Museum and archive workers publish book

Vitebsk Regional History Museum joins Marc Chagall Museum and Vitebsk Regional State Archives in publishing guide to city of old
By Darya Kurilova

The book — entitled Walking with an Old Map — was inspired by Vitebsk’s city plan of 1904 — which is held in the Vitebsk archive. The city guide dates from the early 20th century, and includes information on the history of streets and architectural monuments, as well as excerpts from archival documents and memoirs of famous citizens.

Such memoirs reveal intriguing details otherwise unmentioned in official archives: during a visit by Tsar Nicholas II to Vitebsk, there was a traffic jam of in the central square, in which the Emperor became stuck. The Tsar even drove past the Goloshchekin photographic studio, owned by the brother of infamous Filipp Goloshchekin — who later helped organise the execution of the imperial family.

The Opera Theatre chapter is dedicated to the cultural life of Vitebsk of that time. Impressively, the city hosted 28 sell-out opera performances each month, featuring many famous artistes. Soon after its premiere in St. Petersburg, Vsevolod Meyerhold brought his play based on Alexander Blok’s Puppet Show (Balaganchik) to Vitebsk; however, it proved too avant-garde and soon closed.

Of course, Vitebsk was home to such prominent personalities as Marc Chagall and Ossip Zadkine early in the last century, who helped shaped its development. The book features many photos of the city from that time, in addition to postcards and snapshots of modern Vitebsk. “I aimed to create an entertaining read rather than a worthy tome filled with scientific and archival sources,” the author tells us.

Just 500 copies are in circulation and are likely to prove a hit with tourists and natives of the city. 

This is the first joint publishing project by the three institutions but it’s hoped that more editions will be forthcoming.
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