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Nation-State Formation in Belarus in 1918-1920s

The Belarusian State Archives of Films, Photographs and Sound Recordings

Description of holdings

Amount of holdings:

  • film documents: 42 930 items
  • documentary photographs: 262 958 items
  • sound records: 20 579 items
  • video documents: 5 750 items

Chronological scope: from 1870 to the present

Geographical coverage:

  • former Vilno (Vilnius), Vitebsk, Grodno, Minsk and Mogilev gubernias (provinces) of the Russian Empire
  • Western Belarus as part of Poland
  • Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic (BSSR)
  • Russian Soviet Socialist Republic
  • Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic
  • WWII Germany
  • Republic of Belarus
  • other countries (in the World Photos section, etc.)


The Archives holds films, photographs and sound recordings illustrating the history of Belarus throughout one hundred years. These are documentary photographs of the prerevolutionary period, World War I, World War II,  and the contemporary period, film documents since 1916, and sound recordings since 1906.

The earliest photographs (dated 1870 and 1898) depict the railway construction in Belarus and the balloon launching in the Governor's gardens in Minsk. Of great value are the photographs and film pictures made on the threshold of the 19th and 20th centuries. These depict the construction of the Moscow-Brest railway, Kurlovski's execution in 1905 in Minsk, Tsar Nikolai's visit to Minsk, and the soldiers' fraternization in the First World War. The Archives holds the collections of photos and postcards (over 400) with the views of Belarusian towns before 1917 (the cities of Minsk, Nesvizh, Borisov, Vileika, Molodechno, Zaslavl, Kobrin, Pinsk, Grodno, Vitebsk, Polotsk, Mogilev, and more).

One of the most valuable photograph collections held at the Archives is that of the dukes Radziwill, one of the biggest noble families in Belarus. It contains 55 photographs from the Radziwill family album. The collection tells about Nesvizh Palace--Radziwills' residence, Radziwill family members, their friends and visitors. 

The Archives holds a great number of photographs relating to the Great October Revolution of 1917, the Civil War (1918-1921), and the Polish period, 1919-1939 (mass demonstrations, soldiers' and local population meetings, food detachments, Red Army groups) as well as photographic portraits of the state functionaries and public figures, painters, poets, writers and actors of this period (A. F. Miasnikov, M. F. Frunze, A. G. Cherviakov, etc.).

The World Photo page presents works by foreign professional photographers of the early 20th century and the 1920s-1940s, that is, genre photos, landscapes, and the photographs of B. Show, F. Shaliapin, R. Tagor, C. Chaplin, I. Strauss, and more.

The Archives also retains documents reflecting the economic, social and political life in Western Belarus; the national liberation movement for the reunification with the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic.

The substantial part of the archives' documents is represented by various film documents, that is, the scientific, educational & documentary films, feature films, animated cartoons and news films. Many interesting documentary pictures are included in the films "The finishing touches to the portrait", "Prerevolutionary Belarus", "The pages from the history of Minsk", and more. The news reels "Soviet Belarus", "Daily news", "Belarusian arts", "The Pioneer of Belarus" dating from the years 1939-1993 reflect the most significant events in the life of Belarus.

The years of the Second World War are depicted in the photographic documents and films created by the war reporters and operators M. Berov, P. Berstein, I. Veinerovich, M. Sukhova, O. Reizman, and V. Tsesliuk. Of interest are the films "The combat operations of our troops", "Belarusian partisans"; "In the Batka Minai partisan group", "Nazis' crimes in Belarus", "Combat operations of the Partisans", "The battle for Belarus", "In the liberated Minsk", "The liberation of Soviet Belarus", and more. Of great value are the captured German films, that is, the agitation and propaganda material shot by the German cameramen in Belarus during the Occupation, and also sixty three German photographic albums brought from Germany in 1945. These photographs depict the WWII events in the occupied countries and in Germany as well. The most interesting for researchers are the photographic documents on the following subjects: "The Nazi Occupation regime in the captured territories", "Nazis' crimes in Belarus", "The destruction of Belarusian towns and villages", "Combat activities of the Partisan groups", "Partisans' everyday life", "Death camps" and "Jewish ghettos". The Archives also holds a collection of 508 photos made by V. I. Arkashev in World War II. His photographs reflect the events of the early days of the war, army life, combat operations, medical work, etc. The Archives also preserves the captured German news reels and partisans' film chronicle reflecting the very beginning of the war, combat operations, battles and partisans' everyday life.

The Archives preserves interesting sound recordings with the voices of the outstanding politicians, scholars & the workers in Culture and Art of Belarus (Ia. Kolas, Ia. Kupala, M. Lynkov, K. Krapiva, T. Ia. Kisilev, P. M. Masherov, B. I. Kozlov, A. Bembel, Z. Azgur, M. Savitski, S. Staniuta, and more), & also the musical and drama recordings. The most significant among the sound recordings is a collection of the gramophone and tape recordings of the famous Belarusian tenor Zabeida-Sumitski containing his various songs, romances and opera arias in Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Czech, Polish, German, Italian, English and Finnish. In all, the collection holds 40 items.

The Archives continues to enrich its holdings. The main sources of acquisition are the National Film Studio "Belarusfilm", the National State Television & Radio Company of the Republic of Belarus, and also the photograph libraries of the central newspaper and magazine editorial offices.

New on the site
17 September 2018
New online exhibition of documents, Nation-State Formation in Belarus in 1918-1920s has been posted on the website More >>
Archival news
20 November 2018
The delegation of Belarusian archivists visited Kaunas to attend the opening ceremony of the exhibition “The end of the First World War: a decisive turn for modern Europe” More >>
14 November 2018
Ceremonial events dedicated to the centenary of the end of the First World War took place at the Memorial Church of All Saints in Minsk More >>
14 November 2018
The Local State Archives in Kobrin held a ceremonial meeting dedicated to 55th anniversary of the foundation of the Archives More >>
12 November 2018
A ceremonial opening of the new building of the Local State Archives in Slutsk More >>
12 November 2018
The Local State Archives in Rechitsa holds an exhibition dedicated to 73rd anniversary of Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in WWII More >>