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Conversations with God

Multilingualism among the Catholics in Belarus in the Late Twentieth and Early Twenty-First Centuries. Sociolinguistic study


Ewa Golachowska

The book discusses the sociolinguistic status and prestige of the Polish language and the changes in the national identity of Catholics in Belarus due to the switch from Polish to Belarusian in the Catholic Church. The research shows that the national identification of Catholics in Belarus is changing. The oldest generations most often self-identify as Polish. For those from the middle and youngest generations, the link between nationality and their religion is not obvious as being a Catholic does not exclude a Belarusian self-identity. Belonging to the Catholic Church results from being baptized in the Catholic rite, while national identity can be defined in many ways and re-defined by various life experiences. Catholicism has proven to be a less debated and more durable category than nationality.

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Research Objective and Fieldwork Methods

Between 2009 and 2012, I conducted research among the Catholic population in Western and Eastern Belarus. My investigation in Western Belarus took place in the Grodno Region.1 There, I spoke to residents of Grodno itself, Lida and Poreche, as well as of smaller settlements: Radunia, Advernik, Navahrudek, Chadziloni, Zablocha, Prevozhy, Korgovdy, Klaysh, Yeziorov, Putryshek, Verchelishek, Stryovky, Vavyorky and Hantseviche. I spent many weeks (six trips lasting between five days and two weeks) in Minsk. In the region surrounding the capital, I carried out research in Radashkovichy, Lukavets, Nyasvizh and Svir. In the Vitebsk region, I participated in a research trip together with Dr Olga Gushcheva from the Belarusian State University. We were accompanied by students from Minsk and several Polish academic institutions, and were therefore able to conduct a number of interviews with the area’s Catholic population.2 This took place in the villages and towns of Postavy, Lyntupy, Romanishky, Porozowo, Komaje, Tsaibuty and Ignacishky. I travelled to Eastern Belarus with Dr Małgorzata Ostrówka from the Institute of Slavic Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences, visiting Mohilev and Babruisk, as well as Bezchynne, Chavusy, Fashchivka and Prodvino.

The main objective of my research was to answer the question of whether the increasingly widespread use of the Belarusian language in the liturgy of the Catholic Church is changing the status and range in which Polish functions in Catholic communities in Belarus, and if so, what impact this has...

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