In 1860 over half the peasants in MInsk were serfs.
MAP The sorry decline of the traditional Greek- and Latin-rite churches in Belarus, both of which had become corrupt and refused to adopt the Belarusian vernacular, coupled with the failure of attempts to renew the Florentine Union, to consolidate the national church in the face of Muscovite intrigues and the continuing Turkish threat, led many of the most eminent noblemen and soldiers of the age -- Radzivil, Sapieha, Kiszka, Chadkevicz, Pacz, and others as well as some of the ablest writers and thinkers of the day, such as Vasil Ciapinski(1530 - 1603), Symon Budny(1530 - 1593) and the engaging diarist Todar Eulaszeuski(1546 - 1616) -- to embrace the Calvinistic reformed faith. For the less reputable, it was a convenient means of revoking church endowments secured by their forbears on family estates, the churches now being divided. Some of the finest Belarusian church architecture of the period in the Byzantino-Gothic style is to be found at the evangelical churches at Zaslaue(1590), Dzieraunaja(1590), Novy Sverzhan'(c. 1550), all near Minsk, and Smarhoni(1554) amongst many others. The development of a peculiarly art-form in music -- the kantyczka or hymn, was also largely a product of the Reformation. It was the exodus of the nobles and burghers to Calvinizm, rather than any schemings of the Jesuits (who in any case were not then established in Minsk), which resulted in the dereliction of the 13 Greek-rite churches, which according to the local historian Spileuski(1853) had flourished in Minsk at the close of the Middle Ages, including the ancient monastery of the Ascension. Moreover, in 1547 the city was once again devastated by fire, which destroyed the castle and the number of churches in the Lower Town. As a result, in the latter part of the 16th century the Upper town was laid out with broader streets and greater recourse to brickwork in the reconstruction of the city. There were no stone or brick ramparts, the rivers Svislocz and Niamiha served as moats to the east and north, whilst to the south and west the main defence was made up of semi-circular earth-works. In the light of the growing threat from the East, the stockade and redoubt in Trinity suburb were strengthened. The defence of the inhabitants of Minsk, however, depended on the superior fire-power of their artillery, the dense forests to the East, and the embargo by the Catholic European powers on the sale of fire-arms to the troublesome Muscovites.
There can be little doubt that the Council of the Stoglav in Moscow(1551), proclaiming supremacy of the Russian Orthodoxy over all other forms of the Greek-rite faith, the invasion of Belarus of Ivan IV("The Terrible"), the subsequent capture and destruction of Polacak(1563-1579) by the Russians, the estabkishment in 1589 the Patriarchate of Moscow as the "Third Rome", and the breaking after 1558 of the embargo of arms for Muscovy by Protestant England and Holland, were four events so fraught with danger for the Grand Duchy, that it had virtually no choice other than seek a political union with the Kingdom of Poland at Lublin in 1569, and renewed ecclesiastical union with Rome at Biarescie in 1596.
One of many Greek-rite clerics concious of the danger was Michael Rahoza. In 1576 he was appointed Archimandrite of the Ascension monastery in Minsk, which had remained vacant for several decades. He was consecrated the Metropolitan of Kiev in 1588 by the visiting Patriarch Jeremija of Constantinople who, "being unable to meet the financial demands of the Turks, had come to the North to look for money"(Guepin). Two years previously, the Patriarch of Antioch, Joachim had returned to his Turkish overlords, "carrying off large sums of money" collected from pious Orthodox believers in Belarus and Ukraine, which in turn helped the Turks to finance their campaigns against the Grand Duchy. The Greek Catholic(Uniate) Archbishop of Polacak, Josaphat Kuncevicz, stressed the peril in his reply to Chancellor Leu Sapeha's famous letter reproaching him with his hostility to the Constantinopolitan faction, the non-Uniate Cossacks of Ukraine and their then covert supporters, the Turks: "Are we to allow the Patriarch, a Metropolitan, a bishop, nay, even a pasha who has taken the precaution of donning a monks habit and assuming the title of Exarch, to come to this land with janissaries, on the pretext of a pastoral visitation, in order to spy and hatch treasonable plots? Are not we to prevent because this would indispose the Cossacks?". Minsk was to play an important part in the struggle for the restoration of the Florentine Union, as the only means of ending both the pretensions of the Tsar and Patriarch of Moscow, and of Constantinople, to political and ecclesiastical supremacy over "all the Russias and all the countries of the North". A council of the clergy of the Greek church was held in Minsk in 1620 presided over by Metropolitan Rutski with a view to obtaining adherence of the passive majority to the Union. The session, according to Syrakomla, appears to have been stormy, as a result of the bold intervention of the conservative anti-Union monk, Todar Jarmolicz. However, as the French church historian Guepin observed, "The extinction of the Ruthenian schism had become a matter of State".
The political union with Poland in 1569, and the problems involved in selection a joint ruler for the Kingdom and the Grand Duchy, resulted in some curious situations, as where a reluctant French Prince, Henri de Valois, brought back from Paris as ephemeral sovereign in 1574, by a delegation including Chancellor Radzivil, began appending his signature and seal as Grand Duke to the decrees written in the old Belarusian language. The union also altered the status of Minsk, which became instead of a Grand Ducal Namiestnictva(Shire), a standard Vajavodstva (County) of the Reczypaspalitaja(Commonwealth) with Hauryla Harnastaj as its first Vajavod(High Constable), Mikola Talvasz as Castellan and Bazyl Tyszkevicz as Starasta(Lord Lieutenant). Minsk became not only the seat of its own County Court and Land Tribunal, but also after 1581 a session town, in which the High Court of the Grand Duchy would sit when on circuit, the privelege it shared with Vilnia and the former capital Navahrudak. An occational pleader in the Minsk Courts was Todar Jeulaszeuski, who in his diary mentions his appearances at the sessions there in 1583. During the wars against Ivan the Terrible(1563-1579) Minsk once again served as operational headquaters for the Grand Ducal armies, and the King and Grand Duke Zhyhimunt III(Pol. II) sojourned there during the campaigns of 1563 and 1568. His successor Zhyhimunt IV(Pol. III) confirmed the city in its priveleges, granted the merchants the right to hold two Fairs each year and endowed municipality with additional lands in 1592.
This was not always appreciated by the local population, stirred up by false rumors of impeding liturgical and festival changes, and fearful of the interference of an increasingly Polish-oriented sovereign into the affairs of the Grand Duchy. Mialecii Smatrycki (1577 - 1633), for a time hostile to, but later a supporter of the Uniate cause, has been received at the Salamarecki estate at Siomkava, near Minsk, on his return from Leipzig, and was said by Syrakomla to have written a part of his anti-Uniate polemical work Threnos of the Complaint of the Eastern Church during his stay there. When the Union of Biaresce was signed in 1596, many of the inhabitants of Minsk accepted it without protest. Those who did not follow the advice of the Vilnia Holy Ghost Confraternity, obtained from the Minsk magistrates in 1613 the grant of land for a church by the Niamiha, and called for non-Uniate priests from Vilnia to service it. The Grand Duke, who resented the establishment of these non-Uniate confraternities, which, with their schools and fund-raising activities for Muslim-occupied Constantinople, began to look very much like a hostile state within a state, sent two Uniate Greek-rite priests with royal letter-patents to seize the church building. The fair minded city fathers, however, appear to have been sympathetic to the Minsk cofraternity, and received the royal envoys, Luckebicz and Hainski, with some coldness, declaring that the city council had many other worries apart from the church affairs, and in the event nothing was done. Indeed, the first decade of the 17th century had been a time of sharp famine and plague, as well as of outbreaks of fire in the city(1602), so their calm had some justification. The three attempts in August 1616 on the newly established non-Uniate Cathedral confraternity, led by a shoemaker Danila Palavinka, to seize the Holy Ghost Cathedral, followed by the unlawful detention by the mob of the Catholic and Uniate burgomasters Aliaksej Philipovicz and Siamion Chatkevicz merely served to strengthen the fears of the peaceful majority of the townspeople over the political undertones of the Confraternity's campaign, and to advance the cause of the Greek Catholics. The publication in 1617 by Liavon Kreuza's Oborona Jednosti Cerkovnoj ("Defense of the Union") in reply to Smatrycki's Threnos was a skillful and convincing polemical work, which won over many waverers of the Union.
Since 1596 the bitterest dispute had arisen between the two factions over the ownership of Church property. These resulted in two outbreaks of unrest in Minsk(1597, 1616), and the martyrdom of the Uniate Archbishop of Polacak Josaphat Kuncevicz(1580 - 1623); they were finally settled at the conciliation meeting between the contending parties, held in Minsk in 1625. Both the Uniate Metropolitan Jasep Veniamin Rucki and the non-Uniate Metropolitan Peter Mohila attended the conference, which took place at a time when Muscovite rulers, weaked by internal strife, driven back from Novgorod and Smalensk, and at odds with Cossacks, were not in a position to interfere with the affairs of the Grand Duchy. Another Uniate School of SS. Cosmo and Damian opened in 1619. At this time also were built the Dominican monastery(1622), the Bernadine convents(1628, 1642), and the Basilian Church of the Holy Ghost(1645), all in the Upper Town, as well as the Basilian convent of the Holy Trinity in the Trinity suburb(1630). A privelege was also granted by the Grand Duke Uladzislau I (Pol. IV) in 1633 to the Basilian convent of the Holy Ghost and the Orthodox Confraterity of SS. Peter and Paul to establish printing presses; in the same year the increasingle wealthy Confraternity established a hospital and a school "for the instruction of Christians and their children". By the mid-17th century the Uniate churches in Minsk had seven confraternities owning houses, shop and land; the majority of the city churches and their endowments however remained in the hands of Greek Catholics, secure from the Turkish Sultan and the Russian Tsar.
Thereafter Minsk enjoyed several decades of prosperity during which trade flourished. A number of merchant corporations were established after 1552 -- the Guild of Metalworkers(1591), the Jewellers(1592), the Merchant Tailors(1592), the Shoemakers(1609), the Saddlers(1622), the Barbers(1635), and the Skinners(1647). Other guilds included Hatters, Tile-makers, Cooks, Carpenters, and Furriers. Churches, town houses, and public places were embellished, and culture generally (iconography, music, sculpture, and the applied arts) reached high levels of achievement.
In 1633 a Dutch founderer Witte established a cannon-factory at Tula, the first in the domains of Tsar Alexei Mikhailovicz, thus finally breaking the arms embargo with the Empire, the Hansa and the Grand Duchy had sought to impose on their unruly Eastern neighbor. This sounded the death knell of the peaceful interregnum enjoyed by Minsk since 1580. By 1648 the Muscovites rearmed the Cossacks and in 1652 they were ready to resume hostilities against the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Belarus. A host of 700,000(as large as Napoleon's Grande Armee), embarked on a campaign equipped and financed -- according the the Syrian eye-witness Paul of Aleppo -- by the merchants of Moscow, grown enormously wealthy since the fall of Kazan and Astrachan(1554, 1556) on "merchandise from Persia and India"), and anxious further to enrich themselves by elimination their Grand Ducal trading competitors between the Baltic and the Black Sea. The Moscow's Patriarch Nikon added his widow's mite of 20,000 armed men, recruited among his monastic servants to join the expedition. Smalensk fell after a short seige in 1654; Nikolas Radzivil and his captains were held prisoners in Kazan. The Belarusian fortress cities of Viciebsk, Mahiliou, Polacak, and Orsza were also taken in swift succesion.
The account of the fall of Minsk among other cities, and the manner of the legendary "reunion of Belarus with the Russian State" by Tsar Alexei, is best left to the contemporary Orthodox Deacon Paul of Aleppo, then in Moscow(1653 - 1655): "His variuos officers subdued upwards of ninety four towns and castles, by storm and voluntary surrender; killing God knows how many Jews, Armenians, and Poles, and throwing their children packed in barrels into the great river Dniepr withour mercy; for nothing can exceed the hatred that the Muscovites bear to all classes of heretics and infidels. All the men without exception they cut to pieces without sparing one; the women and children they carried off into slavery, after destroying their habitations so as to leave their town entirely desolate. Thus the country if the Poles, which formerly was proverbially rich, and bore comparison with the finest provinces of Greece, now became a vast scene of ruin, where not a village or inhabitant was to be found in fifteen days journey in length and breadth. We were informed that more than one hundred thousand of the enemy were reduced to captivity, so that seven or eight boys and girls were sold for a dinar or less; and many of them we ourselves saw. In the towns which they took by capitulation, they spared all those inhabitans and allowed them to remain, who embraced the faith and were baptized; the rest were all expelled. But the towns which they captured at the point of the sword they totally cleared of their inhabitants, and levelled their houses and the fortifications to the ground." Other sources set the toll of ruined cities and towns in Belarus between 1654 and 1656 at over two hundred.
Minsk on the 30th of June, 1655 "readily surrendered to the Orthodox Tsar", and two Muscovite Princes, Arseniev and Chvorostin, were appointed as governors. The inhabitants were given choice of "accepting Russian Orhtodoxy (pravoslavije) or of being removed from the city by order of the Tsar". The manner of their "removal", whether by chain-gang or by river, as described by Paul of Aleppo, needs no further elaboration. Subsequent exactions and ill-treatment of the population, however, moved the remaining Orthodox citizens to rebellion after two years, which was swiftly dealt with by the Muscovites. By the 1660, however, the tide of war had changed. The Russian forces were overstretched and in 1661 Jan Casimir regained Harodnia and Vilnia after long sieges. The Cossack Ataman Zalatarenko was killed before Stary Bychau and Minsk was retaken. The citizenry of Mahiliou rose up to massacre the Muscovites, dispatching their leaders in chains to Warsaw. Recovery from the holocaust was slow and only got under way in the latter part of the 18th century. "The glorious city of Polacak" which, according to Vakar, "once had 100,000 inhabitans and was larger and wealthier than London", had "only 360 frame houses inhabited by 437 Christians and 478 Jews in 1780". In the latter stages of the war the fortunes of the Commonwealth improved, and Minsk again became an advanced camp for the liberation of Belarus by the Grand Duke Jan Kasimir(1648 - 1668) who, together with the future sovereign Jan Sobieski, visited the ruined and plague-ridden city of Minsk on no fewer than three occasions in 1664.
Peace was restored by the city of Anrussovo in 1667. Its terms, however, untimately proved to be the death warrant of Belarus as an independent state, for it contained a clause giving Moscow a right to intervene on behalf of the small Orthodox community to the Grand Duchy and Poland, a right confirmed in 1686, and repeatedly and oppresively invoked by succeding Russian ambassadors almost yearly thereafter. However, another three decades ensured for Minsk a period of reconstruction and growing prosperity with an increase in brick- and stone-built houses, and in the embellishment of new churches. The convent of the Franciscans was restored in 1673 by the city Stolnik(High Steward), Todar Vankovicz. In 1679 the priveleges of the Jews in Minsk were confirmed by the King and Grand Duke Jan Kazimier. The Calvinist chapel was also rebuilt in 1671, thanks to a gift of timber from Janus Radzivil, and a minister Krysztaf z Jarnau'ca was relieved from holding his services in the open air. By 1680 however, his office had to be conducted with some circumspection, on occassion in a private house to avoid molestation from rowdy pupils of Jesuit school. Established in Minsk since 1654, the order was richly endowed by benefactors after 1667, in particular by the Vajavod of Troki, Cypryjan Brzhastouski, whose family remained patrons of the Jesuit college for many years. Other benefactors included Stanislau Zabloc'ki, Jan Philipovicz, Juri Furs, who contributes gifts to building a new church from 1701 - 1705. A Benedictine convent was later established in vul. Zbarovaja (Internacyjanalnaja) in 1700 by Anna Steckievicz, widow of the Banceret of Minsk, and a Carmelite house was founded in the Rakouski suburb by Todar Vankicicz in 1703. In addition to the Church of the Holy Ghost on Cathedral Square, the Uniates had at the end of the 18th century two other churches in the Lower market, at the southern end of the Tatar suburb and by the southern fortifications of the city, near the site later occupied by the Russian Orthodox cathedral of the Holy Cross and the Jubilejny dom BNR.
Fearful of further Russian claims to the Grand Duchy, official policy sought to integrate the Belarusian population into the Polish sphere by downgrading their institutions, including the Uniate Church, and smoothing out the differences between the Polish language and its Belarusian "dialects". In 1697 all documents were required to be written not in the Cyrillic, but in the Latin script -- latinka. Even in some Uniate service books, prayers and hymns in Polish were introduced, often disguised in the old Slavonic script, to gain acceptance and promote the "unification" of the Commonwealth. The policy was to some extent understable in the face of continuing Russian encroachments, the more so because even ethnographers of Belarusian descent such as A. Rypinski, were unclear as to the true place of the Belarusian people between the Western and Eastern Slavs. Its effect however was dire to the future of Belarusian language and culture.
During the debilitating Northern Wars(1700 - 1721) between the Commonwealth, Sweden, and Russia, Minsk was twice occupied by the armies of Peter the Great and once by Charles XII. During his first visitation in 1704, Peter dined twice very civilly with the Jesuits and inspected his troops in the Upper Market; characteritically, however, during his second stay in 1708, his Cossacks and Kalmuks pludered the city, sparing neither Catholic nor Orthodox churches, and set it on fire.
With the return of peace there was an improvement of communications. Roads and canals were built; postal services were set up in Belarus in 1717 between Vilnia, Minsk and Mahiliou, and between Minsk and Navagrudak. The Dominicans established a school in 1727, and in 1792 Pan Szyszka founded a church of St. Roch. More guilds were formed by Royal privelege for the protection of local trade -- the Vintners, the Gardeners, the Water-carriers, the Brewers and Meadmakers. Occassionally the conflicts of jurisdiction between the Municipal Courts, the Grand Ducal Court, the Church Courts, and the Seignorial Court lit in matters of breach of trade monopolies and unfair competition. Against a background of dynastic squabbles between the increasingly polonized Bykouskis, Zaviszas, and Valadakoviczy, rivalries between the various religious orders(including a famous street-fight in 1728 between the Dominicans and the Jesuits over some runaway schoolboys), processions, parades, street fairs with dancing bears and firework displays, the Grand Ducal era of Minsk teetered to its close. The city's great Vajavod and benefactor Ihnat Zavisza(whose portrait with the sitter wearing aristocratic sash or pojas, is to be seen in the National Museum of Art), died in 1739, and was laid to rest after a solemn Requiem at the Maryjnski Cathedral in a blaze of over 4000 candles and 12,000 votive lights.
Periodic conflagrations(1737, 1764, 1778), famines, and outbreaks of the plague led to some reconstruction of Churches and houses in brick rather than wood and also to the foundation of more hospitals. The great fire in 1737 resulted in the rebuiding of two Bernardine convents in the Upper Town(including the present Holy Ghost Cathedral); yet another outbreak in 1764 occassioned rebuilding the Uniate Holy Trinity convent in Trajecki Pradmiescie. A conflagration finally destroyed the old timber-frame castle within the earthworks by the Niamiha. An even inreasing number of houses in city were being out of brick, many of which have survived and in this respect Minsk was well in advance of Russian cities such as Moscow. By the mid-18th century MInsk had two benevolent hospitals. As for schools, in addition to fee paying pupils, the Jesuit college atmitted as students the children of poor families free of charge, until the suppression of the Order in 1773. Both the Russian and the Dominican monasteries offered similar free educational facilities, and by 1771 there was also a Mariavitan school for girls in Trinity suburb.
Meanwile the election of each new sovereign -- Augustus II (1697 - 1733), Augustus III (1733 - 1763) and Stanislaw Poniatovski(1764 - 1795) -- and the escalating complaints of the non-Uniate Greek-rite minority gave a pretext for foreign intervention. In 1733 Minsk was occupied by more than 20,000 Russian soldiers, cavalry and infantry under General Volkonsky, accompanied by inevitable swarms of Cossacks and Kalmuks, though it is said that in the event they were on their best behavior. Inevitably perhaps in these unsettled times the Grand Duchy was plauged by bandits such Adam Kroher, whose raids sowed panic throughout Belarus, until his capture and execution in 1737.
Ultimately the Commonwealth was dismembered by Russia, Prussia, and Austria in three partitions. Polacak, Viviebsk and Mahiliou were annexed by Russia in 1773. A judicial reorganization of the Grand Ducal Courts followed, resulting in the removal of the Session of the High Court from Minsk to Harodnia in 1775, but in 1791 the city became the seat of the Court of Appeal for Vajavodstvy(Counties) of Polacak, Viciebsk and Minsk. Two years later in 1793 the city and the remaining bulk of the Grand Duchy were occupied by the Russians. A successful attempt was made by the govenment of the Commonwealth to persuade the non-Uniate faction in Belarus to leave the Russian jurisdiction for that of Constantinople. Although the Belarusian Orthodox had agreed to the reform, the Russian Empress Catherine would not hear of it, and seized on the move as a pretext to intervene definitively and extend her domains further to the west. By 1796 the whole ethnic territory of Belarus had been absorbed in the Russian empire, of which it was to remain a part for almost 120 years.
The Russian Governors' first steps were to restrict the Belarusian Greek-Catholic Church; the Basilian Convents in the Upper Town and in Trinity suburb were closed in 1795, and the Holy Ghost Church handed over to the Russian Orthodox hierarchy, who in 1796 renamed it after the apostles SS. Peter and Paul. The former Belarusian Orthodox Church with this name was reconsecrated to St. Catherine, thus commemorating the parthners of the two sovereigns who had established Russian rule over the city. Plans were drawn up for impoving the city amenities; public gardens were laid out by the river Svislacz, which were named the Governor's Gardens, and the architect Todar Kramer was commissioned to remodel the City Guildhall, the Vice-governor's residence(1800), the Basilian monastery, now a school for children of the gentry(1799), the Merchants' Exchange(1800), the Jesuit college and the Holy Trinity convent in the Trinity suburb(1799) and other buildings. These reconstructions were done to neutral neo-classical designs of West European municipial arcitecture, which left little room for national particularism.
In 1812 the French Emperor Napoleon crossed the Nioman river, making the purpose of his campaign against the Tsar plain to his generals. Irritated, after a meeting with Alexander's envoy, General Balachov, by the pretensions of successive Russian Tsars to make themselves the arbiters of the European politics, he explained to his General Berthier, Caulaincourt and Duroc: "Alexander takes me for a fool, Does he think that I have come to Vilnia to negotiate trade agreements? I have to finish off, once and for all, this colossus of the barbarians of the North. The sword is drawn. They must be driven back to their ice-fields so that for twenty-five years they do not come meddling in the affairs of civilized Europe... He[Alexander] is afraid and wants a settlement, but I only sign a peace treaty in Moscow... If he wants victories, let him beat the Persians, but let him note meddle with Europe. Civilization repudiates these Norsemen. Europe should put its house in order without them." The composition of his confederate army -- French, Poles, Italians, Germans, Dutchmen, Portuguese and Austrians -- gave some weight to his claim to be acting for Europe. Napoleon leaving Marshal Oudinot to hold Polacak, and Marshal Davout to occupy Minsk drove on to Viciebsk. Only 180,000 men set off from Smalensk for Moscow: the rest were protecting the Grande Armee's flanks or were on garrison duty. Most of whatever material destruction took place during the campaign was caused by the brutal but very effective Russian tactics of "scorched earth" -- burning cities(among them Mahiliou and Smalensk), villages and crops to prevent them from being taken by the enemies of the Orthodox Tsar.
In Minsk, Devout received strong local support and attended a Te Deum celebrated by the Bishop Dederko to mark the liberation of the city from Russian rule. A popular move was a decree confiscating the harvests of the fleeing Russian nobility, and dividing them equally between the Army, the Civil administration, and the peasants. Implementing Napoleon's plan to restore the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Belarus as two separate states, with their capitals in Vilnia and Mahiliou, Minsk was made the Prefecture of a revolutionary department, and numerous Belarusian volunteers formed units in the Grande Armee. During Napoleon's retreat from Moscow these volunteers fought with great valour, defending the bridges and covering the French crossings of the Biarazina. Allowing for heavy losses sustained at Borodino and other engagements at Krasnaje, together with subsequent desertions of disaffected Germans and other allies, the arrival at the bridges of 70,000 men in combat order was hardly that of a defeated army. In the words of an old French soldier of the Imperial Guards who made it back to Vilnia: "We gave them a good trunching at every turn, just the same. Those "Russkis" are only a bunch of schoolboys." On the return of Kutuzov to Minsk in late November there were few reprisals, with the exception of the Bishop Dederka who was suspended, and a general amnesty was subsequently proclaimed.
Russian rule thereafter remained relatively mild, save for the suppression of Greek-Catholic church, until uprisings of 1831 and 1863. Then russification began in earnest with Russian style churches being built in prominent positions, or existing churches being revamped into sometimes grotesque pseudo-Russian style(SS. Peter and Paul prior to 1979). The National Uniate church was suppressed in 1839, occassionally at sword point, with many recalcicrant priests being imprisoned or deported for up to thirty years. Many of the Latin clergy were expelled; the Bernhadine convent and Church were given over to Russian Orthodox monks. The Dominican Church became an army warehouse and the Bernhadine Church of St. Joseph a city archive. Streets were given different names in Russian to efface the memory of the old order: Franciskankaja became Gubernatorskaja, Dominikanskaja was renamed Petrapaulauskaja, Bernadzinski zavulak -- Monastyrski, Felicijanskaja -- Bogodelnaja, Mastovskaja -- Paliciejskaja and so on. An ukaz of the Tsar Nikolas I abolished the very use of names Belarus and Belarusian. The consequences of Kastus Kalinouski' uprising were important and far reaching for the city of Minsk and the surrounding areas. Many thousands of their inhabitants were deported to Siberia, or imprisoned -- among them the poet Vincent Dunin-Marcinkievicz, -- in the Pilszczalauski Fortress, erected in 1825, almost in anticipation of future trouble.
Yet apart from these upheavals, a long period of peace brought with it material prosperity. Industry and the arts flourished though occational fires and epidemics continued to plague the city. There were two particularly virulent outbreaks of typhus in 1848 and 1853. The Tsars showed little interest in Minsk and seldom visited it, except on tours of inspection of the Imperial Army headquarters in Mahiliou. Alexander I came in 1819 to address the nobility, and Alexander II visited the city in 1859. Permission to built Catholic churches was generally limited to cemetery chapels, though exuberant Russian churches and shrines such as the new Cathedral, the Church of the Protection and the Holy Cross, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Alexander Nevski, the Church of the Trasfiguration, Our Lady of Kazan and others mushroomed across the city. The old coat-of-arms granted by Zhyhimunt IV charged with the image of the Teotokos, which in 1796 had been augmented with the Russian double-headed eagle, was untimately replaced in 1878 by a field or, "three wavy bars azure". Perhaps most relevant to the quality of life and the inhabitants was the installation of the municipal water system(1874), a telephone service(1890), two-horse drawn tram-lines(1892) and current electricity(1895).
However, all these to suppress the language, the national symbolica, and to adulterate the visible signs of Belarusian individuality, finally brought a growing number of Belarusians to the realization that they were indeed a different nation. Ethnographical traditions engendered national pride, even as the nationalist poets Maxim Bahdanovicz and Zmitrok Biadulia were born, one of an eminent Minsk enthnogpapher, the other of a traditionally minded Hassidic Jew from the Lahojsk hills. The unique flavor of Belarusian life was captured in works of one of Minsk's greatest residents, who now lies buried here, -- Jakub Kolas. During this period Minsk acquired its National Theater(1890), its first School of Art founded by Ja. Kruher(1906), the beginnings of its "Academy of Sciences" at the Belarusian Chata(1913) and proposals were also made in 1913 for the establishment of the National University in Minsk. Renewed stirrings of national protest came with anti-tsarist riots in 1905. There were strikes and demostrations in Minsk, and the students of the Orthodox seminary set fire to their college; as a result societies and clubs were dissolved, students expelled, and the poets Jakub Kolas, Kastus Kalaniec, and Ales Harun, among many others, were imprisoned for their clandestine activities.
Copyright H. David Marshak, All Rights Reserved