Back to Belarus : Soviet relics in Vitebck


Text & Pictures : Eddy Devroey - SBAP       



February 2011, another  trip to the Republic of Belarus also commonly known to many as White Russia and a former part of the Soviet Union - Белору́сская Сове́тская Социалисти́ческая Респу́блика [БССР] Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic- until the breakdown of the Union in 1991.

The city of Vitebck has a long and violent history. It is situated in the far North East of the republic some 50 km from the frontier with big brother Russia.  During the great patriotic war ( as WWII is called over here) the German troops captured the city on 11th july 1941 during operation Barbarossa.  In the following years the city was completely ruined during fighting.

Before the war  there was a huge Jewish population.  As the German war machine raged through the country 5 deathcamps and a Jewish ghetto were installed in Vitebck.  In the first months after the occupation more than 20 000 Jews were killed. Before the war there was a population of around 170 000 people in Vitebck.  After the liberation by the Soviet Red army on June 26th 1944 only 118 people survived in the basements of the completely devastated city.  99% of the town was completely flattened and only  very few old buildings survived.  It took up to 1960 before the number of people again reached 170 000 inhabitants.  Nowadays there are about 380 000 people living in Vitebck.   No wonder  that up to this date  26th of  June is a very important day and the liberation is commemorated with plenty of parades and festivities.  As in the complete former  Soviet Union a huge amount of memorials were constructed with big monuments  and parks and numerous statues in their typical Soviet bombastic style.  The big war monument  can be found on the memorial site annex park ( Victory Square) about 17.6 hectare in size.  The huge war monument with eternal fire was inaugurated in 1974 and is 56 meters high.  Last spring in the park next to the memorial different artillery pieces and tanks were added to the site as commemoration of the war.  Now as I was strolling through the city during a cold cold morning to my surprise I saw that they added some aircraft as permanent exhibition in the park.  Not immediately connected with the Great Patriotic War but remnants from the cold war era and altogether it shows that military history and nostalgia for old days is still nourished by the authorities of this republic.  A good photo opportunity as it was a nice day with good sunlight and beautiful combination of blue sky and white snow.

Three helicopters and one plane were given their final resting place between the trees of the park.



First helicopter is the Mil MI8 constructed in 1961.  Several versions were created ( transport, gunship, civilian) and they are still in use up to this day in different countries).  They were also used at the Tsjornobyl disaster to drop  absorbing  material in the burning reactor. 


Second helicopter is the Mil MI24 a huge gunship nicknamed by the former Soviet military as the flying tank or the crocodile due to his shape and used camouflage.   They were extensively used by the Soviet troops during the war in Afghanistan to fight the Mujahedin.  Also several of these helicopters are still in use up to this date.


The third helicopter is the Mil MI2 a versatile helicopter that was highlighted in my previous report on Belarus from last may.


Then finally a nice specimen of the  Mikoyan-Gurevich MIG 15.  (Микоян и Гуревич МиГ-15) This plane became very famous during the Korean war where it was the direct opponent of the USAF  North American F86.  More than 12 000 were constructed.  The maiden flight was in 1948 and it entered service in 1949. It was widely exported to the communist republic of China and used in the Korean war with Russian pilots secretly flying war missions in Korea.

Paratroops support vehicles
BR-DM2  (БРДМ2 ) Amphibious armored transporter and patrol car    BTR60 (БТР 60  бронетранспортер) Armored transporter   
Developed by GAZ company ( Same factory that produced the Volga cars)
BMD-1  (БМД-1)  Combat vehicle for airborne troops that can be parachuted
and was used also in the Afghanistan war

2S9 Nona light artillery tank



So far this report but soon I will return to this beautiful Belarus next summer and watch out we have some nice aviation adventures to be explored.


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