Explore Belarusian Culture

In this section, you will find articles on well-known people and places from the Belarusian cultural scene, as well as interesting facts about the past and present Belarus that remain unknown to the Western audience.

Thu, 2009-12-10 11:56

Barbara Radziwill and  Zhygimont   August.   Mateyka, 1867A stripe of pale moonlight fell across the floor of a dark hall. The Niasvizh castle was quiet. Its majestic building loomed over the shore of a lake. The castle tower was mirrored in the lake’s calm waters.
Old parquetry creaked under someone’s foot.
“Hush! What do you think you’re doing?!” someone whispered. “You don’t want to scare away the ghost!”
“There’s no way it’ll be more scared than I am!” another voice answered.
Two shadows, each no taller than a child’s, hid behind a large Dutchware fireplace. The eyes of this strange couple shined under the moon like four silver coins.
“It’s almost midnight. The Black Lady may show up any moment”, a boy’s voice said.
“She better not, for I’m already frightened to death”, his companion, likely a girl, squeaked.

Fri, 2009-11-13 13:04

It was an early morning in 1993.  Two people were having a leisurely time in a café near a flea market in Paris. Over their cups of Café Crème they watched stall owners setting up for work. Most flea markets usually open at 8am, but antique dealers rarely begin their trade before nine.

Fri, 2009-10-23 16:28

Lazar Bogsha weighed a small golden Orthodox icon on his palm, scrutinized it carefully from all angles, and smiled. The icon’s colourful enamels were just perfect. Anybody would easily mistake it for a Byzantine work. Anybody, but him. After all, Lazar Bogsha created it himself.

 If one could find a 12th century parchment listing all Polatsk goldsmiths, the name of Lazar Bogsha would be at its very top. The city where he lived stood on the Dzvina River, which made up an important part of the trade route between the Baltic and the Black seas. It was the Great Silk road of Eastern Europe connecting Vikings with the Byzantium via lands of Baltic and Slavic tribes. Polatsk markets were full of fancy foreign goods, but it was masterpieces of Byzantine goldsmiths that fascinated Lazar the most. For many years he perfected his skills until he was able to match the level of artists from Constantinople…

Mon, 2009-10-05 17:11

On a hot summer day of July 13, 1941 a dust-laden truck pulled up to the main door of an imposing building in the centre of Mahiliou. A former history museum, it hosted headquarters of the local Communist Party branch. However, this was just about to change. The air was filled with the distant sounds of explosions and the muffed racket of machine-gun fire. The Nazi army was quickly advancing, closing its grip on this strategic city on the Dnepr River. Despite of fierce resistance, the fall of Mahiliou was a matter of days.
Men in plain clothes shuttled between the building and the truck, loading it with obscure boxes and bags. The driver, whose name was Piotr Paddubski, rolled a cigarette and idly observed the bustle. “What a nice cross!” said one of the workmen, marveling over something he saw in a package.

Fri, 2009-09-18 11:49

If rookie art-ignorant burglars attempted to rob the National Art Museum in Minsk, they would hardly be tempted by this painting. For them, “Humno” (‘Barn’) by Barys Zaborau would be no more eye-catchy than a piece of old faded wall-paper. However, to the robbers’ utter surprise, the work turns out to be one of the most valuable recent acquisitions of the main Belarusian art museum.

Paintings by Barys Zaborau can be found in galleries and museums around the world. However, it took Belarus, Zaborau’s homeland, almost 30 years to recognise his talent. In February 2009 “Humno” received its place in the main exposition of the National Art Museum. “The ceremony was organized well and rather pompously”, says Barys Zaborau half-jokingly. “30 years ago I was showed the country’s door with almost the same degree of pomposity”, adds the artist.

Tue, 2009-07-14 20:05

Photo by Julia DarashkevichIn the very centre of Minsk there is a place where the River Svislach makes a wide curve between the October and Victory squares. This meander nests an oasis of old moss-covered maples and trembling aspens. This park is named after a famous Belarusian poet and writer Yanka Kupala. It hosts the poet’s museum, his statue, and a fountain that features two nude, yet innocent-looking, bronze-cast girls  throwing garlands into the water. Unlike the Gorky Park, which is right across the main avenue and is always full of young families with clouds of candy floss in their hands, the Kupala Park is a quite place, suitable for reflection and tranquillity.

Tue, 2009-06-23 19:00

In order to write, I need solitude. Solitude and silence. Although, sometimes I write while listening to music. For example, several chapters of “Capital’s Damned Guests” were written to the accompaniment of “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Mussorgsky, and some pages of “The Magpie on Gallows” – of music of Brahms and Shostakovich’s operas. I usually work in my study room. I like solitude a lot, I never feel bored in my own company. However, I can mull over the future book anywhere – in subway, on a train, at a pub or during a walk.

In Germany I also added smoking pipes to solitude and silence. I already have seven of them and think about giving them individual names.

Tue, 2009-06-23 18:23

The Port of Hamburg is filled with hoots of ferries and the seagulls’ screeches. A young man with high cheekbones and narrow prickly eyes is looking at the scene, smoking his favourite pipe. If he were a captain, his ship would carry the carefully packed cargo of books (preferably by Joyce, Kafka and Nabokov) and paintings by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. However, this young man, whose name is Alhierd Baharevich, is not a ship captain, but a writer. Actually, he would rather prefer to be called a magician.

Isn’t it a miracle that one combination of words can drive a person into a suicide, and another is forgotten in a minute? Can this phenomenon be rationally explained? Especially, if you keep in mind that the story, which was described using these words, had been made up by its author from the beginning until the end? Here he is, a good writer, magician, grown-up narrator of fairy tales,” writes Alhierd in his personal Internet blog.

Tue, 2009-06-23 17:46

By Alhierd Baharevich
Translated by Vera Rich

I am a stutterer. All these impatient, desperate words – such huge number of words – that I keep inside, very rarely manage to leave my throat freely. I could have become a silver-tongued speaker, a brilliant lawyer or TV reporter, I could have changed the  even the most stubborn minds, punishing or pardoning - how I wish I could -, but for this invisible non-functional bit of my organism which thrums away inside me when I try to chase after the bus of the conversation – in vain.

Wed, 2009-05-27 17:53

Who is Ms. Martysevich? An essayist, poet, translator, journalist, blogger, or all of the above? She prefers to call herself a “creative writer”. Born in 1982, Martysevich is now writing up her thesis at the Department of Philology of the Belarusian State University. She also works as a journalist for a liberal Minsk-based newspaper “Novy Chas” and writes essays for an art magazine “Partisan”.