Minsk is the administrative, financial, cultural, and scientific center of the Republic of Belarus. It is situated in the very center of the country. Approximately every fifth Belarussian lives in Minsk.
Minsk is an old and a young city simultaneously – first mentioned in as early as 1067, it was almost completely rebuilt after World War II. The city is the site of an ancient wooden castle at the junction of Nemiga and Svisloch Rivers. It caught fire many times until it was burned out at the end of the 18th century. The first stone buildings appeared by the end of the 16th century, but major development in stone began only after the fire of 1835. In the 1950-1980s the historical core of the city was subdivided by the new Nemiga Street and the present Peramozhtsau Avenue.
At the end of the 18th century Minsk became a part of the Russian Empire and assumed the status of principal town of the province. Minsk City Hall was destroyed in 1857 by special order of Tsar Nikolai I. The center of the city shifted southward from the Upper Town to Zakharyevskaya Street by the end of the 19th century.
There have been two main impulses in Minsk's growth: the railroad, and rapid industrialization during the Soviet period. Minsk became an important railroad junction in the 19th century. Rapid industrialization in the post-war period made Minsk one of the fastest growing cities not only in the USSR but also in Europe – the city tripled its population during 1960-1980s. At the beginning of the 21st century Minsk was increasing its population by 10-15 thousand people per year.