Łastoŭski Vacłaŭ (also spelled Lastowski Vatslaŭ, Viachaslaŭ; Ластоўскі Вацлаў), scholar, writer, ethnographer, political leader. Łastoŭski was born in the settlement of Kaleśniki, near the town of Dzisna, into a family of impoverished petty gentry, on October 20, 1882. Formally Łastoŭski had only primary and middle-level school education, but due to his self-discipline and self-education, as well as his own personal ambition, he became an accomplished scholar.

Łastoŭski's involvement with the Belarusian national movement dates to the years of Naša Niva, i.e., to the first decade of the twentieth century. He contributed numerous articles on a variety of subjects to the newspaper. His articles, as a rule, contained strong national themes and were uncompromisingly Belarusian. During this period, Łastoŭski established and developed numerous aspects of Belarusian history and the future trends of Belarusian political thought. Łastoŭski authored the first concise text on Belarusian history in 1910; this was an historic accomplishment for the Belarusian nation. At the same time Łastoŭski wrote numerous literary works and established himself as an important literary man and critic. During World War I Łastoŭski resided in Vilna, edited the newspaper Homan, and was involved in numerous Belarusian organizations. He also took part in international conferences representing the Belarusian people, in Sweden and Switzerland. Łastoŭski belonged to the elite of the Belarusian political leadership who formulated and carried out the ideas of Belarusian statehood. At the beginning of 1918 Łastoŭski established an organization called "Liaison of the Non-division and Independence of Belarus," which exerted influence in the formulation of the outlines of Belarusian Independence. Together with Ivan Łuckievič, Łastoŭski negotiated a degree of autonomy with the Lithuanians after the Government of the Belarusian Democratic Republic was heading into exile. From December 1919 to the spring of 1923 Łastoŭski served as the Chairman of the Council of the Belarusian Democratic Republic. Łastoŭski and A.Ćvikievič formed the Belarusian delegation which attended the Genoa Conference in 1922. He resigned from the chairmanship of the Council in 1923 and began to cooperate closely with the Lithuanian Government. Łastoŭski began publishing an important scholarly periodical, Kryvič, 1923-1926, and in 1926 he published a monumental work on the history of the Belarusian book and book-publishing and printing, Historyja Biełaruskaj (Kryŭskaj) Knihi. The factual data from this work are valid to the present and the book forms an important bibliographical reference tool. The Soviets lured Łastoŭski to Soviet Belarus in 1927, appointing him director of the State Museum in Miensk. Subsequently, he became the Permanent Secretary of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences of the BSSR. Łastoŭski wrote numerous works on Belarusian ethnography, lexicology, and history and contributed considerably to the development of Belarusian scholarship. Unfortunately, in 1930 Vacłaŭ Łastoŭski was imprisoned as a National Democrat, was exiled to Russia, reincarcerated once again, and then vanished into a Soviet prison. The place and date of his death are unknown, although the Belarusian Soviet Encyclopedia gives the year of his death as 1938. The fate of Vacłaŭ Łastoŭski is very tragic for the Belarusians: the major personality in the Belarusian cultural and political revival, an extremely gifted and able scholar and leader, who accomplished so much for the Belarusian movement — destroyed by the Soviets.

References: Bieł. Sav. Enc., vol. 6, 1972, p. 267; Ant.Adamovich. Opposition to Sovietization in Belorussian Literature, New York, 1958, pp. 190-191; Arnold B. McMillin. A History of Byelorussian Literature, Giessen, 1977, pp. 135-137+; The Journal of Byelorussian Studies, London, vol. 5(3-4), 1984, pp. 14-27; Biełarus, New York, nos. 134, 140, 1968; 313, 1983; Hołas Vioski, Miensk, no. 42(96), Oct. 22, 1943; Vłast (Vacłaŭ Łastoŭski). Tvory, Munich, Baćkaŭščyna, 1956. 111 p.

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