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Book: Contesting Authority

Chapter: In Search of the Lost masterpieces, Ethnic Identity, and Democracy: the Belarusian Case

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.29208


In the middle of the XX century, one of the most celebrated Belarusian writers, Vladimir Korotkevich, wrote a novel dedicated to the national uprising of 1863. The book was planned to be published in three parts: the first two parts were about the organizers of the uprising, their childhood, education, and preparation for the protest, while the third one was planned to be dedicated to the uprising per se. According to the official version, the third part was never written: it appeared as a short novel, which didn’t justify the hopes of the readers and was not very successful. However, as stated by intellectuals, the third part of the book existed but was stolen by the KGB, and is still kept in the closed archives; its publication may cause ethnic consolidation and democratic changes in contemporary Belarus. Departing from the example of this lost book, I will proceed to similar cases, e. g. search for another Belarusian relic - Cross of Saint Euphrosyne lost in the XX century; and further relate it to other narratives debunking Soviet evil and blaming Soviet authorities for today's Belarusian cultural and political decline. They emerge in the context of Belarusian belated search for ethnic identity and become one of the few tools available in the struggle for democracy. This paper analyses action undertaken by searchers of stolen masterpieces, stories rising around them, and hopes laid on how Belarus might change in case they are found.

Chapter Contributors

  • Anastasiya Astapova ( - aastapova) 'University of Tartu'