Rare Belarus treasures on show at National Museum

A rare collection from National Historical Museum of Belarus as well as national treasures of that country are on display at the Oman National Museum.
The exhibition, titled ‘Belarus at crossroads of civilised communication’, is part of the framework of cooperation between the Sultanate and Belarus.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the Sultanate and the National Historical Museum of Belarus in this regard on Monday.
The ceremony was held under the auspices of His Highness Sayyid Haitham bin Tareq al Said, Minister of Heritage and Culture, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the National Museum.


“I am very happy to see this exhibition and I hope people will take this opportunity to visit the exhibition and experience the Belarusian culture. Everything is impressive and this is just a few of what they have. It is part of our scheme to bring international museums here,” HH Sayyid Haitham told the Observer.
One of the most valuable treasures of the exhibition is a ‘Kitab’ manuscript (early 19th century CE) from Western Belarus.
These manuscripts are unique because they were written by Belarusian Tatars in Belarusian language using Arabic script.
On display is another collection from the National Historical Museum of Belarus: the Vitaut’s Belt. This is a set of waist plates created in the late 14-15th centuries CE. This masterpiece of Islamic art is unique for all Eastern Europe.
It is believed the belt was a gift from the Crimean Khan to the famous Grand Duke of Lithuania Vitaut.
The exhibition gives visitors a peek into the Islamic coins that were in circulation in Belarus.
One of the most interesting among them is the ‘Pinsk Treasure, a coin hoard of 44 dirhams dating back to the 10th century CE. They were discovered in 1993 in the town of Pinsk.
According to experts, these artefacts indicate a relationship that goes back hundreds of years into the early Middle Age, when eastern Slavs traded with the mighty Arabian Caliphate.
The exhibition will run until July 2. “In the exhibition we are celebrating the cross-cultural dialogue between Belarus-Central and Eastern Europe and the wider Islamic and Arab world.
There are three national treasures from Belarus that are being shown for the first time outside their country.
The message the exhibition conveys is cross-cultural dialogue and respect for one another,” said Jamal al Moosawi, Director-General of the National Museum of Oman.
The timeline indicates it was in the 9th Century CE that dirhams had begun to circulate in some areas of Belarusian lands.
By early 16th century CE, the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania invited first Tatars to settle in the Belarusian lands.
By 1410 CE, thousands of Tatars took part in the famous battle of Grunwald to support the Grand Duchy of Lithuania against its enemies.
From 15th to early 16th centuries CE, Tatar community in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania had been formed.
The period 16th to early 20th centuries CE marks the spread of Kitab.
During the 16th to 18th centuries CE, Polish-Lithuanian-Belarusian nobility (Szlachta) held a belief that they were descendants of Sarmats — a proud nomadic tribe from the East.
The ‘Slutsk sash’ is an example of this tradition and one of the symbols of Belarusian culture that was created under obvious Islamic influence. Initially these sashes were imported from Persia and Turkey. Subsequently, in the 18th century CE, they had begun to be manufactured in the Belarusian town of Slutsk.
The first master craftsman was invited from the Ottomon Empire, and the style of Slutsk sashes remained under the Eastern influence.
The legacy of Belarusian Tatars is also represented at the exhibition held in Muscat with well-documented photographs, postcards and various other documents such as birth certificate issued from the mosque.
Most of it dates backs to the late 19th and early 20th centuries and these include views of mosques and neighbourhoods, portraits of individuals and families, and religious and private documents.
— Pictures by Shamsa al Harthy