The recent years of the “neo-soviet capitalism” in Belarus have been marked by numerous “city restoration projects”. Allegedly aimed at restoring the old parts of Belarusian towns, in reality they ruined them for the sake of the new rich, willing to build another restaurant, bowling, or a parking lot. Minsk has seen, perhaps, the most violent “renovation”, which is just coming into a full swing.

Theoretically, the person who can afford to build a hotel in the center of Minsk, should be intelligent enough to pick a decent project, or at least be rich enough to hire an architect with a good taste. That’s only in theory, however. In practice, the people determining the image of the old town are like some undereducated collective farm director, who ruins his village’s old church in order to build a new pigpen. One can also wonder, whether the architects, who develop the projects of “restoring” the city’s center, are really educated at universities, as they claim. The higher education provides that a person develops some level of common intelligence and good taste. Many our architects, however, show a talent for developing the same pigpens out of the second-class concrete, covered with cheap shiny glass.

Siarhey Hareuski has been writing about art and urban architecture for Nasha Niva since 1991. Now he is reporting actively about the recent wave of “restoration” of the old centers in Belarusian cities and towns, including Minsk. His articles are united under the title “The Chronicles of Demolition” as a special project of Nasha Niva. Recently Siarhey obtained a secret document, developed by “Minskproject”, the institution, planning the development of the city. The former Roman catholic (Bernardin) cloister (built in 17-18th century) in the center of Minsk will be turned into a hotel with a swimming-pool and a parking lot. The project does not only change completely the most authentic and valuable architectural ensemble of the Minsk’s center, it doesn’t even provide that the walls of the former cloister be searched for old frescos.

The cloister and its central church of St. Joseph were taken away from the Roman Catholics by the Russian authorities in 1863. This was a punishment for supporting the popular uprising against the Russian rule. The church remains an archive despite the regular services the Roman Catholics hold on its doorsteps, demanding the state to give them the church back. The authorities, however, found it easy to allow to build a beer restaurant in the yard of the church, but are unwilling to restore St. Joseph, one of the most beautiful Minsk churches, to its original use.

Minsk is an old city. It is first mentioned in a historical document in 1067. It’s not a date of the city’s foundation, however. Minsk was almost completely destroyed during the war between the competing East Slavic dukes in 1067. Will Belarusians destroy the city again?

The documents obtained by Siarhey Hareuski

The project of the hotel

3d model of the “reconstruction”

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