The Soviet monuments of Minsk
The Soviet monuments of Minsk

Minsk’s monuments, statue’s and memorials

Soviet era Socialist Realist sculpture above a store in Minsk

Socialist wall sculpture on front of a store

The Stalinist architecture of Minsk may be the number one reason to spend a view days in the capital of Belarus but the city’s many monuments, statue’s and memorials are certainly not less impressive. Minsk is one of the former Soviet Unions twelve Hero cities, the highest honorary title of the USSR awarded for Minsk’s role during the second world war. The soviets have erected big monuments to honour the cities resistance against the Germans, many statue’s for Poets, musicians, writers and politicians from Belarus can be found. Many works of social realist art like wall sculptures and mosaics can still be found on the streets and inside buildings in Minsk. Most impressive are the World War II victory column, the obelisk to hero city Minsk, the Island of tears (Afghanistan memorial), the monument to Yakub Kolas and the ever present Lenin statue.

Monument: The world war 2 victory column

Belarus suffered heavily from the Nazi occupation during the second world war, 25% of its people (over two million) died during the war and hundreds of villages were decimated. Minsk was a major centre of the Soviet partisan resistance movement against the occupation. For this role, Minsk was awarded the title Hero City in 1974. The WWII memorial consists of the column with beautiful heroic scenes of cast iron, an eternal flame, and granite blocks for each Soviet hero city. There is a passage below the memorial with an illuminated wreath of colour glass and plaques with the names of 566 soldiers.

The Victory Column in Minsk photographed during the fifties

Victory monument during the fifties

The Soviet Star on the World War II Victory column obelisk

Top of the monument

Illuminated wreath in the underground of the Victory Column

Below the memorial

Bronze relief’s

The forty meters high obelisk is faced with grey granite and is crowned with the Order of Lenin made of bronze and multicoloured mosaics. The obelisk is decorated with 4 bronze high relief’s. These are the ’May 9, 1945’ (sculptor A.Bembel) depicting the triumph of victory, with the state emblem of Belarus above, ’The Soviet Army in World War II’ (sculptor S.Selikhanov) and ’Belarusian partisans’ (sculptor A. Glebov) depicting some episodes from the ’railroad war’ and a combat battle, and the ’Glory to the perished heroes’ (sculptor Z. Azgur) depicting the people’s grief over a hero’s grave. At the foot of the obelisk is a bronze sword covered with laurel wreath as a symbol of victory (sculptor S. Saltykov). On July 3, 1961, the 17th anniversary of Belarus liberation, an eternal flame was lit before the monument.

Bronze relief on the Minsk Victory column referring to Victory Day

May 9, 1945

Bronze relief on the Minsk Victory column, The Soviet Army

The Soviet Army

Bronze relief on the Victory column, Glory to the perished heroes

Glory to the perished heroes

Bronze relief on the Minsk Victory column, Belarusian partisans

Belarusian partisans

Granite blocks for each Soviet hero city

Minsk is one of the twelve cities that was awarded the honorary title of Hero city for outstanding heroism during the Great Patriotic War. Every hero city is issued the Order of Lenin, the Gold Star medal, and the certificate of the heroic deed (gramota) from the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. Also, the corresponding obelisk is installed in the city. Minsk was encircled by advancing German forces in late June 1941. Trapped in a vast pocket, the Soviets defended their positions desperately. Their resistance was broken on 9 July, with over 300,000 Soviet troops taken captive. During the following three-year occupation, the Germans killed about 400,000 civilians in and around the city. The Minsk area became a centre for the Soviet partisan movement behind enemy lines. Minsk was awarded the title Hero City in 1974.

Granite block with Gold Star Medam for the Hero City Smolensk

Smolensk

Granite block with Gold Star Medam for the Hero Fortress Brest

Brest Fortress

Granite block with Gold Star Medam for the Hero City Kerch

Kerch

Granite block with Gold Star Medam for the Hero City Sevastopol

Sevastopol

Granite block with Gold Star Medam for the Hero City Volgograd

Volgograd

Granite block with Gold Star Medam for the Hero City Leningrad

Leningrad

Granite block with Gold Star Medam for the Hero City Moscow

Moscow

Granite block with Gold Star Medam for the Hero City Kiev

Kiev

Granite block with Gold Star Medam for the Hero City Odessa

Odessa

Granite block with Gold Star Medam for the Hero City Novorossiysk

Novorossiysk

Granite block with Gold Star Medam for the Hero City Tula

Tula

Granite block with Gold Star Medam for the Hero City Murmansk

Murmansk

Monument: Obelisk to Hero City Minsk

The monument was built in 1984 to memorize 40th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War. There is a beautiful statue of a bronze woman with trumpet beside the obelisk. Military parades are still held every year with this monument as central point. The Order of Lenin and the Gold Star medal, the highest decorations of the Soviet Union issued to Hero Cities are both depicted on the monument. The Obelisk to Hero City Minsk can be found on Masherov Avenue.

Obelisk for the Soviet Hero City Minsk near Masherov Avenue

Obelisk to Hero City Minsk

Lenin Order and Gold Star Medal on the Minsk Hero City Obelisk

Lenin order and gold star medal

Bronze woman with trumpet on the Obelisk to Hero City of Minsk

Bronze woman with trumpet

Statue: Lenin

Statue: Felix Dzerzhinsky bust

Statue: Mikhail Kalinin

Statue of Lenin addressing a crowd on Independence Square

Lenin

Statue of KGB founder Felix Dzerzhinsky Minsk’s main street

Felix Dzerzhinsky

Statue of Bolshevik revolutionary Mikhail Kalinin in Minsk

Mikhail Kalinin

Lenin statue’s are vastly disappearing from the squares and streets of former Soviet countries. In Minsk there’s at least one still standing if front of the House of Government.

In Moscow the statue of Dzerzhinsky was taken down in 1992. In Minsk the founder of the KGB is still standing. His bust can be found opposite the KGB HQ on Frantsisk Skorina Avenue.

Mikhail Kalinin, Soviet revolutionary of the first hour is also honoured with an impressive statue in Minsk. The statue can be found on Mikhail Kalinin square on Frantsisk Skorina Avenue.

Statue: Yakub Kolas

Statue: Yanka Kupala

Statue: Maxim Bogdanovich

Statue: Aleksandr Pushkin

Statue of the famous Belarusian poet Yakub Kolas in Minsk

Yakub Kolas

Statue of the famous Belarusian writer Yanka Kupala in Minsk

Yanka Kupala

Statue of the famous Belarusian poet Maxim Bogdanovich in Minsk

Maxim Bogdanovich

Statue of the famous Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin in Minsk

Aleksandr Pushkin

Yakub Kolas (1882-1956) a "People’s Poet" of Belarus is considered the founder (together with Janka Kupala) of the modern Belarusian literature and Belarusian literature language. The statue by sculptor Z. Azgur (found on Yakub Kolas square) was erected in 1972.

Yanka Kupala (1882-1942) founder of modern Belarusian literature together with Yakub Kolas was a Belarusian nationalist promoting the dying Belarusian language opposing Russification. The statue and a Museum about Kupala’s work can be found in Yanka Kupala park.

Maxim Bogdanovich (1891-1917) born in Minsk is an other famous Belarusian poet. Maxim Bogdanovich Literary Museum is one of the most beautiful museums housed in a two-storey brick building in the Troitskoye suburb (old town). His statue can be found in front of the Bolshoi theatre.

Aleksandr Pushkin (1799) is the most important Russian poet and considered the founder of modern Russian literature. He was a member of an underground revolutionary group and often clashed with the authorities. Famous works are the play Boris Godunov and novel Eugene Onegin.

Street decoration: Plaque’s

An other sight that is typical for soviet cities are the many plaque’s commemorating musicians, writers, scientists politicians and more. One gets the impression all the memorial stones are made by a single artist or factory as they all look very alike.

Memorial plaque for Soviet statesman Vasily Ivanovich Kozlov

Musician

Soviet era memorial plaque for a famous Belarusian musician

Architect

Soviet era memorial plaque for a famous Belarusian architect

Musician

Soviet era memorial plaque for a famous Belarusian scientist

Soldier

Soviet era memorial plaque for a famous Belarusian citizen

Hero

Soviet era memorial plaque for a famous Belarusian citizen

Actor

Monument: The Islands of Tears

A very confronting monument is the Afghan war memorial "The Island of Tears" build in 1988 to commemorate Belarusian soldiers who died in the Afghanistan war. The Island on the Svisloch river is reached by a food bridge. The centrepiece of the monument is a chapel, with haunting figures of grieving mothers, sisters and widows at its base. There are 4 altars inside of the chapel with the names of 771 soldiers who died. A nearby fountain features the boy-like figure of an angel (the guardian angel of Belarus), crying teardrops. The "private parts" of the sculpture are shinier than the rest. This is explained by the Belarusian tradition of newly weds visiting war memorials on their wedding day, and a modern folk belief that if the bride touches the boy’s privates, she’ll be guaranteed children.

Chapel on the Island of Tears, the Afghanistan war memorial

The chapel

Guardian Angel of Belarus on Afghan War memorial Island of Tears

Guardian angel of Belarus

Mechanised Red Army units in the mountains of Afghanistan

Red army in Afghanistan

Socialist art: Street decorations

Besides the many large monuments and statues in the square’s, parks and streets of Minsk are there also many small sculptures to be seen. Mainly government, army and public buildings are often richly decorated.

Sculpture of 3 athletes on the National Stadium in Minsk

Bronze on Dynamo stadium

Bronze soldier and pilot on a military building in Minsk

Bronze on military building

Decoration above a door of an apartment building in Minsk

Decoration above door of a house

Outside Minsk: Mound of Glory

Outside Minsk: The Khatyn memorial

The mound of glory (21 km from Minsk) is build on a 35 meter high hill crowned with and obelisk built on the site where in the Soviet army ended the Nazi occupation of Belarus in 1944. The foundation was laid with a symbolic handful of earth from Minsk, from every Hero City of the former USSR, from the sites of major battles on the territory of the USSR during WW II and from thousands of Belarusian villages, towns and cities terrorized by the German invaders. At the top of the 240 steps stands a typically beautiful and unique Soviet masterpiece. Three huge bayonets, rimmed by an elaborate mosaic, depicting the horrors of the war in words and pictures.

The Khatyn memorial (60 km from Minsk) commemorates the annihilation of the entire village of Khatyn as result of an SS punishment operations against partisans. In March 1943, Khatyn’s 26 houses with their inhabitants 149 people, including 75 children were burned by the Nazi’s. The memorial was opened in 1969. Khatyn was not the only village with such a fate. Population of 618 Belarusian villages were burned alive by the Nazi’s during the war. 185 of burned Belarusian villages were never rebuild. A must see is the Belarusian anti war movie "Come and See" from 1985. It tells the story of these villages burned down with it’s inhabitants.

World War II memorial complex Mound of Glory 21 km from Minsk

Mound of Glory

The Khatyn World War II memorial in Belarus 60 km from Minsk

Khatyn memorial

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