|Language||Belarusian (Taraškievica before 2008)|
Nasha Niva (Belarusian: Наша Ніва, romanized: Naša Niva, lit. "Our field") is one of the oldest Belarusian weekly newspapers, founded in 1906 and re-established in 1991. Naša Niva became a cultural symbol, due to the newspaper's importance as a publisher of Belarusian literature and as a pioneer of Belarusian language journalism, the years before the October Revolution are often referred to as the Naša Niva Period.
Naša Niva Online, nn.by, was set up in 1997. It has since grown into what is currently the most frequently visited website in Belarusian language.
In the period between 1906 and 1915 the newspaper was published on a weekly basis. From 1991 to 1995 it appeared once a month, reverting to weekly publication in 1996 and then fortnightly in the years 1997—1999. In 1999 the paper became a weekly again.
Naša Niva covered a wide range of political, economic and cultural issues. The newspaper saw as its main task the consolidation of a Belarusian political nation. It was also – as was observed at the time – the first source of information to be free of government interference.
National civil society rallied around the newspaper; numerous agricultural initiatives, youth groups and publishing houses used it as a voice to promote their activities.
From the earliest days of its existence, the newspaper's characteristic feature was the strong interactive relationship that it built with readers. There were more than three thousand permanent and temporary correspondents who submitted information to the editor. A large number of contributors from various regions of Belarus were involved in the publication of both journalistic pieces and literary works. This provided a unique opportunity to re-establish the literary language by establishing norms of usage that were the most widespread throughout the country as a whole. The newspaper thereby played an invaluable role in fixing the orthography, grammar and word-formation patterns of the modern Belarusian language.
Subscribers and correspondents of the newspaper became central figures of national political and intellectual life, e.g. Ciška Hartny (pseudonym of Źmicier Žyłunovič), one of the first leaders of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic, or Branisłaŭ Taraškievič, political leader in the Western Belarus and author of the first printed grammar of the Belarusian language.
Alaksandr Ułasaŭ, a landowner from the Mihaŭka estate near Minsk, was for many years the newspaper's publisher and editor.
One of the major figures behind the formulation of the newspaper's political goals was Ivan Łuckievič from Minsk, founder of the famous Belarusian Museum in Vilnius and sponsor of numerous political and cultural projects.
Working alongside him was his brother, Anton Łuckievič, whose ideas were decisive in the formation of the programme of the Belarusian Socialist Party (Hramada). He would eventually become the Prime Minister of the Belarusian People's Republic.
Vacłaŭ Łastoŭski, another future Prime Minister of the Belarusian People's Republic, became secretary of the newspaper in 1909 and in the years 1912—1913 acted as its de facto editor.
Jakub Kołas, a classic of Belarusian literature, was an active contributor to Naša Niva. It was also Naša Niva that discovered the works of Maksim Bahdanovič and Źmitrok Biadula. Janka Kupała, a famous poet, became the newspaper's editor in February 1914 and continued in this role until the autumn of 1915 when Vilnius was occupied by the Germans and normal life in Belarus came to a standstill.
The newspaper's defence of national interests provoked attacks by the Russian censorship throughout its existence.
Even a discussion on agrarian topics organised in 1907 – including an article entitled 'The Land Question in New Zealand' – was found 'seditious' and 'disrespectful of the government'. The editor, Alaksandr Ułasaŭ, was tried and imprisoned. On several occasions the entire run of a particular issue was confiscated and the editors compelled to pay fines.
In the early 20th century, Naša Niva introduced standards of usage into the Belarusian literary language. It was actively involved in both the creation of classical Belarusian literature and the evolution of the idea of Belarusian statehood. The newspaper became the centre of intellectual life. The newspaper published the writings of many outstanding intellectual figures, including Janka Kupała, Jakub Kołas, Anton Łuckievič, Maksim Bahdanovič and Vacłaŭ Łastoŭski.
Naša Niva was published in the two alphabets adopted by the Belarusian language, Cyrillic and Latin. This practice was continued until October 1912 when a referendum of the editorial staff and readers opted for the Cyrillic alphabet. Naša Niva used the classical spelling from 1991 until 2008; it then shifted to the spelling taught in schools in order to 'improve communication between intellectuals and the public', as an editorial on the topic made clear at the time.
The newspaper acted as the focal point for the independent cultural and social projects that grew up around it.
Naša Niva performed the coordinating function of a publishing centre. Especially popular were the annual Belarusian Calendars, almanacs in which readers could find not only the usual kind of day-to-day information but also literary works. The publishing centre also published books, both original and in translation. A satirical magazine 'Krapiva' (Nettles) was published in Vilnia in 1912, and the agricultural department of Naša Niva grew into the independent 'Sacha' (Wooden Plough) magazine published in Minsk from the end of 1913.
Under the newspaper's auspices one of Naša Niva's founders, Ivan Łuckievič, began to collect artefacts for the future Belarusian National Museum. Most of it is currently stored in the National History Museum of Lithuania.
Staff of the newspaper staff helped Ihnat Bujnicki form the first Belarusian theatre company.
The newspaper focused its attention on the promotion of economic, legal and agricultural knowledge. The scale of the work it accomplished has allowed historians and researchers of culture to define early 20th century Belarusian culture as the 'Naša Niva period' when referring to the quantitative and qualitative changes in the development of modern culture and society.
Revival attempt in 1920
The first attempt to revive the newspaper was made in Vilnia in 1920. The first issue of the revived Naša Niva, now described as a socio-political and literature daily newspaper, appeared on 28 October 1920, soon after the beginning of Żeligowski's Mutiny.
In December 1920 the newspaper was banned again, this time by the Polish military censorship.
1991: revival in Vilnius
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the rapid growth of the independence movement in Belarus made it possible for the newspaper to be re-established. The publication of Naša Niva began again in Vilnius, then Lithuanian SSR, in May 1991.
The revived newspaper came to occupy a special place among other Belarusian periodicals. Naša Niva abandoned the 'defensive strategy' and self-imposed isolation inherent to much of the Belarusian-language media of the Soviet times. The newspaper opened its pages to discussions on universal topics and published numerous translations of foreign literature. The paper discussed two topics in particular: the heritage of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and a possible model of relations between Belarus and other nations of the region.
Relocation to Minsk
In 1996, the newspaper's editorial office relocated to Minsk, Belarus.
The topics covered by Naša Niva shifted from literature and culture towards political and social issues.
After 2000, the newspaper became a weekly once more. In 2002 the volume increased from 12 to 16 pages weekly, and in 2005 to 24. At its peak the print run reached 8,000. Following pressure from the state and denial of access to the national press distribution system, Naša Niva changed to a pocket format and increased the number of pages to 48. The circulation decreased to 2,200 copies.
Naša Niva developed its online version, which by 2010 became the most popular internet resource in the Belarusian language. According to statistics drawn up by Google Analytics for 2006—2017 monthly visitors to the Naša Niva site average about 600,000 looking at 7,000,000 pages. Approximately 84% of the visits are from Belarus, 49% are from Minsk.
In the 1990s work began on the production of a facsimile edition of the issues of the newspaper that appeared in the years between 1906 and 1915. At the same time material has been collected for the compilation of a dictionary of the language used in those early years of Naša Niva.
Since the late 1990s and especially in the 2000s, Naša Niva has faced pressure from the authoritarian regime of Alexander Lukashenko.
The paper was persecuted for using the traditional Belarusian orthography (Taraškievica). In 1998 the newspaper won a trial in court and got permission to continue using the classical orthography.
In 2005 the authorities banned distribution of the newspaper through the Belarusian postal system and the official distribution agency which delivered the paper to shops and kiosks. Between 2006 and 2008 the newspaper had to be distributed by volunteers.
Naša Niva has been tried in court and fined on many occasions, with the KGB conducting searches both in the newspaper's office and the editors personally. In 2006 the newspaper's Chief Editor, Andrej Dyńko was arrested and spent some time in prison.
Editors in chief
- Alaksandr Ułasaŭ: founder, editor from 1906 till 1912
- Vacłaŭ Łastoŭski: in 1912–1913
- Janka Kupala: in 1914–1915
- Siarhiej Dubaviec: from 1991 till 2000.
- Andrej Dyńko: from 2000 till 2006; later became editor of Naša Niva's online version nn.by
- Andrej Skurko: from 2006 till 2017.
- In 2011, Źmicier Pankaviec was appointed editor of the weekly paper edition.
- Jahor Marcinovič, recipient of the national award for investigative journalism several years in succession, became chief editor in 2017. Nasta Roŭda invented Naša Nina sub-portal for women.
In December 2017, Nasha Niva has been mentioned among several Belarusian independent media that had allegedly removed old news stories about the 2015 arrest and ten months long imprisonment of the businessman Viktor Prokopenya from their websites. This had allegedly been done after the media were approached by Prokopenya's public relations advisors. The situation has caused a wide discussion among Belarusian journalists and media professionals.
- Nasha Niva Online (in English)
- Interview with Andrey Dynko
- The Prague Society for International Cooperation
- The History of Naša Niva from 1906 to the Present Day
- ""Пракапеня – герой, які ўскрыў гнайнік". Медыяаналітык распавёў, як заўважыў знікненне матэрыялаў у СМІ пра бізнесоўца ["Prakapenya is a hero who cut an abscess open". Media analyst tells how he discovered the disappearance of media articles about the businessman]" (in Belarusian). Belsat. 27 December 2017.
- Пілецкі, Алесь (27 December 2017). ""Ніхто нічога страшнага не зрабіў". Рэдактары незалежных СМІ пра выдаленьне матэрыялаў пра Віктара Пракапеню ["Nobody did anything terrible". Editors of independent media about removing articles about Viktar Prakapenya]" (in Belarusian). Radio Svaboda.
- "#Прокопенягейт: Социальные сети гудят, независимые медиа говорят "ничего страшного не случилось" [#Prokopenyagate: social networks buzz, independent media say "nothing terrible happened"]". Mediakritika.by (in Russian). 27 December 2017.
- Жерносек, Ольга (27 December 2017). "Цензура Прокопени. Кто и почему скрывает от нас правду? [Prokopenya's Censorship: who and why is hiding the truth from us?]" (in Russian). Belsat.