An Unparalleled Authority on the History of Belarusian Literature

Prof Arnold McMillin

Photo by Alexandra Belookaya

On 21 June Prof Arnold McMillin will celebrate his 75th birthday. Until he retired in 2006, he was a Chair of Russian Literature at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London. He is particularly well known and loved for researching Belarusian literature. Prof McMillin is the author of the first English-language history of Belarusian literature, published in 1977. Since then, he has remained an unrivaled authority on the subject in the English-speaking world. His academic achievements are also a great witness to the work of small community-run libraries in Britain. Continue reading

Belarusians in the UK: library as a soft-power tool

Ihar Ivanoŭ
This article appeared in Belarusian Review, Vol. 27, No. 3.

When few months ago the Anglo-Belarusian Society held an event commemorating the life and work of Guy Picarda, a former Chair of the Society and promoter of the Belarusian culture in the UK, one of his close friends noted that Guy Picarda re-discovered the Belarusian sacral music for people in Belarus. It was not an exaggeration to say: he indeed was the first researcher to take the Belarusian sacral music tradition seriously and approached it as a researcher.

Most of his research was conducted at the Francis Skaryna Belarusian Library and Museum in London. Using their own heritage, Picarda effectively created a new field of knowledge for Belarusians. Many similar stories going back to the network of Belarusian organisations and institutions in London established after the Second World War can be told. Among those organisations, the Skaryna Library is the best known and respected.

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A London Blogger about Skarynaŭka: How could a Belarusian library thrive in London, let alone to be the largest one outside Belarus?

An unlikely venue
– Hey, what are you writing about now? – I was asked every once in a while some time ago.
– I am doing a review of Belarusian Library in London! – I would answer with a joy of excitement; – it is in fact the largest one outside their country! And did you know Belarus has a 5000-strong community in the UK? And in Woodside Park they…
At this point people would stop trying to believe and politely pull out of the conversation and move on to the recent tabloid headlines that baffled the nation, like this one:
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So yes, guys, I was not making this up, there is a Belarusian Library in London, and we are going in!

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