People

12 Famous Belarusians

Belarusians
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In this article, I am going to tell you a little bit about some of the most famous people that were born in Belorussia. Each of the people mentioned has had an impact on the culture and arts of Belarus, as well as the world.

Welcome to the highly impressive Belarusian hall of fame. 

Most Famous Belarusians

1. Ignacy Domejko

Ignacy Domejko, or better known as Zegota, was born in the Minsk district in Belarus.

His homeland was part of the Russian Empire, and his family brought him up in a Polish-Lithuanian manner. 

Later on, he became a geologist who spent most of his life in Chile. 

Because of this cultural mix, he is considered an important national figure in not one, but four countries: Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, and Chile.

He was a student of the Vilnius University and was also a part of the Philomaths [1]. Domejko arrived in Chile in 1838 and became a college professor.

Ignacy was of great importance to Chile, where he is considered to be the person who introduced the metric system to Latin America.  

He had made many discoveries and contributions to mineralogy and mining while being an activist, ethnographer, and meteorologist. 

2. Max Mirnyi

Max Mirnyi is a Belarusian-born former tennis player.

Winner of a Gold medal at the Olympic Games in 2012, and the person who carried the flag of Belarus at the Olympic Games opening ceremony. 

He has competed alongside names like Serena Wiliams, with whom he won the 1998 US Open and Wimbledon.

3. Marc Chagall

This Belarusian artist is best recognized for his paintings and his influence on the surrealist art movement.

He was born as Moishe Chagall, as the eldest of nine, in the city of Vitebsk, Belarus. 

Half of the Vitebsk community was Jewish, and so was Marc and his family. His father worked in a herring warehouse, while his mother sold groceries. 

The life of the artist Marc Chagall is best explained in his autobiography titled My Life. 

He moved to Saint Petersburg in 1906, to improve his knowledge about art, culture, and painting. Later in 1910, Chagall moved to Paris, at the end of the Belle Epoque [2]. 

There, he deepened his knowledge about avant-garde art and spent time with many great modern artists such as Picasso, Modigliani, Matisse. 

He undoubtedly is one of the most prominent modern artists, an elite expressionist, and one of the very best: both of the 20th century and in the history of the world. 

Chagall lived in the French village Saint Paul de Vence, up until his death at the age of 97.

4. Louis Burt Mayer

We might not know how he looks, but every one of us knows that famous lion logo at the beginning of many famous and well-known Hollywood movies. 

The great cinematographer Louis B. Mayer was born in Minsk Region. 

He lived with his family in the United States, the country where he later made his fame and fortune. He spent much of his early life helping his father who worked in the metal scraping business. 

After a while he separated from that business to do something completely different, he ended up owning a rundown house, which he turned into a movie theatre. 

A small theatre known by a few people turned into the big American dream! 

Louis B. Mayer dove into his possibilities and was, and still is, one of the big names behind Metro Goldwyn Mayer.

At the peak of its time, Metro Goldwyn Mayer’s estate was 68 hectares big, it had 30 sound stages, with a real Zoo which was the house of that magnificent lion we all know.

5. Pyotr Klimuk

Another famous Belarusian, which is also the first person from Belarus who flew to space! 

And not once, but three times, did Pyotr Klimuk visit space, marking his time in space to exactly 78 days, 18 hours, and 17 minutes. 

Born in Belarus, in the Brest region, Pyotr Klimuk definitely deserves a spot on this list.

He was the head of training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre [3].

6. Vladimir Kovalyonok

Vladimir Kovalyonok was born in the Krupki district, Minsk Region on the 3rd of March. 

He was also one of the Belarusian pioneers when it comes to space and space exploration. 

He is a two-time national hero of the Soviet Union and has received many honors and awards for his loyalty and achievements during the Stalinist regime. 

Vladimir’s first mission to space was in 1977. 

He had spent a total of 216 days, 9 hours, and 8 minutes in space.

7. Olga Korbut

Even though this famous Belarusian wasn’t born in the city of Minsk, she made her name there and was best known as the Sparrow from Minsk.

Olga Korbut is a famous Soviet gymnast, who first competed in the Olympic Games in 1972, for which she received recognition from ABC’s World Wide Sports

She won the Russian and the World Games on several occasions. 

Korbut also received a silver medal in the all-around European championship.

Her performance in the Olympic Games was a game-changer for gymnasts all over the World, as she is credited for redefining the sport completely.

8. Francysk Skaryna

Francysk Skaryna was born in Belarus, in the historical city Polotsk. We don’t know the time and date of his birth, but we do know that he is one of the first book printers in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Eastern Europe. 

Besides being a publisher, he was also a writer and a physician.

He is remembered as a man who set the groundwork for the Belarusian language. 

Skaryna opened the first printing house in 1922. 

Among the other interesting things about Skaryna, stands out the fact that he was an astronomist and had a love for medicine.

Needless to say, he is one of the most important people in the history of Belarus. 

In his honor, two national awards are named after him.

9. Tadeusz Kościuszko

Tadeusz Kosciuszko was born in the small village Mereczowszczyzna, which was a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Brest region of present-day Belarus. 

Kosciuszko first received, what was then called, a gentleman’s education; and later was a student at the Royal Military Academy of Warsaw, where he trained to be a military engineer. 

After years of being a captain, he retired to a Polish village where he spent his time teaching. 

Tadeusz Kosciuszko is considered a national hero in four countries: Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, and the US. 

He emigrated to the US in 1764, where he fought in the American Revolutionary war. 

He was also the announcer and leader of the Polish uprising in 1794, which in his honor, is nowadays better known by the name of the Kosciuszko uprising. 

If you are interested in Polish people, check out our article about famous Polish people.

10. Zhores Alferov

Zhores Alferov is the first person in the history of Belarus, who managed to win a Nobel Prize. 

He received the Nobel Prize at the beginning of the new century alongside colleague Herbert Kroemer.

Zhores was born in the city of Vitebsk, Russian Empire, present-day Belarus, on the 15th of March 1948. His father was a Belarusian, while his mother was Jewish. 

He had a Ph.D. in mathematics and physics from the Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute.

This famous Belarusian, later on, became a politician in the Russian Parliament.

11. Vasil Bykov

Vasil Bykov was born in the village Bychki, in the Vitebsk district, and was an important figure not only for the Belarusian but also the Soviet literature. 

His writing was mainly focused on post-war drama and tragedy.

Vasil’s work left him with many awards, wide public recognition, and even endorsement for a Nobel Prize nomination by well-respected laureate authorities. 

12. Chaim Weizmann

And last but not least on this list of famous Belarusians: we present to you Chaim Weizmann. The first president of Israel, and a famous Zionist, born in Belarus, the village Motal in the Brest region.

He studied science in Pinsk and later on left Belarus, which was then part of the Russian empire, to study chemistry in Germany and Switzerland. 

It wasn’t until his move to England where he pursued his political career. Even though he was a powerful asset to the British, as a chemist, he made his name in a different way. 

He is the inventor of the industrial production of acetone.

This brought him the spotlight, as later he made connections with the British government, and on November 2nd he published the Balfour Declaration, which was an agreement between the British government and the Jewish people. 

An agreement that recognized the right of the Jewish people to make Israel their national home.

Weizmann was a Zionist since college. 

Later in life, he was also President of the World Zionist Organization. 

In 1948 he met with U.S President Harry Truman and made an agreement, and the Americans recognized the newly founded state of Israel, of which he became president. 

The Bottom Line

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article about some of the most famous people from Belarus. If you found yourself in Belarus, make sure you check the places where these amazing people lived.

If you are interested in learning more about famous people, read this article about famous Czechs.

References

  1. https://culture.pl/en/article/the-philomaths-a-secret-society-to-the-rescue-of-a-country
  2. https://www.mdc.edu/wolfson/academic/artsletters/art_philosophy/humanities/belleepoque.htm
  3. http://www.gctc.su/

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Meet the Slavs

Posts by the Meet the Slavs Team.

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