The Stalin Line Museum near Minsk, Belarus

The Stalin Line was a series of defensive fortifications that was constructed along the former western border of the Soviet Union in the late 1920s and through the 1930s. It was not a continuous line of defences, but rather a series of fortified regions, each covering a strategically important region. Four regions were fortified in a first phase of construction from 1928-30, nine regions in a second phase from 1930-32, and eight more in the third and final phase during 1938-39.  With the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in August 1939 and the redrawing of the map of Central and Eastern Europe, the Stalin Line was suddenly located well behind the Soviet Union’s western border. Construction began on a new line of defences along the new border, which was named the Molotov Line, with some of the materials being supplied by stripping the Stalin Line. As a result, neither line was properly prepared as Operation Barbarossa struck. On the whole, the lines were ineffective against the German attacks, although there was fierce fighting in some places, notably in the Kiev fortified region.

Today, parts of the Stalin Line can be found, in various states of repair and disrepair, in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Lithuania, Poland, Finland and Romania. Many bunkers can be freely visited, although many are located in rural forested areas that are not particularly easy to reach.

The Stalin Line Museum, which opened in June 2005,  is located near the town of Zaslavl, about 30 km north of Minsk. It is based around four bunkers – a command bunker, an artillery half-caponier, and two machine-gun bunkers – which have been restored to their original state. A selection of armoured turrets, trenches, and anti-tank defences can also be viewed, and there is a large collection of tanks, armoured fighting vehicles, engineering equipment, aircraft and missile systems. There is also a small cafe, a souvenir kiosk and a shooting range where visitors can try their hand with a selection of rifles and sub-machine guns. Rides in an armoured personnel carrier are also offered, and the museum hosts a number of reenactment events. The museum is open from 10:00 – 6:00 every day except Monday.

Public transport is limited, so the best option is probably to arrange a visit with one of the tourist agencies in Minsk, such as Belintourist. It should be possible to combine the Stalin Line with a trip to the memorial site at Khatyn. The museum’s website contains some information in English.

More in Minsk:

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