Landmarks in Belarus Island of Tears

by Cecil Fontaine

Belarus was a part of the USSR until its dissolution in 1991. As a member of the USSR, Belarus was required to supply soldiers, of which 700 were killed in action, for the war in Afghanistan, which lasted from 1979 to 1988. At the conclusion of the war, the city of Minsk built a memorial for its deceased soldiers on a small island in the heart of city. The Island of Tears memorial is today one of the most visited landmarks in Minsk by tourists and locals.

Getting There

The Island of Tears memorial is located in Minsk, on a small island in the Svislach River. The island is connected to the Old Town neighborhood of Minsk by a small bridge that is passable only by pedestrians. The closest landmark is the Opera Theater and the nearest metro stop is the "Niamiha" station.

The Memorial

The Island of Tears memorial consists of two main structures: an Orthodox chapel and a fountain. The chapel is open-air and is surrounded by black statues of mourning women, representing the mothers and wives of the Belarusian soldiers who died in the Soviet Union's Afghan war. The fountain consists of a statue of a crying angel, whose tears flow to the ground. Both of these structures are connected by a paved walkway, which runs along the perimeter of the island.

Traditions

When visiting the Island of Tears, you may see newlywed couples taking pictures at the chapel or the fountain -- the fountain represents the country's guardian angel. This is traditionally regarded as bringing good luck for young couples, as is the superstition of rubbing the fountain, which is said to ensure that a couple will have children.

When to Visit

Minsk is located in the center of Belarus, almost on the same longitude as Moscow, Russia. Its climate can present extremes in the cold months, which range from October to April -- snow is plentiful during that time. To avoid the possibility of snow and below-zero temperatures, visit Minsk between May and September.

About the Author

Based in Colorado, Cecil Fontaine has been writing and editing since 2009, specializing in Brazilian travel guides. He received his Bachelor of Arts in political economy from the University of California, Berkeley in 2008.

Photo Credits

  • Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images