Despite that Minsk is almost a thousand years old, it's a young city. The architecture of the Belorussian capital was heavily damaged during World War II and had to be reconstructed from scratch. Today the city is a great metropolis with about 2 million inhabitants.
Diamond of Knowledge
It has objects of pre-war architecture as well as many modern buildings. If you're lucky enough to enter the Belorussian capital on your way from the airport at night, you will see the National Library of Belarus.
This is one of the country's most outstanding buildings. Its facade lit with millions of multi-colored light-emitting diodes.
The library designers decided to use it for commercial and information purposes: the total area of the "crystal" used for outdoor advertising is 1,485 m2, the height of a running sign is 9 meters. The National Library of Belarus is the hugest advertising surface in the country, visible from several kilometers away.
The "diamond of knowledge" costed almost $ 150 million. The total weight of the library is 270 thousand tons, and the size equals a 29-story building, with the size of each floor equaling 6 football fields.
Sports Palace in Minsk
Moving away from the National Library along Nezavisimosti Avenue and turning right on Lenin Street beyond Oktyabrskaya Square (Palace of the Republic might be used as a landmark), you'll get to the Pobeditelei Avenue, the second main thoroughfare featuring three sports arenas.
The Sports Palace is first in the row. In earlier times, calisthenics competitions and ballroom dancing championships were held here. The Palace was also the venue for "Ice Age", a popular Russian show.
Situated in the very center of the city, a seven-minute walk from the "Nemiga" metro station, it's very convenient for large-scale events.
Till the end of March, an indoor ice rink situated near the Sports Palace is open for ice skating amateurs. In the summer there's a musical fountain in the same spot, which is best seen from the circular platforms.
National Library of Belarus
The National Library is an attractive landmark of Belarus. Today the library is more than a rich collection of books. It is a multipurpose center that combines high technologies, ultramodern design and unusual architecture. In 1926 the Belorussian State Library became an independent institution.
The decision to build new premises for it was then made. Well-known Belorussian architect Georgy Lavrov came up with an unusual design that embodies a mathematical system of coordinates.
Today the building is one of the few remaining specimens of the Constructivism age in Belarus and home to the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly.
During the Great Patriotic War the Belorussian State Library named after Lenin lost about 83% of its books and special equipment. It managed to evacuate all the rare and early printed books, editions stored in the circulation department and reading halls while the reserve fund building burnt down completely together with what was inside.
The country’s top library exists since 1922 under the care of the Belorussian State University. Back then the name was the Belorussian State and University Library. Initially it contained 60,000 books. After the war the library was reborn and developed, collecting more books and establishing international ties. In 1992 as part of the sovereign state it was renamed into the National Library of Belarus.
With time its collections grew larger, necessitating the construction of new, larger, and modern premises. In 1989 a USSR-wide contest was held to choose the best architectural design for the Library.
The winners – architects Viktor Kramarenko and Mikhail Vinogradov – suggested the Belorussian diamond design that combines functionality and modern design solutions.
The design envisaged constructing an original building in the shape of a complex polyhedron of 18 squares and 8 triangles resting on a supporting podium (stylobate).
Heat-reflecting mirror glass covers the surface of the diamond. The authors wanted the cut diamond shape to symbolize the value of knowledge and the endlessness of the perceptible world.
Even so, it took 13 years to get the daring design approved and implemented. The large-scale construction project, which involved about 5,000 people and 200 enterprises, began in 2012. At peak times up to 3,000 people worked at the site every day 24 hours a day. The National Library of Belarus was opened by the Belarus President on 16 June 2006. The National Library is in the park zone of the Slepyanka River and greenery system.
A bronze sculpture of the printing pioneer Frantsisk Skorina stands in front of the building. The central entrance looks like an open book with pictures to highlight the development of the global written language and the Slavonic one as well as a quote in 19 languages from Frantsisk Skorina’s Bible that encourages people to learn.
The Library’s interior uses works by modern Belorussian artists and sculptors for decoration. The authors of the National Library design and other famous buildings are Viktor Kramarenko and Mikhail Vinogradov. They received the state prizes of the Republic of Belarus twice.
National Library of Belarus today
The country’s top library is now an information, research, sociocultural, and sociopolitical center.
The collection of the "diamond of knowledge" has about 9 million editions on various media. Those include printed editions, manuscripts, micro-copies, digital materials and other materials created in Belarus and abroad in over 80 languages.
Visitors are welcome to use versatile information resources and collections of the Library:
- manuscripts, early printed books (over 70,000)
- newspapers (about 4,700 titles)
- magazines and ongoing publications (over 3 million copies from the early 19th century and up to the present day)
- graphic documents
- printed music
- audiovisual documents
- compact disks
- thesis papers and auto-abstracts of thesis papers
- digital information resources (access to over 150 national and foreign databases)
|Address||Praspiekt Niezaliežnasci 116, Minsk|
Minsk Football Arena
If you start your trip from Pobediteley Avenue towards the Minsk ring road after several kilometers you will see the Football Arena where many sporting events take place, including the Davis Cup tennis qualifying rounds. Apart from tennis and football competitions, the arena also hosts other events.
For example, every year the leading innovations in the world of automobile industry are demonstrated at the Minsk Motor Show. As a rule, the Football Arena is used for youth events. Construction of the Arena started in 2003 and finished in 2004. The capacity is 5,000 seats. The football pitch size is 110 x 120 meters.
Church of St Simon and Helena Minsk
In contrast to the gray municipal buildings facing Nezalezhnastsi Square (Independence Square), the early 20th century Roman Catholic church is picturesque and impressive. It's known as "Red Church" because of its red brick walls.
The church's official name is rare: St. Simon and St. Helen Church. The choice of the name had been pre-determined as the church was built to commemorate the premature death of two young children of Belarusian aristocratic Wojnilowicz family. To their patron saints Simon and Helena the church was dedicated.
The Wojnilowicz family were of noble Belarusian descent, bearing their own arms. The family originated from legendary Wojnila who got his arms as early as in 14th century. In times of Rzeczpospolita the Wojnilowiczs occupied important government posts or achieved eminence as ecclesiastics. Edward Wojnilowicz being the last offspring of the famous family inherited its entire fame and wealth.
A politician and his children
He was an eminent politician, and a member of the State Council of Russian Empire. Edward and Olympia Wojnilowicz had two children: Helena and Simon who was a year younger. The children were sympathetic and clever. Helen liked painting and drew nice pictures.
But a tragic death at an early age was the fate of Simon and Helena. Simon was only twelve when he fell ill and died. The tragedy of the Wojnilowiczs was dramatized even more because the family had no heir. "I turned into a link pulled out from the chain" – wrote Wojnilowicz in his memoir.
The only consolation of Edward Wojnilowicz was his daughter Helen. "God saved my daughter for me. Her fine nature and clear mind were an obvious sign of God's mercy upon me; they did not allow me to give way to despair and to fall into apathy." But the day before her 19th birthday Helen died.
The parents' distress was inconsolable. "The tree of my kin lost its leaves one after the other, and I have remained alone like the only branch, like a tree burned with lightning that can never be revived by no Spring" – Edward Wojnilowicz wrote.
A present for the church
According to a legend, Helen Wojnilowicz, being ill and feeling death, had a dream. She dreamed about an angel who showed her a wonderful temple. Next morning Helen drew the temple and asked her parents to build such a church after her death.
After Helen – last hope of the family – left the earth, Edward and Olympia Wojnilowicz made decision to give their wealth for constructing a Roman Catholic Church provided the church will be build according to their own wishes and nobody will interfere in the construction process.
For a long time Edward Wojnilowicz looked for an architect capable of making the dream a reality.
That time Art Nouveau and Neo-Gothic styles dominated in Roman Catholic architecture. Expression and decorations of medieval catholic Gothic style were opposed to strict canons of Russian Orthodox Classicism. But Edward Wojnilowicz searched for reconciliation, not confrontation.
He chose a Roman style which flourished when the Eastern church was not separated from the Rome". Edward and Olimpia Wojnilowicz donated big funds to build a church in memory of their children. Construction work began in 1905. In November 1910 the St. Simon and St. Helena Church was solemnly consecrated.
In September 1996 a statue of the archangel Michael killing the Dragon was erected in front of the Red Church. The bronze statue represents the archangel Michael as a symbol of victory and glory of the Heaven. In Fall 2000 a memorial composition of Nagasaki bell was installed close to the church.
The bell represents a copy of the original bell named Angel from Urakami Cathedral, destroyed during nuclear bombing in August 9, 1945. The composition has been given as a gift to Red Church and Belorussian people by diocese of the Roman Catholic Church of the city of Nagasaki (Japan).
Botanical Gardens Minsk
The Minsk Botanical Gardens are in the center of the city, and it's one of the biggest botanical gardens in Europe in size (100 hectares) and richness of species (over 100,000).
The botanical garden, which was established in 1932, has a duck and swan pond, and is a wonderful quiet oasis in the midst of the city. People go here for a walk, enjoy nature, paint or take pictures. The garden organizes exhibitions and events all year around.
Trinity Hill Minsk
You don't always need an event to conjure up strong feelings. Just walk on the historic Trinity Hill, where the houses built in the 17th and 19th centuries transformed into cozy cafés, galleries, museums and shops. In particular, a visit to Trinity Hill at sunset is a must. You can enjoy the charming view and feel the romantic spirit of Minsk.
Trinity Suburb Minsk
Many houses in this part of Minsk are architectural landmarks though people still dwell in many of them. Trinity Suburb features fascinating sculptures of famous persons such as artist Yazep Drozdovich (Life-Long Wanderer), and Maksim Bogdanovich.
Next to Trinity Suburb there is a small island, with a pedestrian arch bridge leading to it. A memorial to Belorussians who took part in the Soviet War in Afghanistan emerged here in 1996.