Belarussian Hospitality

The Republic of Belarus is located west of Russia, above Ukraine and below the Baltic nations of Lithuania and Latvia as well as the neighbor to Poland. Agriculturally, they are very well at growing grain, potato, vegetables, sugar beet, flax and their meat and dairy industry is in the high. Currently the people of this nation can be described as kind, friendly and good humored. They can claim their patience comes from a darkened history of endless wars in which they were in the crossfire of and had to participate in.

Settlements can be traced far back in the beginnings of Belarus, but it wasn’t until the 13th century that wars began to divide the people amongst its neighbors. An especially damaging time in their life was during 1569-1795 in which the region was known as Rcecz Pospolita. During these times the citizens were forced to participate in a war with Russia during 1600s followed by the North war in 1700. This led to a weakening that made it easy to loose provinces to other nations such as Russia, Austria and Prussia.

In line with the Russian Empire, the parts of Belarus that were under this influence were intirated to take up Russian culture and traditions. Many conflicts followed suit including: revolt under Tadeusz Kostushko’s leadership, Napoleonic invasion of Russia, Polish revolt, and a great rebellion headed by Kastus Kalinovski. After many more hardships, the nation of Belarus was formed when it’s people declared independence in March 1918.

It wasn’t until the beginning of the New Year in 1919 that the country renamed itself as the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic and fell in line with the USSR during the following years like many other eastern European countries. In the 1930s, famine brought about from soviet economic policy lead to a collective farming known as Kolkhoz which resembled America’s Great Depression in the use of over farming. The nation was bitter about the suffering of its people caused by the Great Purge, but attitudes changed at the start of the Second World War. It was during these times that Belarus became the battlegrounds between the red army and the German Nazi party. The capital of Minsk was turned into a large ghetto known as Tuchinki where many of its native Jews, as well as German and Czech Jews, were executed in masses. By the End of July in 1944 a movement known as Operation Bagration saw the liberation of the Belarusian SSR by the Red Army from German occupation.

Joining the United Nations in 1945, Belarus took part in bringing cultural understanding throughout the world, dispirit being a member of the Soviet Party. Horror occurred when the neighboring Chernobyl suffered a nuclear reactor disaster which lead to the pollution of large areas of Belarusian territories. This made farming harder on the citizens, but they were able to overcome it. By 1991, the official namesake of the country became the Republic of Belarus with the dissolution of the Soviet Union soon to follow months later. It wasn’t until policies were put in place that the country entered a democratic form of government and its first president Alexander Lukashenko whom was inaugurated on June 20, 1994. The day of independence was shortly moved to July 3 in which was the day Belarus was liberated from Nazi invaders during the Great Patriotic War.

After going through so much, it is great to see culture bloom in the country. With wildlife such as elks, deer, wild boar, beavers and wolves to roam about, it is easy to understand how traditions are able to keep up. Belarusian national cuisine has evolved over the centuries. A mix of simple recipes used by commoners and sophisticated cuisine of nobility, extensive use of local ingredients and unusual way of cooking makes up the culinary taste. Old recipes have managed to survive to present day and is a local treat for visitors. Restaurants serve food ranging from “peasant cuisine of the countryside” to “elaborate dishes for Belarusian magnates” to give a full experience to any unsuspecting traveler. Traditional dishes are served at farmsteads that use only fresh farm produce to make the dishes which are often common only for a particular area. Here they bake bread to old recipes and technologies, cook homemade meat delicacies, cheese from cow or goat’s milk, and sweets made of honey, apples and cranberries.

As previously implied, the two main factors that lead to the way food is served today come from both active farming and extensive use of local produce, as well as influences from neighboring countries and migrant settlers. Since the times of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania the national culinary traditions have been a mix of Baltic, Slavic, Jewish and partly German cuisines. Therefore, the Belarusian cuisine is one of the most diverse in the continent. It is similar to the Russian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Polish, Jewish, but is unique in its own way, is hearty and delicious. In the old days, each social class had its own gastronomic traditions. Therefore the Belarusian cuisine was divided into peasants and high nobility cuisines.

There are special features that distinguish the Belarusian cuisine from culinary traditions of many other countries. For example, the Belarusian cuisine is characterized by quite complicated and lengthy processing of products. It includes such methods as braising, stewing, baking, cooking, blanching and roasting, with several of them being used in some recipes. Many national dishes require various kinds of flour made of oats, buckwheat, peas, rye and their mixtures. The Belarusian cuisine offers a great variety of dishes made from vegetables. Many of them are unique despite the fact that they are based on traditional Slavonic recipes. The pride of the national cuisine is traditional Belarusian bread baked with the use of rye flour. Instead of yeast Belarusians used a special leaven. Belarusian bread is heavier and is a bit sour. In old recipes different additives were used like caraway seeds, linseeds and sunflower seeds. Bread was sometimes baked on the ‘pillow’ made from birch and oak leaves.

Today’s restaurants offer modern intake on traditional Belarusian dishes which reflect original ideas of chefs and principles of Grande cuisine, which takes into account the diversity of products and seasonal changes. The main changes that the Belarusian cuisine underwent in the 20th century were that wheat flour and dishes from it became very popular and that salads became quite common.

 

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