To mark the 150th anniversary of the battle of Milavidy on May 22, 1863. З нагоды 150-а юбілея бітвы пад Мілавідамі, 22.05.1863 г.
At Milavidy a group of insurgents in the Uprising of 1863-1864 held the day against a superior force of Russian imperial troops. Fought against the Russian Empire and for the restoration of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (the union of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, of which the Belarusian lands were a major part), the ill-fated Uprising is honored by Poles and Lithuanians as an important element of their national revivals.
The approach in Belarus is less uniform. The Belarusian nation at large honors the Uprising and its participants. However, the official attitude, still infused by Russian and Soviet imperial views, remains cool. The exhibition on Belarusian history shown in this photo reflects the split. Featuring prominently on the left is a heroic portrait of one of the Uprising’s leaders, the Belarusian Kastus’ Kalinouski, hanged by the Russians after the Uprising had failed. Below Kalinouski stands the Pahonja, the state symbol of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and of independent Belarus from 1991-1995. On the other hand the middle text on the right-hand column of three items bears the Soviet-style title “The Struggle of the Belarusian People for Unification with Russia”.
Museum in Dastojeva (the village was the original seat of the Dostoevski family) 2007. Музэй у в. Дастоева 2007 г.
Near Navahrudak, May 2001. Навагрудчына, травень 2001 г.
The uplands around the central-western city of Navahrudak have a specific light not found elsewhere in Belarus. Owing to the planting of thick hedges as a snow and wind barrier, in many places it is no longer possible to see these vistas from the road.
Churches of Belarus (part XXXII): Orthodox church of the Raising of the Holy Cross, Vistychy 2012. Цэрквы Беларусі (частка ХХХІІ): царква Ўзвышэньня Сьвятога Крыжа, Вістычы 2012 год.
Father Anatol’ stands in front of his Orthodox parish church of the Raising of the Holy Cross. A splendid example of Baroque architecture (1678), the structure was built as a Roman Catholic (Cistercian) church but converted into an Orthodox church during the Russian imperial repressions after the failed anti-Russian uprising of 1863.
Father Anatol’ has taken an intense interest in restoring the church as authentically as possible. In this regard he is consulting closely with the leading preservation group in Belarus, the Belarusian Voluntary Association for the Preservation of Historical and Cultural Monuments (БДТАПГК) and its chairman Anton Astapovich. This is an exceptionally admirable approach on the part of Father Anatol’ at a time when a series of historic wooden Orthodox churches in Belarus has been disfigured by inappropriate and ahistorical Russification of domes or use of plastic siding.
Kudrychy (Pinsk District), May 2012. Кудрычы (Пінскі раён), травень 2012 г.
I first visited Kudrychy during the spring of 2007: see photos for April 27 and April 5, 2013. Kudrychy lies 25 km. east of Pinsk on the Jasjel’da (Ясельда) River, just upstream from the Jasjel’da’s confluence with the Pripet (Prypjats’ – Прыпяць). Linked to the outside world by road less than 30 years ago, Kudrychy is one of a handful of Pripet Marsh villages in eastern Pinsk District which have maintained traces of traditional Polesian farming life, traditional thatched-roof architecture, and the traditional means of transport by wooden boat. Indeed, it was impossible to enter the village on foot in early May 2013 as the higher-than-normal spring flood waters still covered the village streets.
However, depopulation (children leaving for Pinsk or beyond); prohibitions on traditional marshland farming activity owing to Kudrychy’s inclusion in the Central Prypjats’ Preserve, proclaimed in 1999; the loss of desire and skills needed to maintain thatched roofs; regulations inhibiting private initiative in tourism; and a top-down approach by regional authorities planning out-of-scale tourism projects have severely affected these villages’ ability to survive in their traditional way.
This photo illustrates the vice now squeezing Kudrychy and similar villages. The family diligently working its acreage no longer lives in the village but travels from Pinsk every weekend to weed and tend its plots. In the center background one can see an iconic Polesian thatched-roof granary in front of two formerly thatched-roof houses now covered in corrugated roofing.
Evening Light in May from the Navahrudak-Mir Road 2001. Травеньскі вечар з дарогі Навагрудак-Мір 2001 год.
The Navahrudak area in central-western Belarus seems to have more expansive vistas and a more expansive sky, and certainly has a different light, that other areas of the country.
This photo is from the years when a majority of my photography was color rather than black-and-white.