One of the most ancient art forms in Belarus is the religious icon, an elaborately painted likeness of Jesus or one of the saints. Icons decorate churches instead of statues, which are not allowed in Eastern Orthodox churches. Icons are also used as centrepieces for home altars. Over the centuries, images from Belarusian folk art and mythology have been added to these icons.

 Belarusians are also known for their woodcarving of figures with painted faces, as well as boxes and household implements. Brightly coloured ceramic ornaments in the shapes of animals and birds are also popular. Belarusian embroidery is distinctive. It is used to decorate the linen shirts and blouses that are the national and regional dress. In some regions, only red and white threads are used; other regions use many colours.

Belarus has a strong tradition of folk music. Typical instruments include balalaikas(triangular-shaped stringed instruments), accordions, lyres and pipes. Folk music and dancing are an important part of ceremonies such as engagements and marriages. People also enjoy comic songs as well as ballads about past heroes. In the last ten days in November there is a festival of folk and classical music and dance. One contemporary folk rock group is Pesnyary, which has toured Europe and North America.

 Poetry and theatre have long been important in Belarusian life. There is an annual poetry day in June. Belarus also maintains an ancient tradition of travelling theatres, called skomorochy, in the countryside.

  Did you know?
Yiddish literature prospered in Belarus. It is the birthplace of many famous Jewish figures in the North American arts community, including songwriter Irving Berlin, who immigrated with his family to New York in the 19th century.
Yakub Kolas, poet and novelist, and Yanka Kupala, poet and playwright, are considered distinctively Belarusian writers. Both Kolas and Kupala were part of a group of writers who contributed to the influential Belarusian newspaper Nacha Niva (Our Field) between 1906 and 1915. The writers in the Nacha Niva circle wrote about the harsh life of peasants and recalled the distant past when Belarusians were masters of their own destiny.

 Natalia Arseneva is considered one of Belarus's best 20th-century writers. Beneath the Blue Sky is one of her most well-known works. Vasil Bykau is the country's best-known contemporary writer and an outspoken critic of government. He has been referred to as the "conscience of the nation."Several of his novels, such as Sign of Misfortune and The Ordeal, describe the sufferings of Belarusians during the Second World War.

  Did you know?
Probably the most famous Belarusian outside the country is artist Marc Chagall. He was born in Vitebsk, north of Minsk, and lived there until his early adulthood. Many of his paintings draw on images from his home life in Vitebsk.