Hrodna is one of the most ancient towns in Belarus. Almost 1000 years of accumulating of historical cultural heritage is a unique example of urban culture in Europe, which was shaped on the crossroads of West European, Byzantine cultural influences and traditions of local art.

5 ancient churches of 12th century with their peculiar features were original architectural monuments and today are the evidence of coming-into-be of local school in architecture, these architectural monuments combined elements of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture in their style. Numerous monuments of Classicism, Modernist, neo-Gothic, Constructivism and neo-Baroque architecture are the evidence of Hrodna diverse cultural heritage. The historical cultural heritage of Hrodna includes more than 400 monuments of between 12th and 20th centuries.

The conditions of preservation and safety of historical heritage in Hrodna is getting worse each year. Town authorities do not have any comprehensive program of revival of historical centre which is the result of misunderstanding of the role of historical centre, necessity to preserve it and their attitude to it as simple balast.

During last 2 years a crisis situation has developed endangering the preservation of historical centre of the town as a unique historical-cultural ensamble.

The main reasons of today’s crisis are large scale excavations and house and road building in the historical centre, initiated by town (Aliaksandr Antonenka-head of town executive council) and regional (Uladzimir Sauchanka- head of regional executive council) authorities of Hrodna voblasc’. These excavations and building are allegedly aimed at solving of town’s transportation system problems. This was hypocritically called “reconstruction”. But today there are reasons to say that so-called reconstruction has turned into systematic ruining of historical centre.

Firstly, excavations and road building are accompanied by serious violation of Belarusian legislation on prservation of cultural heritage and archeological culture and avoidance of principals of restoration.

One of the outcomes of the so-called “reconstruction” became systematic demolition of the buildings belonging to historical heritage of the town. In 2005-2006 more than 20 architectural monuments of 19th and early 20th centuries were demolished including one monument of Constructivist style, historical town planning of the Savieckaja Sq. (Old Market) was disrupted, archeological layers of 14th-17th centuries were destroyed.

Secondly, regardless of the General Plan of Development of the Town of 2003 which envisage moving the traffic away from historical centre and making of a pedestrian zone, town authorities built four-lane road through the town’s heart, its historical centre. This meant complete or partial destruction of archeological layers, numerous bases of 16th –18th century brick buildings. Archelogical excavations began only when Ministry of Culture intevened and included only a small part of territory under “reconstruction”. The base of Radzivily Palace were saved only because of brave youth who shielded the base by their bodies.

Thirdly, town authorities plan to build a detour road through…town’s historical centre. The road will be built along the old Jewish cemetry of 16th century, near Old Sinagogue, Royal Castle and New Royal Palace, the place of the last sojm of Reczpospolita, and 18th century former Vasilian Monastery. The outcomes of such a rearrangement of traffic in town are easy to forsee: the degradation of historical castle ensemble and destruction of historical landscape.

Fourthly, all the alternative projects of solving of transportation problem proposed by town public opinion envisage the removal of town traffic away from historical centre are not taken into consideration by the authorities. The attempts to begin dialogue with the aim of working out an optimal solution of transportation problem and preservation of the unique historical ensemble of Hrodna between representatives of town intelligentsia and the authorities were responded by harrasment of militia detachments, administrative pressure and campaign in official press to discredit alternative projects and opinions.

Fifthly, this year authorities plan to “reconstruct“ Kalozha (Barys and Hleb) 12th century church. Public opinion of the town is deeply concerned with these plans. Considering the horrible outcomes of the “reconstruction” we may say that this unique monument of medieval architecture is in great danger.

We propose to have wide public discussion of all projects of “reconstruction”, which will involve independent experts, including those from European countries which have a wealth of experience in preservation of historical heritage.

According to obligations adopted by Belarus concerning the preservation of historical cultural heritage as an integral part of common European heritage, in particular ensembles of historical buildings, and taking into consideration the large extent to which architectural monuments of Hrodna were preserved and relative integrity of its town-planning structure, we appeal to European public opinion with the request to help to preserve historical cultural ensemble of ancient town.

Jury Gardziieu
Alies’ Smalianchuk

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