The Fossilized Soviet Architecture of Belarus

Photographer Stefano Perego recently documented the postwar Soviet legacy of Belarus’ architecture from the 1960s-80s.  The history of what is now the Republic of Belarus is a turbulent one. It has been part of the Russian Empire, occupied by the Germans during both World Wars, divided between Poland and the Soviet Union, and finally declared its independence in 1991. Although Belarus is now an independent nation, it is also an isolated dictatorship that has in some ways remained unchanged since the 1990s, and is largely seen both culturally and architecturally as a sort of time warp, Europe’s most vivid window into life in the Soviet Union.

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© Stefano Perego

As a result of heavy resistance to German invasion in WWII, much of the traditional Belarusian architecture, which included wooden houses, Baroque palaces and cathedrals, and Renaissance-inspired castles, was destroyed. In 1919 the city of Minsk was chosen by the USSR as the capital of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, and as such was the site of Soviet efforts to rebuild and modernize after the wars, along with other cities such as Kiev and Smolensk.

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© Stefano Perego

Under President Alaksandr Lukašenka, present-day Belarus has produced few architectural changes of note, further contributing to the image of Minsk as a Soviet-era fossil. Restoration of the colorful homes in Minsk’s Trinity Suburb is aimed at tourists (although the fact that they are surrounded by metal bars makes them difficult to enjoy), and the government is working on an application to UNESCO to preserve the city’s 20th century architecture, which speaks to its continued reverence of the Soviet style.

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© Stefano Perego

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