About Belarusian people
You have to write a short article about Belarusian people for a foreign newspaper. How would you describe our people?
Belarusian traditions and features of the national character were formed in the course of complex history. The country was engulfed (engulf-поглощать, завалить) by many military conflicts, World Wars, national liberation revolts, revolutions and repressions. So our extraordinary history cultivated special character traits of our people, the main of them are tolerance and diligence (прилежание, усердие).
Different from anyone else, Belarusians are able to adapt to any circumstances — not to change the circumstances but to change themselves, to accept these circumstances, to live them naturally, in harmony and even with pleasure.
The second aspect of the Belarusian character is that a Belarusian holds tight to what he/she has gained. He/she regards the external world with little trust.
At the same time, in the view of Belarusians themselves, they are loved and respected by everyone. People turn to Belarusians for help and support, because they know that a Belarusian will always be responsive and helpful. Belarusian people have always enjoyed receiving guests and have been perfect at this. This tradition is alive today.
To sum up, Belarusian features of character are: tolerance and a lack of temper. Belarusians are kind, soft, soulful, and hospitable. They are easy to be ruled; they are hard-working, reserved, not very jolly; they are rather pessimistic, stubborn and peaceful…
So it isn’t surprising how the past and the present, traditions of the East and the West exist in close relations here. For a long time people of different nationalities and creeds (убеждения, символыверы) have been living in peace and consent.
He/she is pro-active, relaxed and free. A new Belarusian is rather inclined to intellectual jobs. He/she earns for living by using brains rather than by digging soil. The young generation has more Belarusian identity than the Soviet generation. They express more interest in their roots and history.
The Republic of Belarus
Let’s talk about the Republic of Belarus
Of course a lot can be said about Belarus, but I’ll limit my story to some facts about its geographical and historical features.
Belarus is situated in the eastern part of Europe. Its area is 207 600 square kilometres. It borders on Latvia and Lithuania, on Russia, on the Ukraine and on Poland. The population of the country is about 10 million people. The territory of Belarus is divided into 6 regions: Brest, Vitebsk, Grodno, Gomel, Minsk and Mogilev. The capital of Belarus is Minsk.
Our native land is very beautiful with its blue lakes and ribbons of rivers edged with thick forests, with its endless fields, meadows and swamps, with its varied and plentiful animal and plant kingdom. There are some 3000 rivers flowing over theterritory of Belarus. The longest rivers are the Dnieper, the Nieman, the Western Bug and the Western Dvina. There are over 10 000 lakes in Belarus. The largest of them is Lake Naroch. That’s why Belarus has often been referred to as the blue eyed country.
More than a quarter of the country is covered with forests. An ancient forest on the border between Belarus and Poland, Belovezhskaya Pushcha is a national reservation. The pride of the reservation is the aurochs (or bison) – a rare animal. Belarus has more than 70 mammal and 280 bird species.
The climate of Belarus is continental with a comparatively mild winter and warm summer.
The nature of Belarus has suffered much from the nuclear catastrophe that took place in Chernobyl in 1986. The radiation has spoiled our soil and air, rivers and lakes, it has poisoned our flora and fauna. Besides it has badly affected the health of people.
The geographical position of Belarus got our country involved in major European events over the centuries. The history of Belarus goes back to antiquity. The ancestors of the Belarusians were the Krivichi, Radimichi and Dregovichi. By the 9th century they formed local principalities of Pinsk, Turov, Polotsk, Slutsk and Minsk. There was a need in a united state, and Kievskaya Rus appeared. In the second half of the 13th century the Grand Principality of Lithuania was formed.
The advantageous geographical position – on the cross-roads from east to west – turned into disadvantage. Belarus was the arena of many wars, invasions and aggressions. All these events slowed down but didn’t stop the development of the nation.
On the 1st of January in 1919 the BSSR was formed. In December 1922 it joined the USSR. Belarus proclaimed its sovereignty on the 27 of July in1990. In 1994 the post of the president was introduced. Nowadays Belarus is a country of developed industry, agriculture, science and culture.
What parts of Belarus have you visited?
Today Belarus is becoming more and more popular as a tourist destination. Different exciting routes have been offered both to foreign and local travelers. Mir and Nesvizh Castles have been visited by thousands of people from Belarus. I am not an exception either.
I’ve been to Mir, Nesvizh, Lida, Novogrudok, Brest and Minsk. Much can be said about any of these places.
For example, a small town Novogrudok is famed in legends and Belarusians believe that once Novogrudok was their capital, the second one after Polotsk. The emergence of this beautiful myth dates back to the times, when the Grand Principality of Lithuania was arising. Novogrudok was the richest and most captivating city of the land. Adam Mickiewicz is probably the most outstanding celebrity of the city. His name seems to train along the streets — from old houses to churches and cathedrals. If you stand in the centre of the marketplace, anywhere you look you will see the places touched by Mickiewicz’s presence: the house, where the would-be classic was raised, the church, where he was later baptised, the mount erected in his honour and the monument to the poet…
Do you know any symbols of our country?
I should say that there are official and non-official symbols of my country. The National Flag of the Republic of Belarus, the National Emblem of the Republic of Belarus and the National Anthem of the Republic of Belarus are official symbols of Belarus.
The most widely known symbols of Belarus are a bison, a stork and a cornflower. Also many other realities of Belarusian culture have turned into symbols of national identity. The Slutsk belts, the multi-coloured “kaflia” (tile), the cross of St. Yefrossinia of Polotsk, the artworks of Mark Shagall, Kazimir Malevich as well as Belarusian ballet are well-known markers of Belarusian contribution to the world heritage.
What questions about Belarus do you expect to hear from a British teenager?
I think the questions will be mostly about our everyday life or places of interest.
– What is your usual school day?
– Have you got enough free time for your hobbies and interests?
– What do you usually do during your holidays?
– What is the most beautiful city in Belarus?
What Belarusian sights would you advise a foreigner to visit?
Whether you need inspiration for your trip, Belarus has everything you need to plan your perfect holiday. Everything denotes harmony on this land. Medieval castles, small village churches, remarkable landscape, sheer beauty of cool forests with primeval nature which are a paradise for hunters, and clear like tears silent lakes. Belarusian unique natural environment is host to a fascinating selection of rare plant and animal species, several National Parks and a range of significant conversation projects. Since old times Belarus has been called ‘blue-eyed”. There are more than ten thousand lakes and twenty thousand rivers are considered to be a treasure for fishermen and for lovers of such sport activities as diving and boating. A special offer is rural tourism that became fashionable nowadays!
Belarus is a unique country which is known for its rich and colourful heritage and culture. Places, people, myths and legends all come together to tell us stories that fascinate and inspire. They provide vital clues about our past and are therefore vital to our present and future. The birthplace of Chagall, Tadeush Kostsiushko, and Zhores Alferov, Belarus is full of customs and traditions, many with a very long history.
The best starting point for travelling, I think, is Grodno. Besides, Grodno is the first city on the way from Europe.
Vitebsk is our ancient and ever young town. It’s an eye-witness of many events that happened in it and its surroundings. The history of Vitebsk is in its architecture, in the names of its streets and squares, in its monuments.
Then I will advise to go along the road of castles to Novogrudok, Mir, Nesvizh. It’s impossible to visit the country and not to visit its capital. That’s why Minsk would also be an interesting point in your route. Such places as Polotsk and Vitebsk are connected with certain events and names. Our famous Belarusian guides will tell a lot of interesting things about the history of our country.
What sights in our country belong to world heritage?
Belarus has four World Heritage Sites, with two of them being shared between Belarus and its neighboring countries. The four are: the Mir Castle Complex; the Niasvizh Castle; the Belovezhskaya Pushcha (shared with Poland); and the Struve Geodetic Arc (shared with Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Moldova, Russia, Sweden and Ukraine).
Belarusian national cuisine
Let’s talk about Belarusian national cuisine
Food is obviously a very important part of peoples’ culture and if you want to understand the nation it is important to try national food.
Belarusian cuisine consists mostly of vegetables, meats and breads. The foods that are considered to be staples of Belarus include pork, cabbages, potatoes and bread. Traditional cooking methods are usually either slowly cooked or stewed food.
But the most popular Belarusian dish is draniki with machanka. Machanka is used as a traditional Belarusian sauce for draniki or blini. Most often it is made with pork, sausage, sliced onion, sour cream and flour.
Kvass is a type of soft drink that is made from either brown bread or rye flour that has been malted. Kvass can also be combined with sliced vegetables to create a cold soup called okroshka.
I think all these dishes will be rather tasty and unusual for a tourist.
What can you tell me about eating habits in your family?
Everybody knows we are what we eat. It is very important to include various products into your menu, such as diary products, starchy products, fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, eggs to ensure your body gets all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Usually people call it a healthy well-balanced diet. You can improve your diet by eating smaller portions, especially at night.
But nowadays trying to follow all the necessary recommendations of our doctors we face one more problem – genetically modified food and products made of trans-fats, artificial ingredients and pesticides, which are very harmful to our health.
Not long ago I came across one more interesting fact about food: the food you eat can have a drastic effect on how you feel. For example, chocolate can lift your spirits and make you feel happier. The high fiber food can make people feel positive, energetic and think quicker. Nevertheless there is food that can make us sad, anxious and prone to panic attacks. This group of products includes coffee, eggs, sugar and something else which is used in unreasonable quantities.
My mother is a wonderful cook and her dinners are always delicious and various. To begin with we usually have some salad – tomato and cucumber salad or mixed salad. For the first course we have some soup – noodle, mushroom or cabbage soup, or maybe some fish soup for a change. For the main course we have meat, chicken or fish dishes, for example, steak or fried fish, spaghetti or potatoes (boiled or fried). We also have a lot of vegetables – green peas, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers. I prefer meat to fish but my mother makes me eat fish from time to time. She says it’s good for my brains. For dessert we have some fruit, fruit juice or a cup of tea with a slice of cake. Not very often we may eat out. But it usually happens for special occasions.
Do you like cooking? Why (not)?
Maybe yes. But it doesn’t happen very often because I’m very busy now. If I have a chance to spend time cooking I prefer to cook some special and tasty things: pizzas, pancakes, stuffed cabbage, chops, roast chicken, hot pot (тушёное мясо с картофелем, овощами), biscuits and what not.
What questions will you ask a friend who has invited you to a pot-luck party?
I have never been to a pot-luck party. It’s probably amazing. Of course I will have to find out some things beforehand:
– What is the theme of your pot-luck party?
– How many people have you invited to the party?
– Are you going to make a list of dishes?
Which cafes would you recommend to visit in your place? Why?
A very popular pastime is eating out in a restaurant or a café. In most towns there is a wide variety of restaurants, a number of bars and cafes where you can get sandwiches and other snacks. So is in Vitebsk. You may go to the center of the town. You will see a number of cafes. It will be up to your taste what to choose, because they are rather different.
What is your favourite Belarusian national dish? What is its recipe?
Draniki is a traditional Belarusian potato pancakes recipe.
It is a traditional belarusian dish still very popular in present-day Belarus. There are many variations of this simple recipe, on of them we present here.
Ingredients (2 servings):
5 large potatoes;
1 medium onion;
Black pepper 0.5 tea spoon;
Salt to taste;
Sunflower oil 7-8 tbl. spoons;
First of all you will need a grater to grate potatoes and onions. Be sure that you use appropriate side of grater and grate potatoes into liquid mass. That what makes draniki unique.
Prepare ingredients. Peel potatoes and onion.
Grate potatoes and onions into a bowl.
Add salt, pepper, egg and mix together. The substance should not be liquid, and should not be too thick, drain excess potato juice or add some flour to achieve required level of liquidity.
Heat the frying pan, pour 1 tbl. spoon of sunflower oil onto it.
Dump a full table spoon of mixture form the bowl onto the frying pan and from a small about quarter inch thick pancake. Cook on high for 2-3 minutes and then flip over.
Cook another 2-3 minutes until golden brown.
Serve hot with sour cream.
Enjoy your meal!