Belarus Language and Literature

Official language of the Lithuanian state, which then declined to the rank of dialect – first in the territory of the Polish republic and, after the partitions of Poland, within the borders of Russia – the White-Russian regained its importance after the war, becoming a literary language. As such it has its center in Minsk (Mensk), the capital of the White-Russian Federal Republic. In addition to it, White-Russian is spoken in the neighboring regions of present-day Poland, and precisely in the voivodships of Vilna, Nowogródek, Białystok, where it is used by a minority, and in that of Polessia, where it is instead used by a strong majority. Poorly differentiated in dialects, White-Russian is distinguished from Great-Russian, and instead approaches Polish, due to the pronunciation dz and c (dzekane) instead of the great-Russian d ′ and t ′: white-Russian dzed, Polish dziad, great-Russian ded (this pronunciation is also found, and here unlike the Polish, in the groups tve and dve: cvjardzic ′, Dzve in front of the great-Russian tverdit ′, Polish twierdzi č, great-Russian dve, Polish dwie). Both from Russian and from Polish, the white-Russian differs, among other things, by the sound instead of an ancient u – proton with syllabic value (eg, ubogij, u̯ syna), and of a u from v ŭ or v ĭ (zdaro u̯ je for Russian zdorove, Polish zdrowie).

The beginnings of a white-Russian written literature are confused with those of Russian literature and Ukrainian literature. Only from the century XIV, with strictly local juridical acts, it can be said that a rudimentary literature begins. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries translations from the Bible, of lives of saints, tales of chivalry, chronicles also spread in White Russia. A certain diversity of content is noticeable only in a series of writings (Fedor Yevlaševskij’s diary, Ivan Melesko’s satirical speech, etc.) which reflect the influence of Protestantism and Catholicism. In the first half of the century. XVI, on the other hand, the diffusion of sacred books printed in white-Russian, a diffusion that preceded the analogous diffusion in Muscovy, takes place as a real manifestation of independent culture; the figure of his advocate Francisk Skorina (born around 1490), indeed appears to us as an exceptional figure, with his European-Western aspirations and his sympathy for the humanists. This beginning of literary awakening was interrupted by external events, such as the Union of Lublin in 1569 and waned with the replacement in 1696 of the Polish for the White-Russian also in the official documents.

According to directoryaah, White-Russian survived almost exclusively in folk songs. In fact, although the songs collected in the second half of the century. XIX and the beginning of the century. XX are above all of recent formation, however they are always the reflection of a centuries-old tradition, so the cult songs, the proverbs, the fables, especially those inspired by the world of animals, so much so that one could even speak of an animalistic epos white-russian. Also noteworthy for their indisputable antiquity are the legends with a philosophical background, which from a primitive and naive cosmogony have changed over time until they have absorbed realistic-social elements in very recent times. The collections of White-Russian folklore, from that of PV Šejna, Materialy dlja izu č nija byta i jazyka naselenij z sev.- zap. kraja (Materials for the study of the life and language of the population of the north-western region) published from 1887 to 1902 by the Russian Academy of Sciences to that published by the Krakow Academy from 1897 to 1903, Lud bia ł oruski na Rusi litewskiej, from AK Seržputovski’s of Polessia folklore to those of Russian songwriters, among which were also included the White-Russian ones (Afanas′ev, Veselovskij, Potebnja, Savčenko, Polívka, etc.), form a precious material still relatively little exploited for the study of Indo-European folklore.

Meanwhile, when the collections and studies had begun, a written literature had already been reformed in the White-Russian regions. On the one hand, it is worth noting the disguise of the Aeneid, by VP Rovinskij (born in 1782, died around 1840), however, after the Ukrainian translation-imitation of Kotljarevskij of 1798 and the Russian one of Osipov; on the other hand the real poetic flowering, now no longer anonymous, but individual, which began with the publication of the volume of songs by Jan Czeczot, friend of the Polish poet A. Mickiewicz. The songs of Czeczot, partly of popular origin, had the destiny, even when they were of personal inspiration, to spread among the people to the point of being then collected as an anonymous production.

Alongside Czeczot, we will remember Jan Barszczewski, who after him began to poetry in White-Russian, although much earlier he had carried out literary activity in Polish; and V. Dunin-Marcinkevič, author of hugely popular songs around the 1940’s and 1950’s and translator into Russian blank of the first part of Mickiewicz ‘s Pan Tadeusz.

In the following decades a polemical literature directed both against the Greek-Catholic Church and against the Russian domination developed, which, although of little artistic value, helped to draw attention to the White-Russian lineage. Decisive for the White-Russian movement was the publication in 1891 of a small book of poems by Maciej Buračok, full of sentiment and national pride, the first gospel of a spiritual independence, which also found support in Russian intellectual circles, thanks to M. Gorky and V. Bryusov. From the amorphous mass of the numerous attempts had arisen true poets such as Janka Kupala (born in 1882), Jakub Kolas (born in 1882), Maksim Bogdanovič, poets of different social origins and not deaf to the influences of the major literatures with which they came to contact,

The revolution of 1917 undoubtedly gave White Russia the opportunity to develop an independent literature. However, it has remained a predominantly poetic literature, of proletarian or proletarian origin. The so-called group of young people, “Maladnjak”, is made up almost exclusively of poets. Among the prose writers, however, there is no lack of new forces, such as the storyteller Ja. Nemansky and the playwright K. Chorny. Criticism also had a certain impetus thanks to the work of A. Navina, author of a series of essays on White-Russian writers published in 1918, and of the young T. Glybockij and N. Bajkov.

Belarus Language and Literature

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