Karski Jaŭchim (also spelled: Karsky; Карскі Яўхім), scholar, linguist, ethnographer. Karski was born in the village of Lasa, Horadnia province, on December 20, 1860 (01.01.1861). He died in Leningrad on April 29, 1931. Karski studied in local schools and then graduated from Nezin Institute. After graduation from the lingustic-philological program, Karski taught in several schools in Vilna and then went to Warsaw, where he became professor at Warsaw University in 1894 and rector of that university in 1905. From 1917 on Karski was a professor at St. Petersburg University and also editor of several scholarly publications. Jaŭchim Karski is known to the academic world for over 700 scholarly works in Slavistics. A great many of these works are on Belarusian topics: linguistics, ethnography, and literature. Karski merits the title of "the father of Belarusian linguistics." He pioneered the scholarly analysis of the development of the Belarusian language as an independent Slavic language originating prior to the 14th century. The major work of his life, Biełarusy, three monumental volumes in seven issues, (1903-1921), is entirely devoted to Belarusian linguistics, literature, the development of Belarusian printing, and other aspects of Belarusian culture. No other Slavic nation has a work comparable to Karski's Biełarusy. In fact, several chapters of this work and the bibliography remain an important reference source even today. The secondary literature and analyses of Karski's contributions to Slavonic studies number thousands upon thousands of pages. Unquestionably Jaŭchim Karski is the most outstanding among Belarusian scholars of world stature. But what is important to underscore is that Jaŭchim Karski also contributed to the development of the Belarusian national movement and the formation of the Belarusian political nation. His scholarly publications helped Belarusians to identify and situate their position in the historical development of Eastern Europe and the importance of the Belarusian language in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Karski's authoritative map of the distribution of the Belarusian language (1903, 1904) is in fact the ethnographic map of Belarus and, as such, it was used by the Government of the Belarusian Democratic Republic to define the borders of the Belarusian state. Jaŭchim Karski was a close friend of other Belarusian scholars such as Epimach-Šypiła, Doŭnar-Zapolski, and Branisłaŭ Taraškievič. He also corresponded with Janka Kupala and other Belarusian writers. Jaŭchim Karski took part in the proceedings of the All-Belarusian Congress in December of 1917. At that Congress Karski presented a plan for organizing the Belarusian University in Miensk. (The proposed statute for this university was published in the national newspaper, Volnaja Biełaruś, no. 35, 1918). In 1918 the Government of the BDR appointed Jaŭchim Karski head of the Education Commission together with Vacłaŭ Ivanoŭski and Branisłaŭ Taraškievič.

During the revolutionary years Jaŭchim Karski vigorously reacted to the events affecting Belarusian national interests, publishing valubale articles on Skaryna and Belarusian education, as well as expressing himself strongly against the Treaty of Bieraście. Karski's association with the Belarusian political movement was logical: he was an honest scholar rather than a political activist, dedicated to Belarus and, through his deep involvement in Belarusian research, supported the idea of a separate independent Belarusian state. He did not welcome Bolshevik rule at all.

His original scholarly work virtually stopped with the beginning of the Bolshevik era. The Bolsheviks did not trust Karski because of his close ties with the Belarusian movement. On the other hand, his role as rector of Warsaw University, a position usually entrusted to a "reliable" Russian, made him somewhat distrusted by Belarusian political activists in Soviet Belarus. Somehow he did not find much coopeartion with the Belarusian activities during the 1920s. It is true, however, that Jaŭchim Karski lectured extensively on Belarusian topics to young Belarusian teachers and activists who began to organize in Miensk during the early 1920s and he donated his extensive library to the Belarusian State University, then in formation.

References: Baćkaŭščyna, Munich, no. 542, 1961; Enc. Lit. i Mastactva Biełarusi, Miensk, vol. 2, 1985, pp. 696-697.

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