N 5, 2009
How to reach the centre of Europe
The exact location of the centre was identified on May 30th, 2008 as being the town of Polotsk, Karl Marx Prospect, 55 degrees and 30 minutes north latitude, 28 degrees and 48 minutes west longitude.
If you look at a map of Europe, you’ll notice that Belarus is located somewhere near the centre. Of course, scientific evidence is needed to show that the Republic is situated at the ‘heart’ of the Old World. Credit for the discovery goes to specialists from ‘Belaerokosmogeodezia’ — a Republican Unitary Enterprise working with aerospace geodesy. The enterprise stores specific co-ordinates for every settlement and building in the country and its scientists are always busy, but agreed to answer some questions for us.
The discovery belongs to Boris Furman, the Deputy Chief Engineer of ‘Belaerokosmogeodezia’, who identified the exact location of Europe’s centre as being the town of Polotsk. The Director of ‘Belaerokosmogeodezia’ Vladimir Shevchenko, tells us, “Don’t confuse the facts — we are talking about the geographical centre of Europe, I emphasise once again — geographical. Our research has nothing to do with politics.”
Mathematics is not politics; these two concepts cannot be mixed or manoeuvered. Any specialist can verify the accuracy of the calculations, although it’s not easy to determine where the centre is, since ideas on the scope of the Old World differ. Finding the central point of a circle or square is simple; you just find the cross-point. Europe has no clear ‘edges’, being made up of rambling islands and jagged continental shores.
Different maps show the eastern frontiers of Europe in different places: either along the edge of the Ural Mountains or through the middle of the mountain range. The first calculations, in 2000, led scientists to locate the centre in a body of water — Lake Sho in the Glubokoe Region. However, Mr. Furman claims that this was just a draft, “Research continued and, in spring 2008, my colleagues and I claimed with certainty that we had found the real centre of Europe: Polotsk.”
Russian colleagues also looked at the calculations of the Belarusian mathematician; materials were sent to the Moscow Central Scientific Research Institute of Geodesy. They assessed the aerial photography and cartography and pronounced that the calculations were accurate.
The Mayor of Polotsk, Vladimir Tachilo, has believed the town to be the centre of Europe since the eve of Polotsk’s 1150th anniversary. After all, it is the first and most ancient Belarusian town. Of course, it’s a great honour being considered the ‘pole’ of Europe.
Mr. Furman adds that it’s very difficult to specify the geographical centre of Europe. The location of Polotsk seems like a reasonable conclusion however.
On May 30th, during the town’s anniversary event, in the town square in front of Polotsk’s Main Post Office, a memorial plaque to honour the Geographic Center of Europe was unveiled.
“After we received confirmation from our Moscow colleagues, the Town Executive Committee formed a working group to create the memorial plaque,” explains Stanislav Krasovsky, the Chief Specialist of Polotsk Town Executive Committee. Chief Architect Andrei Borovik drafted a design, which was molded by local ‘Tekhnolit’.
The Main Post Office of Polotsk offers every visitor to the town a certificate for having stood at the ‘Geographic Centre of Europe’. The truth is that Europe may have other ‘centres’, admits Mr. Furman. “I think that some claims for the title are irrelevant but many methods have been used to try and locate the centre. We have to gather all the information possible, study it and critically analyse it. It’s worth organising an international scientific conference to consider all opinions.” Vladimir Tachilo is to organise such a meeting in Polotsk, in order to hold open talks and conduct negotiations with competitors.
In February, the Mayor suggested renaming Karl Marx Prospect with a plaque, naming it as the ‘Geographic Centre of Europe’. He thinks that it is more logical and accurate that the street be named after Polotsk’s first citizen, the first publisher of Belarus and Eastern Europe — Francysk Skaryna. “Our fellow countryman perpetuated Polotsk in the 16th century. His name, as well as the names of other famous local citizens, is to be perpetuated in the names of Polotsk’s streets. Marx and Engels have nothing to do with the history of the most ancient town of the Republic,” asserts Mr. Tachilo.
Polotsk is on the verge of great change. In future, it could become a cultural centre of Europe — a status which would maintain its reputation while pursuing higher objectives.