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30 Nov 2012

The Garden of Stones in Minsk

Minsk sightseeings

There is one place on the outskirts of Minsk that is not very famous even among Minsk residents but it is definitely a must-see. This place is the Museum of Boulders in the Uruchie district. More than 2 thousand boulders were brought to one place in the mid-1980s and now it is one of two museums of such kind in Europe. Lithuania has a similar “stone garden” but it is twice smaller and doesn’t have a systematic approach. So one can even say that Minsk Boulders Museum is unique. It is also an unusual park recreation area.

So what is the story of this place? Millions of years ago thousands of boulders were brought to the Belarusian lands by glaciers. For many centuries people considered those huge stones sacred and worshiped them. Various inscriptions and drawings labeled such stones and the meanings of many of those signs are still a mystery to the scientists. The ancient Slavs believed that spirits lived in the boulders and to make them help a person an offering had to be made. For example one of the granite boulders in the museum is called “Dzed” (which means “grandfather” in Belarusian). It used to be a part of an ancient pagan temple in Minsk which was located on the Svisloch river bank. The legend says that Treefolk, a spirit of woods, once dropped this boulder and it sank into the ground and immediately a large oak grew next to it and a spring with healing water started to flow below it. Even in 2nd half of the 19th century plenty on Minsk tenants participated in the cult of the boulder. At the beginning of the 20th century the pagan temple around the boulder was destroyed but “Dzed” remained on its usual place until early 1980s when it was brought to the museum. Even nowadays people leave money and pastry under it.

In the 19th and 20th centuries many of boulders in Belarus were demolished. In some cases The Orthodox Church opposed the cult and spoke for their explosion. And in Soviet times the authorities actively destroyed them because the boulders hindered the agriculture.

The idea of creating an unusual museum was born in the mid-1970s in the Belarusian Academy of Sciences. Most of the boulders were brought to the museum in 1981. Works on the creation of the exposition continued until 1985.

The central part of the exposition in the stone map of Belarus where the boulders symbolize the largest settlements and the paths are main roadways. The boulders for the map are on those places where they were taken from.

Another part of the exposition is called “Stone and human”. It shows the boulders which were worshiped and boulders on which people left their marks. They have not only the natural but also the historical and cultural value. For example there is a large stone cross carved out of pink granite. It was found in the medieval cemetery in the woods of the Dokshitsy district, Vitebsk region. In the center of the cross is the image of a knight with a sword and a shield. Below him there is an inscription “RSB” which stands for “Rex Stefan Batory” (King Stefan Batory). The legend says that 450 years ago King of The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had a meal at this cross during the war campaign against The Grand Duchy of Moscow.            
There is also an alley of boulders which contains the largest ones. This alley connects the Uruchie district and the Research institutes of the Academy of Sciences.

To get to the Museum of Boulders on the public transport you should take Bus #27 or Trolleybus #41 from the subway station "Borisovsky tract" and get off at “Musej Valunov” (the 4th stop). The museum works day and night though visiting it in the daylight is more reasonable. 

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