1. In Quest of Lost Heritage, Ethnic Identity, and Democracy: The Belarusian Case

Vernacular Knowledge - Contesting Authority, Expressing Beliefs - Ülo Valk

Anastasiya Astapova [+-]
University of Tartu
Anastasiya Astapova is an Associate Professor of Folkloristics at the University of Tartu (Estonia) and a member of the Estonian Young Academy of Science. In addition to her interest in migration and the Russophone population in the Baltic States, Astapova has been doing research on Belarus (which culminated in her monograph Humor and Rumor in the Post-Soviet Authoritarian State, Rowman and Littlefield, 2021) as well as on conspiracy theories (see, for instance the co-edited volume Conspiracy Theories in Eastern Europe: Tropes and Trends, Routledge, 2020, and the co-authored volume Conspiracy Theories and the Nordic Countries, Routledge, 2020).


In the middle of the 20th century, one of the most celebrated Belarusian writers, Uladzimir Karatkevich, 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 20th 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.

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Astapova, Anastasiya. 1. In Quest of Lost Heritage, Ethnic Identity, and Democracy: The Belarusian Case. Vernacular Knowledge - Contesting Authority, Expressing Beliefs. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Oct 2022. ISBN 9781781792377. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=29208. Date accessed: 01 Dec 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.29208. Oct 2022

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