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International Book Fair: How Minsk became capital of literature

Belarusians are great readers. That is why a lot of writers, publishers and book lovers visited the Minsk International Book Fair held from 8 to 12 February 2017. Also guests from 31 countries snatched an opportunity to share experience and establish links in book publishing in the capital of Belarus.

Greece participated in the Book Fair for the first time. The delegation from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was a guest of honor.

Such events erase boundaries between countries.

However, Belarusian stands stood out against the others. Belarusian book publishing celebrates 500 years in 2017, so state and private publishing houses prepared for this seriously.

First printed European books came to Belarus at the end of the 15th – beginning of the 16th century mostly thanks to young people, who studied at universities abroad.

The 16th century was the Golden Age for Belarus. There were nearly 40 publishing houses on its territory. The first one was the Brest publishing house. The first book was published there in 1565.

Francysk Skaryna was a very important person in Belarusian book printing. He first came up with the idea of printing the Bible on his native, Belarusian, language.

10 out of 23 Skaryna’s books published in Prague are now kept at the National Library of Belarus.

Book publishing industry started to develop greatly, and first private printing offices opened in Minsk in 1807. They published different kinds of books: religious and fiction, books on linguistics and agriculture, in the Russian and Polish languages. Books in Belarusian were published in a small number. Printing offices stopped working because of rebels. Nevertheless, they get back to work in 1845.

In the 1960s-1970s, the demand for scientific and fiction books grew. However, the variety of books in the USSR was rather small. Authors of that time wrote mostly about the class struggle, or propaganda of socialism. 

After the collapse of the USSR, economic, cultural, and scientific ties between the former republics broke. Consequently, relationships between publishing houses and book-selling organizations broke as well.

Nowadays, a person can freely buy a book in stores, fairs, or take it in a library.

Except for the 500 years anniversary of book publishing, Belarusians also celebrate 135 years since the birth of the greatest Belarusian writers Janka Kupala and Yakub Kolas.

The first two collections of Kolas’ poems were printed in 1910, when the author served his sentence in the Minsk Ostroh Castle for the organization of the illegal teachers’ meeting. 

The first books of Janka Kupala were published in Saint Petersburg in 1908. The printing of the collection of poems The Little Flute was very important not only for the writer himself, but also for Belarusian literary circles.

This book contained one of his famous works And, Say, Who Goes There? This poem was translated into nearly 100 languages.

Belarusian literature keeps developing now, largely thanks to Belarusians, as they honor rich literary heritage and still have a great interest in it.

International Book Fair: How Minsk became capital of literature