The building of the choral synagogue in Minsk
Architecture, Industrial buildings
The history of Minsk choral synagogue throws back in the distant 1901. It was this time when its construction began and lasted 5 years. The initiator of the construction was a famous Minsk doctor - Joseph Luntz. The place for it was chosen close to a four-year Jewish school and the station on Serpukhov Street. Later in 1922 it was renamed into Volodarsky Street: in honor of the people's Commissar on Affairs of the press, propaganda and agitation.
In the early 20th century the Jewish community in Minsk was the fourth largest in the Russian Empire and was more than 40% of the population of the city, so the funds for the construction of the synagogue had not to be asked from the government. The entire required amount for the main synagogue of Minsk the community collected itself.
Right up to 1921, and it means that for two decades the choral synagogue had been the central in Minsk province.
In the appearance of its façade are clearly visible features of Budapest synagogue, designed in the Moresque style. At that time this style was at the height of the popularity. The building consisted of two parts: one part was a portal decorated with window openings and semi-circular arches, the other part was a ritual hall itself. The interior was colorful and richly decorated.
The façade of the synagogue was also decorated with “the eye of Aaron”. Aaron is a prophet, high priest, philosopher, brother of Moses. He played a major role together with his brother in the history of the Jewish people while leaving Egypt and wandering in the desert for forty years. However, in the Soviet time this decorative element was covered up with the Emblem of the BSSR.
The purpose of the synagogue was changed in 1921 – it became a Jewish theatre and in 1923 – a workers’ club. Then the club was reorganized into the House of culture, which was later leased to the company Belgoskino.
In the former synagogue was opened one of the largest cinemas of the country – the cinema “Culture”. It was equipped with the latest technologies, the hall accommodated 1200 people. Here was held a demonstration of the first Belarusian feature film “The forest story”. As the hall accommodated a large number of spectators and had excellent acoustics, from time to time it was used not only for watching movies. Here performed Vladimir Mayakovsky, Sergei Lemeshev and Leonid Utesov. Here was also adopted the document important for the development of our country - the first five-year development programme of the national economy and culture of the BSSR.
During the Great Patriotic war the choral synagogue was damaged by fire. During the subsequent reconstruction under the guidance of the architect M. Baklanov, it was so altered, that had almost nothing in common with the original appearance. The reconstruction did not change only the side facades of the synagogue.
In the renovated building of the synagogue was opened the Russian drama theatre named after Maxim Gorky that is now called the National Drama Theatre of the Republic of Belarus. On the walls of the former choral synagogue, and now the theater are set two memorial plaques: one of them is in memory of the Fourth all-Belarusian Congress of Soviets that was held here, the other one is in honor of Vladimir Mayakovsky.