Today the 7th International Congress of Belarusian Studies kicked off in Warsaw, this time in cooperation with Collegium Civitas. Previous conferences took place in Kaunas, Lithuania. The Congress remains one of the rare opportunities for academics working on Belarus to meet up and discuss their research.
I am excited about my tomorrow’s presentation on the social capital formation in the village of Alšany, south-west Belarus. I have already prepared my powerpoint slides.
Catholic procession in Minsk, Source: Radio Liberty
Inspired by the report on religious restrictions that the Pew Research Centre released in April, I have written an article about the situation in Belarus. The article looks at how the authorities struggle to reconcile the religious diversity with the right to equality of religions.
Last month, the Pew Research Centre released its Global Restrictions on Religion report, which gauges barriers imposed by governments as well as social hostilities towards religious organisations. Out of the nearly 200 countries studied, Belarus ranked among the ‘high-risk’ group when it comes to religious restrictions.
Speakers of my panel “Social and political movements”
Last Saturday I attended the 2nd conference “Belarusian Studies in the 21st century” organised by the Ostrogorski Centre, SSEES (UCL) and the Francis Skaryna Library in London.
This time the event attracted around 20 scholars and researchers from the places including the UK, Finnland, Lithuania, Germany and Japan who discussed their work and around 40 guest attendants. A special lecture on Francis Skaryna’s edition of the Bible followed the conference.
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.
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.