The Anglo-Belarusian Society was founded in 1954 with the object of the diffusion, interchange and publication of knowledge relating to the Belarusian people, their land, their history and their culture. The Society, despite its “Anglo-” label, was by no means intended to exclude Scotland, Wales and other parts of the UK. Among the early cultural activities of the Society was the publication of a pamphlet on Belarus (1954) and the organisation of two concerts of Belarusian church chants, folk songs and dances in Westminster Cathedral Hall (1954 and 1956).
In 1965 the Society began publishing a yearbook – The Journal of Byelorussian Studies, with an introduction by Prof. Robert Auty. The Journal was distributed annually to universities, libraries and private subscribers in the UK, the US, the Soviet Union and other countries throughout the world. As well as articles on Belarusian literature, linguistics, history and art, each number of the Journal included book reviews, a chronicle of current events, and a comprehensive bibliography for the preceding year. A booklet “An Introduction to Byelorussia” was also published by the Society in 1965.
In 1966 the first annual course of six lectures on Belarusian culture, history and art was organised at the Institut Francais du Royaume Uni in London, and this has become a regular feature of the Society’s activity. Subsequent lecture courses have been held at the Royal Scottish Corporation, the British Academy, the Society of Antiquaries of London, London University, the Francis Skaryna Belarusian Library and the Belarusian Cultural Centre in North London. Various functions have been organised by the Society in both Houses of Parliament and in homes of Ministers of State.
Past members of the Society have included a number of eminent writers and public figures: Lord Harlech (President), Hon. Mrs. Macmillan (President), Rt. Revd. Ceslaus Sipovich (Vice-President), The Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava (Vice-President), Prof. Robert Auty (Vice-President), Lady Frances Phipps, Auberon Herbert, Hon. John Jolliffe, Lord Egremont, Paul Asipowich, Paul Navara, Jan Michaluk.
Despite the grave present situation in Belarus and the evolution of circumstances in the Belarusian Community in the United Kingdom the Society continues to work successfully and adheres to its principles: diffusion of knowledge relating to Belarus, Belarusian language and culture.
In the last few years our Society organised or was involved in organising the following events:
– lecture “Retrospective of Literary Anniversaries of 1996” by the prominent English poet and translator, Vera Rich (8th January, 1997);
-lecture “The Roma of Belarus” by an expert on the Roma, Valdemar Kalinin (22nd January, 1997);
– Commemoration of the Belarusian poet Natallia Arsennieva (25th October, 1997);
– Christmas Recital of English and Belarusian readings and carols (20th December, 1997 and 11th December, 1998);
– lecture “Aspects of Contemporary Belarusian Art” by a British-Belarusian artist, Valery Martynchyk (20th February, 1998);
– poetry evening by the prominent Belarusian poet, Ryhor Baradulin (20th February, 1998);
– Kupala Mid-summer celebration (20th June, 1998);
– presentation of the well-known satirical film about A. Lukashenka “An Ordinary President” by its producer, Jury Khashchevacky (25th February, 1999);
– lecture “The Bicentenary of Adam Mickiewicz and Belarus” by James Dingley (29th April, 1999);
– lecture “The Rehabilitation of Radioactive Contaminated Areas” by Dr. Alan Flowers (1st July, 1999);
– presentation of the book “Belarusian Literature in the 1950s and 1960s” by its author, Prof. Arnold McMillin (19th November, 1999);
– “Human Rights-and Wrongs”, literary evening in honour of Human Rights Day (10th December, 1999);
– presentation of the film “Fear”, which illustrates human rights abuses in present-day Belarus (13th February, 2000);
– celebrations of the Belarusian Independence Day (25th March, 2000).
In 1997 the Society resumed publishing a bulletin “The Belarusian Chronicle” as a continuation of the section of the same name in the Journal of Byelorussian Studies (editor Guy Picarda). The Chronicle is designed to inform readers of the Society’s activities as well as of other religious and cultural events relating to Belarusians in the United Kingdom.
In 2013 the Journal of Belarusian Studies resumed its existence after almost 25 years of silence.