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Before 1749
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Białystok has for centuries been a multicultural, multinational and multireligious city where the Poles, Belarussians, Lithuanians, Jews, Tartars, Germans and Russians co-existed. This shaped the city’s specificity epitomized by its openness, hospitality and friendliness, and contributed to the richness of its cultural life. Moreover, the multinational character of the place inspired the works on a universal global language initiated by Ludwik Zamenhof, the locally born inventor of Esperanto.

The city enjoys a lively cultural scene: Białystok is the seat of many cultural institutions, culture promotion associations and artist unions. Białystok’s major theatres include Teatr Dramatyczny im. Aleksandra Wegierki (The Aleksander Węgierko Theatre), staging classics and contemporary plays of Polish and foreign playwrights, and the two-stage Białostocki Teatr Lalek (The Białystok Puppet Theatre) giving performances for both the adult and child audience. The "Dni Sztuki Współczesnej" ("Modern Art Days") Festival, has been held for 20 years annually in May. Part of the Festival’s regular programme is outdoor performances by street theatres that run usually in the courtyard of the Branicki Palace.

The Municipal Art Gallery "Arsenał" promotes Polish modern art and its latest achievements in painting, sculpture, photography, video, performance art and the like. The Sleńdziński Gallery, on the other hand, popularizes the culture of the former Polish Frontier as it exhibits the art collection and archive material of the Sleńdziński family from Vilnius - a family with artistic tradition. The gallery also houses occasional exhibitions and organizes "Thursdays at the Sleńdziński": soirées featuring poets and writers connected with the Polish Frontier ("Kresy"). It is Białystok where they publish "Kartki", a Polish national literary quarterly presenting contemporary Polish poetry and prose.

The recently renovated Białystok’s splendid Concert Hall hosts many outstanding artists from both Poland and abroad and is usually filled to capacity. The Białystok Philharmonic organizes world-class Katedralne Koncerty Organowe (The Cathedral Organ Concerts) that take place every Friday night in July and August in Białystok’s Cathedral. The Białystok’s park of Planty is the venue of atmospheric summer evening concerts by the wonderfully illuminated, grandiose fountain. Autumn is the time of high-standard festivals: "Jesień z Bluesem" ("Autumn with Blues") and "Zaduszki Bluesowe" ("All Saints’ Blues Day"). Białystok also hosts one of the best shanty festivals "Kopyść". The performances of the Orthodox Church choirs, deeply rooted in the eastern culture, are particularly appealling, if not exotic, for tourists. Yet another place worth dropping in is the old Town Hall housing the Podlaskie Museum. The Museum displays archaeological and ethnographic exhibits as well as the collection of its Gallery of the 18th and 19th century Polish Painting. The Historical Museum holds memorabilia of the city’s past, while the Alfons Karny Museum of Sculpture specializes in the works by Karny, a Białystok-born famous artist and has a display of his art collection (e.g. "The Portraits of Great Poles"). Just outside the city an open-air Museum of Village takes pride in its collection of monuments of old wooden architecture. The Military Museum preserves and popularizes military heritage of the region.

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