Interesting Facts and Myths about Belarus

Issue X

Olga Korbut

Olga Korbut is a famous Belarusian gymnast and four-time Olympic Champion. She was the first one to develop and perform an unusual, daring flip that later was named after her. These back flips-to-catch on the uneven bars were the first release move ever achieved on the apparatus. Today gymnasts are not allowed to perform the flip which is considered to be extremely dangerous. Her popularity created a wave of interest in gymnastics in the US: American girls wanted to enrol in gymnastics schools, which opened in every State; hundreds of them were named after Korbut. Today Olga lives in Scottsdale (Arizona) and heads Olga Korbut Gymnastics Academy.

Ruslan Salei (Rusty) was the legend of Belarusian ice hockey. He was the captain of the Belarusian national team but also Rusty, who played 14 seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) in the US participating in 917 NHL games and getting 204 scores. After his tragic death in September 2011, the Belarusian Federation of Ice Hockey withdrew number 24 under which Salei played symbolically securing it for him forever.
 Issue IX
 Lake Svitiaz’ is a forest lake in Western Belarus. It has an almost perfect round shape and no connection to any other lake. Not a single river or spring flows into it and only one flows out. Despite this fact the water level in the lake has remain unchanged for centuries and has been attracting many geologists, archaeologists and ordinary adventure- seekers to its shores, to raise more questions than they have answered. It even somehow managed to preserve in its waters a plant called tetradinium Javanese, which apart from this lake can be found only in Indonesia. The water itself is extremely transparent and has a sweet taste. It is extremely popular with tourists and is part of a governmentally protected area.
The lakes vicinity is extremely beautiful in spring when all its plants are blooming. The locals say those plants once were a medieval town’s dwellers.
According to the legends the town collectively went under water to protect itself from enemies. But this is a story for another article which will appear in one of the next issues of Belarus Headlines.
Nalibockaya Pushcha is the largest forest in Belarus whose territory three times exceeds the territory of Andorra. In different periods of Belarusian history Nalibockaya Pushcha with its dense thickets of trees and almost impassable swamps served as a natural protection from different enemy troops. During World War II it became a cover for numerous guerrilla groups including Armia Krajowa, as well as for the so called “Jerusalem in the Forest” – a Jewish resistance camp organised by the Belskys brothers. Thanks to the infertility of the local soils in terms of agricultural production, the Great Forest of Belarus managed to preserve itself almost untouched next to highly populated areas. Today it remains a home for numerous plant and animal spices many of which are listed in the Red Book. However Nalibockaya Pushcha failed to obtain the status of National Park and many believe this happened due to its reputation for being a hunting land.

Vincent Dunin-Martsinkevich – is a Belarusian play-writer, poet and theatre critic, who is considered the father of the Belarusian theatre. Having started to write in Belarusian he faced the problem of an absence of standardised dictionaries and grammar books. However he soon found himself even translating his famous countryman Adam Mitskevich’s poems into his mother tongue. Dunin-Martsinkevich was the first author in Belarusian literature that started a story as a genre and also started to verse stories.
Issue VIII Gospel is a Belarusian manuscript which dates back to the first half of the ХІV century. It was created for the Lavra Monastery and written in the Church Slavonic language. The Lavra Gospel consists of the New Testament as well as various explanatory notes made between XIV and XV centuries in the Old Belarusian and Polish languages. The book also contains 19 miniature pictures and many artistically decorated initials. It was restored in 1887 and is now stored in the library named after the Czartoryski in Krakow (Poland).
The Czartoryski family (the Chartaryiski) were the leading noble family of the Polish-Belarusian-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 18th century also known as the Familia. They used a modification of the Vytis or Pahonia as their arms — the traditional coat-of-arms that is currently the official arms of the Republic of Lithuania and a traditional symbol of Belarus. (Novaharodak,Novogrudok) is a city in the Hrodna Region of Belarus first mentioned in the Sophian First Chronicle and Fourth Novgorod Chronicle in 1044.
Navahrudak was the first capital of the Great Duchy of Lithuania before the Great Duke Mindouh (Mindaugas) moved his residence to Vilnius in 1232. Today, the remains of the stone castle, so called Mindouh’s Castle, built in the XIV century, are a reminder of the city’s glorious past. Other architectural attractions include the Transfiguration Church (1712–23), where Belarusian-Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz born in Navahrudak was baptised, as well as the Church of St. Michael.

Issue VII Karatkevich (Karatkevitch) is a Belarusian writer, poet, essayist, translator, and screenwriter who wrote on historic topics, re-discovering Belarusian history for his readers. 'Most previous Belarusian authors inspired love for Belarus, which could hardly be distinguished from pity. The love for Belarus inspired by Karatkevich is more close to respect and pride. He teaches the reader to love Belarus not in spite of, but because of the way it is' writes a modern Belarusian poet, Andrei Khadanovich. Many of the books by Karatkevich have been translated into English, Czech, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian and other languages. has more than 10 thousand lakes. This huge number of water reservoirs supported by more than 28 thousand small and big rivers has given Belarus one of its metaphoric names – the Blue-Eyed Land. Most Belarusian lakes appeared during the Ice Age. The biggest lake in Belarus is Narach with a surface area reaching 79,6 square kilometres. It has become a tourist attraction both for visitors outside and inside Belarus. In 1999, a National park was created around the lake to preserve the unique area.,_XIX).jpg/280px-%C5%BDygimont_Kiejstutavi%C4%8D._%D0%96%D1%8B%D0%B3%D1%96%D0%BC%D0%BE%D0%BD%D1%82_%D0%9A%D0%B5%D0%B9%D1%81%D1%82%D1%83%D1%82%D0%B0%D0%B2%D1%96%D1%87_(J._Aziamb%C5%82o%C5%ADski,_XIX).jpgZhyhimont the son of Keistut, (Sigismund, about 1365 – 1440) the Grand Duke of Lithuania, a brother of Grand Duke Vitaut. Zhyhimont is known as the author of the so-called privilege of Troki (Trakai Priveledge) that officially granted the same rights to the nobles of the Great Duchy of Lithuania despite their religious believes.   
 Issue VI 28 1812 sitting in one of the ball rooms of the Governor’s Palace, French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte declared his War Campaign finished. He admitted that going further East would be suicide. Two days later he changed his mind and moved in the direction of Moscow. As we all know that was the beginning of his end. 1623, Vitsebsk citizens revolted against Archbishop Iasafat Kuncevitch who tried to convert them to the new religion of Unionism
(The Union Church). The rebels burned down his residence and killed the priest. The riot was brutally suppressed and all the church bells, that rang to summon the protesters, were broken and melted into one large bell in commemoration of the unlucky Archbishop. Mahnou is one of several well-known Belarusians associated with Vitsebsk. As, the tallest man on Earth, he was born in 1872 in the village of Kascyuki, and grew to a height of 2.85 meters. His height and strength made him famous all around the world, including the U.S.
Issue IV was a Federation of the Crown of the Polish Kingdom and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which emerged from the Union of Lublin in 1569. The new political alliance was the largest and one of the most densely populated countries in Europe in XVI-XVII centuries. It had a common Parliament (Sejm), monetary system and foreign policy. Union Church (the Greek Catholic Church) was a result of the Union of Brest in 1596, when the Orthodox Church of Belarus and Ukraine merged with the Roman Catholic Church under subjection to the Pope. The Union church adopted the Catholic dogma, while continuing to maintain the Orthodox rites. The policy of the ruling circles of the Rzeczpospolita towards the Uniates was contradictory and depended on the socio-political situation. On the one hand, the government supported the Union church, as it was consistent with their policy of the centralisation of the state, on the other, it tried to merge the Uniates with Roman Catholics.
Mihal Kleafas Ahinski (Michal Kleofas Oginsky) is probably the most famous representative of the Ahinski Noble family. A brilliant statesman and military leader (ambassador to the Sejm of Poland at the age of 20, head of the Treasury of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania at the age of 28, Extraordinary Ambassador to the Netherlands) Michal Kleofas is probably best remembered for his music inspired by the lyricism of traditional Belarusian folk songs. The most popular of his polonaises, called A-minor, "Farewell to the Fatherland", he wrote in his family estate in Zalessie (Hrodna Region of Belarus) before he had to leave the country after taking part in Kosciuszko’s uprising against the Russian Empire.
Issue III swamps occupy an area of 2.5 million hectares (12.4 % of its territory) and are among the largest in Europe. Swamps produce several times more oxygen than forests and work as filters for water which feeds rivers and lakes. The Southern Region of Belarus Palessie is called the lungs of Europe. many as 38 out of 150 castles have survived the two World Wars, Russian occupation and 70 years of Soviet Rule in Belarus. Among them are unique wooden and stone memorials belonging to different periods of Belarusian history, including the well-preserved Castle of Mir (Mirsky Castle, XVth AC) which was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. is included in the Struve Geodetic Arc, which is a chain of survey triangulations stretching over 2,820 km. It runs from Hammerfest in Norway to the Black Sea, passing through ten countries. In fact, it crosses Belarus twice: in the Brest and Hrodna Regions. The chain was established in the years 1816 to 1855 to measure the exact size and shape of the earth. Sapiehas were the second influential family in the Great Duchy of Lithuania in XVXVIII AC. The most famous of their representatives is Leu Sapieha, one of the greatest Belarusian political figures, renowned for his wisdom and statesmanship, a lawyer and military commander who stood at the head of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania at the times of its highest cultural blossoming.
Issue II Belarusian language never ceased to exist, even after the ban of its official use in 1699 and following decades of Soviet era neglect. What is now called "Old Belarusian" was the official language of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania up to the end of the 17th century. The Third Lithuanian Statute (1588), which is considered to be acme of medieval Belarusian culture and sometimes referred to as the "first written constitution in Europe”, was written in Old Belarusian.
In 1926, the coat of arms of Belarus bore the inscription "Workers of the World, Unite!" in all four of the country’s languages - Belarusian, Russian, Polish and Yiddish. is the birthplace of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, who played a key role in the American Revolution. is the only place in the world where you can see ancient European Bison (Belarusian Zubr) in their natural environment.
Issue I word “Belarus” does not mean “White Russia”. While ‘Bela’ does mean white, ‘Rus’ is a different geographical and political term than Russia. ‘Rus’ refers to the Eastern Slavic lands that nowadays belong mostly to Belarus and Ukraine. Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania written in the old Belarusian language was the only full code of laws in Europe from Roman law until the Napoleonic Code adopted in 1804. only became the Belarusian capital in 1918. Navahradak and Vilna (today, Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania) were the capitals of the Belarusian- Lithuanian states, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Lithuanian–Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (Litbel). is one of a few countries of the former Soviet Union that do not require a special passport for foreign travel. However, most states outside of the CIS require visas from Belarusian citizens.