Anglo-Belarusian Society

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promoting all things Belarusian in Britain since 1954
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Shirin Akiner (1942-2019) – in Memoriam

Thu, 04/18/2019 - 20:08

Shirin Akiner

Shirin Akiner (1942-2019) came to the School of Slavonic and East European Studies of London University in 1965 as one of several ‘mature’ students as they were quaintly known at that time. As I was only in my second year of teaching and more or less the same age as these students I became friendly with several of them. Shirin was a brilliant student, recently widowed with a small child, Metin, after her husband had been killed in a car crash.

She was born to a Pakistani diplomat and Welsh mother, but brought up in a British school and spoke and wrote impeccable English. I got to know Shirin quite early on, as we shared an interest in classical music, although this is a serious understatement in her case, as she had studied the fiddle in Moscow and Amsterdam under the outstanding Soviet violinist David Oistrakh; I believe that after the tragedy of her husband’s death she never played the violin again. She remarried in the 1970s a scholarly businessman, David Mitchell, and moved from Willesden to Chelsea, and became known in non-academic life as Shirin Akiner Mitchell.

I am sure that it was I who aroused her interest in Belarus in the late 1960sa~ and introduced her to the Francis Skaryna Library and Fr Alexander. With the latter’s help she wrote an article, ‘Contemporary Young Byelorussian Poets (1967-1975)’, published in the Journal of Byelorussian Studies (hereafter JBS), III, 4 (1975), pp. 342-53, which was subsequently taken up by the Belarusians of eastern Poland who produced a Polish-language booklet from this article.Earlier, inspired no doubt by the excellent piece by Fr Nadson in collaboration with G.M. Meredith-Owens, a Professor in the Department of Islamic Studies, University of Toronto and  well-known specialist in Persian miniatures, ‘The Byelorussian Tartars and Their Writings’, JBS, II, 2 (1969), pp. 141-76, she also wrote an article on a cognate subject: ‘The Vocabulary of a Byelorussian K’it’ab in the British Museum’, JBS, III, 1 (1973), which later was expanded and revised, becoming a first-class book published by a prestigious German publisher: The Religious Language of the Belarusian Tatar Kitab, Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, 2009.  On a lighter note, when occasionally we were invited to lunch with Fr Alexander who was an excellent cook in addition to his many other achievements, I would bring a bottle of wine whilst she, more sensibly, contributed some excellent coffee.

Always interested in Near and Central Asia, after an excellent degree in Russian with subsidiary Turkish, Shirin turned mainly to study of Central Asia, becoming a Research Associate at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies, where she had mainly faithful postgraduates, and also an Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of International Affairs.

Despite a glittering career in this field of study, she was loyal to her links with Belarus and Belarusians who, in turn, valued her work. For instance, in 1983 at the International Congress of Slavists in Kyiv, the Belarusian delegation insisted on my bringing her to meet them. In London, she regularly attended various launches, celebrations and other events. In fact, the last time I saw Shirin and her husband was at an exhibition of Belarusian art less than a year ago. She will sorely be missed by her son and husband, and by many scholars around the world, as well as by the Belarusian community in London that she supported so well.

Arnold McMillin
Emeritus Professor
University College London

Belarusian Studies in the 21st Century: 4th Conference and Annual Lecture

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 11:44

The 4th Annual Belarusian Studies in the 21st Century will take place 29-30 March 2019 at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES) and at Francis Skaryna Belarusian Library and Museum in London.

To view a provisional programme of this year’s conference, please click here. The annual London conference on Belarusian Studies will follow three main conference panels.

This year, the Annual London Lecture on Belarusian Studies will be delivered at 6 pm on 29 March 2019 by Anaïs Marin (France), Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Belarus. The topic of the lecture is Belarusian nationalism in the 2010s, a case of anti-colonialism? Origins, features and outcomes of ongoing ‘Soft Belarusianisation.’

A wine reception sponsored by the Anglo-Belarusian Society will follow the event.

Prior registration is essential. To register for the event please click here.

65th Anniversary of the ANglo-Belarusian Society Celebration and Concert of Zmicier Vaiciushkevich

Sun, 03/10/2019 - 07:28

The Anglo-Belarusian Society cordially invites its members and friends to join a celebration of its 65th Anniversary, organised with the participation of the Association of Belarusians in Great Britain.

On Saturday, 16 March 2019 an Annual General Meeting of the Anglo-Belarusian Society will be held at 2pm at 52 Penn Road, London N7 9RR and will be followed by the special guest appearance of a well-known musician and singer Zmicier Vaiciushkevich.

The concert will start at 3:30 pm and will be followed by refreshments. 
The suggested minimum donation for ABS members – £5, for non-members – £10 (cash only).

More information and updates on Facebook.

Mother Language Day Celebration 2019 with Uladzimir Arlou

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 07:08

The Anglo-Belarusian Society cordially invites its members and friends to join our annual Mother Language Day celebration organised with the participation of the Francis Skaryna Belarusian Library and Museum.

The event was inaugurated by the late Vera Rich to mark UNESCO Mother Language Day and involves poetry reading in all languages particularly Belarusian and English.

The celebration takes place on Saturday, 23rd February 2019 at 3 pm at the Belarusian Religious and Cultural Centre (Marian House, Holden Avenue, London N12 8HS).

Read your favourite poem – works of modern poets or old favourites of your choice in Belarusian, English, Scots etc (no need to learn by heart!). Children are very welcome to participate.

Prominent Belarusian writer/poet Uladzimir Arlou and poetess Valiantsina Aksak will be awarding prizes for the top three poetry readings.

At 4 pm it will be followed by a presentation of the English edition of Uladzimir Arlou’s richly illustrated book “The Grand Duchy of Lithuania” translated by Jim Dingley.

Both the author and the translator will be present to discuss the book and to answer your questions.

The presentation will be followed by refreshments.