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Count Czapski’s contribution to Minsk’s development

He gave Minsk residents an opportunity to read the first local newspaper, called Minskiye Gubernskiye Vedomosti (Minsk province news), wander in paved squares under streetlights, and even use a telephone. All that was possible thanks to Count Czapski, who was the governor of Minsk from 1890 till 1901. During his governorship, a lot of economic and cultural reforms were carried out. That period of rapid development in the city’s history will be remembered for a long time.

Roman Abramchuk, tourist guide:
The family of Hutten-Czapski is of German origin. They were living in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania but never forgot about their roots. Karol Czapski studied at a German gymnasium in Saint Petersburg and then at one of Tartu’s universities. He had a lot of possibilities to stay in any city that he had been to in Western Europe, however, he chose to go back to Minsk, and the city was his favorite place throughout his life.

Hutten-Czapski started working as Minsk governor at the age of 30. At that time, the population of the province was just about 100,000 people.

The talented economist and governor started Minsk’s transformation with the construction of the city theatre. The Count decided to sell part of the city’s forest and use money for building the theatre. However, Orthodox archbishops weren’t approving of the idea.

Roman Abramchuk, tourist guide:
The thing is that Minsk’s archbishops didn’t want some entertainment establishment to be built near them. The city’s administration had a great idea though. In 1888, they invited members of the royal family from Moscow, who took part in the construction of the building. That’s why the archbishops couldn’t say anything anymore.

Minsk’s famous fountain featuring a sculpture of a boy with a swan was put up to mark the installation of a water supply system, which was one of Czapski’s major reforms.

Thanks to Czapski, it became much easier to travel around the city, as a horse-drawn tram was introduced in 1892.

Also, Czapski acquired a wooden brewery, which was built in 1864 and was a property of Rokhlya Frumkina. The Count rebuilt the brewery to a stone one, the brewery underwent modernization, and Czapski introduced unique German recipes.

During the rule of Czapski, the Mariine women gymnasium was created, and a public library then opened in 1900.

Karol Czapski lived for his motherland’s good. That time was characterized by growing construction business. Also, many social reforms were implemented. The city’s health improvement process started. Different measures against cholera were taken. A lot of charity hospitals were built around the city, including one hospital for prostitutes.

A shelter for homeless people appeared in the Trinity Suburb a century ago. There, one could stay for the night, drink hot tea and get some clean clothes. In addition, a pawn shop was built near the shelter, where people with low income were able to borrow goods for a small payment.

Count Czapski was fond of sport and entertainment, so he established a society for sports fans and built a bicycle track in today’s Gorky Park. There people could do fencing, do athletics and even swim.

Roman Abramchuk, tourist guide:
There, one could rent a bicycle for an hour. In winter, a bicycle track was transformed into a skating rink, and during Christmas holidays, a lot of festive events were held there.

The interesting thing was that people had to pay a small fee not only for renting equipment but also to enter the park. All that money was used for the further development of the city.

Czapski was very successful in his work, Minsk residents liked him, and he was re-elected three times. Unfortunately, in 1900, Czapski got tuberculosis and went abroad to get treated. The development of Minsk stopped, and Czapski’s enemies started to accuse him of financial crimes, despite the fact that the governor used even his own salary to develop the city.

Czapski died in 1904 in Frankfurt. When Bolsheviks came, Czapski’s name became the name of an enemy, and despite his enormous contribution, people hardly ever remember him. But it was he who made Minsk into a full-fledged European capital.

Minsk during the rule of Czapski