Nowa Huta joins prestigious list as it is named a ‘Monument of History’
The unique architecture and history of Kraków's socialist utopia of Nowa Huta will be recognised as a Monument of History on Friday.
The distinction comes after many years of efforts to give the Stalin-era district the prestigious label and paves the way for a listing on UNESCO's world heritage list.
“We in Kraków have no doubt that Nowa Huta is of special importance to the heritage, history and culture of our country, with all its tangible and intangible values,” Kraków mayor Jacek Majchrowski said.
The naming will be officially sanctioned on Friday when Majchrowski will receive from President Andrzej Duda a decree proclaiming the establishment of "Krakow - the architectural and urban complex of the Nowa Huta district" as a Monument of History.
Construction of the socialist city began in 1949 and it is the only city to have been built from scratch in Poland since the Second World War.
It was intended to accommodate workers from the huge Lenin steelworks and their families, and it is widely believed that the decision to place the steelworks next to Kraków was purely political, as a way of diluting or even punishing the ancient city’s intelligentsia.
However, Kraków had the last laugh when Nowa Huta officially became just another district of the city in 1951.
Envisioned as a socialist utopia that could serve as a model for the rest of Poland in its post-war reconstruction, it took on a characteristic pentagonal shape, with five major boulevards radiating out from Central Square.
As it was supposed to be an ideal city, the district was built with amenities like parks and big apartments. To protect residents from the widely expected WWIII, an extensive network of underground bomb shelters was built, many of which can be visited today.
As a symbol of the People's Republic of Poland, it was famously visited by Fidel Castro in 1972.
The title Monument of History is one of five forms of heritage preservation in Poland and sits alongside being listed in the register of historical monuments and on the Heritage Treasures List, establishing a cultural park or establishing protection in a zoning plan.
The prestigious distinction has so far only been extended to 117 objects and places in the country that have a high value for national culture.
In addition to Nowa Huta, only Kraków Old Town, the Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec and the Kosciuszko Mound boast the title.
The first attempts to recognise Nowa Huta as a Monument of History were made more than a decade ago. However, they did not find favour with the ministry of culture at the time.
Last year, authorities in Kraków decided to expand the area covered by the application and its scope to cover not just the socialist-realist architecture in the centre of the district.
As a result, the title recognises not only the district's distinctive architecture but also important historical events such as the important role the steelworkers played in the birth of the Solidarity movement, as well as its cultural importance seen in literature and film.
The distinction “reflects not only the history of the second half of the 20th-century but also the centuries-old history of Mogilskie Abbey and the village of Krzesławice," Robert Piaskowski, the Kraków mayor's representative for culture, said.
Officials in Kraków hope that the recognition of Nowa Huta as a Monument of History could pave the way for UNESCO World Heritage listing in the future.