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No.1 (952), 2013

BELARUS Беларусь. Belarus

Magazine for you

The ‘Spiritual Revival’ awards and special Presidential prizes on figures of culture and arts have been bestowed

Politics, Economy, Culture

Creativity must never die


Events in Belarus and abroad

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Contents

Беларусь.Belarus Monthly magazine No. 1 (952), 2013 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

Veterans in high spirits

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Open format  It determined the form and content of the press conference organised by the President of Belarus for Belarusian and foreign media representatives

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Driving forward integration  Belarus

magazine talks to Andrei Savinykh, of the Foreign Ministry of Belarus, about the development of integration across the post-Soviet space and new tasks for Belarusian diplomacy  

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.

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Looking into the future

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Preserving legacy  

Worthy of remembrance  Top achieve-

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Formula of success  National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre hosts 3rd Minsk International Christmas Opera Forum

The magazine does not bear responsibility for the contents of advertisements.

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Spectators to receive true pleasure  

Publisher: “SB” editorial office

ments of Belarus in 2012

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54 Products that impress

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Skorina’s work continues  Belarus and

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Chronicles of their time

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151st year of operation  Belarusian Rail-

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Lithuania continue dialogue of cultures

ways is in its 151st year and, to honour the date, a steam train has taken a maiden journey along the Porechie-Grodno section, pulling several carriages of passengers. There, on December 27th, 1862, its whistle announced the launch of regular railway traffic through the territory of modern Belarus

Convenient coming out of the shadow  New

Law ‘On Trade’ to hit ‘grey’ market for spare auto parts

Fewer than 500 days are left before the kick of 2014 IIHF World Championship in Minsk. How does the capital prepare for this truly grandiose sport forum?

Game which unites  National team of Belarus

wins 9th Christmas International Amateur Ice Hockey Tournament for the Prize of the President of the Republic of Belarus, beating Gazprom Export from Russia in final match

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This magazine has been printed at “Belarusian House of Press” Publishing Office” UE. 79 Nezavisimosti Ave., Minsk, Belarus, 220013 Order No.262 Total circulation — 1953 copies (including 737 in English).

Write us to the address: 11 Kiselyov Str., Minsk, Belarus, 220029. Tel.: +375 (17) 290-62-24, 290-66-45. Tel./Fax: +375 (17) 290-68-31. www.belarus-magazine.by E-mail: mail@belarus-magazine.by Subscription index in Belpochta catalogue — 74977 For future foreign subscribers for ‘Belarus’ magazine, apply to ‘MK-Periodica’ agency.

Striving to keep pace with time

E-mail: info@periodicals.ru Telephone in Minsk: +375 (17) 227-09-10.

© “Беларусь. Belarus”, 2013

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editor’s note

New year brings new adventures

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ew 2013 is already well under way, with Januar y days passing s w i f t l y. A l m o s t a twelfth of the year will soon be past. Let’s look back on the mosaic of 2012 achievements, as explored in Worthy of Remembrance. As is traditional, the ‘Spiritual Revival’ awards are bestowed in January, for those talented and kindly people who contribute greatly to the life of our country. We are united by our shared moral standards, spiritual kinship, glorious historical legacy and deep respect for traditions, creating a nation in the fullest sense. The value of cultural achievements is inestimable in this respect. President Alexander Lukashenko addressed those awarded, saying, “Man cannot live by bread alone. Even the powerful empires of ancient times fell once they lost the ideals, morality and faith which bound them. Such treasures turn a population into a nation and a place of residence into a homeland.” Encouraging Creativity details the work of the ‘Spiritual Revival’ award winners and those given the special Presidential prize for culture and arts. Belarus began celebrating the New Year a century ago, with Kolyady being the major holiday, filled with customs and traditions, as you can learn from Looking into the Future. Naturally, time marches on, bringing inevitable old age. We all wish to live long and healthy lives and to be cared for in our twilight years. Taking care of the elderly is not just charitable but an essential duty of society. Read Our Veterans in High



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Spirits, which looks at social care for senior citizens in contemporary Belarus. This issue also explores the topic of neighbourly relations. For example, Belarus has long-term close economic and cultural ties with Lithuania. The Lithuanians admire our preservation of the heritage of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, often visiting our sites, while Belarusians love to see Vilnius. It’s pleasant to promenade the streets where Frantsisk Skorina published his books and where Yanka Kupala wrote his first

poems. Skorina’s Work Continues tells us how Belarus and Lithuania continue their cultural dialogue. Driving For ward Integration describes its development within the post-Soviet space, alongside the role of Belarusian diplomacy in this sphere. The Belarusian economy is tiny on a global scale, producing just 0.15 percent of the world’s GDP. However, as a small, compact country, this is sufficient. The question is whether we can maintain and, even, expand this share, to ensure a good standard of living for citizens. Across the world, there exist several poles of economic development, each only superficially friendly. Each vies to dominate

new markets, ever in competition. When relying on others, it’s important to offer unique goods or services: your own niche. The national economy needs to be structured harmoniously and efficiently, as we see in Equilibrium of Successful Choice. 151st Year of Operation is dedicated to Belarusian Railways’ monumental anniversary, in honour of which a steam train has recently travelled between Porechie and Grodno. Amazingly, 150 years ago, on December 27th, 1862, the first whistle announced the launch of regular railway traffic through the territory of modern Belarus. If Europe were to have its own coat of arms and needed to select a heraldic image, the auroch would be a major contender, being the largest animal native to Europe. It already has the honour of gracing the flag of the Brest Region, showing local feeling for the graceful beast. Far and wide, the auroch has been long associated with Belarus and the Belovezhskaya Pushcha. Read Preserving Legacy to find out more. Returning to the topic of elderly people, People’s Artist of Belarus Leonid Shchemelev, 90 in February, views his age as no hindrance to continuing creativity. His spirit remains in full force, with each day spent in his studio, at his easel. Striving to keep pace with time explores his amazing lifetime of achievements. ‘This was a true festival — bright in all aspects, while bringing joy and a spiritual feeling of peace, as fits perfectly the interior of our Bolshoi Theatre’ writes Valentina Zhdanovich in her article dedicated to the 3rd Minsk International Christmas Opera Forum, traditionally hosted by the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre in January. Formula for Success describes the event, which attracted much attention. The hands of time move on, with our new year gaining momentum. Don’t miss out on all the adventures which lie ahead. BY Viktor Kharkov, magazine editor Беларусь. Belarus


panorama  Reasonable leadership Russian Public Opinion Research Centre (VCIOM) discovers that Russians still view Belarus as their most reliable and stable partner

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Light of kindness The All Saints’ Memorial Church in Minsk is young but already boasts an amazing history. On January 7th, the President of Belarus was joined by his youngest son, Nikolay, and the Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk, the Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus, Filaret, in lighting Christmas candles. It has been Mr. Lukashenko’s tradition to visit a Belarusian church on this holy day for many years.

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he memorial church on Minsk’s Kalinovskaya Street honours not only the saints but all those innocently killed in our Fatherland, recalling our severe history and the great price paid by the Belarusian nation for its freedom and independence. Construction is now being completed, as senior priest Fiodor Povny reported to the President. In the church’s lower chapel, he and the Head of State lit candles and

n total, 1,600 respondents were polled across 138 towns and cities from 46 regions, territories and republics of the Russian Federation. Of these, 46 percent named Belarus as Russia’s most reliable partner within the international arena, followed by Kazakhstan (38 percent) and Ukraine (17 percent). “Over the last five years, Russians have traditionally named Minsk and Astana as their most reliable partners within the CIS,” notes the Centre. Other countries significantly lag behind in the ‘trust rating’, with Armenia receiving just 5 percent, Kyrgyzstan and Azerbaijan a humble 4 percent each and Uzbekistan only 3 percent. Moldova, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan polled a modest 2 percent each while Russians view Georgia as their least reliable partner within the post-Soviet space. Russians view Belarus as a leader among CIS states for stability and success — as noted by 45 percent of respondents. Meanwhile, 33 percent prefer Kazakhstan; Ukraine is ranked third, with 19 percent. With modest figures are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.

exchanged Christmas gifts: a wall clock for the Metropolitan, decorated in unique Sozh filigree style; and an icon of the Nativity of Christ for the President. Mr. Lukashenko listened to a choir of Sunday school pupils from All Saints’ parish and then joined the Metropolitan Filaret for an informal chat over a cup of tea. Christmas is a good day for kindly conversations. By Kirill Dovlatov

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spirituality

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peaking at a ceremony to bestow his ‘Spiritual Revival’ and special Presidential prizes on the country’s most talented and self-sacrificing individuals, he noted that their contribution enriches our moral standards, spiritual kinship, glorious historical legacy and deep respect for traditions, which bind us as a society. The Head of the State underlined, “For over a century, philosophers have been arguing over which has priority:

Alexander Lukashenko emphasises that Belarus’ major creative projects have brought it to the centre of European cultural life our spiritual or physical needs. Today, looking around this hall, in which the cream of Belarusian intelligentsia has gathered, I can’t help but ask myself the same eternal question. Undoubtedly, our material needs must be fulfilled but we hold them within us, which is hard to describe: some divine spark or spiritual fire. It inspires us to feel and think, love and suffer, dare and create.” Mr. Lukashenko continued, “Man cannot live by bread alone. Even the powerful empires of ancient times fell once they lost the ideals, morals and faith, which bound them. Such treasures transform a population into a nation; a place of residence into a homeland.” Ac c ord i ng to t he Pre s i d e nt , Belarusians have always praised the power of the word over brute force, bringing forth not aggressors or



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enslavers but enlighteners, scientists, artists and poets. He stressed that the Belarusian people have survived historical catastrophes while retaining a strong legacy of tales, monuments, traditions and songs. Our nation has not dissolved in the sands of time but has kept its identity by cherishing heroism and honouring its ancestors. Mr. Lukashenko mentioned that the holiday of Christmas has become a symbol of revival in contemporary Belarus, with the return to centuryold values which have shaped our historical path.

Mr.Lukashenkobelievesthatouryoung artistes’ victories at prestigious contests bring glory and pride to our country. He underlines, “The most important task is to give us a sense of the meaning and value of life. Culture and spirituality guide society’s attitudes towards work, our children, our fellow man and, of course, towards our Fatherland. There’s no freedom without culture. Where moral barriers are absent, freedom degrades into destructive power and anarchy. We are only truly free if we enjoy self-discipline.” “We, Belarusians, shouldn’t allow ourselves to lose our identity or faith-

Creativity must

never die

Our spirituality, art and culture are our lifeblood, giving us strength to live,” the President asserts. “As such, the state has always supported creativity and talent and will continue on this path, nurturing new generations, so that our creativity never dies. We wish to help each of you, the few endowed with a special gift, making your dreams come true.” According to the Head of State, 2012 saw wonderful examples of the revival and blossoming of culture. Nesvizh palace and park estate reopened after huge renovations, while the Kupala Theatre was also rebuilt and the new Museum of Great Patriotic War History opened its doors for the first time. Belarus is becoming a European centre of culture, hosting major international festivals, exhibitions and artistic projects covering all genres: from folk crafts to classical works and the avant-garde.

fulness to our heart, as these define the spiritual code of our nation,” continued the President of Belarus. He is convinced that cultural development should be expanded to embrace innovative ideas, encouraging competition and respect for creative freedom, since these are powerful tools of progress. “We are firmly against political motifs entering into the artistic sphere; barriers should never appear in this way,” the Head of State underlines. He believes that we are shaped by our cultural environment, so must take care to ensure that our children are raised in a society, which reflects our deepest values. Mr. Lukashenko added, “We’ll always support those who use their creative talent to promote patriotism. Belarusian culture should inspire us morally, forming the foundations of our nation’s spiritual identity. The Bible says


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that a town is built on the righteous; in the same way, a nation is built on its heroes. Today, we honour those who can be rightly called heroes of our time. They are real enthusiasts, who never fail to help those most in need.” “The laureates of the ‘Spiritual Revival’ award include doctors from Gomel’s Centre for Marriage and Family Matters, who help women become mothers. The Director of Radoshkovichi boarding school, who has acted as a father to dozens of orphans, has also been awarded, alongside those responsible for restoring priceless historical treasures and clergymen who have dedicated their lives to charitable works. Thank you for having such generous hearts,” said the President. Last year was the Year of Books, with writers awarded for their love of literature and promotion of our national culture.

“Culture and spirituality guide society's attitudes towards work, our children, our fellow man and, of course, towards our Fatherland.” M a s t e r s f r o m t h e Na t i o n a l Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet The at re and f rom t he The at reStudio of Film Actors were awarded for vivid adaptations of Belarusian literary works to the stage and screen.

Meanwhile, staff from the National Library of Belarus and from the Yanka Kupala State Literary Museum were also recognised for their considerable contribution to preserving and promoting our literary legacy. The President told them, “The country appreciates your work and talent.” The Head of State congratulated everyone on their awards, emphasising that they are worth more than money alone, “Thanks to these awards, all Belarus will know of the achievements of the laureates; you’ll become an example to young people.” We also congratulate the ‘Spiritual Revival’ award winners and those given the special Presidential prize for culture and arts. Their self-sacrifice, sincerity and modesty are the inspiration to us all. They are our contemporaries and Belarus is proud of them!

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spirituality Vocation calls us to good works

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italy Kulpeksha, Director of the Caritas Charity Catholic Society religious mission of the Roman-Catholic Church’s Vitebsk Eparchy, has two degrees: one agricultural and one legal. In 2003, he was invited to Vitebsk to become the Eparchial Department’s administrative assistant. Then, in 2007, the Bishop of the Vitebsk Eparchy, Vladislav Blin, appointed him a director of the Caritas religious mission (translated from Latin as ‘mercy’). Mr. Kulpeksha is a secular believer but is convinced that the most important quality is a desire to do good. “We don’t even ask our volunteers whether they are followers of any

Old fame likes new one

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atalia Neifeld, 25, has been the director of the Dribin District Local History and Folk Museum for just four months so modestly gives credit for the special Presidential prize to her whole staff and, especially, her predecessor, Yelena Rebkovets. It’s easy to see that she is devoted her job, as she tells us, “Dribin has been long known for its felt making. Since the 19th century, our felt makers have created hand-made felt boots for sale locally, as well as to

neighbouring districts and the Smolensk Region. The secrets of the craft were passed down from generation to generation and a secret felting language was even invented. Over time, the number of master craftsmen has dwindled, as it’s no easy task to create felt boots. Accordingly, we’re restoring knowledge of this unique craft at our museum. I can now make felt beads but am yet to master felt boot making — although I’d love to. Anything made by hand is valuable, being unique. We’ll continue to promote felt making, which has been given the status of a historical and cultural treasure of Belarus. We also hope that Belarusian felt making

particular faith. We have just five paid employees in the Vitebsk Region, who ensure that donations by individuals and organisations reach people in need of assistance: those who are unwell, the elderly and orphans. We hold summer camps for handicapped children and their parents as well as recuperative trips for children to Poland and the Czech Republic. We also search for foster carers for children from Belarusian families on low incomes. It’s lovely to have our work praised at such a high level. The restoration of the tradition of charity work in Belarus is wonderful, since it’s far more satisfying to give than to take,” asserts Mr. Kulpeksha. By Sergey Golesnik

will become registered on the UNESCO List.” By Olga Kislyak

For the sake of future generations

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ver the last five years, the child mortality rate from birth defects has fallen five-fold



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spirituality Revived nunnery

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he Mother Sup erior of Grodno’s St. Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Stavropegial Nunner y, Gavriila, tells us that her work to revive the Orthodox church on the site of the St. Prechistenskaya’s Church, which existed in the 12th century, is the result of her divine calling. In the early 1990s, as an ordinary nun, she did the seemingly impossible in persuading the region’s leadership to transfer the nunnery into believers’ hands. Mother Gavriila recollects, “In the 1960s, the nunnery’s possessions were expropriated and the building used to house a branch of DOSAAF (Volunteer Society for Co-operation with the Army,

Our legacy

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he Deputy Director of Belrestavratsiya JSC, Sergey Drushchits, is an absolute authority among restorers. He is a person of few words, preferring action, and has worked tirelessly to restore various architectural sites to their former glory. Among these pearls is Nesvizh Palace, which was completed to a tight schedule, with each detail preserved authentically. “The unique project is a credit to our creative team of builders, engineers and artists, who share the ‘Spiritual Revival’ award. It’s vital for the state to in the Gomel Region, largely thanks to the work of Gomel’s Regional Medicine and Genetic Diagnostics Centre, which also offers advice on marriage and family matters. Chief doctor Oleg Krivo-lapov admits that reducing the mortality rate is the Centre’s foremost aim. “It’s a huge honour to receive the ‘Spiritual Revival’ award, since it recognises the work of all Belarusian

Aviation, and Fleet), where motorcycles were repaired. In 1977, the building was transferred to the Republican Museum of Atheism, with concerts and exhibitions held inside. A piano stood at the original altar place. Twenty years ago, we received the opportunity to restore the community. The first Christmas mass was attended by just 15 people, including the priest and choir but, this year, there was not a spare seat to be had. At present, 16 nuns live at Grodno’s St. Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Stavropegial Nunnery. We’ve opened Grodno’s first Sunday school, teaching around 100 children. I accept the ‘Spiritual Revival’ award with gratitude and joy and will continue to place other’s needs above my own. For a nun, the most vital aspect is to pray and assist others.” By Katerina Charova

fund the restoration of cultural monuments, d e s p i t e difficult

economic conditions. Nesvizh Palace has been registered on UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage List, putting Belarus on the map. Last year, it was visited by almost 500,000 people. Naturally, the inflow of tourists opens up new opportunities for the further development of the town’s infrastructure, while bringing jobs and additional revenue for the budget. We still have works to complete, such as the landscaping of the grounds around the palace,” notes Mr. Drushchits. By Viktar Andrjev

doctors in reducing child mortality and disability. It particularly recognises our own staff, whose institution celebrated its 20th birthday in 2012. With state funding, we’ve been able to modernise, using both simple and high-tech methods to ensure babies’ health. Our key task is to provide families with the most complete and exact information on the future health of their child, at

the earliest stage. We’ve seen much success, since our region’s level of infant mortality from birth defects is one of the lowest in the country. We plan to introduce mass biochemical screening of birth and chromosomal defects for each mother in the Gomel Region, to allow them access to full genetic knowledge on their baby,” notes Mr. Krivolapov. By Vera Dromova

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spirituality History interlaced with fates

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everal years ago, Anatoly Cheboganov was known as a successful entrepreneur and a patron of arts. Now, he’s also known as a serious researcher, being a member of the Union of Writers of Belarus and a corresponding member of the Academy of Russian Philology. His Presidential prize is perhaps the crown of his career. After compiling his own family tree t w o d e c a d e s a g o, he continued his research, looking at several noble families from Belarus, revealed across volumes of his I am Your Son series.

At soul’s dictation

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ince 2003, Igor Dyatlovsky, who comes from a family of teachers, has headed Radoshkovichi boarding school for orphans and children left without parental care. He followed in his father’s footsteps, graduating from the Minsk Pedagogical Institute in 1991 (named after Gorky and now called the Maxim Tank Belarusian State PedagogicalUniversity).By2005,hehad turned the school into a full secondary establishment and had removed the dormitories, installing a new boiler house and medical block



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These explore the country’s history over the last five centuries, through the lives of certain people. He spends all his free time in such research, such is his enthusiasm. He notes, “I was lucky to find new documents about the heroes of the 1812 Patriotic War and about the Chairman of the Institute of Belarusian Culture, Stepan Nekrashevich. I plan to research as many families as I can, releasing 2-3 volumes of family trees annually. Moreover, I plan to set up a fund to support genealogical studies. If a special team were founded, we’d be able to work on many more families, which would be a significant contribution to the history of our homeland.” By Ivan Ivanov

with swimming pool and sauna. Keeping the children fit and healthy is, of course, a priority. On site is a dentist, as well as physiotherapy and massage rooms, a phyto-bar, facilities for therapeutic exercise and a steam room. There are even ski and cycle tracks, an ice hockey rink and tennis courts. According to Mr. Dyatlovsky, his aim is to make the children feel at home. Accepting our congratulations, he noted briefly, on his way to a meeting, “This is a great honour for me but don’t ask me about my merits. I simply love what I do and put my soul into it…” By Alla Martinkо

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h e p o l i c y s h ow s t r u e h u m a n i t y, allowing people to enjoy their twilight years rather than simply surviving, as was heard repeatedly during the President’s visit to the Republican House of War and Labour Veterans. Most are already over 90 years old. The veterans’ home was reconstructed at the instruction of the President, who believes that all such institutions in Belarus should offer the same level of comfort. Even without hearing the veterans’ views, it’s clear that they enjoy active and interesting lives. The gym and swimming pool are never empty. Others are involved in needlework or writing poetr y, devoting themselves to hobbies for which they lacked time previously. Moreover, they’ve achieved great success in these pursuits. Cheslav Vysotsky is keen on art, with various oil paintings hanging on the walls of his room. He presented Mr. Lukashenko with one his works. Mr. Vysotsky came to Belarus two decades ago from Lithuania and has spent the last decade at home. He admits that he never had time to indulge in painting before, but can now dedicate himself fully to exploring his talent. The President also received a gift from some of the women: an embroidered Christmas tapestry. Talent is in no short supply. The home is clean, cosy and warm — just as it should be. Of course, its facilities surpass those of any ‘normal’ home, since medical services and caring staff are on hand day and night. Meanwhile, residents are never short of company, despite lacking their own family to care for them. Sadly, some do have family, but are unable to live with them; instead, they pay a nominal sum of Br3m per month for their keep. The President is dismayed that some elderly people’s children refrain from upholding their duty of care to their


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Warm greetings during a visit of the Republican Home for War and Labor Veterans by Alexander Lukashenko

Veterans

in high spirits State takes care of children and the elderly parents; others are pensioners themselves, so the situation is complex. Mr. Lukashenko made his feelings known, saying, “We should oblige children to look after their elderly parents; if they don’t wish to do so, they must pay for their care. If legislation is lacking, amendments should be made in the first half of the year to ensure that children take care of their parents.” A corresponding instruction is now underway.

A similar system obliges neglectful parents to pay for the maintenance of their children by the state, with fees covering expenses fully. Homes for the elderly would benefit from similar funding. The President was then invited for a cup of tea, entertained by the young-at-heart veterans’ reading of verse and singing, accompanied by a bayan. Mr. Lukashenko joined in the choruses with pleasure, since most of

the melodies were familiar from Soviet times: folk ballads and war songs, alongside those composed by the residents themselves. The President was praised for his singing and was invited to join the choir. Everyone was delighted. The elderly are also interested in politics and spoke of the war. Someone lamented that partisans are being undeservedly forgotten, so the President replied, “People certainly know of the contribution played by the partisans. Some are now trying to discredit the movement but, in our country, we have not allowed your deeds to be distorted.” The partisans are honoured at the new Museum of Great Patriotic War History, which is destined to be recognised as a leading museum worldwide dedicated to WWII. Mr. Lukashenko stressed that, this year, the site is to be finally completed, launching its halls dedicated to the partisan movement. He notes, “It will be a grand museum: the most modern and majestic. Everyone visiting Minsk, entering the museum, will understand the sacrifice made by our nation on their behalf. Western Europe should realise that it owes its modern existence to us and should remember our sacrifices, appreciating that they owe their lives to our resistance and determination. Occasionally, we Belarusians are blamed, which should stop. We haven’t been paid for our contribution to the Great Patriotic War victory. You live thanks to many of our people dying.” The veterans nodded in agreement while the President admitted that he’d like to see them at the opening of the new museum. “I’d like your lives to continue, as an example to others, so they can appreciate the value of life,” underlined the Belarusian leader. A certain poem recited at the tea table echoed this sentiment: ‘One can be young at 90 or old at just 40’. Certainly, the elderly can inspire us. Meanwhile, on reaching a venerable age, life takes on a different hue. By Dmitry Krylov

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FRANK CONVERSATION

Open format It determined the form and content of the press conference organised by the President of Belarus for Belarusian and foreign media representatives

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he press conference l a s te d for a rou n d five hours, with the President answering over 60 questions on Belarus’ social and economic development, its foreign policy and relations with Russia, the West and other countries and regions of the world. The media were also keen to learn about integration within the post-Soviet space and Belarus’ participation. As is traditional, some personal questions were also asked. Hosted by the National Library, the event gathered over 350 journalists from 285 media sources. Of these, about 200 journalists were from 184 regional media outlets. Foreign journalists from seven countries were in attendance. The President noted that just over a year ago, in this hall, and in approximately the same format, he answered your questions, including those which had a sharp edge. “I detailed the conditions under which socio-economic stability could be ensured for Belarus, while preserving the independence of our state. If you remember, I didn’t promise an easy life; however, I didn’t

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scare you with gloomy prospects either,” noted the Head of State. “2012 is now past, so we can draw some conclusions and see what has come true and what has failed to materialise,” added the Belarusian leader. In particular, the President of Belarus detailed the following:

The results of 2012 We’ve achieved small but steady economic growth while raising people’s real incomes. We’re often criticised for low rates of GDP growth but it’s a very vague concept. When I ask the Government for explanations, they give me reports which show that certain areas of agriculture and industry have increased over and above our targets: agriculture has grown by 6.5 percent (instead of 5 percent) while industry is up around 8 percent (instead of the planned 6.5 percent). Most vitally, real incomes are up 20 percent. We have not achieved every goal and opportunities have, no doubt, been missed but, over the past year (which brought complex situations), we’ve settled financial problems hanging over from 2011. In honesty, in dealing with these problems, we met the major task for our economy; without financial stability, it would be impossible to speak

about further development or modernisation of production, let alone raising real incomes. Of course, people always want more. The only way for us, Belarusians, to achieve this is through hard work. There’s no other way, as I’ve said before. I’d like to give a simple but effective example. 2012 saw improvements over 2011, with measurable results. Vitally, we managed to expand exports and achieved a positive foreign trade balance (almost for the first time in our history). More currency came into the country than ever before, despite the unfavourable world market. Many, including journalists, criticised me, saying that the economy wouldn’t be able to cope with such a task. However, it has. I’ve always asked journalists to remain objective. You’ve seen and heard, so analyse, draw conclusions and criticise as is deserved. I’ll listen to your opinions but please speak from the heart, with personal conviction! Don’t confuse freedom of speech with irresponsibility and be careful not to encourage ignorance or disrespect your audience. I'm ready, as ever, to answer all your questions sincerely and honestly in as much detail as you require.


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Priorities

We can ensure that our country enjoys the essential requirements of stability and peace, so that citizens can lead normal lives. I’ve been concerned by the potential for financial confusion on joining the Single Economic Space — and by related issues. You may remember that we introduced duties on vehicles, leading to our citizens’ spending $3bn on importing them. We’ve almost spent our gold-and-currency reserves. I felt that it was important to stabilise our financial situation and we’ve done so. Moreover, our gold-and-currency reserves have achieved $8.2bn. We have a deficit-free budget and, even, a small net surplus. We’ve financed all the measures we’d planned. No apocalypse occurred and the national currency didn’t crash on January 1st — despite SMS-messages designed to inspire panic. Economic stability has been the main priority. We’ve achieved this while remaining within our target figures, including for inflation. We’ve also created a reserve for this year.

I should tell you that what our illwishers and enemies predict won’t come true. This won’t happen. We’ll continue to exist as a stable and independent state!

Presence on Latin American, Asian and African markets There was a time when we didn’t sell anything to Latin America; now, our trade turnover is worth $3.5bn, with our exports accounting for around $2bn: very much in our favour. This is my answer to those who were cynical about us entering this market. We should go anywhere we’re welcome! Looking at Venezuela, Brazil and other countries, it’s clear that we have many commodities which are in demand there. Venezuela is our stepping off point for sales to Ecuador, Cuba and the Central American countries — such as Nicaragua and, especially, Brazil. We’d like to gain a foothold there soon, aiming for at least $5bn of

trade turnover on this continent. This will contribute greatly to our need for diverse export revenue. As far as Central Asian states are concerned, we’re focusing on those formerly within the USSR, since we’ve always taken an interest in them, maintaining trade relations and working together to ensure production modernisation. In Kazakhstan, we’re taking part in about 20-30 projects, while building mining and refining facilities in Turkmenistan, where we also sell lots of our goods. China and India came on our radar a decade ago. You probably remember my first trips. Jiāng Zémín and I (the third president after him is currently in power) set the task of reaching at least $500m in trade turnover. We’ve already at least tripled this figure. We enjoy effective collaboration with this empire. It’s the second most powerful country in the world so, thank God, we enjoy good relations. They’ve helped greatly, having given us a credit line of around $16bn for

2013  беларусь.belarus

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FRANK CONVERSATION specific projects. Svetlogorsk may serve as an example in this respect, where a bleached pulp plant is being built with Chinese loans of about $1bn. The same is true of India, which is keen to share experience in the sci-tech field. We enjoy good relations with India, although perhaps not as developed as those with China. Vietnam is also becoming a close ally. This rapidly developing state boasts a population of around 80m. They’re almost like brothers, welcoming us as friends and being forthright in letting us know what they’d like to buy from us. They’ve also helped us interact with Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. You’re aware of a visit by our governmental delegation to Bangladesh and India, with a successful trip previously to Myanmar. Now, a major visit is being planned to Indonesia and Singapore, at top level. We continue to see success on these markets and are also establishing relations with Mongolia, which is keen to buy our agricultural and mining machinery. They’ve already purchased some from BelAZ.

As long as our partners in Lithuania and Latvia treat us as we deserve, we’ll be happy to continue ‘giving them money’, shipping our goods from there and providing work for people. If they behave with gratitude towards Belarus, we’ll co-operate with them. We’ll be guided by Lithuanian and Latvian domestic and foreign policy towards us, treating them in a similar fashion. We’ll develop co-operation accordingly.

Role of neighbouring countries in relations with EU

Post-Soviet integration

Lithuania may chair the European Union but this doesn’t give it the power to control affairs. I don’t cherish any hope in this regard. We can’t choose our neighbours: they are given by the Lord, so we should live in peace with them. In fact, 30 percent of Lithuanian state revenue comes from Belarusians. In 2015, the EU’s subsidies to Lithuania will be reduced (it currently gives 2-3bn) which may bring some problems. They can’t afford to lose their partnership with Belarus; only small minded people in Lithuania would disagree. We ship up to 10m tonnes of cargo via their ports, which they rely upon. We’ve told them honestly that we’re looking at alternatives in the Leningrad Region and in Ukraine, to find the best rates, but we won’t put ‘all our eggs in one basket’.

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Prospects for the Union State Regarding the Union State, we’ve made progress with human rights and the co-operation of our foreign ministries and military forces, creating integrated systems — as in a single state. The Union State will be! We function quietly within it, without any cutting-edge innovation but perhaps we are yet to reach that point of radical solutions. I’m without worries regarding our relationship with Russia within the Union State. We just need to gain a foothold on the heights already reached. I see nothing wrong in Russia gathering other states around it in a civilised way. Speaking as a participant, we are building our relationship based on our own interests. I know that all the states involved are taking the same position. Recently, Tajikistan decided not to join the Customs Union, choosing the WTO instead. With Kazakhstan, part of the Single Economic Space, we are negotiating to join the WTO, in Russia’s wake. We haven’t joined yet but our time will come. We are already following WTO guidelines, since our main partner within the Single Economic Space is doing so.

Preparations for IIHF World Championship in 2014 The event will shake up the capital and create a spirit of excitement, while promoting sport. We may not win; in fact, we probably won’t. We may not even

receive a prize but we’ll benefit in other ways. A great many people will arrive for the event, so we’ll improve infrastructure and ensure that we have another site for hosting games. Besides Minsk Arena, we’re building a new rink at Chizhovka. It will be ready in time, I’m sure. We need to increase the number of hotels but need to pace ourselves. We can adapt sanatoriums and we’ll control prices. We don’t want to be criticised, as the Poles and Ukrainians were over the Football World Cup, when prices rose through the roof. Everything should be decent, pleasant and comfortable for players and tourists. The Prime Minister has reported eleven spheres of work in preparation for the World Cup 2014, which seem to be being solved more or less successfully. I’ll return to these in September for serious analysis and Presidential input.

Foreign investments If someone wants to invest $100m into our economy, they can meet the President and sign a contract but terms will differ depending on the sector, the purpose of the investments and the creation of jobs. We used to make employment a mainstay of investment terms but it’s less important now, as there are barely enough job seekers to occupy the places on offer. Most important is modernisation, even if this means employing fewer people. There have been occasions when we’ve been offered a decent sum to buy an enterprise — such as $13bn. However, investors might be seeking one of our key companies. We have to look at the advantages of each investment. If you want to buy our Belarusian Potash Company, it costs $30-32bn; don’t bother offering less. Some have complained of my refusal to accept less but I won’t sell our nation’s assets for a song. We should ensure that investments are performed honestly and transparently, so that people trust us! The shorthand report of the President’s press conference is available at the following websites: www. sb.by and www. president.gov.by.


traditions

Yuletide

at House of Mercy

F

ather Fiodor Povny, the Head of the Orthodox All Saints’ Church in Minsk, held the hand a three year old toddler while everyone joined in a simple dance of three stamps and two claps. Children and adults alike took part, having gathered for the opening of the Family Spirituality — Welfare of Citizens event, at the House of Mercy.

The refector y offered hot tea, while some craft items were on sale and children were entertained by funny fairy-tale characters, ski races and carting. Everyone was able to take part in this exciting winter spectacle, marking Yuletide (the week following Christmas Day). The celebration organised on the eve of the Old New Year is already a tradition in the parish, marking a time for winter festivities.

The event offered fun and generated funds in a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The National Centre for Technical Creativity took part, presenting its road and air models, thanks to Father Fiodor’s passion for aeronautics. He sees children as being like little stars shining in the orbit of the House of Mercy, within whom he wishes to inspire awe for life. The little ones were entranced by Father Frost’s arrival in a real helicopter! Sunday school classes are a priority for the parish. Naturally, education is a cornerstone of the church’s mission but Father Fiodor also simply loves children. He is supported by close cooperation with regional and municipal authorities, so the celebrations were also attended by the heads of the Pervomaisky District Administration and thos e f rom the Minsk City Administration. The mayor of Minsk, Nikolai Ladutko, promised that a new school is soon to open near the House of Mercy. A beautiful, modern suburb is growing there, intended to enhance the attractions of the capital. Belarus enjoys a good relationship between church and state, as the Head of the Belarusian Orthodox Church, the Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk, Filaret, asserted in his Christmas message: ‘We are developing co-operation, communicating in the language of moral values. History is written by human hearts’. The celebrations in All Saints’ parish are living proof of this sentiment. Yuletide lasts until the Eve of Theophany. Epiphany koliva is called ‘rich’, while Christmas is ‘lean’ and New Year ‘hungry’. Wedding weeks are traditional after Yuletide: ‘small svadzebnitsa’. One of these weeks in the church calendar is called ‘omnivorous’, when food not allowed during fasting can be eaten. The ‘colourful’ week — alternating fasting and nonfasting days — is later followed by Maslenitsa (the spring carnival). By Galina Ulanskaya

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Belta

traditions

Traditional folk ritual “Carol kings” was conducted by inhabitants of the Kopyl District’s Semezhevo village on January 13th

Looking

into the future

Belarus began celebrating the New Year a century ago, with Kolyady being the major holiday just beforehand. Ethnographer, writer and Rector of Belarus’ Culture Institute, Ivan Kruk, tells us about Belarusian customs and traditions.

B

elarusians began to celebrate New Year only in the early 20th century, since our grandparents focused on Kolyady — which coincided with the turn of each new year. “No fixed date

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is attached to the origin of this holiday,” admits Mr. Kruk. “Sadly, we have little historical information.”

Koliva and mushroom kvass Kolyady is a two week holiday with its own starting point and culmination. A festive ritual dinner is at its heart, since a richly laid table brings likelihood of a

similarly well-provided year ahead. We say: ‘The New Year will unfold as it’s met’. Twelve dishes are offered, representing the 12 months and 12 constellations. Among them, it’s usual to find mushroom and red bilberry kvass, cranberries, sausages, pancakes, machanka (meat stewed in broth and eaten with pancakes) and saltison (pork stomach stuffed with chopped meat).


traditions Lean koliva has always been the main dish to ‘open’ the holiday, cooked in a clay pot. It’s made from oat or pearl barley — with honey, poppy seeds and dried apples and pears. The first spoon is traditionally put aside for those who have died and then all the family begin. A-shroving is the usual entertainment on the second day of Kolyady — or on the night of January 13th14th (also known as Generous Koliva). Villagers walk about in clothes turned inside out, in memory of their forefathers, and are accompanied by a ‘goat’ — which symbolises the sun in Slavic mythology. The goat enters a house, welcomes its hosts and then falls down as if dead. When the hosts take out gifts, the animal revives, as if born again, indicating the return of the sun in the new year. Afterwards, those taking part in the Kolyady procession sing their good wishes to the family and hosts. Generous Koliva falls on the night of the Old New Year celebrations and also traditionally features a generous table, including a newly killed pig: smoked, boiled and placed at the centre of all the other dishes. The family gathers, wearing new clothing to celebrate, and launches their feast with pancakes marked with a crisscross pattern. The third (lean or water) Koliva party closes the holiday on the night of Epiphany (18th-19th January).

Upside-down fir tree It’s hard to imagine but fir trees were once decorated upside-down. Of course, we can hardly imagine New Year without a decorated fir tree. The custom originates from 16th centur y Western Europe and was later adopted by Russia; Belarus joined the tradi-

tion in the early 20th century. However, in the 1920s, the Bolsheviks prohibited the custom and the celebration of New Year, hoping to end Christian practises and avoid the influence of capitalism. The tradition went ‘underground’ but was restored in 1935.

In ancient times, fir trees were commonly believed to have magical powers, so were treated with respect. Decorating them was an act of placation and offering. With time, this took the form of decorating with paper toys and clay whistles; balls came later. By the late 1960s, urban Belarusians were beginning to adopt the fashion of having a fir tree at home but those post-war years were hard for many, who viewed the notion as a luxury — especially in the villages. With the advent of the popularity of TV sets, fir trees were also seen with more regularity.

Betrothed, masked … Kolyady is seen as an auspicious time for fortune telling, being a unique time between one year and the next. Various rituals have been handed down through the generations, aimed at bringing prosperity and peace. As ever, single girls are particularly eager to learn of their future destiny, usually trying to foretell their fate on the nights of December 24th-25th, New Year’s night, January 6th-7th and 13th-14th, as well as the evening of January 19th (Epiphany). Methods include counting the boards in a fence: an even number indicates marriage in the forthcoming year. As the doorstep is seen as a point of contact with those who have entered the beyond, placing pancakes there is another custom. Girls each cook a pancake and a dog is then summoned; whoever’s pancake is eaten first will marry before the others. Another ritual involves sitting in darkness between two mirrors, with lit candles. The future h u s b a n d ’s image is supposed to appear in the reflection. By Victoria Dorokhova

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peculiarity

Worthy

of remembrance Top achievements of Belarus in 2012 Space is ours!

B

elarus has finally become a space power. On July 22nd, at 9:41am Minsk time, Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan saw the launch of a Belarusian satellite. This allows

Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania returned

T

h e T h i rd St atute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, dating from 1588, has been bought from a private collector in Moscow, allowing it to take its place at Mogilev’s History Museum. It is the first copy of the Statute to be

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coverage of the territory of Belarus from space, freeing us from reliance on the purchase of such data from other states. Meanwhile, Oleg Novitsky, of Cherven in the Minsk Region, has joined the crew at the International Space Station, making him the third Belarusian in space.

held in Belarus and required a sum of $45,000 for its purchase — collected through donations and sponsorship. The Statute was a great achievement of European law in its day. Slutsk’s Local History Museum is raising money to buy some original Slutsk belts from a Belarusian collector while a belt has been donated to Nesvizh Castle (woven in Slutsk style by a workshop near Warsaw).


peculiarity Go, BATE! Go, Vika!

S

ince winning the Australian Open Tennis Championship, Victoria Azarenka has taken number one seed ranking. This year, she also reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon and the final of the USA Open, as well as claiming singles bronze at the Olympic Games in London and mixed doubles gold with Maxim Mirny. Football club BATE, having previously reached the Champions League finals, for the first time claimed two victories at the group stage, beating French Lille and Munich Bavaria (both 3:1). BATE took third place and reached the 1/16 of the Europa League: the best achievement of the Belarusian football club to date.

By train with the wind

T

hree new Minsk metro stations opened in south-west Minsk this autumn, with another station to launch next year. Further plans include a Moscow metro line crossing the entire city — from one side of the ring road to the other. New urban and regional rail lines have opened, offering business class seats, while modern Swiss Stadler trains have been introduced by Belarusian Railways, to improve speed and comfort. By 2016, a factory is to open in the Dzerzhinsk District, making passenger urban electric transport.

Our people — in Cannes

S

ergei Loznitsa, of Baranovichi, attended the Cannes Film Festival to present In the Fog — based on Vasil Bykov’s story. It is the second film Mr. Loznitsa has taken to Cannes and won the International Federation of Film Critics FIPRESCI prize. Shot in Latvia, the film shows a Belarusian village during occupation in 1942. Mr. Bykov’s permission was sought to use his story, involving some time for consultations. In the Fog also received a number of major prizes at film forums — such as the Grand Prix: ‘The Gold of Listapad’ in Minsk, where it was acclaimed for its innovative approach.

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17


neighborliness

Skorina’s

work continues Belarus and Lithuania continue dialogue of cultures

B

elarus has traditionally close economic and cultural relations with Lithuania. Since ancient times, we’ve been bound by ties of neighbourliness. Lithuanians admire our preservation of the heritage of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, often visiting our sites, while Belarusians love to see Vilnius, bowing to the icon of Our Lady of Ostra Brama. It’s pleasant to promenade the streets where Frantsisk Skor i na publ ishe d h is books and where Yanka Kupala wrote his first poems.

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According to the Department of Statistics, most overnight visitors to Lithuania last year were from Belarus: more than 350,000 people. The Days of Belarusian Culture were held again in Vilnius in 2012 while Visaginas hosted the 17th Festival of Belarusian Song, attended by professional art groups from Belarus and amateur Belarusian groups in Lithuania. Vilnius, Kaunas and Klaipėda hosted performances by theatres and musical groups from Mogilev and Minsk and further events are planned.

Gymnasium with deep roots A Belarusian Sunday school operates in Klaipėda, while the centre of national communities in Visaginas offers lessons in Belarusian language, literature, history and culture. In Vilnius for more


neighborliness

Rokiškis: Parallels, which is being supported by t h e M i n i s t r y of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, through a programme entitled In the

Rokiškis District, helped the project win a grant from the EU’s international crossborder co-operation programme: Latvia — Lithuania — Belarus. Belarus has been allocated 250,000 Euros to perpetuate the memory of the Tiesenhausen family. The director of the Postavy Tourist Centre, Yegor Shushkevich, ‘created’ the Belarusian Father Frost: Zyuzya Poozersky.

Belta

M i ns k p h ot o g r ap h e r S e r ge y Plytkevich has been implementing joint projects with Lithuania. His latest is Postavy —

Wake of the Nobles of the Great Duchy of Lithuania of Tiesenhausen Dukes. Mr. Plytkevich tells us, “Initially, the idea was that a Belarusian photographer should take pictures of attractions in Rokiškis and a Lithuanian shoot in Postavy. However, I found it more interesting to find parallels, comparing the cities, which both belonged to the Tiesenhausen family. They lived first in Postavy and then transferred to Rokiškis. Postavy’s hospital and tourist centre are connected with them while Rokiškis has a museum. The Tiesenhausens were replaced by the Pshezdzetski family in Rokiškis, who also owned Belarusian Zaslavl.” He continues, “Naturally, we have much shared history, despite moving along different paths today, with different languages. I think we remain close mentally though, so Belarusians will find Rokiškis fascinating and Lithuanians will be impressed by Postavy, whose buildings and churches date from the 18th-19th century.” Pyatras Blazhyavichyus, who heads the Department for Culture, Tourism and International Relations for the self-governing

than 20 years, students have attended the Belarusian-language school named after F. Skorina. Last year, it received the status of gymnasium — a significant event. Indeed, from 1919-1944, in Vilnius, a Belarusian gymnasium attracted those seeking knowledge from across all of Western Belarus. The D eputy Direc tor of the gymnasium, Roman Voinitsky, from Vishnev, also heads the Belarusian community in Lithuania. He tells us, “Our school is ranked seventh in L it hu ani a, fifth among Vilnius schools, and first among those for national minorit ies. E duc at ion is through the medium of Belarusian, while students take exams in Lithuanian.” T h e g y m n a s iu m follows a Lithuanian programme, but uses Belarusian textbooks. Thanks to the Minsk City Executive Committee, the school received a bus in which to visit Belarus.

Tiesenhausen bound them

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19


neighborliness was chosen from among 16 submitted by 14 sculptors to the Ministry of Culture and the Belarusian State Academy of Arts and resembles those seen near the Belarusian State Circus in Minsk. Mr. Bondarenko’s other works are similarly lifelike: Gymnasts on Horseback; Clown-Musicians; Clown with Pig and Rooster; Cat; Turtle; and Elephant-juggler.

Dictionary to help Life returns to palaces Work is also underway across Belarus and Lithuania to restore the palaces of the Sapega family, who were statesmen of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. This year, the baroque facades of the late 17th century Sapega palace located in the Antakalnis district of Vilnius are to receive attention, while the side facades of the buildings, and the arches of galleries on the first and second floors, will open. The Academy of Sciences Library in Lithuania (named after Wrublewski) holds a 15th-16th century gospel originating from Zhirovichi Monastery, which also belonged to the Sapegas. Meanwhile, Belarusian Ruzhany Palace, of the Sapega family, was restored in 2008. Built in the second half of the 18th century, it is surrounded by gardens, parks and greenhouses, with a triumphal arch gate: all recently restored. A semicircular colonnade connects the palace with its west and east wings, in which a

expert opinion

museum and art gallery, a theatre and a manege operate. One hall of the museum hosts personal exhibitions by Belarusian artists while the second is dedicated to the Sapega family. In accordance with the state programme Castles of Belarus, by 2018, the entire east wing of the palace should be restored, using Brest Region budgetary funding.

Great Princes come to life in bronze In June, Vitebsk will celebrate City Day by unveiling a monument to the Prince of Krevsk and Vitebsk, the Grand Duke of Lithuania and the Russian Olgierd, Algirdas. The Chairman of the Vitebsk City Executive Committee, Victor Nikolaikin, notes that a draft has been approved for the horse sculpture, which is being funded by sponsors. Meanwhile,inNovogrudok,sculptors Sergey Bondarenko and Pavel Luka are creating a monument to the first King of Lithuania, Mindaugas, who resided there in the 13th century. Their entry

This year, the Embassy of Lithuania to Belarus is preparing the first Belarusian-Lithuanian dictionary, to include about 15,000 words translated into Lithuanian. Examples of how to use words in context, grammar and stylistic information are being featured. An official statement reads: ‘A BelarusianLithuanian dictionary will be useful for the Belarusian community in Lithuania and for Lithuanians living in Belarus, as well as for linguists, interpreters of both countries and for anyone interested in the culture, history and traditions of these countries.’ In 2010, the Lithuanian Embassy to Belarus published an edition on Lithuanian grammar, in Belarusian language. In 2011, a phrase book followed. A professional textbook and dictionary remain lacking, although Belarusians are the third largest national minority in Lithuania after Poles and Russians. The dictionary should help them learn the intricacies and peculiarities of Lithuanian. By Viktar Korbut

Vladimir Drazhin, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Lithuania,  “Step by step, Belarus and Lithuania have built pragmatic and balanced policy in all areas. More than fifty agreements are signed between cities and regions of Lithuania and Belarus in the areas of economy, education, health, culture, sports and tourism. As a result, today

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the region’s share in turnover of Lithuania and Belarus is about 30 percent. Projects in the field of cardiology and oncology are successfully implemented, the exchange of students and graduate students is getting better. Annual Days of Belarusian Culture in Lithuania are met

with genuine interest and kindness. Acquaintance with the culture of neighbouring countries is an opportunity to get to know each other better, to understand better and remember the historical ties that unite two peoples.


research to Dyla. In this way, Intimate Diary found its way to the museum,” notes Mr. Sokhar. Recently, the poet’s death certificate was discovered, in a church book of 1917, kept at the Yalta Historical-Literary Museum. The document was found by TV journalist Oleg Lukashevich. It states that ‘peasant of Yaroslavl, Maxim Adamovich Bogdanovich’ died on May 12th and was buried on the 15th. In this way, the earthly road of a Belarusian literary genius ended. In Russian Yaroslavl, Bogdanovich wrote golden classics of national poetry. In Yalta, on the shores of the Black Sea, one of his last lines was: ‘I’m not alone; I have a book from Martin Kukhta’s printing house’.

Chronicles

of their time Archives reveal unknown pages

T

he National Archives of Belarus has now completed cataloguing previously ‘secret’ papers from the late 1980s, detailing the private lives of public figures. Intimate Diary, by poet Maxim Bogdanovich, remains unpublished.

Maxim Bogdanovich. Words endure Only the few who’ve seen pages from Bogdanovich’s Intimate Diary are aware of its details. One such is playwright Yuri Sokhar, who recently presented his Lost Swan play, exploring the final days of Maxim Bogdanovich, drawn from documentary sources.

“My wife, Olga Stanislavovna, was among the enthusiasts who founded the Bogdanovich Museum in Minsk. I travelled with her to places connected with the poet’s life, including his parents’ home and those of his acquaintances. In the 1970s, the Institute of Arts, Ethnography and Folklore at the Academy of Sciences of the BSSR decided to write the history of national theatre. At that time, I was working at the Institute and remember the former director of the First Belarusian Theatre (now, the Yanka Kupala Theatre), Yazep Dyla, sending his recollections from Saratov. A small notebook was in the parcel, which must have lain in a trunk in the Bogdanovich house. It is likely that Maxim’s father, Adam Yegorovich, gave it

Surprisingly, the major milestones of his career are connected with places beyond Belarus’ borders: Kukhta’s Printing House was located in Vilnius. His only epic book — Venok (The Wreath) — was published there in the early 20th century, as was recently revealed following the release of details regarding his benefactor, Princess Magdalena Radziwill. Her Zawiszi family emblem of the swan is seen on the book’s title page, indicating her funding of the edition. “The Princess spent her last years in Switzerland, where she died in 1945. With assistance from the UNESCO National Commission for Belarus, the Chargé d’Affaires of Belarus to

2013  беларусь.belarus

21


research Switzerland, Andrei Kulazhenko, conducted research which led to a discovery in Bourguignon, not far from Fribourg: the grave of Magdalena Radziwill,” notes researcher Adam Maldis. “She spent her last years at an elite boarding house for the elderly. We’re now making contact with her great-great grandchildren, who reside in the UK and Sweden.” Literary critic Tikhon Chernyakevich has prepared a collection of documents on Maxim Bogdanovich and his father, Adam Bogdanovich: most are previously published. “I’ve touched original manuscripts by Bogdanovich, as well as those written by his contemporaries and predecessors. Readers will be able to look at the

life and creativity of the classical poet with great intimacy,” he tells us.

Yanka Kupala. Autograph on the monitor The Yanka Kupala Museum has released Autographs of the First People’s Poet of Belarus Yanka Kupala — as paper and electronic editions (the latter available on CD). Impressively, the poet’s works have been translated into almost 100 foreign languages, making Yanka Kupala a key representative of Belarusian nationhood, language and literary culture. Autographs is the first complete collection of the classical poet’s manuscripts from the Yanka Kupala State Literar y Museum, supported by

the Culture Ministry and the UNESCO National Commission for Belarus. The edition also includes Kupala’s drafts of Along the Way of Life (a collection of poems) and is unique in allowing us the opportunity to see his handwriting at various ages. The museum holds over 500 of the poet’s manuscripts. The earliest is My Fate (a poem dated 1904), which bears a light verse in Polish on the reverse — O Kobiecie (On Women). Naturally, originals are especially precious: Bandarouna, She and I, Dream on the Mound, Prymaki and The Broken Nest.

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His famous Paulinka comedy is present in two editions, while his Heritage poem (which became a hit for Pesnyary folk group) is present in three copies.

Vladimir Korotkevich. 25 years of life In 2012, a 25 volume edition was launched: The Collected Works of Vladimir Korotkevich. It was the first time that his works were published in full, including diaries, letters, drawings and, even, recordings of his voice. The 25th volume is to appear in 2010, in time for the 90th anniversary of the classical writer. Anatoly Verabei, an associated professor at the Belarusian Language and Culture Chair at the Belarusian State University’s Philological Department, tells us, “For the first time, readers can see previously unknown Russian language poems by Vladimir Korotkevich: Homeland and Prehistory. Works by Byron, Adam Mickiewicz, Ivan Franko and Alexey Tolstoy translated into Belarusian are also being gathered. Drawings, caricatures and self-portraits created by Korotkevich will feature in a separate volume. Mr. Korotkevich sang well and knew many Belarusian folk songs, so these are being released on CD alongside the Collected Works. His television speeches are also being published, while two volumes are dedicated to his correspondence with Vasil Bykov, Maxim Tank and other outstanding personalities.”

Iosif Volk-Leonovich: Language is my friend In the 1920s, he was a landmark figure in Minsk’s cultural life, helping found the study of linguistics in Belarus. However, his views often contradicted those of his time and he was criticised for closely comparing the Belarusian and Russian languages. Only now are pages from those years being unveiled from the archives. Mr. Volk-Leonovich studied at St. Petersburg University’s Historical and Philological Department, attending seminars and lectures led by outstanding


academics: Russian Shakhmatov, Polish Professor Baudouin de Courtenay and Belarusian Yevfimiy Karsky. In Minsk, Mr. Volk-Leonovich taught Belarusian language and literature for those studying at Polish and Jewish training colleges and worked at the Belarusian Language History Chair of the Belarusian State University. In 1925, Mr. Volk-Leonovich published his Language of Frantsisk Skorina’s Editions, followed in 1927 by Lectures on the History of the Belarusian Language, whose costs he met himself. They were approved by the BSSR People’s Commissariat for Education as teaching guides but were later considered inadequate. His 1929 lecture at the Belarusian Academy of Sciences — On Some of the Most Important Weaknesses in Belarusian Literary Language — aroused a huge response among linguists. In 1930, Mr. VolkLeonovich moved to Saratov, dedicating the final years of his life to teaching the Russian language. His hand-written archive miraculously survived and is kept at the Central Scientific Library of the National Academy of Sciences, filling 171 storage units.

Adam Rusak. A letter to his mother Poet Adam Rusak’s song Be of Good Health was an immediate hit, although few realise that he wrote the lyrics. Most know the melody is over 70 years old and assume the words are simply traditional. Now, however, his daughter, Lyudmila Rusak, is keen to have her father’s genius recognised. She tells us, “In 1936, Adam Rusak — a poet and musician from the Kopyl District’s Pesochnoe village — wrote a letter to his mother. He was working as a soloist with the Leningrad Maly Opera and Ballet Theatre Symphony Orchestra. He felt overwhelmed with homesickness, which inspired his poem: Be of Good Health. Composer Isaak Lyuban, who had studied with him at the Minsk Musical Training College, added the melody.” The song gained popularity and soon reached Moscow, where Leonid Utesov sung it in 1938, using a translation into

Vadim Kondrashov

research

Russian by poet Mikhail Isakovsky, which he called The Wish. No mention was made of Mr. Rusak’s original, despite demands by the Union of BSSR Writers. Only those familiar with Belarusian literature know that Be of Good Health isn’t a folk song but the creation of Adam Rusak and Isaak Lyuban.

Vsevolod Ignatovsky. Revelations from the attic A teacher training college which was the forerunner of today’s Belarusian State Pedagogical University was named in his honour. In the 1920s, the façade of the building was decorated with a plaque bearing the name of Vsevolod Ignatovsky: People’s Commissar for Education in Belarus and the first president of the Belarusian Academy of Sciences. On February 4th, 1931, he shot himself through the temple, in despair at Stalin’s notorious repressions. “Before the doctors could reach his flat at 38 Karl Marx Street (the Second House of the Soviets — now 30 Karl Marx Street) the intelligence agencies entered, removing all his personal academic papers,” explains Vladimir Lyakhovsky, a Candidate of Historical Sciences and an associated professor with the BSU’s International Relations Department. “The papers then disappeared.” Attempts to relocate them were made by historians Rostislav Platonov,

Vladimir Mikhnyuk, Vitaly Skalaban, Alexandra Ges and Nikolay Tokarev. Finally, the National History Museum received them as a donation from Minsk resident Maya Stashevskaya. She tells us, “The documents were given to me in the mid-1970s by an elderly man who called himself an old acquaintance of my father, Alexander Stashevsky — the former People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs and Justice of the BSSR and Ignatovsky’s comrade-in-arms. The papers then lay in my attic and, when I remembered them, I decided to pass them to the state.” The most precious among these papers are the membership cards and mandates of Ignatovsky as a member of the Central Executive Committee (Parliament) of the BSSR and USSR and a deputy of Minsk’s City Council. “This is a certificate of the People’s Commissar for Education, issued by the BSSR Government in 1925,” notes Mr. Lyakhovsky, showing the document. “It’s designed by famous artist Gennady Zmudzinsky, the author of the Order of the Red Banner of Labour of the BSSR. Alongside personal documents, the collection includes five unpublished Ignatovsky manuscripts, dating from 1924-1927, which shed light on some early 20th century episodes of the Belarusian national movement.” By Viktar Korbut

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technological break-through

Belta

Products

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obruisk Belshina to produce t y re s 6 m in height, we i g h i ng 7 tonnes. At present, the company manufactures tyres in over 300 sizes, models and ply ratings, with the unique super-sized tyre soon to join its inventory. Belshina JSC is a giant, uniting four factories which each boast their own specialisation. It makes tyres for mass use, large-sized and super-sized (the latter

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that impress

obviously arouses the most interest). It even has its own mechanical plant manufacturing equipment for tyre production. In making a tyre, its carcass (boasting several layers of durable rubber cord) rolls slowly around a huge cylinder. This core is then supplemented by ‘bracelets’ of cord, rubberised with a mixture of natural caoutchouc (the only suitable raw material). These layers create a huge 3 tonne rubber ‘bun’, which is placed into a special furnace; vulcanisation

occurs over a period of 800 minutes (just over 13 hours) at extremely high temperatures. The tyre then acquires its tread pattern in the press and is thoroughly inspected before dispatch, ready to carry dozens of tonnes of load and endure the harshest of climatic or environmental conditions. Even the smallest air hole or microscopic crack or foreign body can cause a puncture. “In designing a tyre suitable for adverse conditions, we really put it through its paces,” explains the Deputy

Director for Production at Belshina, Victor Yarosh, indicating a huge tyre rolling under a never-ending load. BelAZ, MAZ, Minsk’s Automobile Plant, Minsk’s Tractor Plant, the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant and ordinary car lovers all appreciate the quality of Belshina tyres, which have proven their reliability and durability many times over. Tyres are far more than shaped rubber and even the pressure is vital: a fall of just 10 percent raises fuel consumption and shortens lifespan. The breaker —


bear speculation which connects the core to the tread and acts as a shockabsorber — plays a vital role, and tyres should fit snugly against the wheel. Naturally, super-sized tyres for quarries need to be especially strong, enduring up to 110 degrees of heat. Even tyres have their limits though: dump trucks shouldn’t attempt gradients of over 12 degrees unless turning and tyres should be allowed to cool after intensive use. Needless to say, sharp stones can also take their toll, especially when trucks are heavily loaded. “We’ ll soon produce even larger tyres,” asserts the Deputy General Director for Ideolog y, Personnel Management and Social Issues at Belshina, Alexander Kozlov. “As you know, the Government has tasked B elAZ JSC with manufacturing the world’s first quarry machinery capable of carrying up to 450 tonnes. Suitable tyres are needed: 6m in height and weighing 7 tonnes. By 2016, trial models should be ready for testing, with mass production the following year.” Interestingly, each tyre for a 200 tonne truck costs around $20,000: the price of an average saloon car. The cost of a giant BelAZ tyre remains competitive, but is certainly expensive. Belshina’s produce must rival that of its international colleagues, ensuring that it retains and expands its place on the world market. It currently exports to over 60 states — including Singapore, Australia, Ukraine, Canada, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, and Brazil. By Vladimir Chemodurov

Competitiveness obliges Banking sector forecasts falling rates for 2013

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any view lending and saving rates in Belarus as being too high — especially since most neighbouring states’ rates are many times smaller. Accordingly, it seems likely that both rates will be reduced in 2013 — perhaps even in the first three months, as noted by the Chairman of BelVEB Board, Pavel Kallaur. He notes that change will be gradual though. “It will rely on two factors: the National Bank’s tough monetary-credit policy and a deficit-free budget,” he explains. At the moment, credit rates at BelVEB (among the top five largest banks in Belarus) fluctuate around the refinancing rate plus 7-10 percent. The gap between the official refinancing rate and those mentioned in advertising is to be cut. “The fall could reach 1 to 3 interest points at some banks; others who have set rates artificially high by applying 15 percent on top of the refinancing rate may see

an even more rapid fall of 5-7 percent,” adds Mr. Kallaur. Speaking of the present situation regarding savings, he emphasises that no dramatic change will be observed immediately. “Exchange rate trends for 2013 are now being formed. Our bank’s plan for 2013 relies exclusively on macroeconomic figures from the National Bank and on the exchange rate forecast by the Finance Ministry (no more than Br8,950 per US Dollar),” he asserts. According to Mr. Kallaur, in 2013, financial establishments will be competing even more for client loyalty. “We’re delighted that bank clients are becoming more discerning, especially since we’ve begun offering diverse new products. As regards consumer and housing loans, we offer a wide choice. In 2013, I think we’ll see even better quality services being provided and quicker decisions from banks. Meanwhile, competition on the retail market will inspire banks to cut their interest rates.” By Vladimir Khromov

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jubilee way

151st year of operation

Belarusian Railways is in its 151st year and, to honour the date, a steam train has taken a maiden journey along the Porechie-Grodno section, pulling several carriages of passengers. There, on December 27th, 1862, its whistle announced the launch of regular railway traffic through the territory of modern Belarus.

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plaque has also been installed in Grodno, dedicated to the jubilee of railway travel in Belarus. To mark the date, railway stations countrywide recently arranged festive concerts, attracting thousands in their best dress. As in days gone by, the railway exuded the air of being special. Many old railway stations remain in Belarus, being well-cared for. In Vitebsk, the classic Soviet railway station has been restored, with panoramic-view lifts installed, its ‘Stalin’s Empire Style’ architecture supplemented with the latest computer technology, providing passengers with all information. Meanwhile, Minsk’s new railway station radiates

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European-style beauty. Brest-Tsentralny (Central) station is now being revamped, being one of Belarus’ oldest, filled with marble. Naturally, the development of many Belarusian cities — including Baranovichi and Molo dechno

Belta

 Belarus has over 5,500km of railway line, annually transporting about 150m tonnes of cargo and 100m passengers.

 Eleven container trains regularly travel across Belarus, transporting over 250,000 containers (in 20-foot equivalent) last year.

— relied greatly on rail links. As a result, several cities feature a train on their emblem. Telegraphic lines were laid close to steel rails, bringing telephone and telegraph communication to Belarus. These have now transformed into hightech fibre-optic lines, which provide instantaneous information on train movements, schedules and cargoes. Thinking of the glorious past, it’s interesting to walk around the old


jubilee way locomotives and carriages — restored with love by railway workers and exhibited at the Baranovichi and Brest museums. There’s a feeling of nostalgia in hearing a station bell announcing a train departure. In fact, steam engines were still in use until 1970 in Belarus — seven years after the first electric train began running in the Republic. The latest comfortable high-speed trains will soon connect Minsk with Lithuanian Vilnius, being similar to those recently bought from Switzerland. These are the first in Belarus to rival European style regional, inter-regional and international trains and the Belarusian Government has signed an agreement with the Swiss supplier to establish a local joint venture; manufactures should be ready later this year. Belarusian Railways has independently mastered the production of a diesel-locomotive shunter and has raised its production of passenger and

 30 new cargo and 24 passenger electric trains are being delivered to Belarusian Railways, in addition to 8 heated passenger trains, 6 diesel-locomotive shunters, 20 diesel trains, 29 electric trains and hundreds of carriages for various purposes. cargo carriages. Our transport branch is dynamically developing, as is fitting for Belarus’ strategic location in the world. Two major international transport corridors pass through the country’s territory: one connects London to China and the Far East via Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and Siberia, while the other passes through Scandinavia to Russia’s Black Sea, via the Balkans.

Cargo flow is steadily growing, with Belarus able to offer infrastructure for these international routes. Belarusian Railways is already a powerful player, with huge technical and intellectual potential, working with partners near and far. In 1992, Belarusian Railways joined the International Union of Railways, the Organisation for Co-operation of Railways and the Council for Rail Transport within the CIS. In 1997, it became a member of the Co-ordination Council for Trans-Siberian transportation and work continues within several bilateral international agreements. The establishment of the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan has created further impetus for the development of our railway network; over the past few years, railway cargo transportation across Belarus has increased by around 30 percent. The steel rails laid in the 19th century are still going strong. By Vladimir Yakovlev

2013  беларусь.belarus

27


small business

Convenient

Alexander Ruzhechka

coming out of the shadow

New Law ‘On Trade’ to hit ‘grey’ market for spare auto parts

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ome buy cars partly as investments, planning to maintain them in a good state for onward sale. However, not everyone takes their car to an official dealer for servicing or

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when new parts are required, since prices can be steep. A market exists for smuggled spare parts, which evade taxes and can thus be sold more cheaply. Needless to say, this opens the doors to abuse, safety violations and ‘fake’

parts, as well as affecting the state budget. The ‘On Trade’ amendment should deal a crushing blow to such activities, notes the Deputy Trade Minister, Irina Narkevich, bringing the auto parts market under a closer eye.

Recently, the state has been making efforts to monitor this retail segment more acutely, with a special interdepartmental working group established two years ago. It’s quite difficult to determine the volume of such sales but it’s thought that as many as 80-95 percent of regional sales may be ‘shady’ (just over 30 percent in Minsk). In fact, most sales occur via ‘conventional’ market sites (tables, open air shelving units and containers) so the new law aims to tackle this by only allowing sales of auto parts through permanent market or retail sites by 2015 (or, at the latest, by 2016). Vendors will also be obliged to use cash registers by July 2013, explains Ms. Narkevich. She tells us, “Consumers should receive a receipt, so that they can claim their rights, if necessary.” Used vehicle dealers will need to obey the same rules, with only individuals be allowed to work without a cash register but they can operate only five days a month. The working group is not only developing penalty measures to bring spares parts vendors into the realm of legal sales but is exploring avenues to inspire investment into the creation of specialised stores and shopping centres — such as reduced site rental costs. Ms. Narkevich is hopeful that major importing companies may create dealership chains in Belarus to ‘enhance competition and improve the quality of customer service’. The process has already begun, with leading auto wholesaler Armtek opening its ow n de a lerships in


brands Bobruisk, Orsha and Minsk. In January, its outlets will appear in several other cities, with another 20 added countrywide in 2013. The Director General of Armtek, Denis Moroz, asserts that it will take some time to curb the ‘grey’ market but believes that customers will prefer to buy parts officially using specialised catalogues, since the authenticity of parts cannot be determined by eye. The specialised advice of official dealers is needed, especially considering the technology used in modern cars. “The modern technical level of the automobile industry dictates the need to introduce new principles of trade,” says Mr. Moroz. As an example, he notes that the price of brake pads can differ considerably depending on the manufacturer; all may be of high quality but some are designed for sports cars while the cheaper ones are suitable for slower urban driving and planned braking. With the range of automobiles available comes the need for a wide range of products. “Only a big company can afford such luxuries,” Mr. Moroz admits. Ms. Narkevich notes that large importing companies plan to make use of the interdepartmental working group’s expertise and is hopeful of the creation of a transparent, civilised and developed spare parts market. Maintenance services also have great export potential. She is certain that the industry can develop competitively, with drivers from neighbouring regions coming to Belarus for their servicing.

Franck Muller takes ‘Luch’ forward New shop and collection, with ‘Luch’ remaining Belarusian brand

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artan Sirmakes, Director General and co-owner of Swiss company Franck Muller, which owns 80 percent of shares in Minsk Watch Plant, noted at the launch of the factory’s new store that he plans to preserve ‘Luch’ as a Belarusian brand. He presented next year’s collection of watches and noted that past investments have allowed the brand to retain its reputation in the CIS. “We’re pleased that we’ve preserved ‘Luch’, which is famous across the post-Soviet space. Our very competent personnel can help us move forward,” he underlined, adding that good understanding exists with the Belarusian Government in all issues. The company is keen to produce beautiful watches at a range of prices. Belarus’ First Deputy Prime Minister, Vladimir Semashko, emphasises that he s ees s er ious potential in the ‘Luch’ trademark

and believes that Swiss Franck Muller can lead the company into the next century. He admits that work lies ahead to convince buyers of the quality and prestige of the ‘Luch’ trademark. “We still have to convince people that ‘Luch’ watches equal those of ‘Franck Muller’ in quality,” stresses the Deputy PM. Mr. Semashko also noted that the decision

at Presidential level to sell the controlling share in one of the world’s most respectable watch firms was taken with definite hopes of taking the enterprise into the 21st century. “Jointly with shareholders from Belarus and Switzerland, we’re studying our first quarter results, which show financial stabilisation. We can raise salaries at a rather good rate and, more importantly, have agreed a joint system of development through until March 2013.” This envisages ten-fold increased production volumes, using a new line. “This may seem fantastic but it’s ne c e ss ar y and we can achieve it,” Mr. S emashko asserts, explaining that mo dernisation and good marketing will take the Minsk Watch Plant in the right direction. By Andrey Trofimov

By Veniamin Sviridov

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29


foreign policy course

Driving forward integration Belarus magazine talks to Andrei Savinykh, of the Foreign Ministry of Belarus, about the development of integration across the postSoviet space and new tasks for Belarusian diplomacy

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r. Savinykh, we’re all witnesses to the world’s chang ing face, but diplomats must respond to the challenges which appear. ‘As if following some law of nature, each century sees a new country dominate, aiming to bring others under its power and will, following its intellectual and moral outlook. In 17th century France, a new approach was proposed, based on principles of national statehood, with national interests as the ultimate goal. In the 18th century, Great Britain developed its own equilibrium of power, which dominated European diplomacy for the following 200 years. In the 19th century, Metternich’s Austria restructured the ‘European concert’ while Bismarck’s Germany dismantled it, turning European diplomacy into a cold-blooded power game. In the 20th century, the USA made its presence felt more than any other — ambiguous though its policies may have seemed’. Of course, you’ve recognised the introduction to Henry Kissinger’s Diplomacy; it may guide the diplomatic strategies of the 21st century. Belarus continues to search for its own place in the world. Since independence, for the past twenty years, Belarusian diplomacy has followed a multi-vector

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strategy, with recent expansion into the ‘integration of integrations’. Do you think this is a break away from the past, or simply logical development? The ‘integration of integrations’ principle was first mentioned in Alexander Lukashenko’s article, dedicated to the creation of the Eurasian Union; it doesn’t contradict the multi-vector nature of Belarusian foreign policy. It is a logical development of our regional strategy, presupposing a higher level of economic interaction on the European continent. Primarily, this includes harmonising two major integration processes in Europe: the Single Economic Space (SES) and the European Union. Under conditions of globalisation, accelerated economic processes bring new demands for local markets. Integration is a rational and efficient answer to such challenges. In creating a common market for the wider Europe, we can inspire economic growth in the EU, while developing our economy to become more innovative and hightech. We can only benefit, with both sides gaining advantages. Foremost, we’re focusing on the economy, to enhance citizens’ welfare. We need to eliminate unnecessary trade barriers, simplifying administrative regulations and ensuring free movement of investments, as well as scientific and tech-

nological achievements. True integration demands an open, transparent space based on common rules. Interestingly, this idea has strong supporters and opponents in the West. Those in favour see long-term prospects and opportunities while those against, in defiance of common sense, exaggerate the risks and current problems, demonstrating short-term thinking. They are stuck with cold war stereotypes. They’re not yet ready to perceive us as equal partners, so try to find problems at our expense, to block the process. However, we’re convinced that integration is the only way forward. Wider Europe must, inevitably, form a single economic space, with common standards and rules. So Europe remains important, despite Eurasian integration … Belarus aims to integrate in all directions: not only with Eurasia, but directly with Western Europe. We’re like a bridge between the West and the East, and ever will be. Discussions abound regarding Belarus’ possible loss of sovereignty. If Belarus takes an active part in integration, transferring some powers to supranational level, its sovereignty is somehow infringed… Sovereignty is not a tangible asset. No modern nation can live in isolation since our


foreign policy course contemporary world is interdependent. We cannot ignore these complex interactions. Rather, to make our sovereignty strong, we need to make our own decisions about how we can best serve our interests. We need to adopt independent decisions to promote these interests. If the delegation of some authority to supranational bodies (such as the Eurasian Economic Commission) meets our interests then we can go ahead confidently, without infringing our independence. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t forget to keep an eye on our interests. In this way, real sovereignty is ensured, rather than declarative sovereignty. From an economic point of view, sovereignty is guided, mostly, by GDP, added value and external surplus. If a country can earn more from exports than it consumes via imports, supplying international markets, it brings security; this ensures sovereignty. A positive balance of payments also testifies to a country’s competiveness worldwide. From an economic point of view, our relations with Russia are strengthening our sovereignty, since they ensure a vast market and economic sustainability. It’s a key element of our foreign policy. We began as two independent, sovereign states but are now developing with common integration. How will this integration develop in future? We started this process as two sovereign states and will continue in the same way. The formula for our integrated union will be guided by our current joint work. As we’re equal partners, some contradictions and disputes do arise, as is normal. There’s no other way to move forward. The appearance and solution of definite problems shows that progress is ongoing. In overcoming difficulties, we improve our level of collaboration. We view this process of rapprochement with deliberation, making decisions which meet the interests of the Belarusian nation. We are in control of this process, which should lead to a closer relationship between our states. Already, we enjoy a high level of interaction across many areas. We can speak of a common defence policy and joint action towards new challenges and

“The 'integration of integrations' principle presupposes a higher level of economic interaction on the European continent. Primarily, this includes harmonising two major interaction processes in Europe: the Single Economic Space (SES) and the European Union.” threats; in proposing initiatives at the UN, and at other international organisations, we co-ordinate our positions, supporting each other. We also share an approach towards liaising with third countries in the SES format; this process will continue to develop and I think we can say that we’ll be able to achieve a level of interrelation similar to that seen between France and Germany. That’s a rather unexpected comparison… Do you mean that integration has a strong engine for driving forward? It’s just a parallel. Since the beginning, Moscow and Minsk have focused on integration as part of pan-European and worldwide processes. The EU is proud of its visa-free space, common labour market and multiculturalism, which we also enjoy. Our states boast the highest degree of economic complementarity and unifica-

tion of legislation. We’re implementing major inter-state projects and co-ordinate our foreign policies well. We’re also pursuing a common policy in the spheres of defence and security. Most vitally, our citizens enjoy equal rights as a result of this integration: equal access to education, healthcare and employment, regardless of their place of abode. They have freedom to choose where they reside and work. The example of Berlin and Paris demonstrates that integration is ongoing. It’s a fundamental principle. Integration aims to improve people’s standard of living so it’s obvious that harmonising the interests of Belarus and Russia must remain a priority for now and for the future. The number of those keen to join this integration is rising. At the end of 2012, CSTO and EurAsEC summits brought together five countries: Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan. Tell us about these top level meetings. If our economic union is progressing smoothly, why do we need a new military organisation? From a political point of view, the CSTO is becoming a serious organisation of regional security, as is to be expected. NATO is located in the west while the CSTO is at the centre and to the north-east of the Eurasian continent. We’re convinced that the CSTO should play a key role in strengthening pan-European and Eurasian security. The CSTO and NATO function within the Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian space, solving similar tasks. Undoubtedly, both sides would benefit from co-ordinating efforts. We’re very much aware that the CSTO needs to develop as a multi-functional organisation. The threat of military invasion is far from burning but can’t be completely ignored either. New challenges and threats, such as terrorism, illegal migration and drug trafficking, can seriously undermine internal stability and security. Collective action is required to successfully counteract them. Some believe that these threats are more acute in Asian countries, seeing Belarus as being far removed, in all senses…

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foreign policy course Of course, we’re located in a more favourable region; however, security is not the business of one country alone. No state can reinforce its security at the expense of others. Moreover, we’re confident that, in helping strengthen security for our friends and partners in Central Asia, we also reinforce our own; everything is interdependent in our global world. I agree that, for example, Afghan drug trafficking is a major threat to Europe. Won’t the easing of border regimes with Central Asian countries encourage more drug smuggling from Asia to Europe, including via Belarus? Afghan drug trafficking is a global problem, requiring a comprehensive solution. Firstly, this can be achieved through strengthening the social and economic condition of people inside this country. Law enforcement agencies in neighbouring states still have a role to play in tracking and suppressing drug distribution but the threat of drug trafficking is much less significant than the benefits of a single economic space. Windows of opportunity exist as well as threat. We need to see positive potential; as living standards improve, fewer people will be involved in crime. We have the EurAsEC, the Single Economic Space (SES) and the Customs Union — so which has priority? Would it be better to have just one, strong integration association instead of several — as currently exist in our post-Soviet space? Our task is to ensure that various forms of integration mutually enrich one other. The Union State, the Customs Union and the SES (and the would-be Eurasian Economic Union) have been born organically, so we shouldn’t reject any of them. Each has played a significant role at some time, with its own defined purpose. The EurAsEC has many common mechanisms and instruments supporting foreign trade while the CIS supports a common transport system and shared technical standards. Each union performs its own function. It’s true that some spheres may have greater potential and, over time, these unions may overlap in their activities.

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Today, we see the most serious potential from the SES. Tariff and non-tariff barriers have been eliminated within the framework of the SES and the Customs Union while foreign trade procedures have been unified and significantly simplified. In addition, all types of control along our ‘internal borders’ have been removed, encouraging mutual trade within the SES and the Customs Union.

“Gaining prestige is a consequence rather than a goal in itself. It comes through work within the international arena and, indirectly, via interaction with partners. Our priorities are to make the world safer, more transparent and more comfortable.” We’ve given a clear political signal to the whole world that the SES is open to new members beyond the CIS. Vietnam, Egypt, New Zealand and the countries of the European Free Trade Association (Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Iceland) have announced their intention of signing an agreement on free trade with the SES. In the course of time, these agreements may bring even closer economic relations. Anything is possible. I think that it’s more important to pay attention to the main principle which

underpins a single economic space: a free market. This stimulates entrepreneurial initiatives and eliminates administrative barriers, while ensuring the security of consumers and investors. The same principle ensures the free movement of goods, services, capital and labour. This would allow us to develop dynamically at last, while enhancing people’s standards of living. If free market principles are observed, we’ll develop successfully and more members will be attracted into the union — even those beyond our neighbouring states. These are also the principles of the World Trade Organisation, with which Belarus is negotiating membership. The WTO is a global system of international trade. It can’t be called the highest form of economic co-ordination, as it features so much compromise — over a whole range of negotiating stages. In honesty, its existing system is geared towards more developed states. A new round of negotiations is taking place (the round of development) as the international trade system within the WTO needs to alter. It should stimulate economic development and prosperity in developing countries, helping make the world fairer and more balanced. These negotiations are taking some time, as the process is complex, so we need to view the WTO realistically. We’ll work with it, following the existing rules, for good or bad. Until other rules exist, we should be realists, making the most of existing opportunities. Belarus has already been following WTO norms and will soon formally apply to join, with support from our Customs Union partners. If economic pragmatism is a major motivation in diplomacy then it must surely follow that Belarus’ relationships with neighbouring states are more beneficial than those with distant partners. Our trade turnover with Germany, Lithuania and Poland is worth many billions of US Dollars… This is true but stability comes from diversity, so the more countries we trade with the better. We need to be able to resist a future crisis by widening our suppliers and buyers. We are always working to


foreign policy course master new markets in various regions, which is especially vital in light of the recent global economic crisis and the financial instability which was caused by western financial institutes. We’re unlikely to see any immediate upturn in economic conditions globally so must pursue a policy of diversification. We need to apply this principle to our manufacturing also, so that all our eggs do not remain in one basket. We’re developing foreign trade infrastructure and offering maintenance, repair and, even, assembly of our goods on local markets. Nevertheless, almost half of our exports go to the EU… Certainly, as our neighbours are there; it’s a vast market. It must make sense to gain an even greater foothold on the EU market… We’re keen to do so, mastering new services and sectors. For example, we have our offshore programming and our own software production at the High-Tech Park. Recently, four Belarusian companies began supplying dairy products to the EU. Our trade-economic collaboration with the EU is mutually beneficial so the removal of existing political barriers would inspire even greater interaction. Our Foreign Minister recently met ambassadors from the European states of the UK and Estonia and the Czech Foreign Minister. Was trade or politics the focus? Of course, a whole range of issues were discussed: both political and economic. We proceed from the fact that clear, open and constructive principles of interaction are required with the EU. Speaking about political and economic co-operation with the EU, is its Eastern Partnership programme efficient? Its potential is yet to be fully realised, for several reasons. First of all, the principles for involving players in forming the agenda aren’t working well, since there is some politicisation — including towards Belarus. Additionally, its funding is modest, which prevents true efficiency. It has not even distantly approached this condition. However, it has potential, so we wish to remain involved. It’s an instrument which is yet to work but could do so in future.

The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has noted that guarantees given in 1994 (the Budapest Memorandum) on the inadmissibility of economic pressure on our country have been ignored by the USA, the UK and Russia. I’m surprised at the media’s reaction. They wrote that the Foreign Ministry had suddenly brought this to attention when, in fact, our dialogue with these countries has been constant on this issue. Why? We were given strict legal promises from these countries on non-interference and non-use of economic sanctions but these have been utterly violated by the USA and the UK. They signed an obligation which they have failed to follow; it’s unprecedented. It seems to be the deepest sin in international relations… Foremost, it’s dangerous for those who violate their own obligations, since they show that they’re guided by might rather than right. This undermines their position… This undermines trust in them. We won’t endure such a situation. We’ll continue to remind the UK and the USA of their obligations. In contrast, Belarus has fulfilled every one of its signed agreements. Which new markets and partners are we seeking out in 2013 and how will Belarus’ foreign economic strategy be shaped? The world has many dimensions and we’re already present on many markets. However, the degree of our involvement could be greater. We need to significantly reinforce our presence on traditional markets while establishing commodity distribution networks and extending our co-operation: be it maintenance and repair of our machinery or local assembly. We also need to expand our range of manufactures for export: this is the basis for Belarus’ foreign economic strategy. Trade is vital but collaboration with international organisations is equally so. Shouldn’t a sovereign state maintain prestige through membership of international organisations, also allowing it to defend its economic issues?

Gaining prestige is not our goal. It comes naturally through work within the international arena and, indirectly, via interaction with partners. Of course, it’s beneficial to enjoy a good reputation but it’s a consequence rather than a goal in itself. Our priorities within the international arena are to make the world safer, more transparent and more comfortable. We’ll continue liaising with the UN to counteract threats to this comfort and safety. Climate change, social inequality, human trafficking, energy efficiency and eco policies are key areas on the agenda. Are there any new initiatives? Initiatives don’t exist for appearances’ sake; they are created to tackle emerging situations. We never propose an idea just to hear the sound of our own voices. We aim to bring real benefits, with support from other countries. For the past 4-5 years, we’ve focused on combating human trafficking. The seriousness of the problem has now become apparent to the international community. Unfortunately, it’s a trend to pander to the public with sensational PR. Real action is often replaced by empty words, giving people a distorted view of reality. I’m sure you’d agree that we need to work on our country’s image. Do you like Minsk’s new logo, which symbolises intellectual potential? Minsk’s logo is part of a local project aiming to promote the city as one of scientific knowledge and intelligence. We see ourselves as independent, ready to work hard to better our lot with our own hands and heads. I like this approach. More ideas may appear to embellish the concept. The Foreign Ministry has long been working on Belarus’ image, since we believe it can aid our economic development, attracting investments and tourists. Our image will continue to develop through the years ahead, drawing on the fundamental principles I’ve mentioned. In sharing these with the world community, we share our history. Let’s hope that the world will listen attentively and with great interest. Thank you for the interview! By Nina Romanova

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context

 Minsk Mayoral Office studies Minskers’ opinions Minsk City Executive Committee studies residents’ opinions on branding of Belarusian capital, asking for suggestions on Minsk associations

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he Minsk brand is being elaborated until the end of 2012 — by British INSTID Company. The latter won a tender announced by Minsk City Executive Committee’s Tender Centre in mid-July, from a total of ten applications. The first visible results for Minskers should be the appearance of the city’s logo. Moreover, experts are to conduct master classes and give lectures to Belarusian specialists in the spheres of design, photography and city decor. A repeating pattern of white lines against a blue sky has been chosen for Minsk’s graphic symbol while the city’s colour will be azure. The developers of the brand have even invented an original title: Minskaya Lazur (Minsk Azure). This stresses the city’s aspiration to be innovative, which some may find unexpected. The design will adorn everything from postcards and bags to road signs and public transport, being recognisable to Minskers and guests of the Belarusian capital, including foreigners. ‘Think Minsk’ will be the English language slogan for the city. In fact, the IBM C orporation invented the ‘ Think’ adver tising slogan before WWII and, in 1997, Apple Corporation used ‘Think Differently’; however, it should work positively with a foreign audience, feeling familiar. The working variant of the Russian language slogan is ‘Минск Интересно’ (‘Interestingly Minsk’). A slogan in the Belarusian language hasn’t yet been decided.

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Hunt, go to the sanatorium and try draniki... Tourists from abroad are attracted by low prices, European quality and Belarusian national traditions

W

hy did nearly 450,000 foreign citizens apply for Belarusian visas last year? Of course, some were businessmen attending international scientific and professional conferences and many Western tourists came to visit the IT Park. Yet more were tourists eager to learn about our history, culture and way of life, stresses the Deputy Head of Tourism at TsentrKurort, Yelena Brok. She tells us, “Most foreign guests to Belarusian health resorts and national parks were from Russia, with Lithuanians also frequent visitors to health resorts. As a rule, they bring their families too. Naturally, large events like the Slavianski Bazaar and New Year celebrations also attract groups — particularly of young people. European tour operators usually stress this element to tourists considering coming to Minsk. Clearly, those from Western Europe appreciate the fact, as the growing number of entry visas show. The capital also offers European level

hotels and reasonably priced inbound flights, in addition to unspoiled countryside — as is rarely found elsewhere these days. Additionally, many Belarusian cities boast unique ancient architecture. According to a study by Viapol Travel Company,middle-agedvisitorsdominate, with over 40 percent aged 36-55. Over 20 percent are 25-35 years old and, interestingly, more than 70 percent have higher education. About 60 percent of foreign tourists place Minsk as their primary destination, with Grodno leading among large cities and Nesvizh, Mir, Postavy, Glubokoe, Kamenets, Vetka, Pruzhany, Mstislavl, Logoisk and Braslav being the other main attractions. Various events through the year will draw tourists from far and near. One of the first is a dog sled race held from 26th to 27th January, at Raubichi, which is gathering over 100 participants from around the world. The final schedule for 2013 was agreed in December. By Oleg Onufriev


environment

Vadim Kondrashov

Preserving legacy People from around the globe have long associated Belarus and the Belovezhskaya Pushcha with its aurochs. In fact, 428 currently live in the forest: the world’s second largest herd. If Europe were to have its own coat of arms and needed to select a heraldic image, the auroch would be a major contender. This largest animal native to Europe already has the honour of gracing the flag of the Brest Region, showing local feeling for the graceful beast.

H

undreds of years ago, aurochs wandered the boggy lands of the B e l ove z hs k ay a Pushcha forest. In the 12th century, the Grand Duke

of Kie v, Vladimir Monomakh, hunted them — followed by 14th century grand dukes Gediminas, Algirdas and Kęstutis. Before the Battle of Grunewald, the army of the Grand Duchy of

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environment

Lithuania was fed from animals hunted in the Pushcha but, usually, the right to hunt remained exclusive to the nobility. Indisputably, the rulers of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Rzecz Pospolita and, then, the Russian Empire viewed the Pushcha as an inexhaustible source of wild game. By WWI, just over 700 aurochs remained there and the last was killed in 1919. From 1929-1930, two and, then, five aurochs, from Germany and Sweden, were brought to the Belovezhskaya  The first mention of the Pushcha dates back to 983, when Kiev Duke Vladimir Svyatoslavovich stayed there. From 1409, it was mentioned as the Belovezhskaya in both Polish and Lithuanian documents and is thought to have gained its reserve status that year;

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Pushcha, and were encouraged to breed. By 1939, the Belarusian Government had adopted a resolution to make the Belovezhskaya Pushcha a state reserve. By 1941, it was inhabited by 19 aurochs. Since then, much has changed. In 2000, 218 of the majestic beasts were in residence. By 2012, this had hit 428 — a fantastic achievement! Now, the number of Pushcha aurochs exceeds the amount that Europe’s oldest forest can sustain in fodder, necessitating additional feed being supplied. chronicles from 1409 describing King Jagailo’s hunt mention the need for locals to gain ‘special permits’ for entry. In 1992, part of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park was registered on the UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage List.

People will feed and give to drink Aurochs eat up to 400 varieties of plants in summer: leaves, sapling shoots, grasses, mosses, lichens and, even, mushrooms. Each summer, one auroch can eat up to 4kg of woody forage and 30-45kg of grasses and drink up to 50 litres of water. Winter presents more difficulties since they must rely more on shrubs, lichens and mosses. They can’t do without the national park’s addition of extra fodder: 950 tonnes of hay for this winter, over 1,000 tonnes of silage, 500 tonnes of beets and 3 tonnes of salt. Each auroch consumes 10kg of hay and 8kg of beets daily. Where Father Frost’s Residence is now situated was once their stamping ground so these beautiful animals continue to be seen near the site and tend to be unafraid of people. However, some caution is required, as Alexey Bunevich, a senior research officer at


environment the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, notes. He has dedicated around 30 years to studying aurochs and doesn’t advise us to come too close. “Lonely aurochs can be dangerous, especially if something or somebody frightens them. Others prefer to leave on seeing people,” he warns. This autumn, an auroch slightly wounded a man picking mushrooms in the Grodno Region’s Svisloch District. The attack is thought to have been inspired by the presence of the man’s barking pet dog, which then retreated behind its owner. The auroch initially attempted to butt the dog but then left. Of course, such situations can occur, as aurochs are simply so large that they can cause damage with the smallest of actions. In the Pruzhany and Kamenets districts, aurochs have been known to trample crops, requiring locals to bang on saucepans and sound vehicle horns to drive them away. The Deputy Director General for Science at the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park, Vasiliy Arnolbik, tells us that, this year, funds have been spent on fencing farmland. “For the first time, 858 hectares of fields have been planted with medic, rate, barley, oats and root crops in regulated farm zones, with new haylofts and feeding stations also built.”

Balanoposthitis has been discovered among the male aurochs, which seems to be caused by their high density and limited diet. Their rations have been since altered and the balanoposthitis is stabilising. Mr. Bunevich believes that the optimal number for the national park is 300-350 aurochs (around 100-

Today, the Belovezhskaya Pushcha is home to 1,800 red deer, 1,340 wild boar, 650 roe deer, 428 aurochs, 160 elk, 380 beavers, 290 foxes, 17 lynxes, and 16 wolves

Red Book residents change homes

Vadim

K ondrashov

I wonder whether aurochs could live in other forests. According t o M r. B u n e v i c h , their narrow breeding (being descended from just seven original animals) has made them weaker genetically. They need to be vaccinated regularly and, of course, require extra food sources in winter.

150 fewer than today’s number) but culling is forbidden for animals registered in the Red Book. The only answer seems to be to relocate some of the herd, via the Plan on the Preservation and Rational Use of Aurochs in Belarus. In recent years, annually, up to a dozen have been relocated: to the Nalibokskaya Pushcha, to the Pripyatsky National Park, to forestries in Osipovichi, Borisov and Grodno, and to some Russian regions. Belarusian aurochs currently have no chance to visit their Polish counterparts since border fences prevent their free movement. A joint trans-border project to allow such crossings still needs work but it’s planned that the fences will eventually be removed — if not within a year, then maybe within 510, allowing aurochs to freely wander on both sides. Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Russia are ready to buy our aurochs via a Union State project to s olve t heir overcrowded population. The Scientific and Practical Centre for Bio-resources at the National Academy of Sciences is co-ordinating the project for Belarus while the Institute of Ecological and Evolutionar y Issues at the Russian Academy of Sciences is guiding on the Russian side. Mr. Arnolbik is hopeful that the project will prove successful, telling us, “We plan to study aurochs’ genetic selection more closely at a national centre in the Pushcha. By studying their DNA we can select the strongest aurochs, using them to supplement the local herd and others, including those in Russia. Even in our Pushcha, not every auroch comes into contact.” By Valentina Kozlovich

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hardly a homebird

A

few years ago, a survey s t at e d t h at a b o u t 7 7 percent of Belarusians had never travelled abroad — excluding trips to Russia and Soviet Republics as students. Of course, this is hardly a surprise and even a brief look at the behaviour of relatives and friends will show that most are content to relax at home when they have time off work, or to go to the countryside.

Last year, travel companies reported a fall in the number of trips for tourism purposes: largely connected with the situation on the currency market. Closer to the end of the season, there was a flurry of people seeking warm, beach holidays. 2012 has seen a slight recovery regarding tourist travel, with 5m Belarusians travelling for ‘private interests’ and 200,000 for holidays. Interestingly, this year, more Belarusian trips were made abroad:

Easy to find your way around Tourists can now easily orient around Minsk’s centre

Vitaliy Gil

T

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he first information stands have been installed in Svobody Square, enabling tourists to locate interesting sights, as well as the nearest ATM, pharmacy, WC, taxi rank or restaurant. All inscriptions are in Belarusian and English.

Vitaliy Gil

panorama about four million (up 10 percent on January-September 2011); 2.5m were to the CIS (up 15 percent). These statistics exclude Russia, since no state border exists between us in the true sense of the word, with no control over the number of those arriving or departing. This year, the number of arriving foreign tourists has also increased. In the first nine months of the year, our county’s border was crossed by nearly five million foreigners (up 6 percent); only one-fifth were ‘transit’ tourists. More than 3.5 million foreign visitors stayed in Belarus for more than two days but only 1,714,000 were non-CIS residents. Russians were not included in official statistics, due to our integration. Between January and September 2012, Belarus was visited by 33,400 Germans, 11,300 Italians, 11,100 Serbs, 12,400 Turks and 12,300 Czechs; our close neighbours to the north and west, the Latvians (123,200), Lithuanians (877,400) and Poles (404,200), comprised the majority. The Russian Public Opinion Research Centre and the Levada Centre have published an interesting study on the tourist preferences of our neighbours, showing that, for the last seven years, the number of Russian tourists holidaying abroad has risen just 2 percent. Most residents of Russia view foreign trips as a luxury, despite travel to Turkey being cheaper than to the Crimea. By Yevgeny Pimenov

The project is being implemented by the Belarusian Association of Transport Experts and Surveyors (BAES) and by Minsk Information and Tourist Centre, using a concept of spatial orientation for pedestrians. Tourists will be offered the most convenient routes to their destination, with accuracy of up to one metre, following similar technology in Berlin, Warsaw and London. In all, 44 points are to be installed citywide, with stands soon appearing on the squares of Nezavisimosti and Privokzalnaya.


panorama

Congratulations from orbit

No need for telescopes British Independent newspaper reports that ISON comet, discovered by Russian and Belarusian astronomers, will be visible from Earth with the unaided eye in November 2013

Belarusian cosmonaut Oleg Novitsky has wished his countrymen a happy New Year during a telephone conversation with famous sculptor and People’s Artist of Belarus Ivan Misko. The latter has sculpted Oleg many times and has visited his home, having become a good friend.

“T

his was Oleg’s third call to me,” notes Mr. Misko (in the photo). “He called just as I was drawing his portrait so maybe he felt something,” the sculptor smiles. “We chatted for a couple of minutes and Oleg sounded cheerful, saying he felt fine. However, I could sense that he missed the Earth, wishing to touch it and take a walk, smelling Mother Nature. Of course, he can see Earth below all the time and tells me that, sometimes, he can even distinguish Belarus when the weather is good. Oleg asked more questions than speaking of himself so I told him about my preparations for a personal exhibition. I emphasised that I expect to see him at its opening. On March 15th, he’ll return from orbit and the exhibition is to open on April 12th, at the National Art Museum. His bust will be on show. It’s ready now but I’ve kept it under wraps, as cosmonauts tend to be superstitious. When Oleg lands, everyone will be able to see it.” O l e g Novitsky congratulated all people of Earth on the N e w Ye a r from his space orbit.

“Oleg wishes us all kindness and beauty in life and, most importantly, good health!” Mr. Misko tells us. Oleg usually calls the sculptor at his studio; this was the first time on his mobile phone. “I thought he was somewhere close to me because the audibility was so good. I was going to invite him over!” recollects Mr. Misko. “He simply said, ‘Hello, Ivan Akimovich’. I asked who was calling, not expecting him. He told me it was Oleg and I couldn’t help but ask from where he was calling! He replied, ‘Don’t you know where I am? I’m in orbit’.” Oleg has promised to call Mr. Misko again to relay how the crew has celebrated the New Year in space. By Lyudmila Minakova

A

t present, the ISON comet can be seen only with the most powerful telescopes. However, it will soon overshadow the Moon in its brightness on the horizon. By the end of summer 2013, we’ll be able to observe the comet using small telescopes and binoculars. By October, it will pass near Mars and, by late November, it will be visible to the unaided eye as soon as darkness falls. On nearing the Sun, the comet’s ‘tail’ of dust and gas will begin to show and, after travelling round the Sun, it will continue its journey, probably never to return. The comet was discovered on September 21st, 2012, by an employee of the astronomical observatory at Petrozavodsk State University, Artem Novichonok, and by an amateur astronomer from Belarus, Vitaly Nevsky, using a reflecting telescope. Downloading photos via computer software which discerns the movement of asteroids and comets, they discovered a bright celestial body which was later confirmed by the Maidanak observatory in Uzbekistan.

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art personality

People's Artist of Belarus Leonid Shchemelev pays no heed to age, continuing his creativity at 90. He spends every day at his studio, embracing his passion.

Striving to keep pace Alexander Ruzhechka

with time

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L

eonid Dmitrievich Shchemelev loves to welcome guests to his studio, where he gives them a tour of his life’s work. The walls are hung densely with his pictures, from floor to ceiling and in every corner: large and smaller canvases. It’s his own gallery, which reveals the whole span of his life’s creativity. He finds his way easily in this seeming disorder, where pictures move each time I visit. He enjoys changing their position regularly. Leonid’s mind is filled with plans and ideas. He comes to his studio every day, without fail. It’s hard to believe that he’s 90! Naturally, the master of modern Belarusian art has many anecdotes to share. He boasts the title of People's Artist and is a laureate of the State Prize, as well as holding the prestigious Frantsisk Skorina award. He’s enjoyed dozens of personal exhibitions at home and abroad, and has participated in various international art forums. His works have been purchased by many art museums and art galleries around the globe, as well as by private collectors in Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, USA, Canada, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Australia, Iran and Israel. Mr. Shchemelev also holds the Union State of Belarus and Russia award. At those times, the Russian artists Tkachyov brothers were bestowed with the same award. Perhaps, the jury liked the reassuringly creative manner of Mr. Shchemelev, besides his professional skills. The Tkachyov brothers were contemporaries of their Belarusian colleague, famous for reflecting past themes of labour and war time courage, and Mr. Shchemelev has always been their dear friend. At one of his exhibitions, hosted by a Minsk gallery, the canvases were clearly filled with love for Belarus: landscapes and portraits, still life works and genre paintings, all painted with vitality. His extraordinary passion is complemented by a desire to work as much as possible and reflect the richness and diversity of life.

personality

'Still life', 1961

The window sills of the gallery hosting the exhibition were graced with vases of real flowers every day, harmonising with the bright still life works on show. Flowers on the window sills were similar to those on canvas, although the latter appeared brighter, burning with a more lively fire. Of course, the artist has the right to exaggerate and invent; this is what sets art apart from photography. Mr. Shchemelev proves time and again that he is not limited by the borders of creative thinking, being free to choose images and accents. Mr. Shchemelev shows us his view of the world through colour and emotion. Although, in recent years, his colour palette has become less dominant, he retains the ability to find expressive pictorial solutions and convey his ideas convincingly. The first paintings which brought Leonid Shchemelev success were dedicated to the war. He experienced this first hand aged 20, having been on the front line for four years. It left an

art

indelible mark on his soul, inspiring his series of paintings on his ‘war generation’. Today, he explores other topics but explains, “War is death and human suffering. I like life, so paint on topics inspiring optimism and faith in the future — without war or turmoil.” At the exhibition, works from the past decade were on show, exploring the Belarusian countryside, traditional folk festivals, and those who know how to enjoy life. A portrait of People’s Poet of Belarus Yakub Kolas was also depicted, with a firm, confident gaze into the distance. He is presented as a philosopher yet with an understanding for the common man. Meanwhile, his lyrical female portraits celebrate beauty and charm, with a touch of other-worldliness. Mr. Shchemelev remains brimming with creativity, despite his grand age. His passion for art keeps the fire lit in his heart while his soul continues to bring forth every human emotion, without which art can only be hollow, as he has long ago learnt. You paint every day. To what extent do your current works reflect today’s world and how much of the past do you bring to them? Do you connect the past and present? Art holds a mirror to the world and all that is in it. I’m painting scenes from the war of 1812, when France attacked Russia, but can present the emotions with a modern perspective, so that they strike a chord today. I’m a modern man, so I’m more concerned with the present than with history. You can gain a better understanding of today’s issues by understanding the past. I like modern art, although my studio gallery has a picture of Napoleon! I like to see a modern understanding of the past — a modern perspective. Art brings joy and delight, as it has done since ancient times. Ancient Greek art is worthy of admiration, as you can see the character and opinion of each artist. I think it’s important to see the world’s development though, since there’s more benefit in this.

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From the autobiography of People's Artist of Belarus L. Shchemelev: I was lucky, being born in Vitebsk — a city of artists. I spent my childhood surrounded by art lovers, albeit amateur. I learnt about colour, canvases and the smell of fresh painted pictures early on. The Dvina River was nearby, which is still sacred to me. My most treasured childhood memories are of delightful winter skiing and playing on the banks of the Dvina in summer. There were trips to my grandmother’s village and, of course, films. The war ended all that of course. In 1941, I left, like others, to fight., In 1943, during the liberation of Belarus under the town o Mozyr I was seriously wounded and sent to hospital. However, I recovered sufficiently to fight again. In short, I survived those terrible war years of the last century. Destiny saved me and I went to Minsk’s Art College. Later, I worked as a teacher and, finally, I entered the Art Institute in Minsk. I was lucky again, studying under Vitaly Konstantinovich Tsvirko — a wonderful artist and teacher, who opened my eyes to a new understanding of the world. I gradually overcame my early artistic failures and soon began to exhibit throughout Minsk, Moscow and abroad. I still work hard and now enjoy the success of my children and grandchildren. My artist's life is the best gift I’ve

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received from God: my admiration of the world and ability to depict its surprising paradoxes. Creating art brings me great happiness. Your teacher, Vitaly Tsvirko, disliked public speaking but his paintings were more eloquent than words. How do you categorise yourself? I’m among those who love their profession. I can describe my thoughts in words and can critique the works of others, although I’m not a professional in this sphere. When it comes to my teacher, Vitaly Konstantinovich Tsvirko, I have a great deal to say, as I gratefully admire him as an artist and as a person. When you’ve studied for a long time, you find that many teachers influence you. However, those who teach art can be the most

influential, as they teach you so much about yourself. This allows you to grow as an artist, understanding your role and responsibilities. Mr. Tsvirko was such a teacher to me. Being a great artist, he passed on more than professional skills. He showed me humanity and love for the countryside — both of which he felt strongly himself. Is this why pictures of nature dominate your canvases, in various states and moods? I have few ‘pure’ landscapes as most use some pictorial construction or portray action. My characters not only complement and enliven the landscape, but are intrinsically connected to their environment. I don’t create plots but I do work on a theme, striving to reveal it to my viewer. I paint life rather than fantasy. You travelled a lot deal across the USSR, visiting Europe and Asia. How did they influence you as an artist and for what were you searching? What did you want to understand? I travelled a great deal, especially in Soviet times, seeing all fifteen republics. I’ve been abroad many times and always returned with vast amounts of artistic material. More importantly, I was able to compare art in each place, striving to understand what feeds the creativity of each famous artist (in the USSR and abroad). I realised the obvious: art 'Hannachka', 1996


is nurtured by folk art, culture and traditions. You can only reach the ultimate peak of success, at home or internationally, if you are true to this idea, processing that which is unique and special. In the end, you can present it to the world in a way which is universally recognisable. So, you had the opportunity to compare sights with those of your homeland. How does Belarus differ and what do you think visitors notice most on arriving here for the first time? Primarily, our countryside, as Belarus is covered in a whole system of pure spring lakes and a network of large and small rivers. These nourish nature, keeping colours fresh and juicy; it can’t be ignored. Colours don’t fade, they simply change with the seasons, remaining vivid. The rich green of spring and summer flowers is replaced by the amazing shades and tones of autumn. The transition is seamless and filled with majesty. Winter then takes over, with its purity and white snow. Our lace-frosted trees are like nothing else. Our countryside never looks weary. It is always alive and fresh. This may be why Belarus has always had so many wonderful landscape-painters. From Mr. Shchemelev’s autobiography: Of course, I worked a great deal outside to create my landscapes — not only in my studio. The whole Soviet Union was my studio, as I travelled physically, spiritually and mentally. I took

my sketchbook and album to almost every Soviet republic — geographically and in my imagination. I visited the Great North and the South, studying in central Russia and in the Baltic States, in Ukraine, the Caucasus, in Central Asia and, of course, in my native Belarus. I also visited a number of countries in Europe and the Far East, including Hungary, Poland, Yugoslavia, Greece, France, Germany, Spain, Austria and Vietnam. I gave exhibitions, including personal exhibitions in various cities across Belarus, Russia and Germany. My paintings have been on display in dozens of foreign countries and have been acquired by the largest museums and galleries around the world. In this sense, it’s a sin to complain about Fate. A personal exhibition is a creative test for any artist. About a year ago, in one of the capital’s exclusive galleries, Mr. Shchemelev presented My Family. It featured mainly portraits, which revealed far more than a simple photograph might do. The canvases showed those closest people to the artist: his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and wife Svetlana. One shows them all gathered together but most are individual portraits. They span the years, providing a family chronology; some date from half a century ago. The early works differ from those created in his later years, showing how his maturity has changed his style. Mr. Shchemelev has always been faithful to his professional credo, painting

that which appears important or interesting to him. In fact, his choices have not always brought him praise but he kept to his chosen path and, in the end, has received the recognition he deserves, being famous and popular. Even today, his outspoken views on art and its role in society do not always please officials. He asserts that artists need more state support, and mentioned this again at the opening of his most recent exhibition. He cares not for himself, having all that might ever need, but speaks for his fellow artists, whose conditions are often constrained. The influence of art is not to be underestimated. One middle-aged man at the launch noted that his own son seemed to only be interested in computer games until his attention was caught by one of Mr. Shchemelev’s paintings in his home, depicting a white horse (his oft used symbol of luck, hope and determination). The work so touched the young man that he began painting himself, asking his parents to finance his new hobby. They readily agreed of course. The painting now hangs in his own room. At the opening of the exhibition, several speeches were given in the artist’s honour and I could not resist adding my own thoughts, believing that my long acquaintance with Leonid Shchemelev gave me the right to speak. I noted his dedication, working without respite, despite his age. His spacious studio is so full of paintings that there is no space left

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art personality

'Moonlight'. Oil, 1993

on the walls, obliging him to rotate works regularly. Surrounded by his treasured ‘children’ he begins work at his easel. They are like his family! Portraits of people hang alongside your landscapes… Like any artist, I paint what pleases and impresses me. I love those close to me, so I paint them with pleasure. With equal pleasure, I create portraits of those who are close to me in spirit or conviction. In my opinion, they are good as they are. Over the years, I’ve attended your exhibitions, seeing your still life works, which I think are among your most bright, emotional and beautiful. Are you content for the word ‘beautiful’ to be applied to your art or do you find it too trivial? I think that beauty is a necessary quality for art. Think of the famous line: ‘beauty will save the world’. Why should I be displeased? All art should be beautiful, having been created by an artist. Paintings should be especially so, being so colourful. Landscapes are naturally beautiful, being filled with colour; without this, we’d see only a desert. As one artist said: ‘Learn from

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nature and create real art’. Folk art draws on all which is beautiful; it’s a formula which can never fail. Do you think today is a difficult time for artists? It has always been difficult for artists but I endured the tough war years and those that followed. I’ve always had to overcome something, be deprived of something or suffer something. My life has steeled me for anything, so I don’t find our modern world too difficult. It was once much harder. My art still has purpose: making others happy at exhibitions. When times are hard, people appreciate art and beauty all the more, seeking the spiritual and perfect. Art gives us affirmation that we are alive. From Mr. Shchemelev’s autobiography: Feelings are everything. If you can embody feelings as concepts, you’re a philosopher; if you embody them as images, you’re an artist. Painters, like poets, live through their works. Despite walking on Earth, we can rise to the sublime through our thoughts. I think there’s a boundary that shouldn’t be crossed — in art and poetry.

I try not to distort the purity of nature, believing that good art reflects our spiritual life, the artist's personal view of the world, the universe, the past and the present. We give our own artistic evaluation and nothing more. This is my mission, so I’m a very balanced artist, seeking that which is reasonable, kind and joyful. This pursuit brings me great happiness. Mr. Shchemelev does not seek popularity; it comes of its own accord, as a result of his talent. He happily shares his works with his audience, which is diverse in itself. He truly was born to be a People’s Artist — by vocation. Mr. Shchemelev’s kaleidoscope of colour and shades brings alive his world of images and characters, which portray the past and his hopes for the future. He conveys his impressions with skill, giving us not just beauty but an understanding of life’s rich palette. Mr. Shchemelev is interesting to listen to, being sincere in his views and unafraid of speaking his mind. He always has something to say: about art, the role of the artist or the national component of art… Is creativity influenced by its age? Hugely; artists have always paid attention to their society and time. The change of authority and collapse of the Soviet Union had an impact on us although our national culture and its vision did not fall apart. We enjoy a union of thoughts and views. I look at Belarusian art and notice with optimism that many artists identify themselves with national culture, inspired by our emotions and troubles. Everyone sees life differently but, as a Belarusian, I notice this. Do you think foreign art lovers are intrigued by Belarusian art? They notice the unique national aspects. French and Italian guests have visited my studio to buy works and chat about their understanding of my pictures. They were interesting and their view of our art was original. They didn’t just see the old-fashioned elements of Soviet art, whereby we were forced to produce a certain theme or style. They saw my own


personality personal expression and my vision of our culture. Do you think recognition is best shown through the purchase of paintings or through critique? How would you describe your works? I tend to paint modern works: contemporary portraits and landscapes. However, I’m also interested in historical moments, having painted Napoleon, Alexander Pushkin and events related to the last war. Foremost, I’m attracted to contemporary reality. It’s good to know about history, but it’s interesting to show how people live now and their attitude to the world today. In short, I want to emphasise that time plays a great role in art.

art

Are you concerned about preserving the traditions of Belarusian art? It’s vital to the development of society and the artistic environment. If all art around the world were identical it would lose its interest. Belarusian artists should be interesting in America by displaying national colour and spirit. We can promote knowledge of Belarus in this way. When I exhibited in Moscow, I did not always receive approval, although even high officials accepted my works. You need to express a spirit or a mood: the essence, for example, of Belarusian nature. It helps to see how

other nations portray similar themes and to note their differences.

'People from the North'. Watercolor, 1963

By Victor Mikhailov

From Mr. Shchemelev’s autobiography: Today, as always, I work hard and gain strength from creativity, colour and the rhythm of time. I’m inspired by family and the moral support of friends and, of course, by the amazing beauty and tenderness of my native Belarus. I feel empowered by its heroic and long suffering history and its faith in its great future. Is today a favourable time for creativity? For me — yes. I’m already at an age where I can say more than I do, so I can be critical. However, I think others find it difficult. Artists are individualists but must compromise, following the dictates of their own heart. It’s not easy. Art is inspired by living but requires dedication and reasonable judgement. Have you changed your style or manner in the course of your career? If so, how can you explain this? Manner, taste and style change as we grow older. Fundamentally, I have one style, doing what I can in the way I know how. What is your philosophy as an artist? I find the world and its people interesting. I’ve visited many countries, painting abroad, but always paint best on coming home, with great inspiration! This is normal for anyone who loves their homeland. Do you want to inspire deep thought from audiences or simply be admired? Delight lasts but a moment while art which provokes thought endures. All artists are philosophers to some extent. People’s Artist of Belarus Leonid Shchemelev presents us with the opportunity to consider the unique beauty of our native land, and to see the diversity of the world around us, feeling the grace and dignity of the individual. His simple, unpretentious plots are charismatic in their natural beauty and spirituality.

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opera forum

Formula of success

T

National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre hosts 3rd Minsk International Christmas Opera Forum

he fest was truly bright — bringing joy and spiritual view on the world. Moreover, it well suited the Bolshoi Theatre’s interior decorations which re-opened (after a major three year reconstruction) on March 8th, 2009. On entering the building, you can’t but smile — opening your soul to the beauty which sparkles in crystal of the huge chandeliers and mirrors. Even in the cloak-room you would feel yourself a participant of a wonderful solemn holiday... In describing the recent C h r i s t m a s For u m , t h e greatest admiration rules: truly, the event was the most wonderful and impressive. There is no doubt that anyone — who participated in the holiday in previous years — would agree that the forum is gaining momentum every new year. Its six days pleased with premieres and a prestigious international contest of singers of Italian opera: Compеtizione Dell’Opera. Really, this one of the brightest events of the Bolshoi Theatre.

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The contest Everyone who falls in love with opera has his own affair with this art — which lasts all life long. Accordingly, these fans have their own preferences among performances, singers and conductors. Moreover, they boast a possibility to ‘open’ new names. While listening to young singers, I — personally — marked out some of them whose artistic fate would be interesting for me in the future; I’d definitely wish them all possible artistic luck. Naturally, vocal singing is singing to a subjective view — as any other art. It often happens that someone’s personal opinion does not coincide with a public view. My preference — Maria Semochkina — failed to win an award, although reaching the finals alongside other 12 singers from Belarus,

Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Korea. Pleasingly, she attracted attention of some of my colleague-journalists as well. Moreover, two of the Bolshoi Theatre’s acknowledged soloists warmly spoke of Maria during the second round, noting that the lady understands what she is singing about. No doubt, understanding is vital for an operatic artiste and I have no doubts that Maria would have her own wins in the future; her delicate and serene soprano is as r i ch as her beauty and womanhood. Maria probably lacks technique or something special in singing top notes (which is definitely important for an operatic singer and cannot but noticed by professionals). However, she impresses with a restrained internal

drama and a wonderful voice. When listening to Ms. Semochkina during the second round, I thought that her ‘nature’ would have perfectly suit Eugene Onegin’s Tatiana Larina. Maria’s ability to feel deeply is evident but she fails to fully reveal it due to her young age. I once read an interview with a Russian opera diva — Yelena Obraztsova; she said that a true culture of singing is based not only on a virtuoso capability of singing but life experience as well. According to her, much must be lived through, read and seen before coming on stage and talking to the audience. A good singer must suffer, cry, lose, find, love... Meanwhile, the youth uses the privilege of life: to often live it in the state of joy, an accelerated rhythm and a desire to be ahead of time. As a result, some young people fail to reveal the complicated feelings (natural to experienced or God-kissed performers) in singing operatic solo. Moreover, as Ms. Obraztsova

The winner of the competition of young performers Rahim Mirzakamalov


opera forum

All the participants of the opera final round came on the scene for awards

noted, in a desire to earn more money, many young singers start working over a complicated repertoire which they have no strength to cope with; as a result, their career finishes quickly — though its beginning was brilliant... As op erat ic sp e cia lists admit, some singers are traditionally unsuccessful at contests. However, this is not Ms. Semochkina’s case of course. In the past, she many times won awards and diplomas and, no doubt, was pleased to win a Grand Prix at the 3rd International Festival of Slavic Music in Moscow (2007). In addition, she was acknowledged among the best (being awarded a diploma) at the Yelena Obraztsova International Contest of Young Operatic Singers, in 2009; the event awarded no Grand Prix then. At present, the singer studies at the P.I. Tchaikovsky Moscow State Conservatory’s Solo Singing Department, also singing at the Chamber Musical Theatre since 2011. In the finals of the contest, Maria sang Donna Anna’s role (in The Libertine Punished,

or Don Juan), deserving our respect. The Bolshoi Opera soloists — Anatoly Sivko and Ilya Silchukov — deserve our praise as well; in the past, they won several prestigious international contests (representing Belarus). Compеtizione Dell’Opera took place for the first time in 1996 and, in 16 years of its existence, it’s become among the largest contests in the world. In 2001, it was hosted by Dresden and, in 2011, Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre (in Moscow) housed its semifinals and finals. This year, the preliminar y singing events took place in Vienna, Dresden, Sochi, Moscow and Minsk. The finals are traditionally organised as a public concert. I’d wish to stress that all finalists are worthy of recognition — singing in Italian under the accompaniment of the Bolshoi Theatre Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Spain’s Daniel Montane). Ancient and 20th century Italian music was performed — in line with the contest rules. Before the winners

were announced, flowers and diplomas of participants were presented to all finalists. Each of them attracted special attention; some surprised with their personal interpretation of the performed characters, others impressed with their voice or the feeling of music. Importantly, some singers presented themselves in an artistic manner; artistry of Russia’s Karine Kerunts attracted the jury’s attention — being praised by representatives of Linz’s Brucknerhaus and the Latvian National Opera (whose General Director and a jury member, Andrejs Jagars awarded the young singer with a diploma). According to the jury chair, a famous German producer, the Director of the German Bremen theatres and an organiser of the Dresden Opera Ball — Prof. Hans-Joachim Frey, it’s very important how a soloist represent themselves on coming to an operatic stage. No doubt, other features must be present and — if they organically combine — a Grand Prix award is inevitable.

The jur y was grand, featuring heads and leading artistes from opera theatres of Germany, Austria, the UK, Switzerland, Bulgaria, Estonia, Lithuania, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia and B elar us. Their winning choice was Uzbekistan’s Rahim Mirzakamalov — a soloist at the A. Navoi State Academic Bolshoi Theatre. Rahim was also awarded a special prize by the Lvov National Opera and Ballet Theatre, also being invited to take part in the theatre’s concert or performance. This singer attracted my attention as well, during the second round. In view, the holder the first prize does not match the context of the five positions — as enumerated by Mr. Frey during his meeting with journalists. Really, Rahim can represent himself and demonstrates a perfect technique. Moreover, h i s b ar iton e i s s t rong . Nevertheless, I lacked the dramatic depth, which I noticed in Ms. Semochkina. The second place went to a very ‘technical’ soloist

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opera forum

A scene from the Sofia National Opera and Ballet Thetre's 'Siegfried'

of the Ukrainian National Opera — Darya Knyazeva (soprano); she demonstrated a strong voice and powerful character. The singer was also invited to perform at the A. Navoi State Academic Bolshoi Theatre and German Erfurt Opera Theatre. The third place was awarded to Ayuna Bazargurueva, from Buryatia’s State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre (named after Tsydynzhapov). Six best finalists — including Karine Kerunts — were engaged by directors of European opera theatres; their names were announced at the awarding ceremony which took place in the atmosphere of strong audience’s ovation. Actually, the ceremony was a show in itself. Public recognised jury members and stars of the global operatic art who came

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to stage to award winners with diplomas (jointly with directors of opera theatres). These experienced singers demonstrated their mastery next day, during the galaconcert.

Premieres It’s a true holiday to come to an opera theatre as the elite operatic art always inspires lofty feelings. As a rule, the latter are experienced by well prepared public — true theatre goers who love emotions aroused during an opera performance. I don’t remember the name of a teacher (training singers’ voice) who said that emotions are a key to opera understanding. If — being a spectator — you trust these emotions, then you’d definitely feel the symphony of

music and singers’ vocal capabilities which are unlikely to arouse some insignificant feelings. In turn, they would bring you associations with your own life — opening the layers which are seemingly forgotten forever. An opera is a supreme miracle and — I’d love to repeat another time — each has their own affair with this art. Mine started in the childhood when — on hearing a radio version of A. Alyabiev’s The Nightingale — I tried to repeat its melody and coloratura. I then strained my voice. Of course, at that time, I knew nothing of opera. I also had little understanding of the fact that a person might lack a capability of singing. At that time, I learnt from my parents of my countrywoman — an operatic singer, Yevgenia Miroshnichenko,

who later became a People’s Artiste of the USSR and the Hero of Ukraine. My father and mother told me that the lady was born in the village of Pervoe Sovetskoe — not far from my native Volchansk (in the Kharkov Region). I was proud of this fact then. Actually, opera was coming to my life with my senior brother’s help; he took part in an amateur singing team then. During one of the concerts, Yuri’s singing was heard by a Kiev specialist. My brother sang Whether Russians Wish a War then and I remember crawl while listening to his performance. Yuri boasted a rare bass and some even said that he could have become a second Fiodor Shalyapin (if he entered the Kiev Conservatory and developed his talent). The Conservatory


opera forum was ready to accept him without examination but my brother had already a family of his own and his daughter was due to be born at that time... At present, his three daughters sing wonderfully and I even advise his younger girl not to lose her talent for singing. On becoming a Kiev University student, I listened to Ms. Miroshnichenko at the Kiev Opera Theatre but, after leaving for Belarus, I forget of the singer for some time. The recent Minsk Forum aroused recollections of how my friendship with the operatic art started. Of course, I compared Ms. Miroshnichenko’s serene and accurate voice with the

voice of those I’ve heard earlier. Her talent is Godgiven and Yevgenia’s perfect combination of vocal mastery and drama is truly rare. It’s a great pleasure to realise that there are such artistes among Belarusians. Among them is definitely Oksana Volkova — an Honoured Artiste of Belarus and a ‘golden’ voice of the country (as experts admit). She is known all over the globe and her lyrical and unusually beautiful mezzosoprano combines with the talent of drama — as seen by her singing Amneris’ part in Aida (which I recently listened to, during the National Award days) and also Grey Legend. Ms. Volkova’s temperamental

National opera "Grey Legend" captured the audience. Honored Artiste of Russia Roman Muravitsky (Roman) and Honored Artiste of Belarus Oksana Volkova (Lyubka)

Lyubka is a strong and bright character, impressing with the depth of her passion and sensuality. You cannot but feel passion for her, although she is not Belarus’ symbol — in distinction from Irina. The latter is a bond of Yekaterina Golovleva whom noble Roman — performed by Russia’s Honoured Artiste, Roman Muravitsky — loves. The character of Kizgailo is performed by Stanislav Trifonov. The performance is a ‘love triangle’ story. In the early 17th century, noble Kizgailo is getting married — near Mogilev and his friend — Roman Rakutovich — admits that he is planning to marry Kizgailo’s bond Irina. Kizgailo is shocked: a noble man could not marry an ordinary girl. However, Roman is insistent and his friend agrees eventually. However, Kizgailo’s wife Lyubka is against the marriage: she is in secret love with Roman. Lyubka forces her husband to send Irina to prison. The men’s friendship is broken and Rakutovich decides to attack Kizgailo’s castle. During the fight, the host is killed and Lyubka reveals her feelings to Roman. However, the latter hurries to Mogilev to free Irina; his troop is defeated sadly. Roman is captivated, awaiting for a dreadful punishment: the cut of his hand. Lyubka, in turn, demands Irina to turn Roman away — otherwise, she’ll lose her sight. The lovers are being tortured but they remain faithful to their feeling... Years after, the first edition of Dmitry Smolsky’s musical version (based upon Vladimir Korotkevich’s

libretto) was staged by Mikhail Pandzhavidze, at the Bolshoi Theatre. Interestingly, this aesthetic Belarusianlanguage performance received the 2012 ‘Spiritual Revival’ Award of Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko (traditionally organised in early January) and, this year, it opened the Christmas Forum — under t he a c c omp an i me nt of the Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ukraine’s Honoured Artiste — Victor Plaskina. A national opera performance at the Forum ensured a qualitative launch of the event, with audiences able to enjoy a ‘canvas’ of times of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania — including the beginning of its split and the awakening of the national self-consciousness. However, in distinction from the first edition (which mostly focused on social issues), the present show is targeted at love; this feeling reigns at all times, even against the background of dramatic social events — defeating death, social and family strives. Each time, the performance of the most talented singer conquers audiences’ love: really, it’s impossible to ‘buy’ success — even with help of PR campaigns or any merits of the past. The same approach applies to a show — especially if it’s born anew for the second time. Of course, it was risky to stage the play at the Forum as, in 1978, Grey Legend, was a huge success — being staged for several seasons. However, the risk was truly noble: the opera — using composer Smolsky’s new music — sounded as

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opera forum if it was a different play, impressing with eye-catching scenes, beautiful melodies and wide vocal possibilities. Its overture inspires to spiritually participate in the show; there is an impression that we are listening to something well known but the feeling of a novelty also never leaves. Pleasingly, our morally fresh national opera has been performed at the Forum. Moreover, it’s a true joy that our Belarusian language — being placed second after Italian in melodiousness by the UNESCO classification — has been heard by global celebrities: the jury members. Mr. Muravistky was also great; his Belarusian language singing was serene. Our ‘ў’ letter — which no other language of the globe uses — was perfectly pronounced by the Russian singer. Like renewed Aida, Grey Legend brightly demonstrates Mr. Pandzhavidze’s passion for an epochal approach. The chief director loves scenes involving many actors which he regularly intermix with vocal singing. Actually, all components of Grey Legend works well and scene decorations by Alexander Kostyuchenko are impressive; as if the opera itself, its expressiveness is strengthened by multimedia effects — creating an impression of a film. The background curtain of a black net has its purpose as well — serving as a screen for video projection and simultaneously creating an effect of the time distance. The latter seems hiding the truth in the past, inspiring fantasy. The construction of two layers — separating the

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ground and the sky, the guilty and the winners, love and hatred — is aimed not only for artistes’ movement; these ‘floors’ are symbolically hint at our life full of contradictions. Those failing to understand the symbolism won’t lose: Mr. Kostyuchenko’s decorations are based on the perfect taste. The huge festive dinner table is wonderful — with large fake carcasses, jugs with wine and other dishes. The atmosphere of the past is supplemented with candle lighting which well suits the castle mood of the years passed away... As regards the theatre’s technical equipment, it makes it possible to stage complicated performance involving many actors. Moreover, decorations can be changed endlessly — if needed. Many jury members appreciated the theatre’s unique technical possibilities as it can easily host such a grand show as Richard Wagner’s Siegfried ( of t h e S of i a Nat i on a l Opera and Ballet Theatre) which involves 130 artistes — including soloists, a choir and an orchestra conducted by Erich.

men and women to approach each other — not only on the Earth but in the Universe. The search of this feeling and holding of it comes to focus, with help of Wagner music (conducted by German Erich Wächter) which irritates our minds with the aim of finding an answer to the eternal question: what is the key in our life. Moreover, audiences can enjoy beautiful melodies and all artistes’ powerful vocal singing, while thinking of the cyber-worlds which our modern youth is creating in their virtual life. Cosmos is also reflected in decorations, sparkling costumes and multi-coloured lights. Meanwhile, the opera — especially its main character, Siegfried — resembles a

comic strip; it’s like a game within a game. Everything which artistes sing of seems serious and simultaneously pathetic — as if we are telling a fairy-tale to children about things which they should not know at the moment. In my view, this is an interesting move. It’s truly funny to observe Siegfried — played by Kostadin Andreev — on the stage; he resembles a teenager who does not know for sure what he wants but is ‘torn’ by a certain power. With this in mind, the main character’s vanity and amusing arm waving have their ground. Of course, anyone would definitely decide for themselves how this fiery flame of the mystical power could be extinguished. Moreover,

On tour from Germany ProfessorPlamenKartalov is Bulgarian Siegfried’s stage director and the Head of the Sofia National Opera and Ballet Theatre. Jointly with artist Nikolay Panayotov, he staged an opera which dazzles with cosmos, fantasy and fairy-tale surreality. Siegfried is a part of The Ring of the Nibelung epic cycle and has come to Belarus for the first time. This love story tells us of the strength which inspires

Honored Artiste of Russia Yuri Nechaev and Svetlana Shilova ("Prince Igor")


opera forum

Premiere of 'Eugene Onegin' with a young singer of the Academy of Young Singers of the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg was a success

Siegfried is a wonderful opportunity to get acquainted with a different opera style — which is not natural to our mentality. It was more customary to listen to one of my favourite operas: P. Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. This was a new version of the Belarusian Bolshoi Theatre but it was no less talented than the 1996 show. The main characters were performed by soloists of the Academy of Young Singers (of St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre) and laureates of international contests: Andrey Bondarenko (Onegin), Maria Bayankina (Tatiana), Dmitry Voropaev (Lensky) and Yulia Matochkina (Olga). Prince Igor opera was also perfect — staged by Alexander Borodin and performed

by the leading soloists of the Russian and Belarusian Bolshoi Theatres: Svetlana Shi lova (Koncha kovna) and honoured artistes of Russia — Mikhail Kozakov (Konchak) and Yuri Nechaev (Prince Igor). Yaroslavna’s character was played by Belarus’ Honoured Artiste — Nina Sharubina (who also represented our country in the jury). Fans and experts of the operatic art deserve special respect. During six frosty December days on the eve of Christmas and New Year celebrations, they co-authored the holiday — presenting ovation and applause to singers and expressing gratitude to all organisers and partners of the Minsk International Christmas Opera Forum.

Ball on the eve of Old New Year Many of those coming to the Forum also attended the large New Year Ball — held on the eve of Old New Year, January 13, as is traditional. The ball is another creative project of the Bolshoi Theatre and is being anticipated since autumn: in October, all tickets were sold out. This year, organisers prepared an additional holiday for their guests: all those attending joined artistes in a dance programme and numerous entertainments. Opera lovers definitely enjoyed the surprises and presents of the theatre, with amazing pranks, travelling to fairy-tales and future-telling creating a festive atmosphere. Music never stopped, creating

the feeling of miracle and happiness of life.  The Bolshoi Theatre’s Symphony Orchestra — conducted by Ivan Kostyakhin — played for the Russian Ball, while the Princely Ball featured extracts of Khoroshki Choreographic Company’s Polotskaya Tetrad (Polotsk Notebook) programme. The Vienna Ball, in turn, was accompanied by music of Johann Strauss and Ferenc Liszt. No doubt, the recent January holiday was a success which ‘formula’ is simple: as the Bolshoi Theatre staff admit, everything here is subordinate to the beauty and follows the rules of the theatre (with help of stage director Galina Galkovskaya). I personally can confirm this with pleasure. By Valentina Zhdanovich

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Hockey World Championship

Spectators to receive true pleasure

Y

evgeny Vorsin, the Chairman of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation and the Head of the Directorate for the Worl d Championship, tells us: The IIHF World Championship will take place in May 2014 in the Belarusian capital. This has been firmly decided and this issue isn’t on the agenda anymore. All attempts from the side of influential parapolitical circles to take away the tournament from our country failed. In recent time, from September till December, three inspectional checks of the International Ice Hockey Federation took place in Belarus and none of these discovered any non-fulfilment of obligations, taken by us. Moreover, the inspectors have assured that our country isn’t just actively preparing for the event but is even outstripping the fulfilment of many positions which regard to the

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tournament preparation. Major aspects are two ice rinks which will be hosting the World Championship. There are no issues concerning Minsk-Arena while Chizhovka-Arena is in its final stage of construction, with external walls being faced and works being conducted on the preparation of the ice rink. Schemes of placement of all services — technical, medical anddopingcontrol—havebeen envisaged. No mistakes will be made and constant consultations are taking place while everything is being agreed with the Infront Company. As far as the placement of the Championship’s guests is concerned, these will be able to use the services of 14 hotels able to welcome 2,500 people. Over 500 places in hotels have been booked by official figures — teams, personnel and judges.

Belta

Fewer than 500 days are left before the kick of 2014 IIHF World Championship in Minsk. How does the capital prepare for this truly grandiose sport forum?

A large number of media representatives is also expected: over 600 journalists and around 140 photo correspondents. The Belarusian quote is up to 50 people. All official figures will have wonderful living conditions, being accommodated in the Crowne Plaza, the Minsk Hotel, the President Hotel, the Victoria Hotel, the National Olympic Committee Headquarters’ hotel while judges will be accommodated in the Garni Hotel. We’ll be able to welcome up to 20,000 at once,


Hockey World Championship

IIHF General Secretary Horst Lichtner checks readiness of hotels and Minsk-Arena to host the World Championship-2014

while also ensuring them places in the Student Village where we can accommodate 8,800 people, as well as in 11 hostels of higher educational establishments (able to accommodate 9,000) which will be repaired and ready to accept guests. Everything will be OK: good teams will arrive in Minsk and hockey of perfect quality is guaranteed, with spectators receiving true pleasure. Does it mean that in 2014 the academic year will finish earlier for students than usual? We’ll begin to prepare places for tourists in student hostels approximately one month before the kick of the tournament — in mid-April. Accordingly, the academic year is likely to finish by

this term, although the final decision on this issue hasn’t been done yet. Probably, the terms will be just shifted to summer months. Of course, everyone is keen to learn about ticket prices for matches… First of all, I’d like to note that there will be visa-free entry for everyone wishing to see the World Championship in our country. They will need just to show a ticket — original or electronic — and their passport. The ticket programme has been already approved. As far as the pricing policy is concerned, initially it was planned that tickets for matches will cost from 9 to 40 Euros. Meanwhile, now, the attitude towards this issue is changing. Previously, they

said that prices for all matches should be equal. However, at the recent World Championship in Finland the cost of tickets was determined by the rating of the playing teams. We’ll study this experience. Moreover, the formula for the organisation of 2014 World Championship hasn’t been determined either. Now this issue is under discussion and opinions have divided. Some suggest that during the first stage all participants should be divided into two groups with eight teams in each group while others propose to have only four groups with four squads in each group. This problem will be solved only at the IIHF Congress in Sweden in May. From March, we plan to start selling tickets so I don’t exclude that the terms may shift to mid-summer — early autumn. Anyway, I think that we’ll have enough time to provide everyone with tickets. Won’t Minsk quests feel discomfort because of the language barrier? No. From January, we plan to start work aiming to attract 850 volunteers. These will be selected very thoroughly while knowing a foreign language is one of the requirements. At present, there’s still an opportunity to catch up one’s knowledge. Did you analyse the attendance of world championships in the Olympic year? Don’t you have fears that the tournament won’t arouse enhanced interest? I don’t see any problem here. The figure of 20,000, which was previously mentioned, is the number of tourists which Minsk is able to accept at once. However, around 80,000 fans are expected to arrive. I don’t think that the Olympiad will somehow reduce the interest towards the Championship. According to the official data, the number of tourists increases by about 30-50 percent from the average amount in the year of the World Championship, so everything will be ok. Good teams will arrive in Minsk and hockey of perfect quality is guaranteed, with spectators receiving true pleasure.. By Dmitriy Komarovskiy

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Game which unites National team of Belarus wins 9th Christmas International Amateur Ice Hockey Tournament for the Prize of the President of the Republic of Belarus, beating Gazprom Export from Russia in final match

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leg Antonenko was the hero of the match at Minsk-Arena. The former Belarusian national team forward may have retired but has clearly kept in good shape. He scored three goals himself and set up another

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two for team mates. Including preliminary matches, he earned 11 points over four games (6+5). The Russian squad scored only twice in the final, allowing Belarus to claim the cup for the seventh time. Belarus also won the Cup in 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012; Russia celebrated success in 2007 and 2011, defeating Belarus in the finals. The Canadian team took bronze for the first time, having defeated Austria in the match for third place.


tournament Commenting on the results of the tournament, Oleg Antonenko notes that the level of skill of those taking part improves every year. He explains, “Few matches see high scores. The fact that the Swiss were crushed by both us and the Canadians is rather a coincidence. Maybe, they weren’t on form physically because their level of skill and tactical training is pretty good. For those over 40, the Christmas Tournament is a real challenge.” Such a competition is, without exaggeration, the equivalent of an amateur world championship. Next year, it’s likely to surprise us once again, having featured not just goals and struggle but charitable visits this year. Organised by the President’s Sports Club and the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation, teams visited seven orphanages in Minsk and a familytype children’s home in the Minsk Region. On the first day, squads from Austria, Canada, Russia and Slovakia congratulated children on the New Year and Christmas holidays, giving such gifts as a music centre, a large ‘Air Hockey’ game, books and toys, MP3-players and cosmetics. On the second day, the Swiss team visited children at the socio-pedagogical centre in Minsk’s Pervomaisky District, singing their national song in their native language. The German team went to an orphanage in Borovlyany while the Czechs visited a sociopedagogical centre in the Frunzensky District of Minsk. The President’s team, comprising Oleg Antonenko, Vladimir Tsyplakov, Sergei Shitkovsky, Nikolay Vladykin and Denis Kurdeko, took gifts to the largest orphanage in the capital — located in Minsk’s Zavodskoy Distrcit. They presented a microwave oven and video camera as well as sweets and soft toys. The Chairman of the Belarusian Ice Hockey Federation, Yevgeny Vorsin, who also took part, feels confident that such meetings should become a tradition. By Kiril Dovlatov

Alexey Yashin, forward of Russia’s national team: The final match saw a quick game and the Belarusian team has an advantage regarding the age of hockey players who are young. We’ve just receive true pleasure from gathering together. It’s great to play at such arena and with so many fans. It’s really wonderful that such tournaments are held.

Günther Lanzinger, defender of Austria’s national team: I work as a child r e n’s c o a c h i n Austria, so train with other veterans seldom — just 1-2 times a week. We had to play in Minsk in rather difficult schedule, having four matches per day. Of course, it was not traditional, but I won’t say that I’ve got too tired or that I’m dissatisfied. Vice versa, I’ve received true pleasure. Our squad has only three tournaments per year, so each game brings only joy. There’re no questions regarding the organisation of the tournament either and I’m confident that the World Championship will be held at the highest level in your country.

Elmar Boiger, forward of Germany’s national team: On the eve of 2014 it’sespeciallyimportant for Belarus to train to welcome guests from other countries and I should admit that you’re doing well in this respect. I’ve arrived here for the fifth time and I’ll obligatory try to visit your country again in future. It’s a pity we’ve failed to perform better but for me the tournament is important is its communication. Hockey players get acquainted with each other, make friends and establish business partners… Moreover, one can simply go

into streets and wonderfully spend time. I and other players of the squad walked much along the city and communicated with people, for example, we’ve been to the Komarovsky market. The language barrier was felt somewhere and it wasn’t always easy to understand each other but the contact was evident. People were trying to help and prompt and were very benevolent… It’s accustomed to bring souvenirs from abroad. Although I’m not greatly keen on souvenirs I bought a fur militia cap for my father in Minsk a couple of years ago. However, I’ll bring much with me to Germany, as impressions are the greatest souvenirs to me while I have lots of good impressions about Minsk.

Todd Warriner, orward of Canada’s national team: I was told about the tournament abroad and I’ve long wished to attend it. At present, I d o n’ t p e r f o r m anymore at the professional level so I decided to arrive and to see Minsk. My trip to the children orphanage has fixed into my memory. It was great to take part in sporting, as well as social life.

František Kaberle, defender of the Czech national team: It was easy for me to find motivation to take part in this amateur tournament. I haven’t entered the ice rink for eight months, so I responded with great pleasure to the proposal to become one of the players of our team. Moreover, I haven’t ever been to Belarus before. They say that first impressions remain in one’s memory for a long time and it’s really wonderful that these impressions are positive. This refers to both the city and the organisation of the competitions. If I have enough time I’ll be pleased to come here again next year — for the Christmas tournament and the World Championship.

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MOSAIC

Idea gaining momentum Everyone knows about the Slavianski Bazaar festival so it’s no surprise to hear that the universities of Vitebsk and Smolensk, which have been cooperating fruitfully for a long time, have initiated a student version of the event.

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Alena Lanskaya to represent Belarus at Eurovision-2013 in Sweden

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ore than 80 singers and bands tried to reach the finals of the national selection round for the International Song Contest in Belarus, with ten chosen. Belteleradiocompany organised the competition to select the top performer, with its jury headed by its chairman, Gennady Davydko. Alena Lanskaya’s Rhythm of Love received the most audience and jury votes, sending her to Sweden’s hosting of Eurovision this coming May, in Malmö. Last year, Alena suffered great disappointment after being congratulated on winning the selection round for Baku’s hosting of Eurovision. However,

Litesound was sent in her place (after having come in second). Alena’s determination and tenacity have led her to enter the Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk six years in a row, resulting in her Grand Prix win in 2011. Perhaps she’ll enjoy the same success at Eurovision, winning the hearts of the European audience. This time, her score of 24 points out of 24 possible gave her an easy victory. She has been presented with an award especially made by Neman Glassworks. Now, aged 27, she’s won numerous music competitions in Belarus, Russia, Bulgaria and the USA and is the youngest Honoured Artiste of Belarus.

he idea is being supported by the administrations of our border regions, with Vitebsk chosen to host the opening concert of the 1st International Student Slavonic forum: the brainchild of Belarusian and Russian students. Representatives of eight universities came to the opening. More students may yet take part, with Dnepropetrovsk National University and the universities of Khmelnitsky (Ukraine), St. Petersburg and Novgorod expressing eagerness to join. Dnepropetrovsk took part in the opening with the aid of video conferencing.

By Lyudmila Minakova

Маny years ago Unique ethnographic album about Belarus launched for sale this year

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he edition brings together over 400 shots by Belarusian ethnographer Isaak Serbov, who visited the Brest, Mogilev and Minsk regions between 1911 and 1912, at the order of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society.

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His photos reveal much about traditional culture, folk costume and architecture across Belarus at that time. According to Ms. Belova, the album was set to become a landmark edition of the previous year, which was announced the Year of Book in Belarus. Mr. Serbov’s original photos are kept by the Vilnius University Library, which aided the release of the edition, supported by the Belarusian Embassy to Lithuania.


Belarus No 1 (952), 2013