Portrait represents history

Let us visit Cherven, a small town several kilometers away from the motorway Minsk–Mogilev
Before hitting the road we need to examine some encyclopedias and learn at least something about the town. “Cherven, or Igumen, as the town had been called until 1923, is a small town, district center, situated on the river Chervenka, or the Igumenka, as it was named earlier, not far from the motorway leading from Minsk to Mogilev. The town is located 62 kilometers to south-east from the city of Minsk, 30 kilometers from the railway station of Pukhovichy. Motorways from Cherven lead to the town Maryina Gorka and Smolevichy. Cherven has 10,800 citizens.”

Every Belarusian city has regional ethnographers that are fascinated about the history of this or that settlement. The town of Cherven or Igumen is no exception. Meet Prokofiy Nikolayevich Sakov, a teacher and an ethnographer in one. He teaches the Belarusian language and literature at the local school. His job assisted him in creating a museum of the town. he is a real expert in history, and advises me to visit Cherven and local villages. I follow his advice gladly.

I also follow the example of Pavel Shpilevsky who in the 19th century narrated about large and small towns of Belarus, including Cherven, and the Polesye land. Here is the description of the district town Cherven provided in the book “Picturesque Russia”: “The town of Igumen, situated on the river Igumen is the poorest town in the Minsk District. There are remains of an ancient settlement near Igumen that prove that the town is really an old one. In the 17th century Igumen was an estate of Vilnya bishops. There is a large lake near the town (it has almost dried up). In 1798 the Russian troops blocked the way of the Swedish troops lead by Karl XII and prevented them from crossing the river Berezina. The Swedes thought they were clever enough and moved towards Igumen lake. At that time the lake was so deep that the troops almost drowned. In 1796 Igumen became a district town in the Minsk Province. Berezina and Svisloch are the main rivers in the district.

They animate the town. Local products and goods, including timber, woodwork and tar are transported via Berezina. There are five docks in the district: in the settlement of Berezino, Kameny, Bozhin, Yakshitsy and Yamno. Three villages in the town of Igumen are famous for their manufactures. Rather important cloth manufactures are situated here…”

The center of modern Cherven attracts attention from the first sight. Imagine that the modern park and administrative buildings disappear, and an ancient market place arises. It used to host fairs that attracted farmers and notables from the whole district. Counters were piled with honey, propolis, wood beehives and other goods. In January 1796 Igumen got its own emblem depicting golden bees over silver flowers on the blue background. The description of the emblem said that beekeeping was the main profitable activity for peasants of the region and that a bee was a symbol of diligence and hard work.

Walking through the modern center of the town of Cherven, that is today called Svobody (Freedom) Square, you should pay attention to old red-brick houses. They were built about one hundred years ago. By the way, among them is the museum of local history and traditions, but we will visit it later. First, we are going to examine the building itself. It has a kind of historical touch. Many years ago Cherven was an educational center for all villages nearby. In 1865 a two-year school was established in the town. The school was financed from the state treasury. First, the learning time in school was expanded to four years and then the school became a real primary educational establishment. In the second half of 18th-begining of the 19th century some private educational establishments were opened in Igumen. In 1868 a one-year Christian school was established; later a four-year school for women was opened in the town.

By the way, the school is situated on the street called Shkolnaya (School Street). We are going to return to Svoboda Square and examine a small exhibition of wooden sculptures in the open area. The local sculptor, Gennady Matusevich, has carved the sculpture of the Mother Superior, the symbol of the town, and a statue of Stanislav Manyushka, the composer, whose roots are in the manor Ibel in Igumen. Besides, Matusevich has created commemorative tablets for Maria Myakot, the mother of Maxim Bogdanovich, who was born in Igumen, and for Nikolai Rovensky, the composer that was working on his opera “Flights” in Igumen during Second World War.

When your guided tour in the town is over, you should head to the museum of local history and traditions. Real enthusiasts are working here. They will be glad to show you the exhibition, tell about the history of Cherven, Igumen and the Cherven District. Besides, you may ask the employees of the museum about the natives of Igumen and the district. Among the natives of the town was the academician and doctor David Golub, who lived more than 100 years. They will tell you about historians and chronographers Ibragim Konopatsky, Anna Dulebo, Alexei Kavko, Vsevolod Sikorsky and Anatoly Lyuty. Anatoly Gurinovich, the former head of Belarus’ Foreign Ministry, who has been representing Belarus in the UN General Assembly for about thirty years now, was also born in the Cherven District, as well as painters Khaim Sutina and Mikhail Stanyuta. You will be able to get the complete portrait of Cherven only after visiting the museum.

Veronica Smeyanovich.
Cards from collection
of Vladimir Likhodedov
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