On 6 August Belarusian Protestants began officially celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Francišak Skaryna’s translation of the Bible into an archaic church-Slavonic language, which can be seen as a proto-Belarusian.
I happened to attend one Minsk-based congregation on that raining day. Despite the weather, people were in truly festive moods.
Apart from Facebook web pages, scientific conferences, family picnics organised or to be organised by non-government organisations (Evangelical communities seem to be most active) to mark this special anniversary, I cannot say the official state celebrations are very boisterous across Belarus. While in Minsk in August, for example, I spotted just a few posters, especially on bookstores’ window displays. It is striking especially when compared to big street boards omnipresent in the city centre around the 3 July celebrations.
Francišak Skaryna: Belarusian Reformist
Francišak Skaryna remains one of the most prominent figures in Belarusian history. He was a humanist and, remarkably, for his times, he translated the Bible into an archaic Church-Slavonic language back in 1517. His translation of the New Testament clearly coincided with the Reformist movement that swept through the whole Europe.
I did some research on the Belarus Orthodox Church, Catholic Church and Evangelical churches web sites just to see whether they reflect on the anniversary. It turned out that there was nothing on the Belarusian Orthodox Church’ official web page, whereas the Catholic Church and Evangelical web sites offered a range of news and updates on upcoming events. The Evangelical web site presented books covering the topic of the Reformation, for example, the smartphone-compatible version of the Bible (in Belarusian).
As I understand, it is uncertain whether Skaryna was associated with Orthodoxy or Roman-Catholicism. Anyway, Evangelicals associate his work with the Reformation movement. Would that be the reason for the Belarusian Orthodox Church to stay a bit reserved to this anniversary?
Who is proud of Skaryna?
On 6 August the official celebrations of Skaryna’s translation of the Bible begun mainly among Belarusians Evangelicals. For example, in Minsk some communities organised a family festival celebrating it. Others will organise conferences, short videos.
However, apart from these ‘religious’ celebrations, I cannot say I spotted a lot of official celebrations. Well, I saw some short movies on Skaryna on BT, Belarusian state TV. But nothing similar to the celebrations of the 3 July when the authorities mark the Day of the Republic of Belarus.
It appears, however, that I am not isolated with my impressions. Authors of the article “404 Skaryna NotFound” investigated whether the shopping centres and shops, including the state-owned ones, in Minsk mark anyhow Francišak Skaryna. According to them, the biggest state shops and shopping centres have not been prepared for this event, for example, many of them did not have souvenirs with Francišak Skaryna in their offer.
Skaryna and his work are nonpolitical, but of cultural and historical importance for Belarusians. The third sector, particularly the religious one, seems to be more concerned to promote the heritage of Francišak Skaryna than the officials. If they do not want to do it for Belarusians, at least for foreign tourists coming to the country who might get interested in it.