No.12 (951), 2012
BELARUS Беларусь. Belarus
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Беларусь.Belarus Monthly magazine No. 12 (951), 2012 Published since 1930 State Registration Certificate of mass medium No.8 dated March 2nd, 2009, issued by the Ministry of Information of the Republic of Belarus
Belarus takes on CIS chair 6 8
Logic of pragmatic sense Contemporary
enterprise built on empty site near Mogilev in just over a year
Challenging re-consideration of econo- mic fundamentals
Being aware of one’s own worth In a
Effect of unique opportunities
competitive global market, producers are battling for customer loyalty more than ever. Buyers expect quality and reliability, with enterprises investing huge efforts to build a good reputation for their brand
Berezina River — a symbol of reconciliation Belarusian, Russian and
French flags fly at commemorative event marking 200th anniversary of 1812 War, held on Brilevskoe field
‘Seychelles’ of Volkovysk District
Heart to heart
Each garland comprises thousands of smiles
Silver of native fog Anatoly Baranovsky
CASTLES RECEIVE GUESTS
Imaginative discovery of the world At
awarded title of People’s Artist of Belarus, following career of hardships
the age of 63, Grodno sculptor Nikolay Sklyar is still working hard, earning his living and travelling. He works both independently and with large teams, regularly participating in open air workshops
Light and shade Of Tatiana Likhacheva
In a word — a master! Famous Belaru-
sian singer, People’s Artist of Belarus Nikolay Skorikov is 55! The powerful bass-baritone has enjoyed a life so far filled with wild, mystical coincidences and much deserved recognition
Founders: The Information Ministry of the Republic of Belarus “SB” newspaper editorial office Belvnesheconombank Editor: Viktor Kharkov Executive Secretary: Valentina Zhdanovich
Design and Layout by Vadim Kondrashov Беларусь.Belarus is published in Belarusian, English, Spanish and Polish. Distributed in 50 countries of the world. Final responsibility for factual accuracy or interpretation rests with the authors of the publications. Should any article of Беларусь.Belarus be used, the reference to the magazine is obligatory. The magazine does not bear responsibility for the contents of advertisements.
Publisher: “SB” editorial office This magazine has been printed at “Belarusian House of Press” Publishing Office” UE. 79 Nezavisimosti Ave., Minsk, Belarus, 220013 Order No.3813 Total circulation — 1965 copies (including 734 in English).
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Dancing for quarter of a century
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© “Беларусь. Belarus”, 2012
f we must prioritise, our foremost concern must be the economy, since our welfare depends on its growth. Its successes, innovations and problems are ever under scrutiny, helping us modify our approach and achieve our goals efficiently. This issue of our magazine is dedicated to the Belarusian economy, where 85 percent of goods and services are exported. Clearly, the welfare of the state, stability on the currency market and the sustainability of the Belarusian Rouble exchange rate rely on the dynamic promotion of our domestic enterprises’ goods abroad. Exports are vital to our economic security, so the Government has long focused on this sphere. Socio-economic results for the first nine months of 2012 have been analysed, to help us find the best way to stimulate exports. Professor Georgy Grits, the Deputy Chairman of the Belarusian Scientific and Industrial Association, ponders this topic in Changing our Way of Thinking. It has taken just over a year to create the most contemporary enterprise at an empty site near Mogilev, as explored in Logics of Pragmatic Sense. In our competitive global market, producers are battling for customer loyalty more than ever. Buyers expect quality and reliability, with enterprises investing huge efforts to build a good reputation for their brand. Of course, protection is also required for domestic trademarks, to avoid ruthless rivals from taking unfair advantage. According to calculations by the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, our country’s economic potential is at least $10 trillion, ensuring annual GDP growth of 10-15 percent (until 2020). However, many producers are yet to realise the true value of their brand — either
through false modesty or ignorance. The size of the global market is such that a reputable brand is priceless; it can even be used to sell unrelated goods, such as ‘branded’ T-shirts or training shoes. Wise utilisation can add up to 25 percent onto a product’s price. The BelBrand 2012 rating (annually prepared by MMP Consulting Agency) shows that ‘Santa Bremor’ is Belarus’ number one brand name — worth $75.3m. In second place is ‘Milavitsa’ ($71.5m), followed by ‘Babushkina Krynka’ ($49.2m). Read more in Being Aware of One’s Own Worth. Boldly Rewriting the Foundations of Economics is dedicated to Gomel scientists’ creation of a computer programme to save money and energy resources. The shift of energy-intensive production processes to night time, when tariffs are cheaper, may actually bring greater financial expenditure and increase electricity consumption. Gomel State
Technical University students have developed methods to save energy and resources, using their own ‘Optima+’ computer programme. Young scientists Andrey Ivaneichik, Andrey Kuzero and Alexander Kharkevich analysed the situation at Gomel Foundry Plant Tsentrolit and Mozyrsalt JSC and gave their recommendations, helping reduce energy consumption by 5 percent. More efficient management is reducing costs by 12 percent and fuel consumption by more than 5 percent. Where the economy is efficient, our standard of living rises. Even our savings need to work efficiently, so we look at methods of personal saving in Rates Are Determined, helping you make your plans. Specialists assert that bank savings are the most universally beneficial, although not everyone is convinced. Of course, there are other ways to ‘store’ your money — such as property investment. The latter has long been popular in Belarus although it remains beyond the reach of many. Buying property requires us to ‘lock in’ funds for some period — usually at least five years. It’s possible to sell property earlier but national legislation prevents this from being beneficial. Since the beginning of the year, the price of one square metre has risen by approximately 4 percent. The National Bank has long understood that alternative investment avenues exist and is keen to expand its services to attract citizens’ savings. An interesting draft decree is being approved, aiming to open up financial markets and appoint new regulators. Its desire to nurture undeveloped financial markets is a broad hint to commercial banks that the days of unconditional customer loyalty are over; like other institutions, it will be fighting for investors’ money. To date, the National Bank has enjoyed a monopoly of about 95 percent of public funds, due to a lack of alternatives. Securities, pensions and precious metals comprise just 5 percent of savings. We hope that this edition gives you much to ponder. Without doubt, economic success is at the heart of comfortable living, especially in these modern times.
BY Viktor Kharkov, magazine editor Беларусь. Belarus
Importance of Eurasian integration
Alexander Lukashenko becomes laureate of Kazakhstan’s Person of the Year National Award
he National Person of the Year Award is granted for achievements in spheres of strategic importance: science, culture, state management, socially responsible business, charity and enlightenment. This year’s laureates of Kazakhstan’s Person of the Year National Award in the ‘State Policy’ nomination are President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev and President of Russia Vladimir Putin. The leaders of the three countries have been awarded for their contribution to the establishment of the EurAsEC and the Customs Union. In a telegram sent to the Expert Council and laureates, President Nazarbayev expressed his gratitude for being awarded and remarked that the recognition of the work of the leaders of the Customs Union states underlines the importance of Eurasian integration. The award is given for rendering ‘noticeable influence over the economic and social development of our countries’ and notes that ‘this Union has proven its great efficiency in practice’. Over past years, the award has been given to the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia, Alexy II, writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn, academician Zhores Alferov, and cardiosurgeon Leo Bokeria, as well as other prominent public figures, scientists and heads of major enterprises.
The best presentation Belarusian pavilion takes first place in foreign category at 32nd International Trade Fair in New Delhi
he forum was hosted by the Pragati Maidan exhibition complex, with Belarus presenting production, samples and sci-tech developments from over 60 of its industrial enterprises, scientific and educational organisations and institutions. Belarus was ranked first among the pavilions, followed by the South African Republic and Turkey, and was awarded a separate prize for its role as a partner country of the event.
Partners appreciate efforts Representative of Belarus elected Chair of Dialogue Eurasia Platform International Organisation
he First Pro-rector of the Belarusian State Academy of Arts, Professor Svetlana Vinokurova, has been elected to the position of Chair of the Dialogue Eurasia Platform, by the 10th General Assembly, in Antalya, Turkey. “The election of a representative from Belarus to such a high position by this prestigious international organisation is recognition of our country’s achievements in promoting interreligious and international co-operation,” asserts Ms. Vinokurova. She notes that foreign partners truly appreciate the peace and tranquility, which exists in Belarus between various nationalities and faiths.
The closing ceremony was attended by the leadership of the Indian Trade and Industry Ministry, by the India Trade Promotion Organisation, and by representatives of Indian and foreign exhibiting companies, as well as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to India, H.E. Mr. Vitaly Prima, and employees of the Belarusian diplomatic mission.
M s . Vi n o k u r o v a b elie ves t hat t he Dialogue Eurasia Platform has seen progress in Belarus in recent years. She explains, “The central values of the organisation are rationality, dialogue and culture.” M s . Vi n o k u r o v a h e a d s t h e National Committee of the Dialogue Eurasia Platform in Belarus, which was created in 2009. The international organisation was founded in 1998, comprising representatives of 14 countries with the aim of promoting peaceful coexistence by various cultures, peoples and religions. Previously, the post of chair was occupied by such influential figures as Chingiz Aitmatov (Kyrgyzstan), Harun Tokak (Turkey), Rostislav Rybakov (Russia) and others.
Belarus takes on CIS chair
Ashgabat hosts session of CIS Heads of State Council
n the eve of the session, foreign ministers met to discuss humanitarian issues and collaboration in the field of culture, sports, tourism and environmental protection. Security matters were also in the spotlight. The major document proposed for discussion was a Plan of Action for Humanitarian Collaboration for 2013-2014, centred around 2013 being the Year of Ecological Culture and Environmental Protection in the CIS. The Belarusian delegation has proposed
an agreement to co-operate in the sphere of environmental protection, reviving the interstate ecological council to coordinate the implementation of decisions adopted by the higher authorities of the Commonwealth. Practical aspects were on the agenda of the CIS Heads of State Council session; these included preparations for the 70th anniversary of the Soviet People’s Victory in the Great Patriotic War. An international CIS programme of solemn commemorative events is planned, while
Belarus has always supported integration — in various forms — and it’s widely known that the country has been a steady supporter of the CIS, with its further strengthening
an honorary order and medal devoted to the anniversary is to be created. Some issues of economic collaboration were tackled, with heads of state discussing the formation of an integrated currency market and interaction in the field of communication and informatisation. Several agreements relating to security were prepared for signing: the establishment of a council of heads of sub-divisions of financial reconnaissance; training for anti-terrorist subdivisions; and material provision for those involved in battling terrorism and extremism. A united CIS anti-missile defence system was also discussed. The heads of state worked energetically and in high spirits, agreeing all issues. Alexander Lukashenko’s working schedule began with bilateral talks with the President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. The two heads of state are happy with existing interstate co-operation and the wonderful relations between our two nations but are convinced that further development
Participants of the CIS Heads of State Council session in Ashgabat
is possible, extending current business and artistic projects. Mr. Lukashenko thanked Mr. Berdymukhamedov for the recent performance of Akhal-Teke horses in Minsk, assuring his colleague that Belarus is a reliable and responsible partner, whose specialists will fulfil all obligations to construct a potassium facility at the Garlyk mining facility. Before the launch of the summit, Mr. Lukashenko also met his Ukrainian colleague, Viktor Yanukovych, discussing our two states’ interaction and Ukraine’s liaisons with the Customs Union. An extended session of the CIS Heads of State Council then followed, organised promptly owing to preliminary preparation of the agenda. The presidents agreed to jointly celebrate the 70th anniversary of Victory, within a plan of national programmes. The CIS Cultural Capitals inter-state programme is to be continued, as approved by a corresponding decree. The CIS will devote 2013 to ecological awareness and environmental protec-
tion, while creating an integrated foreign currency market, aiming to open a wider financial space to foreign operators. A package of documents was accepted to ensure security. The presidents listened to reports from the CIS InterParliamentary Assembly and agreed that this useful avenue needs further development. Importantly, a decision was made on major procedural issues, with Belarus taking over the CIS presidency from Turkmenistan next year. Mr. Lukashenko assured his colleagues that Belarus will work tirelessly to the benefit of the CIS community. He noted that Belarus has always supported integration — in various forms — and reminded everyone that Belarus has been a steady supporter of the CIS and its further strengthening. Mr. Lukashenko voiced a slogan for his country’s presiding over the organisation next year: ‘Integration for the benefit of all people: strengthening of good neighbourly relations; development of ecological co-operation; and expansion of cultural dialogue.’
By the end of 2012, Belarus will have prepared a concept for its chairmanship and a plan for its realisation. The President voiced its major directions: the development of our common information space; the strengthening of intercultural and inter-ethnic co-operation; the expansion of contacts between scientists, artistic circles, veterans and young people; and the realisation of projects in the field of ecology and environmental protection. He emphasised, “We’ll proceed from the interests of all CIS member states.” The presidency of the CIS was approved by all states, showing that CIS heads of state support Belarus’ position. The Council adopted a declaration on the further development of the CIS’ multi-sided co-operation, as proposed by Turkmenistan. All sides agreed that this has worked efficiently to date and that fruitful work is expected from Belarus, fulfilling our policy of integration within the post-Soviet space. By Vasily Kharitonov
Adjustments in a furniture work shop
of pragmatic sense Contemporary enterprise built on empty site near Mogilev in just over a year
lthough the construction works are still in process, VMG Industry has already begun production of bedroom suites from MDF board. It might seem strange for foreign investors to be interested in yet another furniture producer, since it’s already a crowded global market, but, despite sharp competition, VMG is already set for success. The secret lies in its well-planned strategy, as used by some other domestic enterprises. Rather than producing goods with hope of future sale, which can lead to stockpiling at warehouses and cash flow problems, VMG is manufacturing ‘to order’. The company’s technical director, Victor Shorikov, tells us that his enterprise
has seven years of orders already, ensuring that all start-up costs are covered. He explains, “Over a set period of time, we need to produce a particular number of bedroom suites, so we know exactly what schedule to use to fulfil orders in time. We don’t need to concern ourselves about demand and future sales since every item already has a buyer and price, allowing us to plan our expenditure in advance. We know how much we can afford to pay for raw materials, so can find suppliers to meet our requirements, and can calculate how much we can afford to pay our workers, without any risk of future disappointment.” According to Mr. Shorikov, this strategy also allows the enterprise to
calculate the number of people it needs to employ, ensuring efficiency in every aspect of production; the number of employees is optimised perfectly. At full capacity, around 900 people will be needed, including 45 on the technical side (5 percent of the total — much fewer than is usual). The factory is using contemporary machine-tools, controlled automatically, via online technology, allowing problems to be solved within a few seconds. Clearly, this saves time and money. The enterprise is breaking with established stereotypes and is happy to share its innovations and experience, to help other companies improve their efficiency. By Pavel Mezinov
Mentality able to alter
he country’s wellbeing (and the stability of its currency) depends on sales promotion. Exports are a key factor in Belarus’ economic security so, unsurprisingly, the Government is paying special attention to them of late. Analysing the country’s social-economic development over the past nine months, it is questionable whether all reserves are being used to the full; what can we do to inspire further exports? The Deputy Chairman of the Belarusian Scientific-Industrial Association, Professor Georgy Grits, tells us, “The problem lies in the changing market situation globally. It has been our lifeline of late but the prices of most of our exported goods have fallen: ferrous metals, potash fertilisers and food. Demand is also decreasing. Belarus has joined the Single Economic Space while Russia (our key partner) has become a WTO member. Both structures are based on open market conditions: an equal playing field for all. This creates new opportunities and new risks.” What can be done to improve the situation for Belarus? Strategically, we need to diversify our economy, shifting to new technological approaches and manufacturing products with high added value. Selling raw materials — either beef or timber — does not ensure the necessary profit, even when selling abroad. It usually takes five to seven years to make such a shift, so we need to act now. In our favour, we pay half
The Belarusian economy’s openness is confirmed by exports: 85 percent of all domestically produced goods and services are sold abroad as much as Ukraine for natural gas while we are raising the energy efficiency of our enterprises and reducing the amount of materials used, improving our costs and energy efficiency. Do we undervalue the role of efficient commodity distribution networks? All over the globe, intermediary structures are a natural avenue for sales. They don’t simply buy and sell goods; trading agents seriously study their markets and competitors, making supply requests to producers to reflect their perception of future demand. To some extent, they bear responsibility for what’s manufactured. They also provide after sales services. Many even pay upfront for orders, receiving a discount in return. Internationally, producers are battling for sales, so a wellthought-out marketing policy must be vital... Definitely. Potential production of goods and service globally is double that of demand so promotion is crucial. Traditional sales schemes are no longer effective. Company heads need to be innovative and choose their dealers carefully, checking credit history. Marketing looks beyond current sales to future potential, using strategy to shape demand and research to discover emerging trends. A senior engineer might work directly at the manufacturing facility while the director must create a longer-term strategy involving investors, partners, dealer networks and state programmes. This is the only way to ensure success. By Kirill Yemilyanov
SCIENCE & PRACTICE
cientists from Gomel’s State Te c h n i c a l University have been assessing how best to help enterprises use energy efficiently, coming to the conclusion that energ y intensive production should
switch to night time — when cheaper tariffs apply. This would save money while being beneficial to all parties. Using their own Optima+ software, young scientists Andrey Ivaneichik, Andrey Ku z e ro and A l e x and e r Kharkevich analysed the situation at Gomel’s Tsentrolit
Foundry and at Mozyrsalt JSC. Their recommendation enhances the efficiency of consumption by 5 percent, while reducing energy costs by 12 percent and cutting fuel consumption by over 5 percent. “We’ve even developed a timetable for companies, stipulating specific times
yield fruit, assuming a steady production cycle (as seen usually). Our enterprises are working hard to fulfil orders, relying on demand, supply and availability of raw materials. However, their pace of work varies so they don’t need to work 24/7. If we shift all energy intensive tech-
Challenging re-consideration of economic fundamentals Software developed by Gomel scientists helps save money and energy for particular equipment,” explains the Director of Gomel’s Pavel Sukhoi State Technical University’s Institute forQualificationImprovement and Re-training, Candidate of Technical Sciences Yuri Kolesnik. “Of course, it would be a challenge to achieve the mentioned figures under real production conditions, when many unexpected factors emerge. However, it’s quite possible that we can come close — as the companies’ energ y and technolog y specialists admit. Our recommendations cover large energy intensive enterprises operating under market conditions. The transition of energy intensive processes to night time would
nologies to night time, taking advantage of lower tariffs, it may not have the desired result. We may do better to use less powerful machines during the day. We’re still considering the best strategy.” T h e s c i e nt i s t s h op e to make their Optima+ software more widely known, including simplifying it for less experienced users. They could teach specialists how to use it effectively, supported by the Institute, and the software could more widely go on sale. They hope that the Soviet tradition of making plans based on past results won’t hamper the implementation of the innovation. By Pavel Drobov
Belarus has been ranked 34th among over 170 global economies for its number of fixed broadband Internet users per 100 residents
t is 50th in its number of users of mobile access per 100 residents (18.9 — which is comparable to the average). Belarus is an impressive 21st for the number of households with Internet access; while the world’s average is 20.5 percent, as many as 40.3 percent of Belarusian homes have access. Belarus’ Ministry for Communications believes that ‘the report allows us to positively evaluate the intermediate results of the first year of the National Information and Communication Infrastructure subprogramme being launched’. The latter is part of a national programme to promote ICT services from 2011-2015, aiming to improve Belarus’ ranking by 2015 (as rated by the International Telecommunication Union and the United Nations Organisation). The country plans to advance into the world’s top 30 countries for ICT access.
The report points out the need to encourage the development of broadband Internet access at national level since it aids economic growth and social integration. Currently, xDSL tech-
The growing need for information among Belarusians and, as a result, demand for more Internet access, has encouraged telecom operators to introduce new technologies
nologies remain the most prevalent for wired broadband Internet access across the globe, used for about 60.8 percent of broadband connections. Data transmission via cable television networks — common in some European states — has a share of 19.4 percent. Meanwhile, FTTx technologies are developing fast, with fibre optic cable being laid directly to a subscriber’s private house (14.1 percent of connections) or a flat (2.6 percent). These replace conventional copper wire and enable speeds of up to 100Mbps. As t h e M i n i s t r y c om m e nt s , similar infrastructure development trends are registered in Belarus. The growing need for information among Belarusians and, as a result, demand for more Internet access, has encouraged telecom operators to introduce new technologies. By Andrey Afanasiev
INVESTMENT TOOLS ‘Rouble optimism’ remains
determined Which method of personal saving will be most profitable by the end of the year?
ccording to specialists, bank savings are the most universal investment instrument, although some Belarusians still prefer to save cash at home: in a wardrobe, bedside table or under a mattress. However, despite limited alternatives, some other avenues of saving do exist. Which will be the most profitable by the end of the year?
Vladimir Savenok, a financial consultant and the Head of the Personal Capital Consulting Group, tells us, “You don’t need to be an expert to understand that, at present, the most profitable instrument of saving is the B elarusian Rouble, since it offers a rate hardly found elsewhere. Other instruments are far more modest, with gold values rising by just 10 percent since the beginning of the year. Meanwhile, bonds offer a return limited by initial terms. However, Belarusian bonds circ ulating abroad (Eurob onds) have risen in value by more than 15 percent since early 2012 — in US Dollar equivalent. They began low due to last year’s crisis and are now offering a return of around 8 percent per annum (for minimum investments of $100,000).” He adds that other instruments in Belarus — offered by credit unions an d s i m i l ar i ns t itut i ons — are unsecured, with no guarantee of return if crisis hits. Their high interest rates, which often exceed those of the bank market by several points, need to be viewed with caution. Early in the year, the National Bank of Belarus offered very attractive interest rates for deposits in national currency: 44.7 percent per annum for deposits of up to one year and 46.8 percent for longer periods. By September, rates were more modest: 29.2 percent and 28.2 percent respectively. However, by October, these had risen to 33.7 percent and 38.7 percent. Banks are clearly reluctant to offer greatly higher rates for longer term savings, since they are unable to place such money at a higher longterm rate themselves. Nevertheless, Belarusian Roubles remain one of the most efficient forms of saving. They even offer a profitable return, since the official level of inflation stood at almost 20 percent in November (around half of the rate being earned by national currency deposits in early 2012).
INVESTMENT TOOLS Passive savings lack effectiveness
Moods in the banking sphere do influence depositors. By the end of the year, expectations of devaluation traditionally grow strong in Belarus, with many believing that it’s a good time to spend Belarusian Roubles. “What are the prospects for 2013? In the absence of investment diversity, I’d recommend foreign currenc y savings — in US Dollars and Euros: either held with banks or as cash,” Mr. Savenok is convinced. Vladimir Tarasov, an observer in Belarusy i Rynok (Belarusians and the Market magazine), doesn’t agree completely, noting, “I’d rather invest in Belarusian Roubles, since their interest rates will remain high, regardless of many forecasting a gradual weakening of their exchange rate next year; these high interest rates will definitely compensate.” As far as foreign currency is concerned, he doesn’t cherish any illusions, believing we’ll see a rerun of last year, with foreign currency interest rates definitely falling. In January, Belarusians were able to save foreign currencies with the bank at 7.9 percent per annum for up to one year or 9.2 percent for longer periods. By November, these rates had dropped to 4.9 percent and 6 percent respectively. ‘Mattress’ savings in foreign currencies have brought very little return, proving that money needs to be put to work rather than gathering dust. The exchange rate of the US Dollar has changed insignificantly against the Belarusian Rouble, only slightly exceeding figures from early in the year: in January, it stood at Br8389.87, rising by October to Br8525.53. The exchange rate of the Euro has also altered little, hitting Br11,050.56 from an earlier Br10,822.34.
My house is my castle
Property investment has long been known as a valid alternative to bank saving but there are other ways
to safely ‘store’ your money. Buying property is beyond the reach of many, and requires the investor to ‘lock in’ their money for some period of time — usually at least five years due to outlay on documentation (and the peculiarities of Belarusian legislation). In early January, analytical centre Realt.by noted that the average price per square metre for existing apartments in the Belarusian capital stood at $1,299; by the end of November, this had grown to $1,351, and looks set to rise steadily. New homes are enjoying a similar trend, with each average square metre having reached $1,220 (compared to $1,166 in January).
drop dramatically.” Vladimir Tarasov agrees, saying, “People rarely have enough money to buy homes outright and banking mortgages are few and far between, so prices should soon fall, along with falling demand.”
All that glitters
Belarusians tend to view gold and other precious metals as profitable investments but experts warn that they’re better seen as souvenirs or gifts, since the investment potential of t he ‘gold res er ve’ is mo dest. Mr. Tarasov explains, “I believe that precious metals have exhausted themselves. After a sharp growth in prices over recent years, the market is stabilising and may even see prices fall. Of course, if the exchange rate against the American Dollar or European Euro falls, things may change but this looks unlikely in the near future.”
That one promises to leave
In Belarus, property investment has long been known as a valid alternative to bank savings Experts believe other means are more profitable in terms of capital growth. Financial adviser Vladimir Savenok, who heads Personal Capital, tells us, “I’m quite suspicious of the current market, since construction rates are high countrywide; I think that property prices are likely to
T h e Nat i on a l B an k h a s l ong understood that alternative investment avenues exist and is keen to expand its services to attract citizens’ savings. The Council of Ministers and the Presidential Administration are now approving an interesting draft decree, aiming to open up financial markets and appoint new regulators. In particular, in the short term, leasing, forfaiting and forex services may appear, as well as microfinance i nst itut i ons — i nclu d i ng c re d it unions. The Ministry of Finance is to focus on pensions and other insurance policies, as well as securities. To date, the National Bank has enjoyed a monopoly of about 95 percent of public funds, due to a lack of alternatives; securities, pensions and precious metals comprise just 5 percent of savings. Its desire to nurture undeveloped financial markets is a broad hint to commercial banks that the days of unconditional customer loyalty are over; like other institutions, it will be fighting for investors’ money. By Alexander Burmistrov
of one’s own worth
In a competitive global market, producers are battling for customer loyalty more than ever. Buyers expect quality and reliability, with enterprises investing huge efforts to build a good reputation for their brand
f course, protection is also required for domestic trademarks, to avoid r ut h l e ss r iv a ls from taking unfair advantage. Already, many Belarusian products enjoy demand abroad; furniture, cosmetics, food and knitwear. “Sadly, Belarusian goods aren’t subject to patent protection. Customers look for brands when they shop so manufacturers really need to defend their brand identity; branch associations are working to help them do so,” explains the Director of the Marketing Technologies Centre
NEWS for Strategic Development, Anatoly Akantinov. The situation is complicated by the history behind many old ‘Soviet’ trademarks, whose ownership is much disputed. “We’ve now realised that trademarks exist and that they need protection,” asserts the Chair of the Market Researchers’ Guild Board, Svetlana Petukhova. “However, it’s too time-consuming to try and distinguish each of fifteen companies’ trademarks, deciding what should be done with famous names.” Belarusian manufacturers face two main problems: working within the Single Economic Space and raiding of their trademarks. Already, several law cases have been lost, alongside sales revenue — due to lack of foresight. The international registration of trademarks is now a necessity. “In 2010, around 100 registrations were made; in 2011, the figure doubled. This year, t h e r e h av e b e e n about 240 trademarks registered,” explains patent agent Valentin Rachkovsky. “It’s not enough to register in Belarus though; you need to do so in each Customs Union state. Only then can we assert that a brand is protected.” The Bank of E-Passports for Commodities is designed to help, notes the Director of the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences’ Centre of Identification Systems, Gennady Volnisty. “The database allows each product to be recorded, using up to 80 parameters. Barcodes are then issued to include the code of the product and its registered company within a certain territory.” The database already unites over seven million products, from around 4,000 domestic producers. Each product has
a detailed description and photos may soon be added (especially for products which lack a bar-code). This should help control production and sales, with forged goods more easily detectable. Mr. Volnisty adds, “The Belarusian Bank of E-Passports for Commodities is part of a system of global standards, uniting 150 countries. We’ll continue our work. We recently proposed that the Customs Union Commission and the Eurasian Economic Commission establish a single trading information space for the Customs Union — based on the standards and technologies of e-business.” Clearly, this would be an advance in ensuring transparency, market regulation and customer protection. According to calculations by the Belarusian NAS, our country’s economic potential is at least $10 trillion, ensuring annual GDP growth of 10-15 percent (until 2020). NAS academician Piotr Nikitenko tells us that no external loans are needed to achieve these figures. Such growth should significantly increase standards of living, with people living longer and raising larger families. How e v e r, m a ny producers are yet to realise the true value of their brand — either through false modesty or ignorance. The size of the global market is such that a reputable brand is priceless; it can even be used to sell unrelated goods, such as ‘branded’ T-shirts. Wise utilisation can add up to 25 percent onto a product’s price. The BelBrand 2012 rating (annually prepared by MMP Consulting Agency) shows that ‘Santa Bremor’ is Belarus’ number one brand name — worth $75.3m. In second place is ‘Milavitsa’ ($71.5m), followed by ‘Babushkina Krynka’ ($49.2m).
Giant for a giant 130 tonne unit arrives at country’s largest oil refinery: Novopolotsk’s Naftan JSC
he new coking unit has been a major investment for Naftan — in scale of size and funds. The 130 tonne unit (21m long and 6.5m in diameter) left from Klaipeda, transported by BelDorTyazhTrans JSC, which won the tender. Director Valery Pristavka tells us that the journey took ten days, although preparation work took 7-8 months. Naftan’s specialists helped choose the best route, checking the road; the size of the load required the lifting of 212 electric lines — including around a hundred on Belarusian territory. Moreover, oil workers have also deepened passages under overhead roads and a Czech 14-axis modular trailer was used to transport the construction, travelling at a speed of no more than 25 km/h (just 2-3 km/h along some sections). Naftan had other parts of the coking unit delivered previously: 24 parts of two coking chambers for high refinery of oil-tar and a fractionation column (weighing 180 tonnes and having a length of 45m) were delivered by the same route in September. The total volume of injections stands at around $733m, with Naftan being the single investor. The unit should be ready for launch by late 2015, enabling Naftan to increase its degree of oil refinery to at least 92 percent. Importantly, the realisation of the project will result in higher efficiency and quality, meeting high European standards.
By Marina Dorokhova
Cascade of 120 megawatt energy The Vitebsk Region launches largest hydroelectric project in country’s history
n the Zapadnaya Dvina, a cascade of four hydroelectric power stations is planned to open by 2 0 1 8 , w it h a total capacity of over 120 megawatts: enough to satisfy six cities with a population of 100,000 people. Construction has begun on two such plants — in the Vitebsk and Polotsk districts; the Verkhnedvinsk and Beshenkovichi plants will follow. The village of Luchno is 10km from Polotsk, boasting one of the most powerful rivers in Belarus. It’s the ideal spot for a hydroelectric power station. In fact, the Zapadnaya Dvina River has the most such potential of all our rivers, being fast flowing and over 150m wide. The Polotsk District’s section is to be
dammed, so that a hydroelectric power plant can be built 25m tall. Water will then pass through a controlled artificial channel. About 100,000 cubic metres of sand have already been ordered, ready to make cement for the structure. Vitebskenergo is a customer of the construction of the Polotsk and Vitebsk hydroelectric power stations while Minsk’s Belnipienergoprom has designed the project. The tender for construction was won by Russian Technopromexport, which is known for building power plants in Asia, South America and Africa during the Soviet years. It even constructed Aswan hydroelectric power plants on the Nile, where the dam is over 110m tall. Vl a d i m i r Kom i s s arov, C h i e f Engineer for Technopromexport in Belarus, is based at the Chuvash hydro-
electric power station: the large complex on the Volga. He notes that Polotsk’s hydroelectric power plant will be more modest, explaining, “Its water, turning the turbine, will fall from 8m above: quite sufficient to produce electricity. Czech firm Mavel is to supply the equipment which will be installed for launch by the summer of 2015.” The dam’s height remains modest to ensure that nearby villages and farmlands are safe from flooding. Dmitry Tarasenko, Deputy Director of HPP construction in Polotsk for Vitebskenergo, tells us that water levels around Luchno won’t exceed those seen during spring floods, so no residential resettlement will be necessary. Only the levels around Turovlyanka and Ulla rivers will rise, necessitating new bridges: the usual approach.
NEWS Polotsk’s HPP is plan. By 2020, this aims to Polotsk’s being built with funds dependence via the station alone reduce f rom t h e Eu r a s i an use of renewable and alterD e velopment B an k will save over native energy sources. while Chinese corpoOf course, the other 35,000 cubic ration CNEEC will advantages of hydrometres of build the plant near the electric power are that Vitebsk District’s village standard fuel it’s cheaper and more annually, of Bukatino, with help eco-friendly. Polotsk’s from Chinese Exim worth about station alone will save Bank for the purchase over 35,000 cubic metres of Chinese equipment. of standard fuel annually, B eshen kov ichi and worth about $7.5m. Verkhnedvinsk’s plants The money can then be are to b e bu i lt by spent on other projects Turkish company CET, in the energ y sector. at its own expense; it The Zapadnaya Dvina will then own the sites cascade will also slow the for 30 years, after which million dollars flow of water, allowing they’ll be given freely Besides, the freight traffic and tourist to Belarus: the first to take place, cascade will cruising such co-operation with thanks to the locks which make the foreign investors for our will be in operation. Near Zapadnaya country. reservoirs, we may see Lukoml state district recreational areas, lodges Dvina power plant produces and fish farms appear, navigable about 40 percent of the inspiring wider developcountry’s electricity at ment of the economy and present, burning natural gas; of course, boosting infrastructure. this means dependence on imported raw The Vitebsk Region already has six hydrocarbon. By harnessing the natural mini hydroelectric power plants on its power of water, Belarus will be taking smaller rivers, with a combined capacity steps towards fulfilling its energy security of just over 2 megawatts.
By Sergey Gomonov
Expert opinion: Victor Antonik, Head of the Department for Vitebskenergo’s Promising Development and Design: Consumption of Belarusian energy has reached 6,000 megawatts so the project on the Zapadnaya Dvina River won’t significantlyinfluencethecountry’s energy balance. This can only be achieved by the nuclear power plant. We’ll continue to burn gas but hydroelectric power plants, such as are being constructed, can ensure the security of the petrochemical enterprises in Polotsk and Novopolotsk, where even short
power cuts can lead to production failure and, at worst, technogenic catastrophe. In addition, an energy efficient unit producing 400 megawatts is to come into operation at Lukoml state regional power plant within the next five years. It’s being built by the Chinese. Moreover, two mini heat power plants are to launch in Vitebsk and Baran, built by an Austrian company and using local fuels.
Booking a place in electronic queue It’s now possible to book your border crossing time online
he customs services of Belarus and Poland have agreed to pilot ‘e-queuing’, allowing people to book their time for crossing the border online, alleviating the problem of queuing at checkpoints. At recent meetings for the heads of our two countries’ customs services, hosted by Bialystok, Poland presented the experimental project. The Internet booking system is to trial in Poland and, if successful, will be adopted by Belarus. The Poles have also suggested using ‘green corridors’ for passenger traffic. Belarus is to trial the idea in Bruzgi, in preparation for possible use during the 2014 IIHF World Championship.
Interesting offer for tourists Purchases of just Br800,000 to quality for tax free benefits
he Deputy Minister for Trade, Irina Narkevich, has told the press that long discussions have resulted in the decision to allow foreign visitors to reclaim tax on purchases which total about $100. “Lithuania and Poland offer tax rebates on purchases of about $50 while, in Italy, the figure stands at about 180-190 Euros,” the Deputy Minister explains. The Baltic States already operate such a system and Russia is debating the idea.
Twin city derives from the word
Minsk and Indian Bangalore, Grodno and French Limoges, Brest and Polish Biała Podlaska, Vitebsk and Latvian Daugavpils…
hree hundred Belarusian cities are currently twinned with others in more than 35 countries worldwide. The international movement for such twinning has proven a powerful form of public diplomacy for many years, bringing collaboration in the spheres of trade, culture, science, education, medicine and environmental protection. Our nations are brought closer as a result. Most of Belarus’ twin cities are in neighbouring Russia, with close relations being established with 76 Russian cities. In November, Minsk hosted the 7th meeting of twin towns and partners of Russia and Belarus, with the presidents of both states sending their greetings to participants. Executive Vice-President of the Twin Cities International Association Sergei Paramonov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipontiary of the Russian Federation to Belarus H.E. Mr. Alexander Surikov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipontiary of the Republic of Belarus to Russia H.E. Mr. Igor Petrishchenko and the Executive Secretary of the Twin Towns Public Association Nina Ivanova
Partnership with economic focus
The event gathered 160 participants from 55 Russian cities and 35 Belarusian: heads of municipal departments, employees of state run public authorities and directors of enterprises. Before the meeting commenced, a speech was given by Nina Ivanova — the Chair of the Presidium of the Belarusian Society for Friendship and Cultural Ties with Foreign Countries. She noted that the forum differs from previous events in being the largest to date. She added, “Its goal is to enhance the efficiency of business interaction between our two states. Today, Belarus is actively developing, modernising its economy and
‘brother’ opening up new opportunities for investments by Russian partners.” According to the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Belarus, H.E. Mr. Alexander Surikov, 80 (out of 83) Russian Federation regions are already directly cooperating with Belarusian partners. In all, 39 cities have been twinned and, last year, mutual trade turnover, reinforced by these connections, reached $39bn. It is likely to achieve $40-41bn by the end of 2012. Belarus and Russia have exceeded pre-crisis volumes of 2008, while many thousands of jobs have been created. Disposable incomes have risen and people’s standard of living is ever improving. The potential of bilateral relationships is gradually being revealed via the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space (and, we hope, via the future Single Economic Union). Mr. Surikov notes the benefits of such unions, saying, “We now have freedom of movement for goods and services, as well as for capital and labour. These approaches bring opportunities for new joint projects. The Russian Embassy is to provide assistance to Russian trade representatives in Belarus, helping
Participants of the Twin Cities meeting lied a wreath on the Pobedy Square in Minsk
set up mutually beneficial contacts and developing businesses.” Existing successful ventures were named by Boris Batura, the Chairman of the Minsk Regional Executive Committee and the Head of the Belarusian Twin Towns Public Association. Several modernisation projects are to be found in the Minsk Region: Avgust-Bel JSC (Pukhovichi District), which manufactures pesticides; Krupki horticultural factory; and Smolevichi’s veterinary preparations and forage additives plant. He is convinced that further bilateral collaboration is possible, stressing, “As part of twin relations, we attend familiarisation trips, seminars and exhibitions, trade fairs and cultural events. However, we need to start thinking bigger.” Areas for co-operation were presented concisely at the forum, with three thematic sections: housing construction, the processing industry and agriculture. Participants visited enterprises and agricultural co-operative farms, seeing with their own eyes that Belarus boasts a high culture of manufacturing competitive goods which should be promoted more actively to the Russian market. Alexandra Kovaleva, the Deputy Head of Rzhev Administration, was inspired by her visit to Minsk’s dairy factory #1 and meat packing factory. She now plans to set up a specialised department at
the municipal trade enterprise to sell Belarusian food products. Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Lyuban District Executive Committee, Vasily Akulich, has called on our Russian partners to promote Belarusian trade houses in twin cities. Such collaboration should support the economies of both our states.
Lobnya ever closer to Volozhin
Remarkably, the number of twin cities increased even during the forum, with corresponding agreements signed between Lobnya and Volozhin, Dzerzhinsky and Dzerzhinsk, and Kostroma and Bobruisk. Mr. Batura especially noted the fact, saying, “Pleasingly the twin-city movement continues to
gather momentum and popularity. This inspires optimism and confidence that we’re on the right path.” Mr. Batura is keen to see Belarus and Russia modernising their industries and establishing innovative manufacturing, using well trained personnel, the richest mineral resources from Russia, large scientific centres in both states and banking capital. Attractive conditions have been created for business, enabling Belarus to spark the interest of serious investors. In line with the World Bank rating, our country has shifted from 69th to 57th place, outstripping Russia. Mr. Batura has urged partners to join in creating small enterprises (employing up to 50 people) oriented towards high valueadded produce. Injections are still needed in Russia and Belarus in the spheres of science, machine building, instrument making, micro-electronics, telecommunications, bio- and nano-technologies and space exploration. Within a year, current agreements should be bearing fruit. The 8th meeting of twin cities is to be hosted by Russia and its agenda is already taking shape. Mr. Batura has proposed that twin cities report on their economic development, explaining, “We need to have full information on the number of economic agreements and treaties signed by twin cities, in order to follow the results of joint regional developments. We must realise concrete investment projects and set up more joint ventures.” By Liliya Khlystun
Belarus’ first twin city treaty was signed by Minsk and Nottingham (UK) in 1957, later joined by regional and district centres. The Belarusian Society for Friendship and Cultural Ties with Foreign Countries co-ordinated the move and, in 1995, the Belarusian Twin Towns Public Association was founded. In 2010, Boris Batura, the Chairman of the Minsk Regional Executive Committee, was elected the head of its board. The Belarusian Twin Towns Public Association is a collective member of the International Twinning Association. The Belarusian Twin Towns Public Association currently unites 31 Belarusian cities twinned with 313 cities from 35 countries worldwide. Its most active participants are Brest (23 twin cities), Minsk (15), Baranovichi and Lida (14 each), Gomel (11) and Mogilev (10).
of unique opportunities Nano-materials and nano-tubes allow strength and endurance to be raised. To date, it has been too expensive to use nano-tubes in mass production. However, the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Heat and Mass Transfer is preparing a breakthrough, having developed several devices to generate nano-materials
Senior researcher Yevgeny Prikhodko
ne aims to produce multi-wall nanotubes, boasting great energy efficiency. The Russian Academy of Sciences’ Sib e r i an br anch has created the necessary catalyst, so manufactured products could be supplied to Russia to make hightech products — such as space craft. The project is an example of Belarusian-Russian scientific collaboration in nano-technologies — under the SG Union State programme, which was launched in 2009 and runs until late 2012. It covers 35 major projects, opening the doors to many fantastic possibilities and inspiring international interest. Work on nano-materials and nanotechnologies began at the beginning of this millennium, with some results achieved accidentally through intuition — as often occurs. Since then, the sphere has taken off, with a laboratory of nuclear-power microscopy set up and expensive diagnosing equipment purchased. The Deputy Director of the Institute for Heat and Mass Transfer, Kirill Dobrego, guides us to the laboratory of high-speed processes, where senior researcher Yevgeny Prikhodko shows us a stand for covering silica solar batteries with superthin protective covers, via a plasma discharge. Unlike pre v i ou s m e t h o d s , t h i s Belarusian approach halves the working temp erature of the process, while requiring no vacuum. “Such films can be placed on polymers and many other materials,” states Mr. Prikhodko, adding, “We offer high speed and relative cheapness.” Another laborat o r y i s i nv o l v e d i n pro du c i ng membrane
NEWS filters for separating gases, liquids and biological molecules — via super-thin coverage of micro-porous materials. Properties of coverage can be managed, allowing a filter to be self-cleaning, distinguishing certain materials. Many of the Belarusian scientists’ developments are likely to enjoy demand in other high-tech branches — such a watch making and the electronic and optical industries. Diamond-like carbon fields can be used as a universal protective covering, resistant to aggressive environments and mechanical influence, while being current-conducting or dielectric, lustrous or anti-glare. Many Belarusian developments focus on the space sphere, as co-operation between Belarusian scientists and the Russian Space Agency is already a tradition. Nano-additives to fuel space craft have great prospects, improving the combustion of fuel and enhancing efficiency. However, these technologies also have application on Earth, being able to enhance the quality of off-grade fuel (used for ordinary energy facilities and engines), yielding great economic results. “Our Russian colleagues are supervising their part of the programme,” explains Mr. Dobrego. “Of course, we exchange information, ‘trying out’ their results in our conditions. Meanwhile, we jointly oversee some aspects: our Institute produces a special facility to polish optic elements with high accuracy, while super-accurate lenses (curvature measured in Angstrom units) are being supplied by the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Chemistry of High-Purity Substances. Over the course of time, a complex of functional equipment for space craft should launch, using absolutely new technologies to help reduce the satellite’s weight 2-3-fold, and improving possibilities of remote Earth sensing, while reducing costs. Both Belarus and Russia are interested in such co-operation, with their liaisons in mastering space ever expanding.
clusters to unite three states Common cyber infrastructure for Belarus, Russia and Moldova
he CIS innovative development programme is next being discussed at the forthcoming session of the CIS Heads of Government, envisaging the creation of joint supercomputer centres to develop telecommunication infrastructure and new software. It is yet to be decided where exactly the supercomputer clusters will be placed. A supercomputer cluster could also be created in association with Chinese Inspur, with support from the State Science and Technology Committee
Technological solutions to improve search Belarus and Russia to create contemporary complexes for seismic surveillance
cientists from our two countries are to us e t he SK I F- Ne d r a pro g r am m e to c re ate m o d e r n software and hardware solutions for seismic surveying, explains Alexander Moskovsky, the Director General of
as part of the Belarus-China sci-tech co-operative programme. Naturally, Belarusian scientists also take part in European projects, with Belarus included in European grid-infrastructure. Belarus is a full member of the EGI-Inspire project (Integrated Sustainable Pan-European Infrastructure for Researchers in Europe) explains Prof. Alexander Tuzikov, who is the Director General of the United Institute of Informatics Problems (UIIP) at the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. The Doctor of Physical-Mathematical Sciences tells us, “We support our own segment but computing influences everything else. Meanwhile, it’s good for us to make use of European resources.” Russian RSK Technologies. He notes that major oil companies require such analysis, with several dozen such working in Russia alone. SKIF-Nedra envisages the development of domestic software and hardware solutions for the future, helping survey for extractable resources. At present, Russian companies are using nonspecialised computers and imported software for this purpose, while paying considerably more. “The programme should favourably influence the development of high-tech companies which create high added value,” asserts Mr. Moskovsky.
By Vladimir Yakovlev
rushes into the sky
t boasts 30 floors (five minutes by lift) but the final four flights are still only accessible on foot. The steps are rather icy but the builders only laugh, as they are used to climbing precarious structures. They originally traversed 15 floors without a lift, carrying tools and construction materials, in worse weather. Along the way, we explore the layout; by 2013, residents will be moving into some of the 204 apartments. Their area ranges from 61 square metres to 179, with one to four rooms and two-level penthouses on the upper floors, with access to an open terrace. The views are amazing, revealing the city in its full glory. So far, only 40 apartments have been sold but property developers are confident that the ‘ready to move into’ homes will prove popular. Only a small part of the first floor is to be set aside for commercial outlets, with about 40 percent already sold. Spacious parking for 250 cars is also planned. Unlike another skyscraper whose construction is to begin a little closer to the centre in spring, the Parus is designed as living accommodation rather than office space. Together, they form an ultra-modern urban ensemble which is sure to add some flavour to Minsk, asserts Vladimir Alexandrovich, the Director
The tallest building in the Belarusian capital now rises 133 metres. Known as the Parus, it’s located at the crossing of three of Minsk’s busiest streets: Timiryazev, Kalvariyskaya and Maxim Tank General of the developing company. He tells us, “By next April, the first skyscraper in Belarus will also be the first residential building to have a glass façade. It will serve as a sun screen in summer and reduce heat loss in winter. Being Belarus’ first such building, construction workers have reinforced the structure 3-4 fold more than usually required, to cover themselves; no code exists for such designs.” Over $50m is being invested, with developers emphasising that only advantages are evident — including new jobs and higher standards of housing. Although skyscrapers are generally considered to be over 150m tall, while the Parus is just 133m, anything over 30 floors is usually designated within the category. Of course, Minsk’s low level skyline and modest population negates the need for skyscrapers on a par with those in the United Arab Emirates. On New Year’s Eve, fireworks will be launched from the roof of the Parus, giving a view from further afield. Incidentally, Minsk already has a building called the Parus Business Centre, on Melezh Street, but it has only 16 floors. The developers joke, “The more sails we have, the further we’ll sail.” By Olga Pasiyak
Statistics empower state Belarus is CIS leader in car ownership per capita
Men in demographic reflection Demographic data shows that, in early 2012, there were 4.5m men in Belarus — just under half of the population, with three quarters residing in cities Urbanities younger than villagers
Annually, over 50,000 boys are born countrywide (in 2011, 56,000). On average, there are 945 baby girls for every thousand boys: 947 in cities and 939 in rural areas. As of early 2012, the average age of Belarusian men stood at 37 years, with those living in cities and towns being younger than those in villages (35.8 and 40.3 years respectively). Over all, the
average age of men is five years younger than that of women.
Life begins at 40
Surprisingly, despite there being more women than men countrywide, there’s a lack of brides in the age category of under 33. “Older men are more greatly outnumbered by women, with the greatest difference seen among the elderly; by 65, there are 1.5 times fewer men than women aged 73. A significant 33 percent of men create families aged 25-29 while the average age for a bridegroom marrying for the first time was 26.6 years in 2011; for second marriages, 40 is the average.”
ccording to the National Statistical Committee of Belarus, as of early 2012, there were 280 personally owned cars per 1,000 citizens. In Russia, this figure stood at 242 while Kazakhstan’s was 203; Ukraine’s was 143 and Kyrgyzstan’s was a modest 64. Since 2000, Belarusian ownership of cars has doubled, from 139 per 1,000 residents. It rose to 180 in 2005, 230 in 2009 and 264 in 2010. CIS Interstate Statistical Committee reports have been used to produce The Belarus and the CIS States catalogue, which presents statistical information on the socioeconomic development of Belarus compared to other CIS countries f rom 2000 to 2011. It tackles issues of demographics, employment, standards of living and gross domestic product. It also details average statistical data on the development of key branches: industry, agriculture, construction, transport and communications, and the consumer market. Data describing foreign trade is also published.
Give up smoking and get fit
Curiously, one poll shows that 32 percent of men assessed their health as good in early 2002, compared to 36.5 percent in early 2012. Moreover, a quarter of all men are involved in physical exercise while the number of s m o ke r s h a s f a l l e n s t e a d i l y ; however, half of all men still smoke (as of early 2012).
Links of time
lexander Kovalenya, of the B elarusian National Academy of Sciences’ Department for Humanitarian Sciences and Arts, and a doctor of historical sciences, gives us his opinions. Can we use the past to guide our future? It might seem incredible but this is what historians do. Many are found at ancient Neolithic or Bronze Age settlements during summer digs. However, Professor Kovalenya prefers to study little known pages from the Great Patriotic War. His doctoral thesis was devoted to the origin, structure and activity of pro-German unions of youth in Belarus from 1941-1944. One of his colleagues explains, “This is the first fundamental work here or abroad to be devoted to the investigation of a politically acute problem. Until recently, it had failed to be scientifically explained.” B e fore d i s c u ss i ng h i stor i c a l science or sharing thoughts on the most remarkable events of the past year, Mr.Kovalenya takes us back to Belarus’ past. The National Academy of Sciences’ Archaeological Museum has an exhibition entitled ‘Development of Archaeological Science at the Belarusian NAS’. It’s the only such show here or abroad, presenting the most interesting artefacts discovered by Belarusian archaeologists on our territory. Among them are mammoth bones, arrow heads, coins and, even, whole ancient settlements. The museum is worthy of its own article and artefacts from the exhibition were collected when Mr. Kovalenya headed the Institute (from October 2004). The museum opened in 2007, on the eve of the 1st session of scientists — although Belarusian historians were eager to see it open earlier, in the 1930s (when the Institute of Belarusian Culture — a predecessor of the Academy — was operational). Mr.Kovalenyajoins me at the History Institute’s beautifully decorated Hall of Sittings — now headed by his pupil, Vyacheslav Danilovich.
Mr.Kovalenya, why do you love history? I’d like to say that I’ve inherited my passion from my ancestors but, sadly, I know little of them. I remember my mother’s father,Zabelo Alexander; he headed a village council and was a highly educated and respected man. With writer and genealogist Anatoly StatkevichCheboganov, I’m researching the roots of this noble family.
teacher, an elementary school head and a partisan. My father was respected by all; he received two orders, showing how highly he was appreciated. I’m also known in the district — but not as the Belarusian NAS’ academicsecretary, a doctor or a professor. I’m known as a son of the teacher. Young people from neighbouring villages were taught by my father and, as I was told at a scientific conference in Kopyl, he is still
Key moments from past year
What will we remember of 2012? What facts and events from our country’s life will attract the most attention from future generations? We can only guess... Time and historians will sift all that we view as important today,analysing each aspect. Of course, the end of the year always inspires such speculation My grandfather’s wife,Yustina, was from a wealthy family but my father was a simple man. He graduated from the Mozyr Pedagogical College and then worked in the Kopyl District for some time. I was born in Kopyl in 1946. My father’s business and his participation in the partisan movement inspired my interest in history: Alexander Kovalenya is still remembered in the village of Sadki — where our large family lived — as a
remembered widely. I’ve been recognised as an honourary citizen of the district. Words of memory and history are close in their meaning... I grew up with people having first hand memories of the war. All my teachers took part and wore great-coats. This also sparked my interest in history. They’d come from the frontline and their high spirits and determination were transferred to us children. I remember
Links of time
Academician-secretary Alexander Kovalenya is proud of the books on history published in Belarus in recent years
excursions to battle fields, where we’d put the graves of our countrymen in order. Later, during my studies at Minsk’s Construction College and my time with the airborne troops, war became a key theme. I’ll always remember one of my commanders (a war participant) who wrote a poem about the Sapun Mountain. He read it to me with deep feeling. Did you ever wish to join the military?
I did! I even entered Military College but, after studying for a while, I realised thatIdislikedhikingandlivinginbarracks. I enjoy freedom. Science has no rules so it’s a paradise for anyone eager to learn something new; force produces nothing. Your soul is the most essential element, alongside a methodical approach and some creativity. Wonderfully, the History Institute is filled with a spirit of artistry. Is the same true of the museum?
Just look at the books our Institute has published recently. Among them is Belarus’ Archaeological Legacy — a richly illustrated album depicting our findings, includingdetails on the place, time and those who discovered them. This mini-encyclopaedia honours the country and its scientific historians. Its release is the event of the year — to be long remembered. In 2009, the first volume of the Great Historical Atlas was published; we are now completing a second volume and are starting work on the third and fourth. The series is a landmark, as our neighbours lack similar editions. This year, we organised an international scientific-practical conference entitled Republic of Belarus — 20 Years of Independence. Not long ago, a collection of materials was published: a serious edition for researchers, written by experts in history and politics. The conference gathered chairs from all over the Republic, with each participant contributing to our research of recent history. Interestingly, the Academy’s Institute has its own chair of recent history. We organised the conference jointly with the Academy of Management — under the President of the Republic of Belarus. It was the first such major event of its kind. Among our other recent achievements is the launch of the unique seriesHistory of the Belarusian State. A second volume is soon to be released.It throws light on the origins of our nation, describing its development, and looks at Belarus from its Russian Empire days until 2010. It’s the first such profound study and a true achievement. Each school and university should have a copy. I speak with authority, having a teaching diploma. I also lectured at the Belarusian Maxim Tank State Pedagogical University for a long time. Is it difficult to write about modern history? Yes, since we cannot give any ‘final words’: our heirs will be better placed to do so. We must try to be objective, with ascientific approach. It’s not like writing fiction, since each word and date
Links of time is important. It’s also difficult to ‘write history’ when those who took part are still alive. We’ve done our best to describe everything in detail, avoiding exaggeration or underestimation. We need to put aside our own individual points of view, creating a blank sheet of facts and objective analysis. Time will show whether we’re right about social trends. Really, great ideas can be seen from a distance. We also need to demonstrate what’s been achieved so far. I’ve travelled a great deal through Belarus recently and have seen how beautiful our cities and villages have become. People’s eyes are shining. Over the past 20 years, we’ve acquired a new view of ourselves and our neighbours; we are now more bold and brave. Don’t you love our agrotowns? They’re different and people treat them differently. They represent a trend forwards. Our desire to nurture the agro-complex allows Belarus to be among the few European states supplying its own domestic food needs to the full. We’re also exporting high quality agricultural products. I believe that our agricultural industry is in a good state. Of course, rural areas have problems yet to be tackled but progress is evident. This year, over 10 tonnes of grain and corn were harvested. Do you consider this worth remarking upon? Definitely! All citizens should be proud of this achievement by our agricultural workers. I’m convinced that the figure would have been higher if the weather had been kinder. I remember when 1,500kg per hectare was a record; now, 4,000kg is the norm. Our Snov farm collected 9,000kg — so the sky is the limit. Our soil isn’t perfect but high harvests show that we boast a profound culture of grain growing and developed infrastructure. This has been achieved by our people, with help from talented
scientists. Of course, we illustrate such achievements and landmarks in our books. One classical author wrote ‘ploughs are the starting point’and it’s true. Our nation is built from agriculture upwards, although we’re now highly intellectual and cultured. We’ve overcome all obstacles thrown at us through history.
Which obstacles? We all know that Belarus is situated at the geopolitical crossroads, at the centre of Europe. Global spiritual processes generate new energy here. Dozens of wars have affected our territory, killing people and destroying their achievements, hampering our progress. According to some estimates, around a hundred conflicts have passed through Belarus. However, we’ve managed to retain so
many national traditions — even more than our neighbours. We boast our own view of the world and paths to harmonious existence. We believe that tolerance and open heartshelp us flourish,rather than obstinacy or ‘double standards’ (as observed in some countries). We’ve preser ved our language, culture, traditions and spiritual and materialtreasures — despite many art works, books and precious archives being taken out of t h e c o u nt r y during cruel times of war. Morality was absent during the period of German occupation. We even risked losing our B e l ove z hs k ay a Pushcha, since its trees were steadily being cut. We sometimes fail to tell our foreign friends and coming generations of our spiritual strength but we should be proud of it. The History Institute is working to promote this approach. How? Scientist-historians don’t just dig up the past; rather, they work for the future, promoting our rich historical-cultural legacy and achievements. Every year, we organise dozens of events countrywide; this year, I attended 46 conferences, delivering speeches. We’re eager to share our knowledge. InKopyl, the local history teachers and school heads talked to me for an hour and a half, discussing
Links of time the Kopyl District’s rich history, among other subjects. The conference Kopyl: History from Ancient Times to Modern Days wasorganised jointly by the History Institute and the District Executive Committee — dedicated to the 360th anniversary of the town’s acquiring the Magdeburg Right. It had three sections, hosted by the gymnasium, museum and District Executive Committee. Each attracted crowds who stayed late into the evening. Related materials will soon be published, as is now usual following a conference. In Kopyl, schoolchildren also gave speeches and we awarded those young people who have done most to study their local history. Our Institute expressed its gratitude, inspiring young people’s further interest. Interest is also being seen among those with no professional connection to history — such as businessman and writer Anatoly Statkevich-Cheboganov. Not long ago, he was awarded a ‘Patron of Books’ diploma by the Information Ministry. Representatives of the Belarusian
To arouse people’s interest in their native land, Anatoly Vasilevich has been writing books — distributed all over the world — and giving reports at scientific conferences. It’s wonderful but I think we should have a hundred or more such fundamental researchers. With Mr.Vasilevich, we’ve decided to establish an organisation (perhaps public) to study family trees. We hope that the history of our homeland will be viewed differently as a result. Presenting his books at the National Library, he spoke of setting up a fund to co-ordinate such activities. Some have money and the desire to learn more about their family tree, while others are capable of working with archives and some have journalistic talent, being able to write about history, interviewing eye witnesses. It’s a good idea and we’ve already discussed it several times — including at an international conference in Polotsk. A researcher’s approach envisages the publishing of a document but scientists are interested in analysing data. How do these two
We need to uncover an important layer of documents. Interestingly, when we arrived in St. Petersburg to continue studying the Belovezhskaya Pushcha’s history, we discovered documents wrapped in splintin the 17th or 18th century and since unused diaspora in Russia have shown interest in his seriesI’m Your Son — Chronicles of the Belarusian Gentry,which has been on show at our Embassy. It’s no secret that we’ve a different outlook these days, concentrating on facts and the contribution of Belarus to world development. We should be remembering all the talented people who were born here and there are a great many — including Kazimir Semenovich who, 260 years ago, proposed the idea of a multi-stage rocket.
aspects interrelate? A great job will have been done when we manage to analyse everything published. As far as I know, the History Institute is doing much to study our historical legacy, studying documents. Our scientists pin great hopes on foreign archives... There are about 600 books on the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in our archives, uniting materials which shed light on the Medieval period of Belarusian history. We’ve published eight books so
far, with the ninth being prepared — all accompanied by commentary. We plan to publish around a hundred editions on the history of our modern territory. We’ll be objective, avoiding hypothesis or speculation. Afterwards, we’ll be able to prepare fundamental works — all based on facts. With the Department for Archives and with help from Vladimir Adamusho, we’re working on this now, aiming to publish objective editions. Let our heirs judge us. We need to uncover an important layer of documents. Interestingly, when we arrived in St. Petersburg to continue studying the Belovezhskaya Pushcha’s history, we discovered documents wrapped in splintin the 17th or 18th century and since unused. History is a living science, with our understanding adapting as new documents are discovered. We still have many documents to study, so the work of the History Institute is unique: all papers are being verified and commented upon by professional historians. Those employed at higher educational establishments have no time to work in archives, since they sometimes need to lecture 800 hours a year. The History Institute is proud of its work with foreign archives, although such trips do not always bear fruit. If we’re lucky, a discovery can be made in just one day — as when we are digging. We’re ‘ploughing a virgin field’ and are proud to do so. We wish to present our history in a way fitting for an independent state, giving a national view. Otherwise, there is no need for historians. Why should the state allocate funding if not for our historians to write our national history? We don’t work in isolation, liaising closely with Ukraine and Russia. Already, several agreements have been signed with the Moscow State University, the Institute of Slavic Studies and the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of General History. We also co-operate with Siberian historians. This is how our history is being written. By Ivan Zhdanovich
Berezina River —
a symbol of reconciliation Belarusian, Russian and French flags fly at commemorative event marking 200th anniversary of 1812 War, held on Brilevskoe field
r i l e v sko e f i el d, n e a r B o r i s o v, saw thousands of Russian and French soldiers fall in 1812. After an unsuccessful crossing of the Berezina, the largest military force of its time was defeated. The Napoleonic troops fled West in what resembled a stampede. Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Tozik has told journalists
that this year has seen many conferences and exhibitions of archival materials conducted. New tourist routes have been developed and a joint BelarusianFrench archaeological dig has been organised, with remains of unknown Russian and French soldiers reburied ceremoniously. One more e vent remains, as the chairman of the Minsk Region Executive Committee, Boris Batura, notes, “Many of t he B elar usian and Russian cities through w hich t he ar mies of Nap oleon and Kutuzov travelled are c on n e c t e d by t w i n relations. S m a l l e r towns are also joining in, with the rural settlement of Borodino, near Moscow,
being twinned with Veselovsky Rural Council in the Borisov District; their territories saw the most wide-scale of tragedies in 1812. Belarusians and Russians would be happy to see European cities join in similar twinning since this would be the most fitting tribute to the memories of all victims of the 1812 War.” European diplomats were invited to the memorial ceremony, at which the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Belarus, H.E. Mr. Michel Raineri, gave a speech, noting, “In 1812, Europe had yet to reach equilibrium, being in turmoil. There was no established legal system, which resulted in pain and conflict. Unfortunately, Europe faced more conflicts in the years to come before war was replaced by dialogue. Those soldiers who fought 200 years ago, regardless of their leadership or army allegiance, would doubtless have preferred dialogue to combat — if they had enjoyed such a choice.” …Of course, no such choice existed and they were obliged to obey
HISTORICAL REVIEW Exhibition of unique issues World’s largest collection of alphabet books in Vitebsk
Historical reenactment of a battle on Brilevskoe field
orders. Accordingly, we today honour the memory of those who fell in those cold November days two centuries ago. Wreaths and flowers were laid at all four of the monuments on Brilevskoe field. The first, from Soviet times, was erected in 1962. Another is dedicated to Russian soldiers, unveiled for the 180th anniversary, paid for by some of their descendants. A third appeared 15 years ago, in memory of French soldiers. The last was unveiled just recently: a simple memorial inscribed Grief and Confession. The Military Attaché of the Russian Embassy, Maxim Kazantsev, was concise but spoke poignantly, saying, “There has been much controversy, with theories and opinions differing. It’s a subjective process. However, standing where so many people fell, all this fades into second billing. This is a place to simply honour the fallen, remembering them and promising ourselves that here, at the crossroads of Europe, where Belarus is located and where many tragic events have been
witnessed, in future, such things will never happen again.” In attendance was Charles Napoleon, a genuine descendant of Bonaparte, who was clearly overwhelmed by emotions, repeating several times to curious journalists, “My feelings are very strong, standing here today; I’m happy to be here to remember these events with you...” A small reconstruction was also presented, featuring Russian hussars and Polish lancers, Belarusian and Swiss regiments and detachments of Cossacks. Three hundred horsemen and infantry forces and, even, vivandieres (the women who accompanied troops during their campaigns) took part. Those from clubs in Belarus, Russia, Poland, France and Switzerland were joined by two Belgians on horseback. Two hundred years ago, Napoleon’s army, retreating from Moscow, tried to cross the Berezina, on a misty day, surrounded by the sharp smell of gunpowder and the thunder of guns. Somewhere out there, Charles’ ancestor galloped on horseback.
unique exhibition entitled The Amazing World of Alphabet Books is being hosted by Vitebsk. Latvian linguist Juris Cibuls acquired over 8,000 alphabet books in 1,039 languages from 216 countries to create the collection, which includes such rare exhibits as an edition by the Indian Akawaio tribe and a Latvian alphabet book from 1796. The exhibition has appeal across all age ranges and has arrived in Vitebsk from Grodno and, previously, Orsha.
Park deserves its award The Palace and Park Estate of Rumyantsev-Paskevich has received the Grand Prix at The Museums of Belarus to the Third Millennium contest
Hosted by Grodno, the event gathered representatives of 150 museums across the country, as well as those from Russia and Lithuania: state, departmental and private. Gomel’s Palace and Park Estate of Rumyantsev-Paskevich was recognised as the best, with admiration shown for its work with visitors and its export of tourist services. It hasn’t yet decided how to spend its prize money but, no doubt, its infrastructure and preservation work will be further extended.
By Alexander Alexeevsky
of amazing environment
nvironmental project to raise ground water level being implem e nt e d by A P B Birdlife Belarus public organisation. The project aims to make an inventory of seasonal and temporary water flow in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha, explains the Director of the APB-Birdlife Belarus, Victor Fenchuk. A sharp fall in ground water levels has brought about a dramatic rise in the number of eight-toothed bark beetles and, as a result, to a loss of fir and ash trees. “As you know, the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park has experienced a complicated history. For a long time, it was a hunting forest, so the priority was to increase the population of wild animals and intensify forest management. Many parts of the forest were drained via small channels, to encourage trees to grow better. This led to a significant fall in ground water levels, as seen today,” Mr. Fenchuk explains. “With the Research Department of the National Park, we’re now creating an inventory of water flow, aiming to then use forestry methods to reduce the impact of temporary seasonal streams.” Mr. Fenchuk adds that conservation of biological diversity is a key objective of his organisation countrywide. “Belarusian marshes are ecosystems of critical importance globally. Fortunately, despite reclamation, we’ve managed to save them. Now, all Europe is watching to see how we protect them. Sponsorship from the Coca-Cola Company has allowed us to implement a number of measures to conserve our marshes. They’ve set a good example to other commercial companies, showing how they can help minimise negative impact on the environment, improving the situation by implementing such projects. Businesses should be responsible for their actions and work to preserve our countryside,” Mr. Fenchuk emphasises. By Anna Drobova
‘Seychelles’ of Volkovysk District
The 17th Belarusian Energy and Ecology Congress recently saw the National Academy of Sciences propose a new way of using chalk pit lakes effectively: giving them the status of natural hydrological sites for use as tourist attractions
ccording to the Head of the Scientific and Practical Centre for Bio-resources, of the NAS of Belarus, Vladimir Baichorov, chalk pits’ banks were traditionally required, in Soviet times, to have a slope of less than 30 degrees, with application of fertilisers for the planting of forests. However, these measures are harmful to the environment. He explains, “In particular, the fertilisers quickly leach into water, killing organisms and causing irreparable harm to biological diversity. A number of quarries have their own sustainable ecosystem.” Many such lakes are now several decades old, surrounded by plants and over 60 species of living organisms. A reviewed approached is clearly needed to ensure that tourists can visit safely without harm to the environment. “Chalk pits currently create revenue for the state in the form of taxes,” Mr. Baichorov
The scientists consider as follows: chalk pit lakes could be created as sites of natural beauty; rather than spending money on destructive reclamation, it could be invested into tourist infrastructure and safety measures
notes. “About 10,000 tourist cars visit the Volkovysk District annually, paying Br3.5bn for fuel — over Br800m of which is paid into the budget in the form of taxes.” Chalk pit lakes could be created as sites of natural beauty; rather than spending money on destructive reclamation, it could be invested into tourist infrastructure and safety measures. “Are these quarries so dangerous?” Mr. Baichorov muses. “Their landscape differs little from that of the Black Sea coast of the Crimea; every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists go there.” He tells us that necessary documentation is being prepared to give chalk pit lakes hydrological status as sites of national importance, with completion expected in 2013. Researches in the formed lakes, many of which are already several dozen years, have revealed over 60 species of living organisms in addition to lots of plants. By Sergey Mikhalevsky
Campaign ‘Kind Hearts for Children’ at the children's community #4 of Minsk
Heart to heart I refuse to believe that anyone dislikes December. It’s impossible, being a month of miracles and festivities. The winter solstice raises our spirits, as we look ahead to longer days and the approaching spring. New Year and Christmas are a time of joy and sharing and, of course, charity
harity works occur all through the year but our desire to help others seems to grow stronger in D e cemb er, w hen we are inspired to embrace our fellow
man. In the past, state run organisations set the pace, supported by financially independent and large companies. Now, ordinary citizens are more often involved; regardless of income, everyone can give their time. The philosophy of charity dates back to the earliest days and remains just as pertinent today.
It’s hard to say how many charity events are organised countrywide at this time of year but the largest is held under the aegis of the Belarusian President; Our Children unites the country’s public organisations. Heart to Heart involves international funds and Kind Hearts for Children is supervised by young volun-
CHARITY teers. Meanwhile, smaller initiatives abound in towns and villages with the number growing every year. Giving our time and resources to help others plants seeds of kindness for the future. Those in need will always be with us: children without guardians and those who are unwell, alongside large families.
Alla Smolyak chairs the Gomel regional branch of the Red Cross Society and is supervising various charity events. She agrees that more are registered at this time of year. She adds that the number of those wishing to help is also rising. In 2011, the New Year ‘Fir Tree Wishes’ were organised for children not only in Gomel but across district centres; even large stores had their own fir trees. Children tied notes for Father Frost to the branches and gift donations were made for pupils of orphanages. “Are people kinder these days? What inspires them?” I ask Alla. She replies, “I think people have become more sensitive and responsive. In sharing with others, our soul grows lighter. As everyone knows, the more you give, the more you receive. I think you’d agree that our world needs more joy and light.” In an attempt to pursue more such ‘spiritual’ facts, I visit the Gomel State ProfessionalTechnical College of Arts and Crafts. Their New Year preparations begin in early November, explainsCollegeDirector Yelena Alexeenko. She’s convinced that youngsters should be nurtured in a culture of charitable works, encouraging them to make presents with their own hands and give mini-performances for children. Ms. Alekseenko b e l i e ve s t h at s o c i a l responsibility is vital; if
sympathy for others is promoted from an early age, we create a better society, as well as benefitting particularly vulnerable groups. Gomel’s Frantsisk Skorina State University’s Psychology Department emphasises that unselfish acts are proven to raise our spirits. “In recent years, much research has been conducted on this theme, showing that we tend to successfully
It’s hard to say how many charity events are organized countrywide at this time of year but the largest is held under the aegis of the Belarusian President — ‘Our Children’
overcome our own problems once we’ve undertaken charitable work. Psychologists often advise their patients to start helping others when they face difficulties of their own, since mutual benefits are the result, bringing healing joy to those who give and those who receive.
It’s best to act from the heart in such matters rather than spend too much time thinking. One elderly lady I know goes out to her courtyard at 5am every morning, while most of us are asleep, to feed the pigeons. She’s been doing so for several years and the birds are accustomed to their ‘breakfast’. She can’t act otherwise now, finding it impossible to sleep longer or succumb to illness. The act has become a necessity of her soul. I also know an elderly man who transfers half of his pension to the Peace Foundation, as his father died during the Great Patriotic War. He’s convinced that if we all did the same, peace would reign. In the past, I’ve tried to change his mind with no success. He simply looks at me with an air of superiority — as if to say: you’ll see as you grow older. I wouldn’t disagree now, as I understand that even a thought can violate the balance in our delicate world. Not long ago, I read an article about schoolchildren raising funds to send their class mate for an operation. They were happy to use the money set aside for their school leaving party but needed more, so were requesting help. I was impressed by these modern children, whom we sometimes reproach for their selfishness, apathy and love of the virtual world... In fact, they were behaving in a kindly manner, mindful of another’s wellbeing. There are so many ways of being charitable, from making a bird feeder to helping someone cross the road or dismount from a bus. Each little drop of kindness in the savings box of humanity adds up, creating a veritable ocean. By Violetta Dralyuk
Each garland comprises thousands of smiles Where should Father Frost and the Snow Maiden live, if not in the mysterious and ancient Belovezhskaya Pushcha?
he fairy tale location, deep in the forest, surrounded by 15 hectares of 200-300 year old pines and firs, first welcomed guests in December 2003 and the festive pair have since delighted thousands of children from around the world. If you haven’t yet been then many surprises await you. From the first moment, you feel as if you’re entering a place where goodness, laughter and happiness reign. At dusk, garlands of colourful lights illuminate the village, sparkling and shimmering. Father Frost’s cottage alone has 40,000 bulbs. Meanwhile, his 40-foot living fir tree is covered in 5,000 twinkling lights, which reflect children’s smiles. At the gates, guests are met by two wooden knights: D u b - D u b o v i c h and Vyaz-Vyazovich. Near the festive tree, wooden sculptures depict characters from Snow White and the Seven
Dwarfs, as well as Buratino (Pinocchio), and a pike, goat, hare and bear. There are also those portraying each of the twelve months, with corresponding star signs;
The holiday of meeting the Snow Maiden in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha traditionally took place in early December
Father Frost’s costumes were sewn by the Skarbnitsa factory in Minsk. His bushy beard and sack of gifts complete his look. Fashion designer Irina Schubert created his robes, portraying him as a true resident of the Belarusian forest. Patterns on his coats are drawn from ancient Belarusian shirt designs while Snow Maiden’s dresses contain elements of the traditional ‘garset’ (female waistcoat) and ‘karunki’ (petals around the waist). The gold embroidery on their outfits is the work of masters from Orsha: on their hats and mittens, and even on the white felt boots and coat of Father Frost. His beard and moustache were bought from a famous German company, making him rather resemble Europe’s Santa Claus. Father Frost and the Snow Maiden have various outfits, made from velvet with fine gold embroidery. On the last day of winter, the Snow Maiden leaves the estate, and Father Frost changes his winter dress for a lighter one — made from linen. That is far off at present, with snow already now arriving. Father Frost and the Snow Maiden invite us to visit them in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha and assure us that the coming year holds all that is cheerful, happy, kind and wise. Tamara Tiborovskaya, from Brest, has come dozens of times, despite being aged over 30. She explains, “I can forget about everything during my visit — work and problems, returning to my childhood. I wish myself good luck and dream a little, as dreams do come true.” Unfortunately, all the hotel rooms in the National Park are already booked for the New Year holidays but the beautiful fairy tale village is open until spring, ready to entertain and delight you. You can also tour the eco-museum, learning about the forest, and see the animals in their enclosures. Winter is a time for joy and wonder. Belta
if you touch your own month and make a wish, it may come true. Inside, you’ll find a windmill, a magic well and a number of other fairy tale sites, including a pond with the Frog Prince. Of course, most young visitors are most keen to explore Father Frost’s home, with its grand throne room, its study on the ground floor; upstairs is his bedroom and balcony. Meanwhile, the Snow Maiden’s cottage, adorned with pictures of squirrels, is filled with over a hundred toys, figurines, pillows and Christmas decorations. It’s a delight. The amazing collection was provided by Natalia Koritich from Brest, who graduated from the Belarusian State University as a geographer-ecologist. She plans to devote her life to ecotourism and collecting pictures of squirrels is her hobby. Her collection remains with the Snow Maiden until Maslenitsa (the festival which bids farewell to winter). Naturally, you can also see about 400 real squirrels in the forest. They’re used to people, so will come quite close. There are also 428 bison within the national park. December is the time to write letters to Father Frost or to visit him. He enters on the first day of winter not in a sledge but in a carriage, with the Snow Maiden and her entourage. The charming parade was as bright as ever this year although, sadly, there was no snow. Dancing, warming tea made with Belovezhskaya Pushcha herbs, and delicious pancakes with honey and cranberries always encourage a festive spirit. The pair were met, as is traditional, with gifts of bread and salt, before touring the whole estate. Old and young gathered for dancing around the main festive tree — so large in number that several r i n g s w e r e needed.
By Valentina Kozlovich
of native fog Anatoly Baranovsky awarded title of People’s Artist of Belarus, following career of hardships
natoly Baranovsky produced most of his works in the late 20th century — when Belarusian realism was flourishing. This was his greatest influence, coupled with a keen love for his homeland. His landscapes often depict the Braslav District, as well as the Pripyat and Nieman rivers, Mozyr and Mogilev. His canvases abound with the poetry of autumn and spring: silver clouds and
golden birch-trees. The melodies of the seasons resulted in his Clouds Sailing Over Native Land (1977), Land of My Golden Birch-Trees (1981), Melody of Autumn (1994), Miraculous Days — Clear and Blue (2003), and Autumn Over the Pripyat (2004). He also painted architectural landscapes — such as those depicting the 12th century Kalozha church, the towers of ancient Mir Castle, and Peter and Paul’s Church of Novgorod; all radiate historical spirit. His epic pictures are no less magnificent: Mother. 1941 (1972),
Braslav Width (1991), Portrait of a Daughter (1994) and The Lilac (2008). His love for his homeland and its countryside was shared by other 20th centur y B elarusian artists: Vitold Byalynitsky-Birulya, Vladimir Kudrevich, Nikolay Tarasikov, Ivan Dmukhailo and Ivan Rey, among others. Mr. Baranovsky was also influenced by the Russian and French Impressionists, using seemingly ‘accidental’ compositional elements, soft colours and a combination of delicate and transparent paints. He also introduced his
own trends: warm colours with pattern to create a balanced mood. His Nest (1983) is the quintessence of his artistic aspirations. Like the outstanding works by Yanka Kupala and Yakub Kolas in praise of their Motherland, it is a hymn to his homeland, its nature and people. Mr. Baranovsky sees each of us as a world in ourselves: lofty and optimistic. He perceives his own life as one towards The Light — as he named one of his exhibitions. His early 21st century works continue to pursue the theme of
realism — enriching Belarusian art with miraculous and precious treasures. His work entitled People’s epitomises a significant period in his artistry — from the 1960s, when his motifs, moods and colours revolved around his native land. He continued in the style of 1920s new Impressionism while adding his own Belarusian spirit. We see sophisticated shades of silver and linen in his woods, fields and fast flowing rivers. Each of Mr. Baranovsky’s works is individual, with its own initial impression and chosen corner of nature. However,
they form a harmonious — almost musical — whole, as seen rarely among his colleagues. His canvases depict fragile birch-trees, spring fields and transparent blue skies, with tenderness; he seldom repeats himself, since each day brings new impressions. His study of nature dominates, with each landscape resembling an open window. Looking through them, we can’t but admire the untouched beauty of Belarusian nature. He reveals his soul most fully at his workshop, where his most beloved pictures are kept. Mr. Baranovsky speaks
ART PERSONALITY sparsely but, here, shares sincere views on art and his work. I believe that art is more significant than literature, as argued by Lev Tolstoy. On attending an exhibition of greatRussian painters — Surikov, Repin and Serov — he told a rather anxious Repin that the latter had no need to worry. Tolstoy stressed his envy of artists, believing it possible to read a picture simply by looking at it briefly. He joked that it was far more arduous and less enticing to read two volumes of War and Peace! Gegel also ranked art at the summit, above music and poetry. As a student, I read his books but only now can admit to true admiration, having learnt through experience. This art expert placed pictorial art at the supreme height! How did you begin drawing? From childhood, I had problems at home, so devoted all my time to drawing. I couldn’t sleep properly at night as I wanted to stay up alone and paint. I was born in Minsk’s suburbs and my family were involved in agriculture. My mother used to say that I was interested in nothing but paper and paints. My grandmother was talented, making patterns, and came first at an international contest in Belgium. Later, the Belgian Parliament purchased three of my works. I was self-taught and would love to walk along Botanicheskaya Street (where we lived), painting all I saw with water colours. I then entered college but it was no easy path. My application to the pictorial painting department failed, so I studied sculpture. After a year, I discovered that my drawing wasn’t bad and, in my third year, was offered a transfer to the pictorial painting department, where two places had become free. I was told to simultaneously study at evening school to make up for lost school time (I’d only had eight years at school) but disliked this: I wanted to devote all my time to painting. Nevertheless, my application was approved and I was transferred to the pictorial painting department (as a second year student). We had a high level of training and, by my third year, I enjoyed only the highest marks. After college, I tried to enter the
Theatre and Art Institute but failed: others had connections and all ten places were occupied. At that time, the Institute was headed by Vitaly Tsvirko — a wonderful artist and man who did much for others. He persuaded Moscow (those were Soviet times) to open evening courses at the Institute, allowing me to study there. H o n o u r e d Fi g u r e o f A r t s of Belarus, Professor Anatoly Baranovsky, a laureate of Belarus’ State Award, was born in Minsk in 1937. In 1965, he graduated from the Pictorial Department of the Belarusian Theatre and Art Institute (now the Belarusian State Arts Academy), being taught academic painting by Mai Dantsig and Ivan Stasevich.
Do you remember your teachers? At that time, Ivan Stasevich worked at the Institute; he was a wonderful artist — a graduate of Moscow’s Surikov College. Mr. Stasevich was sincerely interested in my fate — as a father would be. In 1963 (during my third year of studies), People’s Artist Ivan Akhremchik arrived and everything changed. He didn’t like my style, which he made clear. He once asked me for paints and brushes and spent three hours working. All the other students left for various classes but I stayed, repainting the canvas after Mr. Akhremchik had left the room. I didn’t like his method of revealing the theme but realised I could be severely punished. Later, when I was given a job under the chair headed by Mr. Akhremchik, he admitted, “I was so disparaging to you but you never answered back.” I then
responded, “A single word from you could have had me sent away.” Feeling ill at ease, I decided to leave, taking my resignation letter when I saw a note on the wall stating that Mr. Akhremchik had died. After a new chair was formed, its first session decided that pictorial painting would be lectured by my friend, Ivan Stasevich, and by myself. I’ve been working at the Belarusian Arts Academy for 36 years now. What was the most vital element of your studies at the Institute? I learnt to see, understand and overcome mistakes. Mr. Akhremchik made me stronger — although he could have broken me. He said, “If you had listened to me, you would have immediately joined mainstream life.” I replied, “I need no other life...” When did you realise your own style and unique manner?
In 1965, when I graduated from the Institute, or perhaps earlier, when I was creating my diploma paper (a complicated figure composition). I felt I was meeting the theme, despite disapproval. My great desire saved me and I always took risks. I visited Moscow exhibitions, simply buying a ticket to go to those wonderful shows. I met some interesting people and would never agree to false or forced ideas. Did your themes vary? They were stipulated but I drew from my personal experience. Actually, I remember the war better than yesterday. I lived through it. My diploma paper was entitled Off to the Frontline. Later, I drew a picture on this theme for an exhibition. Of course, life continues. I’ve fallen in love with landscapes, portraits and still-life.
M r. B a r a n o v s k y ’s a r t i s t i c manner was finally formed in the 1970s, when he produced many works. He prefers easel painting and has contributed much to the development of the landscape genre, focusing on nature. He strives to reveal not only its beauty but its inner character: its melodic voices and hidden colours. He uses many shades of silver, which he sees as the defining colour of the Belarusian countryside. His works are notable for their precise figurative structure, which harmoniously combines his artistic manner and his sharp compositional eye. His pictures are lyrical and deeply figurative.
Evidently, you paint landscapes more often. Why? This is a good question. A landscape is a universal theme. To be more exact, it is the essence of eternity. I was young when I fell in love with nature. It captured my soul forever. However, you don’t always depict nature in an obvious way. A landscape painting is not a photo; it reveals its creator’s perceptions. My landscapes are filled with ideas and moods. Painting is the core of my life, as it was in my student years, when I used to draw every day: morning and evening. Is silver your favourite colour? Look [he shows me a picture]. This is the Braslav area, which is unforgettably beautiful. I’ve always loved drawing it with my students (some are well-known now). Our countryside is so wonderful
PERSONALITY ART — in Polesie and the Mozyr District. Mist is the most delicate of nature’s mysteries; I’m yet to unravel its secrets. When it reflects in water, it gives me chills. Your early pictures were colourful but gradually became less so — why? I treat bold colours with suspicion, since they seem to desire an immediate impression. My approach is more elusive, which is more fitting for the Belarusian countryside. The seasons change but all are wonderful. We should notice the soul of our native land. I always advise my students against using too many bright colours since they should be reflecting the true tones and shades of nature. There are three secrets: colour, form and space. I use them all. This secret accompanies human development, allowing us to enrich our feelings and become more attentive to the environment. It’s vital for our souls. Pictorial art and music are divine, enhancing our humanity. They don’t just please our soul; they nurture and protect it. What of artists’ responsibility? We have a responsibility to ensure that the truth passes through our souls. We must make audiences our co-artists, establishing a connection.
Some fail to achieve this and others do not wish to follow this path. There are plenty of such cases, especially in our modern days. Anything is permissible and accessible. In the 19th century, it was felt that we lagged behind by at least two hundred years. We are now in a new millennium and morals are falling, evidently. M r. B aranovsk y has b een lecturing at his alma mater since 1966 and has so far taught many monumental-decorative artists. Among them are Vladimir Tovstik, Vladimir Zinkevich, Vladimir Krivoblotsky, Vasily Barabantsev and Victor Olshevsky. Many of his pupils lecture at higher and secondary special educational establishments of culture and art. In 2000, he was awarded a prize ‘For Merits in Fine Arts’, by the Belarusian Union of Artists.
As a teacher, can you pass on the principles of hard work and perseverance?
I’ve always felt a connection to nature and have encouraged young people in the same path. So many years have passed but they still remember my lessons. I’ve fulfilled my duty. I’ve experienced times of anxiety, when I could hardly draw, but I’ve always tried to attend open air sessions with my pupils. People differ, of course. You were recently awarded the title of ‘People’s Artist’. What will follow? What are your feelings? I’m anxious. However, this is supplemented with joy, a sense of responsibility and gratitude to our people. Many reference books and encyclopaedias contain information on Mr. Baranovsky, who has taken part in many international exhibitions. His best pictures are kept at Belarus’ National Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Fine Arts (Minsk), the Republican Art Gallery of the Belarusian Union of Artists, Bulgaria’s Sozopol Picture Gallery and Mogilev’s P. Maslenikov Art Museum. His Nests (1978-1980), Clouds Sailing Over Native Land (1977), Memory (1978), Land of My Golden Birch-Trees (1981) and Roofs of Sozopol (1984) are particular landmarks of Belarusian pictorial painting. Mr. Baranovsky’s pictures have been exhibited in Russia, Bulgaria, Holland, Germany, Denmark, Italy, Poland, Japan and elsewhere. The artist and his pupils also took part in the Modern Belarusian Artists show — hosted by Paris’ Pierre Cardin Hall in April 2002.
Can the Motherland give artists all they need to fully reveal their mastery? Yes. Our talents are given by God. Our education system could be improved upon, so needs attention, being viewed from all angles. Everything will work out fine if we keep an open mind. Do you work hard? Every day — without any days off. By Victor Mikhailov
ne of new phenomena of mo dern times is private-public partnership in the sphere of protection of historical and cultural legacy. The state treasury is financing the restoration of several ancient monuments, with help from patrons of arts. There is even a ‘division of labour’. Major projects are financed from the country’s budget: 38 ancient fortresses and their ruins are included on the 20122018 Castles of Belarus programme, approved by the Council of Ministers.
Legacy of the past popular with investors and tourists
The number of visitors of the Radziwill Palace and Castle ensemble has been increasing
Novogrudok Castle: Renaissance 300 years on
The Castles of Belarus programme was inspired primarily by Novogrudok Castle, whose condition had long raised fears among enthusiasts. A list of sites countrywide needing attention has now been compiled, explains architect and restorer Sergey Drushchits, who is heading restoraThe historic tion at Novogrudok Novogrudok attracts Castle. He fanciers of the has just medieval finished culture
working in Nesvizh, where he supervised the return of the Radziwill residence to its former glory. Novogrudok Castle is already a hive of activity, with work starting on Kostelnaya Tower (which looks rather like a Catholic church). The semi-ruined walls, which sit on a steep slope with a drop of 24m, are in critical condition. Since Swedish troops destroyed Novogrudok Castle in 1706, nothing has been restored. Its second tower is Shchitovka, which is to be completely restored, with a museum exhibition being housed on all four floors. Half of the tower fell down in the early 20th century so photos are proving invaluable. Last year, digs began, with the remains of 13th century buildings discovered at a depth of 7m; a further two towers (previously ‘hidden’ under earth and turf) were also unearthed. In 2013, specialists will begin to conserve ruined Krevo Castle, which is connected with three grand dukes
RESTORATION Lyntupy awaits VIP guests
of Lithuania: Kęstútis, Jagiełło and Vytautas. According to Igor Chernyavsky, the Head of the Culture Ministry’s Department for Protection of Historical and Cultural Heritage, Knyazheskaya Tower may also be restored.
The Culture Ministry has developed a plan to transfer 46 former noble estates which are standing empty into private hands. One such is Byshevskie Estate in Lyntupy, near Postavy (on the border with Lithuania and Latvia). It recently acquired new hosts and, by 2016, is to launch accommodation for up to 100 VIP guests. According to modest calculations, around $7m is to be invested. Work has begun, with ‘mountains’ of accumulated waste removed, alongside the old roof deck. The only condition put before the investor was to retain the architectural monument and restore its former appearance.
In line with the Castles of Belarus programme, Golshany Castle and that in Bykhov are being restored. In 2013, Bykhov will be hosting the Day of Belarusian Written Language, so investors are already taking interest in its castle. Mir Castle was among the first to receive attention, alongside Nesvizh Palace; the latter’s park and wider estate are now being returned to their original beauty. Lida Castle is also undergoing reconstruction, with plans afoot to restore the castle in Grodno. The popularity of tourist sites is ever rising. From January to August 2012, Mir Castle hosted 190,000 visitors, with more than ever coming from Poland, Lithuania, Russia, France, Holland, Spain, China and Brazil. According to Olga Popko, Director of Nesvizh Palace and Park Estate, foreigners account for 40 percent of all visitors. Moreover, museum employees have studied the popularity of each hall, with the Stolovaya Izba (a living room in the Renaissance-style palace) proving most popular. It was restored in line with documental sources and analogues from the late 16th-early 17th century. The Portrait Hall is the second most loved room, followed by the apartments of Duke Mikhail Svyatopolk-Mirsky — the last owner of the castle. Close behind are the castle’s library, study and dining room. Nesvizh Castle is thinking of introducing a limit on its number of visitors, as the site is proving rather too busy for guides (and local accommodation) to cope with. Belarus’ Deputy Culture Minister, Tadeush Struzhetsky, tells us that, in 2010, 135,000 tourists visited the Radziwill’s former home; this rose to 170,000 in 2011 and, from January-September 2012, over 300,000 guests were recorded.
Ancient residences can’t yet cope with guests
Polotsk’s church returns to its 12th century look
By 2015, a helm-shaped dome and corbel arches will grace the Saviour Transfiguration Church in Polotsk, with 12th century frescoes being newly unveiled inside. Restorers are now examining the façades, deciding how best to return the church to its former glory without damaging the historical layers of later centuries. We found out during restoration that the basement needs to be reinforced in some places and that some walls have cracked, needing repair. During rebuilding by the Jesuits in the 18th century, niche burial vaults were walled-
The 12th century frescoes being newly unveiled inside the Saviour Transfiguration Church in Polotsk
The popularity of tourist sites is ever rising. From January to August 2012, Mir Castle hosted 190,000 visitors, with more than ever coming from Poland, Lithuania, Russia, France, Holland, Spain, China and Brazil
up with bricks and the floor raised by 3040cm. Several niches have been cleared of bricks, revealing ancient frescoes, but more clearing work is required, while the floor needs to be lowered again. In 2006, Belarusian restorer Vladimir Rakitsky, who was working almost alone, discovered less than a third of the frescoes: 200sq.m. A brigade of restorers from Russia then joined him, later accompanied by those fom Belrestavratsiya. Frescoes on the altar, credence table and diaconicon are now restored to their original appearance and those in the under-dome space are being revived. By Viktar Korbut
discovery of the world
At the age of 63, Grodno sculptor Nikolay Sklyar is still working hard, earning his living and travelling. He works both independently and with large teams, regularly participating in open air workshops. He has enjoyed many personal exhibitions and continues to find inspiration in his surroundings
Nikolay Sklyar and Valentin Bogdevich work on a guerilla sculpture
his year has been rich in events and impressions for the s c u l p t o r, h a v i n g prepared a personal exhibition and taken part in the fourth international open air workshop for wood carvers. “Young people from Russia arrived, who had a slightly different approach to carving, from which we can learn,” he smiles. “I don’t tend to copy from real life but there are sometimes aspects and small details which can make a work more perfect. I do my best to focus on what I’m doing, to produce something worthy. For example, I love one particular sculpture by Georgian master Elgudzhi Amashukeli, as it’s well organised and has an interesting national style. Among Belarusian masters, I admire Zair Azgur.” Mr. Sklyar is a designer by education, having graduated from Kiev ArtIndustrial College in 1968. He recollects, “At that time, design was in its infancy in Ukraine and we were taught the foundations well. We studied modelling, sculpture, pictorial art and design. We drew a great deal. Afterwards, I moved to Grodno to take a job at its Plant of Trade Machine Building’s Design Department. Later, I began decorating the interiors of energy enterprises. At that time, a network of institutes of technical aesthetics operated, so I contacted them directly, often working as part of a team on a major project — such as Grodno City Electric Station.” However, his foremost love was wood cutting and sculpture. On being asked about the popularity of wood as a material, he notes, “Wood is gradually returning to our homes — albeit it not as ‘solid wood’.” Ma s t e r s of g a rd e n - a n d - p a r k sculpture are often asked to create a group of sculptures united by a single theme, perhaps each carving a single figure. The variation possible is endless — from traditional to exotic. At present,
Specialists say that Mr. Sklyar is a virtuoso, bringing characters alive; they radiate warmth and wisdom the most popular styles are folk, African and Japanese. Customers simply agree an idea with a master and choose the material: wood is cheaper than stone while adding ‘warmth’ to a courtyard or garden rather than monumentality. An oak sculpture can cost up to $1,200 while a lime and oak sculpture of any size may be had for $600. On average, decoration of a courtyard costs $400 per square metre. Not long ago, your personal exhibition — Cats and Birds — completed. Which characters did you use? All my cats are polite rather than hunting birds. They are friendly with mice, sharing cheese with them and offering fish to birds.
Which wood do you prefer working with? Oak is best used for large sculptures in our region, being strong and more durable. It’s also most beautiful. I’ve worked with various woods — including poplar, lime, pine and alder. Sometimes, open air workshop organisers propose a certain wood in which each sculptor must demonstrate their artistry. You have to know the qualities of the wood to use it most effectively. Are you aware of these? I can’t say that I know everything, although an acquaintance of mine once said that I can ‘see inside wood’. Of course, this isn’t true. I can still be surprised, even when working with a well-known tree. However, I can distinguish pine from oak. When you first hold a piece of wood in your hands, do you immediately know what you’d like to carve or do ideas come gradually, as you work? It’s bad when you aim to carve a fox and end up with a crocodile! Sometimes, you need to make adjustments though. For example, at one Grodno open air workshop, I decided to carve a figure of a Ukrainian. However, my piece of wood had a knot at the base, so I decided to carve a cat near the man’s foot, to avoid tackling the knot. A plot composition appeared: the Ukrainian is smoking, causing the cat to cover its nose with its paw. Mr. Sklyar’s artistic life is certainly rich, bringing forth many major joint works — such as Kolas’ Path, which begins by the memorial mansion of Akinchitsy; there are over 40 wooden sculptures devoted to Yakub Kolas’ characters, honouring his work. He also worked on Grodno Fortress and the Partisan Camp complex — with Valentin Bogdevich, he carved four Belarusian partisans from wood. Specialists say that Mr. Sklyar is a virtuoso, bringing characters alive; they radiate warmth and wisdom. His creations are found in state and private collections in Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Israel, Denmark and Japan. By Svetlana Devyatkovskaya
a l k i n g through the Zhdanovichi trading house in Minsk, it’s impossible not to stop at the Our Heritage collection: one of Europe’s largest samovar exhibits. Hundreds shine golden in glass cases, available to view free of charge. The collection began in the spring of 2002, when the trading house bought over 150 of Minsker Nikolay Shevtsov’s samovars. These form the basis of the exhibition, which now numbers over 260 antique samovars and about 1,000 other household items from the 18th-20th century. New items are being constantly added, sourced from private collections, antique shops and, even, market stalls. Many have been donated by visitors who find interesting antiques in their attics.
Amazing artefacts in original museums Belarus boasts not only traditional museums of local and wider history or literature but some unusual examples. One such is the tram museum in Minsk. Another is the apron museum in the village of Bezdezh, in the Drogichin District, Brest Region; it has about 200 exhibits, with some over 100 years old! It’s unique worldwide. Our correspondent tells us about several other unusual museums in Belarus
Our Heritage museum contains a samovar of the Shishkin brothers, Tula, XIX c.
he village of Rakov, in theVolozhin District, 40km from Mi ns k , b o a s t s unusual red-brick buildings, found in the vegetable garden of a local resident. According to a large inscription on the facade, this is the ‘Museum Art Gallery’. The site is protected by a large aristocratic bronze sculpture of a greyhound, as in Nesvizh; both have been created by Valerian Yanushkevich, the brother of the museum owner, Felix Yanushkevich. The latter has a Ph.D. in Art History and has worked as a restorer. He is also a famous painter, with works hanging in the Tretyakov Gallery. His gallery is filled with interesting possessions which reveal Rakov’s
The Museum of Folk Architecture and Life near the village Ozertso boasts many interesting artifacts
history: paintings by Felix and his talented brothers; ancient documents, furniture, musical instruments, pottery, fragments of Slutsk sashes; and much more. Every item has its own story and over 12,000 artefacts reside there!
he Museum of Folk Architecture and Life is found in a remarkably beautiful location, near the village of Ozertso, in the Minsk District, where the Ptich and Menka rivers meet. It opened in the late 1970s, housing items collected during expeditions by historians, architects and restorers. For ten years, they searched the country for monuments of wooden folk architecture, household
visitors, with others from Ponemanie (the Nieman River area) and Eastern and Western Polesie soon to be launched. “Ethnographers have distinguished six historical and geographical regions,” explains the director of the Museum of Folk Architecture and Life, Svetlana Lakotko. “They are each individual — in language, traditional costume and buildings — so the museum is divided into separate areas of place and time.” Each building is filled with sympathetic objects to create an authentic atmosphere: antique furniture, house wares, woven fabrics and tools. Some halls host particular exhibitions — such as Zabrodskіya Snastsi, which explores the history of fishing in Belarus. Transport Means includes an early 20th century sledge, as well as an ancient cart, which you can ride between the old wooden houses and windmills. Of course, many more fascinating museums are to be found across Belarus: we could write a whole book! Minsk’s Museum of Money (at the National
Ethnographers have distinguished six historical and geographical regions, each with its own language, traditional costumes and buildings — so the museum is divided into separate areas of place and time and craft items, with the most valuable transpor ted to Ozertso. The 150 hectare site re cre ates vi l lages, towns and farms of the late 18thearly 20th c e ntu r y. Examples from central Belarus, Podneprovie (the Dnieper River area) and Poozerie ( l a ke l an d ) are open to
Bank of Belarus) features Byzantine coins from the 10th-11th century, and the leather purse in which 127 Golden Horde coins were found, as well as money from Prague, West European thalers and Spanish reals. Meanwhile, the Museum of Items Confiscated by Customs, in Brest, includes valuable 16th-20th century icons, a Fabergé grooming set made of rock crystal in a silver setting, Chinese and Japanese handmade vases and seascapes by Aivazovsky. All were confiscated by Brest customs officers during the interception of smuggling operations. Evidently, there is much to inspire wonder in Belarus. By Lyudmila Minakova
Light and shade
Of Tatiana Likhacheva Tatiana Likhacheva, Honoured Artist of Belarus, is rehearsing for a benefit performance at her native National Academic Drama Theatre (named after Yakub Kolas) in Vitebsk, taking the leading role in Love Lab
er career has been successful, with the foundations laid in early childhood. Her creative parents encouraged her to perform from the age of two, reading
poetry while standing on a stool or table. Her father would tie table cloths between two trees in the courtyard to act as stage curtains, ready for her entrance... Her delight at appearing before an audience remains with her, transformed into deeper and more complex feelings of course. When she puts on her stage make up in her dressing room, she begins to
enter the realm of her character. In Rook Despair, by Vladimir Korotkevich, she even played Death. Her outer self may be able to answer questions from the costume team, make-up artists and colleagues but her inner self is elsewhere. This profound ability to transfigure is characteristic of our greatest actors — and is unknown in other professions.
ACTRESS THEATRE Tatiana is known for her charisma, her melodic voice, her insightful expressions, impeccable pronunciation, fluid movements and a special ability to reach within the essence of any character. She admits that she was born to act and is thankful for her gift of intuition, which helps her summon up various personalities. I’ve watched her take on various roles upon the Kolas stage, where she was sent after graduating from the Theatre and Art Institute (now, the Academy of Arts). She’s appeared in Romeo and Juliet, Symon the Musician and Last Summer in Chulimsk. The young actress was the perfect Juliet, Hanna and Valentina, displaying romanticism, subtlety, integrity and impetuosity as needed. Other characteristics appeared from the vaults of her inner world, conjuring up depths of lyrical and dramatic tragedy. I’ve always wondered how each role leaves its mark on an actor, since some part of the character must remain within, like a quiet echo. To understand this, of course, one meeting with Tatiana would not be enough. Fortunately for me, our long conversation at the editorial office was supplemented by a chat at the National Theatre Awards, which recently took place in Minsk. Tatiana has taken on the role of Chair of the Vitebsk branch of the Union of Theatrical Figures of Belarus and is a leading actress at the Kolas Theatre. Her charm, dignity, genuine friendliness, optimism and openness are most immediately apparent — from chatting and from watching her in intervals between performances. However, she admits that she has her ‘dark side’ — like anyone else. “Yes, there is light and shadow inside me,” says Tatiana. She views her shortcomings are useful though, saying that she strives to overcome her weaknesses, which keeps her on her toes. We all gain valuable experience from battling hard times; it’s how we grow as mature adults. Tatiana is convinced that our souls die if we allow ourselves to stagnate. We need always to
push forward, setting new challenges. As I listen to her, I realise that she keeps her ‘demons’ well hidden, smiling even through adversity. Most of all, Tanya wishes to retain her love of life and the theatre. She cherishes her loved ones and nurtures a sense of peace. Six years ago, her beloved husband and famous fellow actor, Honoured Artist of Belarus Gennady Shkuratov, died. In May of this year, her mother followed. “We endure drama when we are sick; it’s as if you are half-alive. Tragedy is when we lose that which is infinitely precious. I’ve endured tragedy but want to live to
“MY PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE I ACQUIRED in a loving environment. i've always remembered that, and my devotion to theatre is unfailing though now the theatre is different” see my sons and grandchildren happy. It’s fascinating to see someone develop from birth. I’m still alive, so there are things to be enjoyed: watching my family grow; creative meetings; and new roles. I have the strength to carry these out. Sometimes, I lose my will to love myself and the world becomes grey; the sun may be shining but everything turns to grey — or, at least, to black and white,” she admits. “There are times when you feel a lack of interesting or talented people around you. However, I then realise that the problem resides inside my own self, since I’m creating a barrier to their approach. I turn away from them myself.” It’s true that all life’s joys and sorrows can be packed away inside you for use in
the acting profession. Observing other people is also valuable, allowing actors to mimic mannerisms and gestures they’ve noticed. The characters created by Tatiana Likhacheva are lively and believable: Cordelia, Yevfrosiniya of Polotsk, Rogneda and Golda... She’s played over a hundred roles! Tatiana is lucky, having been born and raised in a loving environment; it seemed to her that everyone on Earth loved her. However, she also learnt that not everyone is sincere and open, with the ability to rejoice in life. She once thought that rogues and scoundrels existed only in films and, even now, tends to make excuses for the poor behaviour of others. Here, Tatiana Likhacheva tells us about herself, as a Belarusian with Russian-Greek origins.
Every year, I’d spend my summer holidays, until the 8th grade, in the Caucasus, in the mountains of Georgia, with my grandparents. There, in a Greek village, for some reason called Ivanovka, my Greek mother was born: Parfena Georgievna. It’s a heavenly place with beautiful people. I’d watch them and would speak to them in Greek. They baked bread in huge Russian ovens in the street and I ate wonderful pancakes, cheese and butter — which I learnt to beat in clay jars. The mountain air is so pure and you can drink the spring water. Lambs and buffalos walk up the mountains at dawn, disappearing into the mist, returning each evening to their houses. Old Greek women in black sit, watching the children. My aunts and uncles live in Ivanovka. Some immigrated to Greece after the collapse of the USSR. Last year, I visited them in Thessaloniki and toured the city of Epidaurus, with its ancient theatre. It still hosts festivals of ancient drama and I was struck by the acoustics: all fifty five rows can hear even a whisper. Suddenly, I wanted to sing in this place. I don’t know why: maybe because of my Greek roots. So, I sang a song in Belarusian language, from Rook Despair.
My father, Vladimir, was a soldier, born in Orel, and my grandfather was a Muscovite. My grandmother was from Tambov. They lived in Volozhin until I was 7 years old, then in Polotsk, before moving to Minsk. My parents really wanted me to become a doctor or teacher but Fate had other plans. In addition, I was guided by my mother, who danced and sang very well, and participated in art activities. She read a lot and encouraged my artistic education. By the time I reached fifteen, she even wanted to send me to the Drama Theatre in Tbilisi. As they had five children, this was difficult though; I was the eldest and they couldn’t send me away to school — although we didn’t live in poverty. I first performed at the age of two, in the role of a nesting doll, with other children, for the New Year holiday. I sang: ‘I was born a nest-doll’. I remember clearly my head-scarf, sarafan [pinafore] and the stage on which I stood, which
seemed tremendous to me. I learnt to read very early, perhaps inspired by my father, who loved classical literature and adored poetry. He recited Yesenin, Pushkin and Mayakovsky and had a wonderful trained voice. He also composed poems and fables and painted with watercolours, as well as taking photographs. At school, I gained a diploma as a young ballet dancer and I was supposed to study at the college of choreography located in Minsk, but my mother did't allow me to. Aged six, I told my friend that I’d become an actress, and she told me of her wish to become a doctor. Now, she is a doctor, and I’m an actress.
Path to professionalism
Next January, it will be 40 years since my first and second applications to join acting schools in Moscow and Minsk failed. Life was testing my determination to become an actress! I passed the third time and gained a place at drama school.
Strangely, there was a problem with my documents, so I had to return to Polotsk, working at the international telephone station. I joined the Polotsk People’s Theatre but, one day, when we were in Vitebsk for a concert, our director, Nikolay Manokhin, told me that the Kolas Theatre was auditioning. He urged me to attend so I did and finally had my dreams fulfilled. In Vitebsk, I lived on the fifth floor — which is now the office of the chief artist. It was an unknown city, without relatives or friends. On my first day of work, I was an hour and a half late to the rehearsal as I was lost for some time in the city and then within the theatre itself. Red in the face and sweating, I arrived at our rehearsal room, where People’s Artists Tishechkin, Kuleshov, Dubov and Markina were waiting. The Chief Director, Semion Kazimirovsky, simply said, “Meet Tanya! She lives the farthest away, so we forgive her.” I was close to hysterics and it took me some time and
Tatiana Likhacheva in life and on stage
effort to learn all the entrances and exits of the theatre. I love the theatre at night: darkness and the black square of the stage. It’s fantastic and romantic — my home! I worked for six months and hardly seemed to need to go to university, as I appeared in so many performances. However, Mr. Kazimirovsky, who treated me like a daughter, advised me to return, warning me that another actress could appear with a degree and, even if less talented, could be taken on, leaving me unemployed. I entered a course under Alexander Butakov, studying while still acting with the theatre for another six months, before touring Ukraine. The company loved me as a daughter, granddaughter and sister. The professional experience I acquired in that atmosphere of love remains forever with me and my dedication to the theatre is unchangeable — although the theatre is quite different these days. Time
dictates our style of communication and behaviour. People come and go but, truly, I believe that the Kolas Theatre is different to those in the capital and in other regions; it has a purity which distinguishes it. My four years of study at the university were wonderful, every day being so full. We went to Riga, performing for those in military units along the border. We even performed in trains, putting on sketches about those who check the tickets. There was never a dull moment and, without exception, everyone loved their teachers. Stasevich Lilia Yefremovna, who taught us to speak on stage, was like a mother to us. Other real professionals were Tamara Sergeevna Uzunova and, of course, Alexander Ivanovich Butakov. They played a great role in my life and how they loved us! That love stopped you from ever feeling angry with life. Visiting teachers from Moscow marvelled at how handsome and tall our Minsk boys were: Gennady
Shkuratov, Sergei Zhuravel (People's Artist of Belarus — Wr.), Yury Kulik (the Director of the Young Spectators’ Theatre), Victor Gudinovich (an actor with the Russian Theatre) and Alexey Dudarev (a playwright and the Artistic Director of the Belarusian Army Theatre).
The most vivid memories from my university years and beyond are bound up in Gena. I didn’t notice him straight away and, for some reason, was convinced that he was married and had been born in the Baltics, brought here his sister to enter the institute. I don’t know who started this rumour. I’d also decided not to fall in love until I’d finished university. Later, I discovered that Gena had told himself the same thing! That autumn was sunny and, one day, I was running up the stairs, late for my lecture, when I saw him from a distance. He opened the door and sunlight blazed around him. It made his hair shine and I
THEATRE ACTRESS could see that his profile was chiselled. He looked bronzed with green eyes and I quite forgot that it was him: I thought that it was Greek god! The door closed and the picture disappeared but the image remained. I was then absolutely head over heels and, at the end of the first year, decided that I had to tell him of my love. I was anxious about this being unreciprocated and him thinking me odd but I had no time and decided to act, telling Gena my feelings. It was early in the morning and our lecture would soon begin. I arrived and waited, then saw someone already seated. It was him. I said, “Shkuratov, come here, I want to tell you that I love you. I think that you already know and yet do not. Time is passing and I’m suffering.” I opened my heart, revealing all, and then returned calmly to my seat. Our lecturer came and we began; I saw Gena writing but also glancing at me from under his arm. We married in the fourth year and, after graduation, joined the Kolas Theatre together. We’d been invited to join Minsk theatres but I made everyone fall in love with my theatre. Dudarev was originally going to Vitebsk but I talked him out of it. He was already writing fiction and poetry and went to the Young Spectators’ Theatre. Our creative and marital partnership was successful and I really appreciated Gena’s professional opinion; we’d often advise each other. As we are both leaders, we’d have been incompatible were it not for our creativity. Two such forces in the house, two strong characters and temperaments, would have led to arguments; it could not have been otherwise. When we disagreed, we simply stopped talking and, even when we quarrelled more seriously, we were able to put those differences aside when it came time to go on stage together. Once we began acting, our conflicts would pass. We also put aside such arguing when our children arrived. When people grow tired of each other, they try new experiences but Gena and I never lost interest and
were actually afraid of losing one another — despite what others may have thought. Gena starred in many films and I was always afraid that my husband might be attracted by one of his beautiful leading women. However, he was born to be a onewoman man and treated other women only as sisters. He lacked the usual
When he began having heart problems, he managed to convince me that there was nothing to worry about. When he died, no one believed it and asked if it was a mistake or a joke. They thought his name might have been confused with Shmakov [Fiodor Shmakov — People's Artist of the USSR]. It took me a while to come to my senses afterwards, as I felt
“I love my roles, which are so various”
glint in the eye that men tend to show women. Women could never cross his line of decency, even if they wanted to. So, I trusted our marriage to last. I once asked him if he’d ever felt stronger, warmer feelings for another woman but he assured me, “Why would I when I have you?” People loved him everywhere he went and wherever he appeared: it was his gift from nature. My husband was beautiful in appearance and in his soul. People would go to theatre just to see him — as he was a wonderful actor. Even six months before his death, he was playing roles of healthy men.
like I’d been turned to stone for three months. I still can’t truly believe he’s no longer with us. Work saved me and my friends helped. In addition to the theatre, I teach acting techniques and etiquette at a modelling agency run by Sergey Nagorny, who chairs the jury of the Student Spring festival and is engaged in work with the Union of Theatrical Figures. I’ve had periods when I haven’t worked but filled them with painting, embroidery and reading. I’m not afraid of old age or loneliness as I’m never bored by my own company and always
ACTRESS THEATRE have things to do. I write short stories and poetry, which appear suddenly. Even the smallest thing can impress me. I began with quatrains and wrote this after Gena’s death: I cry at night and read poetry, with no power to confess my love: you no longer exist in reality or dreams. You come to me only in transparent reality. It’s so painful
grateful to each director for sharing his experience — and style. I’m one of those actresses who always need a director. I’ve been lucky in working with good ones. I once played a role in the comedy Cylinder, directed by Boris Vtorov; I could hardly dream of it! I worked with Yury Pakhomov and of Mikhail Krasnobaev and am
The role of Yevfrosiniya of Polotsk is wonderful; I actually went to live in a monastery to prepare myself. Bizarrely, I played a monkey at 50, in Krasnobaev’s Doctor Aybolit, climbing up and down a mast. You have to embrace an element of fantasy as an actor; it’s a test of your professionalism. The possession of this profession brings me joy.
I love beautiful things...
— severe. I can’t explain. So much needs to be pondered and solved. I love you. I love you in the scream of the night, in our song of love and green eyes, and in my bitter weeping, because of your kindness — because you were, are and will be — you...
I’ve worked with various directors, who each have different styles. I feel closer to psychological theatre, when form appears later, but it’s also interesting to work with those who have established form. You explore and develop. I try to express each director’s idea and am
now rehearsing Love Lab, with Mr. Pakhomov. I love my roles, which are so various: an evil aunt in Gorin’s Plague on Your Two Families (which continues the story of Romeo and Juliet); Lyuti in Dudarev’s Remembrance Prayer; and Death in Rook Despair. I’m proud of the latter. Vladimir Korotkevich’s dialogue is wise and philosophical and I have a large monologue. I also sing rock music and have quite unexpected stage make-up. It’s a true departure for me. Maturity has quietly crept up on me, with age-appropriate roles also arriving. These reflect my inner world.
I don’t play games as I find them a bit awkward and lacking in sincerity. My sons sometimes say me: you’re not at the theatre now so you don’t need to act. However, your profession has an impact on people — whether you are a teacher or a doctor... Maybe my children have this in mind... I love to look at all things beautiful and eat delicious foods. We are what we eat in the literal and figurative sense. Our nourishment of the soul then affects what we give to the world. I have never felt inferior which is probably why I love beautiful people. All my friends are beautiful and I can express my admiration for the beauty of any man I meet — even for the first time. I’ve understood with time that others can find this confusing, so I’m more careful these days. I admire the work of colleagues and easily express my admiration if they perform wonders on stage with their talent. It doesn’t matter whether or not I like them off stage. I don’t tolerate laziness in myself, but I’m only human, so am susceptible. I tend to be the one who jumps on a horse and gallops off in different directions. I’m spontaneous. I believe that we should love Heaven and Earth and everything in between. The prism of love softens all imperfections in the world. We should live, giving life to children with pleasure and raising them in love. If you have talent, you should develop it and give pleasure to others. Take care of your health and retain an open heart and soul. If you do so, the whole planet will be better for it. By Valentina Zhlanovich
Dancing for quarter
of a century
Festival of Modern Choreography, which traditionally gathers the world’s best dancers in Vitebsk, celebrates 25th anniversary
an a choreographed piece really portray a game of football or the divine order uniting the Sky and Earth? Of course, anything is possible, creating a fascinating art form which remains long in the memory. These and other themes were in evidence at the International Festival of Modern Choreography (IFMC), recently hosted by Vitebsk for the 25th time. Recognised as one of the largest and most prestigious within the CIS and Eastern Europe, it brought together dancers from over 40 countries. Star guests and a bright international contest left the audience in true awe.
Fragment of the Festival opening
The major IFMC-2012 event was an international contest, which brought together 28 choreographic groups — from Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Switzerland, Estonia, Japan, Italy, Cyprus, Germany, China. Of the 45 performances given, 17 finalists were selected by the jury, headed by famous Russian ballet master Vladimir Vasiliev, who holds Nizhinsky’s ‘Best Dancer of the World’ award. Two Belarusian groups reached the finals: Diana Yurchenko’s Modern Choreography Theatre-Studio (Vitebsk) and SKVO’s Dance Company (Minsk).
FESTIVAL Russ i an and Uk r ai n i an g roup s dominated, with five performances each, and the Grand Prix (with $5,000) went to Kiev’s Alexey Busko, for his miniature, entitled Album. Japan’s Dance Creation Award took first prize in the ‘OneAct Ballet’ nomination, with dancers transformed expressively into butterflies, grasshoppers and ants. The first award in the ‘Choreographic Miniature’ nomination went to Eternal Movement — a modern choreography ensemble from Siberian Kemerovo. Their Wheel of Life caused a real stir, with the audience giving a long standing ovation. Second prize was shared by four groups: Ukraine’s Sergey Kon, Anastasia Kharchenko — with Dances, and Totem Dance Group, plus St. Petersburg’s A q u e d u c t D a n c e C o m p a n y, choreographed by Konstantin Keikhel. The latter also won a prestigious IFMC award (named after Yevgeny Panfilov). Larisa Barykina — a ballet critic and a member of the Russian National Golden Mask Theatre Award jury — chaired the festival board, which also awarded Vilnius’ Arts Printing Haus Company, German Cie Shen Company and Oleg Stepanov, from Yekaterinburg.
One of the most long-awaited guests at the Vitebsk festival was National Golden Mask Theatre Award holder, Perm’s State Theatre Yevgeny Panfilov Ballet. Great things are always expected and choreographer Alexey Rastorguev lived up to his reputation, with his Destino ballet. Mr. Panfilov himself is a landmark, and almost mythical, figure for the festival. A video message from his grandchildren was screened during the opening ceremony, congratulating the festival on its 25th anniversary. They announced a show being performed by their mother, Arina Panfilova. Many other unforgettable choreographic works were seen, with Sergey Mandrik’s Street Jazz Ballet returning, The president of the jury Vladimir Vasiliev awards Kiev’s Alexey Busko with the Grand Prix
having appeared at the very first festival. Laureates from various years include Minsk’s D.O.Z.SK.I. Modern Choreography Theatre and Eccentric Ballet from Yekaterinburg. Another group from this Russian city — Provincial Dances — staged its performance based on Kobo Abe’s Woman in the Dunes. D a n c e r s f r o m C o l o g n e ’s HeadFeedHands Theatre distinguished themselves with their original acrobatic elements, while French La Vouivre presented Oups — a witty performance about male-female relations. Another
The major IFMC-2012 event was an international contest, which brought together 28 choreographic groups — from Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Switzerland, Estonia, Japan, Italy, Cyprus, Germany, China
‘old friend’ of the festival, Estonian Fine Five Dance Theatre, charmed everyone with its expressive Mandala — exploring spiritual formation. Nevertheless, the greatest attention was paid to Norway’s Jo Strømgren Kompani, for its famous Dance Tribute to the Art of Football; this received the greatest response — in favour and against. Having toured since 1997, visiting over 20 countries, the dancers’ meticulous presentation of all aspects of the game is a delight — from preparatory stretches to swearing at the referee, the disappointment of defeat and postplay washing rituals. The passion and ‘madness’ are explored professionally and with delicate humour. Many view ballet as the prerogative of the elite, while believing that only the working classes attend football matches, but choreographer Jo Strømgren shows that sport has its own beauty. The show also visited Minsk this year and, according to Marina Romanovskaya, the organiser of the festival and Deputy Director General of the Vitebsk Cultural Centre, the performance has certainly been one of the innovations of the jubilee IFMC. For the first time, IFMC performances were held in Minsk, Molodechno, Bobruisk and Grodno, as well as Vitebsk. The chairman of the jury, Vladimir Vasiliev, was pleasantly surprised that all performances saw full houses. He views this as the utmost honour any artiste can receive. Belarus’ Deputy CultureMinister,Tadeush Struzhetsky, sees the Vitebsk forum as a venue for supporting new names and a pl at for m for developing contemporar y choreographic art. “It enjoys great popularity among spectators and artistes, which is a guarantee for its future,” he notes. By Semen Gomanov
Comb even for those with no hair!
You served in the Baltic Fleet as a young man — how romantic! I envy you. Honestly, after graduating from the conservatory, I didn’t really want to leave my beautiful young wife to serve in the army. I’m a Scorpio so my jealousy is boundless. However, I knew that I needed to serve my homeland. Friends told me that by joining the Song and Dance Ensemble of the Baltic Fleet (with my vocal education) I’d serve only two years instead of three. After a live audition, I was invited to join without question. Of course, I still undertook the same duties as other young sailors. Did you clean the deck? Certainly, and the toilet — sailors call it the latrine. By the way, they are very serious about using seafaring termi-
nology. If you called a bevel a basin, you’d be hit with it! Your wife met you when you had leave? Of course, she came several times to Liepaja — the Latvian city where the fleet was based and where I took my oath. I don’t know if it’s changed now but, in Soviet times, to go on leave, you had to carry a handkerchief and a comb. I remember the first time I had leave to meet her I couldn’t get through the check point as I didn’t have a comb. I still don’t understand why it was necessary, as my head was shaven!
next day. A black limousine drove me to the New York City Opera, and, holding my head proudly, I attended my audition wearing a luxurious dinner jacket. Meanwhile, a clerk carried my briefcase of music. It was high-class PR. It all seemed unreal, so I wasn’t in the least nervous. My throat wasn’t dry, as often
In a word —
Fate and Destiny
Did the army teach you anything? Sure. Serving with the ensemble, I became seriously interested in Soviet patriotic songs. It was in my blood perhaps, as my father fought in the Great Patriotic War; interestingly, he helped liberate Konigsberg, where I served many years later. It’s a fascinating link between generations. My grandmother believes that we each have our own path, as set by Fate, from birth. We can only follow Destiny. You had the chance to become a lead singer with the New York City Opera but decided against the move. In the early 1990s, I came to America at the invitation of the Belarusian community, with a group of our artists. A friend of mine, born in Belarus, was an influential American banker and a great joker. At a party, he introduced me to some music producers and organised an unofficial audition for the
sits before you. America just wasn’t for me... It’s interesting that your daughter, Natalia — a world champion in professional ballroom dancing, has been living in America since she was 18. Yes but I’m waiting for her to come to Minsk. She’s arriving to congratulate her father on his birthday.
Famous Belarusian singer, People’s Artist of Belarus Nikolay Skorikov is 55! The powerful bass-baritone has enjoyed a life so far filled with wild, mystical coincidences and much deserved recognition Belta
he‘Belarusian Magomayev’ has style and char m and remains slim, being in good shape. Known for his smiling countenance and melodic speaking (as well as singing) voice, he tells us how life is treating him as his new album, Fall in Love with Me, launches. Mr. Skorikov begins by telling me that he hasn’t slept for several days as he’s always anxious before a concert, despite having spent a quarter of a century on stage. Nikolay, do you lack confidence? On the contrary, I’m very confident, but any artist who isn’t nervous before appearing on stage must be dead inside.
happens at competitions, and my knees didn’t shake. I performed Prince Gremin’s aria ‘Love Knows Nothing of Age’ and was asked back for the second round of auditions, this time with the orchestra. It was my chance but I dismissed the idea. So, a People’s Artist of Belarus
Learning through experience
It’s said that our younger artists simply copy other people rather than being individual. Do you like any of them? Belarus has many talented, skilled people. I like the work of Sasha Nemo and Yury
ANNIVERSARY SINGER Vashchuk. However, there are a lot of tenors; we need to find a good baritone… I’d teach him myself. We need a better system of nurturing t r ue t a lent, w it h more funding required. I think that many artists lack full musical training, with only a vague idea of staging and good manners.
that, one day, I’d work with them. When I joined the orchestra, I finally understood the true nature of musical education. My elder musician colleagues recorded every show — all my performances — then sat me down in front of the tape recorder to point out all my errors. They picked up on every word and musical
firm foundations on which to build my work independently. Without a producer? I’m happy that I’ve found a Russian company, called Avgust, which is interested in my work. I’ve established a good relationship with the management, which has resulted in my new album. I’d like to thank my artistic patron,
like those of our countryman Yury Antonov. I remember falling in love with his ‘Mirror’ and ‘Anastasia’ when I was young. How much time has now passed! Your new album features Fall in Love with Me. Are all the songs similar ballads or do you have any surprises for us?
“Thanks to your distinctive talent, strong voice, high professionalism and bright artistic skills, you’ve became one of the most famous and beloved masters of the Belarusian stage. I hope that your creativity brings fun and good spirits into people’s lives while enriching the cultural life of Belarus.” Alexander Lukashenko
Who taught you these things? Today, young artists have no idea of their luck and how easy their lives are. When I first heard Finberg’s orchestra, I watched and listened attentively, being spellbound. They were the absolute best: truly fantastic. I never imagined
phrase sung incorrectly. Mikhail Yakovlevich Finberg didn’t need to do this, as there were others perfectly qualified to offer criticism. It was useful, allowing me to develop professionally. Today, I can say with certainty that all my learning has been thanks to my work with the orchestra. I now have
m u s i c lover Igor Ko b z e v, who is the deputy head of the c o m p a n y. He helps me in all ways possible. When I come to his office, I’m happy to see people who not only know how to make money but who recognise good classical music. Fortunately, I never hear ‘Murka’ or Stas Mikhailov in his office — as beloved by most of the population. Why do you say that? I d o n’ t t h i n k t h a t Mikhailov’s songs will endure
I don’t think I’ll ever be a ‘wild child’, as I’ve always been a fan of Muslim Magomayev. Sitting at the piano, his singing is stylish, elite and beautiful; in short, he is a master. Over half of the songs on my album are written by Vladimir Sukolinsky, whom I met by chance. When he opened his computer to show me some musical material, the very first song I noticed was ‘Fall in Love with Me’. I decided for myself and told him that it would be a hit. Of course, so it has been. It seemed a good name for the album. Incidentally, you may like ‘In the Fleet’, which recalls my sailor days... By Victoria Popova
Heavenly horses thrill and delight
Audience really enjoyed the Turkmen dzhigits’ performance
a l k y ny s h ( R e v iv a l ) acrobatic horse troupe h av e b r o u g ht t r u e Akhal-Teke horses to Belarus: the pride of Turkmenistan — as depicted on the country’s coat of arms. Akhal-Tekes are called heavenly horses, being thought the most spiritual, as well as the cleverest and most passionate. Their delicate and graceful move me nt s s e e m a l mo st mythical, thrilling audiences with their silky beauty.
Junior Eurovision songs now sung Belarusian Yegor Zheshko has come ninth at the 10th Junior Eurovision Song Contest
he winner was Ukraine’s charming Anastasia Petrik, aged ten, whose surprisingly mature, strong voice brought her 138 points. Belarus was among those countries giving her the maximum 12 points for her rendition of Sky in Ukrainian and English. Second place went to Georgia’s Funkids band, with Armenia’s Compass Band coming third. Anastasia’s victory is the first for Ukraine at the children’s contest in its seven years of participation. She sings with the Interior Ministry choir and has already taken part in the Children’s New Wave Song Contest. Her elder sister, Victoria, came second at Junior Eurovision-2008. The Petrik family lives in the suburbs of Odessa, in the village of Nerubaiskoe.
The Turkmen dzhigits performed wonderful acrobatics on their horses, led by Pygy Bairamdurdyev, an Honoured Figure of Culture of Turkmenistan. His love of his horses is in his blood, making his work with the troupe a joy to behold. He tells us, “Horses are special animals for the Turkmen and Akhal-Teke are our true pride. They are known for their elegant bearing, as well as their fluid, beautiful movements.” Dunia Babaeva, an acrobat with Galkynysh, tells me about one trick which required six months of practise, “We build a pyramid with our bodies, which is a serious test of strength; I have to hold two girls with my hands.” The circus programme currently includes Belarusian riders also, in addition to trained bears and trapeze artistes.
Immediately after the competition, Anastasia admitted that she would love a new dog and hopes that her father will give her a puppy in honour of her victory in Amsterdam. The head of the Belarusian d e l e g a t i o n , Ly u d m i l a Borodina, was delighted by the performance of our team, saying, “Yegor has done well. As far as the voting results are concerned, they are always unpredictable.” The favourite with bookmakers and journalists was Russia’s Lerika singing her Sensation. She finished in fourth place but promises to reach the adult Eurovision Song Contest. Yegor Zheshko brings home many impressions and new friends from Amsterdam and believes that Anastasia Petrik’s win is deserved. He admits, “She sung best of all.” The vote took place in two stages, with the jury’s decision announced almost immediately after the first round of performances. The second round saw an audience vote, with Anastasia proving the most popular over the two rounds.