The Christian Science Monitor‘s Rachel Stern reports on what might be the beginning of a renaissance in usage of the Belarusian language in Belarus. Apparently Lukashenko’s government, hitherto content with presiding over the steady progress of Russian, is newly sympathetic to causes which might help differentiate Belarus from its eastern partner.
Every Monday evening, an airy contemporary art gallery in central Minsk is filled with a language rarely heard on Belarus’s streets: Belarusian.
An average of 240 people pack the premises of the gallery, dubbed Ў after a character that only exists in the Belarusian Cyrillic alphabet, for a free course to practice and fine-tune their skills in the official language. Since 1999, use of Belarusian has dropped dramatically in favor of Russian.
“We have our own language but most people here don’t use it,” says Veranika Famina, an actress who has been attending “Mova Nanova” – or “Language Anew” in Belarusian – since it launched in January 2014.
But many Belarusians are now taking an increased interest in their native language to assert their country’s own identity and culture apart from neighboring Russia. Mova Nanova and a growing number of unofficial linguistic initiatives are taking Belarusian beyond the school classes that it’s often isolated to and back into the public sphere.
“For young people, speaking Belarusian is cool. They feel more Europe-oriented,” says translator Iryna Harasimovich at the cafe at Ў, which showcases work only in Belarusian and English. “Belarus has historically been a pendulum between East and West and that’s only become more blatant due to the situation in Ukraine.”