Chasing Lenin – The Belarus Edition

Continuing on from my previous posts, Jessie The Wandering Kiwi and I continued to chase monuments to Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov aka Lenin (1870 – 1924) and other Soviet leader in Eastern Europe, along with those dedicated to the glory of the former Soviet Union. This time in Belarus.

The massive Lenin statue in front of the House of Government in Minsk was by far the most impressive monument in Belarus but we found plenty of surprises in our travels around this country. Belarus is in many ways, still in the Soviet past.

Minsk

Join the Belarus military - a recruiting billboard on the outskirts of Minsk - October 2017
Join the Belarus military – a recruiting billboard on the outskirts of Minsk – October 2017
A Soviet era socialist monument on a shopping centre in central Minsk - October 2017
A Soviet era socialist monument on a shopping centre in central Minsk – October 2017
Lenin Statue Minsk, Belarus out the front of the House of Government
Chasing Lenin on a wet day in Minsk, Belarus out the front of the House of Government – October 2017 – It is a big statue!
Minsk, Belarus out the front of the House of Government
Lenin the orator outside the House of Government in Minsk, Belarus – October 2017

There is a small flight of stairs at the back of the Lenin statue outside the House of Government in Minsk. They are enticing as they lead to a platform below the statue and offer a good photo opportunity but don’t even attempt to step on them! Within a millisecond you be blasted by a whistle from a nearby soldier who is watching your every move and be instructed to move away immediately! Sorry for suggesting you go up there Jessie!

Lenin the orator outside the House of Government in Minsk, Belarus
Workers and Bolsheviks beneath Lenin outside the House of Government in Minsk, Belarus – October 2017

Following the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953, the new Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev denounced him and embarked on a programme of de-Stalinisation which involved political reforms to remove the mechanisms that enabled Stalin to hold power for so long (he held office from 1922 until his death in 1953). In the wake of such reforms Stalin statues and monuments were toppled and removed around the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact nations. It seems Stalin has started to regain popularity in Belarus though, as we encountered some busts of him in museums in and around Minsk (they appear to be relatively new ones, as do those of Soviet General Georgy Zhukov).

Belarusian Great Patriotic War Museum in Minsk, Belarus by night
Belarusian Great Patriotic War Museum in Minsk, Belarus by night during my visit in October 2017
Georgy Zhukov (1896-1974) and Josef Stalin (1878-1953) busts at The Belarusian Great Patriotic War Museum in Minsk, Belarus
Soviet General Georgy Zhukov (1896-1974) and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (1878-1953) busts at The Belarusian Great Patriotic War Museum in Minsk, Belarus during my visit in October 2017 – During World War Two Soviet Army commander Zhukov participated in multiple battles on the Eastern Front, ultimately leading the 1st Belorussian Front in the Battle of Berlin in 1945
Heroes of the Soviet Union - Belarusian Great Patriotic War Museum in Minsk, Belarus
Heroes of the Soviet Union – Belarusian Great Patriotic War Museum in Minsk, Belarus – October 2017
Minsk Belarus Hero City World War Two Victory Column
Minsk in Belarus was declared a Hero City of World War Two in 1974 – The Victory Column is 40 metres high and topped with a bronze Order of Lenin. In front stands an eternal flame – October 2017
Minsk Belarus Hero City World War Two Victory Column
The Minsk Hero City World War Two Victory Column has four bronze reliefs around the base – Clockwise from the top image: “May 9, 1945” depicting victory (note Lenin on the flag), “The Soviet Army in World War II”, “Glory to the perished heroes” depicting people grieving over the grave of a Soviet Hero and “Belarusian partisans” – October 2017.
Minsk Hero City Monument Belarus
To get to the Hero City monument in Minsk you walk through a passageway that features an illuminated coloured glass wreath. On the nearby wall plaques are the names of 566 Soviet soldiers – October 2017.
Murals on the side of these apartment buildings on the outskirts of Minsk, Belarus include a Soviet era Cosmonaut
Murals on the side of these apartment buildings on the outskirts of Minsk, Belarus include a Soviet era Cosmonaut – Photos taken from a bus as I was passing by in October 2017
Lee Harvey Oswald Minsk Apartment 1959-1962
Lee Harvey Oswald (October 18th, 1939 – November 24th, 1963) was a pretty much unknown former U.S. Marine who lives on in infamy in the pages of history due to his involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22nd, 1963. After he left the Marines he defected to the Soviet Union in October 1959 (for what ever reason?). The Soviets set him up to live in this apartment building at No. 4 Communist Street in Minsk, Belarus until June 1962 when he returned to the United States with Marina, his Russian-born wife, and eventually moved to Dallas, Texas and shocked the world! Apartment photos taken in October 2017.
A Soviet era tile mural on a building in central Minsk, Belarus - October 2017
A Soviet era tile mural on a building in central Minsk, Belarus – October 2017
The Soviet past in Minsk - 1944 Liberation Memorial (T-34/85 Tank), Karl Marx street sign, WW2 Partisan Youth Memorial and Soviet architecture
The Soviet past in Minsk – 1944 Liberation Memorial (T-34/85 Tank), Karl Marx street sign, WW2 Partisan Youth Memorial and Soviet architecture – October 2017

The Stalin Line

The Stalin Line was a 1,000 km series of fortifications established in the 1920’s and 1930’s to protect the border of the Soviet Union from a western attack. Today, 30km from Minsk you can go to The Stalin Line Museum that incorporates part of these original fortifications which included bunkers and gun emplacements. There are some interesting statues there dedicated to Soviet leaders including namesake Joseph Stalin of course!

The Stalin Line Museum outside of Minsk, Belarus - October 2017
The Stalin Line Museum outside of Minsk, Belarus – October 2017
Josef Stalin monument and a hidden away giant Lenin head at The Stalin Line Museum
Joseph Stalin monument and a hidden away giant Lenin head(!) at The Stalin Line Museum (on part of an old 1,000km defensive line built prior to World War Two) about 30km outside of Minsk, Belarus – October 2017
The massive Lenin head statue we found out in a backlot of The Stalin Line museum in Belarus
The massive Lenin head statue we found out in a backlot of The Stalin Line museum in Belarus – October 2017
The Stalin Line Museum outside of Minsk, Belarus - October 2017. The Stalin Line was a series of fortifications spanning 1,000km that were built in the 1920's and 1930's and intended to defend the Soviet Union
The Stalin Line Museum outside of Minsk, Belarus – October 2017. The Stalin Line was a series of fortifications spanning 1,000km that were built in the 1920’s and 1930’s and intended to defend the Soviet Union
Soviet General Georgy Zhukov (1896-1974) at The Stalin Line Museum, Belarus
Soviet General Georgy Zhukov (1896-1974) at The Stalin Line Museum, Belarus – October 2017

Nesvizh

The main reason for visiting Nesvizh is to see the UNESCO World Heritage listed Nesvizh Castle that dates back to the 16th Century (stunning colours in Autumn) but take a walk around the town too. You will soon come across “Silver Lenin” in the middle of town. He stands in a typical pointing pose.

The 16th Century UNESCO Heritage Listed Nesvizh Castle in Belarus
The 16th Century UNESCO Heritage Listed Nesvizh Castle in Belarus – October 2017
Nesvizh Castle Great Patriotic War Memorial Belarus
Nesvizh Castle Great Patriotic War Memorial – October 2017
The "Silver Lenin" in Nesvizh, Belarus
The “Silver Lenin” in Nesvizh, Belarus – October 2017
Volga GAZ-24 1970-1985
A Volga GAZ-24 in Nesvizh, Belarus in October 2017- Soviet motoring from 1970-1985

Belarus – Brest

In the city of Brest in eastern Belarus you will find a statue of Lenin elevated and in a typical pointing pose but the biggest surprise can be found in the Brest Railway Museum. Amongst glorious Soviet era steam engine locomotives from the golden age of rail, you will find the “Lenin Train”, a big green locomotive from 1948 with an image of Lenin within a Soviet star at the front!

The Lenin statue in Brest, Belarus
The Lenin statue in Brest, Belarus – October 2017
Lenin Statue Brest Belarus
For a few years Lenin had the Soviet Union in the palm of his hands…
Brest, Belarus – October 2017
The "Lenin Train" 1948 steam locomotive at the Brest Railway Museum in Belarus
The “Lenin Train” 1948 steam locomotive at the Brest Railway Museum in Belarus – October 2017

Despite the potential oppressive and totalitarian overtones these monuments can represent, they are a part of history and there is a level of craftsmanship and artisan flair that can still be appreciated within them. This is especially our angle of interest. A quirky but interesting journey can be made tracking them down and even locating where they once stood!

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