Famous people

Ephrosinia of Polotsk

1110 — 1173

the benefactress and matron saint of Belarus; the first Slav-woman — Enlightener; she wrote a lot of books for Polotsk Cathedral Library


Francisk Skorina

1486 — 1540

Francisk Skorina occupies his honoured position of the distinguishd person of the epoch. He is know in the world history as a Belarusian poet and writer, great humanitarian, enlightener and the first Slavonic printer.Skorina is praised among the lovers of history and literature as a national hero, the bearer of the progressive outlook and the renaissance ideas, the person, who greatly contriduted to the development of Belarusian language, culture and art.

Francisk Skorina was born in a family of a petty merchant in Polotsk, then lively and thriving cultural center of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. His father wanted him to become a merchant too, but Skorina chose the road of his own. Having received the fundamentals of the educational background in Polotsk, he goes to Krakow in1504 dreaming of entering the University there. He graduates from the University two years later and receives the honoured degree of the bachelor of philosophy.

But that kind of education didn’t satisfy Skorina and he makes up his mind to study further. His attention is paid mostly to the so-called “liberated arts”: grammar, logic, rhetoric, astronomy, geometry and music. In few years he receives the degree of the doctor of arts but being deeply interested in science he takes up the travel to Italy, where in 1522 he receives the degree of the doctor of medicine of Padua University.

In 1517 Francisk Skorina is in Prague. There he prints one after another several copies of the Bible in old Belarusian, supplying those editions with his own commentaries and prefaces. The books see the world under the title “The Bible Rssian, translated by a doctor Francisk Skorina from the glorious city Polotsk, to praise the Lord and for good education of the Rech Pospolitaya people”. In approximately 1520 he moves to Vilna, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania then, and founds the first printing workshop on the territory of the former USSR. All in all he published 23 books on Belarusian including the Bible.

Francisk Skorina ia an outstanding figure not only in the history of Belarusian literature but in all Slavonic culture. Being a talented scientist, writer, interpreter, one of the most educated persons of his time he greatly developed the arts and culture, showed the variety of human nature, and touched on different problems of political, social and family life. His life became a powerful impulse for the development of all Slavonic states.  

Kirill of Turov (Turovsky)

1130 — 1182

the christian preacher and writer, the author of “sermons-words”


Nickolay Goussovsky

1470 — 1533

the poet, humanitarian and enlightener of Renaissance, worker of Slavic culture, the author of the “Song about Aurochs”



Lev Sapega

1557 — 1633

one of the notable political persons in Belarus; states-man; jurist and military leader; he was a head of the Great Duchy of Lithuania during its golden age; he was a publisher and editor of the last Statute of the Great Duchy of Lithuania – the ancient Constitution of Belarus; he was an active defender of Belarusian na-tional interests


Meletiy Smotritski

1578 — 1634

one of the most influential persons in the sphere of religion in the East-Slav history; his ideas and works formed the future relations of Belarusians, Ukrainians and Russians; his language teaching formed the most of modern east and south Slav languages


Symon Budny

1530 — 1593

Belarusian theologist, philologist, philosopher, historian, publisher, pedagogue, public figure


Vasyl Tsyapinski

1530 ? — 1603 ? Tthe scientist and philosopher of Belarusian Renaissance (16th c.); the first translator and publisher of the New Testament in Belarusian (it was printed in 1570 in a printing-house which he had organized near Polotsk)


Tomash Makovsky

1562 — 1630

Belarusian cartographer, engraver and printer Petr Mstislavets (the 16th cent., the exact dates of birth and death are unknown) Belarusian printer, in 1569 he founded in the city of Vilno (now Vilnius, Lithuania) the printing-house with Cyrillic type


Aphanasy Philipovich

1597 — 1648

Belarusian writer and polemist, public and church figure of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, in 1649 was canonized by the Orthodox Church


Kazimir Simenovich

1600 — 1651

the theorist of artillery, the first one who grounded the idea of multi-stage rocket


Simeon of Polotsk (Polotsky)

1629 — 1680

Belarusian and russian poet, eminent enlighter, pedagogue, public figure, the tutor or the Russian emperor, Peter I


Spiridon Sobol

? — 1645

Belarusian enlightener and printer, in 1631 he published the first ABC-book in Belarus


George Konissky

1717 — 1795

the prominent figure of church and culture; canonized by the orthodox church


Andrei Tadeush Kosciuchko

1746 — 1817

political and military figure of the Polish Commonwealth, the leader of the national liberation insurrection of 1794, the patriot of the American Revolutionary war – national hero


Michal Kleofas Oginsky

1765 — 1833

the states-man and diplomat of the Polish Commonwealth, writer, composer, the author of the famous “Farewell to motherland” polonaise


The Radziwill Family

15th — 18th cent. a great family of Belarusian magnates; it took an active part in social and politic life, in cultural and educational development and forming; it built a lot of theatres, castles and printing-houses


Theodor Narbut

1784 — 1864

the historian, archaeologist, the author of 9 volumes of “The history of Lithuanian People” and numerous works on the history of Belarus


Ian Chechet

1796 — 1847

considered to be the pioneer of new Belarusian literature; a “spring” of Belarusian Renaissance


Adam Mitskevich

1798 — 1855

the classic of polish literature, Belarusian by the origin


Valentin Vankovich

1800 — 1842

the famous Belarusian painter


Napoleon Orda

1807 — 1883

Belarusian painter and composer


Wintsent Dunin-Martsinkevitch

1808 — 1884

the founder of new Belarusian literature; devoted his life to the forming of Belarusian literature language; published some books, operas, plays


Ivan Chroutsky

1810 — 1885

Belarusian painter


Ephstaphy Tyshkevich

1814 — 1873

Belarusian archaeologist, historian, ethnographer, student of local lore, one of the founders of scientific archaeology in Belarus


Stanislav Moniushko

1819 — 1872

Polish and Belarusian composer


Vladislav Syrokomlya

1823 — 1862

Polish and Belarusian poet


Michail Elsky

1831 — 1904

Belarusian composer and violinist


Frantishek Bogushevitch

1840 — 1900

the great Belarusian poet of the Renaissance; one of the first poets – founders of the New Belarusian literature


Kastus Kalinovski

? — 1864

the leader of popular uprising in 1863 —1864; a publisher of “The peasant truth“ newspaper


Nickolay Sudzilovsky — Roussel

1850 — 1930

Belarusian and international public and political figure, naturalist, the first president of Hawaii


Ignat Buinitsky

1861 — 1917

Belarusian theatrical figure, actor, producer, the “father” of Belarusian theatre


Maxim Bogdanovitch

1891 — 1917

the great poet of Belarus; the first professional literary critic in Belarus; the author of some original works; played the first fiddle in Belarusian literature developing at the beginning of the 20th cent.


Yanka Kupala

1882 — 1942

people’s poet of Belarus, a classic of Belarusian literature


Yakub Kolas

1882 — 1956 people’s poet of Belarus, a classic of Belarusian literature


Marc Chagall

1887 — 1985

Marc Chagall – world-famous painter, graphic artist, illustrator, master of monumental and applied kinds of art. He is one of the leaders of world vanguard of XX century.

Marc Chagall was born in Vitebsk in June 24, 1887. His father worked at the fishing warehouse, and his mother had her own shop. There were nine children in the family, Marc was the oldest one. From the very beginning he gets traditional Jewish education at home. At nine the boy began to take private lessons in painting.  His first teacher was a Vitebsk painter Iegua Pen. Then he continues his studies in St. Petersburg. In 1910 the artist leaves to Paris, where he is in the center of attention.   

In 1914 in Berlin there was his first individual art exhibition. There were 40 paintings, 160 gouache paintings, water-colour paintings and drawings.  This exhibition was the beginning of artist’s triumph. After this he got married. His exhibitions are held all over the world: in Paris, Berlin, Köln, New-York, Budapest, Amsterdam, Prague, London, etc. In 1923 in France Marc Chagall publishes his book called “My life”.  

In 1941 Chagall had to leave Germany and seek shelter in the United States. The death of Bella (his wife) stopped Chagall's creativity for many months. After his return to France in 1948, the artist decided to move to the south of France and in 1950 he settled in Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Two years later, he married Valentine ("Vava") Brodskii. His new wife was an important factor in Chagall's recovery as a painter. She encouraged him to undertake large artistic projects, for instance the cycle Biblical Message. Finished in 1966 and installed seven years later in the National Museum of the Marc Chagall Biblical Message in Nice, the paintings astonish with their vivid colors and their poetic interpretations of the Biblical texts. Among the largest projects was the decoration of the ceiling of the Paris Opera (1964), and the murals for the Metropolitan Opera in New York (1965). He also explored the technique of stained-glass, designing windows for the Cathedral in Metz (1959-62), for the Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center in Jerusalem (1960-1), for the Cathedral at Reims (1974), and for Saint Etienne Church at Mayence (1978-81). In the West, Chagall had countless exhibitions and retrospectives. In Russia, after many years of silence and disregard for the artist, an exhibition of Chagall's works from private collections was organized in Novgorod in 1968, and five years later Chagall was invited to visit Moscow in connection with a small retrospective of his work. Finally, on the centenary of the artist's birth, a large exhibition opened at The Pushkin Museum in Moscow, and The Chagall Museum was opened in Vitebsk.

Chagall occupied a unique place in world art. Even though at times he was slightly influenced by the contemporary developments in arts, throughout his long life he was an independent artist, often criticized for his lack of "realism" or for his lack of desire to explore non-objective art. The sources of his inspiration are found in his childhood, in the life of a provincial city of Vitebsk and its Jewish community, the Scriptures, and, more surprisingly, Russian folk art and icon painting. He was a poet, and his artistic visions are considered to be "poetry in colors and shapes."