Крыж прападобнай Еўфрасінні, ігуменні Полацкай. Фота В. Талочкі. БЕЛТА
Cross of St. Euphrosyne, Abbess of Polotsk. Photo by V. Tolochko. BELTA
Каложская царква. Фота Л. Шчаглова. БЕЛТА
Kolozhskaya church. Photo by L. Scheglov. BELTA
Купалле ў Ракаве. Фота О. Манчук. БЕЛТА
Kupal'ye in Rakov. Photo by O. Manchuk. BELTA
Уручэнне прэміі "За духоўнае адраджэнне". Фота Н. Пятрова. БЕЛТА
Presentation of the prize "For spiritual rebirth." Photo by N. Petrov. BELTA
Мірскі замак. Фота В. Талочкі. БЕЛТА
Mir Castle. Photo by V. Tolochko. BELTA
Слуцкія паясы ў музеі М. Багдановіча. Мінск. Фота Г. Жинкова. БЕЛТА
Slutsk belts in the museum of M. Bogdanovich. Minsk. Photo by G. Zhinkov. BELTA
Belarus is located on the border of Eastern and Western Europe, at the junction of cultural areas. In terms of nature and geography, the northern and southern parts of Belarus differ in their relief structure, water systems, and vegetation. This aspects affected the architecture specifics, because it depends on the climatic conditions and local building materials.
In the early Middle Ages cities were built along the banks of rivers, the most important trade routes. In the geographical sources of that time, the region was called Gardorik, "the country of cities". The most ancient cities of Belarus Polotsk and Vitebsk are located on the banks of the Western Dvina. After the adoption of Christianity in accordance with the Byzantine model, the first Orthodox cross-domed Saint Sophia Cathedral was built in Polotsk, the center of the largest apanage principality of the Belarusian lands in the 10th century, initiating Belarusian monumental architecture. St. Sophia Cathedral, built in the 11th century, were rebuilt in the style of Vilna (Late Belarusian) Baroque. Fragments of masonry, almost complete ancient foundation, parts of pillars and walls, as well as amazing frescoes of the 2nd half of the 11th century are preserved till this day. Today the cathedral amazes with its beauty and grandeur.
The first Eastern Slavic architect known from the annals, the monk John, originally from Polotsk, erected there in the XII century a small Transfiguration Cathedral of the Saint Eufrosyne Monastery, which was an outstanding achievement of the local school of architecture. The second regional school of architecture of the Old Russian period, established in the Western Belarusian lands, is represented by the magnificent St. Boris and St. Gleb (Kalozhskaya) Orthodox Church in Grodno decorated with multicolored granite-gneiss boulders and majolica tiles.
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was formed in the 13th century under the threat of a Tatar-Mongol invasion and expansion of the Teutonic Knight Order. A period of defensive architecture has begun. The main type of monumental construction were castles with thick walls and towers erected from boulders and large brick, surrounded by walls and moats. The Kamenets tower-donjon (13th century), Lida and Krevo (14th century), Mir, Nesvizh, Grodno (16th century) castles have been saved to this day. The first Catholic religious buildings have had the artistic features of the Central European brick Gothic. At that time the numerous Orthodox churches turned into small fortresses flanked by fighting towers at the corners.
The church-fortress in Synkovichi, Maly Mozheikovo (16th century) has been preserved. The economic and cultural revival of Belarusian cities began in the 16th century, which was facilitated by the general reform movement. Of the many Protestant trends in the architecture of Belarus, Calvinism, which adherents were the largest magnates, left an imprint. At their expense, a lot of Calvin "churches" were built, combining the cult specifics of Protestantism and the aesthetics of the northern Renaissance.
The reformation movement in Europe provoked a backlash from the Catholic Church, the counter-reformation, which was primarily carried out by the Jesuit Order. One of the means of persuading the superiority of Catholicism over ascetic Protestantism was the lush sacred art. At this time, there was a new architectural and artistic style of Baroque, which dominated the world for two centuries. So it was in Belarus, in 1569, which became part of the Commonwealth.
The Jesuit Catholic Church (Farny) of the Body of God in Nesvizh, the center of the possessions of the princes Radzivils, became the first piece of Baroque architecture in Belarus. The construction of the temple was the beginning of the emergence of the original architecture of the Belarusian Baroque. In this style, a Jesuit church in Grodno (17th century), a Carmelite church in Glubokoe (17th – 18th centuries) and others were built.
In 15th – 17th centuries in Belarus the numerous orders monastic ensembles, that were about 20 ones in Belarus, have become the basis of the monumental architecture and town planning. Silhouettes of baroque churches were decorated with panoramas of cities and towns and enchased with openwork towers. The second most important role was played by secular monumental buildings – the town hall and the residence of the magnates, created in common with the churches baroque style. The Uniate and Orthodox churches were built mostly of wood, embodying the best traditions of folk carpentry.
After joining in the 18th century of the Belarusian lands to Russia architecture and urban planning were embraced with the laws of classicism.
The development of industrial production led to a slow expansion of the range of architectural structures, the construction of public buildings, banks, theaters, train stations, educational institutions, multi-storey domestic buildings, which artistic image in the 19th century have had eclecticism elements. From the beginning of the 20th century architecture has been influenced by modernism, constructivism (the building of the State Library of the BSSR named after Vladimir Lenin, the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater, the Government House in Minsk). The creation of an artistic expressive ensemble of Leninsky Prospekt (now Prospekt Nezavisimosti) in the center of Minsk in 1945-1954, which was almost completely destroyed in 1941–1944, can be considered the highest achievement of the architecture of the Soviet period. The artistic merit of the architectural ensemble of the central part of the avenue has made it a historical and cultural value of world importance.
After the Great Patriotic War, they have made major efforts to restore destroyed cities and villages and to build new ones (Svetlogorsk, Soligorsk, Novopolotsk, Novolukoml etc.).
Modern architecture of Belarus of the end of the 20th – 21st centuries distinguished by the use of new technologies and forms, new interpretations of architectural and artistic styles (Railway Station in Minsk, the creators of which were awarded the State Prize of the Republic of Belarus in 2005, the Palace of the Republic, the National Library of Belarus, Minsk-Arena, Belarusian State Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War etc.). At the turn of the 20th – 21st centuries a significant number of religious buildings were erected in the republic.
There are 1,759 architectural monuments included in the State List of Historical and Cultural Values of the Republic of Belarus (according to 2014). Their protection is a priority of the cultural policy of Belarus. Extensive work on restoration and reconstruction is being carried out within the framework of the state programs "Culture of Belarus" for 2016–2020, "Castles of Belarus" for 2012–2018. The last decade is characterized by a general improvement of stone sacral architecture monuments, due to the activities of religious communities in particular.
It should be noted two objects in Belarus are included by UNESCO in the World Cultural Heritage List: the Nesvizh Castle palace and park complex and the Mir castle complex. At the present time dossiers are being prepared for the Savior Transfiguration Church in Polotsk, the Avgustow Canal, St. Boris and St. Gleb (Kalozhskaya) Orthodox Church Grodno, religious buildings of defensive type in the villages of Synkovichi (Zelvensky district of the Grodno region), Maloe Mozheikovo (Schuchin district of theGrodno region), Kamai (Postavy district of the Vitebsk region).