1

According to Britannica, Belarus has relatively few natural resources:

Belarus is generally poorly endowed with mineral resources. The government is attempting to accelerate the development of its raw-material base, but Belarus remains dependent on Russia for most of its energy and fossil-fuel requirements. In the 1960s, petroleum was discovered in the southeastern part of the republic, near Rechytsa. Production peaked in 1975 and fell to one-fourth of that total by the 1990s, when it stabilized.

Belarus does possess, however, one of the world’s largest reserves of potash (potassium salts), which was discovered south of Minsk in 1949 and exploited from the 1960s around the new mining town and fertilizer-manufacturing centre of Salihorsk. Potash exports remained high into the early 21st century. The country also is a world leader in the production of peat, which is especially abundant in the Pripet Marshes. In briquette form it is used as fuel. Among the other minerals recovered are salt, an important deposit of which, near Mazyr, was opened in the 1980s; building materials, chiefly limestone and, near Hrodna, quartz sands for glassmaking, both used locally; and small deposits of gold and diamonds.

However, the poem Byelorussian Pine by Mikola Auramcyk seems to imply that it is:

Scented with Bielarus, the mines breathe now
From her forest
Resinous pines;
The underground path, narrow, easeless,
Seems a woodland ride, deep in the mine.

Above low coal stopings, roof-cover
Rests on pit-props by the score.
One of them creaks
High above you,
Like the pine with its branches
Of yore.

Above it the heavy rock presses.
The undermined soil on it rests.
Strata thousands of years old compress it,
Half a kilometer thick, no less.

It can bear such a burden no longer,
Resin oozes from it like a sweat,
Yet the pine
Stands there uprightly, strongly,
Longs to strive once again to the light.

And you cleave the coal, steadfastly, doughty,
Sparks are flying from each hammer-blow...
Heavy laden, the pines of our country
Let no harm reach their countryman, no!

This poem seems to imply that Belarus has large coal repositories, but Britannica seems to imply that it doesn't. Can someone explain this to me?

3
  • 1
    The line in bold would seem to refer to the overlying strata, not the depth of the coal seam.
    – Spagirl
    Nov 1, 2022 at 8:38
  • 3
    Is there any indication he was writing about Belarussian mines? He was sentenced to hard labor in the coal mines of the Donbass, and to me it seems the poem is talking about the scent of Belarus coming from the wooden pit-props. Nov 1, 2022 at 9:48
  • Have you checked the original text? Literary translators aren't always known for their expertise in mining engineering. It's also possible that the emigre Auramcyk didn't know much about mining.
    – Stuart F
    Nov 1, 2022 at 16:22

1 Answer 1

4

The poem Byelorussian Pine dates from 1947. Auramčyk had been captured by the Germans in 1942, and spent much of the remainder of World War II working as slave labor in the coal mines of the Ruhr. After being liberated by the Soviet Union, he was again put to work as forced labor as a coal miner for a few years, this time in the Donbass region of Ukraine.

As is clear from the poem, he was familiar with the conditions of coal mining. Inside the mine, he can smell the scent of home, the resin from the pine trees, used as pit-props to support the walls and roof of the mine. The pine logs protect him, their countryman:

Heavy laden, the pines of our country
Let no harm reach their countryman, no!

Like the pine trees, he is pressed under a terrible load, and longs "to strive once again to the light" and be free.

So in answer to the question, indeed Belarus does not have a coal mining industry. But the mine in question was probably either in the Ruhr or the Donbass. The link to Belarus is the pine logs originating from there, Belarus having a siginificant lumber industry.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.