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What do Belarus and France have in common?

The cannon near the National Historical Museum of the Republic of Belarus is a witness of the Napoleonic Wars in 1812. Nevertheless, the streets of Minsk keep not only the smell of gunpowder and the memory of the dark battles. The occupying French troops had to get themselves provisions. A man better known by his pen name Stendhal was the man responsible for that. The famous French writer directly participated in the War of 1812 and often visited Minsk.

Tatiana Dolgach, the guide:
The multinational and thousands-strong French army, after the retreat, began gradually staying on the territory of Belarus. Someone ran, but someone chose Belarus as the home. In particular, there is an assumption that one Frenchman with the surname Mashera once left to live in the Vitebsk region. Perhaps he is a distant ancestor of Pyotr Mironovich Masherov.

The building of the former Jesuit College was once the Governor’s House. It was the most prestigious place in Minsk, where a lot of distinguished guests stayed. Therefore, when Minsk was occupied by the French troops, Marshal of the French army, Louis-Nicolas Davout, lived in the Governor’s House.

In general, the modern area of Svabody Square was used as a staging area, where the solders of the French army marched.

In addition, during the French occupation, Belarus capital’s main street was renamed Novy Gorod.

Moreover, the creative destiny of the Belarusian-born Michal Oginski tied up with France. The musical bench was installed in Minsk in memory of his 250th anniversary in September 2015.

Tatiana Dolgach, the guide:
Michal Kleofas Oginski also went to France. His musical career developed in the homeland of the European Enlightenment. Of course, Michael Kleofas Oginsky wrote not only the well-known polonaise Farewell to Homeland. There are many other musical works in his repertoire, for example the opera which he dedicated to Louis Bonoparte. Besides, Michael wrote the libretto for this opera in French on his own.

Not only the name, but also the creative life of the prominent Belarusian writer, artist and musician Napoleon Orda is connected with France. For several years, he held the post of the director of the Italian Opera in Paris. This genius managed to capture a lot of architectural structures. Because of it, his paintings are a valuable source of information for present architects and restores.

Tatiana Dolgach, the guide:
We stand near one of the most famous homesteads of Minsk. This building is the Vankovichs House. The most famous Belarusian artist of the XIX century lived here shortly before his departure to Paris in 1839. The new stage in the creative work of Vankovich is connected with France. He became interested in mysticism there, and it greatly impacted on his painting.

Adam Mickiewicz was one of the Belarusian-born people who moved to France. He left his homeland and went abroad in 1829. In 1840, Adam became a professor of Slavic languages and literatures at the Collège de France.

Tatiana Dolgach, the guide:
Adam Mickiewicz dedicated the poem The Death of Colonel to Emilia Plater. She was a participant of the Uprising of 1831.

The whole area of Paris Commune Square is also related to the revolutionary events in France. The square connects with the time of the formation of the Paris Commune. It was a kind of a provisional revolutionary government, which existed for only 72 days.

Tatiana Dolgach, the guide:
A famous Belarusian-born Walery Wróblewski took part in the activities of the Paris Commune. The Marxists thought the Paris Commune was the first example of the dictatorship of the proletariat, therefore, in the USSR, the Paris Commune had great importance and was considered a symbol of the revolutionary movement.

One more Belarusian Leon Bakst made another kind of revolution in Paris. He created sets for Greek tragedies, which became a real revolution in the art world.

The artist with a worldwide reputation Mark Chagall was a student of Bakst. French people, without hesitate, mention Chagall as a French  painter.

Tatiana Dolgach, the guide:
In 2000, a delegation from Minsk headed by the Mayor of Minsk visited many French cities, including Lyon. The  delegation agreed to take a lighting project of Lyon and implement it in Minsk. The Minsk project was completed and today the city lighting is highly appreciated by experts.

Miniature Eiffel tower