Belarusian Archive Abroad (1928–1945)

Name Belarusian Archive Abroad (1928–1945) Belarusian Archive Abroad - letterhead
Belarusian Archive Abroad - letterhead
Catalog Number T-BHA
Volume 40 inventory units, 1 archival box
State of Cataloging The collection has been fully cataloged and is freely accessible
Languages of Documents Czech, Russian, Belarusian

The Belarusian Archive Abroad (sometimes referred to simply as the Belarusian Archive or the Belarusian Historical Archive) was founded in Prague in 1928. Its establishment had been initiated by Mikola Viarshynin (Mikulash Vershinin, 1866–1934), a Belarusian politician and journalist living in Prague from 1907, and a former representative of the Belarusian People’s Republic in Czechoslovakia, who headed the archive until his death. In 1934–1938, the archive was managed by the politician and public official Tamash Hryb (1895–1938). It was housed in the premises of the Russian Historical Archive Abroad, administered by the Czechoslovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs and thus loosely affiliated with the so-called Slavic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. De jure, however, it remained the property of the Belarusian Council in Prague, an organisation that sought to represent the entire Belarusian diaspora in Czechoslovakia. After Hryb’s death, the unclear legal status of the archive became the subject of numerous disputes between state authorities and representatives of the Belarusian community. In 1939, the Belarusian Archive Abroad, with the consent of the representative of the Belarusian Council Vasil Rusak (1896–1946?), was transferred (like the Russian Historical Archive Abroad and the Ukrainian Historical Cabinet) to the administration of the archives of the Ministry of the Interior. The further fate of the archival collections is unknown; in 1945, they were probably transferred to the Soviet Union, where they served the Soviet security authorities in their campaign against emigrants and were subsequently scattered in Russian, Belarusian and Lithuanian archives. So far, only a small fraction of the original collection has been discovered.

The core of the Belarusian Archive Abroad collection was formed by documents related to the activities of the Belarusian People’s Republic, existing in 1918–1919, which had been brought to Czechoslovakia by its representatives fleeing to emigration after its defeat, as well as materials concerning the activities of the Belarusian diaspora (especially the one active in Czechoslovakia). Despite its small size (in 1940, it contained 11,000 sheets of archival material, 680 volumes of books and 220 titles of periodicals), the archive was an important element in the efforts to preserve the Belarusian national idea and the vision of Belarusian statehood. During the Second World War, the archival collection was probably expanded by the archives of the chairmen of the Council of the Belarusian People’s Republic, Piotr Krecheŭski (1879–1928) and Vasil Zakharka (1877–1943), who lived in Prague.

The small collection deposited in the Slavonic Library contains mainly documents on the history of the archive. First of all, these are materials describing the circumstances of its creation and existence. They document, among other things, the repeated and unsuccessful attempts of the representatives of the Belarusian diaspora to clarify the legal status of the archive and to have it fully taken over by the Czechoslovak state, which was the only one with the adequate funds for its development. Another part of the collection consists of fragmentary correspondence between the archive and several foreign institutions concerning the building of the archive’s collections. An extremely important document is the inventory book of the archive (inv. no. 1), which was complemented until 1937. A document of different content is a six-page overview of the activities of the Belarusian emigration, written by Tamash Hryb in 1928 (inv. no. 2).

Other documents related to the Belarusian Archive Abroad and Tamash Hryb are preserved by the Slavonic Library in the collection Russian Historical Archive Abroad – Collection of Administrative Documents (T-RZIA, parts 3-5, 4-1-53). These are primarily accounting documents and operational correspondence related to the day-to-day operation of the archive and the sporadic expansion of the collections. The collection Mykhailo Drahomanov Ukrainian Pedagogical Institute (1923–1933) contains Hryb’s personal records of a teacher from 1929 (T-DRAH-28). The stamp of the Belarusian Archive Abroad can be found in a number of books and periodicals scattered in the collection of the Slavic Library, to which they were probably transferred after the dissolution of the archive.


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