“The Land of Belarus” is an irrefutable proof of the European history of Belarus
There are no analogues of the book “The Land of Belarus” even in many neighbors of Belarus. Authors of this giant folio are one of the most widely-read modern Belarusian writers Vladimir Orlov and the artist Zmiter Gerasimovich.
“The Land of Belarus” contains 2 thousand illustrations. And the selection was made from 10 thousand. Zmiter Gerasimovich accomplished a great work .The artist and his like-minded people addressed to the museums and archives of Lithuania, Poland, Germany and Belarus (The National Library and the Institute of History of the National academy of sciences of Belarus helped a lot). During the work Gerasimovich realized, that Belarusian s had nothing to boast of -there were no qualitative visual materials about the history of Belarus. Illustrations should be selected from nothing. And some hundreds of them, as Vladimir Orlov noted, were unknown even to professional historians. The question is, for example, about rare photos made at the end of ХIХ - the beginning of XX centuries.
They are a significant evidence of the fact that Belarus of that time was not only a peasant but also a capitalist country. And how many associations can be stimulated by the photo on which pleasure gondolas are represented. They remind us of Venice though the picture was made in Pinsk .Or the preparations of Mongolfiers for flight by a balloon in the Governor's garden in Mensk in August, 1899. “There are also tragic illustrations”, - Vladimir Orlov mentioned. –“The question is about the unknown print such as “The shooting up of a rebel by Russian soldiers”, or “Rebels on the way to Siberia”, “Rebel’s hospital of 1863rd”.
Gerasimovich says, that several things impressed him particularly: ducats (first of all the design), knight’s belts reminded the European baroque, arms and books - hand-written and printed, giving points to Russian, Polish and Czech analogues. However, Gerasimovich adds, working on the book, he made all his best, but some gaps remained. For example, icon-painting and painting were described not in full. The matter of fact is that the works of Belarusian masters are spread on Europe and not always they are considered to be the products of Belarus. However it is a well-known fact: while “complaisant” Belarusians, feeling shy on God knows, collected their thoughts, the Belarusian history, in many respects, was privatized by their nearest neighbors…
One of the distinctive features of the book - the history of Belarus is given as an organic part of the all-European movement of civilization - from the very beginning and down to the end of XVIII century, till that time when the European tradition was interrupted by the incorporation of Belarus into the structure of the Russian empire. However it is necessary to say some words about the structure of the book. So, in contradistinction to “The Illustrated Chronology”, published by the publishing house “Belarusian encyclopedia” and distinguished by pro-Soviet demagogy, the structure of “The Land of Belarus” differs in principle: it is not an illustrated chronology, but history.
Chronological framework is expanded - the story begins with prehistoric times when sea waves lapped on the place of Minsk and the most part of modern Belarus. A piece of land was only in the area of today's Grodno. Further the narration is about the first inhabitants of Belarus and about the epoch of metals; about the pre-Christian belief of ancient people; about Slavs: Krivichi, Dregovichi and Radimichi, and only from the 10-th unit the question is about ancient Belarusian principalities. In general, there are 71 thematic sections.
However attention is accented first of all on the chapters testifying to the European side of Belarusian history: the question is about principalities and adoption of Christianity in X century, about the Magdebourg right and Belarusian Renaissance and Reformation, about the political system of the Great Lithuanian Principality… We shall notice, that the title of the book is not accidental. “We want to emphasize the fact, which in no way can be taken root in consciousness of a significant part of our citizens”, - says Orlov. – “Belarus is a country, not a republic as it is named by Soviet tradition first of all by our officials”. Orlov had been writing the book nearly 5 years; two and a half years he selected illustrations. Here authors could not manage without the help of experts-professionals. First of all the question is about the reviewers - the doctors of historical sciences Anatoly Gritsekvich and Georgy Shtihov, about Ales Bely. A huge work has been done by editor Zmiter Sanko and proof-reader Janina Martinovich. Moreover, Orlov wants to mention Sergey Zankevich who brought “The illustrated history of Bulgaria”. “This edition was many-colored and had 100 pages”, - the writer says. – “I wanted our book to be the same. But during the work it grew more than three times, the amount of illustrations increased as well. And now it is possible to say, that we have excelled the edition, initially serving as a certain guiding line”.
It is possible, that in the near future, the Russian version of the book will appear. “Though I think, - notes Orlov, - that the citizen of Belarus should get acquainted with “The Land of Belarus” in the language in which characters of the book spoke. Anyway, the writer is sure, that everyone who reads the book will believe that Belarusian s had their own European history, as “The Land of Belarus” is the proof of it.