Chronicles of their time
[b]Archives reveal unknown pages[/b]The National Archives of Belarus has now completed cataloguing previously ‘secret’ papers from the late 1980s, detailing the private lives of public figures. Intimate Diary, by poet Maxim Bogdanovich, remains unpublished.[b]Maxim Bogdanovich. Words endure[/b]Only the few who’ve seen pages from Bogdanovich’s Intimate Diary are aware of its details. One such is playwright Yuri Sokhar, who recently presented his Lost Swan play, exploring the final days of Maxim Bogdanovich, drawn from documentary sources.
The National Archives of Belarus has now completed cataloguing previously ‘secret’ papers from the late 1980s, detailing the private lives of public figures. Intimate Diary, by poet Maxim Bogdanovich, remains unpublished.
Maxim Bogdanovich. Words endure
Only the few who’ve seen pages from Bogdanovich’s Intimate Diary are aware of its details. One such is playwright Yuri Sokhar, who recently presented his Lost Swan play, exploring the final days of Maxim Bogdanovich, drawn from documentary sources.
“My wife, Olga Stanislavovna, was among the enthusiasts who founded the Bogdanovich Museum in Minsk. I travelled with her to places connected with the poet’s life, including his parents’ home and those of his acquaintances. In the 1970s, the Institute of Arts, Ethnography and Folklore at the Academy of Sciences of the BSSR decided to write the history of national theatre. At that time, I was working at the Institute and remember the former director of the First Belarusian Theatre (now, the Yanka Kupala Theatre), Yazep Dyla, sending his recollections from Saratov. A small notebook was in the parcel, which must have lain in a trunk in the Bogdanovich house. It is likely that Maxim’s father, Adam Yegorovich, gave it to Dyla. In this way, Intimate Diary found its way to the museum,” notes Mr. Sokhar.
Recently, the poet’s death certificate was discovered, in a church book of 1917, kept at the Yalta Historical-Literary Museum. The document was found by TV journalist Oleg Lukashevich. It states that ‘peasant of Yaroslavl, Maxim Adamovich Bogdanovich’ died on May 12th and was buried on the 15th. In this way, the earthly road of a Belarusian literary genius ended.
In Russian Yaroslavl, Bogdanovich wrote golden classics of national poetry. In Yalta, on the shores of the Black Sea, one of his last lines was: ‘I’m not alone; I have a book from Martin Kukhta’s printing house’.
Surprisingly, the major milestones of his career are connected with places beyond Belarus’ borders: Kukhta’s Printing House was located in Vilnius. His only epic book — Venok (The Wreath) — was published there in the early 20th century, as was recently revealed following the release of details regarding his benefactor, Princess Magdalena Radziwill. Her Zawiszi family emblem of the swan is seen on the book’s title page, indicating her funding of the edition.
“The Princess spent her last years in Switzerland, where she died in 1945. With assistance from the UNESCO National Commission for Belarus, the Chargй d’Affaires of Belarus to Switzerland, Andrei Kulazhenko, conducted research which led to a discovery in Bourguignon, not far from Fribourg: the grave of Magdalena Radziwill,” notes researcher Adam Maldis. “She spent her last years at an elite boarding house for the elderly. We’re now making contact with her great-great grandchildren, who reside in the UK and Sweden.”
Literary critic Tikhon Chernya-kevich has prepared a collection of documents on Maxim Bogdanovich and his father, Adam Bogdanovich: most are previously published. “I’ve touched original manuscripts by Bogdanovich, as well as those written by his contemporaries and predecessors. Readers will be able to look at the life and creativity of the classical poet with great intimacy,” he tells us.
Yanka Kupala. Autograph on the monitor
The Yanka Kupala Museum has released Autographs of the First People’s Poet of Belarus Yanka Kupala — as paper and electronic editions (the latter available on CD). Impressively, the poet’s works have been translated into almost 100 foreign languages, making Yanka Kupala a key representative of Belarusian nationhood, language and literary culture.
Autographs is the first complete collection of the classical poet’s manuscripts from the Yanka Kupala State Literary Museum, supported by the Culture Ministry and the UNESCO National Commission for Belarus. The edition also includes Kupala’s drafts of Along the Way of Life (a collection of poems) and is unique in allowing us the opportunity to see his handwriting at various ages.
The museum holds over 500 of the poet’s manuscripts. The earliest is My Fate (a poem dated 1904), which bears a light verse in Polish on the reverse — O Kobiecie (On Women). Naturally, originals are especially precious: Bandarouna, She and I, Dream on the Mound, Prymaki and The Broken Nest. His famous Paulinka comedy is present in two editions, while his Heritage poem (which became a hit for Pesnyary folk group) is present in three copies.
Vladimir Korotkevich. 25 years of life
In 2012, a 25 volume edition was launched: The Collected Works of Vladimir Korotkevich. It was the first time that his works were published in full, including diaries, letters, drawings and, even, recordings of his voice.
The 25th volume is to appear in 2010, in time for the 90th anniversary of the classical writer. Anatoly Verabei, an associated professor at the Belarusian Language and Culture Chair at the Belarusian State University’s Philological Department, tells us, “For the first time, readers can see previously unknown Russian language poems by Vladimir Korotkevich: Homeland and Prehistory. Works by Byron, Adam Mickiewicz, Ivan Franko and Alexey Tolstoy translated into Belarusian are also being gathered. Drawings, caricatures and self-portraits created by Korotkevich will feature in a separate volume. Mr. Korotkevich sang well and knew many Belarusian folk songs, so these are being released on CD alongside the Collected Works. His television speeches are also being published, while two volumes are dedicated to his correspondence with Vasil Bykov, Maxim Tank and other outstanding personalities.”
Iosif Volk-Leonovich: Language is my friend
In the 1920s, he was a landmark figure in Minsk’s cultural life, helping found the study of linguistics in Belarus. However, his views often contradicted those of his time and he was criticised for closely comparing the Belarusian and Russian languages. Only now are pages from those years being unveiled from the archives.
Mr. Volk-Leonovich studied at St. Petersburg University’s Historical and Philological Department, attending seminars and lectures led by outstanding academics: Russian Shakhmatov, Polish Professor Baudouin de Courtenay and Belarusian Yevfimiy Karsky.
In Minsk, Mr. Volk-Leonovich taught Belarusian language and literature for those studying at Polish and Jewish training colleges and worked at the Belarusian Language History Chair of the Belarusian State University.
In 1925, Mr. Volk-Leonovich published his Language of Frantsisk Skorina’s Editions, followed in 1927 by Lectures on the History of the Belarusian Language, whose costs he met himself. They were approved by the BSSR People’s Commissariat for Education as teaching guides but were later considered inadequate.
His 1929 lecture at the Belarusian Academy of Sciences — On Some of the Most Important Weaknesses in Belarusian Literary Language — aroused a huge response among linguists. In 1930, Mr. Volk-Leonovich moved to Saratov, dedicating the final years of his life to teaching the Russian language. His hand-written archive miraculously survived and is kept at the Central Scientific Library of the National Academy of Sciences, filling 171 storage units.
Adam Rusak. A letter to his mother
Poet Adam Rusak’s song Be of Good Health was an immediate hit, although few realise that he wrote the lyrics. Most know the melody is over 70 years old and assume the words are simply traditional. Now, however, his daughter, Lyudmila Rusak, is keen to have her father’s genius recognised. She tells us, “In 1936, Adam Rusak — a poet and musician from the Kopyl District’s Pesochnoe village — wrote a letter to his mother. He was working as a soloist with the Leningrad Maly Opera and Ballet Theatre Symphony Orchestra. He felt overwhelmed with homesickness, which inspired his poem: Be of Good Health. Composer Isaak Lyuban, who had studied with him at the Minsk Musical Training College, added the melody.”
The song gained popularity and soon reached Moscow, where Leonid Utesov sung it in 1938, using a translation into Russian by poet Mikhail Isakovsky, which he called The Wish. No mention was made of Mr. Rusak’s original, despite demands by the Union of BSSR Writers.
Only those familiar with Belarusian literature know that Be of Good Health isn’t a folk song but the creation of Adam Rusak and Isaak Lyuban.
Vsevolod Ignatovsky. Revelations from the attic
A teacher training college which was the forerunner of today’s Belarusian State Pedagogical University was named in his honour. In the 1920s, the faзade of the building was decorated with a plaque bearing the name of Vsevolod Ignatovsky: People’s Commissar for Education in Belarus and the first president of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences.
On February 4th, 1931, he shot himself through the temple, in despair at Stalin’s notorious repressions. “Before the doctors could reach his flat at 38 Karl Marx Street (the Second House of the Soviets — now 30 Karl Marx Street) the intelligence agencies entered, removing all his personal academic papers,” explains Vladimir Lyakhovsky, a Candidate of Historical Sciences and an associated professor with the BSU’s International Relations Department. “The papers then disappeared.”
Attempts to relocate them were made by historians Rostislav Platonov, Vladimir Mikhnyuk, Vitaly Skalaban, Alexandra Ges and Nikolay Tokarev. Finally, the National History Museum received them as a donation from Minsk resident Maya Stashevskaya. She tells us, “The documents were given to me in the mid-1970s by an elderly man who called himself an old acquaintance of my father, Alexander Stashevsky — the former People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs and Justice of the BSSR and Ignatovsky’s comrade-in-arms. The papers then lay in my attic and, when I remembered them, I decided to pass them to the state.”
The most precious among these papers are the membership cards and mandates of Ignatovsky as a member of the Central Executive Committee (Parliament) of the BSSR and USSR and a deputy of Minsk’s City Council.
“This is a certificate of the People’s Commissar for Education, issued by the BSSR Government in 1925,” notes Mr. Lyakhovsky, showing the document. “It’s designed by famous artist Gennady Zmudzinsky, the author of the Order of the Red Banner of Labour of the BSSR. Alongside personal documents, the collection includes five unpublished Ignatovsky manuscripts, dating from 1924-1927, which shed light on some early 20th century episodes of the Belarusian national movement.”
By Viktar Korbut