Siarhei Shupa. Arkhivy Belaruskai Narodnai Respubliki (Bibliographic Series / Belarusian Institute of Arts and Sciences). Vil;nia: Belaruski in-t navuki i mastatstva, 1998. v. <1 + pt 1-2>. ISBN 978-9986-9219-2-9.
Reviewed by Theodore R. Weeks (Department of History, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale)
Published on H-Russia (May, 2000)
Archives of the Belarusian National (Democratic) Republic
The Belarusian National Republic (BNR), formed in 1918 and existing for only a few precarious years, has received little attention in English-language historiography. Even the English version of the republic's title remains a matter of some controversy: while "national" would seem the obvious translation of the Belarusian 'narodna,' the editor of this volume and historians such as Jan Zaprudnik in Belarus at a Crossroads in History prefer the translation "Belarusan [sic] Democratic Republic." But even Zaprudnik barely mentions the BNR in his book. Richard Pipes also mentions the "Belorussian National Republic" one time in his _Formation of the Soviet Union. But for all its obscurity, the BNR represents an important and fascinating chapter in the history of Belarus, and deserves more attention from western scholars. The present work will considerable facilitate such research.
This work begins with a helpful bibliographical essay introducing the reader to the BNR and its archives. Here one also learns why this rich source on Belarusian national history ended up in Lithuania (the documents published here are all from fond 582 at the Lithuanian State Archive in Vilnius). The editor also describes the contents and organization of this fond and explains the principles followed in this publication. This is not an "archival guide" but a chronologically-arranged description (or publication) of every document contained within this archive. At the least a short description of the document is given (in Belarusian) with an exact archival reference but very often the entire document is published in its original language and spelling (including rather mysterious-looking Belarusian written in Polish orthography).
The documents are in a number of languages with Belarusian, Russian, and Polish dominating, with some few also in French and German. The bulk of the documents date from 1917 to 1925 and provide a fascinating "blow-by-blow" account of the fortunes (perhaps more appropriately, "misfortunes") of the Belarusian national movement in those turbulent years. Each volume ends with photographic reproductions of various documents; the entire work ends with an extremely useful bibliography on the period citing contemporary periodicals as well as secondary works in Polish, Russian, Belarusian, and some few even in English. This is followed by two extremely detailed indexes taking up nearly seventy pages of tiny print.
Belarus is arguably the least-known and least-researched newly-independent country in Europe. A first step in redressing this historiographical lacuna might be a history of the Belarusian National Republic, a project that would be considerably facilitated by this two-volume work. Graduate students, take heed!
. Jan Zaprudnik, Belarus : at a crossroads in history (Boulder: Westview Press, 1993); Richard Pipes, The formation of the Soviet Union: Communism and Nationalism, 1917-1923. Rev. ed. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997)
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Theodore R. Weeks. Review of Shupa, Siarhei, Arkhivy Belaruskai Narodnai Respubliki (Bibliographic Series / Belarusian Institute of Arts and Sciences).
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