The Belarusian national culture has its roots in ancient times. It comprises colossal spiritual wealth which reflects moral, esthetic, intellectual values of the Belarusian people.
Throughout the centuries-old history the Belarusian nation has created rich and authentic cultural heritage. Belarus has a huge historical and cultural legacy that includes architectural monuments, works of art, museum collections. All masterpieces of the Belarusian art are protected by the state. They can be seen in the biggest Belarusian museums and libraries. The most valuable assets are placed on the State Register of Historical and Cultural Values of Belarus.
The first towns in Belarus were built in early medieval times. The oldest towns are Polotsk built in 862 and Vitebsk founded in 974. In the 10th-12th centuries town planning and monumental architecture gained ground in Belarus. The most famous specimens are St. Sophia Cathedral and the Church of Savior and St. Euphrosyne in Polotsk, the Holy Annunciation Church in Vitebsk, Sts. Boris and Gleb Church (Kolozha Church) in Grodno.
Fortification architecture was elevated to new highs in Belarus in the 13th century. At least 150 castles were built in Belarus in various times. The Kamenets Tower in the town of Kamenets, the palace complex in the town of Ruzhany (Pruzhany District), the Old Castle in Grodno, the castle in Lida, the palace complex in the town of Mir (Korelichi District), the castle in the town of Lyubcha (Novogrudok District), the park and palace complex in Nesvizh have been rebuilt and renovated and can tell a lot about the Belarusian history.
Belarusian architecture was strongly influenced by Western and Eastern European art. The main architectural styles are Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque (the Roman Catholic Church of the God’s Body in Nesvizh, the Roman Catholic church and the Carmelite monastery in Glubokoye), Classicism (the royal palace in Grodno, Rumyantsev-Paskevich Palace in Gomel).
Monuments of ancient architecture are displayed in the Berestye Archeological Museum in Brest, specimens of vernacular architecture are exhibited in the Vernacular Architecture and Ethnic Heritage Museum near Minsk.
During the Great Patriotic War a lot of buildings in Belarus were destroyed. For example, about 80% of all the buildings were ruined in Minsk. Since 1944 a lot has been done to restore towns and villages. New towns, for example, Novopolotsk, Svetlogorsk, Soligorsk, were built.
In the post-war period such memorial complexes as the Brest Hero Fortress, the Mound of Glory, Khatyn and other ones were erected in the country.
One of the shining examples of the modern Belarusian architecture is the National Library of Belarus. This diamond-shaped building is unparalleled in the world.
Belarusian art galleries showcase a great variety of works of art. The National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus has a vast collection of artwork.
Throughout centuries mural painting (frescos of St. Sophia Cathedral, the Belchitsy monastery and the Convent of Savior and St. Euphrosyne in Polotsk, Sts. Boris and Gleb Church in Grodno) and book illustration were popular in Belarus. The cross made by goldsmith Lazar Bohsha in 1161 is a remarkable specimen of ancient Belarusian enamel art. The traditions of secular painting emerged in Belarus in the 15th century. Icon painting appeared in the late 16th century. The evolution of book printing prompted the development of xylography.
The most famous textile mills of the 17th-18th centuries were the textile mill in Korelichi producing sophisticated tapestry and the textile mill in Slutsk which is famous for its belts that were woven using silk, gold, and silver threads.
The Belarusian pictorial art of the late 18th-19th centuries was strongly influenced by Romanticism, Classicism and Realism later on. The most renowned painters of the period are Yan Damel, January Suchodolski, Alfred Isidore Romer, Ivan Khrutsky, Kazimir Bakhmatovich, Walenty Wankowicz, Sergei Zaryanko, Napoleon Orda, Artur Bartels and others.
The most remarkable artists of the 20th century are Marc Chagall, Kazimir Malevich, Yehuda Pen. Painters Mikhail Filippovich, Roman Semashkevich, Vitold Byalynitsky-Birulya, Vitaly Tsvirko, Gavriil Vashchenko, Viktor Gromyko, Mai Dantsig, Pavel Maslennikov, Mikhail Savitsky, sculptors Abram Brazer, Alexander Grube, Mikhail Kerzin, Zair Azgur, Pavel Belousov. Andrei Bembel, Alexei Glebov, Sergei Selikhanov and many others have made a huge contribution to the development of Belarusian art.
Tapestry is a very popular genre of decorative art in Belarus. Tapestry of the Century
by Alexander Kishchenko is credited in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest tapestry.
Modern Belarusian fine art combines various styles and genres. Such genres as photography, art design, actionism, computer-generated images are increasingly popular in Belarus. In the 21st century the Belarusian fine art continues developing, assimilating progressive elements of global culture.
Belarus’ cinematography traces its roots to 1924, when the Belarusian film studio Belgoskino was founded. The first Belarusian feature film The Real Forest Story was produced in 1926. The film’s director Yuri Tarich is considered the founder of the Belarusian cinema. Other famous directors are Vladimir Korsh-Sablin and Ivan Pyryev.
The first sound films were produced in 1930. The film studio moved to Minsk in 1939.
By 1941 the feature film studio had produced a lot of movies, including Lieutenant Kizhe, My Love, In a Hurry for a Date, Bear
and The Man in a Case
The first color feature film Partisan Children
was made in 1954. The first widescreen film The Collapse of the Empire
was produced in 1970. The golden age of the Belarusian cinema was in the 1950s-1970s. In this period the Belarusian film studio produced its best films, including Konstantin Zaslonov, Red Leaves, Clock Stopped at Midnight, Girl Looking for the Father, Moscow-Genoa, The Alpine Ballad, Third Rocket, Town of Craftsmen
and other ones. Back then movies for children and the youth were made to become classics: The Bronze Bird, The Last Summer of Childhood, The Adventures of Buratino, Denis Korablev’s Marvelous Adventures.
Belarus-made TV series were very popular in the entire Soviet Union. The best of them include Long Miles of War, The State Border, Fathers and Sons.
The best Belarusian documentary films were produced by the company Letopis.
Belarus’ modern cinematography carries on the traditions of previous generations. Such Belarusian films as Anastasia of Slutsk, Povodyr, Dunechka, In August of 1944, The Brest Fortress, In the Fog
won awards at prestigious film festivals. A lot of Belarusian films are produced in cooperation with filmmakers from Russia, Germany, and Israel.
The golden age of the Belarusian literature is the 20th century. However, those achievements would have been more modest without the self-sacrificing efforts of previous generations of writers.
Belarusian literature descends from folklore. The roots of Belarusian literature can be traced back to the 10th century when written language emerged in Belarus. The largest center of literacy was Polotsk where local chronicles were started in the 12th-13th centuries. Great master of eloquence Kirill of Turov lived in the town of Turov. In the 14th-15th centuries Belarusian became a national language in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Belarusian was used to write the Statutes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania of 1529, 1566 and 1588. The most famous Belarusian of the 16th century was enlightener, East Slavic printing pioneer, writer and translator Francysk Skaryna. Nicolaus Hussovianus wrote the first Latin-language poem about Belarus, A Song about the Appearance, Savagery and Hunting of the Bison
. Publicist and translator Symon Budny published Catechism
, the first book in the Old Belarusian language, in Nesvizh. Supporter of the native language Wasyl Ciapinski translated The New Testament
into Belarusian. Simeon of Polotsk made his own contribution to the Belarusian book poetry of the 17th century.
The modern Belarusian literature was developed in the second half of the 18th-19th centuries. In the 19th century the Belarusian land was glorified by works of poet Adam Mickiewicz, dramatist Vincent Dunin-Martsinkevich. The most notable writers of the period of Realism are Frantishek Bogushevich, Adam Gurinovich and Yanka Luchina.
The first legal Belarusian-language newspapers Nasha Dolya and Nasha Niva published works of the greatest authors of the time Yanka Kupala, Yakub Kolas, Eloiza Pashkevich, Maxim Bogdanovich, Zmitrok Byadulya, Maxim Goretsky, and others.
The most famous poets of the 20th century are Yanka Kupala, Yakub Kolas, Rygor Borodulin, Petrus Brovka, Nil Gilevich, Arkady Kuleshov, Pimen Panchenko, Maxim Tank. Renowned Belarusian writers are Vasil Bykov, Yanka Bryl, Kondrat Krapiva, Mikhas Lynkov, Ivan Melezh, Ivan Shamyakin and others. Works by Belarusian poets, writers, dramatists became famous all over the world within a relatively short time.
Modern Belarusian music goes back to folk music of Eastern Slavs. Instrumental music has always played an important role in the Belarusian countryside. Among the most popular Belarusian instruments are duda (pipe), zhaleyka, gudok (horn), lyre, violin, dulcimer.
Liturgical music also gained ground in Belarus. The most remarkable monuments of the 15th-17th centuries are collections of vocal and instrumental music Polotsk Notebook
and Kuranty (Chimes).
Private theaters and choirs of the Radziwills, Sapehas, Oginskis became centers of music in the 18th century. The most famous composers were Johann David Holland, Arnost Vancura, Maciej Radziwill.
The most popular music bands in modern Belarus are the Presidential Orchestra of the Republic of Belarus, the National Academic Symphony Orchestra, and the Grigory Shirma State Academic Choir.
Artists of the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater, the Belarusian State Academic Musical Theater, the Belarusian State Philharmonics are notable for original talent and performance mastery.
The most famous Belarusian composers are Stanislaw Moniuszko, Heinrich Wagner, Vladimir Mulyavin, Igor Luchenok, Eduard Khanok, Dmitry Smolsky, Oleg Yeliseyenkov and others.
The National Symphony and Concert Orchestra conducted by Mikhail Finberg has done a lot to promote Belarusian music. The organization of chamber music festivals in small Belarusian towns is one of the priorities in the orchestra’s operation.
Belarus’ trademarks are the vocal bands Chisty Golos, Pesnyary and Syabry.
Every year Belarus hosts over 30 international, national and regional music festivals, including the Belarusian Musical Fall, Minsk Spring, Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk, Muses of Nesvizh.
Belarusian singers regularly participate in prestigious international contests.
Modern Belarusian music aims to preserve rich national traditions.
The Belarusian theater evolved from ancient folk rites, art of vagrant musicians and wandering minstrels. The portable puppet theater Batleika first appeared in Belarus in the 16th century. Batleika gave performances at trade fairs and in the squares of towns and villages. School theaters gained ground in the 16th-18th centuries. The first court and city theaters appeared in Belarus in the 18th century. Later on some of them turned into professional theaters.
Belarusian dramatist of the 18th century Vincent Dunin-Martsinkevich is recognized as the founder of the national theater art.
The early 20th century witnessed a revival of the Belarusian scenic art. The most popular performances were based on works by Kastus Kaganets, Yanka Kupala, Yakub Kolas, Konstantsiya Builo, Frantishek Olekhnovich and others.
In 1920 Florian Zhdanovich opened the first Belarusian State Theater (the Yanka Kupala National Academic Theater at present). In 1926 the second Belarusian State Theater (the Yakub Kolas National Academic Drama Theater at present) opened its doors in Vitebsk.
In 2012 there were 28 professional theaters, including 19 drama and music ones, 8 children’s ones, and one opera and ballet theater. The repertoire of Belarusian theaters included performances based on works of Belarusian writers, Russian, Soviet and foreign authors. There are four national theaters in Belarus. These are drama theaters named after Yanka Kupala, Maxim Gorky (Minsk), Yakub Kolas (Vitebsk), and the opera and ballet theater.
The greatest theater actors are Galina Makarova, Stefania Stanyuta, Zdislav Stomma, Gennady Ovsyannikov, Liliya Davidovich, Zoya Belokhvostik, Alexandra Klimova, Rostislav Yankovsky, Gennady Garbuk, Maria Zakharevich, Avgustin Milovanov, Viktor Manayev, Arnold Pomazan. Renowned directors are Valery Rayevsky, Boris Lutsenko, Nikolai Pinigin, Valery Mazynsky, Valery Maslyuk. Among famous scene designers are Boris Gerlovan, Dmitry Mokhov, Zinoviy Margolin and others.
Belarus regularly hosts various theater festivals and contests. The most remarkable of them include the festival Slavonic Theater Meetings in Gomel, Belaya Vezha in Brest, Panorama in Minsk, М’art – Contact in Mogilev. The National Theater Prize of Belarus was instituted in 2011.