The Great Patriotic War Museum is one of the biggest and most important museums in the world dedicated to the war, along with war museums in Kiev, New Orleans, and Moscow.
The museum tells the story of the bloody and the most horrible war of the 20th century. During the Second World War, every third resident of Belarus perished. There were 250 death camps on the territory of Belarus, including the ill-famed Trostinets extermination camp. It was one of the biggest death camps, among Auschwitz, Treblinka and Majdanek.
History of the Belarusian Great Patriotic War Museum
It may be hard to believe but the museum was opened during the war. Its collection was founded in June 1942, at the time when no one could foresee when it would end. Documents and items were sent directly from the military fronts to a special commission which resided in Moscow at that moment.
It was opened for visiting on October 22, 1944 in one of the few undamaged buildings. In 1966 the museum moved to another building on Kastrychnickaja Square. In 1977 an open-air exhibition of military weapons appeared nearby.
Minsk Great Patriotic War Museum Moved to a New Building
With new investigations and excavations the collection of exhibits was gradually growing, even now it is renewed with 700-800 items annually. The museum needed more space and more recent technologies, so in 2014 it moved to a new building on praspiekt Pieramožcaŭ 8.
Why the Museum Is Worth Visiting
It is full of symbols. The composition consists of four sections corresponding to the number of years the war lasted and the number of the military fronts in Belarus.
The main facade reminds of celebratory fireworks: 11 gleaming steel rays symbolize 1,100 tragic days of Minsk occupation and the great victory. The metallic shine symbolizes the war while the golden shimmer symbolizes the victory. A 45-meter long Minsk Hero City stela is located near the war museum. There’s also a big fountain next to it. Its 170 nozzles symbolize the 170 Belarusian towns that were liberated from the enemy occupation.
The museum occupies the area of 3,000 square meters and contains more than 8,000 exhibits displaying the times of the Great Patriotic War. There are around 145,000 antiques that were collected during the war, and some were presented by embassies of foreign states. The collection is divided into 28 sections that are displayed in 10 halls.
Collections you may find most interesting are the following:
- operation reports, orders, diaries, and other documents;
- military caricatures, sketches, mini posters and paintings;
- flags of military and guerilla units;
- military uniform and civil clothing of various countries;
- personal possessions of Belarusians;
- military equipment and weapons;
- small-arms fire and artillery.
The museum’s design perfectly combines monumentalism and advanced technologies: multimedia technologies, holographic 3D installations, and a lot more.
The halls are equipped with electronic desks where you can look through military documents: correspondence of marshals, German High Command’s orders, manuscripts, lists of prisoners of death camps as well as lists enumerating burned villages.
You can see newsreel footage and photos of those times on big LCD screens.
The Hall of Victory designed in the form of a glass dome of the German Reichstag over which Soviet soldiers hoisted the victory flag in 1945.
These days, the Belarusian flag is fluttering over the museum, and inside the dome is embellished with stained glass windows with a picture of a white stork, one of the national symbols of Belarus.
Excursions to the Museum
The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5.30pm.
The museum provides personal consultations, access to the archive and even simulation shooting! Visitors can make use of audio guides in foreign languages.
Want to dive deeper into the history of the Second World War? Book our tour across Minsk and learn more about Belarus during the war, discover new facts and see valuable antiques firsthand. To learn more about Belarusian history go on one of our history tours!