The Radzivil family
There were many noble families in the history of Belarus;
however , none was more renowned the the Radzivil family. The family left its imprint on a
wide variety of human endeavors - from public and political life to culture and education.
Members of the family were leaders in wars against the enemies of the Grand Duchy of Litva
and later of the Polish-Litvanian (Belarusian) Commonwealth and the Russian Empire. For
centuries they meticulously collected and preserved books, documents, paintings, weaponry,
and many rare and valuable objects that could fill entire museums. With their own money,
the Radzivils built printing shops in Bieras'cie (nowadays Brest), Niasviz, and other
Belarusian cities. They not only influenced politics, economics and the culture of their
nation, but often did it according to their own needs, aspirations and tastes...
History has preserved for us many names of the family
members. Let us mention some of them here. Barbara Radzivil(1520-1551), the queen of
Poland and duchess of Litva, was "Triumphant by her beauty and love affairs."
Indeed, the love she awoke in the heart of the polish king Zyhimont II August was called
"The love affair the century".
Mikalaj Radzivil Corny
Mikalaj Radzivil Corny (Black)(1515-1565) occupied the
following high and responsible posts in the Grand Duchy of Litva: great chancellor,
governor (vajavoda) of Vilnia (capital of Grad Duchy, nowadays Vilnius, the capital of
Lithuania), mayor of Bieras'cie (nowadays Brest), Kounia (nowadays Kaunas in Lithuania)
and Barysau and administrator of Livonia. Throughout his entire political career he
instituted a firm policy of strengthening the sovereignty of the Belarusian state (Grand
Duchy), and skilfully implemented agrarian and economic reform. Due to his consistent
political positions, our state reached its highest prosperity with its public life based
on legal principles. As chancellor, Mikalaj Radzivil farsightedly defined new priorities
for our state's foreign policy in the 16th century that led to a closer integration with
countries of Western and Northern Europe. His efforts and sponsorship led to the
establishment, in Belarus, of large publishing centers, which provided the opportunity for
the continuation of Dr. Francisk Skaryna's tradition. Duke Mikalaj Radzivil was fluent in
Belarusian, Polish and other European languages.
Mikalaj Radzivil Sirotka
His son, Mikalaj Krystof Radzivil-Sirotka(1549-1616), ardent
Catholic, headed the fight against Calvinism and issued orders to burn books published by
Calvinist printing houses. At the same time, he exerted a great effort to make the
architecture of the Radzivil palace in Niasviz equal to that of contemporary European
cities. He was famous as the author of a detailed travelogue describing his journey to
Jerusalem, Syria, Egypt and other "exotic" countries and places.
Franciska Ursula Radzivil(1705-1753) and her husband Michal
Kazimir Radzivil Ryban'ka(1702-1762), also from the Niasviz branch, were the creators of
the first Slavic secular theatre in history.