Oktyabrskaya: Revolution Turning Industrial Street into Works of Art

It took Oktyabrskaya Street five years to turn from a “time machine” taking us back to the 20th century of photographers, filmmakers, and visionaries into a centre of cultural life in Minsk that had just got its own tourist map. 

It is not only pleasant but also important to talk about what has happened to Oktyabrskaya Street in the last five or six years. According to philosopher Olga Shparaga, the transformation of Oktyabrskaya Street is, in a sense, a model of positive change in the city, and we agree with her. The street, which evolves from the inside, “a state within a state”, a dream Minsk for many of us – you too have surely become part of its history somewhere between the NewTon restaurant and Vulica Brasil festivals. So let us recall how it all came about.


The next time you will visit Oktyabrskaya Street, do not forget that in the early part of the XX century, it was an industrial area on the outskirts of Minsk. And that the name Oktyabrskaya goes back to 1961: before that it was named after Voroshilov, and even earlier it had been called Nizhne-Lyakhovskaya and Lyakhovskaya. 

At the end of the 19th century, the Lyakhovki neighborhood was already considered an industrial estate (and what else could be expected with the railroad and river nearby?). MZOR, the Minsk machine-tool plant destined to become the main enterprise of the street now, was founded in 1908. At the time, it was a wooden warehouse with the proud name of Giant, where twelve people manufactured manual ridging ploughs. After a fire in 1921, a brick plant was built at the site of a wooden one, machines were brought from the Kolomna and Tula factories, more than 100 workers were hired – and the largest enterprise on the territory of Soviet Belarus was created. 

MZOR had its glory days: the plant received awards for drill sharpening machines, introduced the first automatic crankshaft balancing line in the USSR, etc. But today it has mostly lost its shine – and should have been moved to the territory of the bearing plant in 2015, which did not happen.

Let’s look to the other side: at the beginning of the 19th century, the odd-numbered buildings on Oktyabrskaya hosted tannery workshops of Messrs. Rubin, Salman, Goltberg, Den and Import. After the Communist Revolution, they were replaced by the Bolshevik tannery, the second largest enterprise on the street. In 1988, the authorities decided to move it to the village of Gatovo in Minsk Region: since then, leather for furniture, shoe uppers and linings have been produced there.

Aside from the yeast plant and Minsk Kristall JSC, it is, perhaps, the whole of Oktyabrskaya Street that we have in mind. By early 2010, the deserted street really gave the impression of a “time machine”: is there any wonder Oktyabrskaya Street did not even need any sets to pose as Moscow in the 50s in the film Stilyagi?

You are not the only ones who remember the charm of a quiet street between the plants, so the Minsk city executive committee repeatedly proposed to rebuild the street into something better. Here’s the Minskgrado Urban Development Office’s vision of the future of Oktyabrskaya Street as of May 2015.

There are, however, a lot more options for developing the former factory facilities than the plan suggests: There are hundreds of examples of old buildings across Europe managed by creative communities with support from the state,” says the Estonian expert on creative industries Ragnar Siil, expert of the EU Culture and Creativity programme. “Models can differ significantly. Some of them have been developed by the authorities (both local and national) and implemented by public institutions, others involve rent by the creative community, and others are based on public-private partnerships where private developers restore a building and the government provides them with annual aid. But some of these places are private (there are many such examples in Ukraine): the building is owned, developed and managed by a private company.”

There are some private buildings in Oktyabrskaya Street, but most facilities belong to the MZOR plant, and, hence, to the state.

The article was drawn up in cooperation with the EU-Eastern Partnership Culture and Creativity.

More information at http://citydog.by/post/kastrychnickaya-revaliucya/

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