Wandering Camera

Belarus: Minsk. Part II
(Translated by Grif)

 

A bit of statistics: the population of Belarus is 10 million, Minsk - 1.7 million.
The country has borders with Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, and Poland.

 

Park on the city's outskirts. 1970-80s. The small river, which goes through the city, is called Svisloch. On the photo is its tributary (I think).

The general impression from the city's layout is that it's not random (here I'm comparing with Russia again). Of course, to form a better judgment one should look back up to 5 years, but at least today it seems that they don't replace public parks and green areas with buildings.

First, there are lots of Internet cafes, Internet-clubs, Internet-centers. Second and more important for me, very many organizations and enterprises -- both state-owned and private -- have their websites.

I guess there is a directive to do it, and it's been implemented. The URLs are visible on office stationary everywhere, and on the front pages of newspapers and magazines.

You can find the links to the major governmental agencies on the presidential website.

Along with the Stalin Empire buildings in the center, and modern construction everywhere in the city, there are numerous areas with really old rustic houses. It is the same way as in Voronezh.

Its rather peculiar feeling when huts line up on one side of a street, and contemporary buildings are on another.

Churches are built, but not in such huge numbers as in Russia.

 
New high-rise areas are done in multiple colors, and this certainly brings variety to the new developments.
Museum of rocks.

Quite often on the stores, restaurants, etc. there is a sign Here you can call police in an emergency. But at the same time the crossbars on the storefronts are almost totally absent in Minsk.

And yes, major credit cards are accepted at many locations.

Price list of the street fast-food vendor.

Prices are in Belarusian roubles. Today exchange rate is $1 USD=2156 roubles. Two denominations happened in 1994 and 2000, but the current USD rate level is holding on almost 2 years now.

I would say they have many forms of property ownership. Maybe we have few of them, too, but in our everyday life they are not very visible. And as far as I know it's very easy to shut down a private enterprise in Belarus, in case it had broken some official regulation.

I guess labor laws are working here, which is opposite to my own country.

It could be noticed by the small number of round-the-clock shops, by the customary way when most places are closed on weekends/holidays, or at least have shorter hours. One can gather this assumption from the tame night life and empty streets late at night. In that regard it looks almost like Finland. Or even like USSR.

Construction of the National Library
These two snapshots are illustrating the way they mark buildings in massive housing developments.
First, street signs for drivers show exactly the way to a particular house. Second, these huge street numbers are visible from a distance up to 1km. Such measures were started 1-2 years ago.

Another worthy of note subject is recycling.

Here they want to follow Europe in sorting the citys waste. I cant be 100% sure if it is fully implemented, but you can see the separate recycling containers very often. And I saw with my own eyes at the Minsk periphery area as the regular man was sorting his garbage to plastic and something else. I was astonished because this type of culture is still our distant goal.

State company for press marketing. Reminds me the Soviet-era Soyuzpechat.

The assortment of goods in the stores is comparable to what we have here. At least its certainly true for food items.

There are quite enough restaurants and cafes. We visited caf Cubik at the corner of F.Skorina Prospekt and Volodarsky Street. And I would wholeheartedly recommend it now. By the way, the F.Skorina Prospekt will be soon renamed to Avenue of Independence. We heard this information on the radio, and then from the salesgirls at the pharmacy who were rather agitated by this news.

In case you prefer McDonalds, then they have a few, too.

This is another good example of using bright colors in the new construction. As a result the view is appealing even in a gloomy weather.

About a half of all city buses are brand new, produced by the local automobile company MAZ. Many buses have 2-3 illuminated displays with a route number and a direction, or a special info (e.g. Out of service).

It is remarkable that local radio regularly announces if extra buses are put on a particular route because of some public event.

I already told you that mass transit have short intervals between buses/trams/trolleys.

Beside those they use Russian-made vans Gazelle for the fixed-route city transportation.

As I was just told, the city transit works through the New Years night, and private routes must do the same if they dont want to lose their license.

There are 2 or 3 models of tram cars. One is old, but always freshly painted. Other is new, but not the same type as in St. Petersburg. Ive never seen those before.

As readers just informed me, these are Czech made. And you can also see some trams made in Minsk, too.

Signs No stopping here and Violators are towed often go together. Finding a parking space is not difficult. And all parking areas are kept neat. There are less cars here than in St. Petersburg, but still there are a lot. The domestic models are only the ones made in USSR. Perhaps after Belarus had separated from the USSR it doesnt make sense anymore to buy Lada or Volga from Russia and its better to buy European models. Especially since Belarus doesnt produce passenger cars, but borders Poland, Ukraine and Baltic states.

Interestingly enough, drivers allow pedestrians to cross road even if they walk on the red light. In turn the pedestrians would wait for green light to step from the sidewalk even if the road was empty.

But in regards to other traffic rules and drivers interaction on the road the picture is much less delightful, as our driver told us.

The cars with Russian plates are rare.

On the morning of May 9th (V-Day in Russia) there was the military parade on the central Minsk avenue.

We were lazy to wake up so early to go out and soak under the rain, so we watched it on TV, and partially from our hotel window: some airplanes and helicopters were flying by.

They started festivity with the same type of standard military parade we had in our Soviet time. Mobile anti-aircraft systems C-300, other, rolled by. Flyovers followed with fighters SU-27, MiG-29, IL-76 transport, and choppers.

Lukashenko was patiently standing in his jacket during this cool wet weather. And so the other state officials had to do just the same.

It was followed by the performances of different artistic groups, then by rather impressive weapon exercises done by presidential regiment.

It continued with various machines made in Belarus: trucks and buses by MAZ, various BELAZ cars, agricultural machinery.

It has to be said that when we switched the channel to Russian TV to watch V-Day on the Red Square: some troops marching, veterans of WWII been carried in period trucks. Then few military planes zoomed by (and it was rumored for months if there will be fly-by or not). What a difference it was!

Just a bit of night Minsk.

Many noticeable buildings are illuminated. But especially interesting is that even ordinary high-rises are lighted (of course not all of them, but just on the key intersections).

Masherova Prospekt.

On May 7 it was renamed to Victorys Prospekt (and some people in the drugstore were talking angry about that).

Labor-Union Hall is on the left. Hotel Planet is on the right, with the banner.


Lets summarize: even though Im not fond of idea of private property, but I have to admit that Belarus applied so much common sense to it, and certainly surpassed Russia a lot. And if Russia would coerce Belarus to unify, it will be very negative for this country.

From such perspective its not surprising at all to see how Lukashenko on one hand is supporting the unification with Russia, but from another hand periodically refuses to make any specific step toward it. Maybe he believes that if he waits enough, my country would change for the better. Oh well

With the next album we will finish our Belarus trip. It will be about Khatyn.

 

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