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24 Jul 2018

Major events to celebrate 400th anniversary of Primer scheduled in Belarus for August-September

MINSK, 24 July (BelTA) – Major events to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Primer will be held in late August and early September, Alexander Susha, Deputy Director of the National Library of Belarus, told BelTA.

“The world's first Primer turns 400 today. On this very day the Slavic Language Primer saw the light in 1618. It is important that our ancestors helped the book to come out. The book was compiled by the monks and teachers of the Vilno Orthodox Holy Spirit Monastery and was printed in the town of Vievis near Vilno, one of the oldest Belarusian printing houses in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania that published books in the Old Church Slavic, Old Belarusian and Polish languages,” Alexander Susha said.

Events to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Primer have been running since the beginning of the year. The National Library of Belarus has arranged exhibitions to showcase the 400-year history of the primers and to tell about ABC books from around the world.

Big events to mark the occasion will be held at the end of August and in early September. One of them will be a presentation of the facsimile edition of the first Belarusian Primer, a joint project with the Middle Temple Library in London and the Embassy of Belarus in the United Kingdom. The project to translate the Primer and the studies on the first Primer into the modern Belarusian language is in the pipeline. All these publications will be presented ahead of Knowledge Day and Belarusian Literature Day.

The program of celebrations also includes roundtables in Vilnius, London, Copenhagen, and events in Moscow and other cities in Europe.

“Only two copies of this unique Primer have survived in the world. One of them is incomplete and is kept in Denmark, in the Royal Library. The other is the only complete copy of the Primer in the Church Slavic language. It is housed in the Middle Temple Library, London,” Alexander Susha noted.

Today we still do not know exactly who the initiator and creator of the Primer was. The most probable authors of the book were well-known Orthodox personalities of Meletius Smotrytsky and Leoncjusz (Karpowicz). Financial support was provided by Prince Bogdan Oginski, Alexander Susha said.

“Thus, we have much to be proud of. The world's first Primer was invented by our ancestors. Today a Primer is the first book for kids not only in Belarus but also in many countries of the world, and the name Primer (Bukvar) entered the modern Belarusian, Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Bosnian languages and also the Abkhazian, Adyghe, Avar, Aleutian, Balkar, Gagauz, Romani, Chuvash, Chukchi, Evenki and other languages,” Alexander Susha said.

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