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The Funniest and Most "Prickly" Belarusian Magazine Turns 80

The Funniest and Most "Prickly" Belarusian Magazine Turns 80
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In July, the magazine of satire and humor "Vozhyk" ("The Hedgehog") celebrated its 80th anniversary.

The history of the magazine begins in Homiel with the appearance in the harsh 1941 of an edition in the form of a newspaper-poster under the biting title "Let's crush the fascist toads!" Then, in the front-line city, which was bombed daily by enemy planes, the first issue of a new satirical publication was published at the "Poleschivat" factory.


First row: A. Bialievich, A. Astapienka, T. Harbunou, K. Chorny, M. Mashara.
Second row: Kantrouski, P. Kavaliou, S. Rozum, R. Rutski.
Photo: Rodnaye slova, 2021, No. 3, p. 15

The first issue was prepared by the editorial office of the "Zviazda" newspaper. Homiel artists B. Zveniharodski, A. Shauchenka, V. Kozak, as well as the talented 17-year-old self-taught artist V. Bukaty were involved in the work on it. Later, prominent cartoonists A. Bazhenau, D. Krasilnikau, H. Valk and others joined them. The propaganda poster was published both at the front lines and behind enemy lines (in Moscow) and became an independent publication. It came out at different intervals and in different editions, but by secret paths it reached almost every partisan detachment, occupied city and town, helped to fight the enemy with a witty snarky word, a spot-on picture, instilling faith and hope in the long-awaited victory. Caricaturists created hundreds of works that have become wonderful examples of combining angry satire with the heroic pathos of struggle on the pages of the publication. Natural talent, hard work, love for the Motherland and hatred for the enemy helped the youngest cartoonist V. Bukaty achieve great success in the art of political satire in a short time. He signed many cartoons with his equally talented and poetic lines. However, the young artist was eager to go to the front to smash the enemy. After graduating from the school of demolitionists, he was sent to the rear of the enemy, where in March 1944 he died while carrying out a combat mission.

Practically, the Belarusian caricature was in hot pursuit of the battles, often ahead of the events from the first to the last day of the war. There were many months of bloody battles ahead before the discharges of the victorious fireworks, but jubilation of the coming Victory was already on the sheets of the poster.


The newspaper-poster fought not only with a brush but also with a pen, a sharp word, folk humour. Warriors at the fronts and people’s avengers in partisan detachments sang the poems and songs published in the newspaper-poster. Since March 1943, satirist and fabulist Kandrat Krapiva became the editor-in-chief. Participation of the national poets Janka Kupala and Jakub Kolas, as well as Kuzma Chorny, Mikhas Lynkou, Maksim Tank, Piotr Gliebka, Pimien Panchanka, Anatol Astrejka, Maksim Luzhanin and many other Belarusian writers added to the fighting spirit of the publication. In total, 142 issues of this unique publication have been published during the war years, the yellowed pages of which can be found by referring to the electronic resource of the National Library “Underground and partisan press of Belarus”.



After the end of the Great Patriotic War, in the victorious 1945th, military propaganda poster was "demobilized", and the magazine of satire and humour "Vozhyk" was born, the first issue of which was published in August 1945.


Cover of the first issue of "Vozhyk" (1945). Artist D. Krasilnikau

A peculiar credo of the magazine was set out in the introductory article: "I – the first "Vozhyk" – was born with good intentions and sharp needles…".


In one of the illustrations of this page, the Soldier of Victory passes the weapon-pencil to "Vozhyk", who has been boldly walking ever since, reflecting the life and activity of a person in a satirical perspective. The original drawing (watercolour) is stored in the State Museum of the History of Belarusian Literature, where, along with other exhibits, it was presented as part of the anniversary exhibition organized by the Museum and timed to the 125th anniversary of the birth of Kandrat Krapiva and the 80th anniversary of "Vozhyk" in March 2021.


Drawing from the collections of the State Museum of the History of Belarusian Literature. Artist A. Volkau

From 2009 to 2011, "Vozhyk" was published as an almanac, and has been published again as a magazine of satire and humour since 2012. Today, "Vozhyk" contains feuilletons, pamphlets, fables, parables, poems, stories, interludes, plays, sketches, humoresques, miniatures, parodies, epigrams, puns, aphorisms, anecdotes, translations of satirical and humorous works, as well as caricatures, memes, drawings, posters.

"Vozhyk" was headed by Mikhas Chausky (1941–1943; 1947–1955), Kandrat Krapiva (1943–1947), Paviel Kavaliou (1955–1967), Uladzimir Korban (1967–1971), Aliaksandr Ramanau (1971–1987), Valiantsin Blakit (1987–2000), Mikhas Pazniakou (2000–2002), Alies Pismenkou (2002–2004), Uladzimir Salamakha (2004–2008), Julija Zaretskaja (since 2009). People's writer of Belarus Kandrat Krapiva is rightfully considered the "godfather" of the magazine.

Today, the satirical magazine "Vozhyk" is part of the publishing house "Zviazda"; it is published monthly in Minsk in the Belarusian language and remains the oldest and the only state publication in the country in the field of satire and humor. All the best that was created by Belarusian writers and cartoonists passed through "Vozhyk". Without exaggeration, all Belarusian classics were published in it. The magazine also gathered talented artists, including A. Volkau, S. Ramanau, I. Akhremchyk, V. Tsikhanovich, G. Hramyka, A. Churkin, E. Hankin, E. Busiel, V. Zhdan, V. Shmatau, N. Hirhel, A. Karshakievich, A. Karpovich and many others. The writing staff of "Vozhyk" includes not only professional writers and artists, but also talented and caring people of different professions with a good sense of humour from all over Belarus. For 80 years of its existence, the magazine has been both a launching pad for beginners and an arena for professionals.

It is noteworthy that the series "Library of "Vozhyk"" has been published since 1957. The first was the book of stories by Jakub Kolas "Dziadzkau svedka" ("Uncle's Witness"). Today, it is already a whole library of humorous literature – about 170 editions of fables and poems, feuilletons and jokes, stories, plays and caricatures of our famous satirists and humourists, cartoonists, as well as young Belarusian authors. Foreign humour is also there the "Library of "Vozhyk""; it includes translations from Russian, Georgian, Latvian, Moldovan, Ukrainian and many other languages. More information about the list of publications published in the series "The Library of "Vozhyk"" can be found through the E-Catalogue of the National Library of Belarus. Two small editions of the works of "Vozhyk" artists, released for the 25th anniversary of the magazine in 1966 may be of interest: the album "Vozhyk" is 25" and thecatalogue of the anniversary exhibition of the "Vozhyk" artists


By the way, it should be noted that many humorous publications in the post-Soviet space ceased to exist. Belarusian "Vozhyk" remains in the ranks. There are new interesting columns, current modern topics and occasions that come onto the radar of satirical writers and cartoonists. Such columns of the magazine as "Satirical retro", "With pen and brush", "Hot Caricatures", "The classics are laughing", "Fun mail", a page for young readers "Kaliuchyk", speak for themselves. The collection of all issues of the magazine "Vozhyk" of 80 years of existence is available in the National Library both in printed and in electronic form.

In an interview, the head of the art department of "Vozhyk" Mr Aliaksandr Karshakievich noted that there is no such satirical graphics as in "Vozhyk" in other Belarusian publications: "Our magazine is not just malice or satire without looking back. These are rather accents that need to be paid attention to by society. We do not just ridicule some phenomenon, but look for its cause, analyse and try to twist it, to present information more graphically. All this is diluted with humour, folk choruses and national traditions. The result is a beautiful symbiosis of socio-political and literary-artistic topics. " 

In its anniversary year, the publishing house "Zviazda", the editorial office of the magazine "Vozhyk" and the Minsk city branch of the Union of Writers of Belarus announced a literary contest dedicated to the 80th anniversary of the only state edition of satire and humour. The competition runs from May 1 to September 1, 2021.

So those who have a sense of humour, as well as artistic and literary talent still have some time to try their hand at a difficult genre. After all, they say that it is much more difficult to make you laugh than to make you cry. The jubilee – the magazine "Vozhyk" – has been doing this impeccably for decades.

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