In search of lost masterpieces: the Belarusian case
(University of Tartu)
Paper short abstract:
The paper focuses on the link between the search for the lost nationally important masterpieces and building ethnic identity on the example of ongoing political formation of Belarus. It analyzes narratives about stolen artifacts which (if found) could cause consolidation and even revolution.
Paper long abstract:
Departing from the example of the lost book on 1863 uprising by Vladimir Korotkevich (presumably stolen by KGB and still kept in closed archives), I will proceed to similar cases, e. g. search for another Belarusian relic - Cross of Saint Euphrosyne lost in the XX century; and further relate it to different existing narratives blaming Soviet authorities for today's Belarusian cultural and political decline. Such narratives exist in oral variants, Internet discussions, and scholarly papers. The appeal to find and expose the masterpieces through informing academic and artistic societies about them having been stolen demonstrates how strong the hopes laid on these artifacts are. The narratives contradict official discourse and strive for ethnic consolidation essential to overcome political crisis. This paper analyses action undertaken by searchers of stolen masterpieces, stories rising around them, and hopes laid on how Belarus might change in case they are found. The research is based on the interviews recorded from Belarusians living in Belarus and other countries.
In search of concealed truth: revealing, unraveling and debunking