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
Prof. Arnold McMillin is dearly loved for his enormous contribution to studying and popularising Belarusian literature, for supporting the Belarusian community in Britain and Belarusian Studies as an academic field; as well as for his warm character and ingenious humour. Despite the fact that Prof. McMillin has been interviewed on dozens of occasions, in Belarus and other countries, we felt that one particular topic has always been overlooked in those conversations: his relationship with the Francis Skaryna Belarusian Library and Museum. In the following interview we have attempted to fill that gap.
In his short memoir for the Skaryna Library, an American Slavist Aleksey Gibson recalls his time as a student in London in 1978-1982. Though not taking “advantage of exploring the Skaryna Library”, he paints an interesting picture of the transformative time for the Library, Belarusian Catholic Mission and Belarusian community in London. In 1979, the Library became a charity which meant that in the eyes of the British society it was an important cultural institution working for the public benefit. The Library was particularly active in popularising the Belarusian studies among researchers and students like Aleksey Gibson.
From September 1978 till June 1982, I was a student at the School of Slavonic & East European Studies in the University of London where I obtained my BA Degree in Russian Language & Literature with Old Russian History. Although my own Slavic family background is Carpatho-Rusyn and Greek Catholic (my mother’s family, the Vislockys had emigrated from Czechoslovakia to the USA in 1921; my father was an American Catholic convert who adopted the Byzantine rite soon after my parents’ marriage in 1950), my main interests at the time were the Russian Silver Age & Medieval European History. Looking back now after more than thirty years, it might still be possible to reconstruct the particular thinking that characterized my generation of descendants of Eastern and Central Eastern European exiles and immigrants during the last decades of Soviet domination and the circumstances in which we attempted to study and perpetuate our family heritages. Continue reading