No.5 (932), 2011
BELARUS Беларусь. Belarus
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Memory and Honour
Politics, Economy, Culture
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Made in Slutsk pp. 40 — 41
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Беларусь.Belarus Monthly magazine No.5 (932), 2011 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
Neighbours in Eurasia
First hand history Even parents of the modern generation of 20-30 year olds know about the Great Patriotic War mostly from veterans, films and books. However, time moves on
On friendly banks of the River Dnieper Belarus and Ukraine are connected not only by a common border stretching over 1,000km and by the immense River Dnieper, but by their common historical values, upon which generations have been raised
Updated realities In April, Belarus celebrates
Energy without threat Largest project to
Art of collecting stones Leonid Levin —
Беларусь.Belarus is published in Belarusian, English, Spanish and Polish.
Paths leading to future Artist Alexey Zin-
an architect in harmony with his time
chuk knows about the 1941-1945 war first hand, belonging to the generation which had to survive those troubled years
42 World outlook in colour Such prominent
churches as Polotsk’s Saviour Transfiguration Church, Vitebsk’s Annunciation Church and Grodno’s St. Boris and Hleb (or Kolozhskaya) Church were built on land that became contemporary Belarus back in the 12th century
Flight of fancy At first sight, it may seem that staging a work of prose is harder than staging a scripted play, but all depends on the stage director’s talent Strong personalities World and European Kettlebell Lifting Championship among Masters gathers athletes from over 20 countries in Vitebsk
Vadim Kondrashov, Georgiy Shablyuk, Aloizas Yunevich
Distributed in 50 countries of the world. Final responsibility for factual accuracy or interpretation rests with the authors of the publications. Should any article of Беларусь.Belarus be used, the reference to the magazine is obligatory. The magazine does not bear responsibility for the contents of advertisements.
Publisher: “SB” editorial office This magazine has been printed at “Belarusian House of Press” Publishing Office” UE. 79 Nezavisimosti Ave., Minsk, Belarus, 220013 Order No.1279 Total circulation — 2031 copies (including 780 in English).
Write us to the address: 11 Kiselyov Str., Minsk, Belarus, 220029. Tel.: +375 (17) 290-62-24, 290-66-45. Tel./Fax: +375 (17) 290-68-31. www.belarus-magazine.by E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
build first Belarusian nuclear power station launched
can be compared with the natural phenomenon of tectonic movement, which can lead to earthquakes. Neither is under our control; both are inevitable. In Europe, irreversible processes are taking place before our eyes; our descendants may call this period ‘another transmigration of people’
Executive Secretary: Design and Layout by
a sad anniversary: 25 years since the catastrophe at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant
At the crossroads of Europe Migration
Editor: Viktor Kharkov
ing a fourth edition of the Red Book. Released in 2013, it will describe all the changes which have occurred in nature over the past decade
52 Where a lady lost her slipper
White pages of Red Book Belarus is prepar-
Founders: The Information Ministry of the Republic of Belarus “SB” newspaper editorial office Belvnesheconombank
Grigory Borovik: ‘I master my profession’
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.
© “Беларусь. Belarus”, 2011
ay is a special month, being the month when we celebrate victory over Nazism in WWII. B elar us will always remember this, revering its veterans. Today, around 50,000 former front-line soldiers and partisans of the Great Patriotic War reside in Belarus, their number gradually falling. Naturally, they continue to feel respect and boundless gratitude from us. Our Victory remembrance is a sacred event, since the Great Patriotic War has left its trace on almost every family. I’d like to mention some facts from my personal life. My father, Mikhail Kharkov, fought the Germans and was severely wounded, receiving two medals: ‘For Courage’ and ‘For Military Merit’. Today, these are relics of my father, who survived that war, after experiencing its hardships. Sons, fathers, grandfathers, brothers and sisters failed to return, with each Belarusian family facing bitter loss. The heroic deeds and self-sacrifice of those soldiers live on. In this respect, I’d like to share an example with you, which vividly demonstrates the inseparable connections between the past and the present. Minsk artist Alexey Zinchuk experienced the 19411945 war first hand, belonging to that generation which had to survive those
troubled years. Naturally, his path to art has been more circuitous than that of many of his colleagues. He was born in the BelarusianUkrainian Polesie village of Bratalov, where he spent the first twelve years of his life. There, he met the fascist occupation. After liberation, the strong
teenager was sent near to the front, as a subsidiary service soldier — digging trenches and creating models of military equipment to disorient German pilots. They often used horses to bring food to soldiers at the front, as it was impossible to drive, and wounded were brought to the rear in the same fashion. “Roads in Ukraine were so muddy in spring that nothing short of a tank could get through,” recollects Mr. Zinchuk. “We had to use horses. I have a picture called Front Roads.” The military topic is vividly portrayed in his works, in portraits of grey-haired front-line soldiers. Front Roads reflects reality, of
which the artist is well aware, having walked many kilometres of military roads during those severe years. Military columns, going into the very heart of war, are depicted in the background, while a cart of wounded soldiers moves in the opposite direction, placed in the forefront. Near a horse there stands its colt, symbolising new life. At present, Mr. Zinchuk is the youngest veteran in the Belarusian Union of Artists. His path to the future leads on from his recollections of his young military years. He has a great deal to remember, spending much time in front of his easel with a clean canvas. There is so much to capture. He connects contemporary life with the bygone age. An interview with artist Alexey Zinchuk is available in our magazine, under the title Paths Leading To Future. I’d like to continue the symbolic topic of the Victory. Usually, one or two weeks before May 9th, Belarusian TV channels begin to broadcast films dedicated to the war. These are always interesting, describing the courage of soldiers and the fate of ordinary people during those troubled years. We see the strong and weak features of human nature — cr uelty, kindness and self-sacrifice. We see heightened emotions and levels of human dignity, which serve to nourish our spirit, helping us to realise the value of life. We should remember that, after WWII, Belarus became one of the founders of the United Nations Organisation, alongside other states. Few countries can boast such a privilege. The choice was made in favour of Belarus — a USSR republic — because of its great contribution to destroying fascism. Our state clearly deserved this honour! BY Viktor Kharkov, magazine editor Беларусь. Belarus
Memory and honour
One minute of silence
Events to honour Victory Day traditionally take place in Belarus on May 9th
he President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, headed a solemn procession in Minsk, from Oktyabrskaya Square to Pobedy Square along Nezavisimosti Avenue. The Heroes of the Soviet Union and veterans of the Great Patriotic War and Armed Forces joined the country’s top ranking officials in the front line of the festive parade. Veterans were also driven in automobiles, with special stands available at Pobedy Square for those unable to take part in the march due to poor health. In total, around 80,000 gathered in the centre of the capital. The President laid a wreath at the Victory Monument, with others laid by state authorities, public associations, diplomatic missions, Great Patriotic War veterans and the clergy. Mr. Lukashenko and all those present commemorated the memory of the dead heroes with a minute’s silence at Pobedy Square.
Speech of the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, at the ceremony of wreath laying at the monument Dear veterans of the Great Patriotic War! Dear countrymen and foreign guests! We are all celebrating today the 66th anniversary of the most significant event in the history of humankind — the Great Patriotic War victory. This holiday is especially dear for Belarusian people. The bloody fighting on the frontline, the Resistance Movement, the heroic partisan struggle, victims and bravery — which hardly compare to anything else, alongside
Belarus was the first among the USSR republics to face a mass attack from the fascist invaders.
Restraining fascist troops from the first days of the war, Brest Fortress fought to the last ditch. Unyielding Mogilev withstood a month-long siege. During the occupation, the enemies destroyed 209 cities and towns and 9,200 villages (with over 600 villages’ residents murdered). By the end of the war, the Republic had lost almost a third of its population. the salvation and revival of our country, have formed the unique character of the Belarusian nation. Firmness in overcoming hardships, bravery and lack of fear when protecting their native land, as well as wisdom and industry have helped Belarusians to survive and win, ‘writing’ glorious pages into our state’s history. Recall the beginning of WWII. Many developed yet weak-willed European countries fell under the feet of Hitler’s invaders. However, our common homeland — of which Belarus was part — did not waiver under those extremely hard conditions. It secured a military and moral victory over the forces of Evil. The Belarusian nation did not part with an inch of its native land. Even occupied and ruined, our country remained unbowed. We are eternally obliged to remember that the road to Berlin began during the days of the heroic defence of Brest Fortress. The rest of the world did not experience such a mass revolt against the aggressors as our enemies faced on Belarusian land. Fascists were fought against by a huge national army — comprising soldiers and officers on the frontline, with partisans and undergrounders to the rear. These people were called upon and mobilised, following their own hearts. The roots of our Victory were laid in the firmness of our souls, the unity of people and their true patriotism. Today, when facing difficult situations, we find strength in our priceless experience of those times.
Seventy years ago, from the very first awful days of the war, people were fighting, ready for torture and death, with no doubt that their stance was correct. Twenty five years ago, our country became a living shield for Chernobyl. Virtually alone, we were faced with overcoming the consequences of that disaster, which affected our already much suffered Belarusian land. Despite all difficulties, we’ve achieved the incredible: we’ve revived many affected districts of our native Belarus! This will be so forever. Hardships and trials break the weak but make the strong even stronger. We, Belarusians, are strengthened by our love for our Motherland and our serene memory of the bravery of the victors, who passed us the baton of life. We well realise the price of that Great Victory. This is why, on May 9th, we mourn those whose lives were taken away by that terrible war. Nobody should forget that, in those hot years, a third of our countrymen died. I propose that we honour the memory of Great Patriotic War heroes and victims with a minute’s silence. (minute of silence) Dear friends! Historical events teach us serious lessons, ensuring that we are never caught unawares. Care for the country’s security is the most important task for state leaders and citizens. The 21st century has not brought an end to war for mankind. We observe dictatorship and aggression from some
countries and military blocks, alongside interference into sovereign states’ domestic affairs and the flourishing of international terrorism. These events unwittingly make us recall the days of the Great Patriotic War and WWII. As then, we again observe the destruction of the established norms and rules of global order, which have already justified themselves. The wild and inhumane practice of forceful resolution of international problems is again applied, in addition to bloody score-settling with the undesirable. The primeval principle of ‘might is right’ reigns once again, with the sacred right of nations to independently define their fate trodden into the ground. This occurs largely due to a new generation of politicians appearing on the global arena. They know about war from thriller films and have never personally fought or felt the loss of a beloved person. The most awful aspect is that war is becoming routine for these politicians. We see how famous heads of state decide to bomb peaceful cities, thoughtlessly and with dreadful ease. They doom many thousands of women, children and old people to death, while calling themselves democratic states. Human life has no value once again, while the fates of countries are sacrificed to selfish geopolitical interests. The trouble is that, in the larger world of politics, war is treated as a game of chess, rather than as a global tragedy. Belarus openly and firmly expresses its position
Chronicles on the inadmissibility of solving problems through armed force. The sufferings which Belarusians lived through during the 20th century wars give us the right to openly speak of this. Today, external threats are being made towards Belarus, with severe information and political war conducted. Attempts are being made to split our society, sowing the seeds of fear and mistrust. However, we should appreciate that most of these problems are placed on us artificially, in revenge for us building a truly independent and sovereign state and for the Belarusian people wishing to host their own home, defending their fate independently. I’m convinced that we’ll overcome all hardships and worthily withstand all ordeals. The strength of our young state is rooted in our faithfulness to the traditions of a generation of victors, as well as in the unity and solidarity of our people. We sincerely desire peace and do our best to develop friendly ties with all countries and nations. Meanwhile, at any time, we are ready to protect our independence and political and social achievements. Belarus provides for its military security, following the principles of sufficient defence and strategic containment of potential aggression. This is why we strengthen and modernise our Armed Forces. Public wellbeing, the country’s dynamic development and the strengthening of its position as an independent subject within the global community are the best ways of remembering the heroism of our liberators. Dear veterans! We are heirs to your Victory. Thank you for your deeds, for defending the peace and freedom of your nation, the whole of humankind and us — your grateful heirs. Your traditions of bravery and service to the Motherland shall be worthily continued. We’ll do everything possible so that future generations feel proud of our present achievements — as we are proud of your great heroism. We’ll do all we can to be worthy of you! I wish you and your relatives a long life, wellbeing and happiness! I sincerely congratulate you, all our countrymen, and guests of our country on Victory Day!
Legendary citadel revisited Brest-Litovsk Fortress photos on display in London
he Brest-Litovsk Fortress photo exhibition is being hosted by Pushkin House, located in the heart of the British capital. The show includes over 60 copies of photos from the archives of the Brest Fortress Defence Museum. These cover the 170 year history of the legendary citadel, from its first day of the foundation stone being laid to the present. The exhibition opens with a photo of a painting by Polish artist Martin Zaleski. At the invitation of Count Paskevich, he visited the fort in 1840 and captured its construction in his drawings. There are also some interesting photos depicting the arrival of Emperor Alexander III at BrestLitovsk Fortress in 1886, and a photo of the White Palace, where the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was signed in 1918. A separate block of photos is dedicated to the heroic defence of the
Veterans at Brest Fortress
fortress during the Great Patriotic War. The exhibition also features shots of the peaceful life of the legendary citadel: the construction of the memorial and its monumental structures that have become the hallmark of not only the memorial but the city of Brest. The exhibition first went on display in the UK in 2009. Its organisation was assisted by British Russell Porter. In February 2009, he paid a visit to Brest and saw Brest Fortress. He was greatly impressed with the Brest-Litovsk Fortress photo exhibition, which was then on display in Brest, and expressed willingness to organise a show in the UK, to allow his countrymen to see the stunning photos. Mr. Porter’s initiative was supported by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to the United Kingdom, H.E. Mr. Alexander Mikhnevich. With support from the Belarusian Embassy, the exhibition opened in Maldon in September 2009, later moving to Bristol, Glasgow, Durham, Cardiff, Newcastle, Inverness,Nottingham,Duxford, Liverpool and Cambridge. The exhibition also travelled to Jersey, where Soviet prisoners of war, including Belarusians, were forced into labour. The exhibition is expected to further tour Europe, with talks underway regarding organisational issues. By Anastasia Krutova
First hand history Even parents of the modern generation of 20-30 year olds know about the Great Patriotic War mostly from veterans, films and books. However, time moves on; only a few of those who took part in the past war remain alive today, although soldiers from the Great Victory remain faithful to their past. We should never miss an opportunity to learn about history from their first-hand accounts
ven parents of the modern generation of 20-30 Truly, I couldn’t help but laugh, as his words were unexpected. year olds know about the Great Patriotic Actually, his reaction was so touching; children are War mostly from veterans, films and children, irrespective of their time.” books. However, time moves on; only Children of the war now hold the baton of memory a few of those who took part in the past from their parents, who took part in the war. A war remain alive today, although wonderful wise woman, Lidia Maximova, still soldiers from the Great Victory remain faithful works at the Belarusian State University’s Law to their past. We should never miss an opporDepartment. She is passionate about her job, tunity to learn about history from their firstdespite her age. Ms. Maximova’s “Fiery Leavers. hand accounts. Facts and Documents” book is devoted to the “Almost every day I meet young people,” pre-war students and lecturers of the Minsk notes former General-Lieutenant Yevgeny Law Institute and is the worthy result of past Mikulchik, who chairs the Belarusian years. Lidia also graduated from Union of Officers and the Commission that Institute, but after the war. In for Partisan and Undergrounder “Interest in WWII continues, her book, she speaks of the patriAffairs of the Council of Ministers. otism and military deeds of the even becoming stronger,” The veteran of the Great Patriotic War educational establishment’s lecturers asserts Sergey Azaronok, the continues, “You know, young people and students. Director of the Belarusian — especially schoolchildren — make “From the very beginning of true discoveries for themselves while Hitler’s occupation of Minsk, underState Museum of the History studying the history of their country. ground resistance groups formed. of the Great Patriotic War. I remember how they were moved Among them was a group of Minsk “E uropean museums are hosting Law Institute students and lecturers, by the terrible number of Belarusian numerous conferences, while children killed by the fascists: 176,000. founded by Maria Osipova. Many Can you imagine: 167,000 children died, failing to see the bright Victory. organising round table were killed and burnt! 5,500 teenagers For example, in 1942, a former 2nd discussions. Almost all are fought as partisans and members year student, Vasily Zhudro, died international”. of the underground movement. of wounds after an exchange of fire Meanwhile, 38 of the 91 Heroes of the with the Gestapo (who unexpectSoviet Union were young patriots (among Belarus’ partisans edly arrived at a secret address, led by a traitor). In September and undergrounders). We, teenagers from the days of the Great 1942, former student and partisan Dmitry Repin died while Patriotic War, helped the partisans, as messengers, spies and exploding a bomb. In November, fascists tortured Antonina members of demolition squads. Much time has passed but Sokolova to death, while a traitor surrendered undergrounder I’m pleased to see that modern young people are interested in Maria Malakovich — who headed an underground movement almost everything. They’re keen to know how we were trained in Minsk District’s Kolodishchy,” explains Ms. Maximova. She at family camps in forests, how we lived and what weapons adds, “When I learnt what was happening and what tortures we used. After one talk, a boy approached me, with shining those people were living through, I took my heart medicine eyes, proclaiming, “I would have taught those fascists a lesson!” to the library where I worked. I’m impressed by the deeds of
Yevgeny Mikulchik, veteran of the Great Patriotic War, former GeneralLieutenant, chairs the Belarusian Union of Officers and the Commission for Partisan and Undergrounder Affairs of the Council of Ministers
struggled against this, not following orders but acting as their hearts dictated. In 1942, the Historical Museum of Moscow hosted an exhibition entitled: Belarus Lives. Belarus Struggles. Belarus Was and Shall Be Soviet! It focused on life in occupied territories, showing fascists’ brutality and people’s struggle. The uniqueness of the situation in Belarus was evident even then. The Republic was occupied by Germans but continued living under Soviet law, with village councils and district executive committees operating. Some places avoided German invasion: Polotsk-Lepel and Begoml zones and Polesie. Belarusians view themselves as winners. I always oppose the popular idea that Belarusians’ major characteristic is their calmness. We are calm but this calmness is that of people whose spirit is strong. We avoid starting quarrels, being kind, but we advance like an imperturbable rock. Nobody should touch us…” By Galina Ulitenok
the Soviet Union Hero Maria Osipova — a wonderful woman. Some men failed to endure torture but she did not. It made me wish to tell the children and grandchildren of those who died for the sake of their homeland that their relatives are remembered. Our grateful memories remain with us. I well remember the war, although our family lived outside Belarus. I’ll never forget the performances organised for the wounded in hospitals. One soldier was near hysterical and when we asked why he was so distraught, he told us that his children had been killed in Belarus. When I speak to students about those events, their eyes fill with tears…” “Books about those who survived the war reveal the truth,” believes the Head of Minsk’s Historical Workshop, Kuzma Kozak. “They allow us to fill in blank spots in history. When we prepared a book of recollections of former prisoners, called Auschwitz Camp of Death: Live Evidence from Belarus, we discovered an offensive and unfair situation. Germans took over 6,000 people from Belarus to Auschwitz, mostly from Vitebsk Region; the figure could have been even greater, although 6,000 is great enough. However, the statistic is hidden in the impersonal statement of ‘10,000 from other nationalities’ in Auschwitz’s present memorial exhibition. We know that 6,000 of those 10,000 were Belarusians, with most being family members of Belarusian partisans: their wives, children, fathers and mothers…” It’s hard to overestimate the value of first-hand stories, as many appreciate. A recent initiative by the Khatyn Memorial Complex and the National Archive is a bright example, collecting the recollections of those who escaped the villages burnt by the Nazis. During the war, the cruellest occupation in Europe was evident in Belarus, with Germans burning 628 villages, together with all their residents. Archivists think that this figure could be larger; we don’t know everything but finding out is vital. “Interest in WWII continues, even becoming stronger,” asserts Sergey Azaronok, the Director of the Belarusian State Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War. “European museums are hosting numerous conferences, while organising round table discussions. Almost all are international. We are starting to follow their example, as we need to defend our history. Veterans, those witnesses of the truth, will gradually pass away, which will sever the links between generations of victors and their heirs. However, something sacred will be lost if this thread is cut. The Belarusian State Museum of the History of the Great Patriotic War was founded in October 1944, when Minsk was still in ruins. It was the first museum of its kind in the world. The decision to build it was made in 1943. Hitler decided to set up a museum of enslaved nations in Austrian Linz in 1942, which was planned to be grey and cold — in Aryan style. However, it was necessary to enslave nations before launching this museum. Our people
Neighbours in Eurasia The President previously visited the country in 2002 and 2009 and, during his recent trip to Ashgabat, agreed with Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov that, in recent years, Belarusian-Turkmen relations have developed well. Our two states have achieved a level of strategic partnership, having enjoyed dozens of visits at various levels. Thousands of Turkmen students attend Belarusian universities, while we boast almost $100mLN. of turnover and joint projects worth over $1bLn.
lying back, journalists asked Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov (who also attended the talks as part of the delegation) to sum up the results of the visit. “We hope that, as a result of the Belarusian President’s present visit to Turkmenistan, the breakthrough seen in our relations in recent years will strengthen, becoming an integral part of our daily life. Despite our geographical distance, Belarus and Turkmenistan are expected to become true neighbours,” he stressed, noting that Belarus’ building of a town for potassium miners in Turkmenistan is the major achievement of the trip (at the Turkmen President’s request). During Mr. Lukashenko’s last visit, it was decided that Belarus would establish a whole new branch of its economy within Turkmenistan’s KaraKum mining industry. Production of potash fertilisers is planned, with the development of the Garlyk potassium salt deposit overseen by Belarusians — although there were many other tender bidders, as the project is worth over 1bln. “Both the Turkmen side and our own are working on the basis of liaising on
international markets once production is established — to ensure the greatest efficiency,” Mr. Martynov noted. Turkmenistan has asked Belarus to build infrastructure for a future town of workers. According to preliminary estimations, 20,000 flats are to be constructed — enough for 100,000 people. Since the new company is being set up in a desert, not far from the Afghani border, accommodation is a priority. During their last rendezvous, the presidents reached
deposits, launching of production facilities and building of accommodation. Speaking of talks between the two presidents, Mr. Martynov noted that many issues are in focus, including aviation, education and personnel training. The latter is of special interest to Turkmenistan, with around 4,500 Turkmen students currently attending Belarusian universities. According to Mr. Martynov, this figure is set to rise. “We are ready to satisfy the needs of
O ver the past five years, B elarusianTurkmen turnover has doubled, reaching $91 mln. in 2010. R emote Turkmenistan is among the top seven - eight CIS partners for B elarus in terms of trade the construction site by helicopter; as Turkmenistan’s neighbour is unsettled, the flight was conducted at the highest possible altitude. We could say that Belarus is shifting its Venezuelan experience to Central Asia, supplementing its traditional trading ties with mining of mineral
friendly Turkmenistan in all specialities and to whichever extent required,” he added. Belarus is also ready to establish assembly facilities and service centres in Turkmenistan. In recent years, supplies of Belarusian machinery to this country have risen, with more models offered.
Alexander Lukashenko and Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov were content with results of their meeting and negotiations in Ashgabat
Most growth has been seen in deliveries of MAZ, Amkodor and Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant vehicles. As Mr. Martynov noted, the Turkmen President is keen to see Belarus satisfy state orders in future. This year, Minsk Tractor Plant is to export 1,500 ‘Belarus’ tractors — worth $11mln. Belarusian buses have also been trialled on Ashgabat streets, with Belarus-made agricultural vehicles next in line for supply. Belarusian manufacturers have made some new proposals, offering warranty and service maintenance of Belarus-made machinery operated in Turkmenistan. “Our producers are ready to supply components, so that
machinery continues to function well, being serviced without problems,” the Minister said. Over the past five years, BelarusianTurkmen turnover has doubled, reaching $91mln. in 2010. Remote Turkmenistan is among the top seven-eight CIS partners for Belarus in terms of trade. Of course, it cannot yet compare to our trade with Ukraine or Russia but, considering the present lack of currency, the fact that our trade balance is positive is inspiring (last year, it rose by another $84mln.). There is every reason to believe that the figure will grow after the President’s visit. No doubt, Turkmenistan is a profitable economic partner for Belarus. It is
viewed in the same way by Russia, China, the EU and the USA, whose politicians and businessmen are common guests at Ashgabat hotels. After taking power, Mr. Berdimuhamedov announced the start of the Epoch of Great Revival — using the natural resources so rich in Kara-Kum and Kopet Dag. This is yielding results already: the Academy of Sciences has resumed its work, foreign languages are lectured, opera and ballet are permitted, pensions are paid and the Internet is now available. However, access to the global net is, as yet, underdeveloped. The hotel where journalists were staying lacked Internet access, necessitating a trip to the five-star presi-
Partnership dential hotel. Moreover, it was impossible to phone to Minsk by mobile phone, due to roaming problems. Overcoming these difficulties, reporters nevertheless managed to acquaint Belarusians with our two states’ collaboration… In the sphere of diplomacy, the first foreign state visit of a newly elected head of state is always important, since it hints at foreign political priorities. After the presidential elections, Mr. Lukashenko went to Turkmenistan, explaining his move on meeting Mr. Berdimuhamedov, “I wish to thank you for your firmness and brotherly solidarity. Before the presidential elections, you said — as if joking — that Turkmenistan is a friendly country and the first official visit must be paid here as a result. We’ve been coming here, to your friendly state, and I’m thankful to you for the specifics of our relations. The matters which we discussed are now being promoted in all directions. We have a range of new proposals. I was impressed on hearing about your plans from our Foreign Minister. You do not merely plan diversification, but are starting development of the private sector of the economy. We’re ready to join you in this work.” Turkmenistan could soon be the new player on the global potash fertiliser market, mining 1-1.5 million tonnes, with most exported. However, Mr. Lukashenko believes that Turkmenistan and Belarus won’t compete directly for custom, saying, “We’ll become reliable partners on the international market.” The General Director of the Belarusian Potassium Company explains this move: A f a c i l it y i s b e i n g bu i lt i n Turkmenistan, due to start operations in 2-3 years. We’re interested to see it exporting potash fertilisers through our company. Meanwhile, Turkmenchemistry is keen to enjoy joint operation on foreign markets. Belarus is already a global market leader. How would co-operation with Turkmenistan benefit us? The Belarusian Potassium Company exports over 11.5mln. tonnes of potash
fertilisers, occupying 33 percent of the global market. After developing two deposits, Turkmenistan will produce 2.8mln. tonnes of potash fertilisers, with domestic consumption reaching about 200,000 tonnes. Will this new seller take a share of our market, while offering lower prices? Our company is working at 100 percent production capacity and still doesn’t fully satisfy the demand, which is continually growing. Turkmenistan’s immense mineral wealth is currently underdeveloped: not only potassium, but gas and oil. These are attracting huge attention from around the world. Several years ago, the country boasted the only route for its gas to the global market: via Russia. These days, a gas pipeline to China is operational, with supplies to Iran exceeding those of Turkmen fuel bought by Gazprom. We can suppose that the EU urgently needs Turkmen gas for the Nabucco pipeline (an alternative to Gazprom’s pipe) since the European Parliament seems ready to adopt any resolution to allow fuel to be pumped to the West.
Ashgabat has wisely used its resources to strengthen its independence, celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Mr. Lukashenko congratulated Mr. Berdimuhamedov in advance, saying, “We’re now seeing the fruits of Turkmenistan’s independence. Your major achievement is that you’ve managed to ensure — not in words, but in action — the fundamentals for Turkmenistan’s independence. You exist irrespective of the whims of our modern world… close and far. This is your greatest merit.” Un l i k e m a n y o t h e r s t a t e s , Turkmenistan has managed to avoid becoming a subject of international relations. The UN has acknowledged its neutral status — like Switzerland. It now artfully balances between the interests of the greatest states. One local tradition in Turkmenistan is interesting: all foreign ambassadors accredited in Ashgabat join meetings between the Turkmen President and foreign heads of states. It’s a custom I’ve now twice observed, with ambassadors from the USA, the EU states, Russia, China and other countries joining talks. Last
Partnership ments in this field, Turkmenistan has asked us to build a cycle track and an ice rink, among other facilities. Turkmenistan currently profits from exporting its gas. Accordingly, it is involved in some major construction projects. Two years have passed since the last visit by Mr. Lukashenko to Ashgabat and changes are evident. In the centre of the city (journalists were not taken farther), more white marble has appeared. Local fountains are impressive, while streets are even cleaner. On walking by the Turkmenistan Hotel in the morning, there is an impression that there are more street cleaners than passers-by. In fact, few people promenade, with traffic lights aimed at car drivers rather than pedestrians.…
Belarus and Turkmenistan are to become partners on the global potash fertilizer market
year, Mr. Berdimuhamedov met the heads of France, China, Germany and Turkey, while paying an official visit to Minsk. At the end of his official visit to Turkmenistan, Mr. Lukashenko visited the local oil refinery (Belarus boats huge experience of oil refineries’ modernisation) and the Caspian resort of Avaza. On the eve of his visit, the President invited Belarusians to participate in a grand construction project, to be located near the Port of Turkmenbashi. It seems that the country now plans to rival Turkey and Egypt, with $1.5bln. already invested into Avaza. New hotels have been built, in addition to a man-made river and a 100m fountain. Turkmenistan now needs new sporting sites. Mr. Berdimuhamedov, who previously occupied the post of Minister for Health, is keen to see the nation improve its fitness. A much stricter ban (in comparison to Europe) exists regarding smoking, which is prohibited on the street. Meanwhile, the Turkmen President is seen all over Ashgabat in photos depicting him riding a bicycle. Being aware of Belarusian achieve-
Minsk and Ashgabat, aiding traditional diplomacy. Meanwhile, thousands of Turkmen students at Belarusian universities act as unofficial guides of our mutual interests. They commonly meet on the streets of Minsk and are a source of future joint business, since these Turkmens are studying with their future business partners. They are also doing internships at companies whose products they’ll be working with in their homeland in the future. For example, students from the Turkmen Agricultural University do internships with Minsk Tractor Plant. Mr. Lukashenko notes, “The first young specialists who received their education at Belarusian universities will soon return to their native land. I hope that
Our two countries recently signed an agreement to allocate land lots for the construction of embassies in Minsk and Ashgabat, aiding traditional diplomacy. Meanwhile, thousands of Turkmen students at Belarusian universities act as unofficial guides of our mutual interests Mr. Lukashenko’s visit was accompanied by a certain sadness, since the Turkmen President expressed his condolences regarding the recent terrorist act on the Minsk metro. There is no excuse for terrorism and, as proven by events at Oktyabrskaya metro station, terrorists have no limits. The bomb killed and wounded a hundred innocent people, with one Turkmen student among them. Mr. Lukashenko informed his colleague of the boy’s condition and medical treatment, passing on information as to when his parents are arriving. This episode well demonstrates that Turkmen-Belarusian relations stretch beyond business; public diplomacy is evidently growing. Our two countries recently signed an agreement to allocate land lots for the construction of embassies in
they’ll bring a warm attitude towards Belarus, alongside their knowledge.” Direct flights now operate between Minsk and Ashgabat, overseen by Turkmen Airlines and Belavia. “Next steps are now in focus,” notes the Head of the Aviation Department at Belarus’ Transport and C ommunications Ministry, Vadim Melnik. During his Ashgabat talks, the Turkmen President approved a code-sharing agreement between our national carriers. “As a result, Turkmen Airlines will offer places and tickets for Belarusian passengers travelling to South-East Asia. In turn, we’ll offer transit of Turkmen passengers to Europe,” explains Mr. Melnik. Ties between Belarus and Turkmenistan are sure to progress well as a result, with true partnership being outlined in Eurasia. Distance is no longer an obstacle. By Igor Kolchenko
Panorama Orbit already known Complex testing of Belarusian satellite continues
Social infrastructure in Khimy settlement (Vitebsk region) is under modernization
City comfort in a village
President of Belarus outlines task of developing rural villages while preserving their identity
he President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, recently visited Khimy, situated on the border of Vitebsk and Mogilev regions. He noted that manufacturing facilities should be set up in villages to ensure employment but that villages should not be converted into towns. Khimy has just 43 homesteads, including 35 dachas. The President has viewed the plan to revive Khimy, which is to grow into an agro-industrial complex with agricultural production. There are plans to create manufacturing and social spheres by 2015, while developing local engineering infrastructure. A facility to bottle mineral and fresh water is to be built, in addition to a confectionery factory. Fresh drinking water accounts for just 3 percent of the Earth’s water resources, while the share
of easily available fresh water stands at 2 percent. At present, over half of all water available from the surface has been used. However, Belarus has great prospects for stepping up its bottling of fresh drinking water; there are assured reserves of fresh and mineral water near Khimy. A confectionery factory is also to appear in Khimy. As the Chairman of Vitebsk Regional Executive Committee, Alexander Kosinets, noted, this should be ready by early 2012. Mr. Lukashenko has approved the projects but stresses that this village must not be converted into a town. “Nothing should be done artificially,” he said. A poultry factory is also to be constructed not far from Khimy. Negotiations with foreign investors willing to take part in the project are underway. The pay-off period is estimated at five years.
natoly Rusetsky, the Chairman of the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences’ Presidium, told the media, “Complex tests of the satellite are yet to conclude but are nearly done. We are on schedule, as approved jointly with the Russian Space Agency.” He tells us that a launch date is yet to be set but stresses that there is no hurry; launch dates of Belarusian and Russian satellites have been shifted several times for various reasons. “The creation of new equipment, instruments and devices always entails certain problems. We’ve aimed to create a reliable satellite, testing it thoroughly on the Earth’s surface, to allow us to operate it with confidence in space,” he notes. It is expected that, this year, the Belarusian satellite will go into orbit, jointly with the Russian Canopus-B satellite, from Baikonur — via a Soyuz carrier rocket and a Fregat booster module. It will orbit at about 500km above the Earth’s surface. The Belarusian satellite will be lighter and more manoeuvrable than its predecessor, weighing just 400kg and
having a resolution of about 2 metres. It will be able to provide space imaging of the whole of Belarus. In the future, Belarus plans to set up a multiple-layer system for remote probing of the Earth. Alongside the satellite, this will include an aviation component, represented by unmanned aircraft.
Panorama UN can lead by example
Women take the lead
Belarus proposes reform of UN information activity
Women over the age of 100 outnumber men almost 5-fold
aking part in the 33rd session of the UN Committee on Information, B elarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Savinykh submitted a proposal to reform the information activity of the United Nations to raise efficiency. In particular, he noted the need for detailed regional information activity strategies; these should take into account specific social and economic development priorities, while ensuring public support for the practical work of local UN institutions. Belarus believes that the operation of the UN Department of Public Information should be organised in such a way that each country’s media gains access to UN global information sources, so they can disseminate information on its activities effectively. Mr. Savinykh stressed the need to ensure equal use of all UN official languages for television, radio and Internet broadcasts. The United Nations’ interaction with the media and academic institutions of Belarus was discussed by Mr. Savinykh and Kiyotaka Akasaka, the UnderSecretary-General for Communications and Public Information. The two exchanged views on the most promising forms of co-operation, aimed at involving the Belarusian media in UN information services. The UN Committee on Information brings together 113 UN member states and holds its annual sessions in New York in late Aprilearly May, discussing the efficiency of the UN’s information activities. The Committee’s members made suggestions regarding the UN website and UN radio development strategy, with particular attention paid to improving the efficiency of UN information centres located in member states.
Ivan Misko’s cosmic theme Sculptural portrait of Valentina Tereshkova — the world’s first female astronaut — to be created by famous Belarusian Ivan Misko
pace occupies a major place in the master’s creativity; he has already created busts of many astronauts, alongside memorial plaques for Zvezdny Gorodok (Star City) honouring space aircraft engineer Sergey Korolev and the first ever man in space, Yuri Gagarin. Ivan Misko even created a bust of Gagarin’s mother, Anna Timofeyevna, installed in her home town. He sculpted a monument to the first Belarusian cosmonaut, Piotr Klimuk, unveiled in Brest in 1980, and, in 1984, created a bust of the second Belarusian astronaut, Vladimir Kovalenok. Astronauts from Poland, Cuba, Romania, Mongolia, France, Germany, Bulgaria, Syria, the UK, Vietnam, Austria, Japan, Afghanistan and India have posed for the sculptor.
women and 94 men have already celebrated their 100th birthday, with only 12 women among those over 110 years of age. One has even celebrated her 115th birthday: Maria Mikhailovna Shikut from Tesnovaya-1 village in Minsk Region’s Stolbtsy District, who was born on July 1st, 1894. Grodno Region is a traditional leader countrywide for its number of long-livers. As of April 1st, 2011, it had 127 centenarians. Minsk Region is the second, with 91 long-livers, followed by Brest Region (90) — the former silver holder. Meanwhile, 75 people who have already celebrated their 100th anniversary reside in Gomel Region. Vitebsk Region has 70 and Mogilev Region can boast just 62. Despite the greatest volume of population, Minsk has the fewest number of residents aged 100 or more (47).
Easy to understand, open information Over 10,000 visit Chernobyl and Belarus: Past, Present, Future exhibition in Geneva
he exhibition has been attended by the general public, alongside repres entatives of international organisations and diplomatic missions, journalists and the artistic elite. Children’s drawings, photos and information booklets devoted to the catastrophe at the Chernobyl nuclear power station and its consequences for Belarus were on show to mark the 25th anniversary of the tragedy. The works were displayed in a main corridor at the UN’s headquarters.
ver the years of our independence, we’ve managed not only to retain, but also to strengthen and expand Belarusian-Ukrainian contacts at all levels. Can the experience be of help to ensure further integration within the Post-Soviet community? The Ambassador Extraordinar y and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Ukraine Valentin Velichko answered questions asked by Nina Romanova, the observer of Belarus magazine.
term, sustainable trend for further development. Of course, my task as Ambassador is to defend the national interests of my country in every possible way. The fact that the Belarusian Ambassador has been the Dean of the diplomatic corps in Ukraine for two years now also indicates that we are coping with the task quite well. Without any false modesty, I can assume that the honour of being awarded the Supreme Academic Council of Ukraine’s Person of the Year-2009 award for my
Union. Many analysts consider that our Customs Union is incomplete without Ukraine. What is your opinion of the ‘3+1’ formula, upon which President Viktor Yanukovych proposes building co-operation between Ukraine and the Customs Union? Is this a final compromise or the first step towards even greater rapprochement? In connection with the initiation of the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan, the issue of Ukraine’s possible joining has been discussed at
On friendly banks of the River Dnieper Belarus and Ukraine are connected not only by a common border stretching over 1,000km and by the immense River Dnieper, but by their common historical values, upon which generations have been raised. Today, a new angle of bilateral economic collaboration is emerging. The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Kiev, Valentin Velichko, has been honoured with an international award of the Supreme Academic Council of Ukraine’s Person of the Year-2009 national programme. He has made a considerable contribution to developing friendly and economic ties with Ukraine Mr. Velichko, you represent Belarus’ interests in the state about which Alexander Lukashenko said: ‘Ukraine is not only our kind and reliable neighbour, but a fraternal country. I ask all state administration bodies to build on our relations, proceeding from this’. How are you following this instruction and does our fraternity help us defend our national interests or does it hamper pragmatism? The Head of State recently confirmed this position in his Annual State of the Nation Address to the Belarusian People and the National Assembly, saying that ‘strengthening of co-operation with Ukraine and other partners in various directions shall remain a priority’. I should note here that our many-sided co-operation with Ukrainian partners remains active, characterised by a long-
considerable contribution to developing friendly and economic ties with Ukraine is an indicator of their satisfaction with the work being done. No doubt, pragmatism lies at the heart of any state’s foreign policy. However, we tend to focus on mutual interest. Evidently, imposing of interest in one direction lacks efficiency. We share common geopolitical interests with Ukraine, as well as having similar economic interests and a shared mentality, history and culture. These all contribute to the development of Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Despite close interrelations between our nations, our states have chosen different geopolitical vectors. Ukraine focuses on European Union integration, while Belarus is uniting with Russia and Kazakhstan within the Customs
various levels, with all possible positive and negative consequences for the Ukrainian economy studied. Unlike other Customs Union members, it is a WTO member. It’s worth mentioning that thorough research preceded the Customs Union’s formation, looking at the legislation of our three states, the establishment of the Single Customs Tariff, the application of unified non-tariff regulations and other rules governing cargo transportation across the Customs Union border (and between its members). This has been a prerequisite for lifting inner barriers to mutual trade, while shifting full control over the external border of the Customs Union. Unifying our foreign trade activity has required change to each state’s national legislation, alongside the elaboration of an extensive normative legal
Cooperation base for the Customs Union. Work still continues, as we should remember on discussing prospects for Ukraine’s joining of the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan. After the USSR’s collapse, the former republics independently built customs, currency and tax legislation, proceeding from their own interests. The establishment of any integrated association — especially for states so closely situated — presupposes compromise of interests. However, integration also envisages mutual benefits. Each country has the right to independently assess the advantages and disadvantages of joining any union. That other states are interested in joining the Customs Union indicates the efficiency of its operation. At present, a free trade regime is operational regarding Belarus-Ukraine trade-economic relations, as stipulated by several international agreements — both bilateral and those within the CIS. I believe that our future trade-economic collaboration will continue to develop. Recently, Russian PM Vladimir Putin gave a clear invitation to Ukraine to join the Customs Union, offering privileged gas prices and other preferences. Is this a profitable proposal for Ukraine and what level of co-operation is enjoyed by Ukrainian enterprises with those of Belarus and Russia? How would our economies benefit for the Customs Union? Since July 2010, the Customs Union’s Customs Code has been operational; a fully-fledged Customs Union is already established, with some temporary exemptions. Belarus enjoys several major advantages within the Customs Union: the shift of all forms of control from the Belarusian-Russian border to the external border; the unification of sanitary, veterinary and phyto-sanitary measures; the abolishment of import customs duties in mutual trade (aiding exports); and the abolishment of the existing rules whereby country of origin of goods must be specified. It’s also of great importance that customs clearance for goods and transport vehicles is now
unified. All these aspects ensure free movement of goods within our single customs territory, promoting the attraction of foreign investments. The Customs Union (and the Single Economic Space in the future) is a strong form of integration, creating better conditions for the interaction of member states’ companies. The simpler the conditions of trade, the greater the possibility that firm trading contacts and co-operative ties will be established between companies. At present, Ukrainian enterprises are co-operating with firms in Belarus and Russia — in line with the Ashgabat agreement on
and assembly of agricultural machinery and tractors, among other promising directions. How do you view Ukrainian support for re-integration processes within the post-Soviet space? With which public associations and organisations does the Belarusian diplomatic mission cooperate in Ukraine? Ukrainians and Belarusians of the older generation tend to feel nostalgia for Soviet times, when a uniting idea and common goal existed. Recent sociological research indicates that about half of all Ukrainians wish the USSR remained. Taking this into account, it’s possible
‘Speaking of Belarusian-Ukrainian collaboration, we
have the chance to unite the potential of our scientificproduction complexes, jointly producing goods competitive on both Belarusian and Ukrainian markets and far beyond, including within the Customs Union states.’ industrial co-operation between the CIS countries. In all, 24 Belarusian and 18 Ukrainian industrial enterprises receive components and materials as part of this co-operation, deferring VAT payments until the ready-made products are sold. However, the potential of these liaisons remains underused. Speaking of Belarusian-Ukrainian collaboration, we have the chance to unite the potential of our scientific-production complexes, jointly producing goods competitive on both Belarusian and Ukrainian markets and far beyond, including within the Customs Union states. Agreements to develop bilateral co-operation regarding joint production were fixed on September 30th, 2010 (protocol 19 of a session of the Intergovernmental BelarusianUkrainian Mixed Commission on Issues of Trade-Economic Co-operation) as well as in a joint action plan which outlines the development of BelarusianUkrainian trade-economic collaboration for 2011. Joint facilities will appear, focusing on assembly of passenger carriages, processing of dairy products
to assume that Ukrainian society has a desire to unite with the former Soviet republics, in a certain format. The Belarusian Embassy in Kiev nurtures contacts and is always ready for interaction with Ukrainian public associations and organisations keen to expand Belarusian-Ukrainian ties regarding trade, culture, science and education. The majority of these organisations are for veterans, women and young people, or deal with Chernobyl problems and the patriotic upbringing of young people. We have close contacts with numerous organisations of the Belarusian diaspora in Ukraine, which are united within the All-Ukraine Union of Belarusians. We help Belarusians organise national holidays, festivals of Belarusian song and other events devoted to the preservation of our national traditions, history and culture among Belarusian expats. You are a laureate of Ukraine’s Person of the Year-2009 programme and, last year, were named among the top ten foreign diplomats in Ukraine
by Kiev Institute of World Policy. This shows your personal contribution and the place which Belarus occupies in our neighbour’s priorities. Why is Belarus valuable and interesting to Ukraine? Active growth of bilateral trade is the major evidence of Belarusian-Ukrainian interaction in recent years. In 2010, Ukraine was the second largest among Belarus’ trading partners, with Belarus occupying the fifth position among Ukraine’s foreign trading partners. Last year, our turnover stood at $4439.9mln., including $2562.3mln.of exports and $1877.6mln. of imports. The positive balance for Belarus was $684.7mln. Moreover, our countries have good prospects for further growth of turnover and expansion of trade-economic co-operation. Much potential is available. From January-February 2011, the positive trend continued, with turnover rising by 51.7 percent to reach $639.2mln. Exports grew by 55.4 percent, to reach $ 344.9mln. The positive balance stood at $50.6mln. We now aim to ensure equal access to markets and technologies, expansion of co-operative ties and strengthening of collaboration, establishing true partnerships between our countries.
oil transportation via Ukraine to Mozyr Refinery. An intergovernmental agreement was signed on July 12th, 2010, in Kiev, envisaging measures to develop collaboration in the field of oil transportation through the territories of Belarus and Ukraine. The document opens a new page in our bilateral liaisons, providing a practical solution to our shared need to diversify energy sources. Last year, 13 tankers of Venezuelan oil were supplied to Odessa, transported on to Mozyr by rail. In early 2011, an agreement was signed between Ukrtransnafta, OJSC and Belarusian Oil Company, CJSC on the transportation of 4m tonnes of oil in 2011, via the OdessaBrody oil pipeline; the latter is being used for Odessa-Brody-Mozyr route on a permanent basis. I wish to stress that this project is of great significance for both Belarus and Ukraine and the whole Eastern European region. I’m convinced that both our countries are interested in long-term, steady use of OdessaBrody oil pipeline. How do our interests combine in the food segment, which is actively developing both in Belarus and Ukraine? I know that Belarusian cheeses
‘Belarus and Ukraine are connected by a thousand years of shared history as well as by common historical values, upon which generations of our people have been raised. We share Slavonic spirituality, alongside relatives on both sides of the border.” In recent years, co-operation in the energy sphere has significantly strengthened and expanded, with Belarus supplying oil products to Ukraine. BNH Ukraine, Ltd. traditionally operates on the Ukrainian market; in 2010, BNK-Ukraine, Ltd. and a subsidiary of Belorusneft Republican Production Association were established and are now supplying Belarusian oil products. Last year, our energy collaboration expanded, with Belarus launching
are popular in Kiev — both regarding price and quality… Belarusian-Ukrainian agricultural co-operation has long traditions which continue to develop, being an integral part of our trade-economic liaisons. Belarus exports a wide range of dairy products to Ukraine, including butter, dried and condensed milk, cheeses and sugar. We’re interested in expanding our supplies to Ukraine; moreover, our dairy and meat products are highly appreciated by
Ukrainian consumers — as confirmed at numerous agricultural fairs held in Kiev. Belarus imports grain, sunflower oil and oilseed extracts from Ukraine, with food comprising over 20 percent of our total imports from this country. Does this mean that our economies supplement each other well? In recent times, it’s become more obvious that Belarus-Ukraine co-operation goes beyond ‘pure trade’. Mutual supplies of ingredients and components are becoming common while mutual investments have grown in recent years. We’ve established joint assembly machine building facilities, providing direct investments into our state economies. At the moment, eight Belarusian-Ukrainian assemblies are operational. In Ukraine, joint ventures assemble MTZ tractors, Mogilevliftmash lifts and Lidaagroprommash seeders. Belarus assembles Bogdan buses, Kryukov Railway Car Building Works passenger carriages and Bratsla, JSC’s milking equipment. Meanwhile, work is underway to launch assembly of Belarus’ Belkommunmash trolley buses in Chernigov. Our strategic aim is not only to preserve these results — working under new conditions and taking alternative routes — but to ensure the further growth
Culture uniting peoples
of our mutual trade, while strengthening production co-operation. People often sing the same songs in Belarusian and Ukranian villages. Does this have any importance? Of course, our interaction goes beyond trade. We’re expanding bilateral ties in the fields of culture, education and science. In 2010, Kiev and Lvov hosted Days of Belarusian Culture in Ukraine, demonstrating the significant interest of Ukrainians in Belarusian national art. Since September 2010, students have been offered a new speciality at the Philology Department of Kiev’s National Taras Shevchenko University, studying Belarusian language and literature, Ukrainian language and literature and English language. Eight students are state funded, with one having graduated from school with a gold medal and another with a silver medal. They have arrived from all over Ukraine, with some having Belarusian roots. There were 14 applications per place for the course — almost as many as for the most popular speciality: English Language. Regional and twin-city relations are developing, with agreements now signed by over 40 cities in Belarus and Ukraine. We could discuss our bilateral co-
operation for hours, since every sphere is covered, enjoying mutual interest and joint projects. Ukraine was among the first to recognise Belarusian sovereignty in 1991. This year, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. How have the past twenty years been valuable? Would you agree that our two independent states’ relations — which share a thousand years of history — are an example of tolerance and good neighbourliness in our disturbed world of confessional and national confrontation? Belarus and Ukraine are connected by a thousand years of shared history, and are united by a 1,000km border and the great Dnieper River, as well as by common historical values, upon which generations of our people have been raised. We share Slavonic spirituality, alongside relatives on both sides of the border. It’s sometimes difficult to define who is who: many Belarusians have Ukrainian family names, and vice versa. Active economic, cultural and interpersonal ties are supported. We’ve made great efforts to preserve, strengthen and expand BelarusianUkrainian contacts at all levels, during our years of independence. We can state
firmly that our joint work has been a success, with contacts established and multi-faceted relations nurtured which, I’m sure, will continue to develop, strengthen and expand. We see interest in mutually beneficial co-operation at all levels — from our governments to ordinary people. We are striving to unite our efforts to overcome hardships and create conditions for the economic development and raised standards of living for our people. Our relations are not subject to any political situation, being based on our states’ mutual interests, mentality, history and culture. These are the foundation of our future collaboration, as confirmed by the constructive dialogue with former President Yushchenko. During the presidency of Yanukovych, we also saw constructive and extremely open negotiations, which have been reflected in our forthcoming Belarusian-Ukrainian co-operation. Belarus and Ukraine have passed legislation to support interrelations, irrespective of changes taking place in our states’ domestic policies or within the international arena. I’m convinced the Belarusian-Ukrainian co-operation has good prospects.
epresentatives of over 600 mass media companies, from eight countries, have attended the 15th International Specialised “Mass Media in Belarus” Exhibition held in Minsk in May. The event was founded by the Information Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, the Minsk City Executive Committee, the National State TV and Radio Company, the Belarusian Union of Journalists, the Union of Publishers and Distributors of Printed Media and the Telecommunication Union. In his welcoming speech to the exhibition’s participants, President Alexander
Lukashenko noted, “In the 15 years of its existence, the forum has gained acknowledged popularity, becoming a significant event in our country and abroad.” Delegations from Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, China, Cuba, Venezuela and India presented expositions, with Moscow as the fair’s honourable guest. Summing up the results of the forum, Belarus’ Information Minister, Oleg Proleskovsky, stresses that, over the past two years, circulation of printed media has been preserved. “Despite unstable circulations globally, we’ve managed to avoid this problem. State newspapers enjoy a one-time circulation of almost one
Open to the world
May is traditionally rich in events for the Belarusian printed media. Results are summed up, while plans for the future are outlined, taking into consideration the domestic situation on the media market and the international situation
million copies, with district newspapers close behind. The latter are also popular, actively rivalling major national editions. Each district newspaper has its own Internet site, visited by Belarusians, as well as citizens of Canada, Israel, Germany and other countries,” he explains. 1,364 printed and 240 electronic mass media editions are registered in Belarus, with publications released in Belarusian, Russian, English, German, Ukrainian, Polish and other European languages. Nine information agencies operate in the country. The non-state media includes 962 printed and 72 electronic resources. The foreign media has recently been paying attention to Belarus. Mr. Lukashenko has been interviewed by leading newspapers and information agencies from Eurasia and America several times, while j ou r n a l ists from neigh-
PROSPECTS bouring states often visit Belarus as part of their press tours. In March, two dozen Polish journalists came to Minsk to find out about our agriculture, industry, tourism, infrastructure and cultural sights. As a result, they formed an objective view of Belarus, sharing it with their readers and listeners. Polish journalist Pavel Vitkovsky believes that ‘Poland has little information about Belarus’. “This is my first time in Belarus. The little information which our media share about your country differs from what I see with my own eyes. I’m especially pleased to see your clean cities and streets. Everything is tidy and beautiful,” he says. Kondrat Spula, a TV reporter, admits that he ‘was surprised on coming to Belarus’, adding, “Such a wonderful country exists to the east of Poland.” Anna Klos, Editor of Pomorski Obozrevatel, notes, “When we crossed the border, we were first of all impressed by the good standard of the roads, which are similar to those in the west of Europe. Local people are so friendly. They’re content with life, as is evident.” Belarus magazine is also published in Polish, regularly covering bilateral cooperation in various spheres. Every four months, the Cultural Centre of Belarus in Poland (situated in the centre of Podlaskie Voivodeship — Białystok) releases information bulletins. A large Belarusian diaspora resides in Poland while a large Polish community lives in Belarus. This is inspiring the media of our two states to collaborate more actively, informing their countrymen of the latest news. Belarus’ media has the closest ties with Russia, as has been the case since Soviet times. Traditional press tours by Russian journalists to Belarus are organised by the Permanent Committee of the Union State, with support from the Belarusian Embassy to Russia and the National Press Centre of Belarus. Each tour is thematic, helping Russians get to know various aspects of economic, social and political life at the geographical centre of Europe. No doubt, Belarus is open to the world’s media, while showing the wider world to Belarusians. By Viktor Korbut
Industry driving economy forward MINISTRY OF EconomY acknowledges positive dynamics of growth in the country
he Ministry of Economy notes Economists note that Belarus’ trend to that, in the first quarter on raise GDP’s material intensity continues; 2011, figures almost equalled since January-March, this has increased by those from the pre-crisis year 0.3 percent. The largest growth was regisof 2008. GDP growth reached 10.9 tered in industry (accounting for a third of percent (against the similar period of Belarus’ GDP): ore-mining (0.5 percent) 2010). Among the major ‘drivers’ are and processing (0.2 percent). Production industry (3.7 percent), trade, repair and distribution of gas and water saw 0.4 of cars, household appliances and percent growth. The trend is the result personal use goods (3.6 of rising prices for In industrial production percent) and construcimported raw materials, In trade and repair of household appliances and personal use goods products and fuel. tion (1.7 percent). The In construction In other industry sectors spheres of construction Industrial growth in early 2011 was accomand trade have seen the largest growth of panied by a reduced gross value added ratio of ready (by 30.3 and products and average 20.6 percent respectively). monthly The f irst indust r ia l months of production volumes. In 2011 were characterised comparison to by a high pace of those registered on industrial producApril 1st, 2010, this Branch-structured GDP tion growth (11.8 growth values for the first quarter figure fell from a quarter of 2011 as compared to the same p ercent) — much period last year (%) to half. In turn, industrial labour productivity owing to increased growth in the processing industry increased by 10.4 percent — due to the (114 percent). Meanwhile, most optimisation of the number of staff and s p h e r e s o f e c o n o m i c a c t i v i t y growing monthly volumes per worker. Export of services was the most managed to surpass their annual e s t i m a t e d f i g u r e s . I n d u s t r i a l optimistic branch last year, with production rose by 111.8 percent figures continuing to strengthen in (against the first quarter of 2010), 2011. From January-February 2011, the ore-mining industry — by 113.9 the foreign trade balance was positive, percent, food production — by standing at $309mln. However, growth 109.9 percent, metallurgy — by against the same period of 2010 is not 117.2 percent, machine building so large: just $6.6mln. This mostly — by 114.9 percent and production comprised computer ($13.6mln.), of transport vehicles and equipment business ($14.5mln.) and construction — by 114.9 percent. ($2.8mln.) services.
n April, Belarus celebrates a sad anniversary: 25 years since the catastrophe at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Doctors, scientists and economists speak of the huge loss which the disaster caused: $235bln. in monetary figures. Even today, a whole Belarusian region is excluded from normal life and economic activity; now known as Polesie Radiation-Ecological Reserve. Initially, vast lands in Gomel, Mogilev and Brest regions were contaminated with radionuclides but these are now gradually reviving. Belarus has been restoring the affected territories independently, using its own funds and, over the past 20 years, has injected $19bln. into their rehabilitation (less than 10 percent of the total required). However, results are already evident. Except for the most contaminated exclusion zone, people have returned to live in the affected territories — working, farming and giving birth to children. Life has resumed its usual course, as it does elsewhere in the country.
Who shall do this, if not us?
This year, on April 26th, the anniversary of the Chernobyl catastrophe, President Alexander Lukashenko visited the most affected Belarusian district: Narovlya. Speaking to local residents, he noted the dramatic pages in our Belarusian history. Our great-grandfathers lived through WWI and, later, the Civil War, while our grandfathers witnessed WWII. “Probably, Chernobyl is our cross,” Mr. Lukashenko pondered,
speaking of investment into the rehabilitation of the affected territories. The President assured those present that the policy of revival will continue. The state is to continue laying gas pipelines to homes, while improving policlinics and hospitals and developing agriculture and industrial production. “Who will revive this land? Who shall do this, if not us?” stressed Mr. Lukashenko. Speaking to Narovlya citizens, he promised that their land will prosper.
Investments into the future to replace benefits
In May 2007, the Belarusian Parliament adopted a draft law on the abolishment of some benefits for the population, including some Chernobyl related payments. The state chose this unpopular step to concentrate money on more large-scale projects, creating conditions to develop the most contaminated lands. “We’ve used this money — without scattering it — to lay gas lines for the Chernobyl zone and to
Revival build a chain of roads,” commented Mr. Lukashenko, adding that benefits have been preserved for those citizens who have been most affected by the nuclear power plant disaster. In fact, all the money so far allocated as benefits remains within the affected territories — existing as investments into projects. Revival of contaminated lands continues and, according to the Belarusian Emergency Ministry’s D ep ar t ment for L iquid at ion of Consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Disaster, a five-year state programme has been launched in 2011; its budget stands at around $2.3bln. By 2015, 21,000 houses and flats will be connected to gas lines, while 42 artesian water wells will be built or reconstructed, in addition to 44 de-ironisation stations for water and 271km of water pipes. In total, 1,314km of roads and streets are to be asphalted, with 61,500sq.m of social accommodation built. The state continues to give targeted financial and non-material assistance to all those residing in the affected territories. The Department for Liquidation of Consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Disaster notes that young graduates of higher educational establishments who choose to work in such territories receive a bonus on their salary. Meanwhile, young people from these territories are given preference on entering university (on condition of having equal points) and are given priority for hostel accommodation. Those people who are now disabled due to the Chernobyl catastrophe also receive benefits. Belarusians who worked within 10km of the station (when the disaster occurred) can retire 10 years earlier while those working within 30km are permitted to retire 5 years earlier.
Reviving agriculture and industry
While developing the social infrastructure of the affected territories, the state is simultaneously stimulating their economic development and the revival of industry. Previously neglected agricul-
tural lands are gradually returning to use (excluding those situated within 30km of the station). The process continues; last year, Gomel Region’s Mozyr and Svetlogorsk districts were farmed once again. The Agriculture and Food Minister, Mikhail Rusy, stresses that these decisions were taken after strict radiation assessments, while products grown on the Chernobyl territories are carefully monitored. Special technologies and fodder enable farmers to produce ‘clean’ milk and meat. According to the First Deputy Head of the Department for Liquidation of Consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Disaster, Anatoly Zagorsky, permitted levels of radioactivity in the Republic are the strictest in Europe. Industry is also reviving, alongside farming. Mr. Lukashenko visited the Narovlya Plant of Hydro-Machinery (a subsidiary of Minsk Tractor Plant specialising in the manufacture of filter elements for agricultural machinery hydro-systems and high pressure hoses). Several years ago, it
the Chernobyl catastrophe — does not look depressed.
As we mark the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl tragedy, the disaster at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant has pushed the world to reconsider safety of nuclear energy. Belarus plans to build its own nuclear power plant, so the theme is topical. Speaking to journalists in Narovlya District, the President stressed that our plans won’t change, since Belarus needs such a station. It will be constructed to meet the strictest security standards. The Chernobyl catastrophe shocked the world but nuclear energy continues developing. Over the past twenty five years, over 120 reactors have been built. Mr. Lukashenko spoke of France as an example, where 80 percent of electricity is generated from nuclear power. He recalled the plans of Russia, Poland and the Baltic States to construct their own nuclear facilities, which are to appear close to the Belarusian border. Why
According to Belarus’ National Statistical Committee, 2,401 urbanised areas — inhabited by 1,140,000 (or 12 percent of the country ’s population) — were situated in the area of radioactive contamination in early 2011 was loss making; now, it turns a profit and is responding to market demand in producing special clothing and bed linen. The new sewing factory has created jobs, while increasing the volume of taxes paid in the district. Private business is also developing in Narovlya; Mr. Lukashenko noted that ‘it’s impossible to send private businessmen to contaminated lands by force’. The arrival of business here means that the land offers working and living conditions. Really, Narovlya District — among the most contaminated from
then should Belarus refuse to develop nuclear energy? At present, our electricity generating facilities rely almost one hundred percent on gas supplies. Our own nuclear power plant will cut this dependence by 4.5bln. cubic metres a year (or 20-25 percent) — a significant figure. Apart from nuclear energy, the country also plans to use more actively local fuels such as coal, wood, peat and oil shale. “A nuclear power plant shall be built in Belarus,” stressed Mr. Lukashenko. “It is only a matter of time.” By Vitaly Vasiliev
When ecology benefits from trade Germany’s Michael Otto Foundation ready to buy carbon offsets from Belarus, worth 3-5mln. Euros
Figures reflect concrete actions Government considers results of state programmes adopted after Chernobyl accident
our state programmes have been completed so far, costing around $20bln. Since the catastrophe, about 20,000 residents from 470 towns and villages in Gomel and Mogilev regions have been relocated to provide for protection against radiation. The programmes have given special attention to the provision of medical services for accident liquidators and the population from the most affected areas. The major accent has been placed on special medical surveillance, allowing early detection of illness and prompt treatment. Annually, around 1.5mln. people are examined free of charge, with state funds paying for spa and resort treatments and recuperation, primarily for children and teenagers from the regions most affected by the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear p ower st at ion. A l l pupi ls f rom secondary educational establishments within contaminated areas are provided with free meals at their place of study
for the whole academic year (unlike in Russia or Ukraine). In the sphere of socio-economic rehabilitation, the creation of normal living conditions is the key; during the post-Chernobyl period, around 5mln. square metres of housing have been constructed for relocated residents: over 66,000 flats and houses. In addition, 239 settlements have been built in ‘clean’ areas, boasting the necessary infrastructure and service enterprises. At present, a programme is being implemented to overcome the consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe and is to be completed in 2020. The fifth state programme, like its predecessors, is socially-oriented. It envisages 76 innovation projects aimed at socio-economic development of the affected regions. These encompass creation of modern production facilities to secure employment, self-financing and producing marketable goods. Life within those areas affected by the Chernobyl accident is to become more comfortable.
e’re talking about quotas on wetland greenhouse gas emissions over an area of 30,000 hectares,” explains Victor Fenchuk, Director APB-BirdLife Belarus Public Association. At present, Belarus can’t sell greenhouse gas emission quotas under the Kyoto Protocol, but can trade them on the international voluntary market. Domestic scientists and ecologists have developed a method to measure the reduction of CO2 gas emissions as a result of restoration of damaged wetlands (meeting international standards). A month ago, a procedure was completed to allow reduced greenhouse gas emissions to be calculated (from the restoration of peat bogs); these are now included on the list of carbon offsets which can be traded on the voluntary market. According to experts, the country is ready to trade CO2 quotas, with major European businesses already showing interest in co-operation with Belarus in this area. Belarus can sell carbon offsets estimated at 50 million tonnes per year on the international market but needs to create a special fund to deal with this issue, finalising the necessary legal framework. Belarus’ Deputy Minister for Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, Anatoly Lis, notes that Belarus needs to develop a regulatory framework before beginning to trade in greenhouse gas emission quotas. Moreover, funds derived from the sale of carbon offsets can only be used for environmental purposes. “This is not a simple mechanism,” Mr. Lis asserts.
e c e nt ly t he SU R E proj e c t (Sustainable Urban Energy in the Region of the European Neighbourhood Partnership — towards the Covenant of Mayors) was presented in Polotsk. It was launched in 2010 and is to last for thirty months, costing around 800,000 Euros. Its partners are the city of Friedrichshafen (a leading partner from Germany), the city of Murcia (Spain), Polotsk’s City Executive Committee (Belarus), the city of Sale (Morocco) and the Inter-Mediterranean
initiative pledge to implement EU strategy, known as ‘20-20-20’. The strategy aims to achieve significant improvements in the sphere of sustainable energy development by 2020, reducing CO2 emissions by 20 percent, while expanding application of alternative energy sources by 20 percent and raising energy efficiency by 20 percent. Spain, possessing great experience in this area, is currently working on a plan of sustainable energy development for Belarus. The National Academy of
In line with popular initiative Polotsk may join European Covenant of Mayors in September Commission of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions (France). In all, 250,000-300,000 Euros are to be allocated to finance the project, promoting co-operation between the Eastern and Southern regions of the European Neighbourhood Partnership. The project aims to ensure sustainable energy development in Polotsk and Sale by their joining the Covenant of Mayors. The participants of this popular European
Sciences’ Energy Institute could join the project as a subcontractor. The plan for Sale and Polotsk will be submitted to the Covenant of Mayors by the end of the year, including fundamental analysis of CO2 emissions across the city and information on major energy resources and their consumers. In addition, there will be conducted an audit of ten municipal facilities, looking at their energy saving potential and offering ideas on how best to introduce alternative energy resources.
Avoid disturbing natural balance Belarus hopes to attract around $3mln. from Global Environment Facility to preserve its wetland marshes
h e M i n i s t r y f o r Na t u r a l Resources and Environmental Protection has already applied to the GEF for funding for a new 2012 project: restored damaged wetlands. A decision needs to be made as to how each marshland should be used. “Taking into account all factors, we’ll decide whether to restore each marsh or whether to extract peat in line with definite criteria,” explains Alexander Kozulin, a leading research officer at the National Academy of Sciences’ Scientific-Practical Centre for Bioresources. The Energy Ministry is currently involved in developing the schemes, while participation of the Ministry for Natural Resources and Environmental Protection will allow specialists to make more informed decisions. Measures are also planned to improve the system of specially protected natural territories. At present, peatlands in Belarus account for 2.4mln. hectares, with only 862,000 hectares preserved in their natural state by 2010. For more than half, their hydrological regime was broken, as the land has been drained and peat extracted. Belarus hopes to receive soon around $9mln. from the GEF for new ecological projects to preserve wetlands and develop wind power. In addition, energy efficiency in residential buildings is to be improved.
Energy without threat Largest project to build first Belarusian nuclear power station launched
n March 15th, 2011, the heads of our Russian and Belarusian governments — Vladimir Putin and Mikhail Myasnikovich — signed a landmark agreement in Minsk: to build the first Belarusian nuclear power station. Here, we’ll look at why this is a necessity, and how this major project will contribute to the economy, changing the lives of ordinary people. We’ll also look at what the possible negative ecological consequences may be…
Fundamentals of development
Compared to other European states, Belarus has quite a significant economic potential, with dynamically developing industry, construction and agriculture. Accordingly, energy security is of importance. Belarus has peat, wood and small deposits of oil but these hardly cover the country’s needs: just 18 percent. The shortfall must be imported, with Russian natural gas being the major source; the narrowness of the approach is evident. In Soviet times, nuclear energy was viewed as the perfect solution. However, the Chernobyl disaster ruined plans to construct a nuclear station (for heat and electricity) near Minsk. Twenty five years have passed, with citizens now ready to return to the idea, knowing that technology has advanced. It was no easy decision to give the go-ahead to a nuclear power plant; the consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe still affect hundreds of thousands
a brown coal generator, a nuclear power station is essential. It will help us solve energy security problems, while restraining the growth of energy tariffs, even lowering them. A nuclear power station should cut our need for natural gas by 25 percent, while atomic electrical energy is half the price of that from traditional heating stations. The emission of greenhouse gases will fall, allowing Belarus to trade corresponding quotas. Specialists have come to the conclusion that Belarus’ most promising option is to build nuclear power stations with enhanced security third generation reactors. Three authoritative global companies — which boast the necessary technologies — have been invited to participate. So far, only Russian Rosatom State Corporation has confirmed its ability to fulfil the order, meeting stipulated terms. An intergovernmental agreement, signed on March 15th, lays out the legal basis for a corresponding contract, with a detailed plan of action. The first block of the Belarusian nuclear power station would be ready by 2017, with the second completed one year later. Their total capacity would be 2.4 megawatts. Supervising organisations from both sides have been appointed to oversee the construction works. Russian Atomstroyexport, CJSC is to act as a general contractor. The total cost of the object, including infrastructure, stands at about $9bln., with talks underway regarding the share which Russia will cover by credit. Preparations are under way
of Belarusians. Over a decade ago, I personally attended a Governmental meeting, where the future of the Belarusian energy sphere was discussed. The possibility of constructing our own nuclear power station was studied, with President Alexander Lukashenko treating the issue with caution, considering all aspects of security. Since then, scientists and designers have provided full guarantees that modern nuclear powers stations cannot repeat the tragedy of Chernobyl. This has enabled the President to say, in his recent State of the Nation Address to the Belarusian People and National Assembly, “We’ll build a nuclear power station in Belarus — whatever it may cost.” The decision is driven by serious economic need. With 95 percent of electricity generated from natural gas, fluctuations of price for this resource could destabilise the national economy. Belarus’ Deputy Minister of Energetics, Mikhail Mikhadyuk, explains, “We should clearly understand that Belarus needs its own nuclear power station, despite the recent Japanese event. The country has no energy resources of its own, so there is no alternative. Despite our use of alternative fuels, water and wind energy and the planned construction of
Solution Security can never be overestimated
No doubt, security is the major issue for Belarus’ future station. In this respect, it meets the highest standards. In 2008, two special IAEA missions assessed our Belarusian scientists’ preliminary work, acknowledging the great scope of scientific studies. In addition, Belarus and its neighbouring states have hosted public discussions of the possible influence of a nuclear power station on the environment. Various viewpoints have been taken into consideration. The Director for RosatomStateCorporationProgrammes, Sergey Boyarkin, tells us about security measures at the nuclear power station, “Russia has the strictest requirements on nuclear energy worldwide. The reactor planned for Belarus has more security systems than any other foreign reactor. We proceed from the fact that the physics of technological processes must prevent a repetition of the Chernobyl disaster. In the worst case, radiation won’t go further than 800m of the axis point of the reactor.” The Fukushima tragedy has inspired more discussions on security of nuclear energy. Mr. Boyarkin agrees with this, noting that the Japanese station lacked several essential components: a 20cm reactor wall (made from ultra-strong steel); an enclosure vessel from reinforced concrete (covered with steel and able to withstand a terrorist act or an air plane crash); a huge melting pot at the bottom (in case of meltdown); four autonomous energy supply generators for each reactor; unique simulators; an independent system of civil defence; and a fire-fighting unit. The Belarusian station will have all these, just as a Chinese nuclear power station which is acknowledged to be the safest in the world. Similar stations are currently being built in Russia’s Leningrad and Kaliningrad regions. However, the Belarusian station will differ, having an additional diesel generator for its autonomous energy supply. Much will depend on personnel; four of the largest Belarusian universities are
already training specialists to construct and service the station. Moreover, many Belarusian expats — working at Russian and Lithuanian nuclear power stations — are ready to return to their homeland to develop local nuclear energy.
A city will be built...
The old town of Ostrovets, in Grodno Region of Belarus, welcomes visitors with cosy-looking low-rise houses painted in different colours. However, several kilometres away from
preparing a foundation pit for the administrative building. “People are drawn to this work,” comments our guide — the Chairman of Ostrovets District Executive Committee, Adam Kovalko. He devotes almost 70 percent of his working hours to construction matters. “Nearby, a large garden will appear, with storage. We’ve already reconstructed our town hotel and shall soon start building a stadium. Advanced technologies have enabled us to cut the number of workers in neighbouring farms by 30-50 percent, allowing
People are drawn to this work,” – comments the Chairman of Ostrovets District Executive Committee, Adam Kovalko. “Advanced technologies have enabled us to cut the number of workers in neighbouring farms by 30-50 percent, allowing them to work
at the site as builders and, later, specialists.”
the major square, things are rather different. Without waiting until the final documents are signed and Russia starts financing, Belarus is already conducting preparatory works for two new residential suburbs on the edge of Ostrovets. These will house nuclear power station builders and workers. A powerful construction base has been launched, in addition to cement facilities, wood processing and reinforcing workshops, and a railway. An information centre for the station is also operational. Many delegations have visited the site to view how this corner of Belarus is changing. We’ve also visited this major construction site, driving along the newly built road, crossing Vilnius-Polotsk motorway. The town for builders includes several dozen blue-painted houses, marked ‘canteen’ or ‘offices’. Concrete plates cover the road, while lamp posts remind us of an avenue in the capital. Major workers here are foremen, car and tractor drivers. They outline plans for the construction site (covering 2 square kilometres), while
them to work at the site as builders and, later, specialists.” Local residents have their own view on their proximity to the site. “In the past, we’ve also neighboured a nuclear power station; the Ignalina plant was just 20km away,” says secondary school teacher Oksana Yurkoit. “We have no fears. Meanwhile, we hope to gain new schools and enterprises. Our pupils enter Belarusian universities to study nuclear energy related subjects while others attend college to become builders, hoping to gain well-paid and interesting jobs in their native town.” Other investors are also coming to Ostrovets, with the Turks ready to inject a dozen million dollars into the construction of a hotel and spa. The Russians have set up several facilities as well, while another businessman rented a site in the centre of the town to build a trading centre. Clearly, nuclear physics provides more than energy; it is vital for the social-economic sphere. By Vladimir Bibikov
About the obvious
At the crossroads of Europe Migration can be compared with the natural phenomenon of tectonic movement, which can lead to earthquakes. Neither is under our control; both are inevitable. In Europe, irreversible processes are taking place before our eyes; our descendants may call this period ‘another transmigration of people’
elarus stands at the crossroads of Europe; accordingly, our culture, lifestyle and traditions are subject to powerful external influences. However, it’s unwise to study only the negative aspects of migration, regardless of Euronews reports on the number of migrants washing up on the shores of the Italian island of Lampedusa. Belarusian law enforcement agencies often detect illegal migration at the border but labour migration is necessary for a state where population is aging and reducing in numbers. Western Europe has been trying to solve this problem for many years, attracting foreigners. Belarus might also need to follow suit. With this in mind, the pros and cons of migration must be carefully studied.
National security above all
The latest plan for Belarus’ national security outlines some evident facts: ‘Human potential has become the most important factor of social-economic development. Global demographic trends — first of all, ageing population in developed states against rapid growth of population in developing countries and enhanced migration flow — are more
actively influencing the political situation, economic state and eco-cultural landscape of countries and regions’. Demographic security is vital. The plan notes that, in Belarus, life expectancy is rising, with mortality — including infant — falling; on the global scale, we even occupy on of the leading position in this respect. However, our population is decreasing, though at a slower pace than observed previously. Vienna’s Institute of Demography’s European Statistical Review for 2010 forecasts that Belarus’ population will continue falling and, in 2020, will reach 8.7-8.9mln. — depending on the intensity of migration flow. According to the National Statistical Committee, last year, 108,100 children were born (1,100 less than in 2009) and 137,300 people died (2,200 more). The natural fall in population was 29,200. However, this was offset by migration growth of 10,300. In 2010, the total population of the Republic fell by just 18,900 (against 13,000 in 2009).
Of course, the state is primarily focusing on promoting birth rate, enhancing health and social protection via its demographic policy.
Meanwhile, migration needs to be regulated. “If nothing changes, we’ll see a deficit of labour resources in the future,” predicts Alexey Begun, the Head of the Department for Citizenship and Migration at Belarus’ Ministr y of Internal Affairs. “A positive migration balance is observed annually, with 10,000-11,000 more people coming into the country than leaving. However, even this figure isn’t enough to compensate for the natural decrease in population. We hope to accept up to 15,000 migrants from the CIS and beyond by 2015. This step should compensate for about half of the natural fall in the population.” According to Mr. Begun, Belarus is now ready to pay a sum equivalent to around $1,000 to labour migrants arriving in the country for residence. Minsk hopes that the CIS citizens will be the first to respond to these measures of support, which aim to promote migration. It’s easier for them to assimilate into our society, as they have no language barrier and boast similar culture and traditions. Statistical data confirms the trend: 90 percent of all migrants coming to Belarus in recent years have been born within the postSoviet territory. In 2010, over 8,500
About the obvious
Russians, around 2,000 Ukrainians, 550 Lithuanians, and over a thousand Uzbeks, Armenians, Kazakhs and Moldovans came to Belarus to live and work. “On January 1st, we abolished the need for companies to have a license to employ foreign workers. Moreover, the procedure of receiving permission to work has been simplified, as immediately reflected in migration figures,” notes Mr. Begun. “For example, in January, we issued three times more special permissions for work to foreigners than three years ago. Moreover, in the first month of 2010, growth against the previous period doubled.” Of course, we should not rely purely on labour migration to counteract the existing demographic trend. It’s impossible to say that the amount of people arriving in Belarus is the same as that of people coming to Western Europe and we must take into consideration the negative influence of huge inflows
of other nationalities. “The arrival of 5,000 or, even, 10,000 immigrants isn’t noticeable,” says the Head of Dynamics and Forecasting of Population Group at Vienna’s Institute of Demography, Sergey Shcherbov. Demographers say that, to ensure the Belarusian population remains at the present level, about 2mln. migrants should be brought into the country over the coming forty years. “This is a huge number,” admits the specialist. “Taking into account the forecast decrease in the Belarusian population, by 2050, twenty five percent of the country’s citizens will be immigrants.” However, there is no cause for concern. The major problem is the demographic burden of the elderly. According to specialists, to ensure enough labour resources by 2050, Belarus should gain an additional 10mln. residents. This would mean that our population would be totally replen-
ished with migrants and Mr. Shcherbov considers this approach a dead end. Migration could be advantageous if reasonably approached. At present, immigrants account for 10-15 percent of population in many European states, with the number steadily growing. Forecasts state that, in 50 years’ time, immigrants could comprise the major part of the British population. In recent months, European leaders have announced a failure in their multiculturism policy. France, the UK and Germany have no wish to see Arabs, Africans or Asians living in ghettos, keeping to their own traditions and customs while failing to study the language and culture of the country which has given them shelter.
Middle East unrest
The present events in the Middle East threaten Europe, since a new wave of immigration from this region could
About the obvious follow. If ‘the Arab spring’ continues, with Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi failing to come to an agreement with the rebels, and more armed conflict arise in the region — for instance, in Syria — the whole European Union could experience the same explosion of migration as Lampedusa. Some estimates state that, since the beginning of disorder in the Middle East, 400,000 immigrants have attempted to reach Europe. Illegal migration, terrorism and xenophobia are real problems for Europe, which must unite its efforts. So far, the results leave much to be desired. S ome European philosophers have begun to compare Europe’s situation with that of Ancient Rome, quoting Spengler. However, such comparisons are premature. Most of the 400,000 immigrants have been deported back to their place of origin by the EU law enforcement agencies. However, the core of the problem remains unsolved. Europe wishes to establish a zone of stability and relative prosperity along its borders, rather than exacerbating conflicts. Europ e is emerging f rom its financial crisis but is already facing a new challenge, as French Figaro newspaper notes. It predicts that the next crisis will be connected with illegal migration: ‘Poor Europe! It made so much effort to save the Eurozone but must now save the Schengen zone’. Joking aside, real anxiety lies at the heart of the problem. Paris and Italy are arguing over who should accept immigrants from the Middle East; it’s a true challenge to European unity. The Council of Europe recently met to discuss the migration issue, with some Strasbourg politicians showing a certain detachment from reality. Ms. Tineke Strik of the Netherlands asserted that the shift of migration from illegal to legal is some way off (i.e. Italy has issued entr y permission to some refugees). Her views were immediately attacked by those states which have most suffered from illegal migration. Edward Lee, of the UK, stressed that
‘flow would grow if we allow refugees to gain the status of legal migrants’. He noted that 320,000 Somali refugees currently reside in the UK but have failed to become integrated into society, regardless of the efforts of authorities. Mr. Lee is convinced that it would have been easier to pay a couple of billion pounds to Gaddafi. Instead, a military campaign was launched. “Only stable regimes in North Africa can save Europe from an inflow of migrants,” he concluded. Despite tough criticism, a resolution on the report was adopted.
Policing traffic at crossroads of Europe
T h e g l ob a l s itu at i on cannot but affect Belarus, as it's situated at the crossroads of Europe. President Alexander Lukashenko recently met the heads of the State Border Committee, ordering a report on struggle against illegal migration. Problems relating to illegal migration and human trafficking continue. Last year, over 12,000 people with fake or invalid documents were detected at the Belarusian border, in addition to over a hundred illegal migrants (including 67 directly on the border); 74 criminal cas es were instituted, with criminal proceedings brought against 16 people guilty of arranging illegal migration. It’s b e c o m i n g increasingly difficult to define the difference between illegal migrants and asylum seekers. The Head of the UNHCR Office in Belarus, Sholeh Safavi, recently met her Belarusian
colleagues to say that ‘the Libyan war alone has made at least 400,000 people leave their homes’. She noted that dozens of refugees originate from the Ivory Coast, Eritrea, Sudan and other African states, with Sicily comprising more immigrants than native p opu -
About the obvious lation. “The High Commissioner for Refugees calls upon all countries to accept refugees from Libya and other states of the region,” she added. Against events taking place in the Middle East and North Africa, Belarus expects to see a rising number of illegal migrants. The First Deputy Chairman of the State Border Committee, Andrey Gorulko, says, “At present, we are registering citizens from Egypt and the Congo travelling with false documents.” He explains that Belarus has already taken measures to stem the flow of illegal migration from Libya. “We’ve set up a refugee centre at the National Airport, with another being established in Brest,” Mr. Gorulko emphasises.
Exit to… dead end
Migration is a double edged sword. Fortunately, B elarus remains largely unaffected, although our
neighbours, such as Lithuania, have begun to feel its negative consequences. European TV channels show African refugees attacking EU borders while nations seem to be resettling within the EU. However, little information is provided. After the organisation’s expansion eastwards, hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians, Romanians and Poles have left their homelands, seeking employment and a better life in Western Europe. In May, the next wave of emigration is expected, as Germany and Austria open their labour markets to non-natives. When ten new countries joined the EU in 2004, the two states restricted labour movement, being afraid of an inflow of migrant workers. These days, the seven year postponement is close to ending. In Vilnius, German language courses are filled to brimming; nurses, plumbers and even butchers are packing their suitcases. Local experts advise applicants to consider the move carefully, since the seemingly harmless process of economic migration is hazard laden, leaving a demographic bomb for the future. According to German Handelsblatt newspaper, by 2015, Germany will be in need of about 3mln. workers, including a million graduates from university and 1.3mln. with secondary professional qualifications. It will also require 700,000 people of unqualified workforce. Experts say that German and Lithuanian economies have a similar structure, both boasting a high share of processing enterprises. Germany will try to acquire highly qualified workers and engineers (which Lithuania also needs) to ensure further development of its economy. Germany already enjoys major bu s i n e s s a c t iv it y, e mpl oy i ng Lithuanians. Both specialists and non-qualified staff are needed, with Internet sites advertising jobs with Aulina company, at its factories in Munich, Frankfurt and Hamburg,
with per-hour payment. Those who don’t know German are offered 6.5 Euros per hour while those who know English or German can expect to receive 7.5 Euros. Moreover, all workers can rent accommodation for 45 Euros a week. Even taking into account the necessary deductions, final salaries are certainly larger than those earned at home; EU members’ development differs widely. Many Lithuanian job seekers have trouble finding work in their homeland, as unemployment figures stand at 17.4 percent (the third highest in the EU). Looking for a job abroad seems the only answer. Sadly, Lithuanian emigration has a long history, with the past two decades seriously changing the demographic situation. According to its Statistical Department, over 500,000 people have left Lithuania since 1990. Naturally, defining the actual number is almost impossible; the figure could be much bigger. Emigration and, accordingly, decreasing p opulation numb ers are now among Lithuania’s major problems. Professor Liudas Truska, at the Vilnius Pedagogic University’s History Department, has given a much-spoken-of interview, saying that Lithuanians’ emigration is like a mass evacuation; it began 15 years ago but is now stronger than ever. In the period between the wars, about 100,000 left the country but natural growth replenished the loss. According to the historian, the situation now threatens the nation’s survival. The demographic problem is becoming a major aspect of security, ahead of economic issues — not only for Lithuania. Attraction of migrants is a seemingly painless solution, since the modern Europe could hardly exist without a mobile labour force, but it is a solution with further effects. Nevertheless, to ensure national security, a ‘foreign’ labour force is better than a lack thereof — especially when facing a potential economic crisis. By Igor Slavinsky
Where a lady lost her slipper This year, private tourist companies will join the state in IMPLEMENTING several projects likely to arouse interest among thousands of foreign travellers
n early spring, the Government approved a state programme for tourism development for 20112015. The Deputy Minister for Sports and Tourism, Cheslav Shulga, hopes it will help activate entrepreneurship and business activity. According to preliminary estimations, over 80 percent of funds a l l o c ate d w it h the tourism industr y
are arriving as investments, although Mr. Shulga is convinced that not all of that will originate from abroad. He explains, “We rely on our businessmen to build and reconstruct our hotels, road services and tourist complexes.” Importantly, by 2015, exports of our tourist services could rise 3.5-fold to reach $510mln.
Polotsk is one of the most interesting cities for tourists. Next year, it will celebrate its 1150th anniversary. So, on this occasion a pedestrian bridge is to be constructed over the Zapadnaya Dvina R i v e r. T h e
local maternity hospital is to move outside the city, with its existing premises handed over to the Historical-Cultural MuseumReserve. In addition, the mental health facility is to leave its 18th century building, which previously housed a Bernadine Monastery. Ruins of the 12th century building will be unearthed on the square close to the former Verkhny (Upper) Castle, with a Centre of Polotsk’s History and Archaeology to open soon. According to Polotsk’s Mayor, Alexander Poznyak, a Spiritual-Enlightening Centre is to open at St. Yevfrosiniya Monastery, with a mill and bakery, a hotel for pilgrims and the VIP Arkhiereisky Hotel also constructed n e a r b y.
Belarusian countryside estates are a good choice for recreation
Recreation In July, Nesvizh Castle is to open to tourists after a decade of reconstruction. This 16th-20th century architectural monument — a former residence of the noble Radziwill family — is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Anatoly Tozik, the Deputy Prime Mi n iste r and C hai r man of t he Interdepartmental Tourism Expert and Co-ordination Council of the Council of Ministers, believes that guesthouses could provide an alternative to urban tourism. “Moreover, we can help revive small villages by development of tourism.” By 2015, the number of guesthouses and rural mini hotels should reach 3,000 — up from a thousand today. According to Mr. Tozik, ‘Agro-tourism is Belarus’ landmark’. New rural guesthouses open monthly. Not long ago, a network of five such places opened not far from Grodno, on the site of Duke Tizengauz’ former mansion. Former stables have been reconstructed as hotel rooms, with a sauna and dining halls offered — all in 17th-18th century style. The mansion itself is now being revamped.
Healing waters and magic mud
A Latvian company is to open a sanatorium in Braslav District, not far from a unique spring of bromine water. Nikolay Mazur, the Director of the Republican Centre for Health Improvement and Sanatorium-Resort Treatment, tells us that a spa was run on the site over a century ago, belonging to the noble family of Mineiko. Apart from bromine and sulphurous waters, deposits of healing mud were found near the town of Vidzy. In early 2011, reconstruction of Radon Sanatorium (in Dyatlovo District) was completed. Its radon baths and neighbouring Lake Dikoe’s sapropelic healing mud are unique. As Mr. Mazur says, about 600 deposits of healing mud have been discovered all over the country. Belarusian sanatoriums are in greatest demand among Russians, with guests from Lithuania, Poland, Germany and Israel also coming quite often.
Medical treatment in Chagall’s homeland
Medical service exports are becoming a leading avenue for the Belarusian tourism industry, much owing to our offering lower prices than neighbouring states. Experts hope that, by 2015, such exports could reach $8.5mln. Minsk is negoti-
booking, visa support, transport services and excursions are offered. Over 300 hotels operate in Belarus at present but over a hundred require modernisation; 33 have been certified and classified, offering 1-5 star services. However, Belarus lacks three-star hotels. “In rural areas, the problem of tourist accommodation is settled, as people stay at guesthouses. Meanwhile, district centres badly need more beds for travellers,” admits Mr. Shulga.
Medical service exports are becoming a leading avenue for the Belarusian tourism industry, much owing to our offering lower prices than neighbouring states. Experts hope that, by 2015, such exports could reach $8.5mln ating possible co-operation with clinics and tourist firms, while Vitebsk (Chagall’s homeland) already boasts a specialised centre of medical tourist services on the basis of Vitebsk’s 2nd Regional Clinic. The latter offers dentistry, gynaecology, cardiology, surgery and diagnostics, with confidentially guaranteed. Local staff can also book hotel rooms, appoint a personal consultant, organise excursions through the city and translate medical reports. The Deputy Director for Tourism at the Sports and Tourism Ministry, Andrey Martynov, notes, “Taking into account the sums injected by our state into modern equipment and the high qualifications of our doctors, the centre is sure to do well.”
Since early 2011, online hotel booking has been operational, uniting 30 hotels at www.hotel.by. “Regional hotels have gained the chance to cast their net more widely, including abroad,” notes the co-ordinator of the web-site, Marina Kondrashova. Apart from hotel
Investors are already showing interest in Belarus’ hotel business. Victoria Yermolayeva, of Russian Amaks Hotels&Resorts chain, tells us that her company has begun modernising major hotels in Bobruisk, Gomel and Mogilev.
Travelling ON schedule
This year, the latest technologies have arrived in the sphere of tourism. A post-graduate student at the Belarusian State Economic University’s Tourism Management Department, Tatiana Baranova, developed software for an electronic tour scheduler, which unites information on the country’s sights, hotels and restaurants. Additionally, it can be used to book hotels and make online payments. “It is designed for individual travellers from outside the CIS,” Ms. Baranova explains, adding, “They receive detailed information about the country, allowing them to tailor their own route.” The programme is designed to be user-friendly, simply requiring registration before entering details of purpose of
Recreation travel, budget, period of stay and group size (alone, with family or with friends). The database then suggests hotels, restaurants, events and excursions in Belarus. The software is yet to go on sale but Ms. Baranova’s idea is backed by the Sports and Tourism Ministry. She is now searching for an investor.
Flight with a stop in Minsk
Belarus is situated at the geographical centre of Europe. “With this in mind, it seems logical for Minsk Airport to become a true transit centre for the continent,” notes Belavia’s Deputy Director General, Igor Cherginets. “The establishment of a transport-logistics complex — Airpark Minsk — is now being descussed with a potential Belgian investor: Antwerpse Ontwikkelings en Investeringsmaatschappij NV. About 288.6mln. Euros of investments will be needed to build the logistics park, processing, collecting and storing cargo. The complex is to be launched in 2013 but won’t be completed until 2021.” Additionally, a contract was signed with China Precision Machiner y Import-Export Corporation to reconstruct the airport, costing $600mln. The building will be kept open, with the site expanded to add more floors. A second landing strip is also planned, 7km f rom t he exist ing r unway, allowing two planes to land simultaneously. Furthermore, there are plans to construct a hotel, connected to the existing airport and to the railway station (by high speed train). It is to comprise a business centre, a restaurant, a casino, a conference room and a winter garden. Reconstruction is to finish by 2014, with Minsk National Airport then able to accept up to 5mln. passengers annually.
Belarus — Open Europe campaign was launched, jointly run by Belarus and five EU states: Germany, Lithuania, Portugal, Sweden and Estonia. In 2011-2012, seventy musicians, ar t i s t s an d ph ot o g r aph e r s w i l l represent the culture of their countries via concerts, exhibitions and master classes. The project covers five European cities (Dresden, Vilnius, Lisbon, Tartu and Stockholm) and six in Belarus (Minsk, Nesvizh, Polotsk, Bobruisk, Rechitsa and Pinsk). A Belarusian delegation will make its first trip in June, to Portuguese Azaruja, with a second in July heading for Vilnius. In August, Belarusians will travel to Tallinn and, in September, Stockholm will host our countrymen. Dresden will welcome them in October. In April 2012, European artistes will pay their first visit to Belarus, launching the Belarusian stage of the project. The third stage is scheduled for October 2012 in Minsk, with a gala concert and conference gathering
The expansion of the airport is taking place just as it is most needed. Ever y year, Belarus’ cultural ties with foreign states expand, with an increasing number of tourists visiting the Republic. In early spring, the Open
Opening eyes to each other
European talents. The continent’s major concert sites are to host the festivals of Basovishcha, Be2gether and Be Free. “Artistic contacts between the EU and Belarusian figures of art are limited by visa barriers,” notes the Open Belarus — Open Europe campaign co-ordinator Alexander Apeikin. “We plan to support elimination of the need for or simplification of Schengen visa issuance procedures for Belarusians and those of granting Belarusian visas to Europeans. Another task is to promote our Belarusian cities, stressing their unique features and showing that artistic figures can work at a high level in Belarus.”
Tourist specialists consider that Belarus’ countryside is of great interest to travellers. Our marshes are known as the ‘lungs of Europe’, with thousands of ecologists visiting each year. There are 1,912 similar territories on the planet, included on a list of the most valuable wetlands. Belarus boasts nine such reserves: Sporovsky, Srednyaya Pripyat, Prostyr, Zvanets, Olmanskie Bolota (Marshes), Yelna, Osveisky, Kotra, and Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve. Vadim Protasevich heads Sporovsky Reserve, located in Bereza District halfway between Minsk and Brest. He tells us that, last year alone, over a thousand tourists cycled through the reserve. “Travellers are attracted to these picturesque places for various reasons. Some wish to see the local lowland bogs, while botany lovers are impressed by our unique Lady’s Slipper. Some people enjoy our rural lifestyle and the chance to chat with villagers, drinking fresh milk. Others like to observe marsh birds, many of which are listed in the Red Book.” By summer, an ecological path will have been laid, even allowing horse riding. Rural guesthouses and a new hotel will offer accommodation (the latter opening in Beloozersk in autumn). By Viktor Korbut
A grey heron feeding at Turov Meadow (Gomel Region)
White pages of Red Book Belarus is preparing a fourth edition of the Red Book. Released in 2013, it will describe all the changes which have occurred in nature over the past decade
ome new plants and animals — under t h r e at of e x t i n c tion — have been added, while others have been removed f rom t h e l i s t , a s their population in Belarus has reached normal levels. The National Academy of Science is making suggestions as to which flora and fauna species require special attention and human protection.
Losses and acquisitions
The Red Book of Belarus began just thirty years ago, with the first edition appearing in 1981, featuring 80 species of animals and 85 plants. By that time, similar editions were common in the West, with European ecologists being the first to see the threat of technological progress to the environment. In 1978, the first Red Book of the USSR was released. The Belarusian Red Book ‘inhabitants’ comprise six categories, depending
on their proximity to extinction. The zero category — unofficially called ‘the black list’ — unites plants and animals which have completely disappeared from Belarusian territory. Among them are such animals as forest cats, bustards, muskrats and freshwater pearl mussels; plants include wild gladioli, ghost orchids and another 46 species which have not been found in Belarus over the past century. Scientists cannot say for sure whether these are lost forever.
Environment Specialists from the Ministry for Natural Resources and Environmental Protection say that bustards were last seen in Belarus in the 1930s, in Brest Region’s Pruzhany. Muskrats haven’t been observed since the early 20th century, along the Dnieper River. Forest cats were also last seen in the 1930s. Scientists still believe that some species — viewed as extinct — may reside unobserved in Belarus’ wilderness areas; they hope they will be located again one day in the future, since the most unexpected findings are possible. Some areas in Mogilev Region, in addition to places in Zhabinka, Korma and Oktyabrsky districts, are largely unexplored. In 1993, the second edition of the Red Book was released, with the list of protected flora and fauna extended to include 182 animals and 214 plants. The trend continued, with the third edition (released in 2003-2005) featuring 189 animals and 274 plants. The expansion of this list is not a reflection of a worsening ecological situation or the increased burden on the envi-
ronment. Rather, according to Natalia Minchenko — who heads the Biological and Landscape Diversity Management Department at the Ministry for Natural Resources and Environmental Protection — environmental studies expand each year, generating a more comprehensive picture. Her department aims to provide more information on Belarusian nature in the years to come. Simultaneously with the appearance of the Red Book (featuring endangered animals and plants), a list of those to be no longer
able to surprise flora and fauna lovers included in the Book is being prepared. For example, the white swan has no need of special attention any longer, the ‘home goose’ — as zoologists say — even hounds other birds, forcing ducks from their habitats by eating all available food.
The largest orchid species found in Belarus has a very poetic name —Lady’s Slipper
The significance of the Red Book of flora and fauna can hardly be overestimated. Since its first release, most of the plants and animals listed have been protected. Every year, the Ministry for Natural Resources and Environmental Protection locates new species to be added on its pages. These then fall under the protection of forestries and agricultural firms. Special writs of protection are prepared, limiting how territories can be used to avoid further destruction of natural habitats. Economic activity is usually restricted, alongside camping and
By early 2011, over 4,000 habitats housing Red Book species had been detected, receiving protection. Almost every Belarusian region has its own ‘oasis,’
The beaver is also off the endangered list. Some time ago, demand for its meat and fur brought it to the edge of extinction in Europe. In the early 20th century, beavers were found only in Russia, Belarus and Poland. To protect them, Belarus established Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve in 1925. As a result, the animals have increased in number 2-3 times more than necessary.
Writ of protection
open fires. The results speak for themselves. For example, the black stork is no longer endangered in Belarus. As it is known for being a unique bioindicator, sensitive to any change in the forest ecosystem, its growing numbers in the south of the country are a good sign. It has been nesting near rivers, springs and oak forests. Ms. Minchenko says that, by early 2011, over 4,000 habitats housing Red Book species had been detected, receiving protection. Almost every Belarusian region has its own ‘oasis’, able to surprise flora and fauna lovers. Few know that traditional inhabitants of tundra live in Belarus, which is rich in forests and lakes. Northern salmonberry and dwarf arctic birch are found in some areas of Vitebsk and Myadel districts, while orchids — similar to those grown as house plants — are also found in Belarus. About 40 species of orchid grow in our country, with most included in the Red Book. The largest — known as Lady’s Slipper — is found on marshes and in oak forests. Like all
Environment orchid species, it is unique and listed in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). In recent years, a large population of Lady’s Slipper has been discovered in the Brest Region, while dark-winged orchids — rare in Belarus and having international significance — were found in Smolevichi District, in Pekalinsky Biological Reserve. The Red Book also includes some species which are of global significance. For example, Belarus is home for almost 60 percent of all the world’s aquatic warblers. The whole planet is keen to restore the population of this bird, which is well accustomed to the Belarusian climate.
In human hands
Specialists stress that protective measures are not the only tools, necessary to ensure the pre-servation of endangered species.Humaninterventionissometimes needed. Belarus could hardly be proud of having the second largest population of aurochs in the world if it had failed to work at breeding and resettlement of the majestic beasts. According to the Head of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Ministry’s Biological Diversity Department, Alexander Giryaev, the last wild aurochs were killed in 1917. “About eighty years were needed to breed this animal — primarily, within zoological gardens and specialised nurseries; later, we raised them in the wild, increasing the global herd from 48 (in 1927) to 4,230 (in 2009).” In the 1990s, aurochs were found in Belovezhskaya Pushcha alone (on the Belarusian side). However, in the past 15 years, their population has almost tripled, exceeding 900 countrywide. This is largely due to a special programme, operational from 19941998, which focused on the resettlement, preservation and use of aurochs in Belarus. The country lacks large swathes of their usual habitat of large forests, so it is vital that their remaining
Aurochs are the pride and symbol of Belarus
habitat be preserved. We must ensure that these large European bisons feel comfortable. Interestingly, auroch are included in the Red Book of Belarus, while also being protected in Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and Russia. Scientists are taking diverse steps to help endangered species survive in our urbanised world. Several years ago, Minsk’s Botanical Garden chose to plant endangered flora. About a dozen species now populate our city, with wild flowers growing in the capital’s streets: wild pinks, asters and Siberian irises. They are a delight to see and benefit nature.
In two years’ time, the next edition of the Red Book will be ready; it’s too early to speak of which changes might be seen, as research continues. Some facts are already known however. The
new edition shall, for example, include European mink. According to scientists, only about a dozen now live in Belarus. Additionally, bear, lynx, aquatic warblers, Lady’s Slipper and truffles are to be protected. Not long ago, Belarusian zoologists suggested changing the status of some species, while botanists have introduced over a dozen new species into the fourth edition of the Red Book. Will our descendants ever see these rarities? Of course, nature is a living organism, ever developing, sensitive to changes in the environment. Industrialisation and urbanisation of the countryside affects ecology; in the coming decades, up to 70 species of plants could disappear forever worldwide. Their future is in the hands of the chosen few who can prevent such losses. By Lilia Khlystun
Art of collecting stones Leonid Levin — an architect in harmony with his time
According to preliminary estimates, the project will cost around $200mln., with the suburbs situated around the city’s historical Pokrovskaya Street, where the artist was born. The design for this part of the city occupies 50 hectares, recalling the early life and creativity of the great master. It will explore avant-garde art and become a major tourist attraction in Vitebsk. Hotels and restaurants are to be built, with the project implemented in three stages. During the first, Pokrovskaya Street will be reconstructed in the spirit of the early 20th century. Near Chagall’s House-Museum, souvenir shops and a small hotel will appear. After the second and third stages are finished, we’ll see shops, a café and a modern art centre with an exhibition hall, alongside an art school. This major project will also commemorate the memory of other prominent painters connected with Vitebsk: Malevich, Pen and Kandinsky. You’ve drafted an architectural plan, similar to that of Minsk’s Troitsky Suburbs, near the Belarus Hotel. Tell us more. When my team completed the Troitsky Suburbs in Soviet times, the City Executive Committee pledged to restore Minsk’s historical centre. I began to design the ‘Perespa’ cultural and business centre, located on the site of the former biscuit factory. Back in 1991, the project was awarded a gold medal at the last competi-
tion of architects of the USSR. It aimed to continue the Troitsky Suburbs as Minsk’s historical centre. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, Minsk’s first industrial facilities were built there and, later, a biscuit factory appeared (demolished in the late 20th century). A two level square was to be constructed on the site, dedicated to Time, allowing visitors to trace the development of Belarusian architecture — from its foundation to today. Restored buildings of great historical importance would have been built along the perimeter of the square. It’s a pity that we prefer to go abroad to admire old Prague or old Warsaw rather than recreating a similar district in our own city, which could be wonderfully interesting and unique. I hope that these unrealised ideas in Minsk will be brought to life in Vitebsk. How did you become an artist and an architect? After graduating from Minsk’s Polytechnical Institute, architecture became my life. In 1970, when I was 34 years old, I won the Lenin Prize — the major state award of those times — for designing the Khatyn Memorial Complex, honouring those civilians of Belarus who died during the war. I began to work as an ordinary architect at Minskproekt State Institute, Khatyn Memorial Complex
itebsk is soon to gain a Marc Chagall District, as this is where he spent his childhood. Architect Leonid Levin is helping to bring the project to life, having worked on such landmarks as the Khatyn Memorial Complex near Logoisk (honouring the memory of those burnt by the Nazis in Belarusian villages) and Yama Memorial in Minsk (on the site where Jews were murdered en mass during WWII). Mr. Levin also took part in restoring the Troitsky Suburbs and designed the impressive squares in front of the monuments to Yanka Kupala and Yakub Kolas in the Belarusian capital. He even designed Nemiga and Ploshchad Lenina (Lenin Square) metro stations. His legacy is evident countrywide, although his major theme is the past war. This year, he celebrates his 75th birthday and is delighted to chat about his achievements and future plans. Mr. Levin, I’d like to find out about the recreation of the Marc Chagall District in Vitebsk.
entrusted with our capital’s development. I spent many years working on such projects as the city’s historical centre, BelExpo exhibition pavilion in Yanka Kupala Street and the Foreign Ministry building. I heard that you designed Khatyn during your own free time. You may not believe me but I worked on it at night. I wasn’t working alone. In 1965, our team comprised young architects Gradov, Zankovich and Levin. Together, we created ‘Katyusha’ monument in Orsha. Piotr Masherov, who headed Belarus at that time, had the idea of a monument dedicated to those civilians who were killed by the fascists. On his personal request, Zankovich and I created a monument to the partisans who fought in Rossony, together with Masherov. At the opening ceremony, Mr. Masherov asked us to commemorate the village of Velie, burnt by the Germans in that region He was astonished by our design project. At that time, Masherov was the First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Belorussian SSR. He proposed that another site, close to the capital, be selected: Khatyn. When our project was nominated for the Lenin Prize, Yekaterina Furtseva, the USSR Minister of Culture, familiarised herself with it and we were shocked by her reaction: ‘How? Who? Why didn’t Moscow know about this? What is this? This is a humiliation of art! What will our descendants say on seeing this old man? He is so shabby and unhappy’. This was her perception of our figure of a Khatyn resident, carrying a dying child in his arms. “Couldn’t you make a figure of a Soviet soldier, who saved children?” she asked. However, there were no soldiers in Khatyn — only Nazi soldiers burning people. However, Ms. Furtseva continued to insist that the monument should be revised. Today, it’s difficult to say how this reaction was perceived by the members of the Lenin Award Committee, but on April 1st, 1970, 36 out of 38 members of the joint plenary session supported Khatyn during a secret vote. Architects Yuri Gradov, Valentin Zankovich and
Leonid Levin in his studio
Leonid Levin and sculptor Sergey Selikhanov became Lenin State Award laureates. The USSR’s only architectural award went to Belarus. Everything created for Khatyn was chosen carefully. My colleagues and I invented log structures where former houses stood and obelisks shaped as chimneys. The grass-covered field — which witnessed the tragedy — was deadly silent but we suddenly heard a skylark unexpectedly begin to sing and realised that some sound was needed. We then had the idea of creating ‘towers’ with bells, rising where the houses once stood. Foreigners sometimes confuse Belarusian Khatyn and Katyn near Smolensk where, in the spring of 1940, the USSR state security authorities executed captive Polish officers. They say that Khatyn was specially chosen to house a memorial to burnt Belarusian villages to distract from the atrocity of the ‘other’ Katyn. Is this true? 9,200 villages were burnt by the Nazis during their punitive operations against Belarusian partisans and those residents who supported partisans during WWII. Probably no other European country has seen such genocide of its peaceful rural population as has Belarus. Confusion between Khatyn and Katyn does exist. I first faced this problem when I visited the USA and was directly
asked about it. In English, the name of the Belarusian village is written ‘Khatyn’ — very similar to ‘Katyn’. Those abroad pursued this topic further, saying that Khatyn is a ‘counterbalance’ to Katyn. However, they do differ. The idea for the Khatyn memorial first originated in the village of Velie, where around 450 people were burnt by the fascists. This was where Mr. Masherov fought; he then advised that a monument to honour the destroyed villages of the country should be built closer to Minsk. I could spend a couple of days telling you about the various rumours connected with this topic. The choice was influenced by the village name of Khatyn, but not because of its connection with Katyn. The word ‘khata’ is a truly Belarusian word, meaning house. This monument is inseparably connected with our land. Could Khatyn be moved to Russia, Uzbekistan or France? No. Will interest in WWII victims and your monuments continue? There’s no 'iron curtain', so many tourists visit us from abroad. Evidently, tourists don’t always want to explore sorrowful events from the past. They’re keen to see beautiful places, castles and nature. In my opinion, only the high artistic level of our monuments can force people to view the war with fresh eyes. Khatyn undoubtedly touches their souls. By Viktor Korbut
Line of conduct
Paths leading to future Artist Alexey Zinchuk knows about the 1941-1945 war first hand, belonging to the generation which had to survive those troubled years. Naturally, his path to art has been more circuitous than that of many of his colleagues
e was born in the Belarusian-Ukrainian Polesie village of Bratalov in Zhitomir District, where he spent the first twelve years of his life. There, he met the fascist occupation. After liberation, the strong teenager was sent near to the front, as a subsidiary service soldier — digging trenches and creating models of military equipment to disorient German pilots. They often used horses to bring food to soldiers at the front, as it was impossible to drive, and the wounded were brought to the rear in the same fashion.
“Roads in Ukraine were so muddy in spring that nothing short of a tank could get through,” recollects Mr. Zinchuk. “We had to use horses. I have a picture called Front Roads.” The military topic is vividly portrayed in his works, in portraits of grey-haired front-line soldiers. “Front Roads” reflects reality, of which the artist is well aware, having walked many kilometres of military roads during those severe years. Military columns, going into the core of war, are depicted in the background, while a cart of wounded soldiers moves in the opposite direction, placed in the
A war time still life
forefront. Near a horse there stands its colt, symbolising new life. What was unique about that time? You’ve chosen to dedicate your work to our Great Patriotic War Victory for a reason... Famous historical personality Marshall Georgy Zhukov has always interested me. When my elder brother was serving in the cavalry in Minsk, in the 1920s, Zhukov arrived and my elder brother came to know him well. He told me much about him and the idea of painting on the theme of the Victory came to me. This work is very symbolic, isn’t it? Yes, its topic is interlinked with religious motifs. Marshall Zhukov acts as George the Victorious. After the war, Mr. Zinchuk had no desire to stay in the village, so moved to Minsk, staying with his elder sister. He studied at the aeroclub and was then called up for military service in the army. He served in the air force as a pilot and parachutist and, in 1953, was sent to Korea to train others at service aerodromes. There, he surprised himself by starting to draw. He returned to Minsk with a strong desire to study pictorial art. “I was involved in art even before starting my studies,” notes Mr. Zinchuk. “I’d been a self-taught painter for a long time. When I served in the army, I used to paint to order; they wanted me to stay longer in the army but I decided that I lacked knowledge and wanted to study.” He again came to Minsk after demobilisation, attending evening classes. He’d only reached fourth grade when war had broken out. He finished school with excellent marks and received an unconditional offer from the Architectural-Construction Technical
Line of conduct
Alexey Zinchuk strives for accuracy, interpreting the reality he is close familiar with
School. In his third year, he transferred to the Art Training School, where he studied for five years while working at Minsk’s Watch Plant as the chief artist. I thought that I was too old to study further and that art school would be enough for me. However, the Rector of Minsk’s Theatre and Art Institute, Pavel Maslennikov, told me, when we defended our papers, that I needed to continue my studies. I graduated from the Institute’s prestigious Monumental Department, where I was taught by such artists as Gavriil Vashchenko, Alexander Kishchenko and Mai Dantsig. I was on friendly terms with them and they taught me a great deal. We were almost the same age, Mai Dantsig was even one or two years younger than me and Gavriil Vashchenko was one year older. My first work project after graduating was a stained-glass window for the exhibi-
tion complex in Minsk. My second stainedglass window was made for the Institute of Automation, containing mosaic elements. Both were collective projects. I also implemented a range of projects independently in Molodechno and painted the lobby of Rodina Cinema; it still exists. My number of state orders then fell off and I shifted to easel painting to keep my hand in. He is in his studio almost every day, including weekends and holidays. I enjoy the process and constantly exhibit my works. Recently, I’ve had a personal exhibition every five years: when I was 70, 75 and 80 years old. I also plan an exhibition for my 85th anniversary. Many of my works are kept abroad. Which topics attracted you over the years and gave you most pleasure? I used to paint portraits of front-line soldiers and heroes of the Soviet Union.
Veteran Basov was Chief of Security at the Watch Plant and told me a great deal about the Dnieper River crossing. They had to spend a month in the tank, as they were blocked by the Germans and couldn’t leave. They were bombed and raked with gunfire by the Germans, but they survived. Later, Basov was awarded the title of Hero. I still create portraits of veterans and donate these to them after exhibitions. The topic of war and Victory will be present in my artworks forever. How would you characterise those who experienced the war? What is in their soul to distinguish them from their contemporaries? When I served in the army, frontline soldiers heartily welcomed us. They treated us as if we were their children and shared their combat ration. After the war, the generation gap widened.
Line of conduct
Rushing for the future, 2010
Woman’s portrait, 2010
Was it difficult during those military years? Yes. Firstly, there was no salt, sugar or kerosene. We had to get these somehow so I learnt how to make needles to earn money. I took a nail, straightened it, cut its head, flattened one side and thinned down the dint with another nail until a hole was formed. It took approximately a week to make a needle. We disassembled
an artist called Svetlana; I’ve captured her passion for her work. Sometimes, I see an interesting character while driving or something touches my inner world and I wish to capture the moment. When you’re drawing, it’s as if you’re communicating with someone. What are your next creative plans? It’s difficult to make plans. You should just work and keep exploring. Keep up
“You should just work and keep exploring. Keep up with the latest trends, rather than lagging behind others, and note how society is developing. You want to be at the epicentre of events. I still want to draw what I like and what is beautiful to me”. shells for the powder and I was lucky; I disassembled many shells, but, thank God, remained alive. Everyone was hungry so, in summer, we ate leaves if they weren’t too bitter. Linden leaves were very good, alongside those of fan-hen and nettle. My father died at the beginning of the war, so I was alone. I stayed with various relatives for quite a while. You have many portraits at the studio depicting young people. Why does the younger generation interest you? Each person possesses something unique. For example, this is a picture of
with the latest trends, rather than lagging behind others, and note how society is developing. You want to be at the epicentre of events. I still want to draw what I like and what is beautiful to me. I’m preparing for an exhibition within the next three years… so still have plenty of time. It will showcase still-life works, landscapes and portraits. Everything comes from life. The experienced master retains his own style, and is creating works today which differ from those of the past. Personalities allure him, making him reflect, but he is also keen on still-life
painting, which he finds relaxing. He likes to experiment, combining images with associations and recollections from the past. Moreover, he has taught for 40 years. In the early 1970s, Mr. Zinchuk took a position at Minsk’s Art School, which boasted a unique creative atmosphere. Each of his courses and almost every group had pupils of school age, alongside adults — who were inspired to study after army service or having worked for some time. There have been many enthusiastic and talented young boys and girls among his students, all working to an exceptional level. In his forty years of teaching, Mr. Zinchuk has managed to raise a large number of promising painters. He can confidently say, “I am immediately engaged in the development of our national artistic school, where each can reveal their individuality.” According to Mr. Zinchuk, only this path brings success. At present, Mr. Zinchuk is the youngest veteran in the Belarusian Union of Artists. His path to the future leads on from his recollections of his young military years. He has a great deal to remember, spending much time in front of his easel with a clean canvas. There is so much to capture. He connects contemporary life with the bygone age. By Victor Mihailov
Vanishing nature reflected in compositions What is more familiar or beautiful than nature? Its harmony, ideal and purity are depicted by painter Vasily Zenko, in his Predator-Victim project
eople begin to gather at the Leonid Shchemelev Art Gallery in Minsk. Music is playing quietly in the background and my glance immediately falls on a certain picture. It comprises two parts and is entitled “Somehow in This Way,” depicting a chameleon catching an insect. Its plot may be ordinary, yet it leaves room for our imagination, as do all the painter’s works, forming an organic unity. “The project was created especially for this exhibition hall, with the proportions of the compositions and colour palette harmoniously planned,” explains Natalia Selitskaya, an art expert and the curator of the project. “The painter’s individual
‘art nouveau’ style (using the natural geometry seen in fauna and light asymmetry) combines with African motifs (deep, vivid colours, natural minimalism and rough textures). This distinguishes him from other artists.” The PredatorVictim project includes pictorial pieces depicting animals, some as predators and others as victims. Meanwhile, unexpected metamorphoses occur in some works, with predators becoming victims. “I draw my ideas from wildlife,” notes Mr. Zenko. “This world is interesting to me; I enjoy watching it and admiring it. Much of our natural world is vanishing so, in my creativity, I want to pay homage to this short-lived phenomenon.” Each work bears an interesting title and it’s sometimes unclear as to what has inspired the artist. “The titles don’t allow you to draw definite conclusions,” he explains. “They leave room for the imagination of spectators. I act as a companion to the audience.” Mr. Zenko’s works are easily recognisable, showing his individual viewpoint. Meanwhile, impetuosity, rhythm and abundance of colour neighbour natural simplicity.
Alone with wild nature Sergey Plytkevich’s “Wild Life in the Centre of Europe” photo exhibition on display in Gomel
his is the second time the author has presented his works in Gomel, his “Belarusian Exotics” exhibited in 2004. The current event is dedicated to the release of a new photo album under the same title. The current exhibition comprises 58 photos of wild animals and untouched corners of nature, the photographer’s lens capturing bears, wolves, wild boar and birds, elk. The author wanted to show that, unlike most European countries, Belarus still boasts places untouched by urbanisation. Mr. Plytkevich spent many days alone in the countryside, searching out successful shots. To capture pictures of an eagle, he spent three days in a tree! Naturally, shooting wild animals can often be dangerous, requiring steady concentration. He built special ‘hides’ from brushwood and branches, leaving just a small hole for his camera, waiting patiently for just the right moment.
By Maria Novoselskaya
World outlook in colour Such prominent churches as Polotsk’s Saviour Transfiguration Church, Vitebsk’s Annunciation Church and Grodno’s St. Boris and Hleb (or Kolozhskaya) Church were built on land that became contemporary Belarus back in the 12th century. They are now registered among dozens of other sites as being under special state protection. Our country is constructing new churches, including the magnificent Memorial Church in Honour of All Saints and in Memory of the Murdered Innocent in Minsk
aturally, master craftsmen are desperately needed for construction and restoration of churches. Artist Maxim Dudarev notes that specialists in mosaic decoration of church walls and domes — a rare craft today — are currently working in Minsk. Mr. Dudarev — son of the outstanding playwright — graduated from the Belarusian Academy of Arts in 2003 and began working with mosaic. He explains that designs are created from smalt, to decorate church interiors and exteriors. The images preserve their colour for many years, being more robust than paintings, which is vital for a church. Icons are sometimes called ‘world outlooks in colour’. When I first expressed my wish to see how mosaic masters work, Maxim told me that I should first be blessed; priest Andrew Lemeshonok, who takes care of St. Elisabeth Convent, where various craft workshops operate, performed this service for me. Tourists can easily reach the workshops from Minsk’s centre, driving from Pobedy Square towards
Novinki suburbs. They occupy several rooms on the ground floor of the Church in Honour of the Reigning Icon of the Mother of God. Maxim meets me there. His computer stands in a small room, where masters design works on the computer screen. The tables in the neighbouring room are filled with editions from Italy, France and elsewhere, containing quality reproductions of church paintings. Minsk masters use these for inspiration and for development of successful solutions based on past work. Last summer, a whole team of our mosaic masters visited Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) — just like ordinary tourists. Maxim adds that they were primarily interested in seeing Orthodox churches, which remain from Byzantine times, alongside their frescoes and mosaics. “We thoroughly studied their local Cathedral of St. Sophia, the Holy Wisdom of God, which used to be one of the greatest sites for Christians. It was the first and largest cross-domed church, built in the time of Emperor Justinian,” Maxim
notes. “Later, the building was re-built to house Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) Mosque. Its unique mosaics, created b ack in t he 13t h-15t h centur y, survived. We were greatly impressed with the quality of masters’ work. In particular, we were astonished by the great attention to detail. The colours were well preserved and I couldn’t stop taking photos — hundreds of them. We also looked at the other relics.” Looking at a photo on the monitor screen, I recall that Belarus magazine has used a number of Maxim’s shots in the past; his photographic skills are surely useful to him in his new occupation. Maxim explains that St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Ukrainian Kamenets-Podolsky was also built in Byzantine style; he has plenty of photos. Minsk masters created a large, ‘almost 60sq.m’, mosaic in the apse (which is usually a semi-circular or polygonal, often vaulted, recess at the sanctuary end of a church). They also made a panelicon for the altar. Maxim shows me to a neighbouring room, where we find buckets of multicoloured obscured glass. The smalt contains coloured mineral additives, pigments and metals and is usually bought in. Some stores remain ‘from Soviet monumentalists’ while St. Petersburg’s glass boiling factory also supplies the tiles, which are crushed into 1-2sq.cm pieces. These are inlaid following designs by the obedient Dmitry Kuntsevich and other painters. Each piece is cut to the shape as needed, which requires patience, artistic feeling and understanding of the overall essence of images. Making a mosaic takes time, with a master first designing a sketch on a small map-board. They develop the idea, plot and composition, coming up with colourful and expressive solutions and linking these with the architecture of the site. Next, a small model of the church is made, into which a ready-made design is placed, with smalt selected. The most complex elements are inlaid first. Finally, all the mosaic elements are reinforced into a single composition which meets
the design and is sometimes transported to the site assembled. Many works have not travelled far. As we approach the church from the ground floor, Maxim continues our conversation, “First of all, a church is an image of space, a symbol of the sky, paradise and earthly light. These harmonise into a hierarchical system, which spreads from the ‘sky’ domes to the ‘earthly’ lower parts of the interior. The higher the images are situated inside the church, the more holiness they possess. It took almost a decade to construct and decorate the church. Its dome, decorated with mosaic tiles depicting Christ’s Ascension, is astonishing, as is the magnificent image of the Mother of God Oranta, which is situated in the 60sq.m altar apse. It took two years to finish the dome mosaic and almost three years to decorate the apse with mosaic elements. On seeing this beauty, believers from other places ask Belarusian masters to work for them. Our mosaic masters have already worked in Ukrainian Kamenets-Podolsky, Kiev and Ternopol and helped decorate the Pochaev Lavra of the Dormition of Theotokos near Russian Kaluga, alongside Moscow churches. Minsk masters have even received interesting orders from Rome and Belgrade.” Our Belarusian mosaic masters have no intention of being completely original. “First, we study how mosaic masters from years ago worked,” explains Maxim. “Then, we try to ‘fit’ into the previous style and become inspired by its spirit. When developing a design, we use the experience of our predecessors; we find our artistic solution and details with a new eye, while following church canons.” Curiously, all those who create mosaics for Orthodox churches are believers themselves. According to Maxim, they begin work by saying a morning prayer, continuing with it for the whole day. This is ‘an obligatory and vital element of our work’. Masters specialising in mosaic and icon painting work under the wing of their patron saint, Nikolay. By Mikhalina Cherkashina
Space of choreography
‘People from all over Europe arrive to see Khoroshki’ Khoroshki Dance Company has long become a musical symbol of Belarus, like Vladimir Mulyavin’s Pesnyary band
Valentina Gaevaya is proud of what her famous dance company achieved
ince 1974, the head of the ensemble,ValentinaGaevaya, has toured over almost every part of the planet with her dancers. Spectators from Denmark, Syria, Cyprus, Jordan, Finland, the UK, Belgium, Japan, India, Italy, Spain, Poland, Germany, France, the USA and Russia have given standing ovations to our Belarusian artistes. Several members of Ms. Gaevaya’s ‘dance theatre’ are now involved in the National Bolshoi Theatre troupe. Ms. Gaevaya, how did you come to create Khoroshki? It was a long road. I had been keen on dance since childhood but hadn’t ever thought of becoming a choreographer. What did you dream of as a child? I dreamt of being an actress. However, a teacher once told me: ‘Valya, you’re very feminine and small. Which roles could you suit? Think of something else’. Khoroshki has existed since 1974 and you’ve already enjoyed several genera-
tions of fans. Meanwhile, not everyone is aware of how the title for the dance company appeared. Can you remember how it came about… Khoroshki village in Mogilev Region had its own amateur group, comprising ten singing and dancing elderly women and a flaxen-haired young boy, who headed the local club. We saw these creative people at a performance in Mogilev and were impressed by their sincerity. I remembered them forever afterwards and have a ‘Gusariki’ show in our repertoire: a dance from Khoroshki village. How did you decide to commemorate the title of this village? At first, our ensemble was called ‘Krinitsa’, then someone told us that shops sell ‘Krinitsa’ wine. I didn’t like this fact and later discovered a village called Khoroshki (with an accent on the last syllable) situated in the west of Belarus. You began your career in Mogilev, didn’t you? I worked at the Palace of Culture of the Automobile Plant from 1967 to 1973.
What brought you to Minsk? Jointly with my husband, I created ‘Vesnyanki’ band, which won Lenin Komsomol (Lenin’s Young Communist League) Prize of Belarus. Then we won a contest of ballet masters, where it was necessary to perform an original Belarusian dance. By that time, I’d also created ‘Vesyalukha’ — a folk dance group comprising the residents of two villages, who traditionally competed. The Ministry of Culture asked me to set up a folk dance company at Minsk’s Philharmonic, encompassing new programmes for Belarusian dances. In 1973, I took up this job, as chief ballet master of the Philharmonic Society. We often toured Russia and gave concerts for tourists in Leningrad. At that time, Intourist offered us a wonderful stage at the Leningrad Hotel, with good lighting and music. We rehearsed our new programmes there, including ‘Polotskaya Tetrad’ — a historical panorama dedicated to the Renaissance age. The Finns used to visit our shows several times while
Space of choreography in Leningrad; we came to recognise them in person. In 1984, I was given a room at the Philharmonic Society and my own ballet class. In the early 1990s, I prepared ‘Farewell to the 20th Century’, based on the passing century’s popular music. I drew on Jewish customs, as these traditions greatly influenced Belarusian culture. On demonstrating ‘Bobruisk Pictures’ in Moscow, Igor Moiseev was our special guest. How do Belarusian and Russian dance differ? When creating an ensemble, I aim to bring Belarusian choreography to the
its own drama and appearance. We told audiences about the life and traditions of Belarus through our dances. From where do you take original material? Do you make folklore expeditions? When I was working with my husband in Mogilev, we often visited weddings and festivals. I remember there was a concert at the opera theatre, with participation of a female band from a kolkhoz. Everyone went out for dinner, but these sat backstage to eat. One of the women suddenly went to dance and she used movements I’d never
explain to my artistes that they represent the whole nation. Previously, all who arrived in the West from the USSR were considered to be Russian. For foreigners, there was no difference between Belarusians and Uzbeks. However, when we entered the stage, everyone was surprised, saying that our performances greatly differed from the ‘Russian pattern’ of balalaikas, red shirts, crackers and prisyadka (a step in Slavic folk dancing in which the dancer squats on their haunches and kicks out each foot alternately). People wondered what Belarus
level seen in Russia and Ukraine — maybe even higher. In the 1970s, there were great groups, which really astonished me: Igor Moiseev’s Russian Ensemble, Iliko Sukhishvili and Nino Ramishvili Ensemble of the Georgian National Ballet and, of course, the Ukrainian National Folk Dance Ensemble (named after P. Virsky). In Belarus, their performances were merely restaged and resung in new ways. After arriving in Belarus (I was born in Russia), I immediately saw how wonderfully Belarusians dance and dress and how melodically they speak. This greatly differed from Russian and Ukrainian traditions. I began to set up an ensemble, reflecting national characteristics of the Belarusian nation, encompassing the Belarusian spirit. I noticed gestures and expressions of rural performers and used them to inspire my work. With its first programme, ‘Khoroshki’ toured Ukraine, proving a great success. Our programmes couldn’t be confused with others, since each dance was a mini performance, with
thought of before. It was enough for me… and this was only one example. I’ve seen a dozen similar small groups and have borrowed something from each; I have a photographic memory. What inspires your costumes? As soon as our first programme was launched, I began to think about costumes. I went to the Academy of Sciences and asked for documents on Belarusian costume but they had very little information. I then decided to apply to Leningrad’s Opera and Ballet Theatre and folk museum, studying piles of historical documents. For example, I couldn’t copy Ukrainian costumes, as this would have lacked authenticity. You’ve toured all over the West. How did people there perceive Khoroshki and Belarus? Since 1975, we’ve been touring abroad annually, as part of the Friendship Society. No one knew of Belarus before we arrived, but they praised our dancing. I told my dancers: ‘You should behave. We live in Europe, we are Europeans!’ I always
was all about. After 1986, we often visited Italy and earned money for the Chernobyl Foundation. Interestingly, people from all over Europe arrived to see ‘Khoroshki’. By Vitovt Pismenniy
Grigory Borovik: ‘I master my profession’ On the eve of the Victory Day, Minsk’s theatrical community celebrated the 25th anniversary of the first theatre season by presenting These Obscure Old People at Minsk’s Youth Theatre — currently undergoing reconstruction. The performance was based on Svetlana Aleksievich’s famous documentary play War’s Unwomanly Face. Its director, Grigory Borovik, currently heads the Belarusian Academy of Arts’ Chair for Stage Direction and Stagecraft and has staged 127 performances and pop shows during his professional career 46
ve many times watched rehearsals at the Young Spectators’ Theatre in Minsk, conducted by Mr. Borovik — who used to be the theatre’s director. The first was a play offering acute social critique, by Russian playwright Victor Rozov, entitled “Four Drops,” rehearsed in full costume, with set and props. It was also my first view of a theatrical performance from backstage. I must admit that there’s something quite thrilling about seeing a performance born in front of your eyes in an absolutely empty hall. You are the only spectator, who is also the creator, able to stop the action at any moment, as often as you like. At first, it seemed to me that Mr. Borovik was simply trying to find fault in the actors. In my amateur opinion, I thought they were doing fine. However, as soon as I began to penetrate deeper into the theatrical process, I understood his desires. I learnt to distinguish semantics and nuances of speech, seeing the inner life of each role. The rehearsal process is truly exciting and spectacular; we see the actors and stage directorship developing, with characters coming alive. I watched “Drama Because of Lyrics” — a wonderful performance about juvenile minimalism and the purity of uncompromising teenagers. I also greatly enjoyed a penetratingly sad performance, called Hope, describing the life of young painter Nadya Rusheva. It showed the spiritual loneliness of those born with great talent. Mr. Borovik’s performances from the period when he worked at the Young Spectators’ Theatre were always bold and shocking in their reality — a rare quality in Soviet times. Grigory Borovik, an experienced director, teacher and guest of our editorial office, tells us how he managed to stage plays which offered such sharp social critique at that time and where he worked after leaving the Young Spectators’ Theatre. Why did he become involved in teaching stage direction?
Art Mr. Borovik, tell us, please, about the Chair you’ve headed for so many years at the Theatre Department. The Stage Direction Chair was founded immediately after WWII and I’ve headed it since 1999. It has the following specialities: pop stage direction, puppet theatre direction and musical theatre direction. Circus direction is also planned… with all united under the notion of theatre stage direction. We employ five people, with 15-16 working with us on a contractual basis; these include famous stage masters. It’s rather a mixture. Are there any problems at your theatrical school and how do they reveal themselves? The major problem is the aspiration of stage direction to encompass everything. Stage directors would like to have our own Jerzy Grotowski and Peter Brook, as well as commedia dell’arte [also known as Italian comedy], and a host of other schools and trends.
to the ‘avant-garde’ years. Our critique is shaping this process but it isn’t theatrical criticism. Instead, journalistic criticism is guiding the trend; the media tells us that our theatres should mimic those in the Baltic States or Poland. Why aren’t serious drama theatres from the UK, France or the USA mentioned? Why don’t critics recollect Warsaw’s Teatr Narodowy or Krakow Theatre in Poland? I’ve seen fabulous performances at these theatres…. which are part of a true school! They’ve preserved their traditions, despite changes in society. A good drama theatre is, to some extent, conservative — like serious literature. Unfortunately, classical European theatre is a rare guest at Belarusian festivals. Our ‘new’ criticism makes reference to semiprofessional theatres from neighbouring and far abroad countries. As a rule, these tend to come to our festivals. Of course,
“Slavonic theatrical art has always been logical, exploring the human essence, alongside daily life.” Surely, not every ‘vegetable’ can put down roots in Belarusian soil? I understand the great temptation to cover everything, since our world is so diverse. Every theatrical stage director wants to make their name stand out, but teaching stage direction is actually quite a conservative job. I don’t aim to be innovative. Rather, I’m independent of the opinions of critics and directors — who aim to be superior to all that has been before. In the 1990s, avant-garde drama came to the fore; yet, by the mid1990s, it was passé. We’ve returned to our roots of serious drama, and have managed to survive. Can you draw a picture of contemporary Belarusian stage direction? Does it please you? Does it please or sadden me? Neither. We’re now seeing a tendency to return
these semi-professional companies tend to be lightweight — even superficial. Professionalism impedes them rather than aids them; such aesthetics don’t match our mentality. You don’t like experiments, do you? Aren’t you afraid of being considered conservative? There’s always a limit to experiments. If these fall beyond the scope of a particular genre — such as a literary novel or dramatic theatre — the genre is destroyed. If too much dance is included, the performance is denoted as ballet; if there is too much singing, it ‘becomes’ operetta. It’s a pity that such experimentation takes root in people’s minds. It’s just dilettantism — a primitive response to fashion. Truly experimental art deserves respect; the abstractionists were once skilful drawing artists.
Art When we see such works, we see that professional understanding exists — something which strikes to the quick. We can see beyond a malformed face or hand in abstract painting. In theatre, stage directors sometimes twist relationships to fit an artificial idea. However, their lack of understanding of the deeper essence doesn’t stir our imagination or touch our soul. Is contemporary Belarusian theatre developing in such a way that its future is secure? Theatre has always relied on a community of talents. It was so yesterday and remains so now. It is a flexible organism, ever changing. Everything depends on who assesses this community: stage directors, actors, playwrights, composers and set designers. If a community of creative personalities exists, then a theatre of a definite quality exists. If no such community develops, a whole range of problems arises and ‘modernisation’ begins. Artistic groups’ programmes require harmonisation of many aspects — including personnel and repertoire. Do programmes require ethical principles? Ethical, disciplinary, creative and organisational principles exist, guiding troupes. These are sacredly preserved over the years in serious theatres. If we look at European theatres — such as Comédie-Française or Britain’s Royal National Theatre — we see that they reverently preserve their principles. Once, the Russian director Efros told me that, in Japan, poorer actors are greatly respected by those who have reached star status. The latter will leave their luxurious cars away from the theatre and walk, so as not to embarrass their less well-off colleagues. This is how ethics is observed. Unfortunately, such principles have been lost in our time. Every Belarusian theatrical company has interesting actors, and good performances and directors, yet the spirit of the theatre needs to be reinforced, as does the spirit of those who can influence the theatrical process in some way. What can be done to inspire this spirit? We should never forget who we are and where we’re from, where we’re going
and what we’re aiming for. For instance, we can’t become African in spirit, because of our mentality; we won’t ever be able to play blues as they do. Yes, we can be keen on blues, but we should explore our own mentality. We’re a talented nation. What inspires hope? Hope is inspired by the aspiration of certain theatres to preserve the fundamentals of classical theatre, based on traditions. We have some directors who want to achieve this. One of Belarus’ most powerful theatrical companies is the Theatre-Studio of Film Actors. Its artistic leader, Oleg Yefremov, is working hard to this end. Another interesting company is the Belarusian Army Drama Theatre, headed by Alexey Dudarev, which boasts a theatrical atmosphere and team spirit. Valery Anisenko, [the artistic leader of the Republican Theatre of Belarusian Drama] is working hard to preserve theatrical foundations in our country. Some performances not only strengthen these but further develop and renew them. Another interesting stage director in Minsk is Vladimir Savitsky, who has recently become head of the Young Spectators’ Theatre. Mr. Savitsky is one of a few bold and talented personalities who are really concerned about theatre, our country and social problems. As a stage director, he consistently selects Belarusian drama works. Even when he stages foreign drama, he gives it a Belarusian spirit. Mr. Savitsky tries to be sincere in his reactions towards today's life. Slavonic theatrical art has always been logical, exploring the human essence, alongside daily life. Do you teach stage direction? I teach stage direction and stagecraft — vital elements for a stage director. Stage direction courses are also headed by talented directors like Alexander Yefremov, Boris Lutsenko, Valery Raevsky, Valery Anisenko and Vitaly Katovitsky. How many people are enrolled in stage direction? Six people, as a rule. After graduation, only 2-3 used to gain employment with the theatre a decade ago, for various
reasons. However, this figure has now risen to 4-5 people. Which of your graduates are you most proud of? I’m proud of many of my pupils. Among them are laureates of various theatrical festivals and honoured artistes. S ome now head drama theatres in Mozyr, Gomel, Mogilev and Bobruisk. Others work as stage directors while some are employed in Ukraine or in Russia. Some have received employment from me while others have been
A scene from a performance put on at Yevstigney Mirovich Theatre-Studio (Academy of Arts)
taken by the Young Spectators’ Theatre while still students. Some were viewed as unpromising actors early on, but I’ve helped them to establish themselves; one is now a famous stage director in Belarus, gaining popularity for his avant-garde performances. Another of my pupils works for a Moscow theatre and has appeared on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival, alongside Hollywood celebrities. My pupils work with pop musicians, some teach and others occupy executive posts in the sphere of culture. We sometimes hear that there are few good stage directors. Do you agree with this?
Art As a rule, people with particular tastes tend to make such comments, asking: ‘Where is our Nekrošius?’ Alas, they don’t see that we have our Nekrošius, as we have our own Stanislavsky and Peter Brook. However, the profession is naturally critical. On closer inspection, people may see that their views on stage direction may be incorrect.
It’s said that acting is a vocation and way of life, rather than a profession. What then is stage direction? When people speak of the lifestyle of an actor or a stage director, they think only of the most sensational aspects. If we look deeper, we see that there are routine elements, as there are in any job. To an ‘ordinary person’, the profession seems incomprehensible. A stage director’s creativity appears when he awakens his consciousness to penetrate the essence of life. He studies a script and generates an image of the future performance. He relies on his imagination.
For example, Russian writer Maxim Gorky was writing a play where he couldn’t decide on how a certain character would react on being stabbed in the liver with a knife. Gorky tried hard and long to imagine the scene until, one morning, his relatives found him lying on the floor, having stabbed himself. He muttered: ‘It’s very painful to be stabbed in the liver with a knife’. Gorky undertook this experiment to better understand the state of his character and to honestly describe it. Of course, I’ve never taken such extreme steps but, sometimes, the path is long, unless the performance’s structure becomes c l e a r. O n c e t h e structure is formed, you can develop other skills. Teaching stage direction, we try to nurture creative consciousness but we can’t ‘create’ talent. There are only certain things you can teach — such as particular skills and some rules regarding our profession. You can also promote a certain world outlook. Tell us about your path into stage direction. Which difficulties did you face? Who were your teachers? After serving in the army, I arrived in Minsk from Ukrainian KamenetsPodolsky to study, as my roots are Belarusian. I simultaneously entered the stage direction and acting departments, but failed in the acting department during the second round. My teacher was Dmitry Orlov, a Belarusian stage direction leader. I was an acting director from my second year, staging a mime show, as I was keen on this genre. In fact, it was the first mime show in Minsk, organised as part of the republican review. I also took part in a performance by prominent Russian actor and director Nikolay Okhlopkov, who selected me out of fifty students for a mime role. As a third year student, I staged Yanka Kupala’s ‘Primaki’ and was completely involved in stage direction during my fourth year of studies. After
graduating from the university, I was invited to work at Brest’s Drama Theatre and, two years later, joined the Young Spectators’ Theatre. I spent 18 months training at the Moscow Art Theatre, taught by Oleg Yefremov. There, in co-operation with Victor Salyuk, I staged Vasil Bykov’s ‘Last Chance’. Yefremov invited me to stay at the theatre as a director-teacher but, at that time, I also received an invitation to work for the Young Spectators’ Theatre as chief director. Of course, I chose Minsk’s theatre, aiming for independence. I remember asking the Minister of Culture, Yuri Mikhnevich, whether I would be able to stage plays of my own choosing and he said: ‘Write a list and I’ll put a stamp on it’. My list of 30 plays included some with acutely critical themes — for which I was later criticised by the party press. Meanwhile, the Minister couldn’t say anything, because he had given permission. I worked for four years at the Young Spectators’ Theatre before going freelance, staging performances beyond Belarus for eight years. I worked with the best theatres in Russia, Moldova, Ukraine and Siberia. At that time, the Soviet Union press in Minsk wrote about me a great deal. I was then invited to create the Youth Theatre, being appointed chairman of the commission to set up a new troupe. I was able to create a unique company, comprising young Belarusian and Russian actors, whom I selected from various Moscow universities. After working three years with the Youth Theatre, I directed some performances abroad again. However, destiny stubbornly called me to teaching. I was already an established specialist, who had helped outstanding Russian figures rehearse. Moreover, the teaching of stage direction was topical at the time. I became keen on the theory of stage direction and defended a thesis dealing with problems of conceptuality in performances given in the 1970-1980s (a topic first developed in the Soviet Union). I then wrote several articles dedicated to issues of stage direction, drama and acting.
Art Finally, you became a teacher of stage direction? The path was long yet fruitful. How would you describe your style of stage direction? It’s a complex notion; I don’t know how to describe it. I understand the mission of a stage director as the need to explore social problems and the contradictions of life. To my mind, no drama theatre exists beyond this scope. This guides my creativity. My colleagues are sometimes scared to invite me to their premieres, as I tend to be critical — which can be hurtful to them. Over all, I’m a meticulous stage director. I can end up eviscerating actors, which some can’t deal with. Why am I this way? I had good teachers and worked with excellent companies. Angelina Stepanova, a People’s Artiste of the USSR, was a pupil of Konstantin S t a n i s l av s k y a n d Vladimir NemirovichDanchenko. During an artistic council, she said that,
called her performance unbelievable, having no inner, mental movement. She thought for ten minutes and then asked if she might be excused from the next few rehearsals. I gave her a week and, when she returned, she was brilliant. Everyone was astonished. Now, I always give my students the same advice. I master my profession. You can be considered as a ‘wise old man’ of stage direction. Have you ever partnered another stage director for a performance? It was impossible when I had just begun staging performances, but, as the years passed, I began to think that it would be possible. I even came to the conclusion that it didn’t matter too much which stage director is the first. Naturally, it’s still important to me to see my ideas realised. I’m interested in how my partner stage directors think. I can disagree with them and they also can argue with me. It was so when the
“We should never forget who we are and where we’re from, where we’re going and what we’re aiming for. For instance, we can’t become African in spirit, because of our mentality; we won’t ever be able to play blues as they do. Yes, we can be keen on blues, but we should explore our own mentality. We’re a talented nation.” despite my junior status, I’d managed to turn around the performance of Kira Golovko, a People’s Artiste of the USSR and Professor at the MKhAT SchoolStudio. Ms. Golovko had asked me to critique her acting and MKhAT People’s Artistes Alexander Kalyagin and Yevgeny Kindinov overheard my reply. They must have been amused, anticipating how Ms. Golovko would give me a dose of my own medicine. She told me that she didn’t understand my remarks and I replied that she had played her role wonderfully from a technical point of view. However, I noted that Stanislavsky would have
stagedirectionchairwasorganised.Iworked in tandem with many stage directors. I believe that partnership is a key element in a joint performance. It would be a pleasure for me to work with some of our leading masters, to understand their methods of working with contemporary actors. How do you select actors for roles? As a rule, I listen to actors carefully and can make quite a prompt decision as to whether they fit a particular role. I sometimes hear from my colleagues that actors should fulfil any task set by a stage director. Yes, they should — but it’s another question as to whether they
have the ability to do so. Talent, professionalism and technical equipment play their role but actors can only do what comes naturally; they cannot automatically embody the stage director’s view of a performance. Rather, actors should be given the opportunity to do their best. Haven’t you ever lost interest in staging performances? It’s impossible. I continue to stage performances even now: one performance a year, as a rule. Are you critical of yourself professionally? I’ve staged many performances, yet am truly only satisfied with five of them. Is that self-critical? Of these, I’m thinking particularly of Mikhail Bulgakov’s ‘The Heart of a Dog’, which saw 40 full-houses at Kiev’s State Academic Theatre of Drama and Comedy. People were always asking for extra tickets… Do you have any unrealised dreams regarding something you’d like to stage? And are there any particular actors you’d like to work with? Yakub Kolas has a wonderful work, called ‘Poison’, which has only been staged twice in the history of Belarusian theatre. It explores the theme of how unrealistic dreams can ruin a person. I’d also like to stage Chekhov’s ‘Cherry Orchard’ with good actors. It’s about how dreams are crushed by reality and that there’s no need to return to the past, since there’s nothing in the past, except for loss. I’d also like to stage Kondrat Krapiva’s ‘Gates of Immortality’… We often hear that today’s theatre isn’t the same as it was yesterday and that it has diminished in meaning. Do you agree? Partially. Art in general and theatrical art in particular are manifested in various forms: literature and religion are forms of spiritual mentality. Too much shine and glitter have appeared in contemporary theatre; to my mind, theatre is more than mere entertainment. It should also teach us something, while bringing hope that, if something impedes our life, it will be corrected. By Valentina Zhdanovich
Music goes beyond limits
ifteen students from the Young Belarus Symphony Orchestra of the Belarusian State Academy of Music have joined fifty of those from the Conservatoire du Grand Nancy to perform in Nancy. The first half of the concert featured Franz Liszt’s works (whose 200th anniversary is celebrated this year). They played to a full house in the Poirel Concert Hall, with music by famous Belarusian composer Dmitry Smolsky played in the second half. Although the French audience is ‘spoilt’ by local and foreign celebrities, it was greatly impressed by the brilliant performance of Belarusian and French musicians, led by Mikhail Kozinets. The young performers had only four rehearsals before the event. The performance was met by a storm of applause, with Belarusian soloist and international contest laureate Natalia Kotova delighting the audience with her virtuoso piano playing. The event was part of a BelarusianFrench cultural project, initiated by Arkady Volodos, a famous opera singer
After the concert, mood is elevated
Belarusian-French Youth Symphony Orchestra, headed by People’s Artiste of Belarus Mikhail Kozinets, is great success in French Nancy
in Europe. He was born in Belarus and has lived in Paris for 32 years; he studied at the Belarusian Conservatoire at the same time as Mr. Kozinets. His talent and hard work have allowed Mr. Volodos to enjoy a meteoric career in Paris, teaching at the Conservatoire du Grand Nancy. His idea to unite the efforts of gifted young musicians from our two countries has been finally brought to life with assistance from Mr. Volodos and the Director of the Conservatoire du Grand Nancy, Jean-Philippe Navarre. In addition, Nancy Town Hall and the Belarusian Ministry of Culture have supported the project. In October 2010, the joint BelarusianFrench Youth Symphony Orchestra debuted on the stage of the Belarusian State Philharmonic Society in Minsk. The orchestra was conducted by Jean-Philippe Navarre, with 18 French musicians arriving in Minsk. Now, Belarusians have visited the city of Nancy. Mr. Navarre, who has worked hard to implement this musical BelarusianFrench project, is delighted by the brilliant performance of the Belarusian
musicians. He believes that his students have something to learn from their Belarusian colleagues. In particular, our Belarusian musicians boast very strong skills in string instrument playing. Meanwhile, the French are wind instrument experts, so we can certainly learn much from each other. Mr. Navarre stresses that, in future, musical exchanges between France and Belarus will continue, probably including teachers. The Head of the Conservatoire du Grand Nancy also notes the talent of Belarus-born opera singer Arkady Volodos, who initiated the wonderful project and has helped implement it. Mr. Volodos attended the concert in Nancy and was impressed by the perfect performances of works by Franz Liszt and Dmitry Smolsky. He believes cooperation between our two states’ young musicians will yield good results. People’s Artiste of Belarus Mikhail Kozinets emphasises that an audience’s reaction is the best way of assessing a concert; clearly the event was a resounding success. By Galina Grishkovets
t h g i l F y c n a of f At first sight, it may seem that staging a work of prose is harder than staging a scripted play, but all depends on the stage director’s talent
f they ‘translate’ a favourite romance using theatrical language, they must have deep understanding of the intricacies of the work. The writer should be close to the stage director spiritually and morally, with the director identifying themselves largely with the author. This is the first step towards ensuring success, although is not the be all and end all. Young Latvian stage director Igor Kulikov, from Riga, is working with Maxim Gorky National Academic
Drama Theatre in Minsk. He has chosen to stage the early, almost juvenile, works of famous Russian satirist Mikhail Zadornov, rather than a more complex work, full of allusions. In fact, this is his second staging (the first took place in Riga) allowing him to learn from his initial mistakes, alongside his troupe, which has dared to take part in this bold experiment with him. The theatre’s repertoire has long lacked such a performance as “Notes of a Tired Dreamer” — a light performance which illustrates satirist
Zadornov’s cheerfully ironic views on Soviet life from when he was a very young man. Mr. Kulikin’s stage direction doesn’t contradict Zadornov’s prose, as he has long worked as an actor himself. Writer and stage director supplement each other and enjoy friendship in real life — also vital for a successful project. “Notes of a Tired Dreamer” is character rather than plot driven, with its actors improvising, creating ‘living’ roles, as Mr. Kulikov encour-
TheatrePremieres ages. The young actors play several minor roles simultaneously. In a prologue to the performance, young actress Yelena Dubrovskaya plays a naughty teapot, followed by a bored courtyard-caretaker and a doorway gossip. In the second act, she plays a serious dramatic role: a distant relative of the major character. Space and images grow from the tiniest details, as if in Lewis Carrol’s “ T h r o u g h t h e L o o k i n g G l a s s ,” where reality and fantasy entwine. I n a n i m at e o b j e c t s c o m e a l i v e , trying to control us. One character addresses a gate, which commands destinies as an honest judge, doling out freedom or imprisonment. It seems that everything happening on stage reminds us of Friedr i c h D ü r r e n m a t t ’s eagerness to restrict human freedom. However, the scenes of human despair are immediately ‘diluted’ with light lyricism. If this is a world behind the looking glass, it’s a Soviet world, with no knowledge of what lies beyond. Yura — the main character — is a ‘product’ of his time. Two teams of actors are involved in the performance, with Yura played by Andrey Krivetsky and Sergey Zhbankov. They give two variations of the character, Krivetsky’s protagonist being ruder and more aggressive (with a slightly worse singing voice). Zhbankov’s version is softer, possesing more human traits, but both are equally fascinating and believable. Young Lena (the main female character) is also played in duality, by Veronica Plyashkevich and Yulia Kadushkevich. Their versions are closer however, since the girls are so
alike in temperament and psychological type. However, even here, differences are obser ved. As the stage director stresses, Yura and Lena remain themselves: no more or less. They boast some human integrity, despite their tender age. A l l a S orok ina’s s et cre ates a comfortable environment for the ac tors, t ransfor ming e asi ly and showing her love for the details of Soviet lifestyle. This adds a nostalgic f lavour to Kulikov’s “Notes of a Tired Dreamer.” The paradox of the performance is that it involves young actors, while only the older generation can understand its ‘delicate’ sketch of the bygone age. It may
flame for the past, trying to ‘infect’ young actors with this feeling… but have they succeeded? At the least, we can say that the troupe boasts a sense of teamwork, supporting fellow actors and radiating a healthy theatrical spirit, rather than competition and envy. Undoubtedly, the performance will live if the young actors find something close to themselves in each detail. Finally, has so much changed over the course of time? Human nature remains the same, as does our need for love and understanding, our thirst for miracles and romanticism. Our desire to go against the crowd continues, as does our desire to board the first train anywhere. If you’re lucky enough to have a companion on that journey, you are indeed fortunate. Direc tor Igor Kulikov has given us neither an amateur c o n c e r t p a r t y, nor an evening of disclosures (as some might think), nor a popular melodrama featuring two chairs and a huge bed. He gives us a lyr ical c on fe s s i on a b out himself and his time — a wonderful trip into the past. Each of us will decide for ourselves whether to join him on his trip. There is no A scene from “Notes of a Tired Dreamer” performance d o u b t t h a t t h e seem that Mikhail Zadornov’s light creative team behind “Notes of a narrative fades into insignificance Tired Dreamer,” being premiered at in comparison to ‘new drama’. Surely Maxim Gorky National Academic only those who recall kvas barrels Drama Theatre, has done a good job and ‘plombir’ ice-cream — sold for this season. The Russian Theatre has just 5 kopeks — can truly appreciate ‘woven’ this performance from air, its subtleties? sunlight and the relentless feeling Anot her interest ing facet of that we cannot ‘have it all’. This the performance is that it doesn’t lies at the heart of its beauty and apportion blame or try to settle old mystery, offering us some insight scores, lending it nobility. The author into achieving contentment. and stage director hold a sentimental By Valentin Pepelyayev
Strong people World and European Kettlebell Lifting Championship among Masters gathers athletes from over 20 countries in Vitebsk
sually, when it comes to kettlebell lifting, we i m a g i n e He rc u l e a n strong young men, who can easily lift up to 32kg over their heads. In fact, the sport also includes juggling, involving beautiful representatives of the fairer sex, and can incorporate a sprint (1-2 minutes) or marathon (lasting an hour). To make competitions more spectacular, the programme may also include relay races. Even spectators can be given the opportunity to take part, being allowed to select a bell weighing from 4 to 50kg, competing against the professionals. Unsurprisingly, people of various ages, from 5 to 85, take to the stage, as was seen in Vitebsk, which recently hosted the European and World Kettlebell Lifting Championships among Masters. Almost 400 athletes from 23 states arrived in the regional centre, from Russia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Poland, the USA, India, Italy and elsewhere. Among the entrants were those who can be boldly called ‘living legends’: Ukraine’s honoured master of sports Lyubov Cherepakha and famous athlete and coach from Kazakhstan Alexander Chebanny. During the opening ceremony, they were awarded the International ‘Winged Lion’ Order, founded two decades ago in Moscow by representatives of 24 states. This is bestowed for contributions to labour activity, science, art, education, sports and culture. Ivan Nemtsev from Russian Altai, 69, began his career in Soviet times; his world record of lifting a 32kg kettlebell with one hand 362 times is yet to be broken. Meanwhile, a young representa-
tive on the Indian team had only been lifting kettlebells for two weeks prior to the championship, but wasn’t afraid to take on more prominent rivals, having been an arm wrestler before. Some of those taking part were known for other sports, such as 1976 Olympic light-heavyweight weightlifting
lifting the bar, although it’s vital to breathe properly. Now, I’ve been asked to head the Kettlebell Lifting Federation in Belarus.” Young Anzhelika Khiminets of Ukraine celebrated her 17th birthday in Vitebsk. Despite such a tender age, the gymnasium pupil from a small village at the foot of the Carpathians is
Interesting to know In August 2010, Anatoly Yezhov joined his assistants in climbing
the holy Japanese mountain of Fujiyama. At the height of 3,776m, and without oxygen equipment, he lifted two kettlebells, each weighing 16kg, 63 times a minute. In total, he raised 5,648kg in four minutes at Japan’s highest point. champion Valery Shary, who performed in Vitebsk for Belarus’ national team. The outstanding athlete is now 64 and won the super-sprint at the European and World championships. He lifted a 16kg kettlebell 40 times in one minute. “I live in Minsk, where I have my children’s weightlifting school,” he notes. “I became keen on kettlebells several years ago and even managed to perform at the World Championship in Moscow Region. I enjoyed it greatly. It’s not as difficult as
a many-time world champion in kettlebell juggling. In Belarus, naturally, she was the best in this sport in her age category. She also decided to try the sprint, which included lifting a 12kg kettlebell. Telling us more about her interests, she smiles, “I enjoy singing and writing poems. I’ve performed in the circus and love dancing. My favourite singer is Michael Jackson.” During the opening of the tournament, Anzhelika performed her Spring
Sport No such feats were seen in Vitebsk. However, for those wishing to know more, a film dedicated to his achievements has been shot, showing that a healthy and well-trained body can withstand even extreme burdens and dangers. Mr. Yezhov is a Rector of the Russian-Italian International Institute of Management, located in Arkhangelsk, but much connects him with Belarus. He studied at Vitebsk’s Electrotechnical Vo c at iona l Training C o l l e g e o f Communication and served in the army near Minsk, alongside Valery Shary. He has long wanted to organise large competitions in Belarus to demonstrate that both teams are equally dear to him. In Vitebsk, Mr. Yezhov performed for Russia in four nominations and for Belarus in four nominations. He won all of his events, setting new world records. “I think kettlebell lifting i s u nd e re st i m ate d
worldwide,” Mr. Yezhov emphasises. “It doesn’t require much money to set up yet is very beneficial for health, due to its system of breathing and relaxation — borrowed from yoga. Anyone can take part: men, women, youngsters or pensioners.” To arouse interest among Belarusians, the President of the International Confederation has donated several unique kettlebells, specially created for the World Championship, to the Belarusian National Federation. The nextmajorcompetition is planned for Au g u s t i n Arkhangelsk: the Global Kettlebell Lifting Olympiad, featuring 700 athletes from 30 countries. By Sergey Golesnik
At the competition, everyone is cheerful and excited
Dance so beautifully and inspiringly that the organisers awarded her a ‘Miss World Championship’ title. Another Ukrainian, Oleg Ilika, who won an hour long marathon and set a world record, performed for the … Italian team. He brought his two pupils to Belarus with him, who competed in the triathlon; Francesco Rigoli became champion among the 25-29s and Valerio Perullo celebrated victory among those aged 35-39. “I’m still a Ukrainian citizen, but have lived in Italy for 11 years, promoting kettlebell lifting, training athletes and conducting seminars to prepare coaches,” notes Mr. Ilika. “According to statistics, around 10,000 people in Italy enjoy lifting kettlebells in their spare time to keep fit and strong. However, there are also 60 professionals, who attend the country’s championships.” Among the Baltic athletes, it was clear that kettlebell lifting is accessible to all. Latvia’s oldest kettlebell lifter was 61 year old Viesturs Gargurnis, who works as a village carpenter, 15km from Riga. He earned three gold medals in Vitebsk, setting three world records. His teammate Inārs Beļinskis is a deputy at Ķekava City Council, which is also not far from the Latvian capital. The latter told us, “Kettlebell lifting is popular in such cities as Riga, Daugavpils and Jēkabpils. Schoolchildren, pupils and pensioners are involved, with competitions usually held as part of sports events at enterprises.” Kettlebell lifters are also keen to set world records in ‘extreme situations’. One of the organisers of the competition in Belarus, the President of the International Confederation of Weight Lifting Masters, Anatoly Yezhov, 64, noted at a pre-championship press conference that he has lifted kettlebells on Mt. Elbrus, on Kilimanjaro, and in the Alps, as well as at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, near an active volcano, while standing in a deep pit and from the basket of an air balloon.
Atlantica in French musical space Belarusian band Atlantica signs contract for promotion of new album in France
h e c ont r a c t c ove rs c on c e r t s and promotion for the band on national musical channels, on the radio and in the press. Atlantica’s debut single should appear on the French market in May. The album is still being worked upon in Minsk, i nvolv i ng mu s i c ar r ange r O l e g Ivanovich, and will be released in autumn. The French contract won’t influence the CD’s musical direction, notes Dmitry Bezkorovainy, Atlantica’s press spokesman. He also tells us that individual songs from the album are already known to Belarusians: If You’re My Woman and Odyssey.
Presents from ballerina Hundreds of children from Belarusian orphanages and foster homes attend new show by Honoured Artiste of Russia, Anastasia Volochkova
he famous ballerina purchased a portion of the tickets for her Minsk performance to donate them to pupils from a Minsk or ph an age, the Belarusian C h i l d r e n ’s Ho spi c e and four foster homes.
From poetess to poet 120th anniversary celebrations for Maxim Bogdanovich — a Belarusian literary classic
reparations for the anniversary of the writer’s birth are already in full swing, with Maxim Bogdanovich Literary Museum in Minsk planning a wonderful exhibition for the December event. It recently received an e-mail from a resident of the Ukrainian town of Rovno, offering an edition of Vyanok (Wreath) — the only collection of poems written by Bogdanovich. “Until recently, only 25 original editions existed in Belarus, from a circuAdditionally, students of the Belarusian Choreography College and the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts were invited to enjoy the performance. That evening, the star demonstrated many transformations, including a dying swan and Margarita. The fairy-tale characters and pirouettes were supplemented by charming music by Piotr Tchaikovsky and Edvin Marton, and songs by Édith Piaf and others. The diversity of styles made the show captivating, with Anastasia changing costume nine times, including before the eyes of the audience. On performing a passionate tango, she tore off her long red dress to leave a shorter black costume. Applause completed the show, written for Anastasia by Lyubasha. The ballerina promised to return to Minsk, bringing her new charity programme: Anastasia Volochkova to Belarus’ Children.
lation of 2,000,” explains the museum’s Director, Tatiana Shelyagovich. “Luckily, another copy has been discovered. Vyanok was published in Vilno with support from Princess Magdalena Radziwiłł. Of course, we aren’t the only museum preparing for the poet’s anniversary. The National Library of Belarus is to release a multimedia edition on CD, comprising all the verses and articles written by the Belarusian literary classic, alongside musical compositions based on his works. The museum’s archive contains many personal items from the Bogdanovich family. These are to be exhibited at our branch of Belaruskaya Khatka — currently undergoing reconstruction, to be re-opened on the eve of the anniversary. The poet himself once dreamt of creating a puppet theatre.” Maxim spent his childhood in Grodno, with his home becoming a museum in 1986. It boasts some very unusual exhibits. For example, Belarusian poetess Larisa Geniyush donated her embroideries depicting cornflowers, which the poet especially loved. These are often brought to his monument in Minsk.
In line with cultural plan Gavriil Vashchenko’s Picture Gallery in Gomel acquires new exhibition hall and art salon
av r i i l Va s h c h e n ko’s Pi c tu re Galler y honours the People’s Artist of Belarus. He was a professor and academician of painting, who c r e at e d p i c t o r i a l , g r ap h i c a n d monumental works. The galler y w a s u nve i l e d i n 2 0 0 2 , h ou s i ng Vashchenko’s fifty works, donated by his family. The gallery’s collection is constantly expanded, with new painters showcased.
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