The book that you now hold in your hands is to a certain extent a continuation of the earlier illustrated history of Belarus entitled This Country Called Belarus. It is aimed at the widest possible readership and addresses that most fascinating era in Belarusian history — the times of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. This was a powerful European state in which the early modern Belarusian nation was formed, and in which the lands populated by ancestors of modern Belarusians played a leading role. Indeed, so important was their contribution that Old Belarusian, called Ruthenian at the time, became the state language.
Many modern nations view the Grand Duchy as their historical homeland. The Baltic Lithuanian (Lietuvian) people, whose ancestors chiefly populated the north-western region of the Grand Duchy called Samogitia, for a long period lived in the same country as the Belarusians. They also share centuries of common history with the Ukrainians, the Belarusian Tatars and the Jews who went by the name ‘Litvaki’. However, the primary purpose of the book is to focus on the part played by the forebears of modern Belarusians in building the state.
You will be meeting many eminent historical personalities: statesmen, military commanders and scholars. The book is going to tell you how the people in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania lived, about the victories they won and their cultural achievements.
On the basis of historical facts, the book will demonstrate that the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, or Litva for short, was essentially an old Belarusian state, and the names Litvins/Lithuanians for centuries referred to the inhabitants of ethnic Belarusian lands. This edition contains almost 2,000 illustrations, including miniatures from chronicles, mediaeval engravings, unique photographs, artistic impressions and replicas.
Many of the pictures have never previously been published. The book sets out the history of Belarus as an integral part of European civilisation as a whole.