5 Curious Facts About Minsk Main Street That Might Become New UNESCO Site

Belarus wants to put Independence Avenue (Praspiekt Niezaliežnasci) up for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List as an example of the post-war architecture of the so-called Stalin Empire style.


It will be part of an international serial nomination with Karl Marx Allee in Berlin as the main socialist street in Eastern Berlin (Germany), Khreshchatyk in Kiev (Ukraine), Moscow Avenue in Kharkov (Ukraine), and Marszalkowska Street in Warsaw (Poland).

The expert group will meet on 15-18 September in Minsk. Specialists from Russia, Ukraine, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany and Belarus will talk the nomination concept and work out an action plan for cooperation.

While it looks like the inclusion is a long process, we decided to recall a number of interesting facts about the main street of the Belarusain capital as it has quite a history.

And gathered some awesome shots, naturally!

1. It’s over 15km long.

15 km and 300 metres to be exact. Independence Avenue crosses Minsk from the center to the north-east and is one of the longest streets in Europe. Its history is traced back to 1801, when they began tracing a new by-pass road to unload the city center.

2. It crosses five squares on its way.

Arranged from east to west they are Kalinina Square, Jakuba Kolasa Square, Pieramohi (Victory) Square, Kastryčnickaja Square and Niezaliežnasci (Independence) Square.

3. It was renamed ten times. 

Probably, no other street in Minsk has changed its name so many times. In the beginning the future Independence Avenue was called Zakharievskaya street – and this name resisted for 118 years!

The other didn’t last so long: in 1919 the street was renamed into Sovetskaya, then into Adam Mickiewicz street for 1919-20, then back into Sovetskaya till 1941.

For three years of WWII, from 1941 to 1944, the Germans who invaded the city called it Hauptstrasse (the main street). After Minsk was liberated in 1944 and till 1952 the street had two names – Sovetskaya and Pushkinskaya, the former referring  to a small piece from Sverdlovs Square to Myasnikova Square starting October 1952.

In 1952-61 it was called Stalin avenue. Then – guess what Soviet leader followed? – Lenin avenue till 1991.

For 14 years the street was called after the Belarusian humanists and publisher Francysk Skaryna. In 2005 it got its present name.

4. Its architectural ensemble is amazingly uniform.

The main street, just as other streets of Minsk, that lay in ruins after WWII, was constructed from scratch starting 1950s.

Its architecture is an example of the so-called Stailn Empire style. Moreover, it is unique in its stylistic unity: all pieces, from planning and general composition to small architectural forms were designed in identical style.

5. It has its own bus route.

One can explore the main street by taking a bus No100 that covers Independence avenue almost entirely. By the way, starting September 3, 2016 there’s a sightseeing bus with English-language excursion on the route.

Preview image by Artem Pryadko.