Echoes from the past
[b]Famous Russian historian and genealogist Stanislav Dumin has strong Belarusian roots[/b]It sometimes seems that complex family branches lack logic, having their own hidden laws — like human DNA. Geneticists can now detect ‘weak links’ in our bodies, using DNA-analysis and other methods, predicting our propensity to inherited illness. Genealogists are yet to master the art of prediction, like plant breeders who can forecast the fruit of two trees from different families. Interestingly, some parents are already asking experienced specialists to ‘engineer’ their children, to help them achieve better results in life. Families are being studied to detect talent and illness, strengths and weaknesses. Where the latter can be avoided, it surely makes sense to do so…
It sometimes seems that complex family branches lack logic, having their own hidden laws — like human DNA. Geneticists can now detect ‘weak links’ in our bodies, using DNA-analysis and other methods, predicting our propensity to inherited illness.
Genealogists are yet to master the art of prediction, like plant breeders who can forecast the fruit of two trees from different families. Interestingly, some parents are already asking experienced specialists to ‘engineer’ their children, to help them achieve better results in life. Families are being studied to detect talent and illness, strengths and weaknesses. Where the latter can be avoided, it surely makes sense to do so…
Important pages in our life history often remain hidden until researched, as genealogist Stanislav Dumin is convinced. His Internet page reads that he is a member of ‘many foreign heraldic, genealogical and historical societies and academies’, while being ‘an acting member of the Academy of Russian Literature, the Assembly of Russian Nobility and many other associations’. He clearly belongs to the heraldic-genealogical elite of the post-Soviet and European-Asian space. Since 1999, he has been President of the Russian Genealogical Society and has written over 800 papers in all — including a study of Russian and foreign royal families. He wrote four volumes of a book entitled Noble Families of the Russian Empire (1993—1998), and has written novels for children (about Ryleev and Kulibin) and The Romanovs. The Emperor’s Family in Exile. Family Chronicles book (1998). His website also mentions his talents as a poet.
I’d like to look at his Belarusian family tree, pondering whether spouses, children and friends are attracted into our families as a result of Fate or something more fundamental and measureable — as some people believe. Do our genes and blood determine similarities or does our intangible spirituality draw others to us unconsciously? It remains one of the unanswered questions of eternity...
While working for Golas Radzimy (Voice of the Motherland) newspaper — which details the lives of our countrymen abroad — I heard of many joining Belarusian ex-pat associations, greeting each other like long lost friends, guided by a desire to band together. Some spent years unaware of common Belarusian genes, having grown up far from the homeland of their forefathers, finding new friends and a spouse before discovering their shared family tree.
Interestingly, Mr. Dumin was inspired by his lecturer at the Moscow State University in the 1970s: Nikolay Ulashchik — a prominent Belarusian historian, doctor of sciences and expert in the history of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Did they meet by accident or design? The Muscovite son of a flight lieutenant and colonel, Mr. Dumin expressed interest in his past while studying. It was then that he discovered his Belarusian roots as ‘a Tartar on horseback’. Asked what connects him to Belarus, he answers, “My mother’s father — Alexander Mukhlya (1884—1962) - died when I was about nine; I didn’t have the chance to ask him much but a photo of him wearing a military coat remains, taken in Kovno (now known as Kaunas, Lithuania). It was where he served before WW1. I discovered it in an album shown to me by my distant cousin in 1987. We lacked such a photo in Moscow, as it wasn’t safe to keep photos of that kind in the past. However, we had his birth certificate — issued by the Lyakhovichi cathedral mosque. It reads: ‘A son was born to lawfully wedded parents — noble Mustafa (Stefan) and Fatma (of the Voronovichy) Mukhlya; in line with the Islamic faith, he was named Alexander’. I knew that my grandfather was born in Byten (now known as the Brest Region’s Ivatsevichi District) so, naturally, I was interested in how my forefathers came to Belarus, and in how they gained a noble title.”
Having devoted his life to his search for his family roots, Mr. Dumin worked on penetrating the past, entering Moscow State University’s History Department in 1970. He dreamt of studying the history of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, specialising in the history of Southern and Western Slavs. In 1975, he defended his diploma about Lithuanian Tartars (in the service of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania). “My colleague then joked saying that ‘I took Lithuanian Tartars into the circle of Slavs’,” Mr. Dumin adds. “He was right, as they lost the Turkish language in the late 16th century, due to the spread of Slavonisation. That paper was the basis of my joint work with Minsk colleague Ibrahim Kanapatsky; we published Belarusian Tartars: Past and Present. I sent my texts to Ibrahim in Russian, while he translated them into Belarusian — also writing several chapters on ethnographic issues.”
As Mr. Dumin admits, during his post-graduate studies at the University, he ‘was lucky to be taught by Nikolay Ulashchik’. Moreover, he began to study primary sources — Lithuanian metric in particular. In 1981, he defended his candidate of sciences paper about Smolensk as part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (1611-1654). He now has many publications about the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, remaining involved in the study of the heraldry, genealogy and history of his forefathers and other Tartar families across the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Among them are Russian, Polish and Georgian nobility.
Until recently, the genealogy of Mr. Dumin himself was vague. However, knowing that ‘birds of a feather flock together’ and that his mother came from Belarus, he assumed that his father was from the vicinity. Such are the mysteries of family trees. “Quite an interesting, second, chapter of my family history was revealed just a year ago,” he wrote in a letter addressed to me, recently, from the Netherlands (where he was attending the International Congress of Genealogy and Heraldry). “Baltic haplogroup N1c1 detected in my blood indicated that I was connected with this region. Later, a document on my father’s origin made it clear: his family (and that of my mother) came from the west of Belarus. My father’s ancestors lived in the village of Nekrashi, near Skidel, originally being called Dauhun. Over the course of time, this transformed into Dulin, then Dumin-Dulin and, eventually, Dumin. I have grounds to suspect that the forefathers of my mother’s grandmother — Yevgenia Olkovich — were called Olkovichi (or Olkhovichi): ‘domestic’ Poles. On being asked what connects me to Belarus, I can answer: everything!”
Not long ago, a researcher of old Belarusian families, writer and patron Anatoly Stetskevich-Cheboganov, presented dozens of volumes of his unique I’m Your Son (part of the Chronicles of Belarusian Nobility series, which he launched) to the National Library of Belarus.
On the same day, he fulfilled the request of our countryman, also presenting Lithuanian Tartars in History and Culture (written by Stanislav Dumin, Galim Sitdykov and Adas Yakubauskas). “With Anatoly, I plan to add to this series, publishing stories about some Tartar and local families, in addition to stories about those who came from Poland (whom I’ve studied before),” Mr. Dumin tells us. “A second edition of Dombrov’s Ciechanowiecki Coat of Arms — which I helped write — is to be released in Warsaw in Polish (a language I speak and write fluently). It tells of a prominent magnate family connected with Eastern Belarus whose last representative is Duke Andrzej Ciechanowiecki; he now lives in London and is known as a patron. We plan to translate and publish it as part of the same series. Really, our plans are huge.”
By Ivan Zhdanovich