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Home Subject guides and databases Historical events 1863-1864 Uprising in Belarus History of the 1863-1864 uprising in Belarus (overview)

History of the 1863-1864 uprising in Belarus (overview)

After the Partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita) – a federative state which from 1569 included the Kingdom of Poland (present-day Poland and Ukraine) and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (present-day Belarus, Lithuania, part of Latvia), executed  in 1772, 1793 and 1795 by Austria, Prussia and Russia – Belarusian lands became part of the Russian Empire.

It should be noted that at that time the name of Lithuania (Litva) referred mainly to the lands of Western and Central Belarus – to the west of the river Berezina. The name originated from historical Litva which in the old days was located to the west of present-day Minsk. And the ancestors of contemporary Belarusians were also called Litvins (Lithuanians). The name of Belarus (White Russia) referred to the lands lying to the east of the Berezina and the Dnieper. Until 1840 in the Russian Empire the provinces of Vilna (Vilnius), Grodno and Minsk were officially called Lithuanian Provinces, and the provinces of Vitebsk and Mogilev, Belarusian Provinces (see the website's section "Administrative and Territorial Division of Belarus"). The major part of present-day Lithuania was then named Samogitia (Zmudz). The present  names of Lithuania and Belarus were established in the second half of the 19th century and even in the early 20th century. This should be taken into account when studying the described events.

The upper society of the former state, the aristocracy, as well as the greater part of the szlachta, the local nobility, by that time, being conscious of their Litvin origin, regarded themselves as the nationals of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, spoke the Polish language, and were substantially under the influence of Polish culture. The Belarusian language was spoken by the common people and partly by the burghers. The percentage of the nobility – szlachta – among the population in Belarus, Lithuania and Right-Bank Ukraine was one of the highest in Europe. After these lands were added to the Russian Empire, the local residents constituted two thirds of the nobility in European Russia. The awareness of the loss of statehood, the remembrance of former political rights, the school system oriented at the Polish Lithuanian culture (the majority of schools were taught in Polish), the Roman Catholic Church etc. formed patriotic sentiments among the local nobility, gave rise to a protest against the Russian dominance and the hope for the restoration of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

The national uprising that erupted in Poland, Belarus and Lithuania in 1830-1831 involved the majority of the local nobility. When it was crushed, the tsarist authorities exerted great effort to weaken the protest movement. The estates and manors of active insurgents were exposed to confiscation. The noblemen who failed to confirm their noble origin by documents were transferred to the estate of smallholders in Western Provinces, a specially introduced tax category of the rural population, meaning that their social status was lowered.

The education system began to change – many schools were transferred to the Russian language of teaching. In 1839, with the support of the government, the United Greek Catholic Church that existed in Belarus from 1596 was officially abolished and the majority of the Uniates, who formed a considerable part of the population, mainly the peasants, were converted to the Orthodoxy.

The tsarist government, in attempt to win a larger support of the Orthodox peasants, carried out an inventory reform in Belarus: the land allotments of the state-owned peasants (those who belonged to the state not to the landlords) increased at the expense of the portions of land taken from the participants in the 1831 uprising.

The Tsar’s Manifesto of 19 February 1861 (3 March N. S.) abolished serfdom in the Russian Empire. Peasants acquired personal freedom but their land plots were reduced by nearly 30 percent. They were obliged over time to purchase land, and until that moment were regarded as temporarily bonded and continued to perform labour obligations to landlords. Numerous payments to the state treasury were introduced. Peasant disturbances, resulting from the discontent with the reform, covered many areas in Imperial Russia. The authorities foresaw the massive discontent of peasants and, for example, in Belarusian territory they had placed several hundred thousand troops already before the peasant emancipation.

In the late 1850s - early 1860s a liberation movement broke out in the Russian Empire, which brought together citizens of different ranks, mainly  from non-aristocratic strata of the society. The revolutionaries saw their aim in improving the condition of the popular masses. Various circles and underground organisations were widespread. One of the largest clandestine organisations called  “Zemlya i Volya” (Land and Liberty) was active in preparing a universal peasant revolt. The main idea was to establish the democracy of the people and to give the whole land to peasants without redemption. The plan existed to establish in the Russian Empire a free federation of provinces. The revolutionary situation on the eve and during the reform of 1861 and the intensification of the peasant movement gave hopes for the implementation of these plans.

The situation in the Polish and Belarusian-Lithuanian Provinces deteriorated, apart from the agrarian-peasant issue, because of the national question. This period was characterized in the first place by the outburst of the Polish national movement aimed to restore the independent Polish state within the borders of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1772. Anti-government manifestations took place in many towns in Poland, as well as in Vilna, Minsk, Vitebsk and Grodno. On 22 August 1861 a state of martial law was introduced in  Belarus and Lithuania. Special police courts were organized to punish participants in the manifestations. Military squads were sent out to all local high schools.

In terms of the methods for achieving their goals, members of the national liberation movement were divided into two wings: conservative and democratic. The conservative camp, the Whites, who included mainly the middle and large landowners and the upper bourgeoisie, hoped to succeed through the negotiation with the tsarist government and the diplomatic support of the Western states. The so-called Reds, mainly the lesser gentry, who were landless or had few land, small clerks and artisans formed a democratic wing of the future insurgents.

Like the Whites, The Reds had no unity between them. The moderate revolutionaries from the gentry – Polish nationalists – saw their main aim in restoring the Polish republic with the inclusion of Belarus, Lithuania and Right-Bank Ukraine. The Central National Committee, founded in the summer of 1862 in Warsaw to administer the preparation of the uprising, consisted mainly of their supporters. The Central National Committee held ties with the Committee of Russian Officers in Poland, a revolutionary organisation in the Russian army which was active in Poland, Belarus, Lithuania and Ukraine and consisted mainly of the people who came from Belarusian and Lithuanian Provinces. The chief of the Committee of Russian Officers in Poland, A. Potebnya, in June 1862 attempted murder on the Tsar's Viceroy in Poland. In late 1862 the Committee joined the "Land and Liberty" as an autonomous structure.

In September 1862, members of the Central National Committee held negotiations with the Russian revolutionaries A. Gertsen, N. Ogarev and M. Bakunin, who proposed the more radical slogans, calling for the distribution of land to peasants and declaring freedom to the provinces. These proposals were indeed not accepted.

Unlike in Poland, the leading role in the preparation of the uprising in Belarus and Lithuania was taken by the Reds, whose ranks embraced mainly the school and university students from the small gentry and the burghers. An intensive propaganda work was carried out by the students of the land college in Gory-Gorki. The young people reflected the desire of the noble intelligentsia for independence from Russia, which they believed would be possible in the form of the restored federation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Many students of Russian universities who came from Belarus were captured by the idea of the common peasant uprising declared by the Russian revolutionary N. Chernyshevsky, though they distrusted the blind revolutionary nihilism he advocated. The radical opposition in Belarus was actively supported by the Polish revolutionary organisation in Petersburg headed by the revolutionary democrats Z. Serakovsky and Ya. Dombrovsky, one of the future organisers of the Central National Committee and future general of the Paris Commune.

The revolutionary democratic wing of the Reds led by Ya. Dombrovsky advocated the complete independence of the Commonwealth by means of the popular uprising jointly with the revolutionary forces of Russia. They declared the right of peasants to land and the right of  Belarusians, Lithuanians and Ukrainians for their national self-identification.

The Petersburg atmosphere also influenced the future leader of the Belarusian revolutionaries, Vikenty Konstantin Kalinovsky (1838-1864). In the years of his study at the law department in Petersburg University (1856-1860) he, like his brother Viktor, was an active member of the radical Red wing of the student association which united the natives of Belarus, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine. Members of the organisation were familiar with the ideas of N. Chernyshevsky and A. Gertsen. According to one member of the organisation, V. Gazhich, the Red party, who regarded themselves as liberals and revolutionaries, believed in the revolution "on fists" connected with the social upheaval. Later, the official historiographer of the uprising, General V. Ratch would call Kalinovsky the man "with the attitude of the Gertsen school" who attempted to create a society "on the new principles of Communist delusions propagated by Gertsen and Êî".  

On graduating from the university with the law degree, Kalinovsky returned to Belarus. Failing to get a job, he turned his whole attention to the preparation of the uprising. In 1861 in Grodno, Kalinovsky founded the revolutionary democratic organisation for the preparation of a peasant revolt and became its leader. An active member of the organisation was Kalinovsky's friend, V. Vrublevsky, a graduate from the forestry college in Petersburg, later General of the Paris Commune.

In autumn 1861 in Vilna the Belarusian and Lithuanian revolutionaries created the Committee of the Movement, headed by L. Zvezhdovsky, reorganized in summer 1862 into the Lithuanian Provincial Committee for the administration of the uprising in the region. The structural units of this clandestine organisation counted nearly three thousand members. In October 1862 Kalinovsky became head of the committee and L. Zvezhdovsky discontinued his membership. In late 1862 – early 1863, members of the Lithuanian Provincial Committee also included A. Bonoldi, E. Verigo, B. Dlusky, A. Zalessky, Ya. Kozel-Poklevsky and Z. Chekhovich. In autumn 1862 Kalinovsky went entirely underground. By early 1863 the Lithuanian Provincial Committee sent out its commissioners to the provinces, districts and villages to organize the insurrection in the region. 

K. Kalinovsky together with F. Rozhansky and V. Vrublevsky founded an illegal print shop and organized the publication of a newspaper for peasants called "Peasant's Truth" (Muzhitskaya Pravda), which is regarded the first newspaper in the Belarusian language  – propaganda leaflets in which under the pen name of "Yasko a farmer from near Vilna" he explained the aims of the upcoming insurrection to the common people.  At present we know about seven issues of this newspaper, which was printed in Belarusian (with the use of Grodno dialect) in Latin script. The publisher called them letters; one of the ideological leaders of the Belarusian national movement A. Lutskevich characterized them as a cycle of proclamations. These were dedicated to various aspects of the people's life – recruitment, requisitions from peasants, religious issues etc. In particular, one of the issues was focused on the protection of the Greek Catholic Church which had existed in Belarus over 200 years. Here Kalinovsky sharply criticised the Orthodoxy, which in his opinion was enforced on Belarusians. Additionally, the Peasant's Truth contained the radical slogans calling to take up arms and decide your own destiny: "A peasant, while he is able to hold a scythe or an axe, can protect his own and will not beg for anyone's mercy".

Kalinovsky also edited two of the three issues of the "Banner of Liberty" (Znamya Svobody), an underground newspaper in the Polish language published by the Lithuanian Provincial Committee. On its pages, in  particular, he wrote: "The Russian people tremble at the sight of our long century grievance. They seek to be our free brothers not the oppressors and the responsibility before the descendants for our heavy servitude they lay on the ready-to-collapse tsarism".

One of the main political aims proclaimed by Kalinovsky was the liberation from the Russian dominance. It was assumed to restore the Grand Duchy of Lithuania as part of the federative Commonwealth – not for the nobles but a democratic state built on the principles of social equity. Kalinovsky sought to break the peasant's illusions about the "good" tsar, disclosed the predatory character of the 1861 reform and advocated the redistribution of landlords' land among peasants. He came from the idea of a popular peasant revolution and, as its result, the establishment of the democracy and he disagreed not only with the Whites but also with the moderate Reds, who accentuated the leading role of the nobles. The peasant actions against landlords he attempted to turn to the path of the national liberation struggle.

Kalinovsky pressed for the establishment of equal rights between the Lithuanian Provincial Committee and the Central National Committee in Warsaw. General V. Ratch would later assert, based on the police investigation records, that Kalinovsky was against "merging with Poland". He saw the relationship between Lithuania (as the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania was then called) and Poland as a federation, with a full independence from Warsaw. Because of this "separatism" he was criticised even by some members of the Reds, a democratic wing of the Polish revolutionaries.

In late 1862 the relationship between the Lithuanian Provincial Committee in Vilna and the Central National Committee in Warsaw acquired a very tense character. The disagreement was so sharp that the Central National Committee, when taking a decision on the beginning of the uprising, did not coordinate the date with their comrades-in-arms in Vilna. 

* * *

A sudden order by tsarist authorities for the conscription in the Kingdom of Poland, which could affect many of future insurgents, became one of the reasons why the uprising began earlier than expected.

On 10 (22) January 1863, the Central National Committee in Warsaw declared a manifesto on the beginning of the uprising; the Provisional National Government was formed as a governing body in the whole area of the former Commonwealth.

On 20 January (1 February) 1863, the Lithuanian Provincial Committee called upon all Lithuanians to take up arms and support the uprising in Poland. They proclaimed the Provisional Provincial Government of Lithuania and Belarus. An instruction was sent to the sites to punish the most cruel landlords, oppressors of the people. For the sake of the united action, the radical Reds in the Lithuanian Provincial Committee made the necessary concessions to the Polish gentry revolutionaries on the programme issues and submitted almost completely to the Polish Provisional National Government. In Warsaw, however, they did not trust them in full. Also, they were discontented with the actions of Kalinovsky, who supported the autonomy in the administration of the uprising in Belarus and Lithuania.

In February 1863, the leadership of the uprising in Vilna was taken by the Whites. Their main task was to stop the transformation of the revolution into a peasant revolt for which Kalinovsky aspired. On 27 February (11 March) 1863,  the Provisional Provincial Government of Lithuania and Belarus was superseded by the Department for Control of Lithuanian Provinces, headed by a member of the conservative wing, Ya. Geishtor. On behalf of the Department, a special edict was distributed cancelling all the "powers and mandates" issued by the Provisional Provincial Government. Kalinovsky announced these actions as the betrayal of the revolution, nevertheless he and his comrades-in-arms were forced to obey the gentry revolutionists and act in the name of the Provisional National Government, sticking to their programme. 

In late March 1863, Kalinovsky was appointed a revolutionary commissioner for Grodno Province, where he was active in the administration of the uprising, trying to attract to it as more peasants as possible. Later V. Ratch wrote: "Kalinovsky proved to be much more active, energetic and capable for the revolutionary cause than all other provincial commissioners".

The first insurgent groups arrived in Belarus from Poland in January–February 1863. Local groups began to form and assemble in March-April 1863. 

The insurgent groups consisted mainly of the small gentry and students. In view of the disparity of forces, the combat actions of insurgents from the very beginning had a character of guerilla warfare. On arriving in the village or township, they assembled the residents and announced them the manifesto of the Polish National Government and the agrarian edicts according to which the landless peasants who supported the uprising with arms were to receive about two hectares of land. Title deeds were made for conveying land to peasants, an oath was taken from them, and the already collected taxes were returned to them from the confiscated state money.

Sometimes the people who assisted the authorities against the uprising were publicly tried and punished. The revolutionary terror took place too. Special squads of "dagger-bearers" were formed to execute the traitors. One of the items of the "Instruction of the Provisional Government to the commanders of insurgent groups" read: "The most severe oppressors of peasants should be punished with death as an example in front of the villagers by the decision of the martial court, no arbitrary violence allowed».

In all, 46 fights and skirmishes between the insurgents and tsarist troops were reported in the area of present-day Belarus from February to August 1863.

In Vitebsk Province the most important affair was the capture of the transport loaded with arms by the group commanded by L. Plyater in Dinaburg district on 13 (15) April 1863. Soon afterwards the group was crushed, and its commander was shot. Several other skirmishes, unsuccessful for insurgents,  took place in the districts of Borisov, Vitebsk, Lepel, Orsha and Sebezh. 

In Mogilev Province on the night of 12 (24) April 1863 the group led by L. Zvezhdovsky with the support of revolutionary students from the land college of Gory-Gorki managed to capture the district town of Gorki. The group (about 100 people) was however soon disbanded. The other groups acting in Mogilev region (one commanded by I. Antsypa in Bykhov, the other by T. Grinevich in Rogachev) managed to hold only for a few days, then they were crushed in April 1863, and their commanders were shot. The total number of insurgents in Mogilev Province, by official data, did not exceed 800 men.

More organised actions were executed by insurgents in Minsk Province, where the  uprising was headed by the Minsk insurrectionary organisation led by the Reds. The largest was the detachment commanded by S. Leskovsky in Igumen, as well as the group led by A. Trusov in Borisov district and the group led by P. Dybovsky in Minsk district. The detachments led by R. Roginsky, R. Traugut and Ya. Vankovich operated in Pinsk district. Insurgent groups were also active in the districts of Slutsk and Novogrudok.

Two thirds of the fights took place in the region of Grodno and Vilna. In Grodno Province the armed units were formed by the Grodno-based revolutionary-democratic organisation. Insurgent bands from Poland also made incursions into the province. Sometimes the insurgents managed to assemble up to 5,000 men. They succeeded to capture the township of Semyatichi in Belsk district and the town of Pruzhany.

The most important battle was effected on 21 May near the township of Milovidy, Slonim district (now in Baranovichi district, Brest region), which engaged nearly 800 insurgents of several squads and five companies of tsarist soldiers who had five guns. The soldiers failed to capture the enemy's camp and were forced to fall back with considerable losses.

An important fact is that the insurgent groups in Grodno province included one third of all  peasants involved in the uprising. As a comparison, the Vitebsk province covered only 7 percent of the insurgent peasants, less of all. In all, the peasants constituted, according to researchers, about 18 percent of the uprising participants. 

The peasants distrusted the fact that the uprising was supported by local landlords, their long-time oppressors, and the limited programme of its leaders. Also, they did not understand the slogan for the restoration of the Polish state, which was alien to them. The authorities and the Orthodox Church spread rumours that Polish landlords revolted against the Russian tsar because of the peasant emancipation and as they wanted to restore the serfdom. Besides, in view of the uprising, the Government speeded up the implementation of certain reforms in Belarusian territory.

The tsarist edicts of 1 March and 2 November 1863 cancelled the temporary obligations in Belarusian Provinces, peasants were obliged to purchase land, and the redemption payment decreased by 20 percent. It was ordered to return to many peasants their land allotments that were transferred to landlords in recent years before the peasant emancipation. As a result, the majority of peasants did not support the insurgents, some of them even assisted in capturing them, and crushed the estates of land proprietors. 

According to official data, the number of the uprising's participants in Poland, Lithuania, Belarus and Volhynia totalled 77,000 men. The slogan of the Polish gentry revolutionaries for the restoration of Poland within the borders of the Commonwealth in 1772 instigated an unprecedented outburst of the great-power chauvinism among the Russian society, thus paralyzing the efforts of the "Land and Liberty" to rise an all-Russia peasant revolt. 

The National Government in Warsaw was collecting funds and exerted effort to organise the supply of arms from abroad. Despite this, the insurgents, who numbered in Belarus and Lithuania about 15,000, were mainly equipped with the old hunting rifles and self-made pikes (peasant scythes were often used to make these). A member of the National Government, O. Aveide, later wrote in his testimony to the tsarist police: "... During the whole time Lithuania received no one carabine". In the fight against the powerful Russian regular troops (318 soldier companies, 48 cavalry squadrons, 19 Cossack hundreds  –  their total number neared 200,000 men), who had, in particular, 120 field guns, they were doomed to defeat.

In May 1863, General M. Muravyov was appointed Governor-General of Vilna Province with extraordinary powers, who once served as the governor of the provinces of Mogilev and Grodno. He was in charge of all military governors, military district chiefs, armed forces, military and civil police, investigation commissions, and military field courts. Special legal acts were designed to regulate the situation in a state of martial law, for example, the "Rules of military and civil administration in the provinces of Vilna, Kovno (Kaunas), Grodno, Minsk, Vitebsk and Mogilev".

The hopes of many insurgents that the Western Powers would exert diplomatic pressure on Russia remained unrealized. M. Muravyov forced the White leaders to give up the support of the uprising, making them sign the loyal addresses to the Tsar Alexander II. With the strict  measures against the insurgents, M. Muravyov, who was called a "hangman" among the revolutionaries, managed to suppress their actions.

Both the insurgents and those who sympathized with them were arrested in huge numbers. Death sentences were immediately executed by court martials, the executions were conducted in public. On orders by M. Muravyov, several gentry villages were burned down on suspicion of assisting the insurgents, with their inhabitants deported into the deep areas of Russia.

The land of the nobles exiled for participation in the insurrection was often transferred to local peasants. The village peasants formed the guard squads obliged to capture insurgents, hand them over to the authorities, and watch the unreliable gentry and nobles. A ban for free purchase and sale of scythes was introduced; a special permission from the police was required.

By Muravyov's order the use of Polish language was prohibited in offices and paper work. Russian was introduced as a compulsory language in educational and public institutions. Anti-insurrectionary and anti-Polish propaganda was highly active. Even wearing mourning for the killed was hugely fined, and those caught in this thrice were ordered to be arrested as rebels. 

On 26 June 1863, by the decree of the Provisional National Government in Warsaw, the Department for Control of Lithuanian Provinces was reorganized as the Executive Department of Lithuania. It was initially headed by Ya. Geishtor, after whose arrest on 31 July (12 August) 1863 K. Kalinovsky became its leader. By the end of summer, Kalinovsky concentrated in his hands the whole power in the insurrectionary organisation in Belarus and Lithuania. Many members of the Executive Department were his associates, and the Department was unofficially called "the Red government". Despite this, Kalinovsky had already no time nor the opportunity to use this situation for the implementation of his programme.

In early September 1863 the insurrection in Belarusian and Lithuanian Provinces was almost crushed. By the decision of the Executive Department of Lithuania the armed struggle ceased and it was assumed to start the preparation of a new rebellion in the spring of 1864. Until summer 1864 the insurrectionary organisation was still active in the district of Novogrudok, but it was forced to stop its activity too.

Kalinovsky managed to stay free until the end of January 1864. Betrayed by one of the arrested insurgents, he was however captured too. Behind the bars, he was able to hand over several messages out of prison – "Letters from under the Gallows" written in Belarusian. In the last letter, being aware of his inevitable death, he addresses the Belarusian people with the words: "It is a sorrow to leave you, my native land and my dear people. My heart cries, my breast aches, but i have no regret to die for your truth". On 10 (22) March 1864, K. Kalinovsky was hanged in Vilna in front of the large masses of people. At the moment of his execution, being called "a nobleman" during the reading of the sentence, he exclaimed: "We have no noblemen. All the people are equal".

* * *

According to official data of the tsarist authorities, more than 15,000 people were subject to punishment in the region. Among them, 120 (according to some researchers, 128) were hanged or shot, 12,355 were sent to the place of their permanent residence under police surveillance, 3,776 men were deported without investigation and trial. Many of them were condemned to labour servitude in penal battalions. In all, according to the estimate of Russian historians, out of 38,000 participants in the uprising exiled into the interior of Russia, the natives of Lithuania and Belarus constituted 57 %.

Particular emphasis was placed on the ruin of the material well-being and political influence of the local elite. The estates of landlords involved in the uprising were subject to confiscation and transferred on privileged conditions to the tsarist officials and generals who arrived from the central provinces of the empire. Other landlords were obliged to pay contribution to the state treasury. However, over 70 % of all people subject to punishment were the small gentry, mainly landless or with little land, who, by opinion of Governor-General Muravyov, made a major contribution to the spread of the insurrection.

The administration of the Roman Catholic Church in Belarus did not officially support the insurrection. Many Catholic priests however sympathized with the insurgents, read the manifesto of the Provisional National Government to their congregation, and for this were subject to reprisals by the tsarist administration, in particular to an administrative exile or penal servitude. Nearly 300 Catholic priests were deported from the area of Belarus, many of them with the confiscation of personal property. As a direct result of the suppression of the insurrection, the Minsk diocese, the seat of the Roman Catholic bishops, was liquidated in 1869. 

Many of the expelled people remained in the places of exile for many years, though part of them were able to return as a result of the amnesties of 1866, 1871, and 1883.

A long period of political reaction and total Russification began.

The martial law in Belarus was completely cancelled in 1870 only. The reforms conducted in the Russian empire with the aim of strengthening the capitalist principles in the economic and social life were carried out in Belarus with significant delay or were not implemented at all.

One of the results of the uprising was the widening of the gap between the land proprietors, mainly Catholics, and the peasants, the majority of whom were Orthodox, on whom counted the tsarist authorities and whom they opposed to the potential rebels. The Catholic landlords were prohibited to buy land, as well as the Catholic peasants. As the result, the land market, one of the factors of the capitalist relations, could not properly develop for long time.

Emergency laws were specially designed to reduce the Polish influence and strengthen the Russification in the region.

Local officials were replaced by those who came from the central provinces of the Russian Empire. They were urged to move to the North-Western Region, as the Belarusian and Lithuanian Provinces were then called, were appointed to higher positions, and were paid higher salaries.

Many Catholic churches were closed or were converted to Orthodox ones. New Orthodox churches were increasingly constructed. 

The authorities closed the then only higher educational institution in Belarus  – the land college in Gory-Gorki; the number of high schools decreased. The network of public and parish schools taught in Russian was expanding. Additionally, several new colleges were opened to train teachers in Russian.

A considerable part of the local intelligentsia were deported or emigrated. Many emigrants left a noticeable imprint on the life in their adoptive countries – they made contribution as engineers, servicemen, figures in the arts etc. Some of the former insurgents took part in the battles of the Paris Commune. A honorary citizen of Greece was Z. Mineiko, the ancestor of an outstanding Greek politician, Prime Minister A. Papandreou.

* * *

The 1863–1864 uprising was one of the symbolic events in the history of Belarus that exerted significant influence on the further fate of the Belarusian people, which found reflection in works by scholars and publicists beginning from the second half of the 19th century.

A considerable part of the archives relating to the uprising have been published. The importance of the uprising in Belarus, the actions and role of its leaders, in particular K. Kalinovsky, were differently assessed at different times by different authors. The uprising was declared either the Polish revolt, or purely gentry, or purely peasant, or bourgeois-democratic. Even the existence of the revolutionary-democratic wing is sometimes questioned. According to the preferences of different authors, the religious and clerical element of the uprising is being either accentuated or shaded.

The differences in assessment still exist and opinions vary sometimes diametrically. The reason is the difference of authors' views on the main principles of the formation of the Belarusian nation, the national mentality, and the fundamentals of its social, economic, confessional and cultural development. The full picture and the objective assessment of the events can only be achieved on the basis of scholarly research, which assumes the study of all available documentary sources and their thorough analysis.

Many participants and contemporaries of the uprising left their recollections recorded soon after the events.

A large complex of data about the activities of the insurrectionary organisation is contained in the "Testimonies and Notes" written in prison by the member of the National Government O. Aveide on demand of the authorities and published in a limited number of copies for administrative use in 1866.

One of the first official historiographers of the uprising was the tsarist general V. Ratch, who on personal request from M. Muravyov wrote two volumes of "Data on the Polish Insurrection in 1863 in North-Western Russia", published in Vilna in 1867-1868. The author used in his work official correspondence, investigative files, confiscated papers, books, brochures and "some oral reports".

The work by V. Ratch contains data on the major items of Kalinovsky's  programme: the ruin of the nobility, the liquidation of land ownership by landlords through a peasant revolt, the necessity of a peasant revolutionary organisation, the connection of the uprising in Belarus and Lithuania with the Polish national liberation movement and the popular movement in Russia, the right of Belarus and Lithuania to the state sovereignty. The tsarist historian recorded that "Kalinovsky never intended to work for Poland, he was afraid of that kind of merging with Poland, when it would be impossible to get loose from her". 

One of the first publications were the four volumes of recollections "The history of the insurrection by the Polish people in 1861-1864" written by the member of the National Government A. Giller and published in Paris in 1867-1871. The advocates of the social revolution are subjected to criticism on these pages. This edition included for the first time "The Letters from under the Gallows" by K. Kalinovsky.

Later, in the early 20th century, the recollections by F. Rozhansky, Ya. Geishtor, B. Dlusky and other participants and leaders of the uprising were published.

In the mid-1920s the Belarusian historian V. Ignatovsky defined the main goal of the uprising as the radical solution of the peasant question and the creation of the Belarusian Republic independently from Russia and Poland. 

In the late 1920s, the Belarusian historian S. Agursky put forward a concept on the exclusive role of landlords and clergy in the uprising and its purely Polish character.

In the 1950s-1960s, the Belarusian philosopher I. Lushchitsky regarded the 1863 uprising in Belarus and Lithuania as anti-serfdom and peasant. The Belarusian historian A. Smirnov, the author of one of the first monographs on K. Kalinovsky, called him an outstanding son of the Belarusian people. The scholar saw the uprising as the manifestation of the class struggle.

In the 1970s-1980s, Belarusian scholars conducted new studies. The philosophers E. Doroshevich and V. Konon called K. Kalinovsky the founder of the Belarusian revolutionary democracy. They accentuated Kalinovsky's ideal of "the just social and political system", calling it not an abstract ideal of an utopian dreamer but a concrete programme of the ideological leader of the peasantry, small gentry and democratic intelligentsia, including both the strong and weak sides of the world-view of these social layers of the Belarusian people.

The philosopher A. Maikhrovich assessed the 1863-1864 uprising in Belarus and Lithuania as bourgeois-democratic, aimed against social and national oppression. He calls Kalinovsky an outstanding Belarusian revolutionary democrat, political figure and publicist and connects the activities conducted by him and his associates with the formation of the revolutionary democratism as an independent line of the social thought.

The Belarusian historian, literary critic, archive editor and writer G. Kisilev estimated Kalinovsky's activity and work as exclusively important on the historical way towards the liberty and national consolidation of the Belarusians. In his opinion, the heroic life of Kalinovsky until his last breath, without exaggeration, was given to his nation and the struggle for the better future. The scholar called Kalinovsky the great son of the Belarusian people and the great revolutionary.

Emphasizing that Kalinovsky's activity reflected the most radical trends of the 1863-64 uprising, G. Kisilev evaluated them as the most courageous attempts to test in practice and to realize in life the programme of the revolutionary democrats of the 1860s. He assigns Kalinovsky a role of the leader and theorist of revolutionary democracy in the history of social thought and revolutionary movement in Belarus. He also believed that in historical perspective Kalinovsky's ideas and work predestined the ideological-aesthetic direction of the Belarusian democratic literature, which became by large the literature of "peasant's truth".

Another researcher of Kalinovsky's life and work, Belarusian historian V. Shalkevich calls him a revolutionary democrat, a true national hero, a fighter for the freedom of the Belarusian people. The scholar regards Kalinovsky as one of the most worldwide famous representatives of the Belarusian nation.

M. Bich, who authored an article on the 1863-64 uprising in Poland, Belarus and Lithuania in the "Encyclopedia of the History of Belarus" regards it as the national liberation movement.

In the 2000s, I. Kachalov, one of the authors of the textbook "The History of Belarus" edited by E. Novik and G. Martsul called the uprising of 1863-64, in terms of its goals, the Polish bourgeois-democratic revolution, directed against the autocracy and social-national inequality.

An opinion exists that the uprising was exclusively Polish by character and Kalinovsky is not a true hero of the Belarusian people but even an anti-hero. The historian A. Gronsky believes Kalinovsky to be a "fabricated hero" and a Polish revolutionary fanatic assigned to the position of the uprising leader by the Polish insurrectionary centre and he calls the creation of "Peasant's Truth" a purely propagandistic action.

Moreover, Kalinovsky is often called a Pole. An argument is the fact that he did not declare in his texts the rights and hopes of the Belarusians and did not use this very name. It should be however noted that at that time the name "Belarusians" was not yet established for the whole nation and was narrow regional. Kalinovsky's commitment to the idea of social justice is also being questioned. His position on the methods of struggle (violent acts) and religious toleration are severely criticized.

The contradicting opinions also exist about the role of Governor-General M. Muravyov. Some believe he was a talented administrator who defended local peasants against the insurgents, the others call him "the hangman".

The historian A. Bendin proclaims Kalinovsky "an ideologist of the brutal revolutionary terror" and characterizes the insurrectionary events as episodes of "the civil war that erupted in the region from the political, social and religious-ethnical confrontation".

Assessing the significance of the 1863-1864 uprising, the Belarusian historian M. Bich believes that, though it had almost no chance for victory in those conditions, it manifested the courage, firmness and selflessness of many sons of Belarus in the struggle for liberty and  better life of the common people.

It should be noted that various interpretations of the uprising exist in national historiographies not only in Belarus but also in Russia, Poland, Lithuania and other countries.

The theme of the 1863-1864 uprising in Belarus is widely represented in works of art and literature. 

The printed and manuscript legacy of K. Kalinovsky has been published.

The poem "Kalinovsky" by M. Tank, poem "Khomitius" by A. Kuleshov, novel "Ears of Rye under Thy Sickle" and tragedy "Kastus Kalinovsky The Death and the Eternity" by V. Korotkevich and many other works by Belarusian writers have been dedicated to the uprising events and Kalinovsky's activity.

The first theatrical performance on the topic of the uprising was "Kastus Kalinovsky" staged at the Belarusian State Theatre in 1923 by the playwright and director E. Mironovich after his own play. In 1928, the film "Kastus Kalinovsky" was shot at the Belarusian Film Studio jointly with the Leningrad Company "Sovkino".

During the Second World War a partisan brigade and a partisan detachment both named after Kalinovsky were active in Belarus. At the same time the poet M. Klimkovich wrote a libretto to the opera "Kastus Kalinovsky". Already after the war the opera to music by D. Lukas was staged at the Belarusian Opera and Ballet Theatre.

The Belarusian composer O. Yanchenko created the ballet named "Kastus Kalinovsky".

Yet in the 1920s Belarusian sculptors and painters began to turn to the image of Kalinovsky. One of the most famous paintings are "Kastus Kalinovsky among the insurgents in 1863" and " K. Kalinovsky and V. Vrublevsky inspecting the insurgents" created by the artist P. Sergievich in the 1950s. The sculptor Z. Azgur created the bust of K. Kalinovsky installed at the building of the high school at Svisloch. Other painters, graphic artists and sculptors also turned to the image of Kalinovsky.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the uprising the Minsk Studio of Scientific-Popular Films, Newsreels and Documentaries made the film entitled "Kastus Kalinovsky".

In 1963, in connection with the centenary of the uprising, one of the streets in Minsk was named after Kalinovsky. Kalinovsky streets appeared in Grodno, Mogilev, Baranovichi, Gantsevichi, Lida, Molodechno, Mosty, Nesvizh, Novogrudok, Ostrovets, Oshmyany, Polotsk, Pruzhany and Svisloch. In 1969, the village of Likhoseltsy near Yakushovka, where Kalinovsky spent his childhood, was renamed Kalinovskaya. The regional museum in Svisloch has a separate exposition dedicated to their famous fellow-countryman. In 1987, the name of Kalinovsky was attached to the local school. 

In Belarus the memorial sites of the 1863-1864 uprising are mainly represented by the graves of insurgents. There are also commemorative signs and memorial stones installed as a rule by enthusiasts and public organisations.


List of sources

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Archival news
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