The Laboratory for research on Francysk Skaryna and valorization of the Belarusian Studies

The name of Francysk Skaryna, doctor of arts and medicine, a pioneer of Slavic printing, is well known today in Belarus. Paradoxically, but at the same time that Belarusian historians elevate him to the rank of a national hero, international historiography remains almost silent about his œuvre. For example, in France, the National Library has a few books on this subject; most of them, in Russian or Belorussian, are dated from the last century.

This vacuum of special studies devoted to Francysk Skaryna in the world is the consequence of the almost total indifference to the history of Belarus in general (of course, except for the contemporary topical issues, such as the socio-political perspectives of “the last dictatorship in Europe”, studies on the Holocaust and the guerrilla movement in the Second World War)). Such “non-interest” in the history of Belarus, is obviously inherited from the tradition of Russian and Soviet historiographies who treated Belarus (and Ukraine) as parts of Russia or as the “humble lands” whose inevitable destiny was to rejoin Russia. Unlike Belarus, Ukraine (but at what a terrible price!) was able to escape such attitude, and become a real subject of historical studies. Belarus could not.

Although we do not want to open up the discussion of the causes of this “lack of interest” in the history of Belarus (at the same time, it could be quite useful), we must point out the gaps in Skaryna studies which is even more evident taking into consideration the importance of his image for the Belarusians themselves. In the context of the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of printing in Belarus this year, Francysk Skaryna is not only a special case but also a symbol, a kind of dynamic cursor of Belarusian historical consciousness in general.

Simultaneously, there is another “Skaryna paradox”: whereas he is often perceived by the Belarusians as “a solitary titan”, a certain “marginal” who was ahead of his time, it is only today that we are discovering Skaryna as an intellectual bound by a multitude of threads to the world of the European Renaissance determined to transmit this modern knowledge to the “simple people” of the East. Nevertheless, even in this European context, Skaryna is practically unknown to the Europeans themselves.

Studies on Francysk Skaryna have over 6,000 publications, but the efforts of researchers, unfortunately, remain “disconnected” and separated by geographical, disciplinary and stereotypical borders. Moreover, these studies often remain purely academic, unintelligible and inaccessible to the large public even in Belarus, not to mention the rest of the world.

We appeal to historians, Slavists, bibliophiles, multidisciplinary researchers, who are interested in the history of Belarus, to unite our efforts. Together we create the possibility to make the work of Skaryna more visible in the world and to advance Belarusian studies in general sense.

SkarynaLab, the Laboratory for Research on Francysk Skaryna, invites all scientists interested in the life and work of Francysk Skaryna and in the valorization of Belarusian studies in general, to share their ideas, projects and achievements by providing a unique platform.

Belarussists of the world, unite!