Minsk of the 16th century:
First General City Plan and its Possible Author
In 1499 the Grand Duke Alexander gave the Magdeburg right to Minsk, but the military and political situation of the 16th century first quarter could not let the city use the possibilities given at once and in full. Long peaceful period — the 16th century second quarter — contributed to rapid city growth. An evidence to this was abrupt increase of Minsk customs duties, being imposed on local and foreign merchants.
All these processes have undoubtedly impacted directly or indirectly the city image and, first of all, its territorial growth. However, natural borders extension could influence insignificantly the general city structure, and those spontaneous development trends, run back to the first centuries of Minsk existence, did not correspond all in all to the new city realities in the 17th century first half.
As it often occurs in city planning, an extensive fire of 1547 served the first formal and — to a certain extent — accidental impulse to crucial changes in the city image and, first of all, in its layout.
Several documents published in 1930 (Belarusian archives, vol.3) unequivocally point at organized re–planning process of the burnt city and its re–construction according to a new „regular“ plan, that was executed on the Grand Duchy office’s direct order. This process can be traced to start between 1560s and 1570s (most likely, by early 1560s). The last known document depicting the process going is dated 1589. Although 20 to 30 years have passed from the re–planning start (see below), new city planning was not finished yet and required permanent attention of authorities.
The City Hall at the square was erected by 1600, and its neighboring regular–planned quarters named „New Place“ (later „High Market“) became the administrative and economic city center for almost three centuries, substantially maintaining their status up to the late 19th — early 20th centuries.
Evidently, a question can arise: who was (or could have been) the author of this successful (as evidenced by the history itself) and probably up–to–date (middle 16th century) layout?
Having analyzed a series of published documents of „Litouskaja Metrika“ (Lithuanian Archives), we concluded that the Princely Comptroller „Skirstomonskiy and Rosenskiy Venclav Mikolaevič“ who stayed in Minsk in the late 1557 — early 1558, could have been the author of this plan.
These documents let us add two more dates to his biography, so miserly documented, written by a series of Polish and Lithuanian authors under Jerzy Ochmanski’s hypothesis on Venclav Mikolaevič identity to Michalon Litvin. His staying in Minsk as the Princely Comptroller to regulate the city borders, as well as the facts by Jerzy Ochmański’s research, let us consider V. Mikolaevič to be the most probable author of Minsk re–planning — this project suggestion unique for that region and that epoch.