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city in France, from Celtic, from bre "hill." The city in Belarus is from Slavic berest "elm." Part of Lithuania from 1319, it thus was known, for purposes of distinguishing them, as Brest Litovsk until 1921.
oblast (province), southwestern Belarus, occupying an area of 12,475 sq mi (32,300 sq km) in the basin of the upper Pripet River and its tributaries. Centred on Brest city, it was formed in 1939 from areas held by Poland from 1919. Except in the north, where the land rises to the morainic hills of the Belarusian Ridge, the oblast is exceptionally flat and swampy, with huge areas of reed and grass marsh, peat bog, and standing waters. Higher and drier areas are mostly forested. Some drainage has been undertaken since 1873; these reclaimed areas are cultivated for flax, hemp, potatoes, and sugar beets. Dairying and forestry are both important, and the towns are engaged chiefly in processing agricultural produce and timber. Peat is used for power generation. The Dnieper-Bug Canal links the Pripet and Dnieper rivers to the Bug and Vistula, and the oblast is crossed by the Moscow-Warsaw railway and highway. Pop. (1991 est.) 1,483,000.