Presenting my work in progress at the Congress of Belarusian Studies, Kaunas.
Yes, I felt a bit stressed before my presentation at the Congress.
Paradoxically, to overcome the negative thoughts, I tried out an old method of catastrophizing – by considering what could have possible gone bad and the worst scenarios.
When I realized that actually even forgetting English would not have been that bad, as I could have been speaking, for example, Belarusian then (as the audience was predominantly Belarusian), I got the idea. ‘Nothing bad can happen. I will present my work-in-progress and receive a constructive feedback. As simple as that’.
So here I am in Kaunas, Lithuania. I am attending the 6th International Congress of Belarusian Studies, an academic must for researchers studying Belarus. I am here for the first time in a capacity of a PhD student and want to share my work-in-progress.
Feels a bit excited and I do not know what to expect. Well, I need to give a presentation of my paper, that is for sure. There will be some discussion afterwards, that is for sure.
“PhD tends to isolate, to some extent”, I remember I heard that a lot last year, when have just started my PhD programme. Yes, it does, indeed. We often spend hours in libraries, or at other intellectually-friendly places, studying others’ writings. I consider myself lucky, because my research draws on ethnographic methods and I can work with people, and learn from them.
This summer when I was doing my fieldwork, I explored a bit a Baptist church located in the sleeping area of Minsk. That was the biggest church I have seen so far. It was built in the 1990s, when Protestant communities did not face such building restrictions as they are in place today.
It was Saturday. I entered the church building. It looked quite impressive inside.
The Lutheran church in Hrodna, vul. Akademicka
“Hrodna is predominantly a Catholic city, maybe 78% per cent of people are Catholics here, there are a few Orthodox, and a few Pentecostals too”, I hear from a Hrodna-born young man, Siarhey.
In the past Hrodna (Grodno) was very diverse religiously and that still remains. I managed to spot a few Catholic and Orthodox churches, a Lutheran kirche and a synagogue. “My great grandfather told me that in the past in Hrodna there were no Catholics, no Orthodox, and all attended the Protestant church”, Siarhey adds.
For a researcher like myself Belarus is definitely a unique country. It has two official languages, Belarusian and Russian. However, the latter one enjoys the privileged position. It also has also two flags, the red-and-green official one, and the other, red-white-red recognised by the political opposition.
Yes, divisions may appear in every society. They mean rather a normal thing – people differ, therefore, their world views differ, too.
However, it seems that political views often determine what, when and with whom to celebrate even the beginnings of the Belarusian statehood. That can be either on 25 March, 7 July or 27 July. We could go on and on.
The writing on the shop display at the Minsk airport, “The native tongue”
So here I am in Belarus, a country with two official languages – Belarusian and Russian. The latter one remains, however, lingua franca. It is the language of almost all spheres of public life, including media, politics, and education. Belarusian remains largely marginalised.
I have written more about it here.
Yet, this linguistic complexity is interesting from my research point of view.
Why certain groups of people decide to express themselves in Belarusian, not in Russian? Why in Russian only? Why solely in Belarusian? Should I pay attention to those choices or are they rather random? Do they necessary carry a political meaning?
Unexpected religious revival in the post-Soviet space?
Collective prayer of Evangelical Christians in Minsk, 2007. Source: nn.by
In the 1990s, the former Soviet republics found themselves in completely new social realities. Interestingly, despite the decades of atheization, some sort of religious revival took place throughout the whole post-Soviet space.
Millions of Homo Sovieticus type were seeking God. There are different explanations for this phenomenon.
The good news is that I got ethics approval from King’s College for my PhD research. Visa, health insurance obtained and tickets purchased. “Now it is time to start my pilot study in Belarus!”, I thought enthusiastically.
The travel itinerary of my trip was simple: Bialystok – Chopin airport in Warsaw by bus and then Warsaw-Minsk by plane.
Unfortunately, a few hours later it turned out that I missed the flight due to visa issues – and that has utterly complicated my further trip to Minsk. Had to change it diametrically the same day.
Kilka dni temu byłam na wystawie w Mińsku – World Press Photo 2013, jaka odbyła się w klubokawiarni Cech.
World Press Photo to wystawa najlepszych prasowych fotografii ze świata. W tym roku nagrodzono 54 fotografów z 33 państw.
Niektóre zdjęcia rzeczywiście były wyjątkowe i nie sposób było przejść obok nich obojętnie. Wśród fotografii można znaleźć także polski ślad – fotografie dwóch autorek – Ilony Szwarc oraz Anny Bedyńskiej.
Wczoraj byłam z moimi znajomymi z BelarusDigest w kultowym bufecie w Centralnym universamie w Minsku.
Rozmawialiśmy, zamówiliśmy piwo i kwas, i w pewnym momencie podszedl do mnie młody Białorusin. Zapytał dlaczego rozmawiam po białorusku. Totalnie zaskoczona odpowiedziałam mu, że jestem w Białorusi i dlatego mówię po białorusku. Na co on kontynuuje, że on również jest w Białorusi, ale rozmawia po rosyjsku. Chłopiec nie odpuszczał, ale przeszedłszy już na język białoruski, wciąż dopytywał.