Thursday, September 13, 2012


A lot of art and architecture in Belarus goes back to antiquity. There have been great efforts to preserve its fine arts in museums and universities, the largest collection being held in the National Museum of Art. The city of Vitebsk also houses many famous pieces and collections and has historically been one of the artistic centers of Belarus, outside of Minsk.

The earliest forms of art can be dated back to the 14th century with the Byzantine Empire. It’s mostly centered around manuscript illustrations and iconography. 

Another movement started after the October Revolution of 1917, where many revolutionary avant-guard artists started popping up around Vitebsk.

Marc Chagall is thought to be one of the most influential and famous Belarusian artists. He used several mediums, including stained glass, which can be seen in several cathedrals, UN buildings, and the Jerusalem Windows in Israel. He also made a name for himself in doing large-scale paintings, like doing part of the ceiling of the Paris Opéra. Chagall also utilized some of the styles found in Cubism, Symbolism, and Surrealism.  He merged these established styles with his own styles, making him one of the most well-known Jewish artists in Eastern Europe.

Belarusian literature also goes back centuries, and like most early written literature, started out as mainly religious texts and poetry. One of the most well-known poets of this era (11-13th centuries) is Kiryla Turauski. Most people from Belarus at this time not only write in the Belarusian language, but most also write in Latin, Polish, and/or what’s called Church-Slavic (mostly used for liturgy in the Orthodox Church). In the modern times, you’ll find writers using Russian as well.

The modern period of Belarusian literature started in the 19th century, and one of the foremost authors was Yanka Kupala.  Kupala left Belarus and lived in Vilnius (Lithuania) and later in St. Petersburg. He had published a number of poems and books that really irked the communist government, calling for his arrest at one point. He died by falling down a flight of stairs in a hotel in Moscow in 1942. Some speculate whether it really was an accident like it was documented as, or whether it was a suicide or homicide.

Outside of Belarus, Vasil Bykaŭ is one of the most well-known and most widely-read Belarusian author. Many of his works have been translated into English and many other languages. During his youth, he fought for the Red Army, his literature loved by many Soviets. In fact, he was even given the title “People’s Writer of the Belarusian SSR.” However, Bykaŭ has spent many years abroad because of his opposition to the Lukashenko administration/dictatorship. He was able to return to his home in Belarus a month before his death.

Theatre also plays an important role in Belarusian culture, but it really didn’t take off until the 20th century. As a means of freedom of expression, the Belarus Free Theatre was created in 2005, as well as a number of underground theatre troops. Its main function is to serve as pressure against government censorship and in support for the freedom of speech and expression. Many authors, playwrights, actors, and musicians have been arrested for performing pieces that the government feels are in opposition to the establishment. This movement has brought these censorship issues to the attention of many writers across the world.

Up next: Music and Dance

No comments:

Post a Comment