Vincent Dunin-Marcinkievich (1808-1884)


Vincent Dunin-Marcinkievich is considered a founder of the New Belarusian Literature. His lifework was devoted to establishment of the literature in Belarusian language and he laid the democratic foundations of it's further development. He was prosecuted and offended from both Russian imperial system and polish nobility (shlyahta), and yet he managed to find means to publish several books, operas and dramas, and to give way to Belarusian literary language. Dunin-Marcinkievich had built a strong foundation for a future development of the Belarusian national literature and was at the very beginning of Belarusian cultural revival.



After the October uprising in 1830, that was drowned in blood, the cultural development of the area has stalled: the Vil'na University - a center of Belarusian and Lithuanian independent thought was closed by tsar, many magazines and newspapers were forbidden, the monstrous system of imperial police and bureaucracy was wiping out all the remnants of Belarus and Litva from the maps of Europe. Even their names were replaced with a neutral North-Western Side of Empire.

In 1831 Marcinkievich marries Yuzefa Baranouskaya against the will of her parents and leaves for Miensk. He works there in different church archives until finely he purchases in 1840 a small estate of Lyucynka near Ivyanec, where he retires.

The first works of Dunin-Marcinkievich were libretto of operettes (musicles) "Magic Water", "Competition of Musicians" and "Jewish Draft". These were mainly comedies that were showing contemporary characters. No texts have survived and only published good reviews are known.

In 1846 an opera "Idillia" (or "Villager") was printed by Dunin-Marcinkievich in the printing house of Zavadskij, in Vil'na. Essentially this could be considered a first opera in modern belarusian, since all aristocracy is speaking Polish in the oipera, while all peasants - Belarusian (Creeve). As another contemporary belarusian literator - Uladzislau Syrakomlya - has noticed about it: "Bytavaya prauda zahadala autaru peraplyatac' pol'skiya dyyalohi z kryvickimi, adpaviedna tamu, vystupae na scenu pan, akanom ci hto ins^y z s&lyaheckaj parody, s^to razmaulyae pa-pol'sku, abo narod z ulasnaj havorkaj".The ancient genre of idillia or pastoral was chosen to show multiple scenes of the folk life, criticizing the Serfdom and poor conditions of life. "Idyllia" gives a realistic image of the Belarusian village of the 1840-ies. And yet the opera has a lot of romantic hymns to the native land (translation by Y. Kupala):

O kraj moj lyuby, moj rodny!
Ty znaesh' dumak pryc^yny.
Tut, yak u rai, azdobna,
Cisnucca dzectva uspaminy....

The most part of early lyrics was written by Dunin-Marcinkievich in Polish - the accepted language of belarusian noblemen in XIX c. His favorite topic is love. And he shows all fine nuances of the development of this feeling using the metaphors of a beautiful native land. A romantic image of belarusian land and people surrounding the poet arise from his poems.

The first work completely written in "folk language" - Belarusian - by Dunin-Marcinkievich is his poem "Hapon". The author uses some of the Belarusian folk song lyrics in it. The poem is based on the story of recruitment of a village guy - Hapon - into a 25-year service in Russian army. Belarusian folk life is shown in the poem with a vivid humanism and democracy. "Hapon" became a manifesto and formed an ideological and aesthetical credo of the New Belarusian Literature in XIX c.

As always in Russia changes come only with death of the ruler. On January 18, 1855 tsar Nicholas I has died. New tsar was tied up with war in Crimea and a censorship significantly weakened. The Vil'na censor Kukal'nik signs the permission to publish several books of Dunin Marcinkievich:

"Hapon" (see illustration to it on the left) and "Vecharnicy I Apantany" in 1855;.

"Cikavis^'sya? - Prac^ytaj!" in 1856;

"Belaruski Dudar"("Belarusian pipe-player") in 1857

It was an unusual luck and gift of fate. Until the publishing by Francishak Bahushevich of his "Dudka Belaruskaya" in 1891 these books were the only printed editions in modern Belarusian. The rest of the literature was circulating underground in scripts.

The works of Dunin-Marcinkievich were fiercely attacked by Polish literators, who were criticizing the very fact of use of Belarusian in Literature:

One of the strongiest supporters of the works of Dunin-Marcinkievich was Uladzislau Syrakomlya. Dunin-Marcinkievich answered these doubts himself in a poem "Ci ya stary?"("Am I old?"):

...Dlya vas, pany, s^koda halopskaj mnie movy,
Dlya vas, c^ye mudrye nadta halovy,
Maniery salyonau zasvoiushy umela,
Smyayucca z taho, krytykuyuchy smiela,
S^to tut adradzhaecca na rodnyh hlebah
C^uz^oe z^, haj kiepskae, uznosyac' da nieba.

Vas& sud mnie nie stras^ny, haj zlosna skavyc^a
U budcy sabaka, uvahi na psa nie zvyarnu ya.
Yak raic' pyasnyar Syrakomlya, pis^u ya
Cyapier, yak zausyody, na movie muz^yc^aj...

In the 1960-ies the struggle for national independence in Belarus resulted in a1863 uprising lead by Kalinouski. After the suppression of uprising there was a period of strong reaction and censorship. The poem "Halimon na karanacyi" and translation of "Pan Tadeush" of Adam Mickievich into Belarusian, written by Dunin-Marcinkievich were forbidden and confiscated by Russian gendarmes At this time the tsar gendarmes referred to Dunin-Marcinkievich as "the firts and the most energetic agitator of the current disorders". When the last shots of the 1863 uprising were sounding the tsar gendarmes have searched for , arrested and brought Dunin-Marcinkievich into Miensk prison. He was not sent into Siberia because of the age, but he was restricted to his estate of Lyucinka and kept under gendarme observation.

This has not discouraged Dunin-Marcinkievich and he writes at this time his best work - drama of "Pinskaya Shlyahta". In this drama he criticizes severely the lifestyle of the contemporary Belarusan noblemen, doomed for disaster and the tsarist police-bureaucratic system for it's lack of low moral and bribery. He writes in 1868 in his poem "Z-nad Islachy, abo Leki na son...": .

...Syahonnya usyo inaks^, zmyanilisya I lyudzi,
Syahonnya spekulyacyya - hto bol's^ dabudzie-,
Valodae lyudz'mi; nyamieckiya rahunki,
Adnosiny uvyali uz^o u ins^yya kirunki.
Syahonnya serca nie shukaj, - yano u maniecie,
I pry sustrechah - holad, yak na belym sviecie!

A kraj zbyadnieu, I kan zdabyc' kavalak hlieba,
Nie raz kryvavym potam ablivacca treba.
Dy tol'ki slaby plac^a, yak adc^ue boli,
Nie padae na duhu toj, hto sil'naj voli!...

His last poem "Zalyoty" Dunin-Marcinkievich published in 1870. He spent the rest of his life impreisoned in his estate Lucinka under the constant observation of tsarist regime. At one point he had secretly organized a school for peasnats, but it was soon discovered and forbidden.

Vincent Dunin-Marcinkievich died at the age of 76 in his estate Lyucynka. He lived his life as a Belarusian poet, drama writer, revolutionary and teacher. The seeds of the new Belarusian consciousness that he planted has given great crops as many of the Belarusian poets and writers followed his steps creating the New Belarusian Literature.


References used in this file:

Dunin-Marcinkievich V. "Tvory", Minsk, printing house of "Mastackaya Litaratura", 1984.
The facts of biography were extracted from the foreword to the book by Yazep Yanushkievich.
UC Berkeley Library PG 2835.D8A5 1984 Main


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