History of Krasnoarmeyskaya Street in Minsk


History of Krasnoarmeyskaya Street in Minsk

The name of the street is directly connected to the revolution in Russia in 1917 and the creation of the Red Army. The street got its name in 1919, and today, Minsk residents call it in the same way.

The architectural image of the central part of the city is the result of the radical turn. Historical buildings are used for different purposes, and the street itself changed its name a lot of times. Thus, Kasharskaya, its first name, derives from a Polish word which means barracks. They used to be located in the vicinity of the modern Kirov plant.

The street was also known as Batalyonnaya. It had been called in such a manner since 1882 in honor of Mikhail  Skobelev, a hero of the Russo-Turkish War who was the famous White General.

Alexandra Volodina, historian, tour guide:
He always fought in front of his troops wearing a white uniform and riding a white horse, which is why he was nicknamed White General. But later, there occurred the Revolution of 1917 and the Russian Civil War. The word ‘white’ changed its meaning a little. If you were white, you were considered to be an enemy. Thus, the street couldn’t be named after White General and got the name Krasnoarmeyskaya.

The Officers’ House belongs to Independence Avenue, but historically, it is closer to Krasnoarmeyskaya Street. Earlier, this house was known as the Red Army House and the bishop farmstead.

In 1793, Minsk became a part of the Russian Empire. Orthodox Church, autocracy and nationality.

In Minsk, the building of 18th century was bought for the Russian Orthodox bishop. It became one of the first buildings in the farmstead complex. A seminary and the church administration were situated there.

In the 19th century, the bishop farmstead was erected according to the drafts of the Belarusian architect Khrischanovich. It encompassed the bishop’s palace and the Pokrovskaya Church, which was situated closer to the avenue.

Alexandra Volodina, historian, tour guide:
There were gardens from the other side of the bishop farmstead down the Svisloch River, to the governor’s garden. Life was very good there. For example, there were preserved memoirs of the bishop Golubev who described how he received guests at his palace, with pretty ladies among them. To put it briefly, everything was teeming with life there.

The history of the farmstead ended with the advent of the Soviet power. The hotel Paris used to be on the place where the small stage of the Janka Kupala National Theatre is situated now. At that time, it was the Red Army House. You could shoe horses and shoot straight there.

The army was growing. In 1926, the architect Joseph Langbard was charged to solve this problem. He was the man who Minsk owes its capital status.

The Government House, the Opera and Ballet Theatre, the Academy of Science, and the Officers’ Club are Langbard’s work. He was entrusted with the re-building of the former farmstead into a house for the Red Army. It was the most progressive building in Minsk for that time. There were the first swimming pool of European level in Belarus and a big library.

Alexandra Volodina, historian, tour guide:
These four huge buildings couldn’t but be observed during air raids, but they were not ruined, because Nazis liked them very much. The architectural style was constructivism with elements of classicism. These buildings were very similar to those which were erected at that time in Berlin. This is why the house for soldiers was built here very fast. Joseph Langbard came back to Minsk after the war to reconstruct his main buildings.

At the beginning of the 20 century, there was the State Agricultural Museum on the place of the famous tank T-34. A significant part of the exhibition was devoted to the swamp. The building did not survive the war; there is a monument on its place now.

On 3 July, 1944, the liberation of Minsk was started by an armored platoon under the guidance of Dmitry Frolikov.

The four main buildings of the capital were mined during the liberation. The Marshal Zhukov learnt about it and ordered not to be engaged in battles in order to save the architectural gems of Minsk. However, a bomb exploded in the Officers’ House, but it was restored.

The building which is now the headquarters of the Belarusian Republican Youth Union has an interesting story, too. It was the Peasant House during the first years after the revolution.

On the place of the present Residence, there was Karol Hutten-Czapski’s palace. He was a famous Minsk mayor. The palace was designed by the architect Krizhanovich.

Alexandra Volodina, historian, tour guide:
It was the building for nobility meetings. There were held balls, with a ball for high-school students among them. The nobility collected money for poor students to be able to come to balls; some women were given dowry, and some boys were given some help, if they wanted to continue their education.

Now, the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of the Republic of Belarus resides here. Earlier, all the Minsk residents and famous writers used to go to the ‘Lenin’ library.

The art of pure form, geometry and constructivism. Huge round columns, clean lines and no decor. The glazed on top reading room. Constructivists liked brevity and brightness. The library was a deep black color with a tint of aquamarine.

Higher education on the territory of Belarus started in 1906 thanks to Vladimir Picheta, professor, historian, and the first rector of Belarusian State university, when there was founded a private gymnasium for boys. However, the young elite gathered at 32 Magazinnaya Street. Only the elite youth could afford to attend this gymnasium because of high tuition fees.

During WWI, the building served as a German hospital. The history of Belarusian State University starts from this very building. Belarusian got higher education at Vilnius University before that.

Alexandra Volodina, historian, tour guide:
In November, 1921, there was delivered the first lecture in this building. 30 October was an open day; there was the official university opening ceremony. Gradually, there appeared departments. In 1934, the Faculty of History was established. But it moved into this building at the very end of the 20th century. Earlier, there was the Faculty of Philology, students of which came to the former 'Lenin' library.

Secondary School No.4, situated nearby, is a good example of the transition from pure constructivism to postconstructivism. The columns are becoming round, there appear capitals, and the building is reminiscent of an ancient palace. It is the place where the house of White General Mikhail Skobelev was situated.

Alexandra Volodina, historian, tour guide:
He became an honorary citizen of Minsk. But by the end of his life, he had suspected that there was a conspiracy against him, that he had great political enemies, and he decided to move to Saint Petersburg. Rumor has it that he was killed: he was either poisoned or he died in a very luxurious room under unascertained circumstances with a girl of completely uncertain origin. A famous courtesan, who the entire St. Petersburg was acquainted with, ran to the police station in the night and said that there was a dead general in her room. From hearsay, she came from the Austrian Empire, she might be a German, maybe it's a conspiracy of Austria-Hungary or Prussia against Russia. Such rumors surrounded his last day.

There is an inconspicuous panel house at 13 Krasnoarmeyskaya Street, enclosed with a  fence. But it was one of the most famous nomenclature houses of the 1960-80s, where the party elite lived.

One of the famous dwellers was Piotr Masherov. There are two commemorative plaques as tributes to Piotr Masherov and Surganov, his companion in misfortune. They both died in a car accident.

There is a version that Masherov was building this palace himself, because he wanted to live in a beautiful house.

Alexandra Volodina, historian, tour guide:
He was told that he was the head from the people for the people, and it wouldn’t be very comfortable for him to live in such a big palace. Masherov had to agree, and he moved to that house. And later, the Palace of Children and Youth started to reside. There are children, various clubs; they play the violin, the piano. It’s always very loud here. They say that party leaders really complained about it. These appeared a medical board to provide medical help to the leaders of the administration and members of their families.

Today, Krasnoarmeyskaya Street is a small island in the middle of noisy Minsk. There is very little left which is reminiscent of the bloody events of 1917. But there are very important Minsk objects. The history of Minsk was being made and is being made right here.