[b]A museum quarter is soon to appear in Minsk. Similar complexes already operate in the largest European cultural centres: Moscow, Amsterdam and Vienna. The Belarusian ‘museum corner’ is to be completed by 2017, established by the National Art Museum and occupying Kirov, Lenin and Marx streets [/b]Initially, a depositary and a restoration centre are to be built. The major building of the Art Museum (at 20 Lenin Street) will be connected with its administrative block (at 22 Lenin Street) via a courtyard of sculptures. An attic floor will appear above the major part of the museum, exhibiting modern Belarusian art. Additionally, the 24 Marx Street building is to be restored; this former hostel will host folk crafts, a cafй and souvenir shops.
Initially, a depositary and a restoration centre are to be built. The major building of the Art Museum (at 20 Lenin Street) will be connected with its administrative block (at 22 Lenin Street) via a courtyard of sculptures. An attic floor will appear above the major part of the museum, exhibiting modern Belarusian art. Additionally, the 24 Marx Street building is to be restored; this former hostel will host folk crafts, a cafй and souvenir shops.
At present, the National Art Museum occupies three buildings. In 2006, a new gallery was launched, after 15 years of construction; this partially solved its need for more space for storage and display but the museum continues to require additional premises. It keeps 20 unique collections but can only exhibit a fraction of these treasures. “We can’t show such unique exhibits as our collection of plaster castings created in the 1960-1970s, donated by Belarus-born Nadia Lйger, of France. A collection of Belarus’ decorative-and-applied arts also remains in storage, alongside the 19th-20th century Russian graphical pictures and icons,” admits the museum’s Director, Vladimir Prokoptsov, with sorrow.
The Belarusian State Great Patriotic War Museum is to move to its new building in Minsk on May 9th, 2014 — now being constructed on a hill near the Minsk — Hero-City Monument and Pobediteley Square. It is to be decorated with a fountain containing 170 jets, representing the 170 towns and villages liberated from the Nazis in Belarus during the war years. Water will cascade down the hill’s slope. Pobedy Park is to undergo reconstruction as well.
Construction work began in April 2010; even Sundays saw builders at work. The major block and the dome are to be finished this year, with heating systems installed before New Year. In 2012, decoration work is to begin. From an architectural point of view, the building is unusual, having an irregular configuration of walls and curvilinear partitions. It symbolises the grandeur of Victory, as well as the power and strength of the army and people, taking the form of ‘an architectural salute’. Its rays will feature sculptural bas-reliefs bearing the names of Soviet Union heroes while a laser show will extend these architectural rays by night, visible from every part of the city.
“3D technologies are to be used in the new building,” explains the Belarusian State Great Patriotic War Museum’s Director, Sergey Azaronok. “Visitors will be able to take a virtual tour of other museums with a similar theme; we’re certain it’ll be of interest. We’ll also have a space exhibition, visible from a gallery above. The path of war (or road to Victory to be more exact) is being laid out, travelling up through the building to the first floor, and ending in the dome’s Victory Hall. Visitors will see the entire exhibition by following this path: from the earliest military action to the final Victory. The Victory Hall resembles the dome of Berlin’s Reichstag, symbolically, with a Belarusian flag flying on top. Belarusians helped storm Berlin and the Reichstag; it was the crown of the war, leading towards the fall. The museum is unique, with no others similar existing or even planned in those countries which fought against fascism.”
Unique Artis Magnae Artilleriae (The Great Art of Artillery), by prominent Belarusian engineer Kazimir Semenovich, has been donated to the National History Museum of Belarus. “The 1730 tract, printed in Frankfurt am Main (Germany), has been presented by an anonymous benefactor who acquired it from an antiquarian book shop in Vienna, with the assistance of Belarusian residents living there,” says Yuri Lavrik, a leading research officer from the museum.
The first part of the edition was written by Kazimir Semenovich himself, while the second was prepared by German artillerist and Captain Daniel Elrich, from records and notes left by the famous Belarusian engineer. The book is decorated with several engravings, made by the German author from Mr. Semenovich’s drawings.
“This tract sums up the results of engineering investigations from the 17th century. Moreover, it includes data on Kazimir Semenovich’s own discoveries, as well as on his knowledge and experience of engineering. It is the first of its kind,” notes Mr. Lavrik. “After the book was first released, it acquired great popularity. Later, it was re-published many times — in French, German, English and other languages all over the world.”
The first edition of The Great Art of Artillery appeared in Amsterdam in 1650, where Mr. Semenovich substantiated and described in drawings and calculations the idea of a multi-stage rocket. This was the prototype of our contemporary rocket, which launches satellites and space aircraft into orbit today. Mr. Semenovich also invented a delta wing, without which it’s impossible to imagine a contemporary supersonic fighter.
The Belarusian was among the first to develop ‘smart weapons’, with a separate section of the tract describing a universal optic-mechanical target and guidance system for weaponry and rockets. Additionally, Mr. Semenovich invented a volley fire rocket system — as used for the famous ‘Katyusha’ missile launcher in WWII.
Remarkably, Newton, Peter I and Napoleon studied Mr. Semenovich’s book, as well as Konstantin Tsiolkovsky — the founding father of Russian cosmonautics. The Director of the National History Museum, Sergey Vecher, hopes his museum will gain artefacts not only from the West. “The restitution of cultural treasures from Russia to Belarus is among the most important avenues of our work,” he says.
One of Minsk’s newest museums has opened at the KGB’s Military Counterintelligence building, which now houses a historical-demonstrational room. The collection began in 2005, featuring photos, documents and other materials on the history of military counterintelligence. Some information has been given by former counterintelligence agents. A unique device transferring Morse code is among the treasures, dating back to 1943, alongside weaponry and accoutrements, old and new. A fire extinguisher is featured. It contained a secret compartment for a flash card, threatening the security of both Belarus and Russia. Luckily, the spy was detected and the flash card removed.
Minsk’s museums are rich in many unexpected exhibits, revealing our past and helping us understand the present.
By Viktor Andreev