Pr Nezalezhnastsi

Minsk

The capital's main thoroughfare impresses with its sheer size. Formerly pr Francyska Skaryny, it runs from what travel writer Colin Thubron dubbed the 'ferroconcrete tundra' of outer Minsk to the modern (read: Soviet) city centre, terminating just northeast of the train station at the stubbornly austere and expansive pl Nezalezhnastsi. The avenue is the world's premier embodiment of the post-WWII Stalinist Empire style, marked by expansive squares, utopian parks and palatial architectural gems like the Central Post Office.

At pl Nezalezhnastsi you can't miss the imposing Belarusian Government Building, fronted by a Lenin Statue. It is one of several fine examples of pre-WWII constructivist architecture in Minsk. Next to it is the 1910 red-brick Church of Sts Simon & Helena, with its tall, gabled bell tower. Heading northeast, you'll pass the iconic, Stalinist Minsk Hotel and then come to the ominous KGB headquarters between vul Haradsky Val and vul Kamsamolskaya. Roughly opposite the KGB building is a long narrow park with a bust of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Cheka (the KGB's predecessor) and a native of Belarus.

A couple blocks further northeast is sweeping Kastrychnitskaya pl, and opposite this is Tsentralny skver, a leafy park on the site of a 19th-century marketplace. The dark-grey building to the northeast of Tsentralny sq is Dom Ofitserov (Officer's Building), which has a tank memorial at the front, devoted to the soldiers who freed Minsk from the Nazis. Southeast of the square, along vul Karla Marksa, is the seemingly lifeless, seriously guarded presidential residence.

As pr Nezalezhnastsi crosses the Svislach River, it passes two of the city's main parks: Park Yanki Kupaly on the southwestern bank opposite the circus and the larger Gorky Central Children's Park, where there's a section with rides, attractions and fast-food kiosks. Just across the bridge, in a green wooden house by the banks of the river, is the House Museum of the First Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Workers' Party, where the Russian Social-Democratic Workers Party – Russia's original Marxist party – held its illegal founding congress in 1898. Diagonally opposite the museum is the former residence of Lee Harvey Oswald.

Just 100m northeast of here, pl Peramohi (ploshchad Pobedy in Russian) is marked by a giant Victory Obelisk and its eternal flame, which is directly beneath the obelisk underground. Further north is pl Jakuba Kolasa, another expansive square, this one softened by pleasant parkland and a sitting area near the elephantine monument to the Belarusian writer. A few metro stops northeast of there the National Library of Belarus, a ghastly piece of Lukashenko-approved hubris in the shape of a giant rhombicuboctahedron (look it up!).