Belarusian literature

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Belarusian literature (Belarusian: Беларуская лiтаратура, Bielaruskaja litaratura) is the writing produced, both prose and poetry, by speakers (not necessarily native speakers) of the Belarusian language.


Pre-17th century

Belarusian literature was formed from the common basis of Kievan Rus literary tradition, which also gave rise to Ukrainian literature and Russian literature. A separate literary tradition of Belarus became apparent only in the 14th-15th centuries. The old Belarusian literature experienced its golden age in the 16th-17th centuries, when the Old Belarusian language was the official language of the Great Duchy of Lithuania. The Statutes of the Great Duchy of 1529, 1566 and 1588, as well as polemic religious literature were all published in Old Belarusian language. Since the early 16th century Belarusian literary works have been printed. The first printed Belarusian book (in the version of Old Belarusian) was Psaltyr, which was printed in Prague by Francysk Skaryna in 1517 (this was the first book to be printed in an East Slavonic language). During the 16th and 17th century poetry and drama (see Simeon Polatsky) appeared in Belarusian literature under the influence of a more developed Polish literature.

18th and 19th centuries

Due to cultural dominance of the Polish language within the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Russian language within the Russian Empire, Belarusian literary tradition was severely damaged[citation needed] in the 18th century. Its renaissance began in the first half of the 19th century, when an anonymous satirical poem 'Taras na Parnase' was published. First novels have been authored by Pauljuk Bahrym, and several works have been contributed by Polish poets born in Belarus (Jan Barszczewski, Jan Czeczot, Adam Mickiewicz, Vintsent Dunin-Martsinkyevich, Andrej Rypinski). Books were often published in the Latin alphabet (Lacinka), not the Cyrillic, which is the norm today. In the second half of the 19th century there was a rise in the literary tradition of Realism (Francisak Bahusevic, Adam Hurynovic, Jan Lucyna).

Early 20th century

New period started after the Russian Revolution of 1905, when first Belarusian language newspapers were established in Vilnius (Nasa Dolia and Nasha Niva). They brought together a circle of writers, who were arguing for developing Belarusian language and its literature (including Maksim Bahdanovich, Zmitrok Biadulia, Maksim Harecki, Yakub Kolas). Belarusian literature of the time combined elements of Romanticism, Realism and Modernism.

First World War

During the World War 1 and proclamation of the Belarusian People's Republic (1918) the key themes within the Belarusian literature were patriotism and common life.

Inter-war period

After the establishment of BSSR in 1919 literary life in Belarus was concentrated around magazines Maladnjak (1923-1928) and Uzvyshsha (1926-1931), which were published by a group of Belarusin writers. Besides the authors from the previous periods (Zmitrok Biadulia, Yakub Kolas), this was a period of active work of poets Mihkal Charot, Uladzimer Dubouka, Adam Dudar, and writers Maksim Harecki, Tsishka Hartny and Kuz'ma Chorny.

Outside of Belarus Belarusian literatured developed as well - in Vilnius, Kaunas, Prague (Mikhal Mashara, Kazimir Svajak). In 1934 Union of Writers of BSSR was established in Minsk. Tradition of Socialist Realism appeared in the 1930s.

After-war years

After the end of the World War 2 key themes for the new Belarusian literature were war time experiences, life of Belarusians in the USSR and national history (in particular, novels by Ivan Melezh and Ivan Shamiakin). Since the 1960s a new theme of morality appeared in the Belarusian prose. Many writers have been fighting for freedom of speech of the authors (in particular, Vasil Bykau and Uladzimer Karatkevich).

There are several Belarusian authors who have left Belarus and now work in emigration (for instance, Natallya Arsenneva and Ales' Salavej)..

Leading literary magazines of Belarus are Litaratura i mastatstva (since 1932) and Polymia (since 1922).

In 2015 Belarusian investigative journalist and prose writer Svetlana Alexievich was awarded the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature "for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time".[1][2]

Famous Belarusian writers

Inter-war period

After-war years

Contemporary writers

Belarusian and Polish writers

17th century

19th century


  1. Blissett, Chelly. "Author Svetlana Aleksievich nominated for 2014 Nobel Prize". Yekaterinburg News. January 28, 2014. Retrieved January 28, 2014.
  2. Treijs, Erica (8 October 2015). "Nobelpriset i litteratur till Svetlana Aleksijevitj". Svenska Dagbladet. Retrieved 8 October 2015. Unknown parameter |trans_title= ignored (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
    Svetlana Alexievich wins Nobel Literature prize, BBC News (8 October 2015)