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Maksim Bahdanovich: personality and work


M. Bahdanovich
Maksim BAHDANOVICH, a classic author of Belarusian literature, one of the founders of the national fiction literature, a poet, prose writer, a literary historian and critic, publicist, translator. 

Maksim Bahdanovich was born on 9 December 1891 (N. S.) in Minsk into the family of employees.

Father – Adam Yahoravich Bahdanovich (1862-1940) was named Adolf in childhood. There is a version that he was baptized in the Catholic rite. An official copy of the parish record, however, shows that he was baptized at the Orthodox church in Khalopenichy, Barysau district (now Krupki district, Minsk region). Maksim's grandfather Yury (Yahor), a landless peasant and former serf cook at the estate of Kasarychy, Babruisk district, Minsk region (now in Hlusk district, Mahileu region) was taken to this place by his landlord.

Maksim Bahdanovich's ancestors had the surname Skoklich, and only Maksim's great-grandfather Lukyan, a serf gardener, began to be recorded in documents as Bahdanovich (Bahdan) after the surname of Nichypar Bahdanovich – his father Stsyapan's stepfather.  

Maksim's grandmother – Adam Yahoravich's mother Anelya Tamashouna (Hanna Faminichna) Asmak, though illiterate, she had an aptitude for mathematics and was a splendid narrator of fairy tales, having borrowed this talent from her mother Ruzal Kazimirauna Asmak. In his reminiscences, Adam Yahoravich recollects that Maksim's great-grandmother told stories very inventively, adding new details into the plot. The fairy tales, folk rites, legends, proverbs, sayings, riddles etc. recorded from her lips by Adam Yahoravich served as a first source in Maksim's acquaintance with the Belarusian language and folklore. 

Adam Yahoravich finished the teacher's training college in Nyasvizh, taught in a village school, then at a municipal elementary school in Minsk, was a surveyor and land assessor at the Peasant Land Bank in Hrodna, Nizhny Novgorod and Yaroslavl. In his youth he associated with members of the secret revolutionary organization Narodnaya Volya (People's Will). He spent a lot of time on self-education, learned several languages on his own, was known as a specialist in folklore, ethnographer, historian, published several research papers on ethnography and history, worked as a journalist. Adam Yahoravich was an author of articles on the life of Belarusian peasants before and after the serfdom, left reminiscences of the revolutionary movement in Belarus in the 1880s and early 1890s and the famous Russian writer Maksim Gorky. At the proposal of the Institute of Belarusian Culture in 1923 he wrote reminiscences of his son.  

Mother – Marya Apanasauna Myakota (1869-1896) descended from an ancient family of the Belarusian nobility (the coat of arms "Kurch"), who did not however confirm their noble status in the Russian Empire. Data on Marya's ancestors are available in records from the first half of the 17th century. Maksim's great-grandfather was a Uniate priest; his grandfather Apanas (Afanasy) for his participation in the Crimean War 1853-1856 received the life title of nobility and later served as a small official in the district town of Ihumen (now Cherven). Maksim's grandmother, Tatstsyana Vosipauna Malevich, was a daughter of the priest, too. The family had four daughters Stefania, Marya, Alyaksandra and Hanna and a son Ivan. The difficult financial position in the family and the father's death resulted that Marya with her younger sister Alyaksandra and her brother were reared at the Minsk orphanage, where the wife of the Governor of Minsk paid attention to the girl's great faculties and took charge of her education. Marya finished a three-year female college, studied at the teachers' school in Petersburg, and later taught. She read widely, had a fine sense for the arts, a literary taste and a lively imagination, was a soft, cheerful, sensitive and emotional.

* * *
In 1888, Adam Yahoravich and Marya Apanasauna got married. At that time the Bahdanovich family lived in Minsk. In 1890, Maksim's elder brother Vadzim was here born. About two years later, Maksim was born. Due to worsening health condition, Adam Yahoravich had to resign the post of a teacher, changed his job to a bank official, and even had to change residence.

In 1892, several months after Maksim's birth, the family moved to Hrodna, where father began work in the bank. The circle of his contacts included mainly the local intelligentsia, with whom he had prestige and was even chosen a director of the public library; at this time he wrote his important works on ethnography and the history of the peasantry. In 1894, in Hrodna Maksim's younger brother Leu was born. Marya Apanasauna ran the house, brought up children, and did not forget about her intellectual work. The Hrodna newspaper published her story entitled "Before the Christmas". In 1895, Marya Apanasauna with her children spent several spring and summer months at her elder sister Stefania Sekyarzhytsky's in the village of Vyazze (now in Asipovichy district, Mahileu region), where children spent a lot of time amidst nature, in the woods, got acquainted with the village life, and found themselves in the atmosphere of a true Belarusian language. In October 1896, Marya Apanasauna died of  tuberculosis complicated by the birth of her daughter Nina. Her death deeply affected little Maksim. Father thought that in his character Maksim was "a small copy of his mother", especially in childhood. Later, not only her mental capacity but also intellectual inheritance – keen observations, powerful imagination, the subtlety and imagery of mind manifested in full measure in the life and literary work of her son Maksim.

* * *
In late 1896, Adam Yahoravich was transferred to Nizhny Novgorod. At this same time, Maksim's little sister, Nina, died. Vadzim, Maksim and Leu were brought up by Adam Yahoravich's sisters Marya and Mahdalena. A couple of years later, Adam Yahoravich married Alyaksandra Paulauna Volzhyna (her sister Katsyaryna Paulauna was the wife of Maksim Gorky, and Adam Yahoravich became his close friend), but she died at childbirth, and their little son Alyaksandr was raised in the family of Gorky (at age two the boy became ill and died). Later A.Ya. Bahdanovich connected his life with the sister of his first wife – Alyaksandra Apanasauna Myakota and they issued five sons (Pavel, Mikalai, Alyaksei, Vyacheslau and Raman). 

Maksim was not on good terms with his aunt and this profoundly affected his subsequent life – all her attention (as a result, his father's concerns too) was mainly focused on their younger children.

A great trial for the Bahdanovich family was the disease of tuberculosis, of which many of their relatives died. A hard blow, especially to Maksim, was the death of his brother Vadzim in the spring of 1908, a talented boy, who was 18 years old.

Father paid much attention to his sons, sought to substantially prepare them for high school, encouraged their love for reading, made them known with the epic literature of different countries, the classics of world literature, took them to picture galleries and museums. Among his friends and associates at that time were his relative-in-law Maksim Gorky and the director at the Nizhny Novgorod male high school S. Shcherbakov. In a letter to his friend Maksim wrote: " I was raised by father. I once showed you his library. This includes everything of importance that appeared in world literature. From childhood we studied in this world school... Of course, the main attention was given to the Slavonic literatures...".  It was evidently not by chance that he called himself Maksim Knizhnik (Maksim the Scribe, or the Bibliophile).

In Nizhny Novgorod there was a Belarusian community. It should be noted that the Bahdanovichs spoke mainly Russian at home, but their way of life, habits and tastes remained largely Belarusian. At home the children heard Belarusian tales, songs and proverbs. It was in this environment that already at the age of ten Maksim began to try his hand at fiction writing in the Belarusian language.  

In 1902-1908, Maksim Bahdanovich studied at the male high school in Nizhny Novgorod. The boy felt the atmosphere of the radical political moods that reigned in the society. The democratic intelligentsia gathered in Bahdanovich's home. Maksim actively visited meetings and manifestations and was recorded as "an unreliable student" in his school certificate. The teenager took interest in Anarchism, read books by the theoreticians of this movement, but after a while his anarchistic outburst faded.  

The Nizhny Novgorod period is marked by the formation of Bahdanovich's social position and his position as a poet. He begins to take interest in everything Belarusian: Belarusian language and Belarusian literature; influenced by his teacher A. Kabanou, of Belarusian descent, he gets a deeper insight into the history of his native land and becomes familiar with the Belarusian newspapers Nasha Dolya (Our Fate) and Nasha Niva (Our Cornfield), which were printed in Vilna (Vilnius); these newspapers were subscribed to Maksim in 1906 by his godmother V. Syomava, who taught at the female college in Pinsk and in her past was a member of the Narodnaya Volya circle.

The year 1907 is regarded as the beginning of Bahdanovich's literary work. On 19 July, Nasha Niva published his first work – a short prose piece entitled The Musician. The story tells how the violin sounds played by the main character fill the people's eyes either with tears about their hard lot or with wrath at those who condemn them to suffering. Though "the cruel and powerful people" ruined the musician, they could not destroy the memory of him. The young author in the allegorical form tells about the bitter lot of Belarus and expresses hope that the Belarusians will eventually become the masters of their destiny.

In 1908, in Nizhny Novgorod Maksim Bahdanovich wrote his first lyrical poems, Over the Grave and Spring will Come.

* * *
From summer 1908 the Bahdanovich family lived in Yaroslavl. Maksim continued his studies at the Yaroslavl high school, where he showed himself as an expert on literature, knew lots of verse by heart, made reports on literary topics and read them before the students. He was befriended with the Latin teacher V. Belousov, a highly educated man, who knew many languages and who taught Maksim not only Latin but also Greek, Italian and French languages.  

In this period the young boy faced severe trials. In spring 1909, he became ill with tuberculosis. His father took him to the Crimea for medical treatment, which had a good effect on his health, he got interested in the southern region, new friends appeared, love.

The year 1911 is largely regarded as a turning point in the life of Bahdanovich, for at this time he fulfilled his old dream to visit Belarus. On completing high school he went to Vilnius, where he encountered the prominent figures in the national liberation movement in Belarus: the brothers I. and A. Lutskevich, the Belarusian writer, historian, philologist and literary critic V. Lastouski, and the publisher, linguist and literary critic B. Epimakh-Shipila among others. On the invitation of the Lutskevichs Bahdanovich lived almost the entire summer at their relative's at the estate Rakutseushchyna near Maladzechna. Before that time he was familiar with Belarus mainly from books, but now, at age 20, he could watch at close the Belarusian nature and the daily life of the Belarusians.

On receiving a school-leaving certificate, Bahdanovich entered the Demidov Juridical Lyceum in 1911 and graduated in 1916. He had no gifts for jurisprudence and wanted to study philology at St. Petersburg University. A favourable condition was that the editors of Nasha Niva recommended Bahdanovich to the academician A. Shakhmatov to conduct research under his guidance into the Belarusian language and literature. Maksim, however, could not fulfil his dream to study in Petersburg, for the wet climate in the capital was not good for his weak health and because of financial difficulties (father gave priority to the education of his younger son Leu, who had great mathematical faculties and planned to enter Moscow University).

All the time Maksim studied hard on his own. His knowledge in the field of history, literature and Slavic cultures had an encyclopedic character. He paid much attention to languages: Greek, Latin, Italian, Polish, French and German. And he wrote incessantly.

Among the important events in his personal life in this period was his trip to the Crimea in summer 1915 for a course of treatment. There he fell in love and his affection was returned. The new love left many impressions, both positive and negative, and found a reflection in the works of the young poet.

With the frontline approaching Minsk, many refugees from Belarus found themselves in Yaroslavl. Bahdanovich became acquainted with many of them and did his best to help them. In particular, he organised theatre visits for Belarusian students, participated in student parties, at which he would hear Belarusian songs, learn folk rites and dances.

Though the severe disease already began to show, the Yaroslavl period in Bahdanovich's life was the time of hard and fruitful work. Especially zealous he was in the field of Belarusian studies. His father and some of his relatives did not share his excessive, in their view, enthusiasm for the Belarusian language and Belarusian topics. Some researchers explain this as their intention to warn Maksim against the difficulties he could encounter in Belarus. Later, in his reminiscences Adam Yahoravich called the picture of Belarusian Renaissance "rather sad" and spoke of the "weak economic preconditions" for the national movement in Belarus.

Maksim Bahdanovich wrote in many poetic genres. Among his verse are the examples of landscape lyrics (Night, 1908; Winter Road, In Winter, Before the Flood, all 1910 etc.), as well as intimate lyrics (U kosmakh skhavalisya kvety chyrvonyya, 1908-1909; Zhyvaya lyalechka! Ne dushy i ne sertsa, 1910; Uchora shchastse tolki hlyanula nyasmela, 1910-1913; Apustsiushy hustyya rasnitsy, 1912; Zabudetsya mnogoe Klava, 1915; Maladyya hady, 1915-1916).

His poetry often contains mythological motives largely connected to Belarusian folklore as in Water-Sprite, Wood-Goblin, Christening of Wood-Goblin (all 1909), The Lake (1910) etc.

Already in one of his early poems, My Native Country (1909) the author emphasises the theme of social oppression in Belarus and the hope for its national rebirth. In some estimates, this work puts Bahdanovich in a line with such great Belarusian writers as Yanka Kupala and Yakub Kolas. The author's pain and concern about the native land and its people are also seen in his short poem People, Belarusian People (1913).

Though Bahdanovich's verse bears clear motives of death and pessimism largely caused by his illness as, for instance, in his short poem "Ya, balny, besskrydlaty paet" (I am a Sick Wingless Poet, 1909), in many of his works he stands out as a messenger of hope, calling for "an eternal weeping about the country" ("Kin vechny plach svoi ab starontsy!" 1911). The poem, One Cold Dark Night upon the Field's Expanses (1910) is regarded one of his programme verse, in which the author shows his belief in better future. 

Maksim Bahdanovich, a person of high knowledge and wide erudition in the field of literature, was well acquainted with works of many great poets in world literature. He liked the poetry of A. Pushkin, A. Fet and T. Shevchenko. He knew works of many Symbolist poets and took interest in the French poet Paul Verlain, one of the founders of Symbolism, who had a great impact on the formation of his poetical priorities (f.e. Above the White-down of the Cherries, 1910). Bahdanovich was first of all interested in the musicality of poetic lines, to which Symbolists paid great attention. He sought, however, not to copy what the others created but drew on some inventive methods of his fellow poets to master his own, highly original poetry.

While in Vilnius, the young poet became familiar with the collection of rare old things at the Belarusian private museum of the brothers Lutskevich, which influenced him to write a poem The Weaver-Women of Slutsk (1912) in the cycle Old Belarus. In this work the author tells the sad story of the serf weaver-women, describes the beauty of his native land, poeticizes the craftsmanship of golden girdles, in which "amidst the designs of Persia is the cornflower of Motherland". The cornflower, following Bahdanovich's example, became one of the symbols of Belarus.

This trip also resulted in the poems "Za dakhami mesta pamerkla nyabyos pazalota" (1911), "Vulki Vilni ziyayuts i hulka hrymyats", "U Vilni" (1912) etc. in the poetry cycle, Places, dedicated to the Belarusian capital. Bahdanovich is actually the first Urban poet in Belarusian literature, whose urban images occupy an important place in his works unlike the other Belarusian poets of his time, and Places is the first urban cycle in Belarusian literature.

Bahdanovich's poetry of this period also encompasses the themes of the historical fate of Belarus, the low position of the Belarusian people, their struggle for the national and social liberation (1911-1912 cycles Old Belarus, Sounds of the Motherland, Old Legacy).

In 1909-1916, Bahdanovich wrote nearly twenty poems in the Russian language ("Uimitses, volneniya strasti", "Ya vspominayu dom starinny", "Akh, kak uyutno, chisto, milo" etc.), some of which have no author's original text in Belarusian ("Zachem grustna ona byla", "Ya vspominayu Vas takoi prekrasnoi, stroinoi", "Zelyonaya lyubov", "Osenyu" ).

In 1909-1913, Bahdanovich produced a manuscript collection of poetry Zelenya (Young Shoots), dedicated to his cousin sister H. Hapanovich, whose opinion the young poet much appreciated. The book includes three poems in Russian and 19 Russian translations of his original Belarusian verse.

In the same period he wrote two long poems, In the Village (1912) and Veranika (1911-1913) regarded by some researchers as a lyrical story in verse, which explicitly show Bahdanovich's passion for a woman, one of the central images in his works. The deep maternal feelings inherent, in Bahdanovich's view, in each woman, even a small girl, is a main idea of In the Village. Though Veranika has an epigraph "She is an invention of my mind", its lines were inspired by the poet's love for his classmate's sister – Anna Kokueva. The images of the girl also penetrate his poem Happiness, Yesterday to Me You Shyly Gleamed and some others. Another famous lyrical poem, Romance" (***  Venus has Ascended Above the Earth), which later turned into a popular song, has no personal addressee.

About 1915, the poet wrote a cycle, On the Quite Danube, which has clear folk motives. The folk stylisation are also the poems, The Green Midge and the Gnat with a Big Nose (1914) about the gnat's marriage and Maksim and Magdalene (1915) about a tragic love between a village boy and the daughter of a local head.

Under the impression from the folklore of different countries Bahdanovich created in Belarusian a number of songs imitating the folk art of the Serbs, Russians, Ukrainians, Skandinavians, Spaniards, Japanese and Persians.

Bahdanovich is one of the founders of philosophical lyrics in Belarusian literature. His works increasingly emphasise such eternal themes as the world eternity and  the perishability of life (Grandfather, 1913), alienation as a cause of injustice (Borders, 1914), vanity and absurdity of human conflicts (I Should Like to Meet You Outside", 1915). The latter poem with the lines "Then why upon this our planet // Are quarrels and strife, wounds and scars, // If we are all together // Flying towards the stars?" (trans. by W. May) became a required reading for years.

Bahdanovich was virtually the first Belarusian poet who turned his attention to the sonet, triolet, scherzo and other complex verse forms (especially noteworthy are his Sonnet (Amid the Sands of Egypt, 1911) or The Triolet (1912). He consciously sought to enrich the young Belarusian literature with the new forms already well known in world literature and thus to expand its creative potential and improve the literary language.

Bahdanovich's first published poem, Over the Grave, appeared in Nasha Niva on 1 January 1909. In March, the newspaper published his another poem, Spring will Come. Many of the poems sent to Nasha Niva, however, remained in the editor's archives. Some of the editorial staff, already well known in the Renaissance movement in Belarus, thought of them as 'decadent' and not meant for the ordinary men, for whom, they thought, the newspaper was designed. Then an important role in the literary fate of the young poet was played by the Belarusian poet, essayist, critic and contributor to Nasha Niva, S. Paluyan. In August 1909, having encountered Bahdanovich's verse, he could thoroughly appreciate his inventiveness and enthusiasm for new lyric forms and the expansion of topics in the young Belarusian literature, regarded by the author as one of his major tasks. S. Paluyan with the support of Yanka Kupala insisted on publishing his poems. From September 1909, Bahdanovich's lyrics were continuously published on the pages of Nasha Niva.

In early 1914, in Vilnius the Martsin Kukhta printing house published the only lifetime book of verse by Maksim Bahdanovich called The Garland (inscribed 1913 on title page) with a dedicatory inscription "A garland at the grave of S.A. Paluyan (died 8 April 1910)". The book is composed of nearly 100 short poems of lyrical and patriotic character and two long poems united into the cycles "In the Bewitched Kingdom", "Sounds of the Motherland", "Old Belarus", "Places", "Thoughts", "Liberal Thoughts", "Old Legacy", "Madonnas". Later Bahdanovich commented on this book: "lots of drawbacks.... but the verse was written from the half of 1909 to the half of 1912, when 17-20 years old. Yet there is creativity and inspiration and a deep work in it".

Continuing his work on verse, after a six year pause, Bahdanovich again turned to fictional prose.

In 1913-1916, he wrote a series of stories and essays in Belarusian ("A story about an icon painter and a goldsmith...", "Shaman", "Maryna", "A town", "Amidst a dense forest", "In spring") and in Russian ("An accident", "Kolka", "Crime", "Madonna", "Dream-grass", "Name day", "A miracle of Petrik", "An exam", "From the summer impressions", "On the corner", "At the ticket office"). These are the small pieces on a variety of themes: praise for a woman, admiration of nature, description of different places, events and war hardships, autobiographical sketches, the religious, folklore and historical motives, etc.

A special place in this series is occupied by "The Apocrypha" and its Russian-language version "A Parable of Cornflowers", which exhibit a poetic creed of  Bahdanovich  – "There is no beauty without food, for the very beauty is itself a nourishment for the soul". The work, imitating the bible style, addresses the relationship between the daily life and the art and their unity. 

Another fiction genre in the centre of Bahdanovich's attention is fairy tales, which demonstrates the poet's aptitude for wide metaphor and allegory. The fairy tale "The Peace Tower" (written in 1915 in Russian) shows Bahdanovich's view on the war, which had already lasted for half a year, and his negative attitude to the war in general.

Almost all prosaic works by Bahdanovich were immediately published in the Belarusian and Russian press.

The year 1909  is the beginning of Bahdanovich's translation work, which was largely focused on poetry. One of his first translations into Belarusian was the poem "Two Songs" by the Russian poet Yu. Svetogor.

In 1909-1910 Bahdanovich translated into Belarusian a number of poems by the great German writers H. Heine and F. Shiller. Many of these translations appeared on the pages of Nasha Niva. 

In 1911-1912 he produced the Belarusian translation of several works by Horacio and Ovid.

Especially noteworthy are his translations of 22 poems by the French Symbolist poet P. Verlain, whose creative art was close to Bahdanovich.

In 1913-1916 Bahdanovich translated into Belarusian works by the Belgian poet E. Verhaeren and the great Russian writer A. Pushkin.

Bahdanovich also translated works by Belarusian and Ukrainian writers into Russian. There existed a manuscript notebook with his Russian translations of Yanka Kupala and other Belarusian poets. Only his translation of Kupala's "Reaping" has survived. In 1911-1916 he translated into Russian works by the Ukrainian authors A. Krymski, T. Shevchenko, M. Chernyavsky, Ales, I. Franko and U. Samiilenko, most of which were not published until after his death.

In 1915-1916 he made a Russian translation of several prose works by Ukrainian writers. These are I. Franko's "A Bricklayer" and V. Stefanik's "Little Maple Leaves" and "Death", which show the hardships of the ordinary people and the man standing before the face of death.

In 1910 Bahdanovich began to appear as a literary critic. His first attempt in this field was the article "I. Neslukhousky" dedicated to the Belarusian poet Ivan Neslukhousky, who wrote under the pseudonym Yanka Luchyna. The article was not finished.

An important event in the development of Belarusian belles-lettres was an article "Hlyby i slai" (Blocks and Layers), which appeared in Nasha Niva in January 1911 and was focused on the state of Belarusian literature and works by Belarusian writers. This article actually laid the beginnings to Belarusian professional literary critics. The young author showed himself as a deep and thoughtful critic, who in his studies proceeded from high aesthetic criteria. His thorough analysis and solid theoretical work laid the foundation for further development of Belarusian literary science, which was almost not existent before Bahdanovich.

In 1913 in the article "For three years" (subtitled "An overview of Belarusian literature in 1911-1913") in the literary almanac Kalyadnaya Pisanka, Bahdanovich gives an assessment of the young Belarusian literature: "…For the last years an average value of writings has been increasing... now everyone can write as well as several years ago only our best writers could do. This solely means that we have created the literary language". The author in brief and to the point characterises the achievements of Belarusian literature that "brings its gift not only to our people but to world culture". 

In 1911-1912 Bahdanovich comes out as a historian of Belarusian literature. He wrote a series of articles: "A short history of Belarusian literature until the 16th century", "For a hundred years", "A new period in the history of Belarusian literature". 

In 1915 "Ukrainian Life" published his essay "Belarusian Renaissance", which in 1916 was released in a book form in Moscow and then in the Ukrainian language in Vienna. In it Bahdanovich gives a description of the historical path of Belarus, characterises the Belarusian national movement, briefly analyses the Belarusian writings. Here he mentions, actually the first among the Belarusian intelligentsia, the name of a revolutionary democrat, one of the leaders in the national liberation uprising 1863-64, Kastus Kalinouski, whose activity was silenced by the Tsarist authorities.

In the article "The forgotten road" (1915), discussing the ways of development for Belarusian poetry, Bahdanovich urges to inventively draw on the achievements of world literature.

Also, in the focus of his attention are works by Russian poets and writers. This is testified by a series of his reviews and articles printed in 1913-1916 in the Yaroslavl newspaper "Golos", for which he actively contributed: "In solitude" (On the centenary of M.Yu. Lermontov), "New letters by L.N. Tolstoy", "The archives of Karabikha village" (Letters to and by N.A. Nekrasov), "Letters by A.P. Chekhov".

Bahdanovich's views on literature and his literary tastes are seen in his comments on the translation of "Tristan and Isolde" and M. Nikolski's book on the history of old Babylon. The reviewer's attention was also given to the 1914 Collected works by K. Ryleev and A. Odoevsky, the 1914 annual of the newspaper Rech, a book of Russian folk legends compiled by A.M. Afanasiev, the translation of the Bengalese poet Rabindranath Tagor's "Gitanjali" (Song offerings) from the English, a book of verse "Enamels and Cameos" by the French T. Gautier in translation by N. Gumilyov.

Bahdanovich was one of the first Belarusian writers in literary critics who turned his attention to the Ukrainian literature. In 1914 he wrote a Russian-language article "Beauty and power. A study of  T.G. Shevchenko's verse" and "In memory of T.G. Shevchenko".

He also noticed works by the Ukrainian writer U. Vinnichenko, in particular the appearance in 1916 of his collected works in 8 volumes in Russian translation. In the 1915 annual survey of the magazine "Ukrainian Life" Bahdanovich shows his support for the "nationalist Ukrainian point of view".

In 1916, the same magazine published his articles "V. Samiylenko" and "Gritsko Chuprinka", in which Bahdanovich analyses the creative methods and achievements of these Ukrainian poets. The latter article is one of the most interesting and problematic works produced by Bahdanovich in the field of literary critics. It emphasises the importance of both the artistic values and the social significance of writings of this or that author. Bahdanovich concludes that without a social component the poetry becomes dead, but at the same time the poet should not turn into a journalist. In the literary portrait of V. Samiylenko he gives a serious philosophical conclusion that the core of art is humanism.

The year 1910 marks the beginning of Bahdanovich's journalistic activity. In March, the Yaroslavl newspaper "Golos" issued his short article about a musical literary circle, and two years later he wrote an article on the public education in the province. These were, however, the pieces that merely reflected the state of things.

From 1914 the young writer begins to deal with more global issues which demand a wider knowledge and theoretical analysis. The first step was his article on the 10th anniversary of the death of the Russian sociologist, one of the theoreticians of the Populist movement, M. Mikhailovsky. Later Bahdanovich addressed the theme of the Russian nationalist culture in the populist essays by V. Korolenko, M. Nozhyn and S. Yuzhyn. The Russian democratic renewal is also shown in his article "The new intelligentsia".

In his works Bahdanovich studied the national, social and cultural problems that existed in the central part of the Russian Empire, as well as in Belarus, Ukraine and other Slavic regions. When the First World War broke out, he began to write articles and brochures about the Slavs, whose life was affected by the military actions, the revival of the Belarusians ("Belarusians", "A hundred years of the movement of the Belarusian people", "On humanism and imprudence", "Who are we?", "On the Belarusian topics") and the Slavic peoples close to them ("Red Rus", "Ugric Rus", "The brothers Czechs", "Ukrainian Cossacks"), as well as historical and regional publications ("Images of Galicia in fiction literature").

Most of these works were written in Russian and were almost at once published in the Russian and Ukrainian press (including the articles on Belarusian topics).

The sphere of Bahdanovich's interests was not limited to the above mentioned genres and themes - he also appeared in print with his reviews on musical editions and magazines, regional sketches and satirical articles.

The activity of the young author received professional acclaim from his fellow writers – in 1914 he was admitted to the All-Russian Society for Workers in Periodical Press and Literature.

Bahdanovich's works, in addition to the periodical press in which they most often appeared (Belarusian "Nasha Niva", Russian "Golos", Ukrainian "Ukrainskaya Zhyzn") were also published in a variety of other newspapers and magazines ("Pershy kalyandar Nashai nivy", "Belaruski kalyandar Nashai nivy", "Kalyadnaya pisanka", "Dzyannitsa", "Nizhegorodski listok", "Severny kalendar", "Severnaya gazeta", "Izvestiya obshchestva slavyanskoi kultury", "Ezhemesyachny zhurnal literatury, nauki i obshchestvennoi zhyzni", "Pushkin i sovremennost", "Natsionalnyye problemy", "Zhyzn dly vsekh" and many others) and were printed in a book form (in a separate edition or in the War Library Series etc.).

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In autumn 1916 on completing the juridical lyceum, Maksim Bahdanovich went to live in Minsk, Belarus. Neither his disease, nor the absence of relatives or the difficult situation in the city located close to the frontline could not stop his determination to see Belarus. Here he took a job as a secretary in the food committee of the Minsk province board, was active in the affairs of refugees at the Belarusian Society for Assistance to War Sufferers, took part in the youth circles, and was among the organisers. 

Bahdanovich lived in one apartment with the writer Zmitrok Byadulya, who later left reminiscences of how passionately he worked, despite worsening health and constant high temperature (an acute form of tuberculosis began to develop).

At this time Bahdnovich wrote his well known pieces "Pahonya" (The Pursuing Knight) and "Stratsim-lebedz" (Stratim-Swan). In Pahonya the author turns to the heroic pages of the Belarusian past, calls for defending his Mother-Country. The work was received by many as a hymn of the Belarusians. The poem Stratim-Swan poeticizes the biblical myth of the swan, according to which the Stratim-Swan refuses a place on Noah's Ark, fights alone against the flood, and perishes, for he cannot hold the birds that beset him in escaping the flood. Though the Swan perishes, he gives life to the other birds. The original biblical myth condemns the non-obedience. Bahdanovich glorifies this.

In late 1916, Bahdanovich wrote his last articles, in which he proves the necessity of teaching in mother's tongue for the preservation of national culture ("Belarusian refugee's asylum", "Voice from Belarus" etc.). He also takes interest in religious issues ("On the faith of our ancestors"). His activity in assisting the refugees is reflected in "A survey of the first year's work of the Minsk division of the Belarusian Society for Assistance to War Sufferers" and an article "The activity of the Minsk Belarusian committee", published in the Ukrainian press. Bahdanovich was also a compiler of "A survey of work at the Minsk food commission until1 January 1917".

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Maksim's health worsened, and his friends in Minsk, though their acquaintance had lasted for just several months but who much appreciated him as a poet and man, worried about his health and collected money for his treatment in the Crimea. In February 1917, Bahdanovich left Minsk. A long road to Yalta, search for lodgings and no close friends nearby weakened him even more. The efforts to combat the disease did not help, but even in the last days of his life, he continued to write, finished some of the poems in the collection The Garland, was compiling the ABC in Belarusian.

On 25 May 1917, at the age of 25, Maksim Bahdanovich died alone in complete solitude. He was buried in the town cemetery at Yalta.

Maksim Bahdanovich had a lot of creative plans, wanted to publish new collections of poetry and even designed the titles for them  – "New Moon", "Small Ring", "Dog Rose", "Sagebrush". But he failed to fulfil his intentions.

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The life of Maksim Bahdanovich was short but highly productive. He received a wide acclaim from his contemporaries and descendants.

In the history of Belarusian literature Bahdanovich occupies an honoured place. His name stands alongside the names of the great writers in Belarusian and world literature Yanka Kupala and Yakub Kolas.

Bahdanovich's creative legacy is an important part of the spiritual culture of the Belarusian people. Being in the first place a Belarusian writer, he also wrote in Russian and Ukrainian, was published in the Russian and Ukrainian editions.

The literary art of  Bahdanovich is associated with the ideological, aesthetic and genre enrichment of the national literature. He not only developed and creatively used Belarusian national folklore and literary traditions, but also sought to enrich them with the achievements of other peoples. He was one of the first who introduced the new poetic forms and themes into the national literature and who translated the classics of world literature into Belarusian.

Most powerfully Bahdanovich showed himself  in the sphere of poetry. He is regarded a founder of the Belarusian philosophical and landscape lyrics and was the first to address the urban motives. He also created a lot of splendid exemplars of civil lyrics, closely connected with the national liberation ideas, permeated with love for a working man, and expressing a protest against violence and social injustice.

Especially striking images Bahdanovich created in love lyrics. The literary critic and people's writer of Belarus I. Navumenka even thought that the love motives were predominant in his poetry: "Such concentration of love feeling, its changes and modulations had not yet been known in Belarusian poetry before Bahdanovich".

The collection of poetry The Garland, according to A. Loika, became in the history of the national poetry "one of the best examples of verse craftsmanship, the university of classical poetics". "The canonical forms of triolet, sonnet, rondeau, octave, terza rima, the variety of rhyme schemes and metrics - from hexameter to folk-song rhythm and intonation system, fine sound patterns – this is all contained in the book… In the best poems of The Garland the national features are organically combined with the aesthetic borrowings of the other peoples ...The Garland became a classic, for the popular and traditional elements in it were raised to the new aesthetic level".

Maksim Bahdanovich reached a success not only in verse. He also made a significant contribution to the development of other genres in Belarusian literature.

The prose pieces of Bahdanovich, according to the literary critic T. Karotkaya, "lay at the beginning of the national prose... and his critical studies in many ways predetermined the development of literary critics and formed a basis for studies in literary history". As a literary critic he was a pioneer in Belarusian literature, thinks the literary critic M. Mushynsky. Bahdanovich's talent and craftsmanship are also apparent in his journalistic works, the characteristic features of which, a concise form and profound contents, still remain as an example.

Maksim Bahdanovich stands among the pioneers of the Belarusian national Renaissance, who sought to show the role and place of the Belarusian people in history and time, formulate their national idea and explore the ways of their further development. The philosopher and literary critic U. Konan believes that from this theme began Bahdanovich his poetic art and later it became the publicistic pathos of his programme works, which once and for all established the poetical symbols of Belarusian Renaissance in public consciousness. The scholar also emphasises Bahdanovich's power as a national prophet poet, who along with Kupala, in original way and with equal artistic force, showed the historical search of the Belarusians towards the rebirth.

Bahdanovich's great achievement, in comparison with the other Belarusian writers of the then time is that he studied not only Belarusian but also universal Slavonic Renaissance. In historical perspective he saw the independence of each people, their heyday, and cooperation. He was one of the few Belarusian writers whose works were published beyond the borders of the national region and were known to the then Russian reader.

Bahdanovich's works constitute a solid part of the spiritual treasury of the Belarusian people. At the same time, according to A. Loika, his figure is increasingly seen in the context of world literature. In the opinion of Vera Rich, a British translator of the poet's works, Bahdanovich "enters the pantheon of the great world poets as equal among equals".

The literary accomplishments of Bahdanovich are undoubtedly based on the unique qualities of his personality. In the opinion of Adam Yahoravich Bahdanovich, the writings of his son reflect the best qualities of his soul "and perhaps the whole of it. His lyrics is the story of his spiritual sufferings told expressively by himself, and his other writings illustrate his views, beliefs and public interests".

Especially impressive is Bahdanovich's immense enthusiasm and, one may say, passion for Belarus. Having lived almost the entire life far from Belarus, with no like-minded people nearby, no friends with the same deep interest in Belarus, he was able however at an early age to get interested in the Belarusian language, culture and history, to get an insight into Belarus problems, to grasp the concerns and hopes of the Belarusian people. This suggests of the genetic inheritance and even predestination.

Though the life circumstances did not favour the development of his talents, Bahdanovich, thanks to his purposefulness, reached the significant hights. "In work he was persistent and stubborn", - remembered Adam Yahoravich Bahdanovich. "Having set a goal, he firmly and persistently sought to achieve it… the same stubbornness he revealed in learning Belarusian language and in writing Belarusian verse. Taking into account his health condition, the need of education and the life circumstances, his work in this sphere cannot be considered but as great. And the whole undertaking can be seen even as audacious".

Of no less importance is his encyclopedic knowledge in the field of culture, history and philology, obtained largely by self-education, as well as the variety of activities and forms in his work, a profundity of knowledge and scholarly insight, the inventiveness and extent of the work done during a decade only. And all this despite a very bad health, even a critical condition in the last time.

The uniqueness and greatness of Bahdanovich as a person and writer is confirmed by the relevant titles of "a hot heart", the loyal knight of the motherland, or a singer of Belarus, that were granted to him by contemporaries and descendants.

His talent and, in the final end, his life Maksim Bahdanovich sacrificed to his Mother-Belarus.

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Maksim Bahdanovich's work and personality has been highly assessed by descendants. The Belarusian public began to honour his memory from the first anniversary of his death and continues to the present day.

His literary legacy is studied by a separate field in the Belarusian literary science known as Bahdanovichaznaustva (studies on Bahdanovich).

His works were repeatedly issued in separate editions and printed in mass media. The collected works in two volumes were released in Minsk in 1927-1928 and in 1968. The complete works in three volumes were published  in Minsk in 1992-1995 and in 2001. The second edition of the verse collection The Garland was published in Vilnius in 1927, and the facsimile edition in Minsk in 1981 and 1985.  

His verse and works on history and literary theory are studied in high schools and at the philology faculties of higher educational institutions.

In 2000, in the project "One Hundred Belarusian Books of the 20th Century" Bahdanovich's poetry collection The Garland won an overwhelming victory and the author was recognised as the best poet.

There is the Maksim Bahdanovich Literature Museum in the Trinity Suburb in Minsk. In Minsk there is also the house in which Bahdanovich lived (Rabkorauskaya St. 19), which now houses the museum's branch called "Belarusian Hut". Another museum branch "Estate Rakutseushchyna", where Bahdanovich wrote his two poetic cycles is located in the Maladzechna district, Minsk region. The Estate Rakutseushchyna hosts traditional national festivals of poetry and songs called "Rakutseushchyna Summer". There are also Bahdanovich's museums in Hrodna and Yaroslavl.  

The statues of Bahdanovich are erected in Minsk, Yaroslavl, Miskhor and at the poet's grave in Yalta. The commemorative signs in his honour are placed in Minsk, Hrodna, Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavl and Yalta. 

A large street in Minsk is named after Bahdanovich. His name is also attached to streets in Brest, Homel, Hrodna, Mahileu, Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavl, Yalta and other towns. Many schools and libraries in Belarus bear his name.

The images of Bahdanovich and the characters of his works are portrayed in painting, sculpture and graphics. His image can be seen on postcards and badges.

Bahdanovich inspired many musical works. His lyrics were used for songs which are now taken as folk pieces (Venus the Star, the Weaver-Women of Slutsk). The opera "Venus the Star" by Yury Semyanyaka and the pop-opera "Maksim" by Ihar Palivoda are dedicated to Bahdanovich. A popular Belarusian folk rock band "Pesnyary" repeatedly turned to works by Bahdanovich. Especially noteworthy is their programme "The Garland", completely composed of songs with lyrics by Bahdanovich and music by Uladzimir Mulyavin and Ihar Luchanok. The song "Veranika" became an important event in the musical culture of the 1970s, as a piercing and bright hymn of love, which became popular in many countries.

Many authors wrote verse dedications to the Belarusian bard. 

There is an extensive bibliography of research into Bahdanovich's life and creative legacy. Four cinema films and one video film have been made about his life and work.

The Belarusian poet received a world acclaim. In addition to Russia and Ukraine, his memory lives in many other countries.

The 100th anniversary of the birth of Maksim Bahdanovich was included in the UNESCO Calendar of Events in 1991.

The works of the Belarusian bard have been translated into twenty languages, including the most widespread such as English, Spanish, German, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian and French and were published in Great Britain, Germany, Poland, Russia, France, Yugoslavia and other countries. As early as in the 1950s, a large book of his selected works in Russian translation by the best Soviet poets was published  in Moscow.

In 2008, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of France within the framework of the Belarusian-French cultural relations announced the Maksim Bahdanovich Programme to promote the publication of the French writers in Belarus. In 2011, the International Scholarly Conference entitled "Maksim Bahdanovich's work in the context of world literature" was held in Minsk under the aegis of the Yakub Kolas and Yanka Kupala Institute of Language and Literature at the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences.

On the 120th anniversary of the birth of Maksim Bahdanovich the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus by Resolution of 14 Feb. 2011 confirmed a series of national and regional events dedicated to the memorable date. These include the capital reconstruction of the poet's literature museum, the renovation of the house in the Trinity Suburb in Minsk where Bahdanovich was born, the installation of the poet's statue in Hrodna, various exhibitions in institutions of education, culture and art, literary soirees and meetings with Belarusian writers, dedicated to the life and work of the poet, the facsimile edition of his poetry collection The Garland etc. In 2011, an Encyclopedic Handbook on Maksim Bahdanovich was released at the printing house "Petrus Brouka Belarusian Encyclopedia".

Maksim Bahdanovich was only 25 years old when he died and almost a century has passed but his romantic image and unforgettable works deeply touch our hearts as before.

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The examples of Bahdanovich's poetry can be found on a website Belarusian Literature in English translation, the project implemented by the Yanka Kupala Central Public Library with the support of the National Commission of the Republic of Belarus for UNESCO

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