25 June 2007

Orša holds an "Orthodox" birthday

The Belarusian city of Orša (Orsha) is currently celebrating the 940th anniversary of its founding. The celebration is entitled "An Orthodox Christian Orša" a "spiritual and educational" fair called "An Orthodox Christian Belarus". Several Orthodox parish choirs were due to perform at the Orša Centre of Culture.

The festivities, which stretch over several days, also include art exhibitions, a conference entitled "Orša in the Historico-Cultural and Religious Development of Belarus", an air show, horse rides, a Medieval reenactment, and a concert (BELTA).

The question is: why are the celebrations emphasising only one aspect of Orša's diverse religious heritage, and creating the impression that the city has been entirely Orthodox for the 940 years of its existence? What about the fact that Orša became a centre of Calvinism in the 16th century? What about the city's rich Catholic and Jewish history?

I don't know if Aliaksandr Lukašenka (Lukashenka) is personally responsible for the decision to marginalise non-Orthodox groups from Orša's celebrations, but he has certainly set the tone of the official promotion of Orthodoxy in the country, a position only a third of Belarusians agreed with in a 2002 poll (while 67% of the population is Orthodox). Interestingly enough, the President describes himself as an "Orthodox Christian atheist".


Srebrenica Genocide Blog Editor said...

"...a 'spiritual and educational' fair called 'An Orthodox Christian Belarus'.

Wow, "Orthodox Christian Belarus"?

At least 20% of Belarussians (possibly 35-40% according to some estimates) are MUSLIMS, so Belarus is clearly not "Orthodox Christian" country.


Rashed said...

Hi! Thanks for visiting the blog again, and thanks for all your comments.

Unfortunately, I think you misread the information in the CIA World Factbook, according to which Catholics, Protestant, Jews, and Muslims _together_ make up about 20% of the population.

Actually, the Muslim community of Belarus (even according to its own estimates), makes up less than 1% of the country's population (the high-end estimate is 40,000 Muslims out of a total population of 9.7 million people).

So that makes me a member of a very small minority in my country... but Muslims are a well established part of Belarusian society: we've been present in Belarus for over 600 years now.

Interestingly enough, even though the native Muslims of Belarus aren't Slavic (they have Tatar ancestry), they often have Slavic surnames, which their ancestors adopted centuries ago.

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