Branislaw Taraszkievicz

Taraszkievicz Branislaw, one of the most prominent Belarusian intellectuals of the first half of the 20th century, a linguist, politician, economist.

He was born on 8/20.01.1892 in the estate of Maciuliszki of the district (paviet) of Vilnia. In 1916 graduated from the Faculty of History and Phylology of the University of St.Petersburg. In 1911 joined the Belarusian Socialist Association (Hramada), in 1918-23 was a prominent figure in the Belarusian Social-Democratic Party, in 1924 in the Belarusian Party of Independent Socialists, from 1925 in the Belarusian Peasants' and Workers' Association (Hramada). In 1923-1931 he lived in Radaszkoviczy, Western Belarus.

Taraszkievicz was a Member of Sejm (Parliament) of Poland from 1922. From mid-1920s he leaned politically towards the extreme left; in 1927 arrested by the Polish authorities but released in 1930. In 1931 arrested again, on charges of connections with the Soviet intelligence and subversive activities. In 1933 deported to the USSR. In the USSR, he was soon arrested by the Soviet security services as a Polish spy; he either died in prison or was executed on 22.9.1941.

Taraskievic made a great contribution to the Belarusian linguistics and education.. In 1918 he chaired the Department of Culture and Education of the Belarusian National Committee. In 1920 he chaired the Belarusian Section in the Department of Education of the "Middle Lithuania". From 1921 he was the director of the Belarusian Gimnazia in Vilnia.

Taraskievic was the author of many translations into Belarusian, including works of Homer and Mickiewicz. However, his major contribution is considered to be his "Belarussian Grammar for Schools", first edition 1918 (see picture below). This book, which had at least five editions and was published for about ten times (last time in Miensk, 1991) was the major codification of the modern Belausian literary language. The linguistic standard that is presented there (see the title page of the 1929 edition) is still considered "classical" (as opposed to the "Soviet" version imposed by the Stalinist authorities in 1933), and is widely used, by independent Belarusian press and bookprinting.

This "classical" standard, codified by Taraszkievicz, has assumed his name and is often called "Taraszkievica". One of its features is that it has incorporated both tradition of the modern-Belarusian literary writing -- the earlier one, Latin-script, and the later one, Cyrillic-script. Hence in the "Taraszkievica" both Lacinka and Kirylica are simply two writing systems of the same Belarusian literary standard, as is very clear from the book. (see below.) The orthographic norm outlined by Taraszkievicz applies therefore not only to the Belarusian Cyrillic-based writing, but to the Lacinka as well. The only change that has occured is that since 1940s "v" is used instead of "w".