The small city of Polotsk in the Vitebsk region of northern Belarus is the exact geographic center of the European continent. Or so it claims.
Admittedly, the geographic center of Europe is more widely recognized as being slightly further to the east outside Vilnius, Lithuania, based on research led by Jean-George Affholder of the National Geographic Institute of France. However, more recent research conducted by a Belarusian team (who presumably had no bias whatsoever) identified the center of Europe as being in their own country.
Belarusian geodesists Alexey Solomonov and Valery Anoshko published their discovery in 2000 in a Moscow-based technical magazine. This most recent in a long line of claimants to the “center of Europe” title was verified by Russian scientists from the Central Research Institute of Geodesy, Aerial Survey and Cartography in Moscow.
The prized location in Polotsk is memorialized by a monument established in 2008. Though small in comparison to some of the larger Soviet-era monuments nearby—including a lovely Lenin statue up the street—the center of Europe marker is a very nicely designed element of the tree-lined city center, even if the claim is taken with a pinch of salt by locals.
The monument depicts the northern hemisphere of the Earth with a map of Europe crossed by meridians. The boat on top of the marker is a symbol of the city of Polotsk, which was an important trading post on the River Dvina dating back to the time of the Vikings. In addition to visiting the monument, if you head to the nearby post office, you can purchase a certificate to prove you’ve been to the very heart of the continent.
Know Before You Go
The marker is in a public park in the center of town, surrounded by many shops, restaurants, and museums to explore. Inscriptions on the monument are written in Swedish, Russian, Greek, English, and Belarusian.