Battle of Berlin
The Battle of Berlin, designated the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the Soviet Union, known as the Fall of Berlin, was one of the last major offensives of the European theatre of World War II. Following the Vistula–Oder Offensive of January–February 1945, the Red Army had temporarily halted on a line 60 km east of Berlin. On 9 March, Germany established its defence plan for the city with Operation Clausewitz; the first defensive preparations at the outskirts of Berlin were made on 20 March, under the newly appointed commander of Army Group Vistula, General Gotthard Heinrici. When the Soviet offensive resumed on 16 April, two Soviet fronts attacked Berlin from the east and south, while a third overran German forces positioned north of Berlin. Before the main battle in Berlin commenced, the Red Army encircled the city after successful battles of the Seelow Heights and Halbe. On 20 April 1945, Hitler's birthday, the 1st Belorussian Front led by Marshal Georgy Zhukov, advancing from the east and north, started shelling Berlin's city centre, while Marshal Ivan Konev's 1st Ukrainian Front broke through Army Group Centre and advanced towards the southern suburbs of Berlin.
On 23 April General Helmuth Weidling assumed command of the forces within Berlin. The garrison consisted of several depleted and disorganised Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS divisions, along with poorly trained Volkssturm and Hitler Youth members. Over the course of the next week, the Red Army took the entire city. Before the battle was over and several of his followers killed themselves; the city's garrison surrendered on 2 May but fighting continued to the north-west and south-west of the city until the end of the war in Europe on 8 May as some German units fought westward so that they could surrender to the Western Allies rather than to the Soviets. Starting on 12 January 1945, the Red Army began the Vistula–Oder Offensive across the Narew River. On the fourth day, the Red Army broke out and started moving west, up to 30 to 40 km per day, taking East Prussia and Poznań, drawing up on a line 60 km east of Berlin along the Oder River; the newly created Army Group Vistula, under the command of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, attempted a counter-attack, but this had failed by 24 February.
The Red Army drove on to Pomerania, clearing the right bank of the Oder River, thereby reaching into Silesia. In the south the Siege of Budapest raged. Three German divisions' attempts to relieve the encircled Hungarian capital city failed, Budapest fell to the Soviets on 13 February. Adolf Hitler insisted on a counter-attack to recapture the Drau-Danube triangle; the goal was to secure the oil region of Nagykanizsa and regain the Danube River for future operations, but the depleted German forces had been given an impossible task. By 16 March, the German Lake Balaton Offensive had failed, a counter-attack by the Red Army took back in 24 hours everything the Germans had taken ten days to gain. On 30 March, the Soviets entered Austria. Between June and September 1944, the Wehrmacht had lost more than a million men, it lacked the fuel and armaments needed to operate effectively. On 12 April 1945, who had earlier decided to remain in the city against the wishes of his advisers, heard the news that the American President Franklin D. Roosevelt had died.
This raised false hopes in the Führerbunker that there might yet be a falling out among the Allies and that Berlin would be saved at the last moment, as had happened once before when Berlin was threatened. No plans were made by the Western Allies to seize the city by a ground operation; the Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary Force, General Eisenhower lost interest in the race to Berlin and saw no further need to suffer casualties by attacking a city that would be in the Soviet sphere of influence after the war, envisioning excessive friendly fire if both armies attempted to occupy the city at once. The major Western Allied contribution to the battle was the bombing of Berlin during 1945. During 1945 the United States Army Air Forces launched large daytime raids on Berlin and for 36 nights in succession, scores of RAF Mosquitos bombed the German capital, ending on the night of 20/21 April 1945 just before the Soviets entered the city; the Soviet offensive into central Germany, what became East Germany, had two objectives.
Stalin did not believe the Western Allies would hand over territory occupied by them in the post-war Soviet zone, so he began the offensive on a broad front and moved to meet the Western Allies as far west as possible. But the overriding objective was to capture Berlin; the two goals were complementary because possession of the zone could not be won unless Berlin were taken. Another consideration was that Berlin itself held useful post-war strategic assets, including Adolf Hitler and the German atomic bomb programme. On 6 March, Hitler appointed Lieutenant General Helmuth Reymann commander of the Berlin Defence Area, replacing Lieutenant General Bruno Ritter von Hauenschild. On 20 March, General Gotthard Heinrici was appointed Commander-in-Chief of Army Group Vistula replacing Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler. Heinrici was one of the best defensive tacticians in the German army, he started to lay defensive plans. Heinrici assessed that the main Soviet thrust would be made over the Oder River and along the main east-west Autobahn.
He decided not to try to defend the banks of the Oder with anything more than a light skirmishing screen. Instead, Heinrici arranged for engineers
Gdańsk is a Polish city on the Baltic coast. With a population of 464,254, Gdańsk is the capital and largest city of the Pomeranian Voivodeship and the capital of Kashubia, it is the centre of the country's fourth-largest metropolitan area. The city is located on the southern edge of Gdańsk Bay, in a conurbation with the city of Gdynia, spa town of Sopot, suburban communities, which together form a metropolitan area called the Tricity, with a population approaching 1.4 million. Gdańsk is the largest city of Kashubia. With its origins as a Polish stronghold erected in the 980s by Mieszko I of Poland, the city's history is complex, with periods of Polish rule, periods of Prussian or German rule, periods of autonomy or self-rule as a "free city". In the early-modern age Gdańsk was a royal city of Poland, it was considered the wealthiest and the largest city of Poland, prior to the 18th century rapid growth of Warsaw. Between the world wars, the Free City of Danzig, having a majority of German population, was in a customs union with Poland and was situated between German East Prussia and the so-called Polish Corridor.
Gdańsk lies at the mouth of the Motława River, connected to the Leniwka, a branch in the delta of the nearby Vistula River, which drains 60 percent of Poland and connects Gdańsk with the Polish capital, Warsaw. Together with the nearby port of Gdynia, Gdańsk is a notable industrial center. In the late Middle Ages it was an important seaport and shipbuilding town and, in the 14th and 15th centuries, a member of the Hanseatic League. In the interwar period, owing to its multi-ethnic make-up and history, Gdańsk lay in a disputed region between Poland and the Weimar Republic, which became Nazi Germany; the city's ambiguous political status was exploited, furthering tension between the two countries, which would culminate in the Invasion of Poland and the first clash of the Second World War just outside the city limits. In the 1980s it would become the birthplace of the Solidarity movement, which played a major role in bringing an end to Communist rule in Poland and helped precipitate the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
Gdańsk is home to the University of Gdańsk, Gdańsk University of Technology, the National Museum, the Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre, the Museum of the Second World War, Polish Baltic Philharmonic and the European Solidarity Centre. The city hosts St. Dominic's Fair, which dates back to 1260, is regarded as one of the biggest trade and cultural events in Europe; the city's name is thought to originate from the Gdania River, the original name of the Motława branch on which the city is situated. The name of a settlement was recorded after St. Adalbert's death in AD 997 as urbs Gyddanyzc and was written as Kdanzk in 1148, Gdanzc in 1188, Danceke in 1228, Gdansk in 1236, Danzc in 1263, Danczk in 1311, Danczik in 1399, Danczig in 1414, Gdąnsk in 1656. In Polish the modern name of the city is pronounced. In English the usual pronunciation is or; the German name, "Danzig", is pronounced as. The city's Latin name may be given as either Gedanum or Dantiscum. Other former spellings of the name include Dantzig and Dantzic.
On special occasions the city is referred to as "The Royal Polish City of Gdańsk". In the Kashubian language the city is called Gduńsk. Kashubians use the name "Our Capital City Gduńsk" or "The Kashubian Capital City Gduńsk"; the first written record thought to refer to Gdańsk is the vita of Saint Adalbert. Written in 999, it describes how in 997 Saint Adalbert of Prague baptised the inhabitants of urbs Gyddannyzc, "which separated the great realm of the duke from the sea." No further written sources exist for the 11th centuries. Based on the date in Adalbert's vita, the city celebrated its millennial anniversary in 1997. Archaeological evidence for the origins of the town was retrieved after World War II had laid 90 percent of the city center in ruins, enabling excavations; the oldest seventeen settlement levels were dated to between 980 and 1308. It is thought that Mieszko I of Poland erected a stronghold on the site in the 980s, thereby connecting the Polish state ruled by the Piast dynasty with the trade routes of the Baltic Sea.
Traces of buildings and housing from 10th century have been found in archaeological excavations of the city. The site was ruled as a duchy of Poland by the Samborides, it consisted of a settlement at the modern Long Market, settlements of craftsmen along the Old Ditch, German merchant settlements around St Nicholas's church and the old Piast stronghold. In 1186, a Cistercian monastery was set up in nearby Oliwa, now within the city limits. In 1215, the ducal stronghold became the centre of a Pomerelian splinter duchy. At that time the area of the city included various villages. From at least 1224/25 a German market settlement with merchants from Lübeck existed in the area of today's Long Market. In 1224/25, merchants from Lübeck were invited as "hospites" but were soon forced to leave by Swantopolk II of the Samborides during a war between Swantopolk and the Teutonic Knights, during which Lübeck supported the latter. Migrat
Battle in Berlin
The battle in Berlin was an end phase of the Battle of Berlin. While the Battle of Berlin encompassed the attack by three Soviet Army Groups to capture not only Berlin but the territory of Germany east of the River Elbe still under German control, the battle in Berlin details the fighting and German capitulation that took place within the city; the outcome of the battle to capture the capital of the Third Reich was decided during the initial phases of the Battle of Berlin that took place outside the city. As the Soviets invested Berlin and the German forces placed to stop them were destroyed or forced back, the city's fate was sealed. There was much heavy fighting within the city as the Red Army fought its way, street by street, into the centre. On 23 April 1945, the first Soviet ground forces started to penetrate the outer suburbs of Berlin. By 27 April, Berlin was cut off from the outside world; the battle in the city continued until 2 May 1945. On that date, the commander of the Berlin Defence Area, General Helmuth Weidling, surrendered to the commander of the Soviet 8th Guards Army, Lieutenant-General Vasily Chuikov.
Chuikov was a constituent of Marshal Georgiy Zhukov's 1st Belorussian Front. The sector in which most of the fighting in the overall battle took place was the Seelow Heights, the last major defensive line outside Berlin; the Battle of the Seelow Heights was one of the last pitched battles of World War II. It was fought over four days, from 16 April until 19 April 1945. Close to one million Soviet soldiers and more than 20,000 tanks and artillery pieces were in action to break through the "Gates to Berlin", defended by about 100,000 German soldiers and 1,200 tanks and guns. On 19 April, the fourth day, the 1st Belorussian Front broke through the final line of the Seelow Heights and nothing but broken German formations lay between them and Berlin. Marshal Ivan Konev's 1st Ukrainian Front, having captured Forst the day before, was fanning out into open country. One powerful thrust was heading north-west towards Berlin while other armies headed west towards a section of United States Army front line south-west of the city who were on the Elbe.
By the end of 19 April the German eastern front line north of Frankfurt around Seelow and to the south around Forst had ceased to exist. These breakthroughs allowed the two Soviet fronts to envelop the German IX Army in a large pocket east of Frankfurt. Attempts by the IX Army to break out to the west would result in the Battle of Halbe; the cost to the Soviet forces had been high between 1 and 19 April, with over 2,807 tanks lost, including at least 727 at the Seelow Heights. On 20 April, Adolf Hitler's birthday, Soviet artillery of the 79th Rifle Corps of the 1st Belorussian Front first shelled Berlin. Thereafter, Soviet artillery continued the bombardment of Berlin and did not stop until the city surrendered; the 1st Belorussian Front advanced towards the north-east of the city. The 1st Ukrainian Front had pushed through the last formations of the northern wing of General Ferdinand Schörner's Army Group Centre and had passed north of Juterbog, well over halfway to the American front line on the river Elbe at Magdeburg.
To the north between Stettin and Schwedt, Konstantin Rokossovsky's 2nd Belorussian Front attacked the northern flank of General Gotthard Heinrici's Army Group Vistula, held by Hasso von Manteuffel's III Panzer Army. By 24 April, elements of the 1st Belorussian Front and the 1st Ukrainian Front had completed the encirclement of the city; the next day, 25 April, the 2nd Belorussian Front broke through III Panzer Army's line around the bridgehead south of Stettin and crossed the Rando Swamp. They were now free to move west towards the British 21st Army Group and north towards the Baltic port of Stralsund; the Soviet 58th Guards Division of Zhadov's 5th Guards Army made contact with the US 69th Infantry Division of the First Army near Torgau, Germany, on the Elbe River. The Soviet investment of Berlin was consolidated with leading units probing and penetrating the S-Bahn defensive ring. By the end of 25 April, there was no prospect that the German defence of the city could do anything but temporarily delay the capture of the capital by the Soviets as the decisive stages of the battle had been fought and lost by the Germans fighting outside the city.
On 20 April, Hitler ordered and the Wehrmacht initiated "Clausewitz", which called for the complete evacuation of all Wehrmacht and SS offices in Berlin. The forces available to Artillery General Helmuth Weidling for the city's defence included several depleted Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS divisions, in all about 45,000 men; these formations were supplemented by the police force, boys in the compulsory Hitler Youth, the Volkssturm. Many of the 40,000 elderly men of the Volkssturm had been in the army as young men and some were veterans of World War I. Hitler appointed SS-Brigadeführer Wilhelm Mohnke commander of the city's central government district. Mohnke's command post was in bunkers under the Reich Chancellery; the core group of his fighting men were the 800 members of the Leibstandarte Guard Battalion. He had a total of over 2,000 men under his command. Weidling organised the defences into eight sectors designated'A' to'H', each commanded by a colonel or a general, but most had no combat experience.
The XX Infantry Division was to the west of the city.
Ivan Stepanovich Konev was a Soviet military commander who led Red Army forces on the Eastern Front during World War II, retook much of Eastern Europe from occupation by the Axis Powers, helped in the capture of Germany's capital, Berlin. In 1956, as the Commander of Warsaw Pact forces, Konev led the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution by Soviet armoured divisions. Konev was born on 28 December 1897 into a peasant family near Podosinovets in Vologda Governorate, he worked as a lumberjack. In the spring of 1916, he was conscripted into the Imperial Russian Army. Konev was sent to the 2nd Heavy Artillery Brigade at Moscow and graduated from artillery training courses. In 1917, he was sent to the 2nd Separate Heavy Artillery Battalion on the Southwestern Front as a junior sergeant and fought in the Kerensky Offensive; when the Russian Revolution broke out in 1917 he was demobilised and returned home, but in 1919 he joined the Bolshevik party and the Red Army, serving as an artilleryman. During the Russian Civil War he served with the Red Army in the Russian Far Eastern Republic.
His commander at this time was Kliment Voroshilov a close colleague of Joseph Stalin and Commissar for defence. This alliance was the key to Konev's subsequent career. In 1926 Konev completed advanced officer training courses at the Frunze Military Academy, between and 1931 he held a series of progressively more senior commands, becoming head of first the Transbaikal the North Caucasus Military Districts. In July 1938 he was appointed commander of the 2nd Red Banner Army. In 1937 he became a Deputy of the Supreme Soviet and in 1939 a candidate member of the Party Central Committee; when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, Konev was assigned command of the 19th Army in the Vitebsk region, waged a series of defensive battles during the Red Army's retreat, first to Smolensk and to the approaches to Moscow. He commanded the Kalinin Front from October 1941 to August 1942, playing a key role in the fighting around Moscow and the Soviet counter-offensive during the winter of 1941–42.
For his role in the successful defence of the Soviet capital, Stalin promoted Konev to Colonel-General. In the summer of 1942 Konev led the Kalinin Front and the Western front in the battle on the Rzhev salient. Konev held "Front" commands for the rest of the war, he commanded the Soviet Western Front until February 1943, the North-Western Front February–July 1943, the 2nd Ukrainian Front from July 1943 until May 1945. He participated in the Battle of Kursk, commanding the southern part of the Soviet counter-offensive, the Steppe Front, where he was an active and energetic exponent of maskirovka, the use of military camouflage and deception. Among the maskirovka measures he adopted to achieve tactical surprise were the camouflaging of defence lines and depots. In David Glantz's view, Konev's forces "generated a major portion of the element of surprise"; the result was that the Germans underestimated the strength of the Soviet defences. The commander of 19 Panzer, General G. Schmidt, wrote that "We did not assume that there was one fourth of what we had to encounter".
After the victory at Kursk, Konev's armies retook Belgorod, Odessa and Kiev. The subsequent Korsun–Shevchenkovsky Offensive led to the Battle of the Korsun–Cherkassy Pocket which took place from 24 January to 16 February 1944; the offensive was part of the Dnieper–Carpathian Offensive. In it, the 1st and 2nd Ukrainian Fronts, commanded by Nikolai Vatutin and Konev, trapped German forces of Army Group South in a pocket or cauldron west of the Dnieper river. During weeks of fighting, the two Red Army Fronts tried to eradicate the pocket. According to Milovan Djilas, Konev boasted of his killing of thousands of German prisoners of war: "The cavalry finished them off.'We let the Cossacks cut up as long as they wished. They hacked off the hands of those who raised them to surrender' the Marshal recounted with a smile." For his achievements in Ukraine, Konev was promoted by Stalin to Marshal of the Soviet Union in February 1944. He was one of Stalin's favourite generals and one of the few senior commanders whom Stalin admired for his ruthlessness.
During 1944 Konev's armies advanced from Ukraine and Belarus into Poland and into Czechoslovakia. In May he participated in an unsuccessful invasion of the Balkans, together with Generals Rodion Malinovsky and Fyodor Tolbukhin. By July he had advanced to the Vistula River in central Poland, was awarded the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. In September 1944 his forces, now designated the Fourth Ukrainian Front, advanced into Slovakia and helped the Slovak partisans in their rebellion against German occupation. In January 1945 Konev, together with Georgy Zhukov, commanded the Soviet armies which launched the massive winter offensive in western Poland, driving the German forces from the Vistula to the Oder River. In southern Poland his armies seized Kraków. Soviet historians, Russian sources, claimed that Konev preserved Kraków from Nazi-planned destruction by ordering a lightning attack on the city. Konev's January 1945 offensive prevented planned destruction of the Silesian industry by the retreating Germans.
In April his troops, together with the 1st Belorussian Front under his competitor, Marshal Zhukov, forced the line of
Urban warfare is combat conducted in urban areas such as towns and cities. Urban combat is different from combat in the open at both the operational and tactical level. Complicating factors in urban warfare include the presence of civilians and the complexity of the urban terrain. Urban combat operations may be conducted in order to capitalize on the strategic or tactical advantages with which possession or control of a particular urban area gives or to deny these advantages to the enemy. Fighting in urban areas negates the advantages that one side may have over the other in armour, heavy artillery, or air support. Ambushes laid down by small groups of soldiers with handheld anti-tank weapons can destroy entire columns of modern armour, while artillery and air support can be reduced if the'superior' party wants to limit civilian casualties as much as possible, but the defending party does not; some civilians may be difficult to distinguish from combatants such as armed militias and gangs, individuals who are trying to protect their homes from attackers.
Tactics are complicated by a three-dimensional environment, limited fields of view and fire because of buildings, enhanced concealment and cover for defenders, below-ground infrastructure, the ease of placement of booby traps and snipers. The United States Armed Forces term for urban warfare is an abbreviation for urban operations; the used U. S. military term MOUT, an abbreviation for military operations in urban terrain, has been replaced by UO, although the term MOUT Site is still in use. The British armed forces terms are OBUA, FIBUA, or sometimes FISH, or FISH and CHIPS; the term FOFO refers to clearing enemy personnel from narrow and entrenched places like bunkers and strongholds. Israel Defense Forces calls urban warfare לש "a Hebrew acronym for warfare on urban terrain. LASHAB in the IDF includes CQB training for fighting forces. IDF's LASHAB was developed in recent decades, after the 1982 Lebanon War included urban warfare in Beirut and Lebanese villages, was further developed during the Second Intifada in which IDF soldiers entered and fought in Palestinian cities and refugee camps.
The IDF has a special advanced facility for training soldiers and units in urban warfare. Urban military operations in World War II relied on large quantities of artillery bombardment and air support varying from ground attack fighters to heavy bombers. In some vicious urban warfare operations such as Stalingrad and Warsaw, all weapons were used irrespective of their consequences. However, when liberating occupied territory some restraint was applied in urban settings. For example, Canadian operations in both Ortona and Groningen avoided the use of artillery altogether to spare civilians and buildings, during the Battle of Manila in 1945, General MacArthur placed a ban on artillery and air strikes to save civilian lives. Military forces are bound by the laws of war governing military necessity to the amount of force which can be applied when attacking an area where there are known to be civilians; until the 1970s, this was covered by the 1907 Hague Convention IV – The Laws and Customs of War on Land which includes articles 25–27.
This has since been supplemented by the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, relating to the Protection of Victims of International and Non-International Armed Conflicts. Sometimes distinction and proportionality, as in the case of the Canadians in Ortona, causes the attacking force to restrain from using all the force they could when attacking a city. In other cases, such as the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Berlin, both military forces considered evacuating civilians only to find it impractical; when Russian forces attacked Grozny in 1999, large amounts of artillery fire were used. The Russian Army handled the issue of civilian casualties by warning the inhabitants that they were going to launch an all-out assault on Grozny and requested that all civilians leave the city before the start of the artillery bombardment. Fighting in an urban environment can offer some advantages to a weaker defending force or to guerrilla fighters through ambush-induced attrition losses.
The attacking army must account for three dimensions more and expend greater amounts of manpower in order to secure a myriad of structures, mountains of rubble. Ferroconcrete structures will be ruined by heavy bombardment, but it is difficult to demolish such a building when it is well defended. Soviet forces had to fight room by room, it is difficult to destroy underground or fortified structures such as bunkers and utility tunnels. The characteristics of an average city include tall buildings, narrow alleys, sewage tunnels and a subway system
Belarus the Republic of Belarus known by its Russian name Byelorussia or Belorussia, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe bordered by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital and most populous city is Minsk. Over 40% of its 207,600 square kilometres is forested, its major economic sectors are manufacturing. Until the 20th century, different states at various times controlled the lands of modern-day Belarus, including the Principality of Polotsk, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Russian Empire. In the aftermath of the 1917 Russian Revolution, Belarus declared independence as the Belarusian People's Republic, conquered by Soviet Russia; the Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia became a founding constituent republic of the Soviet Union in 1922 and was renamed as the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. Belarus lost half of its territory to Poland after the Polish–Soviet War of 1919–1921.
Much of the borders of Belarus took their modern shape in 1939, when some lands of the Second Polish Republic were reintegrated into it after the Soviet invasion of Poland, were finalized after World War II. During WWII, military operations devastated Belarus, which lost about a third of its population and more than half of its economic resources; the republic was redeveloped in the post-war years. In 1945 the Byelorussian SSR became a founding member of the United Nations, along with the Soviet Union and the Ukrainian SSR; the parliament of the republic proclaimed the sovereignty of Belarus on 27 July 1990, during the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Belarus declared independence on 25 August 1991. Alexander Lukashenko has served as the country's first president since 1994. Belarus has been labeled "Europe's last dictatorship" by some Western journalists, on account of Lukashenko's self-described authoritarian style of government. Lukashenko continued a number of Soviet-era policies, such as state ownership of large sections of the economy.
Elections under Lukashenko's rule have been criticized as unfair. Belarus is the last country in Europe using the death penalty. Belarus's Democracy Index rating is the lowest in Europe, the country is labelled as "not free" by Freedom House, as "repressed" in the Index of Economic Freedom, is rated as by far the worst country for press freedom in Europe in the 2013–14 Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders, which ranks Belarus 157th out of 180 nations. In 2000, Belarus and Russia signed a treaty for greater cooperation. Over 70% of Belarus's population of 9.49 million resides in urban areas. More than 80% of the population is ethnic Belarusian, with sizable minorities of Russians and Ukrainians. Since a referendum in 1995, the country has had two official languages: Russian; the Constitution of Belarus does not declare any official religion, although the primary religion in the country is Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The second-most widespread religion, Roman Catholicism, has a much smaller following.
Belarus is a member of the United Nations since its founding, the Commonwealth of Independent States, CSTO, EEU, the Non-Aligned Movement. Belarus has shown no aspirations for joining the European Union but maintains a bilateral relationship with the organisation, participates in two EU projects: the Eastern Partnership and the Baku Initiative; the name Belarus is related with the term Belaya Rus', i.e. White Rus'. There are several claims to the origin of the name White Rus'. An ethno-religious theory suggests that the name used to describe the part of old Ruthenian lands within the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, populated by Slavs, Christianized early, as opposed to Black Ruthenia, predominantly inhabited by pagan Balts. An alternate explanation for the name comments on the white clothing worn by the local Slavic population. A third theory suggests that the old Rus' lands that were not conquered by the Tatars had been referred to as "White Rus'"; the name Rus is conflated with its Latin forms Russia and Ruthenia, thus Belarus is referred to as White Russia or White Ruthenia.
The name first appeared in Latin medieval literature. In some languages, including German and Dutch, the country is called "White Russia" to this day; the Latin term "Alba Russia" was used again by Pope Pius VI in 1783 to recognize the Society of Jesus there, exclaiming "Approbo Societatem Jesu in Alba Russia degentem, approbo." The first known use of White Russia to refer to Belarus was in the late-16th century by Englishman Sir Jerome Horsey, known for his close contacts with the Russian Royal Court. During the 17th century, the Russian tsars used "White Rus" to describe the lands added from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania; the term Belorussia first rose in the days of the Russian Empire, the Russian Tsar was styled "the Tsar of All the Russias"
Baltiysk, before 1946 known by its German name Pillau, is a seaport town and the administrative center of Baltiysky District in Kaliningrad Oblast, located on the northern part of the Vistula Spit, on the shore of the Strait of Baltiysk separating the Vistula Lagoon from the Gdańsk Bay. Population: 32,697 . Baltiysk, the westernmost town in Russia, is a major base of the Russian Navy's Baltic Fleet and a ferry-port on the route to St. Petersburg. Baltiysk was the site of an Old Prussian fishing village that formed on the coast of the Vistula Spit at some point in the 13th century; the village was named as "Pile" or "Pil" in several documents taking its name from pils the Old Prussian language word for fort. It was conquered by the Teutonic Knights, with the name evolving into the German form of Pillau. In 1497, a storm surge dug a new gat in front of the village, another large storm created the navigable Strait of Baltiysk through the gat on September 10, 1510; this fostered the growth of Pillau into an important port of the Duchy of Prussia, a blockhouse was constructed in 1537, followed by a system of storehouses in 1543, the earliest fortifications in 1550.
During the Thirty Years' War, the harbor was occupied by Sweden in the aftermath of their victory over the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, King Gustavus Adolphus landed there with his reinforcements in May 1626. After the ceasefire of Altmark in 1629, the Swedes retained Pillau and set out upgrading its fortifications, constructing a star fort which remains one of the town's landmarks. In 1635, the citizens of Pillau paid the ransom of 10,000 thalers, whereupon Swedish forces handed over the settlement to the Elector of Brandenburg. By the end of the 17th century, Pillau had expanded and a lighthouse and a stone church were built. Peter the Great, the Tsar of Russia, visited Pillau on three occasions, the first being in 1697 in connection with his Grand Embassy to Western Europe. A statue of the Peter the Great stands next to the lighthouse. After Pillau was granted town privileges in 1725, the Baroque-style town hall was constructed and inaugurated in May 1745, but was destroyed at the end of World War II.
Russian forces occupied the town during the Seven Years' War and built a small Orthodox church there, with the event commemorated by the equestrian statue of Empress Elizabeth, unveiled in 2004. In June 1807, Pillau was stormed by Napoleon's Grande Armée during the Napoleonic Wars, although no outstanding events took place during the rest of the 19th century. Records of a Scottish "colony" established in Pillau in 1815 appeared in an 1890 publication, although their authenticity is questionable; the lighthouse was built up to a height of 31.38 meters and the entire fortress was updated and rebuilt by the Prussians in 1871. The importance of Pillau declined from November 15, 1901, when a shipping canal was opened linking the Vistula Lagoon near Zimmerbude to Königsberg. Pillau's economy was based on large shipping vessels being forced to dock in the town due to the shallow depth of the lagoon near Königsberg, the capital and the largest city of East Prussia, the goods would be transported from Pillau to Königsberg by other means.
Constructed at a huge cost of thirteen million marks, the canal allowed vessels of a 21 feet draught to moor alongside the city or to sail directly to Königsberg without stopping at Pillau, causing a serious decline to the town's economy. During World War II, Pillau had a U-boat training facility, on April 16, 1945, the German submarine U-78 was sunk by Red Army artillery fire while she was docked near the electricity supply pier in Pillau port, was the only U-boat to be sunk by land-based forces in World War II; as the Red Army entered East Prussia, more than 450,000 refugees were ferried from Pillau to central and western Germany, with the town being captured by Soviets on April 25, 1945. After the war, Pillau was included in the northern part of East Prussia passed to the Soviet Union that became Kaliningrad Oblast, the German inhabitants were expelled. During the Russification campaign, the town's name was changed to Baltiysk in 1946. In 1952, the Soviet authorities inaugurated a naval base for the Baltic Fleet of the Soviet Navy at Baltiysk, as a result it became a closed town with access was forbidden to foreigners or those without a permit.
During the Cold War it was served by the Baltiysk Air Base. The town, along with Kaliningrad, remains one of only two year-round ice-free ports along the Baltic Sea coastline available to Russia. Within the framework of administrative divisions, Baltiysk serves as the administrative center of Baltiysky District; as an administrative division, it is, together with two rural localities, incorporated within Baltiysky District as the town of district significance of Baltiysk. As a municipal division, the town of district significance of Baltiysk is incorporated within Baltiysky Municipal District as Baltiyskoye Urban Settlement. Baltiysk has a temperate oceanic climate. Winters are cold to mild. In July and August, the warmest season, high temperatures average 21 °C and low temperatures average 15 °C. In January and February, the coldest season, high temperatures average 3 °C with low temperatures averaging −2 °C. Historical buildings in and around the town include the pentagonal Pillau Citadel, founded by the Swedes in 1626, completed by the Prussians in 1670, renovated in 1870, holding a naval museum.