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Main page / "Knowledge. Understanding. Skill" Journal / Contents / 2014 / No. 1

Yarmolinskaya V. N. Twentieth-century Belarusian Scenography: The Origins and Development

(The Center for Belarusian Culture, Language and Literature Research of
the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus)

Abstract ♦ The article traces the development of Belarusian scenography from its roots till the rise of professional theaters in the 20th century. The author examines the features of stage design typical for eighteenth-century school theaters and nineteenth-century amateur theater companies and highlights tendencies in contemporary Belarusian scenography.

The problem of the origins is important for any professional art including theater. The roots of scenography date back to the time when people were only starting to learn how to stage performances for entertainment and when the early forms of stage art began to emerge. Elements of scenography could be found in the design of ritual costumes worn during Belarusian rites and public performances such as “A Farewell to Winter” and “A Spring Welcoming Rite”, “Ivan Kupala Night” and “Christmas”, as well as in entertainment acts performed by traveling minstrels.

The art of scenography was crucial for conservative school theaters, which were functioning in Belarus in the 16th–18th centuries as part of religious educational institutions such as academies and what was known as collegiums. Back then, nearly every play involved the use of sophisticated machinery (rectangular three-sided prisms called telari, which could be transformed unexpectedly during the performance to produce various backdrop sceneries and artful stage decorations), lighting, noise and sound accompaniment.

Some of the amateur Belarusian theaters had particularly remarkable stage decorations. Such theaters were, among others, the theater of V. Dunin-Martikevich, the theater company led by I. Buynitsky, the theater of Vl. Golubok. An element that was common for all these theaters was that the center-stage, both in terms of repertoire and stage design, was given to folklore and folk traditions.

Contemporary Belarusian scenography has its own features. It is quite different from the scenography of the previous decades of the 20th century. The best stagecraft projects reveal a trend: stage designers are not breaking with the traditions of the past but trying to enrich them instead by reworking them and building on them. Avoiding naturalism and kitchen-sink realism, stage designers are not only aiming for visual appeal but also are seeking to create vivid images and metaphorical ideas.

Keywords: scenography, drama, art direction, Belarus, Belarusian theater, theater history.

Yarmolinskaya Veronica Nikolaevna, Candidate of Science (art criticism), associate professor, the chief of the Theatrical Art Department at the Center for Belarusian Culture, Language and Literature Research, the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, member of the Belarusian Union of Theatre Workers, member of the Union of Literary and Art Critics of Belarus. Postal address: 1 Surganova St., B. 2, office 402, Minsk, Belarus, 220072. Tel.: +37 (517) 284-29-22. E-mail:


Citation: Yarmolinskaya, V. N. (2014) Stsenografiia Belarusi XX veka: istoki i stanovlenie [Twentieth-century Belarusian Scenography: The Origins and Development]. Znanie. Ponimanie. Umenie, no. 1, pp. 243–250. (In Russ.).

Submission date: 28.02.2013.



Baryshev, G. I. (1992) Teatral'naia kul'tura Belorussii XVIII veka [The Eighteenth-century Theater Culture of Belarus]. Minsk, Nauka i Tekhnika Publ. 284 p. (In Russ.).

Borisova, T. T. (1964) Shekspir na belorusskoi stsene [Shakespeare on Belarusian Stage]. Minsk, Nauka i Tekhnika Publ. 105 p. (In Russ).

Gstoryia belaruskaga teatra [The History of Belarusian Theater] (1985) : in 3 vols. Minsk, Nauka i Tekhnika Publ. Vol. 2. 607 p. (In Belarusian).

Dunn-Martsnkevch, V. . (1958) Zbor tvora [Collection of Works]. Minsk, The State Publishing House of the BSSR. 431 p. (In Belarusian).

Khrestamatyia pa gstory belaruskaga teatra dramaturg [An Anthology of the History of Belarusian Theater and Drama] (1998) : in 3 vols. Minsk, Belaruskaia Navuka Publ. Vol. 2: 20–50-ia gady XX stagoddzia [The 20s-50s of the 20th Century]. 574 p. (In Belarusian).

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