The First Scientific and Research Field Seminar Held in Bragin District


On August 11-12, 2016, researchers, specialists in local history and residents of Bragin district gathered for the first time in many years to discuss the history of the district, and to remember how Bragin and other villages and towns looked like 30-50 years ago and even earlier.

The scientific and research field seminar “Cultural and Historical Capacity of Eastern Polesye and Prospects of Regional Tourism Development” had two venues: the Recreation Centre of Selets village (August 11) and Bragin Historical Museum with art gallery (August 12). Those establishments hadn’t been chosen by chance. Selets village, located in 9 km from Bragin, was known from written sources of the XVI century; its Recreation Centre had served as a local church.  The museum had been working on the conservation and popularization of historical knowledge, and lately became the main venue for cultural and scientific events.

The seminar had a lot of various topics to be covered. There were reports on the history of some Bragin district’s villages and towns, characters of heroic epic ballades, the history of the Cossacks, the Jewish community, ethnography and fortification. Among speakers, there were scientists from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, local historians, museum workers, librarians and even schoolchildren.

The first day was mostly devoted to the culture, ethnography and local history. Father Rostislav Bondarenko opened the meeting and talked about the history of the church in Selets, as well as the clergy, whose fate sometimes had been associated with Bragin district. The religious topic was continued by Anastasiya Yungina, the post-graduate student of the National Institute of Higher Education, and her report on the history and significance of the Endowment certificate of Prince Adam and Princess Aleksandra Vyshnevetskiys to the churches and monasteries founded by them in Selets in 1609. Anton Vvedenskiy, a cultural anthropologist from St. Petersburg, finished the first section of speeches. In his speech, he spoke about characters of heroic epic ballades, their prototypes and a possible connection with Bragin district.

The audience paid particular attention to reports on ethnography. Tatyana Mishchenko, an associate professor of the branch of Bryansk State University (Nozobykov, Russia), talked about the results and conclusions of expeditions dedicated to the study of forms of communication among the young and consort behavior in the second half of the XX century. One of the main conclusions was the fact that many traditional forms had remained, however, their meaning was forgotten; at least, some respondents, according to the researcher, often found it difficult to explain the meaning of certain pre-marital and marital acts. Yuliya Litvinova and Roman Yarosh, participants of the Students’ Ethnographic Community (Minsk), shared their best practices in the field of traditional costumes and song heritage. Yuliya Litvinova asked the audience to remember a typical height of pitch for Bragin, peculiarities of its decoration, and talked about a unique adornment, a “tiny circle”, which could be found only in Bragin district. Roman Yarosh shared his experiences in collecting folk materials and talked about characteristics of non-ritual songs of the region. Them, Roman and Yuliya sang a song “Oy, Dy Razvevaysya Da Sukhi Dube” (“Flutter, The Dry Oak!”) recorded in Berezki village.

On August 12, the seminar was continued at Bragin historical museum (Bragin). Reports presented on that day covered topics on the common and local history. The first two sections of the programme were dedicated to the history of wars between the rurals and the Cossacks, fortification, revolution period and the civil war. Sergey Lepyavko, a professor from Chernihiv, reminded of the Cossacks in the XVI century, reasons of the beginning of Cossack wars. The professor devoted most of the time to talk about Severin (Semeriy) Nalivayko and his military campaigns including on territories of Bragin and Loev districts. The Cossack topic was extended in the report by Stanislav Cherepko, the Head of the Department of the World History of Gomel State University. The Bragin of the XVI-XVII centuries was covered in reports by Igor Kondratyev, an associate professor of Chernihiv Pedagogical University, who talked about Bragin lands as part of   Lyubech-Loev eldership, and Nikolay Volkov, an employee of the Academy of Sciences of Belarus, who suggested how Bragin castle could have looked like and what influence it could have had in the military history of the Great Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

The history of Bragin region in periods of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Russian Empire wasn’t covered, and the following reports dedicated to the XX century: revolutions and the time of troubles of 1918-1920. That topic was covered by Valentin Lebedev, an archivist from Gomel. Aleksandr Gronskiy, a historian from Minsk, talked about the formation of boundaries between Belarus, Russia and Ukraine in that period.

Some speakers themselves or their relatives were born in Bragin region, so they decided to take that region as an object of their researches. The perfect example was Valeriy Gerasimov, the Head of the Department of Old and Rare Books of the Presidential Library, who had found a great number of materials and documents on Bragin district that he presented within the framework of the seminar.

Taking into consideration the fact that Bragin as many other Belarusian town had broad Jewish community, that topic was also discussed at the seminar. Oleg Krasniy, the chairman of Bobruysk Jewish Community, briefly talked about the history of appearance, development, elimination and revival of the Jewish community in Belarus.

Aleksandr Zybenok, a local resident of Bragin and specialist in local history, finished the adult part of the seminar by showing his photo-memories.

The local history section was continued by speeches of young researches who presented results of their work on the history of particular local communities and establishments.

A round-table discussion was the final activity of the seminar during which the participants discussed issues on tourist attractiveness of Bragin and neighbouring districts. Petr Tsalko, an employee of the branch of Vetka museum, talked about some researches on the material culture of Bragin district. Nadezhda Meleshko, the chief conservator of Bragin museum holdings, spoke about the difficulties of conducting excursions due to the absence of monuments of architecture. Rimma Stadnikova, the director of Loev museum, told the participants about the attractiveness of the district and about activities that had been already held in order to attract interest of tourists to local sights.

The first scientific and research field seminar was held within the framework of the international technical assistance project “Development of the Network Capacity of Family Clubs in Chernobyl Area in order to Improve Social and Economic Situation” funded by the European Union. It was a serious step to make local residents understand more and re-considerate own history. Scientists, employees of museums and libraries, history teachers and specialists in local history had an opportunity to share data and establish contacts for their future studies that would probably be presented at the future seminars.

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This publication has been produced with the supportoftheEuropeanUnion. Responsibility for the content of the publication rests with the Green Cross Belarus NGO, and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.