The NGO “Francišak Skaryna Belarusian Language Society”
“Таварыства беларускай мовы імя Францішка Скарыны”
- Defense of linguistic rights.
- Maintenance and development of the Belarusian language and culture.
Our society was established in 1989. It has about 6 thousand members in Belarus and abroad. The society’s members live in Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, the USA, Canada, Germany, etc. Our organization numbers some 450 branches and divisions. It is named in honor of Francišak Skaryna (1490 – 1551), the Belarusian printing pioneer. Our logo combines Skaryna’s personal sign with the Belarusian national historical symbols.
Our guidelines are the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus, our Strategy for the Belarusian Language Development, the organization’s Charter and the Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights proclaimed in 1996 with the support of UNESCO. The declaration was designed having regard to the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights “in order to correct linguistic imbalances with a view to ensuring the respect and full development of all languages and establishing the principles for a just and equitable linguistic peace throughout the world as a key factor in the maintenance of harmonious social relations.” We respect rights of all linguistic communities of Belarus.
Our language. The Belarusian language is the state language of the Republic of Belarus, along with Russian. Belarusian is also a minority language in several neighbouring countries. It has an official status in several districts of Poland and is a recognized minority language in Ukraine. The Old Belarusian literary language had been the official language of the Great Duchy of Litva from the 14th till the 18th centuries. In 1696 Old Belarusian was replaced by Polish as the official language. The state discrimination of Belarusian speakers of the country started. However, Belarusian continued to be the mother tongue of the Belarusian people. In the 19th century when Belarus was under the Russian domain the official policy towards Belarusian was very harsh. After a period of the literary language revitalization (the 1890s till 1920s), Belarusian was relegated to a secondary role in the BSSR. In 1990 Belarusian was declared the only state language. In 1996 Belarusian lost its status of the only state language.
- Our organization conducts public campaigns in order to protect various linguistic rights related to the Belarusian language. We provide legal support for victims of linguistic discrimination and work out draft bills securing equal rights of all linguistic communities of Belarus.
- Our society publishes two weekly newspapers and a magazine on the Belarusian language, culture and linguistic rights. We also publish books on these issues and bilingual phrasebooks.
- We organize seminars, scientific conferences, contests and festivals aimed at promotion of the Belarusian language use and at linguistic rights’ defense.
- Our society advises state organizations and private companies on terminology matters.
- We are an active member of the Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum.
Some of Our Recent Breakthroughs
- In response to our long-term appeals, the “Law on Private and Legal Persons’ Appeals” has been amended. Now it secures applicants’ right to be answered in their mother tongue. The new Law on Place Names requires that new settlements should be named in Belarusian.
- Quite a number of Belarusian-language schools and classes with Belarusian as the medium of instruction have been established in response to our appeals. The Belarusian language was restored in TV news blocks, railroad and subway announcements, etc.
- We have collected about 50.000 signatures under the demand to establish a university providing education in Belarusian.
- A lot of application software, the army rules, the road regulations, etc. have been translated into Belarusian. The first Belarusian spellchecker has been created.
- Our society initiated establishing of the first Belarusian non-government satellite TV channel “BelSat”.
- We have worked out draft amendments to the Law on Languages that provide for real equality between the two official languages. Our bill on “The Belarusian Language State Support” stipulates functions and obligations of public offices concerning the language support.
- Such companies as Samsung, Adidas, Ford, etc. make some of their advertisements in Belarusian. A number of ambassadors make speeches in Belarusian.
- This year we organized the annual Whole-national dictation on the occasion of the Mother tongue day for the 6th time already.
Some Older Achievements
- The draft law “On Languages in the Belarusian SSR" was arranged and passed in 1990. The society’s members contributed to the “State Program for Developing the Belarusian and Other National Languages in the Republic of Belarus" (1991).
- We have published about 20 fiction and scientific books, including "Narysy z Historyi Belaruskaha Mastactva" by M. Ščakacikhin, "Pačatki Rodnaje Movy" by V. Ramancevič, "Heahrafija Belarusi" by A. Smolič, "Aniamenne: Chronicles of the Belarusian Language’s Demolition" as well as physics, mathematics, botany, parasitology and other dictionaries.
- Our members took an active part in the 1999 National Census monitoring. They noticed 120 malpractices.
- More than ten thousand Belarusian books have been collected and distributed free of charge among our local branches, rural schools and libraries as well as among indigent families in order to support Belarusian-medium education.
- A library of antique Belarusian books was collected.
- The strategy for the development of the Belarusian language in the 21 century was worked out.
- A great number of scientific conferences have been organized. For instance, "The Law on Languages": Results and Perspectives", "Belarusian Toponimy: The History and the Present State".
- We have organized a great number of contests, like the best Belarusian-medium rural school competition.
Our Rada (the governing body) have always included outstanding Belarusian intellectuals, famous writers, scientists and civil activists. Among its members once were Viačaslaŭ Adamčyk, Janka Bryl, Henadź Buraŭkin, Anatol Butevič, Vasił Bykaŭ, Mikhail Dziamčuk, Juryj Hadyka, Fiodar Jankoŭski, Anatol Klyška, Aleh Lojka, Leanid Lyč, Zianon Pazniak, Tamara Saŭčuk, Maksim Tank, Jauhen Vajtovič, Artur Volski.
The Rada’s today’s members are Uladzimir Arloŭ, Zinaida Bandarenka, Henadz Cychun, Radzim Harecki, Nil Hilevič, Adam Maldzis, Uladzimir Sodal, Vasił Zujonak, etc.
220034, vul. Rumjancava 13, Minsk, Belarus (220034, вул. Румянцава 13, Мінск, Беларусь)
Tel. Fax.: (375-17) 284-85-11