The earliest historical references to Minsk date to the 11th century (1067), when it was noted as a provincial city within the Principality of Polotsk. The settlement developed on the rivers. In 1242, Minsk became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It received town privileges in 1499.
From 1569, it was a capital of the Minsk Voivodeship, in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was part of a region annexed by the Russian Empire in 1793, as a consequence of the Second Partition of Poland. From 1919 to 1991, after the Russian Revolution, Minsk was the capital of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, in the Soviet Union. Minsk will host the 2019 European Games.
Minsk is located on the southeastern slope of the Minsk Hills, a region of rolling hills running from the southwest (upper reaches of the river Nioman) to the northeast – that is, to Lukomskaye Lake in northwestern Belarus. The average altitude above sea level is 220 metres (720 ft). The physical geography of Minsk was shaped over the two most recent ice ages. The Svislach River, which flows across the city from the northwest to the southeast, is in the urstromtal, an ancient river valley formed by water flowing from melting ice sheets at the end of the last Ice Age. There are six smaller rivers within the city limits, all part of the Black Sea basin.
Minsk is in the area of mixed forests typical of most of Belarus. Pinewood and mixed forests border the edge of the city, especially in the north and east. Some of the forests were preserved as parks (for instance, the Chelyuskinites Park) as the city grew.
The city was initially built on the hills, which allowed for defensive fortifications, and the western parts of the city are the most hilly.