A large city (1.6 million people in 1990) in central Belarus. It is the capitol of that nation since its independence from the Soviet Union. It is also headquarters for the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Minsk was started as a trade outpost of Kieven Rus sometime in the 10th century. At various points in history the city has been capitol of an independent state, part of Lithuania, Poland, and part of Russia after the first Partition of Poland. After Poland became independent after the First World War it was a bone of contention for some time and ended up just inside Poland during the Russo-Polish War.
When Poland was again partitioned at the start of World War II it again came under Soviet rule. During Operation Barbarossa the Nazis captured the city along with some 400,000 infantry in a stunning victory. The Russians returned in 1944 and much of the city was destroyed in fierce fighting. In addition almost all of the city's Jewish population, 4 out of 10 of the inhabitants, were killed during the course of the war and occupation.
Today Minsk is mired in economic recession, like most of Belarus (Byelorussia). This is blamed on a lack of privatization and uncertainty over the nation's future due to dictatorial rule.