Culture Cafe: Belarus

Let’s welcome the new week with new place to discover – mysterious Belarus. Big country with a history and with its own traditions. We want to thank our ESN international students Arina Zemchik, Anastasiya Akulich and German Zaboronok for creating such an amazing atmosphere at our Culture Café! Let’s see what interesting we have found out about this nice country.

First of all, Belarus is big enough, bigger than you think it is. Actually, different Belarus regions are bigger than some European countries. For instance, Denmark is smaller than Minsk region, territories of New Macedonia and Grodno region are quite the same etc. Are you surprised? We have something else to amaze you. Belarusians are considered to be the saddest nation in the world, so hurry up to visit the country, cheer everyone up! And those things, which can make Europeans happy, are made from Belarusian flax, yes, we’re taking about Euro. Moreover, Belarus presented to the world Viber, EPAM, Wargaming, BATE. Does it deserve to make you feel glad?

Have you ever heard any stereotypes about Belarus? For example, Belarusians only eat potatoes. Draniki (potato pancakes) is a key dish in Belarusian cuisine. It seems to be true as there is the biggest volume of potato per person in the world but, in fact, traditionally in Belarus people ate a lot of tops and mushrooms. The potato cult was created only in Soviet times. Potatoes appeared on the table of Belarusians only in the 19th century. But with it, at that time they used a lot of turnips. And it was mainly in the peasant cuisine. Indeed, in the cookbook “Lithuanian Cook” published in 1854, there weren’t so many potato dishes. Draniki were created under impression of German Kartoffelpuffer. Another one stereotype says: “Grand Duchy of Lithuania”. The idea of common history with Russia appeared after Russification policy in the 19th century. It’s partly true but more and more young people are starting to speak Belarusian. This happened because of Russification during the Russian occupation and the Soviet Union.

As you can guess, there are 2 official languages: Russian and Belarusian. Now all of you know why Russian is so widespread here, but let’s talk a little bit about Belarusian. It’s really unique, includes borrowing from other languages and at the same time emphasizing identity. Der Zucker (sugar), die Schublade (drawer), it’s Deutsch, isn’t it? Cukar, šufliadka, it’s Belarusian version of these words. Some similar words you can find in English, like palace – palac, and Español, such as el mapa – mapa (yes, it’s map) and la meta – meta (the goal) etc. “Dziakui!” – would say Belarusians, it means “Thank you”. We can prompt how to answer: kali laska. It’s a Belarusian version of “you are welcome” but said in a tender way.

We talked about the cultural background, now it’s time to think about must see places. Probably, most of you know Belarus is famous for castles, a lot of tourists come here to explore this cultural heritage. We want to say that it’s the right decision. Come here and make sure of it. Here is the list of some significant and beautiful castles: Mir Castle Complex, Nesvizh Castle, Lida Castle, Navahrudak Castle, Old Grodno Castle, Lubcha Castle, Bykhov Castle etc. Plenty of them! Furthermore, Belarus is country with picturesque views and amazing nature. We highly recommend you visit Polesie, Europe’s largest region of swamps and wetlands. For unusual sensations and good photos go to Yelnya, the largest bog in Belarus and the fifth largest in Europe. You can continue acquaintance with Belarusian nature by exploring Belovezhskaya Puscha, the largest remnant of primeval forest.

That was our Culture Café dedicated to astonishing Belarus. We’re impressed and full of desire to visit it, hope you feel the same. Thanks for being with us, opening something new is way more interested when we are together. Stay tuned because the farther, the better! See you at our next Culture Café!

Text: Svetlana Dzhafarova