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Belarus culture

The National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre
The National Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre

Belarusians develop an appreciation of a rich diversity of culture from a young age – art, music, theatre, literature and more...

History of Art in Belarus

Belarus enjoys a rich cultural and artistic heritage that dates back many centuries, taking in several significant schools of art and architecture and producing many unique musical and literary works.
All surviving masterpieces are now officially protected by the state, and showcased for all to enjoy in museum collections and libraries. Classic works of Belarusian music and drama are regularly staged in concert halls and theatres across the country.

Modern-day art culture in Belarus is equally varied and dynamic. There are numerous art exhibitions, musicals, theatrical performances and cinema festivals – all of which are easily accessible to Belarusians and visitors alike.

Fine Art in Belarus

Fine art in Belarus varies in style, direction and genre. The most captivating work by Belarus artists in different periods can be seen in museums across the country. 

The largest collection of works of art are in the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus, which actively promotes national art. Exhibitions by local artists are regularly held here. Other prominent museums across the country are the Vitebsk Art Museum, Mogilev regional Art Museum and the Polotsk art gallery.

The history of art in Belarus can be traced back to Byzantine influences in the 14th century, which saw the emergence of iconography and manuscript illustration.

After the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, the northern Belarus town of Vitebsk became the centre for the revolutionary avant-garde movement.

Marc Chagall, one of the most famous Belarusians, was born in Vitebsk in 1887 and founded an art school in the city.

The vast collection of the National Museum of Art in Minsk features the works of Belarusian artists from the 17th to the 20th century, as well as 15th-century iconography.

Music in Belarus

Most people in Belarus can play at least one musical instrument, and music in the country today boasts a mixture of styles and influences.

Classical music performances still draw big audiences. Most popular are:

  • Presidential Orchestra of the Republic of Belarus
  • Mikhail Finberg National Academic Concert Orchestra of Belarus
  • State Academic Symphony Orchestra
  • Grigory Shirma State Academic Choir
  • Gennady Tsitovich National Academic Folk Choir of the Republic of Belarus
  • Belarusian state band Pesnyary
  • Syabry band
  • Pure Voice vocal group

Traditional and folk music still has a big following in Belarus.

Modern pop music is increasingly popular in Belarus. Belarus has been an enthusiastic participant in the Eurovision Song Contest since 2004.

Music festivals are very popular in Belarus. The international arts festival Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk has become the symbol of the festival movement of Belarus. Taking part in the festival are popular performers from all over the world.

Theatre in Belarus

Belarus theatre evolved from folk rituals and travelling minstrels. Today the country boasts a diverse range of theatre and drama:

  • puppet theatres can be found in most towns, and are hugely popular with children and adults alike
  • professional theatre companies are active across Belarus, many of them dating back to the early 20th century
  • opera – every major town has its own opera house
  • ballet has been very popular in Belarus since the 18th century, and most towns have their own ballet; the National Academic Bolshoi Theatre of Ballet of the Republic of Belarus has an excellent reputation

Belarus plays host to numerous theater festivals. Prestigious theatrical forums are regularly held in various parts of Belarus bringing together performers from all over the world. The most famous theater forums are:

  • International Theater Festival Belaya Vezha (Brest)
  • International Theater Festival Panorama (Minsk)
  • International Festival of Student Theaters Teatralny Kufar (Minsk)
  • International Youth Theater Forum (Mogilev)
  • International Forum of Theater Arts TEART (Minsk)
  • Belarusian International Festival of Puppet Shows (Minsk).

The audience favorite, Theatrical Meetings, is held within the framework of the International Arts Festival Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk.

Belarus cinema

Belarus’ cinematography traces its roots to the 1930s. The Belarusian movie studio Belgoskino was founded in 1924.  Founded in 1928 as the studio Soviet Belarus in Leningrad, the studio was moved to Minsk in 1939 and was renamed Belarusfilm in 1946. The studio produced feature, topical and popular science movies.

The Belarus’ first feature movie Liasnaia byl was directed by Yuriy Tarych. Belarusian documentarians were one of the very first to shoot front reports.

Belarus’ post-war movies reproduced the tragic destiny of Belarus people. Belarus filmmakers filled a big niche of their own in children's cinema. The Belarus documentary is recognized worldwide.

Belarus’ modern cinematography carries on the tradition of previous generations, looking for a new pathway. Belarus’ movies are prestigious world film festival award winners. Sergei Loznitsa’s In the Fog based on the novel by Vasil Bykov received the FIPRESCI award at the 65th Cannes Film Festival in 2012.

А lot of movies in Belarus are produced in cooperation with cinematographers from all over the world. Numerous movies were made by Nikita Mikhalkov, Petr and Valerij Todorovskij, Dmitriy Astrahan, Aleksandr Sokurov at Belarusfilm.

Belarus hosts major cinema festivals:

  • the International Film Festival Listapad and the Children and Youth Film Festival Listapadzik (Minsk)
  • the National Festival of Belarusian Films (Brest)
  • the International Animated Film Festival Animaevka (Mogilev)
  • International  festival of Christian movies and TV programs Magnificat (Glubokoye)

Literature in Belarus

Books and literature have played an important role among the cultural arts of Belarus for centuries.

Famous writers and poets from Belarus include:

The turbulent history of the country is reflected in the recurring themes of war, occupation and suffering in Belarusian literature throughout the ages.

Opened in June 2006 in a new hi-tech building, the National Library in Minsk is the copyright library for the Republic of Belarus. A real source of national pride, it boasts the largest collection of Russian-language books outside of Russia.

Day of Belarusian Written Language is an annual holiday.  The holiday concept  reflects  the history of the written language and book publishing in Belarus as well as the development of the Belarusian literature and culture at a present stage.

2012 declared Year of Book in Belarus.

Belarus’ Capital of Culture

Belarus has held the nationwide campaign Belarus’ Capital of Culture  since 2010. Every host city implements innovative projects to display its cultural identity, develop and popularize the traditions and achievements of the national culture, revitalize creative enterprise, and increase tourism attractiveness.

Polotsk, the country's oldest city dubbed as “the cradle of Belarusian statehood”, was Belarus’ first capital of culture. Gomel took over as the Capital of Culture in 2011, Nesvizh in 2012, Mogilev in 2013, Grodno in 2014, Brest in 2015, Molodechno in 2016, Bobruisk in 2017, Novopolotsk in 2018. Pinsk was the Capital of Culture 2019.

Lida was named Belarus’ Capital of Culture in 2020. The Lida cultural calendar included over 3,000 events: concerts, exhibitions, workshops, plein-air paintings, art contests and sport competitions. The scale of the events and attendance rules were changed in light of the current unfavorable epidemiological situation. In line with the tradition, Lida Castle, – a visiting card of Lida, was the main venue.

Belarus’ Capital of Culture 2021 title went to Borisov, one of the country’s oldest towns, a major manufacturing and cultural center of Minsk Oblast.

Orsha, an ancient town on the Dnieper River, was chosen as the cultural capital of Belarus in 2022. It was founded almost a thousand years ago, in 1067, and was mentioned in the Tale of Bygone Years. It went down in history as one of the iconic places of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, a center of education and book printing, a town of churches, and the birthplace of the famous Belarusian writer of the 20th century Vladimir Korotkevich. There are more than nine dozen historical and cultural monuments on the territory of Orsha and Orsha District.

In 2023, Slutsk, one of the oldest cities in Belarus, was declared the Belarusian capital of culture. It was long believed that its history began in 1116 when it was first mentioned in the legendary Tale of Bygone Years. However, church documents have been founded that prove Slutsk to be much older. In 2021 it was officially stated that the city, the center of a large medieval principality, had been known since 1005. Slutsk belts, which glorified the place worldwide, survived ancient sights (unfortunately, Slutsk lost a lot during the last centuries), famous cultural and scientific figures... This heritage makes the city a really unique place not only of the past but also of the present of Belarus.

In 2024 Belynichi, a town with a fascinating history and an unusual sacred destiny, became Belarus’ Capital of Culture. According to a legend, its origins and name had to do with the miraculous icon of the Belynichi Mother of God that was brought there by monks of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra fleeing from the troops of Batu Khan in the early 13th century. During an overnight stop near the Drut River, they saw a supernatural light emanating from the image of Virgin Mary. They decided to establish a monastery there and named the place Belynichi which means “white nights”... The area’s famous natives include an outstanding landscape painter and one of “The Wanderers”, People's Artist of the BSSR Vitold Byalynitsky-Birulya, a famous contemporary painter Viktor Alshevsky, and other remarkable figures of Belarusian history and culture.

Great Patriotic War monuments in Belarus