Mosque is a Muslim cult building. In the liturgical canon the mosque consists of roomy prayer room divided into two parts (in Poland - men and women ones). The building is usually topped by a dome, the prayer room is preceded by a courtyard surrounded by colonnade.
The functioning of mosques in Bohoniki and Kruszynany should be, without doubt, linked to Tatar settlement during the reign of John III Sobieski. The royal privilege granted in Grodno on 12 March 1679. The first mosques there must also come from this period.
The general Warsaw Parliament from 1556-1557 and sejm of Lublin from 1569 allowed construction of mosques with the permission of king and bishop from the given land. In the 17th century the constitution from 1768 allowed unconstrained construction of Muslim temples both in private and royal lands.
" (...) Oraz ażeby wolne na swych lokaciach erekcje i konserwacje meczetów bez przeszkód od nikogo mieli, za zgodą wszystkich Stanów teraźniejszym prawem ustanawiamy."
The oldest record concerning mosques in Bohoniki, as well as branch mosque in Malawicze, can be found in the canonical visitation of Sokółka parish from 1717. The historical sources mention the mosque in Kruszynany in 1829 for the first time. However, there is no doubt that the mosque was constructed there much earlier. The legend says the mosque was founded by the last member of Krzeczkowscy family so this could suggest the second half of the 17th century. Both mosques seem to be founded by the whole Tatar community as there are no records indicating their foundation by rich Tatars or local Christian nobility. There is only the legend which links the foundation of the Kruszyniany mosque with Krzeczkowscy family.
Thanks to orders enforced by the partitioning authorities, which imposed preparation of reports on conditions of temples, we have some information on the mosques of our interest. The report from 1854 informs us not only about the functioning of mosque in Kruszyniany and Bohoniki, but also about number of Muslims in provincial towns (here Sokółka), number of clergymen. The decrease in the number of the faithful probably had negative impact on the situtation of the mosques. In 1882 the governor addressed the written order to list the existing mosques in individual provinces. The next correspondence provokes doubts why the list doesn't include the mosque in Kruszyniany and if it really functions. Perhaps this could be linked to occasional usage of the mosque for liturgical purposes due to small number of the faithful. We may learn a bit about the mosque in Kruszyniany and people affiliated with it from fragmentary registers of births, deaths and marriages. These are books handwritten in Russian form and language; what's surprising is that the top of each column is marked with Arabic writing. Fortunately, the mosques in Bohoniki and Kruszyniany survived the World War I without major damage.
Unfortunately, after the World War II situation of Muslims deteriorated; they were often fored by Soviet authorities to leave their previous homes. The country border separated the historic Grodno Region and many mosques along. In Poland only two mosques, in Bohoniki and Kruszyniany, survived. These became main meeting spots of Tatar community.
Along with the development of monument conservation services in Poland and establishment of so called Register of Historical Monuments, both mosques were qualified as a grade A buildings and are legally protected.
The mosque in Kruszyniany was included in the register on 3 November, 1960 and in Bohoniki on 7 November, 1966. The mosque in Bohoniki, as well as the one in Kruszyniany, doesn't resemble the mosques in Turkey or South Caucasus. These are small wooden buildings made from pine wood. Both mosques have post-frame construction and were built using log technique with angled quoins cut flush with the face, thanks to which wall boarding was possible.
The mosque in Bohoniki has rectangular plan with dimensions 11,49x8,3m, and total cubage of 460,1m3. The building is closed with hip roof covered with shingle. The capping consists of octagonal, onion-shaped minaret steeple with protruding bar on which there are three balls topped with the Crescent. Square French windows. The mosque has one common entrance located asymmetrically. Rectangular mihrab protruding from the south-eastern wall and covered with 1,5m gable roof. During the war operations the south-western wall and part of vestibule were damaged. During the war the mosque was turned into a field hospital, which contributed greatly to the building devastation. The first protective renovation of the building was conducted at the beginning of 50s. In the 80s the mosque underwent series of conservation works. The mosque was painted several times in the 80s, it used to be blue, now it's green. The building is surrounded by a netting fence in frames made from angle bars, the semicircular gate is green. A major repair was conducted between 1982 and 1985 by the Monuments Conservation Company.
The detail is currently very scanty, over the entrance there is an Arabian detail curved in wood, the corners are smoothly boarded with a wooden board. There are no pictures of Bohnicki mosque taken before the World War II.
The mosque in Kruszyniany is constructed in a completely different style. It also has rectangular plan with dimensions 10x13m and total cubage of 650 m3. However, it has two separate entrances covered with sheet. The entrance for women is located on the axis of the building whereas the entrance for men is located in the side wall of the mosque. The entrance for women has triangular tympanum whose corners are formed by two towers. It is covered with gable peaked roof covered with shingle. On the roof ridge there is the third tower without windows displaced a bit towards the mihrab. The three towers are capped with sheet helmets with the Crescent at the top. The mosque has ogival windows. A very interesting construction of mihrab; similarly to Bohoniki it is formed by a rectangle which, however, is pointed and has small windows of karo type, i.e. rhombic ones. The corners of the Kruszyniany mosque have horizontal rustic work. The mosque has interesting detail in the form of stone located in its foundation on the right side of the entrance for women with carved date 1846. Most certainly this is the date of the mosque repair during which the foundation could have been reinforced or replaced; unfortunately, we don't know the precise scope of the repair. The subsequent repairs took place in 1900, when the temple interior was renovated, in 1957, which in conservation documents is described as major one, in 1975-76 and the last one occurred in 1992-1993. During the last repair the sheets in towers' capping were replaced, and the mosque itself was painted green.
The mosque is surrounded by a 60cm stone wall.
The presented mosques were constructed by local people, often Jews, who didn't know any other style than the one presented by the surrounding architecture. Therefore, they constructed the mosques according to the principles of Polish style and imitated what they saw everyday. These were primarily wooden churches, thus the design of Kruszyniany mosque with two towers and the tympanum which was absent in mosques, but often used in classicism or small orthodox churches with onion-shaped dome (like in Bohoniki).
Unfortunately, no list of equipment or foundation acts survived to our times like in the case of Christian temples. Lack of source base hinders full presentation of Tatar in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
author: Artur Konopacki