Belarus Computer Industry

Historically Cybernetics and Genetics were two of the most prosecuted by Stalin natural sciences. The doctrine of Marxist-Leninist philosophy was that man can not create a machine that would be smarter than himself. And thus all the attempts to do so were considered a direct attack on Marxist-Leninist theory. Something in this key was proclaimed with Genetics too. Anyway, because of this the Soviet computer Industry had started to develop only when Joseph Stalin was long dead and the West had already its first successes in computers. Below is a short history of Belarusian computer industry written by its veteran - Dr. Mark Nemenman, who was one of the leading experts in  the early efforts of the computer software development in Belarus:

"The first talks about manufacturing computers (Electronic Computing Machines - ECMs) started in mid 1950-ies. By September 1959 the first computer was manufactured in Minsk, Belarus. This was an M3-type computer, developed in Moscow. M3 had a magnetic drum memory and performed 30 operations a second. M3 was manufactured at the new Minsk Plant of Computing Machines - Minski Zavod Vychislitelnyh Mashin "MZVM" - which was organized in 1958. This new plant was located in a new building at Yakub Kolas Square the building which was originally built to house a sewing machines factory.

 minsk2.jpg (8198 bytes)          In 1960 sixteen M3 computers and ten M3M computers, which had ferrite memory and performed 1000 op/s, were manufactured by MZVM. The first computer developed in Belarus appeared in the same 1960. This was an ECM Minsk-1. This machine had started the Family of "Minsk" Computers - general purpose computers that were developed in 1960-ies in Minsk and manufactured between 1961 and 1975. Besides "Minsk-1" this family included Minsk-2/22 (shown in the picture left), Minsk-23 and Minsk-32. In total, 3989 computers of "Minsk" class were manufactured. At some point Minsk-32 was the most spread computer in the USSR. In 1970 more than 70% of the whole USSR domestic computer fleet was made in Belarus.

            In their architecture (not in manufacturing technology!) "Minsk" computers and other Soviet mainframe computers of the 60-ies compared very well with their Western analogs. At the end of 1960-ies a dubious decision was made to dedicate all USSR computer development resources to building computers - analogs of Western computers. After this decision the development of original computers has been stalled. The manufacturing of the IBM-compatible computers was started in Minsk, and later Brest, Belarus. These computers were known as EC-1020, EC-1022, EC-1035, EC-1036, EC-1130. The EC-1060, EC-1061 and EC-1066 computers, developed in Moscow, were also manufactured in Belarus. EC-1840,1841, 1842, 1863 - analogs of IBM PC - were developed in Belarus in the 80-ies.

         The development of software or "program supplies" has started in Minsk in 1960, simultaneously with beginning of computer hardware development. The very Russian term "programmnoe obespechenie" for software has appeared first in Minsk. First, the libraries of standard programs were created. Then the first programming language - Autocode "Engineer" - was developed.for Minsk-2/22 in 1964. This was a Fortran-like language with some properties that later were included into Basic. Next, the ALGOL and COBOL compiler versions have been developed. Minsk-23 and Minsk-32 had their own Assemblers and original Operating Systems.

          At the times when EC/IBM series computers were manufactured the efforts of Belarusian programmers were concentrated on pirating the system programs for IBM family. This way DOS/EC and SVM/EC operating systems were released. Many compilers and applied program packages have been pirated and converted from Western originals into Soviet versions. Later the most popular IBM PC software packages were cracked and released as Soviet russified versions. The experience gained during this code cracking explains why many former Belarusian software engineers are successfully working today in many countries around the World."

You can find out more about the history of the Soviet computer industry from these pages of the Russian Virtual Computer Museum.

The Research and Development of the component base and architecture of the Belarusian computers was done in a Minsk based Research Institute of Computational Technics. Nowadays the scientific research association "Cybernetics" of the Academy of Sciences of Belarus is probably dealing with these problems. The computers are assembled also in Minsk in BelABM:

Other related information:


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