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.
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!
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).
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 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.
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!
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!