Architecture: Minsk’s palaces
Most interesting to see in Minsk are it’s "peoples palaces" large buildings erected in monumental Stalinist architecture. More then 80% of Minsk was destroyed during ww2, so there are hardly any buildings left older then 60 years. The best and most famous Soviet architects totally rebuild the "Hero city" directly after the war in monumental social realist style. It will take at least 2 days to see all the architectural highlights of the Belarusian capital. Begin walking Frantsisk Skoriny Avenue from Nezavisimost (Independence) square to Pobedy (Victory) square and see the Government house, City council, KGB headquarters, Post office, Gum warehouse, Palace of the republic, House of officers, the residence of the President. Take the metro further up Frantsisk Skoriny Avenue and get out at some stops to see many more great buildings like, October Cinema, Tjum warehouse and finish at the Vostok district with it’s giant fresco’s on flats. Also worth while are Nemiga street with and Masherov Avenue, wide streets with large Soviet concrete buildings, here you will find may shops, hotels and theatres.
Development of Nezavisimost (Independence) square until 1991 Lenin Square began at the end of the 19th century. The only buildings from that time having survived the second world war are the Cathedral of St. Simeon and St. Helen and a block of houses on Sovetskaya street. Most buildings are from the sixties and seventies right now an underground shopping mall is being constructed under the square. Independence square is a good starting point for a walk over Frantsisk Skoriny Avenue.
Minsk City council
Belarus state university
The government house, build in 1934 by famous Soviet architect Losif Langbard is one of the view buildings that survived ww2.
The Minsk city council (architects S. Musinski, G. Sysoev) was build in 1964. It has the look and feel of a typical Orwellian totalitarian government building.
The main building of the Belarusian state university from 1962, the student campus and teachers University are also situated on the square.
The central part of Frantsisk Skorina Avenue
The construction work of the central part of Frantsisk Skorina Avenue or Prospekt Nezavisimosti was carried out in two stages. The section between Independence Square and October Square (Oktyabrskaya Ploshchad) was constructed between the 1940s-1950s, the section between October Square and Victory Square (Pobedy Ploshchad) between the 1950s-1960s.
The national Bank
The secret police in Belarus is still named KGB. The headquarters are on a very prominent location in the centre of Minsk.
Lenin street is a fine of example of more intimate architecture compared to streets the broad Stalinist boulevards.
The national bank of Belarus on close to victory square on Skorina Avenue is an other monumental structure worth some attention.
The main Post office can be found on the beginning of Frantsisk Skorina Avenue. Sculptures and clock on the building are interesting.
Palace of the republic
Trade Unions Palace of Culture
Museum of the great patriotic war
The Palace of the republic (2002) is the central building on Oktyabrskaya Square. It is used for conferences, congresses and performances.
The Trade Unions Palace of Culture is a nicely decorated classical style building from 1954. The building now houses two nightclubs.
Museum were Belarus horrors and heroism during WWII are exhibited. The sign on the buildings means translates: "The feats of mankind will live for centuries".
Residence of the president
House of officers
The Minsk Circus
The Residence of the President of the Republic of Belarus is the former building of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Belarus.
The house of officers (former red army house) from 1939 is an other building from the Soviet architect Losif Langbard that survived the war.
Circus performance begins at 19.00 with a spectacle of midget acrobats, dubiously trained bears and other leftovers from the 19th Century.
Victory square (1954) with the Victory Column in the centre ends the central part of Independence Avenue. Two bow shaped housing blocks with red propaganda slogans mark the top end of the square. The central part of the square can be reached via the metro subway. Gorky park, the Museum of the 1st Congress of the Russian Socialist Democratic Labour Party and the house of Harvey Lee Oswald are all near the square.
Frantsisk Skorina Avenue from Victory square
The central part of Frantsisk Skorina Avenue may be an open air museum showing off the best of grand Soviet architecture, the rest of the long street offers many interesting sight as well. Many buildings like The Minsk concert hall, the academy of sciences, Tjum warehouse and October cinema are on and around Yakub Kolas Square. Metro line nr.1 runs along the whole distance of the Avenue, the area around end station Vostok is definitely worth a visit. Highlight here are the concrete flats with communist relics on the side wall, other sight are the Architectural Faculty, the national library and the bus station. A ten story apartment building has a giant MAZ (Minsk Automobile Plant) logo on the roof. There are many more things to see between the Vostok district and Victory square, so it’s worth while to take a walk when you have some time to spend in Minsk.
Nemiga Street (previously Nemigskaya street) is part of Minsk’s lower town district. Around Nemiga street are a big shopping district famous for its amber craft work, the Bolshoi theatre (now being renovated) and Troitskoye Predmestie (Trinity Suburb) the restored old town. 100 people were killed in 1999 at the underpass of Nemiga metro station during a stampede. A sudden thunderstorm caused a thousands of people to race for shelter during an open-air concert nearby.
Masherov Avenue is a wide boulevard with lots of green and large concrete structures build around it. The street is named after late leader of Byelorussian communists Pyotr M. Masherov who died in a car accident in the 1970s. By a presidential edict in 2005, Aleksandr Lukashenko directed that Pyotr Masherov Avenue should be renamed Victors Avenue (Prospekt Pobeditelei). During our visit there was no evidence of the name change yet. It is the busiest street of Minsk and some interesting building can be seen here. Highlights are the Palace of sports, National Exhibition Centre, Obelisk to Hero City Minsk, some real Soviet hotels and an enormous bronze sculpture on the wall of a building.
There are many more interesting architectural structures to see apart away from Frantsisk Skorina Avenue, Nemiga Street and Masherov Avenue. Absolute highlights are the "city gates", two beautifully decorated buildings and schoolbook examples of classical Soviet architecture in front of the main train station. There is also much non Stalinist architecture to be found in Minsk mainly around Gorky park. Examples are some Avant garde style buildings, the hockey stadium in the park and the BelEXPO exhibition pavilions. Dynamo Minsk football stadium is beautifully decorated on the outside and well worth a visit.