Arrival in Minsk. You will be met by your private driver who will be waiting for you just outside of Customs, after you pick up your luggage. The cost of your flight is not included in your trip. Flight details are TBA. Transfer to your centrally located hotel.
While we often think of Minsk and Belarus as part of the Russian sphere of influence, it is truly more historically part of the Lithuanian and Polish world, culturally and historically. Minsk was part of Lithuania and in the 16th century, of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Annexed by Russia in the 18th century, Minsk became a provincial capital and, after the formation of the Soviet Union – the capital of the Belarusian Soviet Republic. Following the Nazi invasion in June 1941, Minsk was heavily bombed and occupied a few days later. Under Nazi control, half of Minsk’s population perished and the city became the site of one of the largest ghettos in Europe, believed to have housed some 100,000 Jews. In the final months of the Second World War, in the fights between the Nazi and the Soviet armies, the city was virtually reduced to rubble. After being recaptured by the Red Army, Minsk’s historic center was gradually rebuilt with Stalinist-style monumental public buildings, wide boulevards, and wide squares.
This afternoon, your guide and driver will meet you in the hotel lobby for an overview tour of the Belarusian capital city and its Soviet architecture. You will visit Independence Square, which some locals still call Lenin Square because of the former Soviet leader’s statue standing in the center after all these years. More than any other former Soviet Republic, Belarus has left almost all Soviet monuments intact which makes it rather unique; this is something you don’t even see in Russia today.
Not far away, you will later see the Red Roman Catholic Church. Actually, called the Church of St. Simeon and St. Helena, this beautiful house of worship was built in the early 1900s, only to be closed by the Soviet authorities a couple of decades later. It has been recently renovated and is again functioning as a religious center.
Continuing along Independence Avenue, you will see the former KGB building – a yellow Neo-classical structure with imposing colonnade. In the park across the street, one of the few remaining in the former Soviet Union busts of Felix Dzerzhinsky – the founder of the secret service which was the predecessor of the KGB, can still be seen. Dzerzhinsky was Belorussian Jewish, and he is respected to this day in the country.
Later you will venture farther north to visit Victory Square with its grey obelisk and the eternal flame honoring the heroes of World War II. Also here, you will see the recently rebuilt Minsk City Hall which again stands on the same spot it was erected back in the 16th century. Just steps away, St. Mary’s Cathedral was built in the