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Struggle over Identity

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Nelly Bekus

Part VI. Cultural Manifestation versus Social Reification

Chapter 23. Belaruski Globus: An Encyclopedia of What Existed before Communism

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  • 1 According to October 2008 data.

1If one puts “Sovietness” outside the Belarusian cultural landscape, it can be regarded as a sign of alternative Belarusianness. One such example is Belaruski Globus (The Belarusian Globe), a Web-based cultural project by the amateur photographer Andrei Dybovski. It is a collection of information about architectural and other places of interest in Belarus with 8,300 entries and 34,000 photographs,1 which are being constantly updated.

2Dybovski’s idea was to create a kind of alternative map of Belarus, to display all the places of historical memory of pre-Soviet Belarus, and to create a cultural landscape that exists outside the Soviet history of the Belarusian people. Conceived by a single person, the “Belarusian Globe” project has attracted people united by a common interest for Belarusian history without communism. Whatever had been made in the Soviet period is just ignored here as clearly external, brought about by an epoch of “alien” history. The main idea is “to take pictures of anything built before communism, that is 1939 and earlier for western Belarus and 1918 for eastern Belarus.”2

3The project was aimed to show, on the one hand, that despite the wide spread opinion about the lack of historical sites in Belarus, there exists a multitude of pre-1917 castles, religious edifices, and country estates. On the other hand, the collection of photographs illustrates their contemporary condition, revealing Belarusian society’s indifferent and uninterested attitude towards history.

4The information in this collection is organized chronologically, geographically, and according to monument type. Chronologically the author singles out sites dating from before 1499, 1500–1599, and 1600–1699. Separately presented are objects related to the 1863–64 Kastus Kalinouski uprising, the Patriotic War of 1812, and World War I. It is also planned to create a separate collection of information about sites related to the Kosciuszko and the 1830 uprisings.

5The monuments include fortifications (castles, fortresses, towers, living fortresses); churches (including Orthodox, Catholic, Old Believers, Greek Catholic, Calvinist, Protestant churches, as well as mosques and synagogues); palaces and mansions; monasteries and convents. Other structures discussed include wooden architecture, gates, steeples, town halls, towers, bridges, pharmacies, stations, mail-staging posts, ferries, mills, and so on. In order to collect this mass of materials, Dybovski traveled across Belarus for five years, for a total of 182 trips.

6The idea of this project has a special resonance in the Belarusian context. Belarus is known to be a territory that has endured numerous wars and periodical changes of cultural and political domination which have erased most signs of history. Historical monuments have become rare, as with each power change the cultural landscape was also changed. Mo re over, the Soviets were indifferent to the monuments of the pre-Soviet past and during the post-war years many parts of old towns, including Minsk, were demolished and rebuilt in the Soviet fashion. All this provides a special perspective for Dybovski’s endeavor to carefully collect the remaining signs of the pre-Soviet Belarusian past. Throughout his collection one can discern the image of Belarus as described by alternative historians.

Notes

1 According to October 2008 data.

2 http://www.globus.tut.by. The Web site gets 500–600 visitors daily.

© Central European University Press, 2010

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540

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