Culture - The traditional Belarusian dress originates from the Kievan Rus' period. Due to the climate of Belarus, clothing that kept a person warm was required. The clothes that were made in Belarus were composed of either flax or wool and were decorated with ornate patterns and over time, has been influenced by the cultures of its neighbors: Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians, Russians, and other European nations. Each region of Belarus has a specific pattern used on their designs. An ornament pattern used on some early dresses is current used to decorate the hoist of the Belarusian national flag, adopted in a disputed referendum in 1995.
Belarusian cuisine consists mostly of vegetables, meats and breads. The foods that are considered to be staples of Belarus include pork, cabbages, potatoes and bread. Because of traditional cooking methods in the pre-Soviet era, foods are usually either slowly cooked or stewed. A typical Belarusian eats a very light breakfast and two hearty meals, with dinner being the largest meal of the day. Wheat and rye breads are both consumed in Belarus, but rye is more plentiful as conditions are too harsh for growing wheat. When greeting a guest or visitor, an offering of bread salt is presented to show hospitality. Drinks are also popular among the Belarusians, mostly Russian wheat vodka or kvass. Kvass is a type of soft drink that is made from either brown bread or rye flour that has been malted. It can also be combined with sliced vegetables to create a cold soup called okroshka.
Belarusian literature began with religious writing between the 11th and 13th century. Many of the works were written in one of the following languages: Old Belarusian, Latin, Polish and Church-Slavic. The writings during the time frame had an element of rhyming One of the earlier poets of the time was Kiryla Turauski from the 12th century. Most of his poems were religious in nature. By the 16th century, Polatsk resident Francysk Skaryna, translated the Bible into the Belarusian language and had it published in Prague and Vilnius between 1517 until 1525. Not only this was the first printed Belarusian book, but the first printed books in Eastern Europe. The modern period of Belarusian literature began in the late 19th century, including Yanka Kupala. Many of the writers at the time, such as Uładzimir Žyłka, Kazimir Svayak, Yakub Kolas, Źmitrok Biadula and Maksim Haretski, wrote for a Belarusian language paper called Nasha Niva, published in Vilnius. After Belarus was incorporated into the Soviet Union, government control of the Belarusian culture occurred and only Polish-held territory experienced free development of literature until 1939. The last major revival of the Belarusian literature occurred in the 1960s with novels published by Vasil Bykaŭ and Uładzimir Karatkievič. Until the 1960s, several poets and authors went to exile after the occupation of Belarus by Nazi Germany was over.
In the field of music, the first major composition by a Belarusian was the opera Faust by Radzivill. In the seventeenth century, Polish composer Stanislau Maniushka resided in Minsk, where he composed many operas and chamber music pieces. During his stay, he worked with Belarusian poet Vincent Dunin-Marcinkevich and created the opera Sialianka (Peasant Woman). At the end of the nineteenth century, the major cities in Belarus were forming their own opera and ballet companies. During the Soviet era, early music saw the creation of the ballet Nightingale by M. Kroshner. After the Great Patriotic War, the music focused on the hardship of the Belarusian people or on those who took up arms in defense of the homeland. This was also the time period that A. Bogatyryov, the creator of the opera "In Polesye Virgin Forest," served as the "tutor" of Belarusian composers. The National Academic Theatre of Ballet, in Minsk, was awarded the Benois de la Dance Prize in 1996 as the top ballet company in the world. Modern music has seen a rise in popularity and creation among Belarusians. Famous rock bands from the country include NRM, Neurodubel, Ulis, Nowaje Nieba, and Krama. Several Belarusian acts perform in Poland and Lithuania, where the population of Belarusian speakers is very high. Poland is also the host of the Belarusian alternative music festival Basowiszcza. Since 2004, Belarus has been sending artists to the Eurovision Song Contest.
The Belarusian government sponsors many annual cultural festivals: "Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk", "Minsk Spring", "Slavonic Theatrical Meetings", International Jazz Festival, National Harvesting Festival, "Arts for Children and Youth", the Competition of Youth Variety Show Arts, "Muses of Niesvizh", "Mir Castle", and the National Festival of the Belarusian Song and Poetry. These events showcase talented Belarusian performers, artists, writers, musicians, or actors. The festivals end with a ceremony where prizes are awarded in honor of famous Belarusian composers. Several state holidays, like Independence Day or Victory Day draw big crowds and include various displays such as fireworks and military parades. Most of the festivals take place in Vitebsk or Minsk. A government ministry, the Ministry of Culture, actively finances events that promote the arts and culture inside or outside the country. An example is their financial backing of a Union Youth Orchestra to be formed in 2008. The orchestra will comprise of youth players from both Belarus and Russia.
Belarus has four World Heritage Sites; the Mir Castle Complex; the Niasvizh Castle; the Belovezhskaya Pushcha (shared with Poland); and the Struve Geodetic Arc (shared with Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Moldova, Russia, Sweden and Ukraine).
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