Pinsk (Belarusian: Пі́нск, Pinsk; Łacinka: Pinsk, Russian: Пи́нск, Pinsk; Ukrainian: Пи́нськ, Pyns’k; Polish: Pińsk; Yiddish/Hebrew: Pinsk ,פינסק, Lithuanian: Pinskas) is a town in Belarus, in the Polesia region, traversed by the river Pina, at the confluence of the Strumen and Pripyat rivers. The region was known as the Marsh of Pinsk. It is a fertile agricultural center. It lies south-west of Minsk. The population is about 130,000. The city is a small industrial center producing ships sailing the local rivers.
The historic city has a restored city centre full of two-story buildings dating from the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The city centre has become an active place for youth of all ages with summer theme parks and a newly built association football stadium that houses the town’s football team, FC Volna Pinsk.
Pinsk is first mentioned in the chronicles of 1097 as Pinesk, a town belonging to Sviatopolk of Turau. The name is derived from the river Pina. Pinsk’s early history is closely linked with the history of Turau. Until the mid-12th century Pinsk was the seat of Sviatopolk’s descendants, but a cadet line of the same family established their own seat at Pinsk after the Mongol invasion of Rus in 1239.
The Pinsk principality had an important strategic location, between the principalities of Navahrudak and Halych-Volynia, which fought each other for other Ruthenian territories. Pinsk did not take part in this struggle, although it was inclined towards the princes of Novaharodak, which is shown by the fact that the future prince of Novaharodak and Voyshalk of Lithuania spent some time in Pinsk.
In 1320 Pinsk was won by the rulers of Navahrudak, who incorporated it into their state, known as the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. From this time on Pinsk was ruled by Gedimin’s eldest son, Narymunt. Afterwards, for the next two centuries the city had different rulers.
In 1581 Pinsk was granted the Magdeburg rights and in 1569, after the union of Lithuania with the Crown of the Polish Kingdom, it became the seat of the province of Brest.
From 1633 on Pinsk had a secondary school, a so-called brotherhood school (the brotherhoods were religious citizens’ organisations with the aim of providing education for their members and their children). During the Cossack rebellion of Bohdan Khmelnytsky (1640), it was captured by Cossacks who carried out a pogrom against the city’s Jewish population; the Poles retook it by assault, killing 24,000 persons and burning 5,000 houses. Eight years later the town was burned by the Russians.
In 1648, on the eve of the Russo-Polish War (1654-1667), Pinsk was occupied by Ukrainian Cossack army under commander Niababy and could only be reconquered with great difficulty by prince Janusz Radziwiłł, a high-ranking commander in the Polish-Lithuanian army. During the war between Moscow and Poland-Lithuania (1654–1667) the city suffered heavily from the attacks of the Muscovite army under Prince Volkolnsky and its allied army of Ukrainian Cossacks.
Charles XII took it in 1706, and burned the town with its suburbs. In spite of all the wars the city recovered and the town developed with the existence of a printing workshop in Pinsk from 1729-44. Pinsk fell to the Russian Empire in 1793 in the Second Partition of Poland.
Up to the Second World War and the Holocaust, like many cities in Eastern Europe, Pinsk had a significant Jewish population: according to the Russian census of 1897, out of the total population of 28,400, Jews constituted 21,100 (approx. 74% percent), making it one of the most Jewish cities in Eastern Europe.
In April 1919, at the beginning of the Polish-Soviet War, thirty-five Jews from Pinsk were murdered by Polish soldiers, in an incident known as the Pinsk massacre. The Poles suspected them of being Bolshevik collaborators. This event created a diplomatic incident that was noted at the Versailles Conference.
Pinsk became part of the newly independent Poland in 1920 after the Polish-Soviet War. In 1939 Pinsk and the surrounding territories were occupied by the Red Army of the Soviet Union’s part the Hitler-Stalin pact that started World War II. At this time, the city’s population was over 90% Jewish.
From 1941 to 1943, Pinsk was occupied by Nazi Germany. In 1939, the population of Pinsk totaled 30,000, of whom 27,000 were Jews. Most of them were killed in late October 1942, after their deportation by the Nazis from the Pinsk ghetto. Ten thousand were murdered in one day. In 1945 with the new post World War II borders, Pinsk became part of the Soviet Union. Pinsk has been part of Belarus since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.