Soviet Union Remembered in Minsk Belarus

Some place just seem to have an unfortunate history, and one of those is Belarus, a land locked country in Eastern Europe which was once an important state in the former Soviet Union.

Belarus is one of those places, which are reasonably common in Europe, in that it has been invaded, conquered and claimed many times during its history. At various times it has been part of Lithuania, Poland and Russia and it finally achieved independence after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1990.

The capital of Belarus is Minsk, which was mostly destroyed during World War II. Although the city has undergone substantial reconstruction, there are a number of historic buildings which still remain. Many of those buildings which were re-built in the first years following the war are built in a style called `Stalinist Architecture’, which is a sort of socialist realist style, for which the buildings may be monumental, but joyless and lacking character.

Just as Minsk was an important city in the Soviet Union, so it is the city’s Soviet heritage which makes it a fascinating city to visit for those who are interested in Cold War history.

The KGB were the feared secret police who looked after internal security and operated an international spy network. Today the KGB headquarters in Minsk, at Prospekt Nezavisimosty is still prominent as it is located in a prominent position on one of Minsk’s main shopping streets. Although an impressive building its conservative facade belies the terror that was carried out within the buildings walls and which, if rumours are correct, is still an issue today under the current regime.

The building is hard to miss with its immense Corinthian columns and grand entrance which give it the appearance of Greek temple more so than a house of torture and interrogation.

A trip into Soviet history is further enhanced by a visit to Vulitsa Kamunistychnaja 4 (No. 4 Communist Street) an apartment building where the bottom left apartment is of significance. This is where Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused of assassinating President John F Kennedy, used to live when he defected to the Soviet Union in 1959. Apparently, Oswald was not terribly happy in Minsk as he discovered that the city had no bowling alleys or nightclubs at that time. Nevertheless, his old apartment is now a tourist attraction and looks very similar to how it was when Oswald lived there.

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