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Professor M.V.Dovnar-Zapolsky

The architectural ensemble of Independence Avenue - the main thoroughfare of Minsk City

Overview

Independence Avenue (Prospect Nezavisimosti) is the main thoroughfare of Minsk City, crossing it from south-west to north-east. Independence Avenue (before 1991, Lenin Avenue) was laid out where Sovetskaia Street and Borisovski Highway passed earlier. After World War II, only 10 buildings remained intact on Sovetskaia Street and the main city thoroughfare began to be constructed on a new, wide and straightened road. As a main compositional diameter, the Avenue makes an impact on the planning and building of the whole city. Located on the avenue are the main city squares: Independence Square, October Square, Victory Square, Iakub Kolas Square, Kalinin Square, as well as the important administrative, cultural, educational, trade & other institutions and also residential houses.

According to the planning and development, Independence Avenue is divided into 3 parts: 1st (central) part - between Independence Square and Victory Square; 2nd part - between Victory Square and Kalinin Square; 3rd part - between Kalinin Square and the city entrance from the side of Moscow Highway.

Not many buildings remained on the site of the present-day avenue after the Second World War. Those which survived include the Government House, the Cathedral of St. Simeon and St. Helen, the House of Officers, the Belarusian State University of Physical Education, the buildings of Hospital No.1, the main building of the Belarusian National Technical Academy, the National Hydrometeorological Observatory, the main building of the National Academy of Sciences, and a small number of residential houses. Red Church

The 1st (central) part of the avenue - between Independence Square (Ploshchad Nezavisimosti) and Victory Square (Ploshchad Pobedy) - represents an architectural ensemble where many buildings are clear examples of the Soviet civil architecture.

The area of Independence Square (before 1991, Lenin Square) began to be built up in the late 19th - early 20th centuries. The only buildings to survive from that time are the Cathedral of St. Simeon & St. Helen (Red Church), a monument of neo-Gothic architecture with the elements of Art Nouveau style (1908-1910, architects T. Poiazdersky, V. Markoni, G. Gai) and the houses located on Sovetskaia Street at No.17 (1912, architect S. Gaidukevich) and No.19 (early 20C, architect G. Gai) built in the Art Nouveau style. The ensemble of Independence Square began to take shape in the 1930s as a result of the construction in the area of the Belarusian State University's campus (1928-1931, architects I. Zaporozhets, G. Lavrov), the Government House (1930-1934, architect I. Langbard) and the main building of the Belarusian Teachers Training University (1931, architects I. Zaporozhets, G. Lavrov). The architect Iosif Langbard, to whose design the Government House was constructed, also made a design for the Square in front of it. In line with his concept, Independence Square was to become the main city square facing onto the City Terminal. But after World War II, Central Square (now October Square) was established as a new city centre according to the master plan of 1946 for the city's restoration and reconstruction. Independence Square was later largely improved according to a new project developed in 1964 by the architect V. Anikin and the engineers R. Obraztsova & I. Shpit. The square had occupied an area of 7 hectares and became the largest in Europe. It acquired a rectangular shape with the main longitudinal axis along the avenue and had a small public garden in the centre. The open part of the square opposite the Government House was used as a forum for Soviet military parades and mass rallies on celebration days and as a car park on weekdays. House of Government

The ensemble of the square now includes the Government House with a monumental statue of Lenin, the main building of the Belarusian State University (1962, architects A. Dukhan & M. Baklanov, engineer N. Moroz) consonant in architectural style with the Government House, the Metropolitan Administrative Building with a small tower crowning the entrance (1984, architects Yu. Grigoriev, D. Kudriavtsev), and the Minsk City Council (1964, architects S. Musinski, G. Sysoev). The Belarusian Teachers Training University (architects G. Zaborski, V. Nikitin, I. Marchenko, engineer G. Basinkevich), built in 1990, completed the square's development.
Despite different years of construction, all the buildings here stand out for compositional integrity and produce a perfect sence of harmony.

A new project for the reconstruction of Independence Square was launched in the 1990s. The first stage of the reconstruction work was completed in the year of 2002. The transportation scheme of the square was then changed. Two morepedestrian underpasses were constructed and in the future they are to make part of the Underground Trade Centre. Several parking lots are to be built in thearea adjacent to the square.

The construction work in the central part of Independence Avenue was carried out in two stages: the 1940s-1950s - between Independence Square and October Square (Oktiabrskaia Ploshchad); the 1950s-1960s - between October Square and Victory Square. The construction was supervised by the architects M. Parusnikov and M. Barshch.

Main Post Office Most of the residential apartment houses located in this part of the avenue were built according to the standard project and produce an artistic integrity due to the repetition of certain types of models. Among the buildings noteworthy here are the General Post Office (1949-1953, architects A.Dukhan, V.Korol), an example of classical interpretation in architecture and the Minsk Hotel (1957-1967, architects G. Badanov, G. Sysoev, S. Musinski, D. Kudriavtsev), an example of modern architecture. Minsk Hotel Worthy of note are also the apartment houses at No. 12 (1952, architect L. Batalov), No.13 (1950-1954, architects G. Badanov, M. Osmolovski), No.14 & No.16 (1947-1951, architect M. Parusnikov), No.18 & No.19 (1948-1952, architect G. Badanov), No.22 & No.23 (1949-1954, architect M. Parusnikov) - clear examples of the Soviet civil architecture. The compositional centre of the avenue between Independence Square and October Square is a monumental administrative building at No.17 (1945-1947, architects M. Parusnikov, G. Badanov) connected on the left side with the house at No.15/6 (1915, architect G. Gai), an administrative building in neo-classical style. Administrative building Of interest among public buildings are the Belarusian National Bank (1947-1952, architect M. Parusnikov), where the classical and Renaissance motifs are well interpreted architecturally to produce a magnificent monumental effect and the GUM Department Store (1951, architects L. Milegi, R. Gegart), a typical work of Soviet post-war architecture.

State Department Store (GUM)October Square (before 1984, Central Square) began to take shape in the 1950s-1960s, initially following the project developed by the architects G. Badanov, V. Korol, L. Matskevich, M. Osmolovski, & M. Parusnikov. Built on the western side of the squareare the appartment house with a ground floor shop (1949-1953, architects G. Zaborski, M. Parusnikov), the buildings of the Minsk Region Executive Committee (1958, architect V. Volchek) and the Central Telegraph Office (now Beltelecom, 1962, architects A. Dukhan, V. Korol). On the eastern side of the square are the Trade Unions Palace of Culture (1954, architect V. Ershov) and the Belarusian State Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War (1964, architects G. Benediktov, G. Zaborski). Adjacent to the square from the south is an old Central Park, behind which stands the Residence of the President of the Republic of Belarus (formerly the building of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Belarus) (1941, architects A. Voinov, V. Varaksin). From the side of the park, the square is lined by the granite balustrade with a tribune (1957, architect E. Zaslavski). Between 1986 and 2001, the Palace of the Republic was erectedin the square to the design of the collective body of Belgosproek Institute (architects M. Pirogov, V. Danilov, L. Zdanevich, L. Moskalevich, V. Novikov, M. Turliuk, V. Usimov, A. Shabalin). The Palace has become the centre of the square and completed its development. Now it is the largest public structure in the city with a universal hall for 2,700 seats used for various conferences, congresses, concerts & performances. The palace complex also includes several small halls, a press-centre, & a restaurant.

Further on Independence Avenue is a building of the European Humanities University (the building of the former ecclesiastical consistory built in the mid-19th C), an architectural monument with Classicism elements and the building of the former church & archaeological museum (1913, architects V. Struev, I. Fomin), an architectural monument in pseudo-Russian style. The administrative building at No.27 (1940, architect G. Iakushko) is built in a characteristic Constructivism style. The Soviet civil architecture is exemplified in houses No. 29 & No. 30 (1957, architect M. Barshch). The Minsk Circus (1959, architect V. Zhukov) is built in classical traditions. The Central Gorky Children's Park stretches along the Avenue from the Minsk Circus to Victory Square, crossing the River Svisloch with its granite embankment (1958, architect K. Ivanov). Opposite the park on the other side of the Avenue, between Ia.Kupala Street and the River Svisloch, spreads out the Park named after Ia.Kupala, the famous Belarusian poet. Beyond the Bridge across the River Svisloch (1951, architects M. Parusnikov, G. Badanov) stands the House-Museum of the 1st Congress of the Russian Socialist Democratic Labour Party.

Victory Square (before 1954, Round Square) with the majestic Victory Monument in the centre (1954, architects G. Zaborski, V. Korol) ends the central part of Independence Avenue. This square is one of the most impressive sights in Minsk. Victory Square The architectural ensemble of the square began to take shape in the 1930s, when two multi-storey, bow-shaped buildings were constructed here (1939, completed in 1947 by the architect R. Stoller). The further development of the square was based on the master plan of 1946 (architects N. Androsov, N. Trakhtenberg), design projects for the residential apartment blocks (1950-1956, architects M. Barshch, L. & G. Aranauskas) and the square's improvement of 1954 (architect G. Zaborski). In 1985, when the 40- year anniversary of Victory in World War Two was celebrated, the square was largely reconstructed. The platform before Victory Monument was extended, several pedestrian underpasses were created and connected with the entrances to the Victory Square Metro Station (architects B. Larchenko, B. Shkolnikov, K. Viazchik). The monument's foundation underground was circled by a passage gallery with a memorial hall to the victims of World War II. In the centre of the hall you can see an illuminated wreath of colour glass (artist V. Pozniak). On the wall is the bronze bas-relief of the Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union and the memorial plaques with the names of 566 soldiers and officers who gave their lives to liberate Belarus from the Nazi invaders and who were awarded this highest government decoration. The memorial granite blocks are installed in the hall in honour of the Soviet Hero-Cities. Today Victory Square represents a fine architectural ensemble where the memorial complex is successfully combined with the adjacent residential buildings, parks and the river.

Residential houseIn the part of Independence Avenue between Victory Square and Kalinin Square the buildings erected before WWII (1937-1941, architects A. Bregman, G. Iakushko) alternate with the new residential apartment houses (1952-1958, architects M. Barshch, L. Aranauskas, A. Dukhan, S. Batkovski, N. Makletsova, N. Spigelman). The focal point in this part of the avenue is Iakub Kolas Square (before 1956, Komarovskaia Square) with a monumental statue of the national poet Iakub Kolas (1972, sculptor Z. Azgur, architects Iu. Gradov, G. Zaborski, L. Levin) standing in the centre of a small park. The dominant building on the square is the Belarusian State University of Physical Education (1939, architects A. Bregman, A. Voinov, V. Muromtsev) with a side wing stretching along Independence Avenue (1963, architects S. Musinski, G. Sysoev). Further on, the Avenue is lined with the buildings of Hospital No.1 (1929-1931, architect G. Lavrov, reconstructed in the 1970s-1980s), the Belarusian National Technical Academy (the main building erected in 1932, architect G. Lavrov, reconstructed & extended in the 1950s-1980s), the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus (1932-1939, architects G. Lavrov & I. Langbard, with several new buildings erected in the 1960s-1970s). Noteworthy here are also the October Cinema (1975, architect V. Malyshev), the Belarusian State Academy of Arts (1953, architect Ia. Shapiro), residential appartment houses (1962, architects G. Sysoev, D. Kudriavtsev) and the Pervomaisky Department Store (1964-1965, architects S. Musinski, G. Sysoev). Kalinin Square (Ploshchad Kalinina) with a statue of Mikhail Kalinin (1978, sculptors V. Poliichuk. I. Glebov, architects Iu. Grigoriev, A. Nevzorov) ends this part of the avenue.

The part of Independence Avenue between Kalinin Square and the city entrance from the side of Moscow Highway is mainly built up on one side of the avenue. Here you will find the buildings of the Minsk Watch Plant (1956-1961, architects S. Botkovski, I. Bovt, N. Shpigelman), the Belarusian Agrarian Technical University (1956, architect M. Baklanov), and residential apartment blocks. On the right side of the avenue is the Chelyuskintsev Park of Culture & Recreation, a miniature Children's Railroad (the central station was built in 1956, architect G. Zaborski) and a spacious woodland. The Cheliuskintsev Park was created in the city's outskirts in the 1930s, and it now occupies 78 hectars of natural pine woods. The reconstruction of the park has been recently launched by the design institute "Minskproekt" to be completed in three stages. The park is to be surrounded by a decorative fence with the entrances newly decorated and the main entrance crowned with a special arch. The project authors - architects A. Goliakov, M. Gaukhfeld, L. Beliakova, O. Sergeev, V. Ageenko, K. Viazin and more, the sculptor O. Anushenko and designer O. Gordina. Further on the avenue are the Film Studio Belarusfilm (1960), residential houses (the 1950s), the National Hydrometeorological Centre (1934, architect I. Volodko), the Moskovski Bus Terminal (1999, architect N. Naumov), and the buildings of the Belarusian National Technical University (1976-1986, architects I. Esman, V. Anikin). The residential district "Vostok" plays an important part in the architectural and artistic appearance of this final section of the avenue. In 2006, the construction of a unique complex of the National Library of Belarus (architects M. Vinogradov, V. Kramorenko) was here completed.

Further on Independence Avenue is the Eastern Cemetry, where Belarusian public and political figures, and prominent men in art and culture have been buried.

National Library of BelarusOutside the city ring is a big residential area of Uruchie, which is still under construction.

Along the whole distance of the avenue stretches line No1 of the Metro: from the Institut Kultury station to the Vostok station (1984). At present several stations more are being constructed in the Uruchie direction.

In 1968, the architects G. Badanov, M. Barshch, S. Botkovski, A. Voinov, V. Korol, S. Musinski, M. Parusnikov, G. Sysoev, N. Trakhtenberg, and N. Spigelman were awarded the State Prize of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic for the individual, architectural and artistic design of Independence Avenue.

The architectural ensemble of Independence Avenue - the main thoroughfare in the Belarusian Capital Minsk - is of high, cultural and historical value. Among the other 1000 best works of world architecture it is included in a 10-volume encyclopaedia "The World Architecture, 1900-2002". At present time the architectural complex of Independence Avenue is to be considered for inscription on the Unesco's World Heritage List.

Our website gives information on the archival documents relating to the design and building of Independence Avenue, which are held at the Belarusian State Archives of Scientific & Technical Documentation (BGANTD). The summary information includes the data from 12 archival fonds: the design institutes "BelNIItopproekt" (fond 1), "Belgosproekt" (fond 3), "Minskproekt" (fond 10), Belpromproekt (fond 18) and "Minskkomunproekt" (fond 66), Office for the Construction of Government House (fond 121), the Belarusian Architects' Union (fond 68), and also the personal collections of the people's architect of the USSR V. Korol (fond 51), the honourary architect of the BSSR G. Sysoev (fond 127), the former director of the "Belgosproekt" Institute V. Kondratovich (fond 104), and the architects I. Volodko (fond 105) and A. Bregman. The summary table gives annotations on architectural works, the type and date of design documents, and archival indexes.

The survey of documents was prepared by G. I. Shostak, leading specialist at the BGANTD.

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