History and Culture of Belarus
HISTORY (A brief survey)
Ancient stands ot people on the territory ol Belarus already existed 25 thousand years ago In the 6th-8lh centuries Slavonic tribes living between the Elbe and the Vistula began to settle to the South and the East, as well as on the territory ot Belarus where they assimilated gradually the majority of local Baltic tribes The most ancient city in Belarus is Polotsk known since 862 By the end ol the 10th century two principalities had been known -Polotsk and Turov Principalities which were probably dependent on the Kiev prince.
In 1230th the Grand Duchy of Lithuania with the centre in Novogrudok (between Minsk and Grodno) emerged on the territory ot Belarus. During the next hundred years a greater part of contemporary Belarus was incorporated into the Grand Duchy ol Lithuania Vilnius becomes its capital in the 14th century In the result ol the subsequent growth m the end ot the 14th century, the Grand Duchy ot t ithuania became one among the largest multinational European states the borders ot which were stretching beyond Smolensk in the East, and up to the Black Sea in the South In 1410 in the battle at Grunvald the troops ol the Grand Duchy ol Lithuania and Poland indicted a defeat lo the crusaders ot the Teutonic Order that allowed to secure the North-Western borders The Crimean Khanel and the Moscow Principality were the main threat to the Grand Duchy ol Lithuania. In the struggle with the Crimean Khanet the Grand Duchy ol Lithuania gradually lost a number of its provinces in the South, and only in 1527, after the victory at Kanev (the Ukraine), the advancement ot Tartars lo the North was stopped The relations between the Grand Duchy of L ithuania and the Moscow Principality in the 14th 16th centuries were often hostile In the first years ot the Livon War (1558 1583) the Moscow Principality was enjoying a military success As a result, il occupied Polotsk and its vicinity The attempts ol the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to return Polotsk with its own forces did not succeed and in 1569 the Grand Duchy ol Lithuania united with the Polish Kingdom into a federation — Rzech Pospolita In 1583 , the joined forces ot Rzech Pospolita won back from Moscow the lost territories, thus Ihe Livon War ceased.
It should be noted, that the name of the common state of the ancestors ot modern Belarusians and Lithuanians the Grand Duchy ol Lithuania does not so much relied the ethnic entity, but rather the ancient name ot the place — Lithuania Despite the tact thai Belarusians had already been tormed as an ethnic entity by the 13th 14th centuries, different parts ot the Grand Duchy ot Lithuania and of modern Belarus had different names in different times For example, in ihe early 17lh century Lithuania was the name ol Ihe area including Novogrudok. Grodno, Minsk, Vilnius, Brest. Braslav. Polesye the Southern part of the modem Belarus with Ihe cities of Pinsk, Mo/yr. Belaya Rus was the Eastern part ol the modern Belarus with the cities ol Pololsk, Vitebsk, Orsha. Mogilev. Zhemaitiya the major part of today’s Lithuania Accordingly, the ancestors ot the modern Belarusians called them¬selves «Litvins» or «Litvins-Belarustsi». Ihe name «Belarus’ tor Ihe whole territory ol Ihe modern Belarus spread only in the second halt ot the 19th century The name «Lithuania» moved to the North West and was applied to the territory inhabited with the Baltic people Belarusians predominated among the population ol the Grand Duchy ol Lithuania, and Belarusian was the stale language The famous Statute (The Constitution) ol the Grand Duchy ol Lithuania (1588) one ol the progressive constitutions ol the medieval Europe — was written in Belarusian.
After the unification ol 1569 with the Polish Kingdom into Rzech Pospolita, the Grand Duchy ol Lithuania retained its name, internal government, judicial organs, army and money However, in the course ot time, the role ol Poland in R/ech Pospolita was gradually growing The policy ol Belarusians’ polonization, especially ol the Belarusian gentry, was launched. Bloodshedding wars on the territory of Belarus, particularly the wars between Rzech Pospolita and Moscow Principality in 1654-1667 and the North War led by Russia.Rzech Pospolita and Denmark against Sweden in 1700-1721, resulted in numerous victims and destruction and weakened essentially Rzech Pospolita This weakness was made use ol by the govern¬ments of the three neighbouring states Prussia. Austria and Russia made three partitions of Rzech Pospolila in 1772,1793 and 1795.
As a result, the territory ol Belarus was incorporated into the Russian Em pire The Russian system ol government was emposed and gradually meas ures aimed at russi-tication ol Belarus started to be exer cised Only Russian officials were appointed into local administrative organs The Tsars edict ol 1840 prohibited Ihe use ol the words ‘Bela rus». «Lithuania»; instead, the name «North Western Krai (region)’ was introduced The national liberation upris¬ing ol 1863-1864 was cruelly suppressed by Tsarist troops The World War I begun in 1914 weakened Russia essentially and gave way to the victory ol Bolshevik Revolution in Petrograd, October 1917 On March 3. 1918 the Russian government signed a peace treaty in the city ol Brest without representatives ol the Belarusian people being present According to it, the maior part ol Ihe territory ol Belarus became the subject ol annexation by Germany Earlier, on February 19. 1918 the Red Army had left Minsk All the power was vested into the Executive Committee ol All-Belarusian Congress On February. 21 me first Charter of Regulations was adopted, on March, 9 the second version, on March, 25 the third one. proclaiming a creation ol an independent Belarusian People’s Republic (BPR) The independence ol Bela rus was lundically artrowtedged by the Ukraine. Lithuania and actually by Turkey. Finland and Russia Germany did not acknowledge BPR because it contradicted to Ihe Brest treaty At the same lime, the German occupation authorities did not hamper in BPR’s government solving numerous political, cultural and economic issues After the November Revolution ot 1918 in Germany, the Russian Soviet government denounced the Brest Treaty, and by December, 1918 the Red Army occupied most of Belarus As a counter balance to BPR, on January 1.1919 the bolsheviks prxlaimed the lounda tion ol the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic, thus the Soviet power was established Belarus became one ol the founders of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics which was founded on December 30.1922
During World War II the territory ol Belarus was an arena ol hard fought battles From June, 1941 till Jury, 1944 Belarus was occupied by the Na/i Germany troops The occupation regime was notable lor its cruelty During the war the fascists killed 2.200 thousand people in Belarus — more than a quarter of the population
On December 8. 1991 in Viskuli (Brest Oblast) the leaders ol the republics founders ol the USSR, i e Belarus.Russia and the Ukraine made a decision ol dissolution ol the USSR and loundation ol a Commonwealth ol Independent Slates Minsk was chosen the CIS administrative centre The Republic of Belarus became an independent state.
Many achievements ol the Belarusian culture serve the symbols ol the national originality The Cross ol Euphrosyne of Polotsk, artistic works by Mark Chagall and Slutsk belts are the evidence ot Belarus’ contribution into the world’s culture.
Euphrosyne ot Polotsk, Kirill Turovsky. the thinker and first printer of the Bible in Belarusian Frantsysk Skorina. poets Nikolai Gusovsky and Simeon Polotsky are the most outstanding Belarusian enlighterners.
The classics rjf the Belarusian literature was created by Vincent Dunin-Martsmkevich, Frantishek Bogushevich, Maxim Bogdanovich. Yanka Kupala and Yakub Kolas.
The works ot sculptors Z Azgur, A Bembel. A Glebov. the prose and poetry of VKorotkevich, VBykov. A Adamovich. N Gilevich are the most prominent among Ihe latest achievements.
There are 5367 libraries, 3780 cinemas. 146 museums in Belarus 494 newspapers and 225 magazines are published in the country There are 24 professional theatres, including the Belarusian ballet — one ol the best in the former USSR.