditel’ po mestam boev, 7th ed. Moscow, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a port in NW France, in Brittany: chief naval station of the country, planned by Richelieu in 1631 and fortified by Vauban. Pop.: 149 634 (1999)
2. a city in SW Belarus: Polish until 1795 and from 1921 to 1945. Pop.: 299 000 (2005 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005