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Joanna Krupadziorow

Could you make a choice in a kasha state of mind?

The presidential election in Belarus is a good opportunity to take a closer look at its voters – the real target group of that funny paranoia. Those who vote are usually indirectly forced to do that. Those who don’t have stopped trying to make sense of the offered “election choice”.

Yet activists from Artsiadziba made a choice and said YES to Belarusian culture. They wear their self-designed t-shirts with national patterns, speak only Belarusian and promote the history of their country. And their share their lifestyle.

Activists from Artsiadziba, from left: Piotr Klujeū, Aleś Śnieh, Źmicier Afanasienka, Mikita Broūka , Alaksiej Saprykin
Author: Joanna Krupadziorow

”Dobry dzien, ja by chacieū zamovic kavy".

"Zdravstvujtie, vam kofe?"

"Tak, kali laska, kavy".

Minsk, the center of the city. Together with Aleksej, a member of Artsiadziba, we went for a coffee. Aleksej speaks only in Belarussian – that’s how he was brought up and how he “fights” with the ubiquitous “cultural mash-up” of modern official Belarus.

When somebody asks me why I speak only Belarusian, I answer that it’s simply easier for me, to use my first language. Honestly, which language should I speak in Belarus?”, Aleksej rhetorically asks.

Unfortunately, there are not so many Belarusians with a similar approach.

The population of Belarus is around 9.5 million. According to Piotr Klujeu, vice–chairman of Artsiadziba, musician and teacher in a Belarusian school, only 5% of his fellow citizens use the Belarusian language in daily communication.

”For example, people in western Belarus speaks in Russian, thinks in Belarusian but pray in Polish”, explains Piotr.

Invitation to ‘’Celebration of Belarusian language”.
Author: Joanna Krupadziorow

What is a situation with Belarussian culture?

“There are two types of Belarus: the former is symbolized by a cabbage (a quizzical name for the official Belarusian flag), the latter - Pahonia (the traditional national symbol of Belarus). One means Minsk (the Russian name of the capital), the other – Mensk (the Belarusian name of the capital). There are the Cyrillic and Belarusian Latin alphabets, Russian “popsa” and Belarusian culture of intelligentsia”, explain activists from Artsiadziba. "The Belarusian culture has European background and roots. It means European architecture, great artists, theatre. There are Belarusian ornaments and “vyshyvanka” (national, Belarusian pattern) which we currently promote. We started to print vyshyvanka on common t-shirts so now everyone can buy it for a reasonable price. Original vyshyvankas are hand-made and very expensive, not all citizens can afford it. Our vyshyvanka is egalitarian – every Belarusian can wear it with pride".

T-shirts with „vyshyvanka”. At the Artsiadziba shop.
Author: Joanna Krupadziorow

”People have kasha in their heads – everything is confusing: the language, the culture”, explains Piotr. ”At schools books are in Belarusian but teachers teach in Russian. Names of shops are in Belarusian, but sellers do not understand when I speak it. There is more. The Ministry of Culture does not promote the Belarusian culture so we have decided to do that in its place. Our main goal is to promote and support every activities that are connected to the Belarusian language, culture and tradition".

The Artsiadziba team organize and support a wide range activities: from speed dating in Belarusian, films screenings, bands with Belarusian ornament distribution to Belarussian language lessons, concerts and Vyshyvanka Festival – a festival of Belarusian culture. Its latest edition gathered around The organization runs also a shop selling t-shirts and gadgets with traditional Belarusian symbols.

Shop at Artsiadziba. All gadgets with national symbols and patriotic slogans are designed by Artsiadziba members. The prices are quite affordable.
Author: Joanna Krupadziorow

Don’t you have problems with the governmental administration?

”No, we don’t. Vyshyvanka is even on the official “Soviet” flag of Belarus. Despite the going back to Soviet symbols, vyshyvanka has prevailed and the government uses it on many some occasions. We just promote it, we do nothing bad or against the law. We do not want to engage in politics. Our aim is only to promote culture of our country".

However, thus far Artsiadziba has been forced to change their office location a few times. One member was stopped at the border and banned from leaving the country.

Belarusians want to choose

Minsk is a base for three organizations promoting Belarusian culture: Artsiadziba, Budzma i Ў Gallery. According to activists from Artsiadziba, quite a big number of pro-Belarusian initiatives are held in the country though almost nobody talks about them. You cannot find any information in media so their reach is minimal.

"Belarusians want and need to feel being a part of the Belarusian nation. Here we meet people who come to borrow Belarusian books to learn about our traditions even though they don’t know Belarusian. Outside Minsk people just gather to talk in Belarusian but they prefer to remain inconspicuous. You never know what’s Lukashenko’s mood so you better stay low", explain activists from Minsk.

“Stay calm, hone the blade of your scythe”
Author: Joanna Krupadziorow

After a talk in Artsiadziba my mind was left in a state of cooked kasha. Are you able to make a real choice when everyday you are forced to compromise? In Belarus the majority doesn’t want to talk about elections or make any decision. At least activists from Artsiadziba act. We can only wish them good luck.


Author: Joanna Krupadziorow is a contributor at Eastbook.eu

Read also: From abroad. Belarusian expats choose their president



The background image is a derivative of "Belarus" by Marc Veraart, used under CC BY.