Stalinist Empire style in Minsk: Railway Station Square, KGB headquarters and Central Post Office

Stalinist Empire style in Minsk: Railway Station Square, KGB headquarters and Central Post Office

When foreigners come to Minsk, the city’s grandeur and Stalinist Empire architecture captivate them – large squares and parks, spacious streets and avenues, massive columns and graceful arches.

Indeed, it all resembles European luxury. But Minsk had never been the capital of the Russian Empire.

Thus it’s interesting to find out why it actually received a pattern of imperial style. 

Minsk’s new image appeared after the Great Patriotic War. Architecture became the main leitmotif of the national economy symbolizing the victory and happy future.

Alesia Trubnikova, tour guide:
New Minsk building projects were worked out during the Great Patriotic War. On July 5, 1944, when the Soviet Belarus’ government returned to Minsk, architects from Moscow and Leningrad were invited. As the city was recognized as valuable, it was decided to leave it as it was. The city center had to be restored and the main avenue was to pass through today’s Kirova Street.

After the war, Railway Station Square (Pryvakzalnaya Square) was viewed as the gates of not only the Soviet Belarus, but the whole Soviet Union.

Because while coming to Moscow, Europeans first got to Minsk.

However, the ambitious project to start here the main avenue had to be abandoned. Just the luxury towers remained. Today, they are considered one of the brightest symbols of Minsk.

But after being completed, the gates looked a bit different than nowadays. They were decorated with images of Slutsk belts and bison, which unfortunately didn’t survive.

Minsk’s main avenue – the former Sovietskaya Street and today's Nezavisimosti Avenue – is a vivid example of Stalinist Empire style, just the same as the building of Moscow State University in Moscow or Khreshchatyk in Kiev.

Before the war, the luxurious houses located in the main Zakharyevskaya Street were in a classical and modern style, but after bombings, just frames were left. To revive the prerevolutionary architecture was a very expensive initiative, thus the authorities decided to build everything from scratch.

Alesia Trubnikova, tour guide:
Stalinist Empire style embodied the elements of ancient Rome and ancient Greece classical styles, as well as the Baroque and the Renaissance. The Central Post Office’s building was one of the first to be built and it represents the fusion of architectural styles.

Tourists are often surprised why there isn't a single skyscraper along such a wide avenue. This is really exclusive.

All the buildings were not higher than five floors. First of all, it helped to preserve architectural integrity, and secondly, it was economical, as no elevators or rubbish chutes were needed.

The front line from the Central Post Office and up to Victory Square is the first and most spectacular avenue. It resembles Nevsky Avenue in St. Petersburg.

Each building’s height doesn’t exceed 23 meters, while the length varies from 100 to 120 meters. The width of the avenue is 48 meters.

Alesia Trubnikova, tour guide:
In the spring of 1945, the building of the Committee of State Security started to be erected. Its tower was designed by Mikhail Parusnikov, the chief architect of the avenue. It was he who singled out the compositional center of Nezavisimosti Avenue.

After the war, there was a lack of building materials in a ruined Minsk. Many men did not return from the front, thus women were engaged in the building process. But a fighting spirit overcame all the difficulties and the city was rebuilt by all its citizens.

It seems that the building of the State Department Store (GUM) is decorated from top to bottom. It was designed by the chief architect Roman Gegart and built by Minsk residents and Nazi prisoners.

It’s worth noting that not just Soviet symbols, but also Belarusian national motives are present on its facade.

It was finished in 1955, just at the very time when the Decree against excessive architectural features was issued.

It became a kind of farewell to pompous Stalinist Empire style.

Just small towers, spires, fountains, arabesques, vases, statues, and laurel wreaths were left in prominent places. With time, the original avenue’s appearance has changed – double glazing windows appeared, while living premises were turned into cafes or shops. But this is modern life.

And Nezavisimosti Avenue is Minsk’s and Belarus’ pride.

Alesia Trubnikova, tour guide:
Nezavisimosti Avenue is viewed as a European monument. It may be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. At present, Nezavisimosti Avenue continues to surprise and please Minsk residents as well as city visitors.