Doŭnar-Zapolski Mitrafan (also spelled Downar-Zapolski; Доўнар-Запольскі Мітрафан), scholar, historian, educator. Mitrafan Doŭnar-Zapolski was born in the town of Rečyca, in the southeastern corner of Belarus on June (2) 12, 1867. His family was of noble descent, but had become impoverished landowners. Doŭnar-Zapolski received an excellent education: he graduated from the University of Kiev and completed his professorial training at the University of Moscow. He became professor at Moscow University in 1899 and in Kiev in 1901. From the beginning of his scholarly career, Doŭnar-Zapolski focused his research on the history of Belarus. His works on Belarus' past and the economy of the Belarusian lands within the Grand Duchy of Lithuania became classics and are still consulted today. The total number of his articles and books amounts to many dozens. Unlike the peers of his generation, who became totally russified after completing their studies in Russian universities, Doŭnar-Zapolski showed an increased interest in his native country. The scope of his interest in Belarusian topics was enormous and among his major interests was the revival of modern Belarusian statehood. He can be termed the founder of the scholarly principles of Belarusian statehood. Doŭnar-Zapolski became active in the Belarusian political revival during the years 1917-1921. He participated in the activities of the Belarusian Democratic Republic in Kiev, was appointed Chairman of the Commission for the organization of the Belarusian State University by the Government of the BDR in June of 1918, assisted in the establishment of various cultural and educational commissions, and contributed to numerous Belarusian publications. His work on the backgrounds of a Belarusian state was published by the Belarusian Democratic Republic. Doŭnar-Zapolski revealed an enormous interest in the organization of scholarly activities of the Republic of Soviet Belarus and the Belarusian leadership. The intelligentsia invited Professor Doŭnar-Zapolski to teach at the Miensk University in 1925. However, the Soviet government and Party leadership did not approve his coming to Miensk and in 1926 he was asked to leave Belarus. The Soviets and Communists could not tolerate his views on the historical development of Belarus, especially his theories of the absence of class differentiation among the Belarusian people and his views on the Belarusian character of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Professor Doŭnar-Zapolski was one of the earliest victims of Soviet policies in Belarus. However, when he was leaving Miensk, he donated his library of several thousand volumes to the Institute of Belarusian Culture which became the core of the Library of the Academy of Sciences of the BSSR. The role of Professor Doŭnar-Zapolski in the Belarusian political and cultural revival cannot be overestimated.

His dedication to his country, uncompromising views about Belarusian statehood, close association with the Belarusian national political and cultural leadership, together with his strong beliefs in the needs of restoring an independent Belarusian state led to his being accused by the Soviets of Belarusian nationalism. Following this accusation, he was expelled from Belarus. He died in exile in 1934. (According to information published in the Belarusian newspaper Biełaruskaje Słova (Belarusian Word), Post Ludwigsburg, West Germany, no. 8(29) Sept.-Oct. 1955, p. 2, Professor Doŭnar-Zapolski died in a Soviet concentration camp in the Narym region about 1935.)

References: The Modern Encyclopedia of Russian and Soviet History, vol. 9, 1978. pp. 241-242; Veda, New York, July 1952, pp. 193-206; Baćkaŭščyna, Munich, nos. 617-618. March 1964; Biełaruskaja Dumka, South River, N.J., no. 6, 1964, pp. 3-7; Bieł. Sav. Enc., vol. 4, 1971, p. 263.

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