Ian Cade (England):
For some reason I really liked Minsk. It isn’t rammed full of must see sites and isn’t really the prettiest place n the world, however I enjoyed the three days I was based here.
This proposal for World Heritage listing was what is now called Nezavisimosty Avenue (but in all likelihood this will be renamed at some stage in the future when the Political whim has changed to something else) this is the central street in the city and one that was mostly built in grand Soviet Architecture, following the cities almost total obliteration during the Great Patriotic War (WWII to those of us from the west). It is actually a quite a long ensemble, about 3km, taking in many fine edifices and large sweeping squares. There are still remnants of the Soviet Union; Statues of Lenin, KGB headquarters and GUM Centralised Shop (best place for souvenirs and a taste of shopping soviet style) but these now sit alongside modern capitalist facades, including a huge McDonald’s (on the intersection with Lenin Street of all places).
We spent a great day walking from Nazalezhnasti Square, decorated for the upcoming 65th anniversary of victory in the Great Patriotic War, all the way through to Victory square. We then ducked of into Gorky park to ‘enjoy’ a cool glass of Kvass and watch the May Day festivities with the friendly population of the city. This gave us a look at the roofs on the pedestrian subways that supposedly led to it being rejected by UNESCO as a WHS. To my eye they certainly didn’t destroy the ensemble, and didn’t seem to out of keeping with the general aesthetic of the city centre. I think this would actually make a pretty interesting WHS if it ever is fully considered as there is nothing really displaying this grand Socialist Realist planning on the list, and central Minks is a particularly fine example.
We had heard some pretty grim stories about Minsk, however it was an exceptionally welcoming place. It was the cleanest city I have ever visited, not a bit of litter or peeling paint to be found anywhere. Also English was spoken much more widely than we had been led to believe, though it certainly wasn’t spoken everywhere. We had some fine food, and found some excellent bars, My English Granny being the pick of the bunch.
Minsk was nowhere near as intimidating as we had been led to believe, and this was reflective of our whole experience in Belarus. This was a really friendly and welcoming country to visit, and I think central Minsk would make a pretty interesting addition to the World Heritage List should it ever be considered.
Date posted: May 2010
Have you been to Architectural ensemble of Francysk Scaryna avenue in Minsk (1940's -1950's)? Share your experiences!