Foundations of written language
[b]The Day of Belarusian Written Language is a unique holiday, being celebrated at national level each year in a new host town. This time, it coincided with the Year of Book and the anniversary birthdays of classical writers Yakub Kolas, Maxim Tank and Yanka Kupala...[/b]
Every year, the Information Ministry chooses the host town carefully, with the event celebrating our native language held in early September: Frantsisk Skorina published his first Belarusian language book in 1517 in Prague, in late summer-early autumn. The Day of Belarusian Written Language also coincides with the beginning of the new academic year, as Information Minister Oleg Proleskovsky stresses. He notes, “Education, information and culture are the three pillars which form the intellectual elite of a nation… its present and future.
On this day, we pay tribute to our forefathers, who created the fundamentals of Belarusian education and written language.”
In various years, the holiday has been hosted by Polotsk, Turov, Novogrudok, Nesvizh, Orsha, Pinsk, Zaslavl, Mstislavl, Mir, Kamenets, Postavy, Shklov, Borisov, Smorgon, Khoiniki and Gantsevichi. All Belarusian towns boast a few outstanding people who have contributed to the development of our language; some are even famous internationally. Glubokoe has an unusual avenue off its 17th September Square (named in honour of the unity of Belarusian lands in 1939); it features busts of Glubokoe-born Yazep Drozdovich (an artist who drew Mars even before the planet was photographed by the first satellite), Ignat Buinitsky (a founder of Belarusian national theatre), Pavel Sukhoy (the aircraft designer who created the ‘Su’ plane), academician Vatslav Lastovsky (among the first Belarusian prime ministers and the first director of the Belarusian State Museum) and Eliezer Ben-Yehuda (Perelman wrote the literary version of Hebrew).
The Day of Belarusian Written Language began with a divine liturgy at Glubokoe’s Cathedral of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God. This gathered writers, the clergy and all those involved in the ‘Path to Relics’ scientific expedition which traversed all Belarus with an oil-lamp lit from the Holy Sepulchre. The Deputy Plenipotentiary for Religions and Nationalities, Vladimir Lameko, believes that spiritual traditions are synonymous with written language. “Enlighteners Cyril and Methodius brought written language to the Slavs, jointly with the Gospel. God’s Word is the foundation of our written language,” he stresses.
After the liturgy, the winners of the Republican contest for the best literary work of 2012 were awarded on the major stage of the town, with the National Academic People’s Choir performing. Children were invited to an open air workshop (named after Yazep Drozdovich) and Polotsk’s National Historical-Cultural Museum-Reserve brought rare printed editions for display.
Stands of books and printed media drew large crowds, including Belarus magazine, which pleased and surprised foreign guests with its versions in various languages.
The holiday attracted over 100 writers from Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Serbia, Montenegro and Turkmenistan. A re-publication of the first ABC dictionary in Minsk was a highlight of the event. It was first released in Vilno in 1767 and, as the Director of the National Library, Roman Motulsky, noted, “Only two copies exist worldwide. The book includes not only materials to teach children but texts of instructive character: instructions, hymns, morality tales and prayers. It’s been re-published jointly with a historical-cultural essay in Belarusian, Russian and English, which reveals the significance of the book in the history of European book culture.”
Alexander Kovalenya, of the Department for Humanitarian Sciences at the National Academy of Sciences, believes that a copy of the edition should be held by every school to allow ‘our children to be able to touch the origin of our historical-cultural and language heritage’.
Over the years of its existence, the Day of Belarusian Written Language has become a true national holiday and a significant event in the country’s cultural life. This time, related events were held throughout Belarus, including thematic lessons, lectures, seminars and artistic meetings with scientists, writers and figures of culture.
In 2013, the holiday will be hosted by Bykhov. Glubokoe, meanwhile, will be celebrating the 500th anniversary of its first mention in written sources in 2014.
By Viktar Andrejeu