Minsk welcomes guests
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Minsk is the capital city of Belarus, its major transport hub, political, economic, cultural and scientific center. Minsk is also the Headquarters of the Commonwealth of Independent States. It ranks the 10th in Europe and the third one in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) among the most populated cities. Minsk is situated not far from the geographical center of the country and stands on the river Svisloch. Minsk total area is 348, 84 км², its population is 1,959 citizens.
Trinity Suburb is a picturesque ancient quarter on the river bank Svisloch located right in the city center. Its charming small streets and tile-roofed houses painted with warm colors became a peculiar symbol of Minsk. You can see them imprinted on souvenirs and sweets.
The settlement Trinity Hill appeared near the 12th-13th centuries on a hill near the river Svisloch. According to various versions, its name comes after the name of the ancient Trinity Catholic Church founded by Grand Duke of Lithuania Jogajla. However some people believe that the name origin comes from the defensive redoubt of the Holy Trinity, or the Church of the Holy Trinity.
In ancient times the Suburb was a commercial center, where the roads from Vilno, Polotsk, Smolensk, Mogilev intersected. In late 16th century it became the largest marketplace called Trinity Market.
Today many houses located in the Trinity Suburb are museums, antique and souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants, art galleries.
This part of the city is a very interesting and a unique place due to its houses – true architectural masterpieces many of which still remain inhabited.
During the walk across the Trinity Suburb you can notice interesting sculptures dedicated to famous persons such as artist Yazep Drozdovich (“Life-long Wanderer”) and poet Maksim Bogdanovich.
Today the Minsk Suvorov Military School is located in the building of the Church of the Mariavites which was situated in the ancient Trinity Suburb. A bit farther you can see the oldest Belarusian brewery in operation called “Olivaria”.
Lots of situated here cozy coffee houses, cafes and small restaurants with their antique interiors are the best places to get some rest and relax after a long sightseeing around the old town.
Here you can also immerse yourself into a pure atmosphere of a Belarusian tavern.
The unique restaurant in Minsk located on water, particularly, on the river bank of Svisloch is also situated in the Trinity Suburb, too. It offers a perfect opportunity to enjoy picturesque views of the city and taste Belarusian national cuisine at the same time.
Island of Tears
The small humpback bridge over the Svisloch river leads to an artificial island and memorial complex called “To the Sons of the Motherland, who died beyond its borders”. This memorial is devoted to those 789 Belarusian soldiers and officers who died during the military developments in Syria, Angola, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Ethiopia, Somalia and Cuba. However citizens commemorate this monument to the victims of Afghan war and call it the “Island of Tears”.
“Island of Tears” has become one of the iconic places of Minsk. Here right in its center stands a symbolic chapel which resembles design of the 12th- century Temple of Euphrosyne of Polotsk. A stone with a bronze icon of the Mother of God welcomes guests at the isle’s entrance.
The memorial is unusually flexible, full of artistic ideas and symbols. There is a church-monument in the centre of the memorial. The monument to lost soldiers is made in the form of the temple. It stands on 16 stilts, stretching out into the marshy soil and reinforced with boulders. The form of the temple, established by Euphrosyne of Polotsk, was laid in the basis of this monument..Someone images the temple like a bell, someone – as an overturned flower with four petals. The eyes of mourning women, shedding tears over their sons, husbands, grandchildren, brothers, sweethearts, face to four corners of the earth. Behind each of the four sculptures inside the temple there are four altars carved with the names of Belarusian soldiers who died in the “hot spots” of our planet. All the icons and interior painting are made of ancient encaustic technique – wax painting. This painting carried with hot-melted paints, the binder of which is bleached beeswax. In the centre of the temple, in the wellhole, there is a holy place, where mothers of died soldiers laid the soil that they brought from the graves of their sons. The taught strings of metal, covered with copper and attached to the five bells, go to the wellhole. The strings are buzzing when wind blast are string. And in the days of remembrance the bell ringing is heard.
The most expressive element of the memorial is the sculpture of a crying angel. The angel is crying because he was unable to fulfill his mission, to protect the soldiers from their death. Boulders with names of Afghan provinces where the Soviet troops fought are scattered right at the water’s edge. There is also a stele with a camouflage mosaic covering which symbolizes the Table of Memory.
The National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre of the Republic of Belarus
The Opera House is located in one of the most attractive parts of Minsk. It is the busy heart of the city and a cozy area with lots of greenery at the same time. Here are located administrative buildings of the embassies. The most beautiful granite boardwalk of the main river of the city, Svisloch river is situated hee, too. Here is the most beautiful granite embankment of the river Svisloch — the main river of our city. The National Academic of Opera and Ballet Theatre was founded in 1933 as the State Opera and Ballet Theatre of Belarus on the basis of the Belarusian Opera and Ballet Studio. Since 1940 – Bolshoi, 1964 – Academic.
Its history began in the 1920s on the stage of the first State Drama Theatre which comprised of opera singers, choral and ballet groups and a small symphony orchestra. Various musicals and drama performances, fragments from operas and ballets were staged and folk music was played on its stage.
During the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945) Belarus was occupied by German invaders. Minsk severed hard from bomb attacks and was turned into pure ruins. Numerous artists joined the troops partisans, lots of them created front ensembles and performed concerts for the front-line soldiers of the Soviet Army. The theatre was evacuated to the Russian Volga region (Gorky and Kovrov cities). There Belarusian artists and the staff of the theatre continued their work.
Immediately after the liberation of the capital, the team returned to Minsk and in December of the year 1944 the premiere of the Opera “Alesya”, an opera by E. Tikotsky opened the new season. This significant event marked the revival of the National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Belarus.
At present time new opera and ballet performances are being prepared in the renovated building of the theatre.
In recent years, the theatre staff visited more than 30 world countries. There will be probably few countries on the cap where at least once the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre of the Republic of Belarus hasn’t performed: from Portugal and Spain to Japan and China, from Norway and Great Britain to Turkey and Thailand – everywhere the theatre staff found its devotees.
Victory square — square in the center of the City of Minsk located at the crossing of Independence Avenue and Zakharau street.
A majestic monument, Victory Memorial, devoted to the Red Army soldiers and partisans who died during the II World War was built in the square’s center in 1954. This 38-metre granite obelisk with a large three-metre image of the Order of Victory. All four sides of the obelisk are decorated with bronze figures in high relief created by Belarusian sculptures.
The monument resembles itself an ancient symbol of stretching to the heavens. The obelisk is made in quite a classic shape. Its stands on a large stepped pedestal. However it also reflects the national colour and identity of Belarus. Relief belts with Belarusian traditional ornaments depict the stele.
The Sacred Sword of Victory is situated at the base of the obelisk.
On July 3rd, 1961, the day of the 17th anniversary of the Minsk liberation A.S. Burdeinei Colonel-General Hero of the Soviet Union and honourable citizen of Minsk lit the Eternal Flame at the foundation of the monument.
Church of Saints Simon and Helena
The construction of church started in 1910 and was funded by Edward and Olimpia Woynillowicz in the memory of their dead children Simon and Helena. Simon was only 12, Helena died the day before her nineteenth birthday. The legend tells that when seriously ill Helena felt the coming of the death, she dreamed an angel showing her a temple of incomparable beauty. In the morning she draw the church of her dream and asked parents to build the same one after her death.
Edward and Olimpia Woynillowicz contributed all their money for the construction of the church with the condition that they would choose the draft of architectural project. The church was built by architects Tomasz Pajzderski and Wladyslaw Marconi in the roman style with distinctive portal frame, castle towers and narrow windows.
City Hall (Ratusha)
Ratusha (from German Rathaus – the house of the council) is a Belarusian word for the City Hall. During the times of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Ratusha was the indispensable attribute of every Belarusian city with Magdeburg right which granted to the town its autonomy and self-rule. Minsk gained Magdeburg right in 1499 and the City Hall with the clock, the bell and the coat of arms depicting the Virgin Mary was built in honor of the event.
Ratusha was destroyed in the middle of the 19th century because, as the Russian authorities stated, it “by its own existence reminded the citizens of previous time’s customs, Magdeburg right…”, ancient self-rule’s traditions. The decision of the demolition was made personally by the emperor Nicholas I of Russia. There were only foundation and basement as remains of the building. It was restored in 2002 in accordance with the archive documents and archeological information.
Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral
The oldest orthodox church in Minsk, the Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral was founded in 1613. The Cathedral itself shared all disasters and sorrows with Belarusian people. Almost 200 years the temple and nearby monastery were the only keepers of the orthodox faith in Minsk.
In the 16th century Crimean Khan burned Minsk, almost all citizens were killed or enslaved. But eventually the city was densely inhabitet again. The orthodox people who suffered from persecutions from the Catholics established the orthodox brotherhood. It decided to build for the own money a big church made from brick. The monastery, rusin orthodox school, printing works for religious books in Slavic language and hospital for the poor also supposed to be here. Many wealthy citizens have donated money for the church. Locals started the construction in 1612. The cathedral was named after apostles Peter and Paul. The monks from Vilnya (modern Vilnus) settled here in the same year and therefore the constant church services have begun. The orthodox school was opened in 4 years. The catholic clericals tried to close the church and the monastery and to assign the building to Greek-Catholic churchmen. However the monastery became more and more influential despite of oppression.
But clashes with unorthodoxes were repeated. In 1617 Greek-Catholic priests slaughtered orthodox scholars. There were multiple crushes in the monastery and the church. After all the monastery started to decay. By the year 1787 there were only 5 inhabitants. And the orthodox people in Minsk were in the minority. The citizens were mostly the members of Catholic and Greek-Catholics churches.
During the Napoleonic occupation of the city in 1812 the cathedral was turned into a military hospital and all its property was stolen or damaged.
After establishing the soviet rule authorities began to persecute the Christians. In 1933 the church was closed and deprived of its property. The cathedral was turned into a storage.
Quickly followed by the German occupation of Minsk (from 7th December 1941) church services were resumed by the initiative of the people. The miraculous icon of the Virgin of Minsk was placed there. Services lasted till the end of 1944. People from nearby houses sheltered there against German or Soviet airstrikes. The church was closed again following the liberation of the city in 1944. The senior priest and remaining church servants were convicted to different prison terms. Form this time the church services were forbidden for almost 50 years. Cathedral suffered severe damage during the WWII. After the War the church was repaired and the state hall of records was disposed there.
The first prayer for 46 years was performed on 7th December 1991.