The life in the monument
About a hundred houses in the center of Minsk added to the State list of historical and cultural values of Belarus
As of now, there are about 5,5 thousand objects of historical and cultural patrimony in our country. This list has been added to considerably one of these days. A resolution of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus conferred the status on 131 objects at once, including nearly a hundred apartment buildings in the center of Minsk. From now on, their tenants have become owners of property in the monuments of architecture, which are taken care of and protected by the state. What are the specific features of these buildings of the postwar Soviet period and what new responsibilities has this decision imposed on the tenants? For answers to these and other questions the correspondent of our newspaper turned to the head of the department on historical-cultural heritage protection and restoration of the Belarusian Culture Ministry Igor Cherniavsky.
— Igor Mefodievich, the protection list has mainly been enlarged with buildings of the 1950s. What is their uniqueness and value?
— The value of an architectural monument is determined not by the time of its creation. It depends on the presence of certain decorative elements, indicative of design and construction quality level, including materials used, for each building. Speaking of the 1930—1950`s houses in the center of Minsk, which has just been given the status (situated in different parts of the city — on Zakharova, Byaduli, Komsomol, Moscow, Yakuba Kolasa, Krasnoarmeyskaya, Pervomayskaya and other streets), they are quite interesting and striking examples of the postwar urban building tradition, when Minsk was restored and raised from the ruins.
— The streets in question surround the central part of Nezavisimosti prospect. Only few people know that its architectural ensemble is included in the provisional list of UNESCO as a unique monument of urban development, which claims to be enrolled in the World Heritage List. Similar complex was supposedly designed, but never raised in London.
— Indeed, such information does exist. In the center of London, which also suffered from the Nazi aircraft bombing during the war, the project wasn’t implemented because of private ownership of land. We did not have such impediment, so a group of architects from Moscow, Leningrad and Belarus came up with an integrated project. Notably, it was made in a fairly short period of time. In 1947 a general planning scheme for Soviet street (the prospect’s name at the time) was developed and rejected as unsatisfactory. After that, member of the Academy of Architecture Mihail Parusnikov got involved in the process. By the way, he played a direct part in the development. One of his architectural projects is the National Bank building. In 1949 a new general scheme was approved, and in the course of about 10 years the prospect’s ensemble was built.
— Is there any chance for this architectural complex to get into the UNESCO World Heritage list?
— In 2004, the Republic of Belarus sent to the UNESCO World Heritage Center the proposals on the objects, which, from our point of view, were worthy of inclusion in the prestigious list of the best achievements of mankind. If you open the Belarus’ page on the UNESCO site, you can see the ensemble of Nezavisimosti prospect there. What’s coming next is in our hands. In accordance with the rules our specialists have to prepare a dossier on this object and send it to the UNESCO experts. Upon their positive decision, it can be included in the list. But there is one important nuance. The eligible object-applicant has to be not only special and unique and maintain the integrity of the author’s solution and implementation, which includes materials and elements of decoration. The character of historic environment has to be preserved as well. Any changes in the prospect and neighboring areas may cross it out of the list. By the way, this necessary historical environment must be supported by those buildings adjacent to the prospect, that are included in the state protection list.
In fact, I want to note that problems of preserving the historical monuments is our great trouble. This also applies to the World Heritage objects, and we have just few of them, namely four. It’s a pity but there are a lot of examples, when our historical heritage is spoiled by trade pavilions, unwisely located nearby, or by buildings, erected out of place, or by advertising boards, and so on. Of course, this is incompatible with the UNESCO status of a monument. The architectural appearance is self-sufficient, and should reflect the specifics of the period of its occurrence and development.
— Returning to the buildings newly included in the state list. What new responsibilities has this imposed on the tenants?
— First, if you plan a large-scale renovation with re-planning, you have to get the agreement from the Ministry of Culture. Second, if you intend to replace the joinery, a new woodwork must conform in style and color. I believe, these rules are not so difficult to adhere by. What for papering the walls, or tiling the floor, it can be done according to your wish, it is not forbidden.
— But I fear, the tenants would not go running for a permission, say, to change a window…
— You are wrong. The buildings in question are not the first in the capital and elsewhere, which have been entered into the state protection list.
There are buildings on Nezavisimosti prospect or Karla Marksa or Sverdlova streets, listed as the architectural monuments, in which people have lived and organizations worked for many years. A lot of people have applied for permits to perform works. By the way, in order to simplify the situation for people, the Ministry of Culture proposed that Minsk city Executive Committee work out a unified scheme for woodwork so that people wouldn’t need to run for every permission to the ministry.
— What if somebody already replaced the windows before the building got the status of a monument, thus becoming a violator against his will?
— We take to such situations tolerably. This is not a problem of the owner, but rather of the maintenance services and the Ministry of Culture.
— What happens if someone do not comply with the regulations?
— The Administrative Code takes action with the appropriate penalties. This is not the competence of the Ministry of Culture, but the administrative committees, operating in every District Executive Committee or Administration. On the basis of documents which are submitted by the Ministry of Culture or by the corresponding offices of the Minsk City Executive Committee, the commission makes a decision, which is based on the degree of damage or level of law violation. By the way, today the attention to the protection of heritage is manifested not only by the Ministry of Culture. The bodies of public prosecutor`s supervision make their inspections too.
— Should a tenant be proud or upset on knowing the fact that he lives in a monument of architecture?
— As for me, I would be proud if I lived in a building, marked as an architectural monument, kept in a good condition and admired by compatriots and visitors. It’s very important to convey to the people, that giving a building the status of architectural monument does not pose any problem before the tenants. Comfort does not depend on whether it is a monument or a regular building. Besides, I believe, these objects would get much more attention on the part of municipal services. Putting them into proper sanitary-technical state will make living conditions more comfortable. In general, the buildings of historical and cultural patrimony, in which people live, exist all around the globe. We look at them and admire when we go to the neighbouring countries. Why shouldn’t we do it at home as well? Why shouldn’t we present ourselves to the neighbours on the adequate cultural level, evidenced by our attitude to our unique architectural monuments?