The City of the Gods

The construction of the hotel «Kempinski», Minsk, March 2013

The construction of the hotel «Kempinski», Minsk, March 2013

The construction of the hotel «Kempinski», Minsk, March 2013

The construction of the hotel «Kempinski», Minsk, March 2013

The construction of the hotel «Kempinski», Minsk, March 2013

The construction of the hotel «Kempinski», Minsk, March 2013

The construction of the hotel «Kempinski», Minsk, March 2013

The construction of the hotel «Kempinski», Minsk, March 2013

Archive! © Published in pARTisan #9’2009

Zmiensk Territory

Dear scholars, researchers, historians and general public! If you have not yet come to a final decision as to the origin of Minsk’s name and are still engaged in fruitless debate, stop your pointless arguments. Forget about giant Mieniesk, do not refer to the Mienka river, just accept the fact: the city’s name derives from zmiena (Bel. for ‘change’).

You cannot find a more changeable, deceitful, unstable and treacherous city in all Europe.

Just imagine a person who was born in the late 18th century in a small but dignified town in the east of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. He walked along the cosy streets, admiring beautiful baroque churches, only to find himself later in his life in all forlorn provincial town of the Russian Empire, with boozy roadhouses, mud in the streets and Orthodox ‘onion’ domes on the spires of former Catholic churches.

Someone else grew up here, in a Jewish quarter, went to school along a synagogue and old Jacob’s fishmonger’s, which strongly smelt of herring, and heard his native Yiddish everywhere, only to die in a shabby cramped block of Khrushchov’s epoch, near the Tartar Tractor Plant. As if to mock at him, on the day of his funeral the Gate of the Tartar opened, 25 tractors emerging from it, with little red flags and brand name Belarus written on their wolfish iron muzzles.

A few years later, someone else was born in the Sun City of Minsk. He grew up among parks with exquisite chicks holding oars in their hands and classical vases, watched the odd plaster gods on the pediment of the local Parthenon, a.k.a. the Trade Unions Palace and walked along the streets decorated with classical Corinthian and Ionic orders. Before his hair has grown grey, he has learnt that his beloved Sun City is going to be knocked down.

Well, maybe not all of it, but at least some parts. There are rumors being spread around the Sun City that it has been purchased by Martians, who for some reason call themselves As-syrians.

Instead of the palaces they are going to erect 35-storey telescopic glass towers that look like gigantic phalluses. They will call the towers hotels, and their guests will probably be As-syrian Martians, as they have long been the only ones to visit the Sun City.

There are also rumors that space asses, a.k.a. flying saucers will land at the top of the phallic hotels, which is the core of the As-syrians’ secret project: to build a space shuttle launching site for their army with a view to conquering the whole of the territory.

War Territory 

There are no towns on the War Territory. They may occasionally spring up, but never have enough time to grow before they are destroyed. There is no culture on the War Territory. Culture never develops in trenches along the front line. There are no people living on the War Territory.

It is not a place to live but just to survive. 

There are no values on the War Territory. The main value is anything that lets you stay alive today and live to see the dawn. There are no museums, theatres or galleries on the War Territory.

Even nuclear plants have nervous breakdowns here, exploding in huge mushrooms. So do libraries. There are no monuments on the War Territory. There are only ruins, crosses and common graves here.

For five hundred years we have lived on the War Territory. War first came from the east, demolishing towns, killing half of the population and leaving nothing but devastation behind. Then it came again and again and again. Not only from the east, but also from the west, from the north and the south. Each time it demolished towns, killed people but never left. This has become its territory.

We have gradually got so accustomed to it that we longer notice it. We have become war’s waifs and strays, its nomads. The most well-known Belarusian mantra, ‘Let there only be no war!’ has been rendered meaningless, as war is already in our blood. We have become hordes of barbarians, war’s homeless children. We no longer need conquerors from east or west. We will do the dirty job for them ourselves, trampling on fragile shoots of towns, either not completely wiped from the face of the earth or those that have begun to spring up in the last six decades.

After all, we are nomads and a town cannot be loaded on a cart or taken to a secret hiding place in the woods or marshes. Why should we need a town? Our ambition is simply to see the light of dawn.

Death of the Gods 

The verdict is given. The City of the Gods is doomed. In ten years’ time we will wake up to find ourselves in a different Zmiensk. It was inevitable. The hordes of barbarians, who stayed for quite a time on the distant approaches to the Sun City and stared at its classical beauty, hoping for plenty of loot, have now shattered the silence with their war cries and launched an assault.

A few years ago they took hold of the station and seemed to halt in silence before the city gate. The silence, however, was deceptive. One morning the guards on the towers saw a big horse with a sweet word Investor written on it. The guards opened the gate and brought the Investor into the Sun City. Those familiar with ancient history know what happens next.

History repeats itself. They are already here. Is there still a chance to save the Sun City? Yes, there is. Yet, nomads will not protect the city from barbarians. They will not hold out, fighting for each house and every street. The only ones to save the city are its inhabitants.

But they are only a few on the War Territory. Of course, there will be some Don Quixotes to challenge the windmills and fight against the telescopic glass towers. There will be a handful of surviving citizens who will try to save one building, for example, the War Museum as the symbol of the territory.

However, this is not enough to save the whole city. Zmiensk will change once again. So do not be surprised, dear reader, if one day in your old age you look out of your window to see a green mug with two antennae and slanted eyes peering at you. Yes, these will be Martians, the true owners of the city. And you will be just a sponger, nicknamed ‘a local’.

There is nothing you can do to avoid the biting stare but draw the curtain and switch on the TV, muttering to yourself, ‘God help us, what sort of devil is that?’

The Sun City 

The Sun City is inside us. War is in our minds. We are the barbarians.

It’s time to make peace and declare the War Territory – a Peace Territory. We must stop. It’s time to settle on this land. To dismount the horse, to unload our modest belongings from the cart and build a house. Your own house. Not instead of the one already built but next to it. And to live in this house, and die one day in this house. So that your children and your children’s children are born in the same house. So that there is another house next to yours. And many more houses.

So that together they make a city. And if barbarians, As-syrians or Martian investors come to destroy it, we will defend our houses and our city.

The Sun City is inside us! We are the Sun City! 

Dear reader! Even as you run your eyes over these lines, the hordes of barbarians may be smashing the figures of the startled gods on the minor Parthenon!

Artur Klinau

This article was written when the construction of the hotel «Kempinski» in Minsk only was planned on the territory on Kastryćnickaja Square. This plan was refused, but the project continued in another place — near the Horkaha Park on banks of Svislać river. So the idea of a green perspective of Minsk Avenue was completely buried .

Are Martians already in the city?

Also you could read the interview with Artur Klinau about his project The SunCity-2.

Photos © pARTisan

Opinions of authors do not always reflect the views of pARTisan. If you note any errorsplease contact us right away.

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