Despite its rich history, Minsk is often called a young city. 86 per cent of Minsk’s houses were destroyed during World War II. After the war, the Communist government decided to build a totally new, utopian Soviet city on the ruins of the old one. The composition of Minsk’s population also changed significantly after the war. Before 1941, Jews accounted for 50% of Minsk population. More than 100.000 Jews, including those deported to Minsk from the Western Europe, died in the Minsk ghetto. Survivors tried to grab any opportunity to leave the Soviet Belarus for Israel or the United States. After the war, the population of Minsk grew thanks to the influx of villagers who came to rebuild the city and change its image. The migration of rural population to Minsk continues nowadays – the parents and grandparents of many Minskers were born outside the Belarusian capital. With many universities located in the city, Minsk attracts young crowds from all over Belarus and abroad. However, there's a downside to the youthful image of Minsk – the city lacks its own living history. For many, Minsk is just a comfortable place to live, as opposite to the lack of comfort in the countryside. At the same time, Minsk attracts creative minds and socially active youngsters from all over Belarus. This "fresh blood" has contributed to the creation of new Minsk urban communities that started out in1980s.
Photo: Siarhei Hudzilin
Another significant downside of the life in Minsk is that the population of the Belarusian capital, just like in many other post-Soviet cities, doesn't have much say in the development of the city. Instead of listening to the local population, the Minsk city authorities often choose to listen to big businesses, especially those coming from Russia. This approach results in the construction of endless office buildings and business centers. Minskers, in turn, are not very active in terms of expressing their dissent or fighting for their interests. Partly due to the Soviet heritage, partly due to 20 years of Belarusian political regime that doesn't encourage any independent thinking, many people choose to keep their heads low. If someone decides to organize a flash mob or any public gathering without a permit from the Minsk City Executive Committee, they can get fined or even arrested. In 2013, the organizer of a vintage bicycle rally was fined for breaking the law on mass gatherings. Still, there are some places where concerned citizens can discuss Minsk's present and future - for instance, Minsk urban platform or the events organized by the civic campaign Budzma.