Belarus — Russia
No.4 (943), 2012
BELARUS Magazine for you
Politics, Economy, Culture
Circulation of kindness
DIMENSION 200 no.8 (911),
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e nomy, Cultur Politics, Eco
SaSHeS SiLK Men’S WoVen By nS Were BeLaruSia ion HiT a True faSH During Ce an in fr of THe reign ; LuDoViC XV THere Were To TS Mp aT Te aLL faKe THeM pe. oVer euro nS CoLLeC Tio ga Be n in THe LaTe y 19TH CenTur
Made in Slutsk pp. 40 — 41
pp. 36 — 37
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Беларусь.Belarus Monthly magazine No. 4 (943), 2012 Published since 1930 State Registration Certificate of mass medium No.8 dated March 2nd, 2009, issued by the Ministry of Information of the Republic of Belarus
On the way to safe power engineering IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano visits Minsk to negotiate and meet President Alexander Lukashenko
Pensioners have chance to receive more The domestic pension system is cer-
tainly stable today; though payments are not the greatest in the world, they are guaranteed and paid on time. Moreover, they are rising, as the economy allows
Privatisation isn’t a goal in itself
New path for farming Agricultural com-
Bonuses of attractiveness Gomel Re-
panies conduct this year’s sowing campaign to raise crop yields, changing structure of fields
gion has, for the first time, been named as the best Belarusian region in which to run a business — in a contest organised in the country annually
Spring of inspiration
Perfect venue Belaya Rus Sanatorium, on Black Sea coast, is ideal destination for relaxation and recuperation
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
Attraction of tender hearts
Book rarities neighbour-books Works
Беларусь.Belarus is published in Belarusian, English, Spanish and Polish.
Inspired by originals Manufacture of
Great philosopher Victor Alshevsky
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.
So much to preserve
History in musical scores Original and
Top beauty chosen in spring Most charm-
by famous figures of science and culture on show in Mogilev
Slutsk sashes revamped in Belarus
reproduction 17th-19th century musical instruments re-create sound of the age
ing and beautiful win ‘Miss Belarus’ Pageant
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Publisher: “SB” editorial office This magazine has been printed at “Belarusian House of Press” Publishing Office” UE. 79 Nezavisimosti Ave., Minsk, Belarus, 220013 Order No.1117 Total circulation — 1978 copies (including 746 in English).
Style, artistry, charm…
Storms, ash breezes and rainbows in Ivan Matskevich’s life
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: firstname.lastname@example.org Subscription index in Belpochta catalogue — 74977 For future foreign subscribers for ‘Belarus’ magazine, apply to ‘MK-Periodica’ agency. E-mail: email@example.com Telephone in Minsk: +375 (17) 227-09-10.
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Circulation of kindness
hat can be better than Ap r i l ’s wa r mt h a n d sunshine? It brings us a joyful inner glow. However, this spring month also has other associations. I remember wandering Minsk’s streets, like many others, on a perfect sunny day on April 26th, 26 years ago, in 1986. As soon as news of the Chernobyl disaster hit, everyone departed the streets, since the invisible radiation cloud brought a real threat to our health. Years have passed but Chernobyl remains in our thoughts. We remember those who died on that ill-fated day. Not only did the nuclear accident affect our residents, it damaged the Earth; life altered drastically for many, bringing longterm health problems and the necessity of relocating from beloved homes. Nuclear safety has come a long way since then, allowing us to minimise the risk of a similar catastrophe. Time heals to some extent, as life continues. Of course, we can never forget the kindness shown over these decades by people from around the world, who felt our trouble as their own. Assistance came immediately from various corners of the planet and dozens of charities were established worldwide to support those affected. It was a time of true human solidarity — definite and tangible. Belarusian children were welcomed on recuperative trips to the USA and Europe. I recollect with gratitude the Italian Petrucci family, with whom our daughter would stay in summer. Our friendship remains strong and these tender-hearted Italians have even visited Minsk. We’ll be grateful to them forever. As a student, our daughter accompanied children’s groups on several similar
recuperative trips to Spain, meeting kind and benevolent people, who considered it their duty to help anyone facing trouble. We met Rafael, who once a year flew to Minsk from Spanish Seville, then went to Gomel by train before travelling to one of the most Chernobyl-affected districts in the region. He wanted to visit young Vika, who stayed with his family each summer for several years. We all became relatives spiritually. It’s common knowledge that grief brings people closer. The Chernobyl nuclear power station disaster of April 1986 has been a terrible affliction but also an opportunity to realise the best in human nature. The heartfelt kindness of others towards those in difficult circumstances has been a revelation. Memories of Chernobyl may be gradually fading, since time cures all
wounds, even the heaviest, but the renewed optimism of today is the result of many years of hard work. With help from the world community, the state has targeted affected regions, to bring social infrastructure, jobs and improved health care, allowing residents to enjoy a full life once more. The world initially underestimated the magnitude of the event (and the extent to which Belarus was affected by the accident) but has since redeemed itself in offering assistance in every sphere — including medical care and the proffering of radiation monitoring equipment. Farms have intensified their work, applying new technologies to ensure the growing of ecologically ‘clean’ produce. Many would say that, despite this help, Belarus has primarily relied on its own strength, with huge funds from the country’s budget spent on realising postChernobyl measures. World experience has been useful — including that of the Japanese, dating from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings. Our kindly Japanese colleagues donated equipment while their specialists shared their valuable professional advice. When a tsunami triggered an explosion at Japan’s Fukushima-1 nuclear station, our first thought was to offer our Japanese friends assistance. Naturally, a powerful industrial country like Japan is capable of dealing with its problems independently — even such as that at Fukushima — but, no doubt, our gesture of friendship and concern touched their hearts. At our invitation, Japanese schoolchildren recently visited Belarus, while local specialists shared useful experience with their Japanese colleagues in the contemporary Radiation Medicine Centre in Gomel. After Chernobyl, many of our doctors passed internships in Japan, acquiring knowledge there. It is our pleasure to aid the circulation of kindness. This is my introduction for April. Until we meet again, dear readers!
BY Viktor Kharkov, magazine editor Беларусь. Belarus
Panorama Laying the foundation
Speaking at a seminar for members of the National Assembly’s Council of the Republic, Belarus’ Deputy Economy Minister Dmitry Golukhov states that the establishment of holdings and clusters in Belarus is becoming a strategic economic avenue
Up IT-rating Belarus climbs from 84th (in 2008) to 48th place in United Nations E-Government Survey
ussia has moved up to 30th position from 63rd (33 points) in the UN survey, while Kazakhstan has risen from 91st to 78th (13 points). “Among Customs Union member states, Belarus has shown the highest rate of growth in IT infrastructure over the last two years. This allows us to satisfy the increased needs of citizens, business and the state,” emphasises the Ministry of Communications and Informatisation.
The UN E-Government Survey for 2012 — E-Government for the People — has been published by the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs. It examines the institutional framework for e-government and the ability of state bodies in over 190 countries to use information-communication technologies to render state services. The e-government composite index comprises three indicators: the volume and quality of online services; the level of development of telecommunication infrastructure; and human capital. Meanwhile, countries are divided into several regions. Belarus is within Eastern Europe — alongside leading European states.
A shining example Belarus is among the top three countries regarding experience in forest management, according to Greenpeace Russia’s poll of around 800 respondents
irst place is occupied by Finland (16 percent of respondents spoke in favour of learning from its experience), followed by Belarus and Canada (11 percent each). Sweden was placed third (9 percent), with Germany (8 percent), the USA (7 percent) and China (4 percent) following. Next in line were Poland and Norway (3 percent each). According to experts, Russian forest management can learn from Belarus about organisational structure
n all, 33 holdings are registered countrywide. Mr. Golukhov sees positive market prospects for holding structures boasting multi-purpose production and large volumes of manufactured goods. He notes that falling costs and risk factors, combined with enhanced management efficiency, are major advantages for large integrated production structures. However, Mr. Golukhov admits that legislation regarding their establishment and operation is yet to be fully realised in Belarus. The seminar directly tackled the professional activity of members of the Council of the Republic — as many work in the real sector of the economy.
and technologies. Belarusian forestries are successfully developing hunting and forest cultivation while applying nano-technologies — including microcloning. Belarus’ experience in preventing and fighting forest fires is also significant. Moreover, a major campaign — Forest Week — has been organised in Belarus for the last five years, under the initiative of the Belarusian Forestry Ministry. Large-scale events are held countrywide, aiming to raise public awareness of how to care for our forests, which are a national treasure. International Forest Day is celebrated on March 21st, aiming to enhance everyone’s awareness of the importance of forest eco-systems, as well as our knowledge of how we can protect, restore and expand them.
Open format Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan announce readiness to form Eurasian Economic Union by 2015
he EurAsEC Interstate Council session, held in Moscow on March 19th, may have opened a new page in the history of post-Soviet integration. The summit brought together the heads of EurAsEC member states, as well as those from observercountries: Ukraine, Moldova and Armenia. Special interest in the event is easily explainable, since the previous meeting saw our presidents unanimously agree that the EurAsEC has lost its relevance in its current format. The pronouncement is quite logical, since three countriesoutoffive—Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan — are now joined in a closer integration union. The Customs Union has been operating for two years and, at the start of 2012, the Single Economic Space was launched, in which Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are now showing interest. Moreover, member countries have clearly outlined plans to create a Eurasian Union in future. Against this background, the EurAsEC pales into insignificance as a
weaker interstate structure; accordingly, does it really serve any purpose? We must decide whether to disband it or transform it into a more advanced organisation. The meeting resulted in a decision to transform the EurAsEC into the Eurasian Economic Union. However, the signing of corresponding documents has been postponed. Early on, Russia proposed a draft treaty, which
socio-economic development and raised standards of living. T h e f o l l o w i n g d a y, before departing Moscow for Minsk, President Lukashenko told Russia Today TV Channel, “We’ve created the Customs Union and, in January, launched the Single Economic Space: a higher level of integration. We must now decide what to do with the EurAsEC, as it has met its function,
draft on this issue and has done well, preparing our Treaty on the Reorganisation of the Eurasian Economic Community into the Eurasian Economic Union. Previously, we’d agreed that, from 2015, we’d join this Eurasian Economic Union. The Russians are proposing that we accelerate the process and Belarus has supported them, paying attention to two positions.
As a result of joint work by heads of EurAsEC member states, the more efficient working of Eurasian Economic Union bodies is being sought Belarus helped prepare. The Eurasian Economic Union should become a powerful structure and a serious political and economic centre boasting global influence. We expect the new union to make more effective use of existing opportunities while uniting the economic potential of member states. We have a shared goal of sustainable
fulfilling all its goals. What’s next? Back in January, we s aid t hat t he EurAsEC should be reorganised. It’s an international organisation, so it can’t just be dissolved. It needs to be reorganised into something… We’d agreed to meet in March to decide on what to do with the EurAsEC, so we’ve met. Russia had undertaken to prepare a
Our Economic Commission has the right to sign agreements within the international arena on behalf of all three members. I told them that we aren’t against this. However, if this is a stumbling block we would agree to this although we ourselves — Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus — can sign treaties in our own name. The
At the EurAsEC Interstate Council session in Moscow
Eurasian Economic Union is an economic organisation while treaties can be political, military-political and so on. Meanwhile, we’ve agreed that, if necessary, our Single E conomic C ommission can negotiate in the name of all three states. It has the power to do so. However, we haven’t yet adopted the draft treaty or signed it. Why? Kazakhstan objects to our proposals, announcing that there’s no need to speed up the process. It has the right to its opinion, of course. We’ve agreed to see the Union enter into force in 2015…” S ome time later, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Pl e n ip ote nt i ar y of
Kazak hstan to B elar us, H.E. Mr. Ergali Bulegenov, explained the position of his countr y. Kazakhstan does not wish to accelerate the process of creating the Eurasian Economic Union; it rather suggests adjusting to SES conditions gradually. Kazakhstan wishes to keep the previously determined date of signing: Januar y 1st, 2015. Of course, our three countries have established the Single Economic Space rather quickly, speeding up the integration process. Although the SES is an objective reality, it is still in its infancy, as reported by Viktor Khristenko, the Chairman of the Eurasian
E conomic C ommission Collegium. He has told the presidents that organisational issues are currently to the fore, with consultative committees needing to be formed, representing each national government; vacancies are yet to be filled and a corresponding interstate agreement must be signed. According to Mr. Khristenko, there are three candidates for each position on average. Simultaneously, an appropriate building is being sought to house the Eurasian Economic Commission. These are purely technical aspects, but practicalities are important. Accordingly, it makes sense to take time in choosing well.
Kazakhstan’s desire to closely consider the SES’ functioning is understandable, since events are progressing at miraculous speed. It has taken the European Union half a century to reach its current position, so the Eurasian Economic Union’s aim to become operational by 2015 is truly impressive. The contours of the new interstate structure are taking shape, of course. The draft project, prepared for the last EurAsEC Summit, will form the basis of the treaty, which has several vital characteristics. Perhaps the most notable is its international intent, as Mr. Lukashenko noted when speaking to Russia
Integration Today. Each member of the Eurasian Economic Union will be able to sign international agreements on behalf of all member states, underlining its economic character and reinforcing its political component. The Eurasian Economic Union will operate via the following bodies: the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, the Eurasian Economic Commission, the Eurasian Court and the Eurasian Interparliamentary Assembly. These should ensure the legal succession of corresponding EurAsEC structures. The budget will draw on contributions from member states, but it’s too early to speak of proportions. However, we can look at staff representation on the Eurasian Economic C ommission (currently being founded): Belarus accounts for 6 percent, while Kazakhstan has 10 percent and Russia’s share amounts to 84 percent. It was supposed to propose all five EurAsEC states to sign an agreement on the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union. Meanwhile, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia would become fully-fledged members of the new integration union while Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan would be partners on co-operation, allowing them to help decide issues currently under the remit of the EurAsEC. The final format of the Eurasian Economic Union re mai ns u nd e r d eb ate, and there is plenty of time until 2015, but integration processes are clearly developing dynamically. The current SES members
are always underlining that the project is open to new partners. The President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, has told journalists, in words addressed more to the heads of observer-countries rather than to the media, “We’ve discussed a range of issues regarding our interaction within the Customs Union. Our friends from observercountries have received a good example from seeing us discuss all issues in an absolutely sincere and equal manner.” Much has been spoken of the Customs Union’s aims, as well as the advantages and difficulties existing or emerging for those outside. As is normal within an international association, certain privileges exist for members and those outside may experience difficulties. A clear signal has been given — that the Customs Union, Single Economic Space and Eurasian Economic Union are open to new members. Belarus has always taken this line, regularly declaring its interest in developing integration on principles of equality and fair recognition of the interests of all members. Belarus is adamant that equality should lie at the heart of all matters, since this best guarantees stability and sustainability. As a result of joint work by heads of EurAsEC member states, the more efficient working of Eurasian Economic Union bodies is being sought. Discussions will continue in May as part of an informal summit for CIS heads of state. By Dmitry Kryat
On the way to safe power engineering IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano visits Minsk to negotiate and meet President Alexander Lukashenko
reliminary works are near completion at the construction site near Ostrovets, with final infrastructure for Belarus’ first nuclear power station being finished. The schedule is being strictly adhered to, while international consultations on the project are continuing with neighbours on a wider scale. Any country’s decision to build a nuclear power station is, undoubtedly, its own internal business. However, Belarus is also joining a ‘club’ of countries using nuclear power, which makes the project global, bringing attention from the whole world. Natu r a l ly, t h e I n t e r n a t i o n a l At o m i c Energy Agency is keen to
follow Belarus’ plans. In fact, our country is one of the founders of the organisation, which currently unites 153 states. We have experience of liaising with the IAEA in connection with Chernobyl problems but, of course, this is a new context. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano’s visit to Belarus ended with meeting Pre s i d e nt Lu k a s h e n ko. On warmly welcoming his guest, the Belarusian leader noted, “I’m very interested to see nuclear energy in use, as it is the most secure and the safest way to generate cheap energy — as needed worldwide.” Recent events in the guest’s homeland have, u n f o r t u n a t e l y, u n d e r mined trust in nuclear power, as Mr. Lukashenko noted sincerely, recalling
Alexander Lukashenko and Yukiya Amano
the reaction of some states towards the disaster at the Japanese Fukushima station. S e ve r a l h ave c u r t ai l e d or ceased their nuclear programmes but many are still eager to develop the area further. According to Mr. Lukashenko, Belarus is among them. He stresses, “During this period, we firmly and unanimously declare that we won’t just declare our intention to construct a nuclear power station; we’ve already begun.” The project has special importance, being implemented in the countr y which has most suffered from Chernobyl. However, progress must march on. Today, plans to construct the Belarusian station are supported by most of the Belarusian population: an important sign.
“I believe that the IAEA organisation is extremely interested in similar secure projects b eing realis ed worldwide. Accordingly, we hope that Mr. Amano, like previous heads of this agency, will provide us with serious moral assistance in the construction of our nuclear power station. If we have this, with support and corresponding conditions, we’ll even be ready to construct a second nuclear station in Belarus,” added Mr. Lukashenko. L a t e r, s p e a k i n g t o journalists, Mr. Amano responded to the President’s words by saying, “The IAEA doesn’t dictate how many nuclear p ower stations should exist in any country. Each state chooses independently, deciding whether to const r uc t a nucle ar
power station. However, if a country does build a nuclear power station, it should be done in the most secure way. In this context, the IAEA can provide its services.” In a conversation with the President, Mr. Amano named Belarus as a very important partner. Although the Chernobyl experience is negative, it provides an extremely valuable lesson to t h e wor l d’s nu cl e ar energy industry and has been useful in solving the current problems following the Fukushima disaster. Of course, we must learn from the past. The guest mused, “Each countr y needs to develop its power engineering while improving the quality of life for its population. In this respect, the decision to use nuclear energy is vital.”
Mr. Amano b elie ves Belarus must take responsibility for ensuring a higher level of security and transparency for its project. He stresses that each nation must bear responsibility for meeting nuclear safety laws. However, the IAEA can help in this respect; an IAEA integrated mission is to be sent to Belarus to assess infrastructure for the nuclear power station. Mr. Amano explains, “In sending the mission and organising meetings, we’ll be able to see that nuclear power engineering is being used safely by the country. We wish to obser ve the protection of nuclear sites long-term.” Such co-operation coincides with the expectations of Belarus. By Vladimir Vasiliev
Privatisation isn’t a goal in itself The Presidential Residence has hosted a conversation about privatisation. It may seem that the topic has already been thoroughly studied and the sphere well-regulated, so that there can be nothing more to say. However, the Government has prepared several amendments to privatisation procedure — requiring the President’s approval
riefly, it has been decided to revise the current three year plan while setting out criteria and conditions needing to be met by those economic entities buying out a company. Mr. Lukashenko is not keen on the idea of dividing enterprises into different lists, since any enterprise is available for privatisation, as is no secret. Our legislation allows us to conduct this procedure and has deliberately been made complex to avoid the chaotic sale of state property. This key principle remains unchanged, as Mr. Lukashenko stressed, saying, “We’ve always said that we aren’t against privatisation. We have never experienced avalanching privatisation in the country and won’t do so now. While I’m President, this issue won’t even be discussed.” According to Mr. Lukashenko, pinpoint privatisation is possible and each such issue should be viewed separately, with price and additional terms met. A good example of a strategically important economic entity being privatised is that
of Beltransgas, for which $5bn was received. A significant discount has been given to Belarus on its fuel prices and an ‘iron guarantee’ of supply and transit. Moreover, the pipes remain on our territory, with taxes paid into our budget
profitable companies. Mr. Lukashenko uses Belaruskali as an example. Market assessment gives it a value of $30b while potential investors have only been able to offer $15bn, resulting in no deal being made.
“We’ve always said that we aren’t against privatisation. We have never experienced avalanching privatisation in the country and won’t do so now.” Alexander Lukashenko on the enterprise’s activity, without our needing to spend money to maintaining this powerful infrastructure. Truly, the deal is beneficial to both sides. Belarus is ready to negotiate on state property sales where such principles are met — even on the most
The issue of ‘lists’ has been discussed, seeking to establish their relevance. Does it matter whether enterprises are strategic or non-strategic and should enterprises be ‘pre-destined’ for privatisation? Inclusion on the list should not imply obligatory sale. Rather, it should
Beltransgas is a vivid example of privatisation
show potential for sale. However, this is perceived differently from purely psychological point of view. Employees can become very concerned, even when no potential investor has appeared on the horizon. It seems ridiculous to inspire such worry unnecessarily. Accordingly, the President has asked, very reasonably, “What purpose does it serve to divide enterprises into essential and non-essential? Surely, all enterprises providing employment are essential, so the terms strategic and non-strategic are meaningless.” Discussion at the session was decisive, including recognition that companies need to be protected from being made ‘falsely bankrupt’ (a favourite instrument of white collar raiders). The President is certain that we need to protect companies while creating mechanisms to block such behaviour. Alexander Yakobson, the Chairman of the State Control Committee of Belarus, notes that service industries as well as industrial can be strategically important, mentioning the sphere of
insurance. The Aide to the President, Sergei Tkachev, added the banking, trade, wood-processing and food branches to those he believes vital to the country. Mr. Lukashenko responded, “This is what I’m talking about. So, we should register all those enterprises countrywide, due to their importance.” Although major governmental proposals failed to find unanimous approval, talks were useful in revealing a range of drawbacks regarding the regulation of privatisation. The Presiding Judge of the Supreme Economic Court, Viktor Kamenkov, pointed out that a clearer re-privatisation mechanism is needed for cases where investors fail to meet their agreed obligations. He is eager to see privatisation goals clearly defined in corresponding documents, so that buyers of companies appreciate that, where goals are not met, property will be confiscated by the state. The Chairman of Grodno Regional Executive Committee, Semen Shapiro, pointed out anomalies where auctions are used, as prices can be much lower
than market price and even the net asset value. After listening to various proposals, Mr. Lukashenko gave instructions to set out a single comprehensive document regulating the entire privatisation sphere in Belarus. He wishes this to be unambiguous, so that potential investors can understand the rules of the game, with all ‘loopholes’ eradicated; investors should realise that no ‘back avenues’ are possible. The Government has been tasked with preparing a draft project in the second quarter of this year. Another important outcome of the session is that Belarus needs to actively promote our own Belarusian business towards privatisation. Maybe it isn’t so strong to manage the enterprises, which are the ‘targets’ of transnational corporations, but is quite able to work with smaller enterprises. Some businessmen may still be deterred from placing their money in Belarus, so Mr. Lukashenko is keen to see more favourable conditions created. By Kirill Dmitriev
The grandfather is enthusiastic about computer lessons given by his granddaughter
Pensioners have chance to receive more The domestic pension system is certainly stable today; though payments are not the greatest in the world, they are guaranteed and paid on time. Moreover, they are rising, as the economy allows
he model is well-known: working citizens and their employers make payments into the budget, forming the pension fund. However, with people living longer, the demographics are becoming a little alarming. According to Belarus’ Minister for Labour and Social Protection, Marianna Shchetkina, there are 57 pensioners per 100 working people (set to rise to 60 per 100 by 2015 and 67 per 100 by 2020). President Alexander Lukashenko gave a simple and precise analysis of the figures at a recent meeting, saying, “We have no deficit in the pension fund for our current number of pensioners but we are at the limit, at the edge of what’s sustainable. By world experience, we are right on the edge.”
We need to plan a new model for the years ahead and, of course, are not the first to come across this problem. Almost the whole world is experiencing the same demographic crisis. For most, the solution has been to raise the pension age. Germany has one of the highest, at 65-67 years, while the Poles have men retiring at 65 and women at 60. The Lithuanians retire at 62.5 and 60 respectively while, in Latvia, everyone retires at 62. The Russians and Ukrainians are similar to Belarus, although their resources differ. Nevertheless, they are also considering raising the retirement age. Should we do the same? Mr. Lukashenko doesn’t think so. “We have promised our people that we won’t do this. In improving the pension system, we won’t follow Europe. Our
Demography pensions aren’t high, comparatively. However, taking into account prices, they are no worse than in Russia. We pay them on time and have a big social package for pensioners. In this respect, we appear well. Nonetheless, I admit that pensions should rise.” As soon as the economy gives a signal, the move will be made. Mr. Lukashenko is uncompromising in this respect. “We shouldn’t begrudge our pensioners anything, so we should raise pensions. The economic situation is developing in such a way that we can raise pensions a couple of times this year, as planned. We should do this.” Nevertheless, the rising number of pensioners requires us to address the budgetary situation. The Government plans no change to the essence of pensions, since everyone may retire at the same age as they ever have done. However, there are other options. We may continue working while receiving both a pension and salary or postpone drawing on our pension in favour of higher payments at a later date. On reaching pension age, if you continue working without claiming your pension, you will receive an additional 6 percent of your earnings on your pension after one year. This rises to 14 percent in 2 years, 24 percent in 3 years and 36 percent in 5. For each subsequent year, pensions are to rise by a further 14 percent of earnings. By voluntarily postponing your retirement, you can raise your final pension. Of course, much depends on your strength and ability to work; it must be a personal decision, as the President notes. He explains, “We shouldn’t force people by raising the pension age artificially or administratively. It shouldn’t be done. If you don’t want to postpone your pension, women will maintain the right to retire at 55 and men at 60, as now. However, we can offer another choice.” The Belarusian leader has told the Government, “There should be no populism: no steps which worsen the financial situation. Simply put, we should have enough money for whatever we choose to do.” The Government believes it has the finances to fund the new proposal. Of course, there are other choices, such as pension insuring, which are already in partial operation. However, the President is sure that we should develop them gradually and carefully. The state wishes to guarantee pension funds, so proper economic provision is required. We can already give people a real alternative for their retirement but we must calculate everything precisely and scrupulously, accounting for every coin, in order to make the advantages visible to everyone. By Vladimir Vasiliev
Woman’s portrait against background of daily life Average Belarusian woman is aged 42, lives and works in a city, and is married with children
elarus’ Statistical Committee has prepared a ‘portrait’ of the typical Belarusian woman. According to the Press Secretary, Yelena Kondratenko, she is 42 year old, and speaks Russian but acknowledges Belarusian as her native language. She lives in a city, has higher or secondary special education, is married (at the age of 24), has children (giving birth to her first at the age of 25) and works in industry or education. As of January 1st, 2012, 5.1m women were registered in the Republic — accounting for 54 percent of the total population. In all, 76 percent live in urban settlements, with the remaining 24 percent in rural areas. There are 1,152 women per thousand men countrywide. This rises to 1,165 in towns and falls to 1,113 in villages. Among urbanites, there are more men aged below 28 and, in villages, men under 57 prevail. This is primarily connected with young women leaving rural areas to continue their education or find employment. Ms. Kondratenko explains that men also do not live as long as women, with life expectancy dropping especially once they reach active working age. The greatest gender disproportion is observed in the senior age groups. For women aged 60-69, there are 1,469 per 1,000 men in cities; in villages, this figure stands at 1,400. Meanwhile, women above 70 exceed men in number by 2.3-fold in urban settlements, and 2.4-fold in rural areas. Ms. Kondratenko stresses that life expectancy influences the female-male ratio. In 2010, the expected life span for men was 64.6 years, compared to 76.5 years for women. A significant difference in life expectancy is evident in Belarus; in 2010, this stood at 11.9 years — while the UNDP reports the ‘natural’ difference at just 5 years. By Yelena Prusova
New path for farming Agricultural companies conduct this year’s sowing campaign to raise crop yields, changing structure of fields
n 2012, farms will, for the first time, plant serious volumes of sunflowers and soya, to be used as cost effective protein rich cattle feed (cutting the cost of producing meat and milk). By 2015, the Government target is to raise exports of Belarusian food produce from today’s $4bn to $7bn. As Belarus’ Deputy Agriculture and Food Minister, Vasily Pavlovsky, notes, this year, sunflower fields are to cover 25,000 hectares — up from 1,500 in previous years. Meanwhile, soya fields are to rise over 5-fold, specifically aiming
to produce cattle fodder. The crop also suits the changing climate (temperatures in Belarus have risen by 1.2 degrees on average over the past decade). Efficiency in cattle breeding is a priority nationwide, due to huge export potential. By 2015, farms are to produce 8-10m tonnes of milk and 2m tonnes of meat, ensuring significant production growth. However, high protein feeds are essential. Last year alone, the country exported 780,000 tonnes of sunflower and soya oilseed — worth $280m. “It’s better to pay our villagers to produce these crops than to buy them from abroad. We should be
spending funds on the implementation of technologies necessary to grow these plants,” believes Mr. Pavlovsky. The crops will mostly be focused in the south of the Republic — in Gomel and Brest regions. However, other regions will, no doubt, join the trend. Last year, soya grew well in Minsk Region’s Stolbtsy District; in coming years, domestic farms should provide at least half of the country’s protein-rich fodder needs. Flax oil is another promising avenue; being rich in essential vitamins, the oil has become a cult item for the health conscious. However, to date, it has
Agrarian vector Spring days ensure food for the whole year
Belarus’ agrarian success would be impossible without huge state financial aid. Over the past ten years alone, almost $40bn has been injected into the branch. This year’s sowing campaign will also be costly: more than doubling since 2011. Agricultural companies are covering most expenses but the Republican budget will provide 20 percent of funds and local budgets will also allocate money. The Deputy Chairman of the Nat i ona l Ac a d e my of S c i e nc e s’ Presidium, Doctor of Economic Sciences Vladimir Gusakov, considers that state support offers some compensation for farmers being prohibited from setting their own prices. Of course, farms need to be motivated to reduce costs and strive towards selffinancing so criteria for state support are being toughened. It will no longer be possible to spend money unwisely. Since January 1st, 2012,Belarus has been adhering to the Customs Union rules for the state support for agriculture (which envisage reduction of support to 10 percent by 2016 — from the current 16 percent). Moreover, this season, agricultural companies will be able to charge an extra 30 percent for their produce, which is sure to motivate them to raise yields.
This year, farmers need to collect around 9mln. tonnes of grain, 8mln. tonnes of potatoes, over 4mln. tonnes of sugar beet and about 2mln. tonnes of vegetables. Of course, forecasting is always tricky but we remain optimistic, as there are grounds to hope for the best. In spring 2011, almost 400,000 hectares of fields had to be re-planted after crops withered, but no more than 10 percent were lost this year. Accordingly, farmers are expected to grow 8.8mln. tonnes of grain — and more could be possible (up to10-12mln. tonnes in coming years, later rising to 15mln. tonnes). Food is a valuable resource, worthy of investment. Food prices on the global market are due to rise, since population growth is outstripping growth in food production and oil and gas prices are ever rising. Moreover, the volume of suitable fields for farming is falling. The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation believes that, over the past 30 years, there has been no growth in agricultural production per capita. Accordingly, states which fully satisfy their domestic needs and can export internationally can only benefit. With this in mind, Belarusian scientists and agrarians are working to improve farming methods. Within the next five years, our lands could amaze us in their diversity and richness. By Lilia Ogorodnikova
largely only been seen in Belarusian pharmacies, with imports cornering this niche market. These are soon to give way to domestic flax oil, as 70 hectares of Belarusian fields are being dedicated to growing seeds this spring (to allow 15,000 hectares to be sown next year). Lidsky Len (Lida Flax) JSC has already set up its first line to process flax seeds, with similar coming into operation in Postavy and Volozhin. The Agriculture and Food Ministry believes this useful product will enjoy demand both domestically and abroad. Of course, farms will continue growing traditional flax fibre (working with the National Academy of Sciences’ Scientific-Practical Centre for Land Reclamation). They aim to enhance harvests and the quality of flax fibre. This spring, a list of recommended fibre flax varieties has been distributed for the first time, with 10 varieties to be planted (instead of 34). No doubt, the domestic agro-industrial complex is experiencing a revival, after having only aimed to satisfy the country’s food security a decade ago. Now, it feels confident in mastering new foreign markets and niches, earning foreign currency. A third of all agricultural produce is being exported while products previously imported (such as wheat, buckwheat and, even, vegetables) are now cultivated domestically. Moreover, bold managers are even trying to grow crops once viewed as unpromising in Belarus’ climate: some farms in the Rechitsa and Kobrin districts are planting watermelons. Meanwhile, the National Academy of Sciences’ Scientific-Practical Centre for Potato and Vegetable Growing has cultivated grape varieties suitable for Belarusian conditions (grown not only in the south but also in the central parts of the country — such as Samokhvalovichi, near Minsk).
Bonuses of attractiveness Gomel Region has, for the first time, been named as the best Belarusian region in which to run a business — in a contest organised in the country annually
ccording to the business community, it boasts comfortable conditions for the development of private initiative. Although affected by the Chernobyl disaster, Gomel Region has shown that it has coped with the tragedy and chosen apromising path of development.
S e veral ye ars ago, G omel Region began positioning itself as a territory offering extensive support to business people — both in large cities and in rural areas. The local authorities have many times explained this approach. The Chairman of Gomel Regional Executive C ommittee, Vladimir Dvornik, explains, “Life moves on. Not only the social but the economic development of the affected areas is a priority — also with the participation of investors. New facilities are being set up, providing greater opportunities for districts to improve their standards of living.
Office building for the technopark of Gomel-Raton free economic zone
This year alone, four pig breeding complexes are planned: for Yelsk, Narovlya, Chechersk and Lelchitsy districts. Meanwhile, the construction of such complexes will continue in Korma, Bragin and Khoiniki districts. We’ll also construct modern animal breeding farms. The industrial sector is developing well, including the establishment of furniture fabric production in Korma and the expansion of manufacturing facilities at Narovlya and Khoiniki — making hydro-equipment. This brings jobs and raises incomes, while enhancing industrial potential.” Various agencies have been working with businesses to create convenient conditions, with rapid results. Last year, the region’s economy received $1.3bn of investments, with the volume of direct foreign investments exceeding 2010 figures threefold.Most was injected into large industrial enterprises: Mozyr Refinery, the Belarusian
Products by Multipack foreign enterprise, a resident of Gomel-Raton free economic zone, enjoy great export rates
Steel Works and Gomel Glass. This year, work on renewing and expanding facilities (with investors’ participation) will continue, with investments planned at the Belarusian Steel Works to produce seamless pipes for gas and oil industry. Meanwhile, Mozyr Refinery is to deepen its oil processing. Serious investment projects are to be realised in the region’s wood processing branch, with modernisation enabling the region to export its ready-made manufactures. Meanwhile, Svetlogorsk Pulp and Cardboard Plant is to master production of bleached pulp, enabling it to fully satisfy domestic needs, while exporting around 30 percent of its produce. Business projects are also planned for Gomel Chemical Plant, Gomselmash, Gomel Glass and Dobrush Hero of Labour Paper Mill.
Connection to the territory
Joint Belarusian-French Komkont was among the first companies to beset up in Gomel-Raton free economic zone. According to its general director, it has been successfully developing, mastering production of industrial boiler equipment
(using local fuels while applying French technologies). It is always ready to try new approaches and is among the many successful examples in Gomel Region. At present, Gomel-Raton numbers over 80 firms, with a third using foreign capital. Over the past year, the number of new facilities has doubled and, soon, these favourable conditions will spread to Turov (Zhitkovichi District) and the district centres of Lelchitsy, Korma and Khoiniki, giving businessmen more incentives to set up.
Green light of ‘Silicon Valley’
At the end of 2011, a sci-tech park opened in Gomel, aiming to establish favourable conditions for the development of small and medium-sized innovative enterprises. The technopark has been inspired by global trends which show that a mere third of innovative enterprises survive their first three years on the market, compared to 90 percent on a technopark. According to the technopark’s director, Dmitry Morozov, “Innovative development is a promising avenue. Our country lacks many mineral resources, so ‘brain work’
is vital. The technopark will be a real venue for developing and implementing new technologies.” Organisations involved in innovative work, as well as scientists, engineers, developers and students, can become residents of the technopark: anyone using new ideas. In line with domestic legislation, privileges regarding taxes and rent are available.Evidently, such preferences are attractive: within just a few months, over 50 jobs have been created at the technopark. Promising projects are being realised — including processing of phosphogypsum (waste from Gomel Chemical Plant). At present, about 20mln. tonnes of this ecologically unfriendly substance are found in Gomel’s suburbs, withreserves growing annually. The absence of affordable technologies did not allow for earlier processing but the technopark has made this possible, with new technology currently being applied. Gomel’s ‘Silicon Valley’ is convinced that more such progress will be evident in the future, inviting fresh ideas and purposeful people. By Violeta Daniliuk
Spring of inspiration The existence of diaspora (from Greek, meaning ‘dispersion’) has influenced international policy worldwide for many centuries. It initially denoted those Greek citizens who migrated into newly conquered territories and was a symbol of the great power held by those united by a love of their homeland. Today, the activity of Armenian, Chinese and Indian diasporas worldwide shows that their economic and political support for their homeland is no less significant than that of official foreign ministries
f course, the number of Belarusians is fewer than that of Chinese or Hindus. Nevertheless, fate has scattered them abroad and these ‘sons of their Fatherland’ are often found supporting the interests of home — from every corner of the world. They may not desire to return to their homeland, having settled comfortably in their new homes, but they maintain a spiritual thirst which grows only stronger with time. The more successful we become, the greater our self-esteem, driven by personal successes and thoughts of our kin. Naturally, any process has its pioneers. In gathering and preserving Belarusian customs, we can’t but mention Valery Nikolaevich Kazakov: a Russian and Belarusian writer, writing in both languages. He comes from a village near Chausy but has lived in Mogilev since before his army days and is now a retired Colonel and an Acting State Advisor of the Russian Federation, of the first class. In fact, like others, his intent search for the cultural and spiritual legacy of Belarus is inspired by his desire to understand his roots, to better know himself.
MAGIC CRYSTAL OF NEW POLITICAL NOVEL
The mutual interconnection and dependence of Belarus and Russia has always been and will remain central to our understanding of each other. It matters not that Russia is so much more influential worldwide. Mr. Kazakov always stresses (in major interviews and private conversations) that he is proud to be Belarusian. His strong devotion to his roots is especially touching, as he once worked within the Security Council and the Administration of the Russian President. As a state official, he walked among the Russian power-elite. Moreover, he is famous as a brilliant prose writer in Russian literature. Accordingly, we might wonder why he feels a continuing material and spiritual need to pursue his Belarusian past. His yearning to do so shows that Belarus has much to be proud of. It seems only right that we should diligently collect information on our cultural legacy, as Mr. Kazakov is doing. His treasures include books by Skorina, Slutsk sashes and ancient manuscripts from all over the globe. Impressively, he now aims to open a museum dedicated to Belarusian partisans — as we’ll discuss later.
Even at our first meeting, I could see his belief in the idea that Russia has as much to learn and gain from Belarus as vice versa: we are a source of spiritual unity. Mr. Kazakov views today’s political, economic and cultural rapprochement of Belarus and Russia through this prism, rather than through that of oil and gas. Of course, such views aren’t surprising and it seems that any resident of Bryansk or Smolensk regions who doesn’t greatly distinguish themselves from their brothers in Gomel or Mogilev regions thinks in the same way. It’s rare to hear such acknowledgment of the unity of our spiritual roots from those who think of themselves as the elite of Russia, controlling financial, raw material and information inflow. Money was the prevailing guide during the ‘gas’, ‘meat’, ‘milk’ and other trade wars, which signify the establishment of big Russian monopolies on the market. Four years ago, in the midst of economic disputes and trade wars, when our relations were being ‘heated to the utmost’ by the blue flame of Gazprom, I recalled Mr. Kazakov’s prophetic words: ‘The most vital fact is that an independent Belarusian
Valery Kazakov presenting his book
state has appeared almost within the territorial frames of Belarusian national identity. History has given the Belarusians a unique chance to build their home without external dictatorship. I believe that our nations will settle their relationship themselves. A union is somewhat like a marriage: a spiritual and physical rapprochement. Therefore, this union is impossible without reciprocity, without our reciprocity. If the nation takes part in this, the union definitely has a future’. Now, the newly elected President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has announced that the CIS is an absolute priority of Russia’s foreign policy. He calls the Union State of Belarus and Russia a model of integration, providing a matrix for the Customs Union (which is already becoming a wider-scale Eurasian Union).
Do you remember Pushkin’s ‘magic crystal’ through which the great poet saw his free-ranging novel? I believe that Mr. Kazakov, like all true writers, also boasts the gift of prophetic imagination. No mysticism or supernatural powers are needed to make a great writer. Rather, we need to study and understand life; this is a writer’s greatest power.
MALICE OF POWER AND STRENGTH OF NEW PROSE
Last March, Mr. Kazakov was visiting Minsk as the authorised representative of Vladimir Putin (a candidate for the presidential post). He had no particular power to influence Belarusian-Russian relations but, even during those hectic pre-election days (when literature can hardly have been at the forefront of his mind), he found a minute to drop into our editorial office, presenting me
with his new book on the Russian state machine. He is often called a founder of the ‘new political novel’ or new prose writing, drawing inspiration from real characters in government, exploring how people are transformed by power. His investigations allow us to better understand contemporary life. This is how he views his writing mission: Those who read my books can’t suspect me of any love for power. My position is obvious. In my books, I try to show what happens when someone gains power: how their soul and world outlook changes. How does a ‘normal’ person with good intentions become a corrupt official? How are decisions taken at top Russian state level? How do they appear and what mechanism stands behind them? One of my books is entitled ‘Temptation of a Head of Desk’;
diaspora I’ve included fragments entitled ‘From Batura to Batura’ — about my native Mogilev. During one of my visits home a decade ago, I was pleasantly surprised by the city’s transformation. I was told that Batura was responsible. I’ve never attended local authority meetings in Mogilev, regardless of my position in Russia. However, at that time, I got to know the Governor and I can say that Boris Batura (then Governor of Mogilev Region) is a unique person among those surrounding the Belarusian President. Would you call Putin a singleminded person regarding Lukashenko? I think that’s true as regards major messages. They are both believers in a strong state. I’d like to answer your question more widely, by tackling the nature of power in general. The more I observe those transformed by power, the more I understand how difficult it is for sincere people to be in power. A classical western example is Machiavelli’s ‘Sovereign’: a book filled with cynicism and mean spiritedness. It’s easy to become such a ‘sovereign’ as he described but more difficult to be a true leader in our contemporary world. Why do strong states sometimes wish to dominate? Genuinely strong states have no need to dictate to anyone. It’s pleasant to be friends and work with strong states. As soon as a strong state begins to dominate others it is scorned and called ‘miserly’. A truly strong state is that which respects its partners. There is much speculation on Mr. Putin’s behaviour towards Belarus. Some say that he is willing to give us economic preferences now but will ‘twist the screws’ later. It’s a common stereotype, especially promoted by the opposition… I’ll remind you of his statement that passing speculation won’t affect integration processes with Belarus. I asked Mr. Putin about relations with Minsk and he responded clearly, saying, “All conflict on television and mutual reproaches are already in the past.” Our two nations
each have their own history — a difficult history; however, this history has shaped us today. If we speak about relations with Russia we mean our genetic proximity an d s h are d s pi r itu a l feeling. Do you think Belarusians don’t view their nation as being ‘great’ — as Russians do. Y o u k n o w, I h a v e n’ t
Eurasian Union. We should pay less attention to certain stories about one ‘eating’ the other. Belarus has been ‘consumed’ for thousands of years but most of those who have tried have broken their teeth. It is a self-sufficient European state with its own historical fate and contribution to the legacy of European civilisation. Without Belarus, there would be no Europe as we know it. The type of leadership popular in Eu r o p e h a s b e e n under debate. It’s difficult to draw parallels, as each personality reflects their time and country. De Gaulle reflected the will of the French while Alexander
Mr. Kazakov is often called a founder of the ‘new political novel’ or new prose writing, drawing inspiration from real characters in government, exploring how people are transformed by power. His investigations allow us to better understand contemporary life noticed that Belarusians feel themselves part of a small nation. States may be small or medium-sized but Belarusians just see themselves as ‘normal’. How do you think we’ll achieve equality within the Eurasian Union, since Russia holds 90 percent of its economic assets? I don’t think that anyone in Russia is encroaching upon the independence of Kazakhstan or Belarus. We’ve already created a single customs space but no one has noticed, although we’ve seen rising trade turnover. The President of Belarus is one of the founders of the
Lukashenko is a personality for today’s Belarus. The same is true of Putin for Russia. Of course, Putin isn’t the man he was four years ago; he is now notable for his wisdom and deliberation — as proven by his articles. I’ve read these as a voter and as a writer closely connected with sociology and political science. Putin’s articles are finally showing the foundations on which a strong and independent state can be built — friendly to its neighbours. I’ll be very glad to see this, as I’m a Russian Belarusian, as I’m proud to declare. I’m both a Russian and Belarusian writer.
Museums Belarusian has been and remains my native language.
FAMILY TREE FROM GEDIMINOVICHI
“We have much in common,” continues Mr. Kazakov. “Even the wars which occurred between Lithuania (of which Belarus was once part) and Muscovia have brought us closer. If you look at the family tree of Russian noblemen of ancient standing you see that they either came from the Murza or Gediminovichi — originating from our lands.” How do Belarusians living in Russia feel? You know, I’m slightly concerned about this. Twenty years ago, according to the population census conducted in Russia, 1.2m people called themselves Belarusian; a decade ago — there were 816,000 and, at last year’s census, only 512,000 identified with being Belarusian. We’ve lost almost 800,000 people. They didn’t die or leave; they just stopped identifying themselves with Belarus. Assimilation is natural of course; this problem exists in Russia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland. We need a state programme to support our countrymen — similar to that in Germany, Israel and Poland. We can offer ethno-cultural assistance rather than financial help, promoting contacts. We should show contemporary Belarus to the grandchildren and great grandchildren of those who once left Belarus. Our diaspora is actively working on this; I dream of the time when a Belarusian House will appear in Russia and a House of Belarusians from Abroad will open in Minsk — available for Belarusians from all over the globe. A western diaspora of Belarusians exists, with its own attitude and leaders but these are Belarusians. You can’t even imagine how many Belarusian treasures are kept abroad. If we tackle this ‘issue of return’, much could be found. The most insulting aspect is that, somewhere, our spiritual treasures lie unclaimed. Unique collections of Belarusian artefacts appear in Vilnius and, sometimes, no one is
really interested. Although we can’t reclaim these valuable items we can at least see their beauty! Copies may be made, while other artefacts can be brought for exhibitions or as part of cultural exchanges. This should be done not only through state structures; a public initiative should also exist. I once visited priest Alexander Nadson — Director of the Belarusian Library and Museum (named after Frantsisk Skorina) in London, who showed me the greatest heritage: rare ancient manuscripts and Slutsk sashes, as well as the rarest collection of books. I was lucky to meet ethnic Belarusian Boris Kit, who lives in Germany and has already celebrated his 101st birthday. He’s a unique person, having worked for NATO in the USA. All those involved in space research consider him to be a genius. His legacy will live on after him. Has anyone collected his works, thoughts, remarks and scientific works? I must admit that the idea haunted me during my visit. Recently, the Board of Directors of the Belarusians of Russia Federal National Cultural Autonomy gathered, discussing the creation of the Partisans of Belarus Memorial Complex. It won’t be a single monument but a grand complex dedicated to the partisan movement. Nothing similar exists anywhere, so Belarusians from Russia are ready to raise funds to help erect this memorial. It’s about time we did so, as WWII history seems to be being rewritten. We may forget who defeated whom and who attacked whom. Finally, we should agree a single understanding. Partisan brigades were a mass movement not only during WWII. Kastus Kalinovsky was also a partisan. When Napoleon made his retreat, he left few villagers alive. This has been a common trend since the 12th century. If a moment of choice comes, we’ll strain every sinew because we are Belarusians. The Belarusian diaspora in Russia initiated the idea of the complex and we’ll create it. Thank you, Mr. Kazakov!
Attributes of sovereignty to go on show Museum of Belarusian Statehood to open in Minsk this spring
he exhibits and videos for the new museum are almost ready, with the launch to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Belarus proclaiming its sovereignty,’ explains the Director of the National History Museum, Sergey Vecher. The new museum is to be a branch of the National History Museum. As Mr. Vecher explains, “The realities of modern Belarus deserve no less attention than the complicated history of our state. It’s important that we position Belarus as an independent country, telling visitors to Minsk of its economic and cultural achievements.” Speaking of international collaboration in the museum sphere, Mr. Vecher notes that, in late 2011, an agreement was signed with Lithuania’s National History Museum to create a virtual exhibition of Vilno’s Belarusian Museum. The latter features many artefacts relating to the history and culture of the Belarusian nation in the period between the wars. Set up in 1918 by famous Belarusian archaeologist Ivan Lutskevich (whose 130th birthday was celebrated last year) the museum is to join the National History Museum of Belarus in a joint project.
Interviewed by Nina Romanova
Perfect venue Belaya Rus Sanatorium, on Black Sea coast, is ideal destination for relaxation and recuperation
elarus already has its ‘own’ coast, cour tesy of the Belorussiya Sanatorium, on the Baltic Sea, in Latvian Jurmala. We also boast three sanatoriums along the Black Sea coast: one in Crimea and two in Russian Sochi and Tuapse. Belaya Rus Spa, near Tuapse, was my destination for the holiday season. Situated between the sea and the Caucasian mountains, it’s a wonderful spot on the Black Sea coast, 40m above sea level. The air is fresh and the location has its own sheltered microclimate. The road from
Tuapse to Belaya Rus snakes charmingly through Agoi and Nebug — settlements with Adygheya names. Interestingly, archaeologists have discovered an ancient settlement just by the sanatorium, so it’s not hard to discover old artefacts in the dirt. The ancient Greeks even once resided here, when the land was called Meotida (named after the eoty tribe — forefathers of today’s Adyghes — the local people of the Tuapse area).
In fact, there is quite an international flavour, as the sanatorium employs specialists from various regions. Twenty years ago (when the sanatorium was being constructed), they were attracted not only by salaries but by the modern equipment being installed. This is still in use, in perfect condition. Eve r y c om for t i s catered for — with patients and specialists alike delighting in the facilities. The sanatorium overlooks
Another opportunity to strengthen health
the Tuapse B ay. It was built by Slovenian workers, while Smelt-Intag (from Swiss Zurich) acted the general contractor for the 4 star venue, which can sleep 607 guests. There are even deluxe rooms. Director Oleg Neverkevich (B elarus’ Honorar y Consul to Russian Krasnodar since 2011) tells us, “Belaya Rus Sanatorium’s advantage is that it offers hotel facilities and a medical-consultative centre within the same building.” Since opening, over 200,000 guests have stayed there, enjoying treatments for skin, hypoderm, blood, muscleskeletal, urogenital, nervous system and respiratory problems. Others simply go to relax and restore their inner balance. Stays can be arranged for 12 or 21 days, and children of all ages are welcome. Those sharing a room with their parents are offered a discount and babes up to 36 months are accepted free of charge. It’s easy to reach the coast, taking the curving road or a tree lined avenue, so day trips to the beach are very popular. Resembling an ancient Roman villa, there’s a comfortable cafe, a summerhouse and changing rooms —equipped
with showers and bathroom facilities. You can even hire small boats, jet skis and motorboats. Belaya Rus offers four meals a day — either pre-ordered or from the self-service buffet. Individual diet plans can also be arranged. Besides sunbathing, swimming and medical treatments, guests can take sightseeing excursions to such places as the lowlands of the Ashe River. Nestled in the Adygheya Mountains, village residents live as they did centuries ago (while enjoying a few modern conveniences). Ruslan Kuadzhe — a resident of the Agoi and Nebug area and the Head of the Belaya Rus’ CulturalSporting Department, was my guide. The route into the mountains takes half an hour, meandering up the hairpin bends towards the Adygheya villages. These boast their own customs and residents share a unique dialect (of the Adygheya-Abkhaz family) — being so cut off from the wider world. Their language dates back to a time before modern Belarusian or English existed and our European forefathers spoke a single Indo-European language. Adyghes are a modern people whose blood runs deep into the past.
Kalezh is among the most wonderful local villages, being tranquil and green. Local residents make strong cognac, chacha (grape vodka) and tasty chestnut honey. There are two waterfalls worth visiting: Psydakh and Shapsug. The former has two stunning cascades, while the latter runs down a well-smoothed niche in the side of the mountain (like a well). Approaching Psadykh waterfall is not for the fainthearted, as you must cross a suspended bridge over a mountain stream, before ascending a steep, narrow wooden ladder. Don’t forget to ask Kalezh residents to show you the dolmens, which once housed ancient people. These are also found in the UK and Ireland. On parting, it’s quite likely that you’ll be treated to tasty cakes and Adygheya cheese. A trip to Belaya Rus offers guests the chance to see two regions: the Russian Black Sea coast and legendary Meotida, with its unique culture. It’s impossible to be bored, even if travelling from Minsk by train. The two day rail journey passes quickly and, of course, the spa treatments awaiting you may prolong your life by several years! By Viktar Korbut
World community of kindness
Attraction of tender hearts In searching for truth and life’s meaning, we sometimes come to the surprisingly simple conclusion that good deeds can make us happier; in giving our time and money to those in need, we enrich ourselves
round 200 charities operate in Belarus, with members now considering creating an association to co-ordinate efforts. Let’s take a closer look at the kindness of spirit seen in our country.
The house that Lim built
Even families outside the Belarusian Association of Disabled Children know of Minsker Yuri Kruk and his Irish partner William O’Mara (Belarusians call him Lim). Mr. Kruk is Deputy Director of the Dobra Tut Сharity Foundation (translated from Belarusian as ‘it’s good here’), which is headed by Lim. “The title was invented by Lim,” explains Yuri. “He’s been involved in charity activity since the 1990s and helps children from the Chernobyl areas. He was once asked whether he likes Belarus and responded with a smile: ‘Dobra tut’. I’m engaged in construction and we’re conducting major humanitarian activity in the country’s boarding schools, with affiliations countrywide.” A cosy two-storey building with a mansard, playroom and small gym has been built in Minsk’s Zavodskoy District, funded by charities from Ireland. The Day Centre for Disabled Children is run jointly by Belarusians and Irish charity workers, offering a place of community even to older children; it’s a great place to go while their parents are at work. “Unfortunately, such children often lack a father at home,
as men are rarely patient enough to stay with their family when a handicapped child arrives,” explains Yuri. “Previously, mothers were ‘tied’ to their children for the whole day; now, they can go to work to earn a living to supplement state benefits for disabled children (those with infantile cerebral paralysis — ICP, blindness or physical or mental challenges).” I accompany Yuri and Lim through rooms where their young friends spend their time. Some arrange colourful puzzles and mosaics, others rest and some play. There are 25 youngsters in two groups, with whom teachers with higher special education work. The children also learn how to help their mothers at home and how to take care of themselves. The centre appreciates any assistance from parents, of course, calling it ‘self-management’; one mother helps out in the kitchen. When the parents of these disabled children founded their association, their mutual assistance began; they share common family problems. With Lim’s help, the centre was later established. It is one of the first in Belarus — similar to those in Ireland. Another has since opened in the district centre of Cherven, with the assistance of the Dobra Tut Charity Foundation. According to Yuri, other district centres in Minsk Region ‘are also moving in this direction’. It’s vital that parents of disabled children receive assistance free of charge.
The centre is open from 8a.m. until 6.30 p.m., enabling mothers to collect their children on their way home from work. In Smolevichi, the huge charity funds raised by Lim O’Mara and his partners have allowed the centre to stay open day and night. The men tell me that all their work is in line with Belarusian legislation, supervised by the Humanitarian Activity Directorate at the Property Management Directorate of the President of Belarus. You can imagine the efforts made by all those involved to find sponsors for these bold plans. Each centre cost at least 50,000 Euros to set up. Of course, their example has also inspired others to similar good deeds. Yuri Kruk tells us that he found the charity by Fate; his son Dmitry was left with difficulties after an infectious illness, and now attends the Day Centre. “Through my son, I’ve become friends with these wonderfully kind people,” he smiles. “I used to run my own major construction and cargo transportation business but had to leave when Lim suggested that I join them in this challenging project. I don’t regret anything though, as I receive more than a large profit here. I receive the gratitude of dozens of people who need our assistance. Meanwhile, the experience acquired during my entrepreneurial activities is proving useful here; I’m well aware of where to buy something cheaper, how to construct better and how to conduct repairs. This knowledge saves us many funds.”
World community of kindness
Lim O’Mara, Irish by origin, is well-known in Belarus for his charity activities
Five stars… for orphans and cadets
Creativity and original ideas ‘grace’ all benevolent intentions and endeavours — with charity events certainly no exception. This year, the Generosity of Heart campaign was organised for the 13th time, hosted by NEXT club, at the luxurious Crowne Plaza Minsk Hotel, as usual. The wonderful person responsible is Tatiana Kot, the Chair of the Independent Assistance to Children international public association. Born in Borisov, she is a philosopher and sociologist by education, with a post-graduate certificate from the BSU. “I became involved in charity activity over twenty years ago,” she notes. “The Chernobyl accident pushed me toward this. Thousands of children from Chernobyl-affected regions needed assistance, and I realised at once that it would be a colossal task, requiring clear organisation. We can’t
help children merely with good intentions or kind words. Now, our association unites almost 500 volunteers. Over the years, we’ve liaised with benefactors from the UK, the USA, France, Greece, Canada and Germany. Our contacts with Italy and Spain also continue.” Ms. Kot and her numerous friends work primarily with parents of disabled children and many projects are implemented jointly with colleagues from the Medicine and Chernobyl Charity. Ms. Kot believes that, since children are the future of the country, ‘it’s sensible to build this future on principles of goodness, beauty, mercy and creativity’. Her own children are also engaged in charity work: her son Yaroslav, who teaches at the Belarusian State University’s Law Department and is friendly with many young Belarusian artistes, helps organise creative events, run by volunteers and sponsors.
The Generosity of Heart holiday is well established, uniting public and state organisations, well-known and upcoming celebrities, musicians, famous athletes, political and cultural figures. The holiday has been organised since 2009 and, according to Ms. Kot, ‘over 1,500 orphans and disabled children have already been touched by its warmth and kindness’. Since January 2012, the association of Assisting Children’s Independence, and that of Medicine and Chernobyl, have been regularly organising the event at NEXT club, supported by the Council of Ministers and the Education Ministry. Ms. Kot is especially grateful to the Crowne Plaza Minsk Hotel and its owner, Sudi Ozkan. Alongside hotel director Aidan Chengel, Mr. Ozkan has worked hard to make each event a success. The most recent featured Minsk2006 basketball club, with players from
World community of kindness
Chronicle of definite events
Last year, the association headed by Tatiana Kot implemented several projects in the spheres of recuperation, social adaptation and assistance in realising talents. 31st January. The Generosity of Heart charity event, organised for 130 youngsters, featured pupils from the Golden Voices Producer Centre (Belarusy art-band), singer and composer Alexey Krechet and Honoured Artiste of Belarus Inna Afanasieva. 31st March. As a member of the Belarusian Organising Committee of the International New Wave in Jūrmala and Children’s New Wave in Artek contests, the association organised a six hour charity concert in Minsk for 1,500 orphans from six Belarusian regions. April. Orthopaedic mattresses were purchased from the Spanish Sanicher As s o c i at i on , e s p e c i a l ly designed for disabled children. These were delivered to Gomel’s Young performers from “Ozorniye Ogonki” Dancing Company are frequent guests at charity events
to Italy and Spain and 25 hearing devices for children were purchased. January-July. The Italian Smile organisation transferred considerable funds for the reconstruction and repair of Berezino District’s Machesk school — used by children who stay with Italian families for recuperation. August. Children staying at the Bogatyr children’s spa were given a day trip to see the Stalin’s Line Historical and Cultural Complex. September. The Generosity of Heart event was organised for 130 children from Minsk boarding school #5 (for orphans and those without parental guardianship), as well as for youngsters of Istoki Children’s Village. Natalia Prosmytskaya, a laureate of the Bravo Turku 2011 Song Festival (held in Finland), and Sergey Klochkov, who heads Vuraj folklore band, performed, alongside singer-songwriter Ivan Negrutsa, AURA band soloist Yulia Bykova, and Bozhiya Korovka ensemble from Minsk secondary school #119.
regional boarding school, which is home to children suffering from scoliosis. Mattresses were also purchased for boarding school #9, in Minsk, which is home to youngsters with musculoskeletal and connective tissue disorders. 14-15th April. The International Modern Family — Encouraging a Culture of Non-Violence conference was organised jointly with the Medical Academy of Post-Graduate Education at the Belarusian Education Ministry, with St. Petersburg’s Doctors for Children public organisation and with the Italian Smile organisation. May. Five children affected by the Minsk metro bomb were sent to the Zhdanovichi Recuperation Centre (costing over Br6m). Meanwhile, prizes were donated for the annual Minsk Region contest to award the ‘best’ large families. Moreover, 2,045 Belarusian children were sent on recuperative trips
We reap what we sow
the team presenting children with over ten basketballs, urging them to train hard if they want to see good results. The event’s noble goal is to give the children a memorable day, filling their souls with warmth and light. The organisers are confident that, on planting seeds of kindness, we encourage children in their own good deeds, living in harmony with themselves and their world. Cultural and entertainment programmes aim to help the youngsters make friends too. This time, boys from Mogilev’s Regional Cadet College were invited, as well as those from Minsk homes for orphans and those without parental guardianship.
Many would agree that, in giving, we make ourselves richer emotionally. These wise words have been many times proven in Belarus, becoming a life philosophy for hundreds of people. They readily take on board others’ problems but, of course, their efforts require ongoing support. The financial and technical assistance offered by various countries around the world has been vital to their success: a ‘world brotherhood of kind hearts’ has been formed, in a true spirit of altruistic generosity worthy of all those who consider themselves to follow Christian principles. The eternal values of love, goodness and mercy are at the heart of such charity works. Fortunately, they are inexhaustible and bring spiritual and emotional wealth to those who give their time. Happy Easter, friends! By Iosif Oreshko
Belarus — Russia
Dynamics vital to movement
Clear results essential in work of Union State
On March 15th, the Chairman of Belarus-Russia Union State Supreme State Council, the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, met the Union State Secretary, Grigory Rapota. Previously, the State Secretary has negotiated with Belarusian PM Mikhail Myasnikovich and the Head of Presidential Administration, Vladimir Makei, as well as some heads of Belarusian ministries and departments. He has also visited a number of enterprises, creating a good foundation for thorough discussion of Union State prospects. “Belarus hopes to expand collaboration with Russia as part of the Union State,” notes Mr. Lukashenko. “We should determine approaches which will help us raise our level of interaction. We must seek out and find spheres of good dynamics in Union State development and develop integration to become closer. I’m ready to discuss major areas of activity up until the Supreme State Council session, alongside a range of issues relevant to the Belarus-Russia Union State.” In turn, Mr. Rapota notes that he respects the opinion of the Belarusian President, who chairs the Union State Supreme State Council. He is also eager to see the work of executive authorities become well-organised. He emphasises, “The President of Belarus, as the Chairman of the Union State Supreme State Council, has asked me to ensure that sessions of the Council of Ministers and the Supreme State Council are held regularly. We’ll try to organise a Supreme State Council meeting in the second half of 2012.”
n the eve of his meeting with Mr. Lukashenko, Mr. Rapota came to Minsk on a working visit, questioned by journalists from leading Russian, Belarusian and Union State media. Here, we look at his most pertinent answers. Mr. Rapota, which Union State results are most illustrative? The Union State has been developing regardless of business environment; ups and downs are observed but are not related to the political situation. Rather,
ministries and departments are yet to become properly organised. The Union State has its own laws of development and is focusing on science, industry and technology. The social sphere is especially important, with clear results evident: equality of rights for both countries’ residents (regarding university entrance, healthcare and pension provision) as provided by Union State legislation. How do you think Union State priorities should be determined in the context of the formation of the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space?
The decision has been taken to set up a Single Economic Commission and the Single Economic Space but we must keep asking ourselves what role we should play in the Union State. We live under the influence of various external factors. Russia is joining the WTO, so what does this mean for the Union State? We’ve established the SES but what should we do next? Now, we’re analysing data to see how the Union State has progressed in comparison to the Single Economic Space. The first results already show that the ‘duo’ of Belarus and Russia is ahead
in many aspects: military and militarytechnical co-operation, the social sphere, education and healthcare. The instruments of the Union State are better organised than those of the Customs Union, as yet. The experience of the Union State in this sphere can provide a model for the creation of a single information system for the customs bodies of Belarus and Russia. It can also show how to use technology effectively. We need to use this experience in our ‘trio’ so that we can progress further. Will a single currency be introduced for the Union State? We have no current aim to do this. There has been no such discussion among our heads of state. We — being an executive authority — would, of course, take part in its implementation. However, it may be an issue for the future. Does the failure of Belarus and Russia to sign a Constitutional Act prevent collaboration? I’ve studied the Constitutional Act draft thoroughly. It tackles many issues so I’m yet to draw full conclusions but I don’t believe the absence of this document to be an obstacle to Union State development. Already, we’ve discussed a whole range of co-operation with Belarus’ Defence Minister, Yuri Zhadobin; the military component is probably one of the most developed, serving as a good example. Our conversation was sincere, with the position of the Russian Defence Ministry taken into account. Some issues remain to be solved but the absence of the Constitutional Act is certainly not hampering us in any way. Looking at the economic sphere, we boast quite advanced interaction in two areas: legislation enabling us to harmonise our relations; and Union State budget financed programmes. Naturally, much remains to be done, with the unwieldy mechanism governing our joint innovation programmes coming to mind. While we’re agreeing our documents, the rest of the world
is moving ahead. As time passes, we must ask whether we should adopt this programme. If we make the process clearer and quicker, we’ll progress a lot faster; it won’t be a simple task but we need to work on it. Joint Belarusian-Russian projects are mentioned in the Constitutional Act and have been discussed at the Union
Soyuz ’s record: Grigory Rapota was born in
1944 in Moscow and graduated from Bauman Moscow State Technical University. Before t a k i n g t h e p o s t o f St ate Secretary of the Union State, on December 15th, 2011, he was the Deputy Director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, the Deputy Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, the General Secretary of the EurAsEC and the Plenipotentiary Envoy of the President of the Russian Federation in a range of federal districts. Mr. Rapota is a General Lieutenant (Retired) and is an Active State Advisor of Russia of the first class. State Permanent Committee, with the Belarusian Prime Minister, and with a number of Belarusian and Russian ministries. Such co-operation will clearly be profitable, opening the way to economic interaction at inter-state level and attracting private business. Its representatives are keen to receive assistance from the Union State Permanent Committee, so we have work to do to facilitate this — even without an adopted Constitutional Act. We must be persistent in order to move forward and achieve success. Does Belarusian industry differ from that of Russia in its structure and, if so, does this hamper co-operation?
Every cloud has a silver lining. Absence of huge natural resources has made Belarusian engineers focus on high-tech processes. Several production fields in Belarus provide examples for integration development, as they boast a large number of Russian components: metals, equipment and spare parts. These are evident in the production of heavyduty dump trucks, tractors, agricultural machinery and electronics. It’s a worthy joint effort which we should build upon. We also have a range of achievements in agriculture. Several years ago, there was a drought in our Privolzhsky Federal District and Belarus was the first we addressed for help, receiving the necessary equipment. This was a bright example of the advantages of integration. International labour division is also beneficial. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel but we should take the leadership experience of Belarus and Russia, applying it to our shared advantage. We need a single economic organism, with harmonised legislation and common technical regulations. This will promote development of our small and mediumsized businesses. What have you seen during your visits to Minsk and how does this impress you? I’ve always kept an eager eye on events in Belarus and am now refining my knowledge. For instance, after visiting Integral JSC, I was keen to see how innovations might be used jointly. The scope of your construction is impressive; the presence of hoisting cranes shows the development of any city and of the state as a whole. The country is growing, so it must be progressing and developing. Of course, this is pleasing, although there’re certain problems; every country experiences the same. In 2008, only powerful interference from the state prevented financial difficulties from impacting on the Russian public. I believe Belarus is well prepared to ensure its survival. By Vladimir Bibikov
Records like renewal Trade-economic co-operation between Belarus and Russia reaches new level
ast year, a record $38.6bn was generated in trade between Belarus and Russia, within the Union State (up $4.5bn on the best pre-crisis year of 2008). Press Secretary Andrei Savinykh, the Head of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry’s Information Department, comments, “Russia is still Belarus’ main trade partner, accounting for 45 percent of total turnover in 2011. Meanwhile, Belarus is placed steadily 6-7th in Russia’s foreign trade.” What do our two neighbouring countries trade? Foremost, we sell each other science-intensive goods, services
and technologies. Additionally, exports of Belarusian truck tractors to Russia have almost tripled, while supplies of combustion engines, tractors and trucks have risen 75 percent. Key Union State enterprises, such as Minsk Automobile Works, Minsk Motor Works and Minsk Tractor Works are at the heart of such sales. Without Union State programmes developing diesel automobile manufacture, MAZ’s trade figures would look quite different. In 2011, it produced 22,300 trucks, buses and tractor trucks of various kinds — almost 70 percent more than in 2010: a real triumph. This also benefited Russia’s Yaroslavl-based
Mutual trade trends for 2007-2011 (mln. US dollars) 38607,6 34188,8 28035
26073 2008 23603,8 17186,5
Import to Belarus from Russia
24922,6 Autodiesel JSC, which supplied engines to Minsk. Meanwhile, exports of meat 18080,6 to Russia rose by and dairy products 16717,1 almost $300m. Vital goods were exported 13685from Belarus — particularly petro-chemicals. 9953,6 Russian crude oil supplies rose by over 6713,942 percent, allowing twoBelarus large oil Exportourfrom refineries to raise their production to Russia to
16.5m tonnes. The supply of oil products from Russia also rose — 5.9-fold, to reach 4.8m tonnes. Similar trends were seen in combined mineral fertilisers and bearings. What has inspired this upward trend in our trade? The Customs Union and the creation of the Single Economic Space (involving Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan) are vital factors, as oil and natural gas supplies are being imported on more favourable terms, allowing Belarus to raise its processing and onward sale. Due to the significant growth in trade turnover within the Union State and the Customs Union, Belarus has also managed to lower its negative foreign trade balance — to $1.64bn. This has been a major problem for Belarus for some time and was set to reach $5.7bn in 2011. However, in being able to buy energy resources and other strategic products at prices close to those seen within Russia, Belarusian enterprises have been able to compete successfully on external markets. As a result, our exports to the EU and elsewhere have exceeded our imports in value. The situation is less optimistic in the Russian direction, with the negative balance rising from around $7bn to $10bn in 2011 — due to our purchase of energy resources. However, Belarusian experts hope that equal terms within the Union State will alleviate this situation, as the first results of 2012 indicate. Trade between Belarus and Russia was up 28.7 percent in January 2012 (compared to last January), reaching $2.64bn. Moreover, Belarus’ total foreign trade balance stood at $315m — a record of recent years, including $120m from exported goods. Belarus’ Deputy Foreign Minister, Alexander Guryanov, believes that we have the capacity to see a positive trade balance in goods and services of $1.5bn this year, which would strengthen the national currency significantly. By Vladimir Yakovlev
Protection mechanism in action Production quality under triple control
Of course, it took time for manufacturers to adjust to the new rules. Certainly, in early summer 2010, many felt perplexed, misunderstanding the requirements, although all the necessary information had been placed online. In fact, in creating a shared code for our three nations, doctors determined about 26,000 requirements across 21 groups of commodities — basing their work on the EU norms. New points of control have opened simultaneously along the border, with lab testing terms reduced. Moreover, uniform certificates are being issued which are valid for the whole period of industrial production of a particular item (previously valid for 1-5 years). For some time, questions from entrepreneurs who had not grasped the situation seemed overwhelming. However, problems were solved within a few weeks.
The next issue on the agenda tackled quality since the number of goods requiring checks within the Customs Union was reduced by almost two thirds. The responsibility for safety remains with manufacturers and suppliers, with the added task of thorough safety testing. Previously, the state would test goods from a wide list at its own laboratories (at great expense). Officials would then sign off on safety for a batch of goods, with the certificate valid for 3-5 years. However, concerns remained over whether the ‘untested’ items produced over this period matched the original test batch in quality. So, the list has been reduced, leaving only items which are considered to be potentially highly dangerous (able to cause injury from a single instance of contact). Remarkably, businesses have not shown full readiness to take on their responsibilities for testing. According to the Chief Sanitary Doctor of Belarus, Oleg Arnautov, manufacturers are keen to simply be given a certificate proving quality and safety, which they assert their customers demand. What’s the problem here? It seems that a document issued by a manufacturer or a supplier would be quite enough. In fact, goods can be tested at 46 accredited laboratories run by the Ministry of Health. Moreover, none have abolished selective tests in the market or placed fines on violations. In their defence, manufacturers have been moving with the times, producing innovative designs and, last year, of over 16,000 selective tests carried out by the state, only 0.5 percent of goods failed. According to the plan, common requirements came into force under national legislation on 1st January, 2012. All manufacturers and suppliers now need a certificate of Customs Union registration. In Belarus, almost 99 percent of economic entities have complied — after much persuasion, according to Mr. Arnautov. The chief state sanitary doctors of each region met with each producer personally to explain why the step was necessary and would be profitable. Meanwhile, the terms of the common platform were driven by Russia: national documents are still valid while they remain ‘in date’ (as determined by the awarding authority). This allows exporters to continue selling to members of the Customs Union using their previous documents. However, when these expire, the new system will need to be followed (no national documents have been awarded since 2011). Belta
deeper stage of integration — the Single Economic Space — began for Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan at the start of the year. Criteria for co-operation were approved by our governments in December 2009, with the Treaty of the Customs Union on Sanitary Measures coming into force from 1st July, 2010. Work on the Customs Union technical regulations has been ongoing, with 47 issues of top priority. The most important govern consumer safety — relating to packaging, perfume-cosmetic production, toys and goods for children and teenagers, and low voltage electrical equipment. By this summer, laws will come into force but discussion continues, to ensure a common approach. Our market comprises over 150 million customers, who need consumer protection.
By Lyudmila Gabasova
Doctors double their opportunities Union State programme helps cure children
bout 100 children are born with rare lymphoblastic leucosis every year — a diagnosis once fatal, it would usually lead to death within a month. However, the survival rate has risen from just 10 percent (1981-1989) to 55 percent (by 2001) and now rivals that of Europe — at 85 percent. Russian and Belarusian oncologists have been working together to treat blood disorders in children, alongside other cancers, drawing on work by German specialists from the 1980s: their newly developed treatment is called ‘MB’ (Moscow — Berlin). The oncologists’ ambition is to treat large volumes of patients, while lowering the number of toxic complications after treatment. Their success is almost Faust-like, with hundreds of children recovering. Moreover, the threat of cytopenia has disappeared (the loss of erythrocytes, platelets and other
important blood elements). Pleasingly, the cost of treatment has also been reduced (to three times lower than foreign analogues) — allowing it to be widely prescribed. All Belarusian oncological centres and 48 Russian clinics are offering lymphoblastic leucosis treatment, with constant improvements being made. The last was launched in 2008. The latest breakthrough is the Child Oncology and Haematology Union State programme — approved by the Belarusian and Russian Health Ministries. Now agreed by both sides, its final adoption will solve two serious issues: the creation of an all-Union register of potential donors for bone marrow and stem cells; and the technological development of child oncology and haematology. The resolution will allow seriously ill children to receive help even more efficiently. Stem cell bone marrow donors are usually found among family members but the creation of a single database for Belarus and Russia will allow good matches to be more readily found, opening a new door for young patients. “If we can’t find a donor among relatives, we can search the donors’ bank. We have technologies which can allow us to use bone marrow which is less of a match but the chance of success is affected, of course,” explains Anna Zborovskaya — a candidate of medical sciences and Deputy Director for Organisation and Methodical Work at the Belarusian Research Centre for Paediatric Oncology and Haematology. Those who receive a perfect match can go on to live full and healthy lives while a less than ideal match requires patients to continue receiving immune-suppressive therapy. The common register will enhance the probability of finding 100 percent matches, with the search beginning in Belarus before being extended to Russia. Later, the International Bank of Donors may be consulted. According to the Director of the Belarusian Research Centre for Paediatric Oncology and Haematology, Prof. Olga Aleinikova, her team is researching the treatment of inherited immunodeficiency illnesses and has categorised 20 different gens already, aiding the development of treatment. Doctors from Belarus and Russia continue to liaise and are optimistic in their views. Children once destined to enjoy only a few precious weeks of life have a new chance. By Alla Martinkevich
Artistic circles of Belarus and Russia expand cultural dialogue
ultural collaboration between Belarus and Russia has always been high on the agenda, marked each month by various events: book fairs, theatrical performances or museum exhibitions featuring rarities. These testify to our two Union State members being united not merely by political and economic ties but by fundamental values. Not long ago, Minsk’s Town Hall gathered Belarusian and Russian representatives of the cultural community for a round table discussion entitled ‘Belarus and Russia: Mutual Enrichment of Cultures.’ It aimed to debate topical issues and outline prospects for further interaction. Among those present were Mikhail Shvydkoy — the Russian President’s Special Representative for International Cultural Co-
operation, People’s Artiste of t he USSR Lyudmila Chursina, and staff from the Rossiyskaya Gazeta (the Deputy Editor-in-Chief — Yadviga Yuferova, the Editor of the Culture Department — famous writer and literary critic Pavel Basinsky, and the Director for Development — Anna Chernega). Belarus was represented by Alexander Anisimov — the Artistic Leader and Chief Conductor of t he St ate Ac ademic Symphony Orchestra, Nikolay Pinigin — the Artistic Leader of the Yanka Kupala National Academic Theatre, Anatoly Butevich — the Deputy Chairman of the Public Council for Culture and Art at the Council of Ministers, and Lyudmila Rublevskaya — a writer and literary observer with the Sovetskaya Belorussiya newspaper. Those present spoke not only of achievements but
To listen and hear each other of difficulties arising from cultural co-operation and gave suggestions on how to jointly tackle such obstacles.
Mr. Butevich views exhibition exchange between leading galleries as a success. The National Art Museum has sent masterpieces of Russian pictorial art to the Tretyakov Gallery while Moscow’s State History Museum has sent Slutsk sashes to Belarus — all made by Belarusian masters in the 18-19th century. Thousands of books from Belarusian monasteries and noble families’ collections are kept in St. Petersburg’s Russian National Library. For several years, Belarusian researchers have been collaborating with colleagues to jointly record this heritage digitally, allowing copies of folios to return to their historical homeland and enabling
wider public access. “All these examples show deeper co-operation,” asserts Mr. Butevich, being convinced that similar projects will continue. Mr. Shvydkoy is proposing that we use Russia’s experience of liaising with other countries in realising global projects with Belarus — going beyond shows and festivals. Jointly with Ukrainian researchers, books on Russian history have been published in Ukrainian (while those devoted to Ukrainian history have been published in Russian). Russia and Belarus have much history in common although our paths have also sometimes diverged. We now need to clearly distinguish these routes, so that schoolchildren and students can see how our two states differ and understand what unites them. As the round table concluded, this should be our next focus.
Russian-born people have become leaders in various spheres of art. The leader of the famous Khoroshki Dance Company, Valentina Gayevaya, is also Russian,” he notes. Yadviga continues, “Me a nw h i l e , V l a d i m i r Mulyavin, born in Sverdlovsk, has done much for Belarusian music and language.”
Classical and modern writers
Different languages vs common thoughts
A c c o r d i n g t o M r. Shvydkoy, Russia needs to promote the spread of Belarusian language across the Union State. “Evidently, Belarus’ identity can hardly grow without the Belarusian language,” he asserts. Among those projects supporting dialogue between Russia and Belarus in a single clear language is the joint staging of Chekhov’s We d d i n g . M r. P i n i g i n explains, “The show has toured widely, visiting St. Petersburg, Moscow and Baku, being commercially popular. We’ll happily continue liaising with Russian directors and artists.” Mr. Shvydkoy adds, “It’s not hard to find money for a good idea.” Ms. Chursina loves the Belarusian theatre and is keen to perform in Minsk. “I’ve toured Minsk and felt
a huge response from the public regarding theatrical art,” she says. Mr. Shvydkoy adds, “I think Lyudmila will be able to perform in a joint project — in Russian (while a Belarusian actor can perform in Belarusian). That would be great.” Our two states’ cinematographers boast the richest cultural life, which Ms. Chursina attributes not merely to finances, “Belarus boasts an amazing attitude towards work. Fraternity has been strong between Russian and Belarusian actors since the Soviet times.” Mr. Anisimov soon plans to tour Moscow and St. Petersburg, jointly with his orchestra. According to Mr. Butevich, such people as Mr. Anisimov symbolise the intermixture of our two countries — at a spiritual and personal level. “Mr. Anisimov was born in Russia but, in Belarus, many
Minsk’s book stores offer a wide choice of books by modern Russian writers; everyone knows Dina Rubina and Lyudmila Ulitskaya. “However, I’m sure that no Moscow or Smolensk schoolchildren know much about modern Belarusian culture,” believes Mr. Shv ydkoy, a ss e r t i ng t h at mo d e r n Belarusian writers should be more widely promoted in Russia. “Artistic meetings of literary people can be arranged at Moscow schools. I propose that we hold poetry gatherings in Moscow and Minsk, translating each other’s verses and jointly searching for publishers.” Mr. Basinsky believes that a problem exists — as Russian publishing houses seek out well-known authors who they feel will generate profit. “They have a commercial approach,” he admits. Meanwhile, Ms. Rublevskaya hopes that the Internet may promote lesser known authors to a wider audience. She explains, “We share a single information space, so it’s not hard to find any particular text. However, few people know much about
modern Belarusian and Russian literature, so writers need to promote themselves, exchanging opinions at open forums.” The round table discussion at Minsk’s Town Hall has launched meetings of this kind. What will happen next? Speaking of the future, Ms. Yuferova tells us, “While our generation (familiar with Russian and Belarusian classical literature) lives on, we must try to bridge the gap, transferring our knowledge.” Ms. Rublevskaya — proceeding from her experience of Minsk’s publishing houses — proposes, “We should find an opportunity to support the translation of socially significant literature which reflects modern trends in society.” Mr. Shvydkoy concludes, “We can do more than listen; we can hear and understand each other. At present, more translations are made from Japanese into Russian, than from Belarusian. It’s also crucial that iconic writers such as Tolstoy, and modern Russian writers, are published in Belarusian. Those from Minsk and Grodno also need greater recognition in Moscow. We have everything we need to promote this: close inter-state contacts which are even stronger after these talks. Joint projects can be realised and I’m personally convinced that we’ll always be able to find financing for a good idea.” He emphasises that the problem deserves attention from the Union State. By Viktar Korbut
Business put on rails
A new stationary inspection device for xraying cargo has been recently installed along the western border of the Union State, at Kozlovichi customs clearance point, on the way from Belarus to Poland
A joint Belarusian-Russian Wagon Building Plant has produced its first stock in Osipovichi
Sky under control The united regional air defence system of Belarus and Russia is now protecting the Union State border in Belarus, following the recent signing of an agreement by Alexander Lukashenko, the President of Belarus and Chairman of the Union State Supreme State Council
he united regional air defence system of Belarus and Russia functions under common guidance, which should raise efficiency by 75-85 percent. The first air defence missile battery, Top2M (produced in Russia), has recently been protecting the air borders of the Union State, across Belarus. It is especially designed to tackle low flying planes, helicopters and control rockets.
Cultural hello! The Belarusian and Moscow State Universities of Culture and Arts have agreed to develop a Union State programme aimed at improving arts and humanities courses
hile conducting joint scientific and creative events. Academic exchanges of students and teachers are planned, alongside experience sharing and joint publication of articles. Joint
t uses six mega-electronvolts rays to scan cargo, with steel sided vehicles (up to 30cm thick) being easier to scan than tarpaulin. The new equipment should prove a reliable defence against smuggling. Kozlovichi customs clearance point tackles up to 80 percent of road cargo transported between the Customs Union and the European Union, so improved efficiency is a significant target. Alongside Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, China is also keen to fight smuggling, allocating around $4m for the purchase, installation and servicing of unique equipment. conferences are also to be held, with students gathering for shared contests and festivals. A master class entitled ‘Lessons in Kindness’ has been given by People’s Artist of Russia Yuri Kuklachev — an Honourable Professor of Moscow University of Culture and Arts. Speaking to students from the Belarusian Culture University, it is the first step in the programme. Mr. Kuklachev was visiting Minsk as a part of delegation from the Russian university.
n oil-tank for transportation of light oil-products (the first of its kind in Belarus). The Russian Grand Express Company invested $130m in the enterprise with Belarusian Railways also making a significant contribution to the new line, which should allow the Union State to meet its needs for freight wagons. Meanwhile, staff at the factory are being well cared for: a hostel sleeping a hundred is being built in Osipovichi, while two 107-flat blocks are also planned.
Controlling giant from a distance A unique heavy-duty dump truck with a load capacity of 130 tonnes has been manufactured at the Belarusian Automobile Works in Zhodino
ith the driver able to control the vehicle remotely from the comfort of a room hundreds of metres away. The computer controlled truck uses video cameras and sensors to allow it to be guided remotely and is the second such ‘driverless’ vehicle to be produced by BelAZ. It should go into industrial production by late 2012.
Spring motifs from designers and tailors Over 130 textile enterprises from Belarus, Russia, Poland, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Romania gather for 30th International Beltexlegprom. Spring-2012 Trade Fair
ew collections of clothes and footwear, as well as favourite domestic brands, held their heads high against those of foreign manufacturers. Orsha Linen Mill presented its new ‘home’ collection using upholstery weight linens in various colours. Meanwhile, its new ‘northern silk’ fabric, using unique ‘enzymic’ processing, drew great attention, being as soft and comfortable as a blanket to the touch. Footwear from natural felt enjoyed great popularity among visitors to the Lida Footwear Factory stand, which presented its warm boots for next autumn-winter, as well as linen espadrille sandals for adults and children. Komintern JSC presented its traditional wear, including smart men’s business suits in natural fabrics and stylish knitwear, designed for ‘stretch and comfort’. This allows easy movement while giving a good fit, explains Irina Labaznikova, Komintern’s artist and designer, and is suitable for all ages. Belfa’s JSC superb artificial fur coats and jackets were of such high quality that it’s quite impossible to distinguish them from natural fur — even on close inspection. Their designs are available in various natural fur colours: the result of the latest technologies.
Interesting chronicle of life of region
Golden double is no accident
Rare book department at Grodno Regional Library (named after Karsky) keeps around 500 editions
Darya Dubrovina wins gold for Belarusian artistic hairdressing team at 2012 European Championship (held in Vienna) for ‘Men’s Full Fashion Look’
hall of rare editions opened at the Local History Department a year ago, holding 500 unique books from the 19th-early 20th century: in Russian, Polish, English, German and French. It boasts the most complete collection of Reviews of Grodno Province (1878-1913), which details the life and activity of the province in general and its districts in particular. The edition presents information on the region — gathered over each year: demographic, administrative-legal and economic. It even assesses improvements to medical services. For instance, the books tell us that, in 1878, there were only 63 doctors in Grodno Province, compared to 205 in 1913. Materials from the first general census of the Russian Empire in 1897 relating to Grodno Province (St. Petersburg, 1904) are another precious acquisition. According to the edition, the residents of the province named Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Polish, Czech, Lithuanian, German, Gypsy and, even, Finnish as their native language. Another book is by Grodno historian, Grodnenskie Gubernskie Vedomosti (Grodno Provincial News) journalist Vladimir Manasein: Peasant Issues in Grodno Province in the 19th Century (1902). Another edition regards education in Grodno Region in the late 19th century: A Short Report on the Condition of Grodno Men’s Gymnasium from 1881-1892, Compiled by Teacher G. Kharlampovich (1893).
arya has captured the European gold, proving that her world champion title — won in 2011 — was no accident. This wasn’t mere luck but a reward for her hard work,” stresses the Director of the Belarusian Association of Hairdressers and Cosmetologists and Belarus’ general representative at the Organisation Mondiale Coiffure, Konstantin Voitekhovsky.
Last year, Darya also won gold ‘Men’s Full Fashion Look’and, according to Mr. Voitekhovsky, “Italian masters are considered the best in this category. However, she succeeded in beating her notable Italian rivals, bringing gold for the Belarusian team.” At present, the national team is preparing for the OMC Eastern European Championship, to be held in St. Petersburg in May.
Book rarities neighbour e-books Place to store ancient folios
Works by famous figures of science and culture on show in Mogilev
his is the first project of its kind at Mogilev’s Y. Romanov Regional Local Histor y Museum. It showcases unique exhibits, in addition to works by famous figures of science and culture and widely popular editions. Each item on show has its own history, while many are on display for the first time. The Mogilev museum holds over 15,000 books, dating from the 16th-21st century. Each century is represented by its own rarities, with the exhibition uniting ancient manuscripts and modern e-books. Visitors can learn
of the history of written language development via ancient manuscripts and hand-written Slavonic books, discovering how book printing w as i nve nte d and how publishing has evolved since
the first works were printed by Frantsisk Skorina and his followers. Those interested in history, literature and ancient books are sure to be attracted by the rare editions, which include the oldest book in Mogilev Region: Short Catholic Tales for Each Week for Theologist-Jesuits and for Each Holiday of the Year — published by Jakub Wujek in Polish in 1590. Several 18th century Cyrillic language books also deserve attention, created by publishing houses in Vilnius, Grodno and Supraśl. The last Belarusian chronicle — translated from Polish to Russian by Nikolay Gortynsky and published in Moscow in 1887 — is also on show: Chronicles of the Belarusian City of Mogilev. Meanwhile all the books are collected in a catalogue: Belarus’ Book. Some exhibits are devoted to famous Belarusian historical, scientific and cultural figures (Adam Mickiewicz, Frantishek Bogushevich and Vincent Dunin-Marcinkiewicz), classical writers (Yanka Kupala and Yakub Kolas) and their followers (Maxim Tank, Vladimir Korotkevich, Vasily Bykov and others). Books from the private collection of our famous countryman Otto Schmidt, the Soviet Union Hero and famous Arctic researcher, occupy a worthy place at the exhibition. In the 1920s, he headed the State Publishing House and, in 1937, was the Editor-in-Chief of the Large Soviet Encyclopaedia. Visitors can also see books printed by famous USSR and BSSR publishing houses, as well as those from Mogilev Regional Publishing House and Mogilev’s private publishing house — AmeliaPrint. Some of the more extraordinary editions include miniature and large size books, in addition to those which have won prizes at the Art of Books international contest and national contests. Books from the library of Mogilev Men’s Gymnasium are also on show, including editions from the 19th-early 20th century which were used to classically educate pupils. By Semen Kulagin
Honouring 1150th anniversary with 1,150 kind deeds Polotsk residents conduct 1,150 kind deeds to honour their city — as part of jubilee celebrations
he kind deeds include artistic contests, sports tournaments, festivals and fund raising events. For example, the young people of ancient Polotsk have decided to make a playground inside a city courtyard. By the time of the city’s 1150th birthday, 1150 such deeds will have been completed and those who have achieved the most remarkable deeds will receive recognition. Jubilee events are to take place in Polotsk from May 25th to June 5th, including a concert entitled Masterpieces of Opera Art by the Walls of Ancient Sophia, the Rubon festival of medieval culture, a historical performance by the Pilgrim People’s Theatre (featuring artistes from the Yakub Kolas Theatre), a children’s open air art workshop, and an international scientific-practical conference organised by the National Academy of Sciences and Polotsk State University. Under the aegis of the Orthodox Church, a festival of bell ringing is being organised in the city, in addition to a concert of church music and canticles, a religious procession, and a joint divine service by bishops, devoted to the memory of St. Yevfrosiniya
Polotskaya. Other events are to celebrate the interests of children and young people, as well as literature and folklore. UNESCO has included Polotsk’s 1150th anniversary on its 2012-2013 list of memorable dates and is to launch a thematic exhibition at its Paris headquarters. In addition, UNESCO is to provide financial support to Polotsk in organising a conference entitled ‘The History and Archaeology of Polotsk and its Surrounding Lands.’ The city has a rich and glorious history, being among the most ancient cities in Eastern Europe. It was first mentioned in 862, in the Tale of Bygone Years. Its advantageous geographical location on the ‘Varangians to the Greeks’ route helped make Polotsk a significant cultural and trading centre in medieval Europe. Yevfrosiniya Polotskaya, Frantsisk Skorina and Simeon Polotsky, General Roman Kondratenko (a hero of the defence of Port Arthur) and Yuri Tarich (a founding father of Belarusian cinema) were all born in the city. About 150 historical treasures are located in Polotsk, including beautiful St. Sophia’s Cathedral and the Holy Transfiguration Church. By Darya Kurilova
Lots of people visited the exhibition fair
Grodno hosts Kazyuki once again Unusual presents — as never seen in shops — on sale in Grodno
he Kazyuki-2012 folk crafts festival saw blacksmiths working in the open air, creating forged roses from red-hot metal, all of which sold out quickly. Around 150 other craftsmen joined them in the centre of Grodno for the unique holiday, being held for the 11th time. It unites the cultures of three neighbouring nations — Belarus, Poland and Lithuania — and is dedicated to St. Casimir: the patron of young people and craftsmen. He was born 554 years ago in Krakow and died in Grodno, with his remains buried in Vilnius. Visitors to the Grodno Kazyuki festival were able to buy articles made from straw, wood and leather, in addition to pictures, embroidery, ceramics, sewn toys and costume jewellery. Meanwhile, amateur teams from Grodno Region gave performances, singing songs in Belarusian, Polish and Lithuanian.
Past within present
Alena Karpenko, an employer of the National Art Museum, accepting a collection of Slutsk sashes from Vilnius
Inspired by originals Manufacture of Slutsk sashes revamped in Belarus
he Head of the Museum of Ancient Belarusian Culture at the National Academy of Sciences, Boris Lazuko, has been long eager to copy Slutsk sashes, so that they might be sold to tourists. Of course, it would be an overwhelming task for one person. 300 years ago, Armenian father and son Madzharsky began to weave sashes so beautiful that they were worn by the wealthiest of nobles from across half of Europe. The sash belts symbolised power and status, but their popularity had waned by the 19th century, leading
to the closure of workshops and the loss of many craft secrets. At the instruction of the President of Belarus, craftsmen are once more endeavouring to discover the art of embroidering the intricate accessories. The ‘new’ Slutsk sashes could soon become Belarus’ most popular souvenir.
A masterpiece for all time
In the 18th century, Belarusian masters would weave 300 sashes with gold and silver thread annually, under the guidance of the Madzharskys. Each sash could use 15-20 grams of gold and
were woven by men, rather than women, due to the skill and time required. Alexander Lokotko, Director of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Arts, Ethnography and Folklore, tells us that it’s impossible to recreate a Slutsk sash to resemble an exact original but notes, “We could soon be able to effectively copy a Slutsk sash if we have the right equipment. We need to agree on the weaving techniques and on the materials used in their production, so that our copies appear authentic. Much research is required before we undertake mass production.”
Past within present At the instruction of the Belarusian President, historians are joining forces w it h a r t e x p e r t s , t e c h n o l o g i s t s , designers and weavers to work comprehensively on the task.
Treasure from under the earth
In total, five ‘complete’ Slutsk sashes are held by Belarusian museums: one each at Minsk’s Regional Local History Museum in Molodechno, at the Museum of Ancient Belarusian Culture, and at the Maxim Bogdanovich Literary Museum and two at the National Museum of History and Culture. Five more ‘Slutsk type’ sashes exist but were not sewn in Belarus, and 30 fragments of the ‘Slutsk type’, as historians call them, also exist. Many sashes are, of course, in poor condition, as Yelena Karpenko, the Head of the National Art Museum’s Department for Ancient Belarusian Art, explains. She tells us, “They were found in Catholic church attics. As fabric spoils quickly, it’s difficult to restore.” The Maxim Bogdanovich Literary Museum’s sash has been restored after having been buried; in fact, the fabric retains much of its original bright colour. Sadly, the two held by the National History Museum rarely go on display, as time has been less kind. The one in Molodechno — brought from Moscow in the 1970s for temporary storage and then remaining permanently — is in much better condition.
Four Slutsk sashes usually kept at the National Art Museum of Lithuania are currently on show at the National Art Museum of Belarus. Several years ago, it also hosted an exhibition of Slutsk sashes from the Moscow State Historical Museum. Recently, a ‘Slutsk type’ sash was adde d to t he col le c t ion at Nesvizh Palace, as Marina Voitovich, the Head of the Nesvizh National Historical and Cultural Museum-Reserve’s Department for the Registration and Storage of Funds, tells us. She notes, “It was made at Pashalis Jakubovich’s workshop, which existed near Warsaw in the late 18th century, copying Belarusian masterpieces. Slutsk sashes were sewn not only in Slutsk but in French Lyon, Moscow and Poland.” Each sash is currently valued at several thousand US Dollars, being rare and incorporating silver and silk thread. They were worn around the waist or on the hips. The collection of Slutsk sashes in Nesvizh — the Cultural Capital of Belarus this year — is to be expanded, with a special exhibition hall housing these rare treasures. By Viktar Novak
Apropos Slutsk is located 105km south of
Minsk and was first mentioned in 1116. In 1612, the Radziwill Dukes constructed a major fortress there, reinforced by ear th mounds and bastions. Its theatre, founded by the Radziwills in 1751 in Slutsk, existed for nine years. Meanwhile, a Calvinist school has existed since 1617. By the 19th century, the old town had fallen into ruin; the central area developed by the Radziwills (palace and workshops)
fell into disrepair, the earth mounds became weed covered and its bastions were dismantled.The par tially preserved earth mounds in the town park are part of Slutsk’s historical and cultural heritage, as is 18th century St. Michael’s Church, the Barbara Chapel, a monument to St. Sophia Slutskaya and the Noble Assembly building (housing a history museum).
Great philosopher Victor Alshevsky
At the exhibition opening: Culture Minister Pavel Latushko, artist Victor Alshevsky, Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Martynov
Works on display in a hall of the Contemporary Art Centre
The Contemporary Art Centre, newly headed by Professor Alshevsky, is generating exciting ideas, which are finding application in interesting projects and creative solutions
ndoubtedly, Victor Alshevsky views the world philosophically; even in ordinary conversation, he tends to ‘shift’ to philosophical musings, explaining the essence of things and the logic of their origin. He may be an artist by profession but he is a philosopher in life; the two are complementary, aiding and supporting each other and helping him generate original ideas for his new endeavour. We meet in his studio, among his canvases, which hang on the walls. Some are large scale, radiating symbolism, while others are more cosy and intimate. In fact, he is more of a monumental artist, keen on large shapes and symbolism — such as his knight in armour and his lady with a white lily. He tends to segment each painting, adding Roman streets, Egyptian pyramids, Norwegian fiords and Belarusian churches. Speaking of his new responsibilities, he tells me of his excitement at
“I think that our major task is to disclose the potential of each creative personality. Each of us has our own intellect, which I’d like to see used for creative purposes.” being engaged with the Contemporary Art Centre; he is elevated and inspired, and carefully tries to explain his principles to me. You’re now heading the Contemporar y Ar t Centre, so you must have developmental plans, perhaps making it more multi-functional.
W hat are y o ur dre am s fo r the immediate future? Many countries have centres of contemporary art, which aim to be hubs of experimentation, allowing artists to explore their creativity in painting, design or music. These can be mixed, although few people are talented in more than one sphere (like Leo Tolstoy). We are ready to observe and criticise, despite lacking ability ourselves. In fact, most creative people tend to state the obvious, so we should be encouraging them to take more risks, regardless of current trends. Be truly creative, making your own decisions. It’s vital to create rather than to destroy. Our Contemporary Art Centre doesn’t copy that which already exists — having been seen down the centuries in Europe, the USA and elsewhere. Various trends exist in art, so it can seem that we are trapped in a cycle, with commercial popularity at the heart of creativity. Obviously, this is not the way forward, although experi-
mentation needs to be within reasonable bounds, or it can become absurd. In fact, creativity can be simple: we plant a grain and reap the results. The Contemporary Art Centre should promote interesting yet sensible projects: selected and analysed. Theatre and design (among other artistic areas) are now far more accessible to the public, which is a positive move. We aim to
extend the concept of art as widely as possible, while promoting originality. So, you aim to promote bright and interesting ideas which reflect contemporary trends while being creative, showing each artist’s concept for the future. I think that our major task is to disclose the potential of each creative personality. Each of us has our own
“It’s natural for us to wish to improve and develop ourselves; moreover, those with brains seek self-knowledge. We are all capable of creative initiative but we need to analyse our actions to ensure that we have a real goal. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel limited artificially but they need to understand where they are headed.” 40
intellect, which I’d like to see used for creative purposes. Artists often complain that no one buys their works but, of course, people only buy that which they need or desire. Just because you are creating artworks doesn’t mean that others will want to buy them. If you are primarily motivated by sales, you should create art which will definitely find a market. If this is beyond your ability, then you may be in the wrong profession. You need to develop your own style; contemporary art has a world outlook, looking to the future. You want today’s artists to display their individuality while incorporating some relevance to real life I think…. I agree that we’re primarily speaking about purpose and about classical types of art. We’re also speaking about experimentation (within limits). A painter, in their studio, can experiment as much as they like. What’s soul destroying is to discover than none of your ideas are
At ‘Through Classics Towards Modernity’ exhibition actually original; no boundaries exist in the context of intellectual perfection. It’s natural for us to wish to improve and develop ourselves; moreover, those with brains seek self-knowledge. We are all capable of creative initiative but we need to analyse our actions to ensure that we have a real goal. I wouldn’t want anyone to feel limited artificially but they need to understand where they are headed: otherwise, how can their work have meaning? How is the Centre aiding this philosophy? We are creating a venue in which to gather painters, architects, sculptors and desig ners w ith adventurou s souls. We’ve already achieved much of interest, modelling new paths of creativity. However, we can’t build an immediate Tower of Babel. We’re keen to promote ourselves as an exhibition venue, so that our young talent has a chance to show itself.
“We’ve already achieved much of interest, modelling new paths of creativity. However, we can’t build an immediate Tower of Babel. We’re keen to promote ourselves as an exhibition venue, so that our young talent has a chance to show itself.” The Centre recently presented an exhibition of young designers and architects. What were your thoughts? Yes, it has just opened, showcasing 150 young architects and designers — each giving us their vision of how our environment can be developed and improved. Their views on modernity look to the future, embracing tradition as well as experimentation. I would say that they provoke our consciousness regarding the future.
Would you like society to pay more attention to young artists and architects? Of course. It’s necessary to develop young people’s creativity from school days. They need support, which is what our Centre aims to give, looking at how we can improve the system of creative education. Nobody lacks creativity, so everyone should be invited to participate in interesting experiments. Let’s make a bright fair of ideas!
The Neon Head project made quite an impression on visitors
Don’t you tire of the administrative and organisational responsibilities that come with heading the Contemporary Art Centre? You are a painter. You know that when a painter stands at their easel from morning until night a result appears. If you shift your focus, it creates a conflict (your art doesn’t like you being ‘unfaithful’ and you can lose your mastery). However, to avoid becoming repetitive and mechanical, it’s good to have your focus drawn to different things: it widens your perception of the world. It’s easy for artists to become stale, so it’s good to switch your consciousness towards literature, music, teaching and participation in artistic councils. We exchange experience, passing on to others what we can do ourselves. You’ve taken on the new endeavour with enthusiasm. What are the Centre’s plans? Regarding its development, I don’t make those decisions alone, although I wish there were more people who would take an active part. We have big plans and so many projects that it’s difficult to implement them all. Our main aim is to help artists reveal their potential. It’s more correct to speak about what has already been achieved, than to linger on my dreams. We have a life philosophy and clearly outlined tasks. We discuss ideas and our thoughts cross, giving us mutual understanding. I can’t voice today’s culture alone; it needs to be the articulation of many thoughts. When intellects meet, a joint truth is born. At the Contemporary Art Centre, we should model our projects, implementing them together to create something new and original. Our major task is to create that which represents an idea and allows us to ponder it. In discussing our ideas, we’re already moving towards creativity. In other words, the Centre tries to allow artists to shape their future. As Mr. Alshevsky speaks, I recall one of his recent exhibitions at the National Art Museum. It was a creative project, comprising seven picturesque canvases thematically devoted to Minsk. Each
personality art had its own central motif, encouraging people to muse philosophically. In his works, Alshevsky shows how ornamental relief and geometric shapes are combined in Belarusian architecture. He notes t h at t h e s e u n i qu e l y symbolise our national culture, with recognisable images. “White Rus is pure and special — not due to the absence of history or culture but through its ancient origins. Belarus’ power lies in its revival; Minsk, and the whole country, has risen from the ashes many times — like the mythological Phoenix,” he explains, speaking of the exhibition. Mr. Alshevsky’s White Spot at the Heart of Europe conveys deep philosophical ideas and looks at unusual compositions while exploring history through recognisable architectural symbols in the city of Minsk. The essence of the rather innovative White Spot at the Heart of Europe exhibition is that art and reality can be viewed in the context of contemporary mythology. It’s no secret that technological progress has somehow isolated
A work from the exhibition
human consciousness, taking us hostage to extreme individualism. In the last century, classical pictorial art was set aside, being replaced by new concepts with mass appeal. Ordinary people became actors and co-authors, with everyday life becoming the latest form of creative self-expression. Art was no longer the exclusive domain of
galleries and museums but was found on the streets and in city squares. Traditions were questioned in favour of new discoveries and philosophical musings. Now, those who feel themselves responsible for the future strive to make it richer spiritually. White Spot at the Heart of Europe comprises several of Victor Alshevsky’s paintings, dedicated to a wonderful city at the centre of Europe — Minsk. He shows the many centuries of history belonging to our Belarusian Land, which is rich in events and cultural traditions. There is no doubt that the country is a unique state on Europe’s map. “We admire St. Petersburg and Moscow, Paris and London, Rome and Barcelona, alongside other cities big and small, with our eyes open wide. However, on returning from such trips, we can’t but discover anew the unique beauty of our Minsk, covered with white snow, autumn leaves or May greenery,” confides Mr. Alshevsky. “In creating my collection of paintings devoted to our city, I wanted people to learn about it and admire it.” This is painter Alshevsky’s philosophy and his real mission: it is a noble target, urging us to be creative. By Victor Mikhailov
‘White Spot at the Heart of Europe’— a project by artist Victor Alshevsky
So much to preserve Almost 5,500 sites in Belarus are registered as historical and cultural treasures. However, many are in need of restoration and researchers continue to discover new sites — many previously little known. These findings are of interest to the state and business community alike
In Ruzhany Castle
he Belarusian Government has given 24 pictures by artists of the Parisian s c h o o l ( a c q u i r e d by B elgazprombank) the status of historical and cultural treasures. In September, the bank will be joining the National Art Museum in displaying the works by such icons as Belarus-born Marc Chagall and Chaïm Soutine. A plaque in the Parisian ‘Beehive’ (where these painters once worked) expresses gratitude from French society to those masters who made a significant contribution to world art. Of the four names on the plaque, three are Belarusian: Chagall, Soutine and Ossip Zadkine. Works by artists of the Parisian school can be bought at international auction for upwards of 3,000 Euros. Vladimir Schastny, Chairman of the National Commission of Belarus for UNESCO, believes that works will gradually be added to collections held by Belarusian museums. This year celebrates the 125th anniversary of Chagall’s birth, with the centre of Minsk to be decorated with reproductions of his most wellloved pictures. The project has been initiated by the Culture Department of Minsk City Executive Committee. Posters depicting Chagall’s works will be placed on special stands in Yakub Kolas Square.
Heritage An exhibition of Chagall’s works is also to be organised in Vitebsk — including pieces from the Vatican’s collection, as announced by the Apostolic Nuncio for Belarus, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti. He notes, “We’ll be pleased to hold such an exhibition. I wish to show my respect for Belarusian culture by honouring the memory of world famous painter Marc Chagall, born in Vitebsk. On behalf of the Pope of Rome, I’ve laid flowers at his monument and have visited his house-museum to show that Belarus has nurtured various cultures and nations over the centuries.”
Sophia Slutskaya returns to life in bronze
A monument to the Duchess, who lived at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries and was sainted by the church, stands in Slutsk. Sculptor Mikhail Inkov and architect Nikolay Lukyanchik have now embodied Sophia’s image in a second monument — located in Minsk, near St. Sophia’s church, in Kurasovshchina suburb. The statue has been consecrated by the Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk, Patriarchal Exarch of all Belarus, Filaret. The relics of the saint are kept at the Holy Spirit Cathedral and their history is as dramatic as that of Sophia. Her remains were kept in Slutsk until 1930, when a special commission disclosed them and donated them to the Anatomical Museum at the Belarusian State University’s Me d i c a l D e p a r t m e n t . During the German occupation, parishioners secretly reclaimed the relics and hid them in a private flat, allowing them to return to the country’s major church after the war. S o p h i a Slutskaya is honoured for her
strong Orthodox faith. Her father was Duke Yuri, who left the famous Slutsk Gospel. As the last of the Olelkovichi — direct descendants of Olgerd, Grand Duke of Lithuania — she had a great dowry, which included huge lands around Slutsk. As a result, dukes from the Chodkiewicz and Radziwiłł families fought to claim her as their bride and she eventually married Janusz Radziwiłł. He promised Sophia that he would never force Slutsk residents to give up their Orthodox faith in favour of another. Sophia died young — being just 26 — during an unfortunate childbirth; the monument in Minsk honours the 400th anniversary of her death.
Hotel to open a century later
The Garni Hotel stands in contemporary Internatsionalnaya Street (formerly 8 Preobrazhenskaya Street). It housed ordinary flats and survived two world wars. Now, it’s operating as a hotel once more, under its original name. Located opposite the Pobeda Cinema, the Garni Hotel is a 19th century building. The first floor will be occupied by a restaurant, as previously, and there will be 15 more rooms — 48 in total. Sadly, the three star hotel lacks much parking but it does offer spa services (giving it a fourth star). Some historians were worried that specialists would fail to restore the building in its former glory,losingauthenticity. However, the owners have been meticulous in preserving the internal (facing the courtyard) A monument to Sophia Slutskaya was opened in Minsk
and external façades, to maintain their original appearance. They’ve also worked hard to recreate authentic interiors.
Palaces in Ruzhany and Kossovo revived before our eyes
The restoration of the West Wing of the Sapegi family residence in Ruzhany has finished, as Vladimir Kazakov, who led the works, told us, “Finishing of the interior rooms is being completed, allowing them to house displays of original interior items. A sculpture of St. Anna has been installed above the restored gates of the South Building. Meanwhile, the already completed East Wing has an exhibition open to the public.” Soon, restoration of the East Building will begin, which once housed a theatre and manege. The first stage of reconstruction at Puslovski Palace in Kossovo will complete this year, with the foundations of the building reinforced, the roof repaired, and internal walls and flooring restored. Its two gates are also being restored — scheduled for completion by 2016. In ancient times, each Belarusian town was graced with a castle and churches, while stone buildings stood in the centre, luxuriously decorated. Many remain, even with their original icons, pictures and decorative craft items. On arriving in Minsk, Vitebsk, Grodno and Polotsk, it’s easy to see these beautiful ‘pearls’. Of course, they need to be cared for and tourists benefit from an experienced guide or a good guidebook. Tourist bureaus operate in railway and bus stations and much information is available online. Some websites provide information even unavailable in state archives. On the pages of our Belarus magazine, we’ll be monitoring the successes of restorers. This summer, Radziwiłł Castle in Nesvizh (the cultural capital of Belarus for 2012) will welcome guests, now being fully restored. Don’t miss out! By Viktar Andrejeu
Storms, ash breezes and rainbows in Ivan Matskevich’s life Ivan Matskevich, Honoured Artiste of Belarus and a leading state master of the Maxim Gorky National Academic Drama Theatre, recently celebrated his 65th birthday, with many reasons to enjoy life
s the years pass and we gain in wisdom, we tend to seek out a quiet life. However, we realise that Fate sends us trials and challenges to help us gain self-knowledge and to better appreciate the wonderful elements of our lives. It is a matter upon which we could forever ponder: the need for sadness in order to recognise true joy and happiness. Most of us simply shrug our shoulders and cope as best we can with whatever life throws at us. Some cannot help but continue seeking answers: among them prevail actors, writers and painters. I believe the twists of Fate are sent to allow us to gain true appreciation for the value of living, making us treasure time spent on holiday, with relatives and friends. We gain better understanding and love for cultural works and, even, come to revere the simple pleasures — such as preparing a meal. One weekend morning, I opened the window into the courtyard to see that spring’s tender green leaves, daffodils and violas were upon us. Breathing the aromas of new growth it was like a ‘small Easter’: a return to life after long
illness or trauma… a resurrection. We tend to only feel this way after escaping extreme danger. Suddenly, the absence of pain is perceived as a generous and unexpected gift. We at once understand that our life trembled in the balance. Mr. Matskevich understand this feeling well… People call him a prominent and charismatic actor with great talent and he is often recognised in the street. Fans come to thank him for his wonderful contribution to the theatre and cinema.Hispopularity inspires audiences to s e e k out any performance in which he is involved and the Internet is filled with positive reviews admiring his talent. Naturally, his fans always wish the best for him in every way, believing him to be a splendid actor. Some are adamant that only someone of his strength of spirit could play a particular character — such as in Panie Kochanku, where he plays the leading role of a Radziwill duke. Ivan Matskevich performing in M.Gorky’s Queer People, which is history now
Ivan and Lyudmila have lived together for 45 years
Mr. Matskevich boasts a wonderful repertoire of roles from his many years of work in the theatre — with the Brest Drama Theatre, the TheatreStudio of Film Actors, and his native Russian Theatre. Among his multitude of accolades are those for his roles in M. Gorky’s Vassa, A. Ostrovsky’s Profitable Post, M. Bulgakov’s Run, A. Karelin’s I Believe in Horoscopes, G. Hauptmann’s Before Sunset and J. Goldman’s Lion in Winter. Moreover, he has an enviable screen career, having appeared in over 70 films, with famous Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian film directors: Vyacheslav Nikiforov, Mikhail Ptashuk, Gennady Paloka, Alexey German, Samvel Gasparov and Timofey Levchuk. However, few are aware that he has played Peter the Great and that his five year old granddaughter Frosya teaches him manners (because her grandfather-actor should be a true gentleman). Also, why does he advise his 19 year old grandson Timofey to read Jack London’s Martin Eden — his favourite novel from his younger days? We might wonder what runs through his mind in these days surrounding his venerable birthday. What are his
concerns and joys? Over a cup of karkadé tea, in his cosy drawing room, Ivan and his actress wife Lyudmila share their thoughts with us. Lyudmila, is Ivan different at home to how he appears in the theatre? Ivan is always professional, taking his responsibilities seriously. He does whatever he undertakes to do. He doesn’t suffer fools gladly and, when something is good, he can only be delighted. He truly ‘lives’ his stage roles. He’s also very opinionated — and is loud in sharing his thoughts on all matters. Sometimes, our neighbours must think that he is screaming at me, when he might just be commenting on the cold while standing on the balcony. I can always hear his Shakespearean intonation (he played Claudius in ‘Hamlet’) — even at home. I can’t stress enough how professional he is. Also, he lives life to the full. Last year, he was awarded the title of Honoured Artiste and I said, on that occasion, that he is a ‘true’ person. Lyudmila and Ivan have lived together for almost 45 years. Lyudmila is already a pensioner. According to Mr. Matskevich, his wife, children and grandchildren are his spiritual foundation and inspiration — especially his grandchildren.
Peter I, five seas and Andreevsky flag
Mr. Matskevich, how did you come to enter the Theatre and Art Institute? Was this your vocation, a childish dream or luck? I wanted to become a sailor, applying to Liepaja after finishing nine years of school. However, I fell ill just before departing, so went to evening school instead, and began working at a construction materials factory in Baranovichi. One young boy there wished to become an actor and advised me to join him in applying for the Theatre Institute in Minsk. At the time, I had no idea about theatrical art but, of course, I enjoyed watching actors such as Urbansky in ‘Clear Sky’ and ‘Communist’. We both copied his style and even had our hair cut ‘a-la Urbansky’. I agreed to apply, learning a poem and a fable by heart for performance. We both came to Minsk in 1964. So you never became a sailor? I didn’t but I was in a sailor’s shoes 18 years ago. People say that being an actor allows you to ‘try on’ other professions. I sailed 14,000 miles on a yacht from Sevastopol to Bizerte in North Africa’s Tunisia, on a trip organised by the Sevastopol Naval Assembly, to mark the 300th anniversary of the Russian fleet.
Scenes from M.Bulgakov’s Run, A. Kureichik’s Panie Kochanku, M. Lengyel’s Ninotchka, D.G oldman’s Lion in Winter
If you remember from history, after the October Revolution, Kolchak took his Black Sea squadron there; it was dissolved in Bizerte and Andreevsky flag was lowered. We went by yacht to hoist the flag on the day when it was lowered. Being in Minsk, how did you hear of the trip? Quite by chance, the organisers of the voyage needed a professional actor to play Peter I, delivering speeches in his name during the yacht’s departure, on arrival in Tunisia and on hoisting Andreevsky flag. A friend from Minsk happened to be in Sevastopol and heard of the trip. He passed on my name and I agreed readily, of course. Tell us, please, about your impressions of the journey. When we set off from Sevastopol, some laughed, telling us not to climb aboard this ‘washtub’ as we’d never manage the trip. However, we reached Bizerte and hoisted Andreevsky flag there. We sailed through five seas and survived a terrible storm… Were you frightened? Of course! We didn’t have a modern navigation system, electric lighting or any way of communicating with civilisation. When we set off, we left behind all normality. We survived a storm in open sea; I’ve written somewhere which sea
it was. The waves were as high as a three storey building. When the yacht was thrown down, you felt as if you were flying into an abyss. Then it would rise again before falling sickeningly once more. We could only lie on the floor of the cabin, bidding farewell to life while feeling pity for those who were on watch. It may seem strange but we still managed to sleep. The storm lasted all night and, in the morning, climbing on deck, I saw such beauty as never before or since: a huge rainbow spread above the sea, which was dead calm, with a mirror-like surface… The yacht was strong enough, wasn’t it? Yes, it was made in Germany, with a metal hull. If it were made from timber, it would have been ripped apart. Moreover, we pursued a noble goal; as they say, we were sailing under the guidance of God. The engine took a pounding; its metal cylinder pistons bent during the storm, requiring repair in the Bosporus. I remember the crew heating the metal on a stove, hammering the cylinder pistons straight. The engine then began to work again and we moved on. We arrived at the Island of Paros — a Greek port where the English, French and Russians once defeated the Turkish. The Russian ‘Matros Zheleznyak’ vessel is
still moored there and we were invited to take a tour, being cordially welcomed. The Russian Ambassador to Greece was there and the military attaché, who was born in Vitebsk. When he saw our yacht, he was very surprised that we’d managed to sail through five seas. We still had to sail from Paros to Tunisia and he really wondered whether we planned to sail home on it. Did you really do this? What else could we do? We didn’t have another yacht. I suppose you didn’t regret after the voyage that you’d become an actor rather than a sailor? Certainly not. I was extremely glad to return alive (laughing)… At the time, I was pondering the meaning of life — although not as deeply as recently… You must be keen on adventures, having chosen such a trip? Yes, I enjoy the feeling of anxiety. As an actor, you’re often connected with extreme circumstances. Our way home was also fraught with danger as we ran out of food and were caught by fog in the Bosporus. We had just one 60Wt lamp and the yacht was sailing almost blind. We nearly hit a big vessel, so we had to come closer to the shore and spend the night by some rocks. Then, Sevastopol refused to
Ivan Matskevitch always gives peculiar coloring to his roles
accept us, as the Russian and Ukrainian border guards were having a disagreement. We arrived at 9p.m. hungry and exhausted and only crossed the border at 12p.m. the next day. Feeling very happy, I left for Minsk.
PROFESSION AS HOBBY
Let’s return to your time at the institute. How long did it take for you to realise that you’d made the correct choice? I didn’t feel anything of the kind; I was just enjoying life, as you do when you’re young. Only after we were appointed, with fellow student Mila, to the Brest Drama Theatre, did I begin to comprehend something of my chosen profession. Of course, the institute gave me some idea but Brest brought the moment of truth. At the time, it was an extremely powerful troupe and Mila and I immediately mixed in. It was impossible not to understand the nature of theatre. We were very glad since, at the time, the theatre was considered to be one of the best in Belarus. It went to the Kremlin in Moscow and won the Lenin Komsomol Prize in 1967 for ‘Brest Fortress’. Did you have to prove yourself as a talented actor? Or was your ‘entrance’ into the theatrical company quite smooth?
Everything happened very quickly, with roles ‘raining down’ on me one after another — interesting and complex: in ‘The Petty Bourgeois’, ‘Barbers,’ ‘Intrigue and Love,’ ‘Brest Fortress’ and ‘Shadow of the Moon’. I played with Lyudmila in many performances. How is she as an acting partner? I can’t complain — the same as in real life. Lyuda is my faithful friend and my beloved. Moreover, she is a good actress. Have you managed to gain the roles you dreamt of or have you thrown yourself upon Fate? I’m quite relaxed about it all. It may seem strange but I view acting as a hobby. I don’t treat it very seriously. For me, acting is like playing a game. I’ve never sought out roles, always playing what I’m given. Was it the same at the Theatre-Studio of Film Actors? There and in the Russian Theatre. One stage director — perhaps Mark Zakharov — told Oleg Yankovsky that actors belong to everyone and no one. Do you agree? Absolutely. An actor should never belong to anyone in particular; he acts for himself. This is the profession. Do you think that some actors are too ambitious… or vain and egotistical? How
do you endure this in yourself and in your colleagues? It’s impossible to be an actor without these qualities: egoism and ambition are normal. I love and respect actors and understand these aspects. In fact, I very much admire the acting community, as actors reveal their souls to give everything to an audience — often at the cost of their health. At these moments, they are beautiful. If an actor is nervous for some reason — maybe a role goes wrong or they think themselves perfect but the stage director isn’t satisfied — I think it’s best to let them choose their own path. Allow them to play their coveted roles, and let them think they’re the best. It’s their right and it’s normal for them to feel that way .Actors are people — not angels. Truly, I know I’m not a ‘hot shot’ and I’ve never ‘chased’ roles; I’ll play whatever role I’m given. If a role is not mine then it’s not meant for me. I find plotting to gain a role very distasteful and I’d never speak badly of someone or hate them for having ‘my’ role. Those are wise words. Did you learn this ethos from your parents or grandparents? My parents and grandparents were wonderful. I was surrounded by the care of my family, being well-loved as a child.
Active shooting has never hampered Ivan Matskevitch’s theatre career
also wanted her to marry someone with a true Russian name — such as Ivan. In Uzbekistan, where they lived, the men were all called Ibragim or Sukhrad. When Mila heard that my name was Ivan, she immediately paid attention to me. Interestingly, even before our meeting, I dreamt of shooting a swan. When I told my mother, she became very worried and began to cr y, as she understood that I’d soon meet my true love. O n
September 1st, when our studies began, I remember rushing into the classroom and hearing my name called. That was when Lyudmila began to pay attention to me and I noticed her. We acted in ‘Fifth Column’, often rehearsing in the evenings; rehearsals finished at 1a.m. or 2a.m. By the third year, we were married.
Grandfather Zalevsky (on my mother’s side) was extremely tall; they say I resemble him. My grandmother Yulia was tiny (Lyudmila called her Fairy). She liked to tell Mila that I was so small on being born, that they put a sheepskin muffler on my legs to keep me warm. Mila finds this highly amusing, ever increasing the size of the muffler and diminishing me to the size of a ‘little Thumbling’. She smiles on thinking of me sleeping inside the muffler. In 1954, my parents went to the wilderness of Kostanay, taking me with them. My father helped construct roads there. We lived in Kazakhstan until 1961, so I grew up on the River Tobol. When we returned to Baranovichi, my father built a house where I was also very happy. Are there actors whose creativity has inspired you and continues to inspire you now? Did you yearn to be like them in your acting youth and did you ever meet any of your idols? I adored Victor Tarasov not only as a great actor but as a wonderful teacher. He taught our course. I also admire Sasha Denisov, who studied with us. All the girls were in love with Tarasov and would often forget their lines and become confused while acting, as they were so doe-eyed over him. Only Lyudmila was immune; as she says herself, at that time, she was already falling in love with me. So you saved her from having a crush on Tarasov? Yes. Did you notice Lyudmila immediately? Was it love at first sight? Yes, it was love at first sight on both sides. Mila came to our institute from Tashkent Theatre Institute. Her father was in the military so, naturally, she had plenty of attention from young military cadets. However, her father advised her against marrying a military man, suggesting an actor or a stage director. He
Actors Theatre In taking on a role, do you draw on real life to bring realistic details to your character? Of course! I can’t do otherwise. I’ll tell you an interesting story. In Brest, I’d been long playing brave, heroic personalities. Calderón’s ‘La Dama Duende’ (The Phantom Lady) was added to the repertoire and I expected to be again given the role of the leading juvenile. However, the play has a wonderful comedic bonehead role. I was telling Lyudmila how I’d really like to play this role, so I could fool about. The next day, I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw that I’d been given my desired role. I ‘copied’ our daughter Alenka, who was three at the time and couldn’t express her love or feelings in words. She used gestures: casting down or raising her eyes, turning away from me and making funny movements with her head and hands… I made the same movements on stage, including her facial gestures. It was wellreceived by the audience. In your opinion, which qualities make an actor extraordinary? You should be fair and unafraid. You should feel how a character would appear in real life. It’s important that the audience understands what you’re doing and whom you’re playing. Of course, it also helps to have been ‘kissed by God’, as people say. Which plays do you most enjoy? I’m keen on those from which you learn something, which make you later ponder. You can fill the role with your own understanding and perceptions, enabling you to speak to the audience. I can’t endure ‘empty’ plays.
‘I ENJOY SO MUCH IN MY LIFE’
Are you satisfied with your role in Pane Kochanku? The play is good and I enjoy acting in it greatly. Do you like to read your reviews? Of course, and I like it when people recognise me in the street and when they write well about me. All this is very pleasant. If people don’t recognise you, then what are you acting for? You’ve shot so many films and continue to do so. Which film do you
most recollect and which do you like to watch again and again and why? Once, I was reading about the Commander of the Western Military District, General Pavlov. Of course, I never thought that I’d be lucky enough to play him, with his tragic fate. When I was invited for film tests, in Kiev, I was extremely excited. I simply felt that I would receive the role, which is what happened. However, only the moment of Pavlov’s arrest and interrogation appeared in the script of Ivan Stadnyuk’s ‘War’ epic. I knew more about him and advised director Timofey Levchuk to trace the life of the General until his execution by firing squad;Levchuk agreed, so we shot the scenes. I was very pleased to have been able to give this input. In some issues, I consulted Lyudmila’s father, as he served in the military as a Lieutenant Colonel. Meanwhile, her grandfather was a military General Major of Justice. The shootings took place in Ukraine and Moscow, at the General Staff building. The film was released in 1990. Every film is remarkable in its own way. Mostly, this is because you meet talented directors and, of course, wonderful actors — such as Yevgeny Samoilov. Such meetings enrich us. I well remember my first screen role, as the lead, in Nikiforov’s ‘Bread Smells Like Gunpowder’. I can say that I’ve truly enjoyed my life Which year has been most ‘starry’ for you? I can’t answer categorically, as every year is remarkable. My ‘Brest period’ was full of roles and challenges. At that time, I also began to film for the cinema. From 1981-1986, I was working a great deal opposite strong actors with the TheatreStudio of Film Actors. Interestingly, I played Fiodor in the ‘Communist’ while Yevgeny Urbansky played Vasily Gubanov. Gostyukhin has played the role of Vasily. Then you joined the Russian Theatre? This has been a no less happy period and certainly ‘starry’. I’ve become a leading stage master, receiving my honourable title and playing many roles. Fortunately, I continue to appear on its stage.
Have you ever pondered the value of your life? On January 18th, 2012, when I had my heart operation, I couldn’t help but ponder life. The next day, every cell in my body felt alive. I understood how our life trembles in the balance and gained the deepest understanding of life’s preciousness. Had y ou e x p e r i e nce d he ar t complaints before? No, although when they examined my heart, it turned out that I’d had a heart attack. I didn’t even know this had occurred, so it must have been quite painless. Did Lyudmila take care of you? I was saved by cardio-surgeon Vyacheslav Yanushko, while Mila took care of me. She is my wife and I’m very grateful to her for her patience, courage, frankness and wisdom and, of course, love. Do you often chat with your grandchildren? Always, when I have free time... The oldest, Timofey, has a very busy, modern life, so I don’t expect to occupy a dominating position with him. However, I hope he reads the favourite novel from my own youth — Martin Eden’s ‘Jack London’. When I lived in Baranovichi, the book taught me a lot about myself. I attended sambo and skiing lessons and read books. My grand-daughter Frosinka is quite a different story. She is a miracle and has plenty of time for me. Once, she told me: ‘Grandfather, you are a true children’s friend’. When I bought her a musical box, she didn’t even know how to thank me. She even invited me to dance, wanting me to be her partner’. Afterwards, I asked her whether I was a good dancer and she responded: ‘You dance well but don’t know how to show good manners with ladies’. It turned out that I should have shown her — the lady — to her seat and thanked her for the dance. So, my grand-daughter has taught me a lesson in etiquette. Yes, it’s never too late to learn how to dance as a gentleman. You just need the desire to learn. By Valentina Zhdanovich
History in musical scores Original and reproduction 17th-19th century musical instruments re-create sound of the age
he first European opera, Boris Godunov, drawing on the twists and turns of Russian h i s t or y, w a s w r itt e n by German composer Johann Mattheson in 1710. However, it wasn’t performed in the 18th century, as he Y o u ’ v e became deaf and unable to conduct. p e r f o r m e d Later, the score was lost and, just four Baroque era works years ago, the Russian Golden Age in Vitebsk, alongside Baroque Music Choir managed to allemandes (instrurestore it. mental dances) by Unusually, the work is being English composer performed on original instruments William Byrd and — and exact copies, as the choir’s s o n a t a s b y Je a n artistic leader, Alexander Listratov, Baptiste Barrière — a explains. His colleague is a teacher soloist with the form Moscow State Conservatoire, National Alexey Shevchenko, whom he met at F r e n c h Vitebsk Regional Philharmonic, where O p e r a . they were both performing (a duo of You’ve also been organ and cello). lecturing young Vitebsk Mr. Listratov tells us more about the musicians and their historical performance and opportuni- teachers, playing for ties for international cultural projects them. During those — including Russian-Belarusian. composers’ lives, where
was their m u s i c
Alexander Listratov (on the right) and Alexey Shevchenko in Vitebsk
heard? Either at the royal palace or in aristocratic salons. Your lecture told us that Stradivari violins look different today than they did when first created. Moreover,
Rarities organs, pianos and cellos have changed over time, as have strings and fiddle bows. Why are your contemporary musicians re-creating the original sound of ancient instruments? If a 17th century work is performed on modern instruments, the effect is similar to a text being translated from one language to another. Music is a language, expressing feelings and ideas, so we are trying to communicate in the language of the original to audiences. The idea of an historically accurate performance is a relatively new one, evolving in Western Europe in the mid-20th century. The harpsichord, lute and violo da gamba fell into disuse in the early 19th century, so where do you find these instruments? We restore originals. For instance, the Baroque cello I’ve brought to Vitebsk was made by legendar y Austrian master Jakov Steiner. It doesn’t have a tail pin, as this appeared only in the early 20th century. Another way is to make reproductions. The spinet (smallest variety of harpsichord) played by Alexey Shevchenko in Vitebsk was made by looking at ancient drawings by Moscow master Vladimir Belov, who was taught by a famous Italian maestro. I passed an internship in Holland to learn my craft and spent two years working with the Professor of the Parisian Conservatoire, who visited St. Petersburg.
In the 1960s, a sheaf of musical
scores was discovered inside the cover of a Belarusian Uniate service book at the Jagiellonian Library in Krakow (Poland). This unique
Simeon Polotsky (1629-1680)
— a figure of 17th century Eastern Slavonic culture, a spiritual writer, a theologian, a poet, a playwright, a translator and a Basilian monk. He taught the children of Russian Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich and Miloslavskaya: Alexey, Ev e r y one know s that ancient instruments cost a great deal, so aren’t you afraid to take a 300 year old cello on your tours? These are delicate original artefacts which couldn’t be sold on the open market without detection. Anyone stealing them would need to present a certificate proving their ownership of an authentic instrument; buyers wouldn’t part with money without seeing this. Collections from the Glinka Museum in Moscow were stolen but everything was returned within six months, as no buyer could be found. So, don’t worry, we aren’t really taking too many risks. Clearly, it’s better to play Vivaldi and Bach in ‘their language’ but, surely, only experts can really hear subtle nuances between French and Italian styles. What can you tell us about Russian performers of that time? Many believe that Russian music began in 1836, when Glinka staged
Polish-Belarusian musical treasure from the 17th century is known in Belarus as ‘Polotskaya Tetrad’ (Polotsk Notebook). All its works, but one, are anonymous. The collection contains canzones (songs) and dances and was compiled from 1640-1670, although several works date back even to 1591. They use dancing rhythms which were widespread in Western Europe, Poland and Belarus at that time.
Sophia and Fiodor. In addition, he created the syllabic system in Russian poetry. He strongly believed that the sciences taught at Western European universities (grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, arithmetic, geometry, astrology and music) were central to education. his Life for the Tsar opera. However, it actually began in the time of Anna Ioannovna, when she invited prominent Italian musician Francesco Araja to St. Petersburg. He wrote the first opera to be partially sung in Russian. Purely Russian composers include Ivan Khandoshkin, Dmitry Bortnyansky, Stepan Degtyarev and Yevstigney Fomin. How well do you know Belarusian works and do they interest you? Since Belarus was once part of the Rzech Pospolita and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, we believe that some original and precious ancient instruments remain here. I hope that not all have been destroyed or taken abroad. We admire Belarus’ Simeon Polotsky [who wrote poetic psalms to which composers added m u s i c ] , a s w e l l a s ‘ Po l o t s k a y a Tetrad’. The latter is said to contain music which is on the cusp of the human and the divine, so we’d love to perform part of it. With Belarusian musicians? We’ve on ly re c e nt ly b e c om e acquainted with B elarus: last November in Polotsk, at the Zvany Safii (Bells of St. Sophia Cathedral) Organ Music Festival. We are pleased with how our ties are developing and are ready to help train Belarusian colleagues, as well as undertaking joint projects. If our concerts and lectures in Vitebsk arouse interest, they’ll encourage further liaisons, so we’ll be delighted. by Sergey Gomonov
Top beauty chosen in spring Most charming and beautiful win ‘Miss Belarus’ Pageant
he 8th National ‘Miss Belarus’ pageant is being hosted by Minsk, taking place through spring. It has been held every two years — since 1998 — and is now among the most dazzling events in the country’s cultural life. According to Tamara Goncharova, who heads Tamara Agency, women are chosen not merely for their beauty but for their charm and brains. “‘Miss Belarus’ should have many merits. I love people with charisma, as you remember them even after meeting only once,” she smiles. The contest’s jury has already chosen 28 girls from thousands across the nation, who have been keen to show not just their beauty but their talents. Prizes are awarded for ‘Miss Sport’, ‘Miss Top Model’, ‘Miss Talent’ and ‘Miss Photo’, with the final show taking place on May 4th — at which ‘Miss Belarus’ will be chosen. According to the project’s curator, Anzhelina Mikulskaya, all the entrants are there ‘not to make friends but to compete’. “Miss Belarus-2012 should be beautiful, clever and feminine but, also, ambitious — in the best sense. The project’s major
Contests goal is to give the winner a chance to realise her potential,” she explains. Sports coaches, stylists and psychologists are to hand to help the girls do their best. The ‘Miss Sport’ nomination sees them visit a shooting club and a racetrack while those in the ‘Miss Talent’ nomination can sing, dance or perform in some other way. The winner of the National Miss Belarus Pageant goes on to represent the country at the Miss World contest, while the finalists can enter Miss Europe, Miss Intercontinental and Miss International. The hosts of the Miss Belarus show, singer Ivan Vabishchevich and TV host Olga Bogatyrevich, tell us more. Are beauty pageants fair? Ivan Vabishchevich: Each contest has its own rules. If ‘Miss Belarus’ should be 175cm or taller, then those under 170cm should realise that they have no chance. However, Lyudmila Yakimovich — ‘Miss Belarus-2010’ — is just 173cm. Exceptions are common, even with the strictest rules. Olga Bogatyrevich: All contests are subjective but I believe that we can have faith in the judges, as they see the hidden potential in a woman. Someone’s face may not be perfect, but she may boast a strong inner charisma which can help her tackle any situation. Meanwhile, you may have a beautiful face but little else — and, so, fail to win. What is your idea of ideal beauty? Mr. Vabishchevich: Height doesn’t matter much to me. Of course, I’m attracted by bright features but I most appreciate a natural appearance. If a girl is attractive without makeup, then lipstick and mascara can only make her prettier. Ms. Bogatyrevich: I’ve hosted many castings, so I know that bright eyes are essential. If a girl is confident and has a well-rounded personality, then she is truly beautiful. It’s obvious at first sight. We think that Belarusian ladies are the most beautiful on Earth. Is this true or just national pride? Mr. Vabishchevich: Beautiful people, and otherwise, are found everywhere. However, we do boast many beautiful faces and figures. Ms. Bogatyrevich: I’ve heard people abroad remark on Belarusian women’s beauty, so I think it must be a generally held view. Why haven’t our beauties yet won any international contests? Mr. Vabishchevich: Trends change all the time, so the secret of success relies on predicting the latest fashion — as at ‘Eurovision’. Beauty contests are won by the team, not just the girl alone — so we can’t ‘blame’ our entrants. Ms. Bogatyrevich: Belarusians are beautiful and natural but we lack ‘business sense’. Marketing is needed to promote us. Beauty pageants abroad are well established, generating profits. Sadly, their contestants tend to lack natural beauty. By Alena Nekrashevich
In the past, the ‘Miss Belarus’ title has been awarded to contestants from all over the country
Svetlana Kruk (Grodno)
In 1998, Svetlana was studying at Grodno Pedagogical University and at Minsk’s National School of Beauty. After winning her crown, she entered the finals of the Miss Europe Pageant and, in 2000, represented Belarus at the Miss World Pageant. Svetlana later moved to Moscow, where she began working as a teacher of mathematics. She was invited to the jury at contests in Armenia and Bulgaria and worked as a model in Italy.
2000 Anna Stychinskaya (Mogilev) She became ‘Miss Belarus’ as a 17 year old schoolgirl and later began working as a model. Anna graduated from the Pedagogic University but began working at an advertising agency. From time to time, she directs catwalks at various events.
2002 Olga Nevdakh (Brest) At the age of 22, Olga was crowned ‘Miss Belarus’ — a student at Minsk’s Institute of Modern Knowledge at the time. She was among the semi-finalists for the Miss Europe Pageant and represented Belarus at Miss World. Olga also won the ‘Photo Model’ nomination at the World Championship for Performing Arts in Hollywood. She lives in Brest, heading a branch of Sergey Nagorny Fashion Studio, and now has a daughter.
2004 Olga Antropova (Polotsk) Olga won the title at the age of 21 and, soon after, moved to the USA — spending several years there. She liaised with model agencies worldwide but later returned to Minsk and eventually entered Moscow’s International Design School, training to be an interior designer.
Yekaterina Litvinova (Mogilev)
Aged 22, the student of Mogilev’s Belarusian-Russian University claimed the title and represented Belarus at the Miss World Pageant. She now directs Serge Model Agency and works as a TV host.
2008 Olga Khizhinkova (Vitebsk) Before the contest, she worked as a manager for a company selling doors and lectured at Vitebsk’s College of Light Industry. However, her life changed after the pageant. She came to Minsk and represented the country at the Miss World Pageant. She now studies at the Belarusian State University’s Journalism Institute and works as a model.
Lyudmila Yakimovich (Grodno)
At the age of 22, the student of Grodno’s Institute of Law and a former sportswoman won the title. She decided not to move to Minsk, as her boyfriend was living in Grodno. She took part in the Miss World-2010 Pageant and, a year later, became ‘First Runner Up’ at Miss Supranational-2011, in Poland. She remains ‘Miss Belarus’ until May 5th, when she’ll pass on her crown — decorated with diamonds — to the next Belarusian beauty.
Style, artistry, charm… National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre hosts concert to showcase talent of those holding scholarships from Special Presidential Fund for the Support of Talented Young People
truly festive atmosphere ruled at the Bolshoi Theatre, its hall packed with lovers of classical music, dance and opera. Relatives and friends of Special Presidential Fund scholarship holders were in attendance, as was the Culture Minister, Pavel Latushko, and his senior colleagues. The Chair of the Fund, Nina Mazai, was present, alongside concert organisers: staff f rom B elarus’ Culture University. Performing alongside prominent masters of Belarusian classical art, the young participants felt like acknowledged artistes. Each performance gives them the unique After the concert: opp or tunity to Vladislav Trukhan and Mikhail Radunsky are show how they are satisfied with their advancing in their performance artistry.
During the first part of the concert, the audience enjoyed the classical music of Wagner, Bach, Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky; the second half was devoted to singing and classical dancing, with each performer much applauded. Cellists Mikhail Radunsky and Vladislav Trukhan (of the Republican Gymnasium-College at the Academy of Music) were particularly moving, showing a talent not only for music but for feeling the emotional depth of their work. They needed no words — only the touch of their bow on strings — and exchanged meaningful looks throughout. Their brilliant artistic chemistry, so full of expression and emotion, captivated the audience. Their rendering of Giovanni Sollima’s most famous piece, Violoncelles.Vibrez! — composed for two cellos with orchestra, was an inspired choice. Sollima was known for experimenting with various genres and has a large following worldwide. No doubt, they were guided by their teacher, the leader of the Republican Musical College’s concert orchestra, Honoured Artiste of Belarus Vladimir Perlin. Having heard the two young men previously, I can say that it must be impossible not to enjoy their artistry; their unique stage manner sticks in the memory, as if they come truly to life when performing. Meanwhile, they appear stylish and relaxed, in a modern way, as we might expect from today’s young people. Mikhail and Vladislav’s mastery and charm leaves us with the impression that they breathe in unison, following a common rhythm. The pair were accompanied wonderfully by the Bolshoi Theatre’s Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Vyacheslav Volich. The young musicians seemed to penetrate a fantasy world, their faces reflecting their feelings. I was charmed by their every movement and, after the performance, ‘bravo’ resounded from every corner of the hall. Each performer leaving the stage accompanied by applause is naturally worthy of admiration: pianist Andrey Ivanov (of Moscow’s P. Tchaikovsky State Conservatory), violinist Pavel Batyan, flautist Yulia Shchasnovich, violist Nikolay Chernukha, and ballet dancers Yekaterina Oleinik, Konstantin Geronik, Alexandra Chizhik and Igor Anoshka. All have won numerous international contests, to our great pride. By Mikhalina Cherkashina