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The buildings of interwar Minsk

The first five-year plans in the young Soviet republic set the pace for new construction: in the 1920s and 1930s, a lot of government, public and residential buildings appeared in the capital. It was a miracle that some old buildings survived the war. Because the most of them have been destroyed forever. Let’s take a tour of the interwar Minsk.

There were a great number of recreational areas in Minsk.

The Soviet government considered it essentially important for people to have fun and to enjoy their spare time. Therefore, in the 1920s, the mass construction of so-called workers' clubs developed. They were to become centers of cultural life for workers of factories and plants.

Four of such clubs were built in Minsk. One of them was Metalworkers' Club, located on the site of the square near the stadium Dinamo. Hardworking people visited various interest clubs right in the open air. The building was constructed in a popular style of constructivism, with a large assembly hall and large rooms for cultural events.

Vladimir Sadovsky, local historian:
It is interesting that the building caused certain criticism among critics of those times. For example, an architectural historian Nikolai Schakatyhin compared the building with a modest mansion, as the clubhouse had rather simple features and consisted of several rectangular rooms. This building survived the war, and was absolutely destroyed only in the 40s.

In the second half of the 20s, Food technologists’ Club was created at place of the legendary cinema Pobeda (Victory). Later the club was renamed in honor of Stalin. It was a real masterpiece of constructivism. There were a lot of large, spacious rooms and a huge concert hall in the building. A talented architect Andrei Burov, successfully designed the club, so that it didn’t damage the neighboring historical buildings: the former Preobrazhensky Monastery and the Preobrazhenskaya Church, which were demolished after the war.

Food technologists’ Club had a great deal of youth clubs. It also held meetings and staged exhibitions. In 1931, the first meeting in the USSR between Soviet and British boxers was held there.

Vladimir Sadovsky, local historian:
Food technologists’ Club was destroyed at the end of the war in 1944. After the liberation of Minsk, the government decided to build a new theater at the place of the old club. The facade of the cinema Pobeda is a completely new building. But the rooms, where people watch films are the rooms of the former Food technologists’ Club.

The Belarusian State University campus complex was one of the largest in the interwar Minsk. It is also built with elements of constructivism. In the second half of the 20s, about ten new buildings were constructed. Most of them survived the war, and some survived until the beginning of the 2000s. One of such buildings is the Department of Chemistry, which opened its doors in 1931.

Vladimir Sadovsky, local historian:
One of the places was the former building of the Chemistry Department of the BSU. It has long stood abandoned, and in the early 2000s, it was demolished. Another building of the BSU that survived the war was on the site of the current Minsk metro management. It was demolished during the construction of the first subway line and Ploshchad Lenina station.

In 1931, on the main Sovietskaya Street the building of a bank began. At those times it was the most progressive bank in Minsk. It was supposed to become the Belarusian office of the USSR State Bank. The unusual project belonged to architect Georgy Golts. The building was designed in the style of classical constructivism with the features of the bourgeois functionalism. The Bank became a pearl of the Belarusian capital. However, the futuristic building was destroyed in less than 15 years.

Vladimir Sadovsky, local historian:
During the war, the building suffered from bombing and was completely burned out inside. After the war, the remnants of the State Bank buildings were demolished because the building does not fit into the style of new wide Independence Avenue. The building of the National Bank built after the war reminds us of the banking history of the crossroad. The new building is literally across the street from the old building of the State Bank.

Another example of avant-garde in the interwar Minsk was an automatic telephone station, built on Karla Marksa Street in 1932. It served 6,000 subscribers, and in 1935 became the fifth in the entire USSR by the number of telephone conversations made per year.

Vladimir Sadovsky, local historian:
The project  belongs to an architect Yakushko. Unfortunately, this building, as well as other from our story, did not survive the war. It was demolished in the late 40s, and a new house appeared at its place.

It is hard to imagine that, in the 30s, the bustling area of the Independence Avenue and Kozlov street crossroad was the outskirts of town. But, despite this, the intersection of the former Sovietskaya and Dolgobrodskaya streets is the place, where the building of a major new housing construction in Minsk began from.

One of the buildings was the so-called House of Professionals, designed by architect Natalie Makletsova in 1934. At that time, six-storey 100-apartment house seemed to be a skyscraper for Minsk. The modern building was equipped with elevators. There also was a large basement room with warehouses, where residents can store their stuff. It was really useful for the specialists of industrial enterprises. Around the house the architects were going to build a bald area of magnificent apartment buildings for labor elite of Soviet Belarus. However, the plans were collapsed by the war.

Vladimir Sadovsky, local historian:
Unfortunately, the House of professionals became one of the first victims of the German air raids in 1941. In July 1941, it was bombed and burnt to the ground. And already in later years its ruins were broken and separated. In 1944, there was nothing left from the house. The sad fact is that the building has literally been destroyed in the eyes of the author, an architect Natalia Maklyatsova. At the time of Nazi occupation she was in Minsk and saw all the destruction.

Another interesting place was the Institute of National Economy boarding house. It was located on the site of the modern building on the corner of 42 Independence Avenue. When looking at the building, it was possible to trace the features of the late pre-war architecture. That was a period when constructivism began to gradually replace the style of Stalin, so-called Stalin’s empire.

Vladimir Sadovsky, local historian:
Unfortunately, the house of Voinov has not been preserved. He was also bombed in the first days of the war. But we can see its remains on the photos from the occupation.

This is the Minsk of the 1930s. Unfortunately, the war destroyed the witnesses of distant era, but

they will stay in the history of Minsk forever.

The buildings of Minsk between WWI and WWII