37 monuments in 30 days, and what I learned along the way.
Wednesday 3 May 2017
Visiting Belarus in the dead of winter was quite an experience. I’ve already written about my first impressions of the place, in an article focussing on the socialist modernist architecture of Minsk. When I wasn’t in the capital though, I spent the rest of that week visiting a number of extraordinary Belarusian Soviet Monuments.
They certainly liked to build them big.
The two monuments featured here are some of the largest I’ve seen anywhere in the post-communist world. Belarus is an incredibly significant place in the Soviet history books, having suffered massive casualties under Nazi occupation before forming the front line for much of the ‘Great Patriotic War.’ The battles that were waged in these places marked vital turning points in WWII, and so these battlefields were remembered with suitably enormous monuments.
Below, you’ll find my photos from two Soviet-era memorial sites in Belarus: the Mound of Glory, just outside Minsk, as well as the colossal Brest Hero Fortress.
The Mound of Glory, Minsk
Belarus was liberated from Nazi occupation in 1944 – but at an incredible cost of Soviet lives. In 1966 it was decided that a monument would be created on one of the key battlefields, 21km outside Minsk. Construction began in 1967, under the architect O. Stakhovich and sculptor A. Bembel.
The Mound of Glory was opened in 1969, marking the 25th anniversary of the Belarusian liberation. Today it is a popular site, with a series of outdoor museum exhibits (including several tanks and a handful of information panels) scattered around the foot of the hill – although at the time of my visit, with temperatures more than 20 degrees below freezing, I would have the place entirely to myself.
The Hero Fortress, Brest
The ‘Hero Fortress’ at Brest is the most celebrated of all Belarus’s Soviet Monuments – and it’s easy to see why.
Just as Minsk was awarded the title ‘Hero City’ for its role in WWII, so too was the old fortress at Brest given recognition for the part it played in the conflict. The heavily damaged fortress walls were not repaired, but rather new concrete structures were placed on top – and a series of absolutely massive memorial installations were erected throughout the grounds.
The Hero Fortress was opened in 1971, and today it features a museum as well as training barracks for the young military conscripts who guard the eternal flame, come rain or shine (or on this occasion, in as much as four feet of snow).
Soviet Monuments in Belarus: Coming Soon
This gallery is just a teaser for a longer article I plan to write about the Soviet Monuments of Belarus. I have more pictures to share, but as well as that I’m going to try and put into words the experience of visiting these giant structures in the midst of a freezing Belarusian winter. Watch this space.
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