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No.5 (956), 2013

BELARUS Беларусь. Belarus

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Contents

Беларусь.Belarus Monthly magazine No. 5 (956), 2013 Published since 1930 State Registration Certificate of mass medium No.8 dated March 2nd, 2009, issued by the Ministry of Information of the Republic of Belarus

4-11 12

18

Founders: The Information Ministry of the Republic of Belarus “SB” newspaper editorial office Belvnesheconombank

Renewal as the way to success

Co-operation picks up steam Stadler Rail Group

is making a significant contribution to the development of relations between Belarus and Switzerland, noted the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, on meeting the company’s CEO, Peter Spuhler

Room for initiatives

26

38

21

Advanced acceleration Belarusian-Lithuani-

24

Neighbours ever closer Belarus and Latvia

30

A very interesting situation Birth rate and life

48

Follows tradition while being young

35

52

expectancy rose last year

Council of Europe confirms status

Design and Layout by Vadim Kondrashov Беларусь.Belarus is published in Belarusian, English, Spanish and Polish. Distributed in 50 countries of the world. Final responsibility for factual accuracy or interpretation rests with the authors of the publications. Should any article of Беларусь.Belarus be used, the reference to the magazine is obligatory.

Capricious musical king Instrument with

This magazine has been printed at “Belarusian House of Press” Publishing Office” UE.

own caretaker and four-storey building easily hidden behind its façade

Soulful music Minsk Philharmonic’s cosy hall attracts fans from Belarusian capital and beyond for Polish KRACOW DUO

Publisher: “SB” editorial office

79 Nezavisimosti Ave., Minsk, Belarus, 220013 Order No.1556 Total circulation — 1952 copies (including 733 in English).

Write us to the address: 11 Kiselyov Str., Minsk, Belarus, 220029. Tel.: +375 (17) 290-62-24, 290-66-45. Tel./Fax: +375 (17) 290-68-31. www.belarus-magazine.by E-mail: mail@belarus-magazine.by

Parks unprecedented privileges Famous business sites of

Scientific approach helps Belarusian scientist defend his PhD thesis

Valentina Zhdanovich

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

celebrate anniversary of diplomatic relations by signing inter-governmental agreement

Comets of Professor Bekish

Executive Secretary:

Alexander Gelakh is a rising star of the Belarusian State Academic Musical Theatre. Not long ago, he demonstrated the depth of his talent at the theatre’s premiere of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci

an forum: politicians focus on driving forward integration

High-Tech Park and Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park set the bar

32

artists, citizens and tourists gathered on a pedestrianised section of Minsk’s Karl Marx Street and, this May, when the warm weather has returned, the tradition will be revived

40

50 Avanced format for information

Holiday in city streets Last year, musicians,

Editor: Viktor Kharkov

Subscription index in Belpochta catalogue — 74977

42

Sincere views of Vasily Sumarev

For future foreign subscribers for ‘Belarus’ magazine, apply to ‘MK-Periodica’ agency. E-mail: info@periodicals.ru Telephone in Minsk: +375 (17) 227-09-10.

© “Беларусь. Belarus”, 2013

2013  беларусь.belarus




editor’s note

Memory never fades

S

ome deeds are untouched by the passing of time. Undoubtedly, Victory Day — celebrated on May 9th — is a date which never loses its significance. Contemporary events do not overshadow its importance, as we continue to remember the unprecedented and enduring heroism of Soviet soldiers. The Great Patriotic War subdued Belarusian lands like a steam roller, leaving around 3 million people dead and 209 cities, towns and district centres destroyed, alongside over 9,000 villages; 380,000 Belarusians were taken as slaves to Germany and, in the years of occupation, the Nazi ran over 260 death camps on Belarusian territory. Hundreds of



беларусь.belarus  2013

prisons and ghettos housed hundreds of thousands of old people, women and children, most of whom died. How can we forget? Meanwhile, partisans vowed to avenge the invasion and rid their country of their enemies, working day and night, as never before seen in history. Over 1.5m Belarus-born people fought on the various fronts of the Great Patriotic War, standing to the bitter end near Moscow, Leningrad, Stalingrad and Kiev. They helped liberate villages and towns across their Homeland, as well as those in Eastern and Central Europe. Around 400 Belarus-born residents became generals and admirals, commanding army and naval units during the war years. Meanwhile, 448 Belarusians were awarded the high title of Hero of the Soviet Union, for their heroism and dignity in defending their Fatherland. Four people were awarded this title twice. Those sad years saw a third of Belarusians perish; it was the price of freedom. While we remember, others also need to be aware of what occurred. After WWII, Belarus helped found the Organisation of the United Nations — an honour held by few states. Belarus was chosen among the republics of the Soviet Union for its great contribution in defeating Fascism. May is a special month, marking victory over Fascism in WWII. Belarus reverently honours soldiers’ heroic deeds. Even today, around 50,000 ex-servicemen and partisans of the Great Patriotic War reside here, although they are fewer in number each year. Our veterans continue to receive state attention and support and Victory Day remains sacred. The Great Patriotic War has left its legacy, yet remembered in Belarus, although other countries may choose to forget. Today’s teenagers sometimes have the opportunity to meet those war heroes. Without doubt, the experience is significant, leading some to seek out soldiers who died in the war, restoring the named of unknown soldiers. Some ‘adopt’ veterans, paying regular visits. They remember and are aware of the war and honour the victors. Time passes and the world is changing, but the truth cannot be untold. Belarus is building relations with other countries, based on good neighbourly relations, following our contemporary political credo. The best contests worthily reveal the strongest, as in sport, where competition remains peaceful, despite the sharpest struggle. The essence of international co-operation is partnership, as Belarus knows, orienting its foreign policy towards mutual relations with other countries. The nation’s political priorities were recently disclosed in the President’s annual State of the Nation Address to the Belarusian People and the National Assembly. Our magazine includes a summary of the text, allowing readers to better understand the position of the country in its quest to be a fully-fledged partner, open to the widest contacts. Many partners of Belarus have already felt the benefit of economic interaction, including neighbouring Lithuania Moving Forward details the recent Belarusian-Lithuanian Forum, as well as new initiatives by our two countries’ governments. BY Viktor Kharkov


белта

Celebration

Symbol of victorious spring

President Alexander Lukashenko lays wreath at Victory Monument on May 9th, 2013 Dear veterans!

Belarus was the first border of defence and did not bend to its knee before

Dear fellow countrymen and guests of the capital!

the enemy. The heroic deeds of the defenders of Brest Fortress, the courage

According to worthy tradition, we’ve gathered here again, in the heart of

of hundreds of thousands of partisans and under-grounders, as well as the

Minsk, a Hero City, to honour the sacred and dear holiday of Victory Day. We’re celebrating the 68th anniversary and 68th peaceful spring. We no

dignity of the soldier-liberators who saved our Motherland from the Fascist yoke, are inscribed into the annals of domestic history in golden letters.

longer hear the clatter of weaponry or the sound of bombs falling on our

It was on the lands of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine that the never before

land. Dug-out shelters and trenches are now overgrown with grass and the

defeated Wehrmacht was stopped and the destiny of Europe was decided.

zelotic stoves of the concentration camps are cool. Moreover, new cities and

We will never let anyone forget that it was the Soviet people who made the

villages have replaced ruins and burned areas.

decisive contribution in defeating the Nazis, through unbelievable effort

The land has recovered from its wounds and life reigns over death.

and countless sacrifices.

Nevertheless, war will never be a thing of the distant past for the Belarusian

Those who did not return home from the war rest in peace under

people, who lost a third of their citizens to the struggle against Fascism.

thousands of monuments and in numerous graves: marked and unmarked.

It remains in the memory of the generation of victors, and their grateful

While our Earth revolves around the Sun and while our hearts are beating,

descendants. The lessons of war are an education for all humanity.

we will remember their deeds. We have no right to forget.

Some constantly try to ‘revise’ the history of the Great Patriotic War,

The Belarusian State Museum of Great Patriotic War History, which is

reducing the significance of the heroic struggle of the Soviet people and

currently under construction in Minsk, is the embodiment of our national

blackening the name of the partisan movement, while rehabilitating Fascist

memory. This magnificent memorial shows that we keep the truth about the

executioners and, especially, their vassals.

days of war and respect deeply those who fought against the Nazi aggressors.

Our duty and our sacred mission is to preserve the truth about that war and

In our glorious past, nations have sought sources with which to

about the legendary heroic deeds of the Soviet nation, preserving memories

strengthen their spiritual powers. The memory of the Great Patriotic War

of its major achievement – the Great Victory!

and your heroic deeds is necessary in helping us approach the future with

We’ll always remember how the virus of the ‘brown plague’ appeared,

confidence; we are inspired by the magnificence of the past.

generated by the inhuman ideology of Nazism and the timorous policy of

Accept our huge gratitude for this holiday, for the peaceful sky over

peaceful powers. Having created a monster, they were the first victims of

our heads and for our life, as well as for this wonderful country, which is

the Fascist military machine.

growing, developing and improving with each day.

After conquering Europe within just a few months, Hitler’s legions approached the borders of the Soviet Union. However, their strategists forgot the historical warning of the sacred defender of Slavonic lands, Alexander Nevsky: ‘Those who come with a sword will die by that sword’.

I’m confident that our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will multiply the traditions of dignity and courage, handed down by you. I wish you, and all those you hold close and dear, health, success, welfare, happiness and prosperity.

2013  беларусь.belarus




Message

D

elivering the annual State of the Nation Address to the Belarusian People and the National Assembly on April 19th, the Belarusian Pre s i d e n t a g a i n

determined a range of tactical areas f development of the Belarusian state and society for the nearest time. The major topic of the Address, which was entitled ‘Country’s Renewal — the Way to Success and Prosperity’, became the recently announced state programme of largescale modernisation of Belarusian enterprises.

Country with safety margin The President started his speech from the fact that Belarus boasts a good safety margin under the conditions of the protracted world crisis. According to the Head of State, the year of 2013 is a ‘key year of the current five-year plan’. “If we look back, we can see that the cated, and everyone remembers this. We were affected by the world financial and economic crisis. However, we’ve managed to stabilise the situation. Today, we overcome confidently the bar of $500 of the average salary in the country. I repeat: the average salary. We’ve coped with high inflation, calmed the currency market, provided the budget surplus and kept gold and foreign currency reserves at safe level,” noted Mr. Lukashenko. The Belarusian leader stated that Belarus’ all successes have been noticed in the world. According to the annual UN rating, we are among top 50 states regarding the Human Development Index. This is the highest index among the CIS states. “However, there are no fewer reasons for concern. The world around us is still in the crisis. Dramatic events in Greece and Cyprus, that, unfortunately, affect Europe, are sad proof of this.

Belta

start of the five-year plan was quite compli-

Renewal as the way to success President of Belarus delivers the State of the Nation Address to the Belarusian People and the National Assembly

There are no favourable forecasts for the future.

According to the Head of State, in such

lined the President. “Further growth of the

Moreover, the world’s financial and political elite

periods of the history, the mankind always

welfare of every person depends not only

is at a loss. Simple ways of solving the problems

applies to basic economic values — ability to

on the operational measures taken by the

like the printing of blank Dollars and Euros, as

provide themselves with essential commo-

authorities, but also on the correct choice

well as sophisticated financial manipulations

dities: food, clothing, shelter. “We have a

of the countr y ’s development strategy.

have no effect, but there is lack of power and

good safety margin in this respect; we have

Taking into account extreme interdepend-

courage for inevitable fundamental reforms. By

good skills, because Belarus has developed

ence of countries in the modern world, we

the way, they all require reforms from us,” added

the real sector of its economy and hasn’t

should understand well the existing global

the Belarusian President.

blown a soap financial bubble,” under-

processes and our place in them.”



беларусь.belarus  2013


Message No one abolished tasks to raise economic figures

Three whales of modernisation

have three main requirements: speed, flexibility

“The key problem of our economy is compet-

and creativity. This is connected with rapidly

economy work in the first quarter of this year are

itiveness of domestic goods. In order to win in the

changing world and the appearance of new

positive, but only against the background of the

severe competitive war at the global market, we

ideas and technologies, as well as the necessity

current development of the world economy. The

should constantly update our knowledge, tech-

to constantly adapt towards these changes and

GDP growth rate amounted to 103.5 percent,

nologies, equipment and management systems.

propose something new. “Those who always

while that of investments in basic capital reached

So, the main backbone idea for Belarus today is

copy will always lag behind. Therefore, on the

112.5 percent, including almost 122 percent

the idea of renewal,” explained the Head of State.

one hand, any young nation has to learn from

into equipment. “We observe a positive balance

Nevertheless, Mr. Lukashenko stressed that

the outside world, while, on the other hand, it

foreign trade in goods and services. The currency

renewal is not the rejection of our model and

should always remember that at some stage it

income is growing from month to month. Gold

the previous path. Renewal is a new stage of our

should be ready to bring something of its own

and foreign currency reserves are formed in the

development. “When we talk about upgrading

in the world. Only creativity can ensure a break-

equivalent of more than two months of imports.

and modernisation, ultimately this doesn’t mean

through in the group of leaders,” Mr. Lukashenko

Moreover, a stable situation on the domestic

that this is the President’s fiction. We approached

is convinced.

market comes from the fact that the supply of

this long ago, and even moved forward signifi-

foreign currency exceeds the demand in all

cantly in some main directions in terms of

‘Window of opportunities’

segments. By the way, since the beginning of

modernisation. We renovate old enterprises

The Head of State named the current stage

the year, the National Bank has bought nearly

while also constructing new facilities,” said the

of socio-economic development a special stage,

$600m. Though the refinancing rate of the

Belarusian leader.

requiring accelerated paces of modernisa-

According to the President, the results of the

According to the Head of State, modern times

National Bank still remains high, taking into

“We should rely on three strong national

tion process. “The fact is that happening at the

account the decrease of the inflation, it has been

projects, enabling us to update the state. The first

present time change of the dominant techno-

reduced up to 27 percent per annum. This means

project is modernisation of our economy. The

logical structures opens a ‘window of oppor-

that the credit resources for the real sector of the

second one is informatisation of society. The third

tunities’ for successful entry into a new wave of

economy are gradually becoming more afford-

project is the support of youth and its large-scale

economic growth. In these times of large-scale

able,” continued Mr. Lukashenko.

involvement in the state’s construction,” empha-

global technological movements the ‘window of

sised the President.

opportunities’ enables individual countries to get

However, the Belarusian President asserted that despite this positive trend, the reserves

According to Mr. Lukashenko, despite

ahead while making an economic breakthrough.

of ready products are growing actively in the

the financial crisis, the intellectual progress of

We should take advantage of this experience,”

warehouses of industrial enterprises both in

the world has not slowed down at all, but is

believes the President.

absolute and relative terms. As of April 1st, there

only accelerating while gaining tremendous

Mr. Lukashenko reminded that these issues

were over Br30tr of ready products in the ware-

momentum. “I’m convinced that it is new scien-

had been discussed in March at the meeting of

houses. — double compared to the last year.

tific inventions, and not sophisticated financial

the Council of Ministers. “Even if in tough and

What is the reason? I have not cancelled my

schemes, that will start the ‘dying out engine’

severe form, but we’ve discussed these issues

requirement to the Government to be one big

of the global economy. The global whirlpool of

and, in my opinion, we’ve understood each other

ministry of trade. I ask local authorities to join the

new ideas, technologies and inventions is also

and agreed,” noted the Head of State.

Government immediately and produce definite

sucking Belarus. Despite the fact that we are an

Moreover, Mr. Lukashenko accentuated

results regarding the unloading of warehouses,”

average (according to European standards) state

that a criterion was set up for the effectiveness

demanded the Head of State.

without any planetary ambitions, we already

of modernisation — the achievement of annual

“The most important is that nobody has

can’t think of our destiny separately from global

revenue per employee of no less than $60,000.

cancelled the tasks related to economy growth

processes,” underlined the President. “Our

“This is the major and fundamental criterion for

this year. The Government and the Parliament

choice is small. We can either adapt to rapid

everyone. The bar is $60,000 per each employee

voluntary agreed with these figures. Please,

changes, or stay on the sidelines of the history.

while orders and medals should be awarded only

both the Government and the Parliament,

There is no other choice.”

from the sales produce,” stressed the President.

start fulfilling your own decisions!” said Mr. Lukashenko. “Remember, today there is no reason to relax. Yes, it seems that crisis has been left behind and we are moving forward gradually. However, when we relax at least for a while, the life will severely punish us for this, because the markets of our main consumers —

The key problem of our economy is competitiveness of domestic goods… So, the main backbone idea for Belarus today is the idea of renewal

the European Union and Russia — have sagged, and the situation is very complicated.”

2013  беларусь.belarus




Message Lukashenko also noted that the necessary

will buy everything abroad’, ‘these enterprises

Continuing to enumerate the achievements

conditions have been determined which

should be liquidated, sold for a penny, we don’t

in economic modernisation, Mr. Lukashenko also

should be created by the Government, the

need them’. Time has passed. We have chosen a

named the development of BelAZ ‘super-heavy’

National Bank and the Governors for successful

different path. And what do we have today? It

heavy-duty dump truck with a capacity of 450

modernisation. “There’s no need to convince

turns out that those, who suggested this to us,

tonnes which will be exported to the markets

anyone in the importance of the moderni-

say today: ‘Belarusians have done a good job’.

of Kazakhstan, Siberia, the Far East and Asian

sation. Its necessity is obvious,” the Head of

Someone whispers somewhere in the diplomatic

countries. The first models of this vehicle will

State is confident. “We should improve all the

sidelines, but we, you and I, see that we were right,

appear in summer 2013.

processes, let alone the base and the founda-

choosing this way,” noted the Head of State.

“The launch into exploitation of the iso-

tion of any state and society — economy. So,

“Our opponents, enemies, and the ‘fifth column'

merisation unit at Mozyr Oil Refinery will enable

there is no sense to argue if modernisation is

have no new ideas; they again use their ‘old weapon’

us to receive automobile fuel meeting contem-

necessary or not. This is an objective process of

suggesting to close everything and liquidate... Well,

porary economical norms and the requirements

state and society development.”

let’s imagine this: we close everything today and

of European standards,” added the President.

Mr. Lukashenko paid attention to the fact

what will people do tomorrow. Where will they get

However, Mr. Lukashenko believes that we

that Belarus’major partner in the Customs Union

paid?” said the President. “Shortly speaking, these

cannot be focused only on these familiar to us

and the Single Economic Space — Russia — has

are old songs on ‘let’s destroy to the ground, and

the traditional sectors of the economy. “Already

already joined the World Trade Organisation,

then...’, which have merged countries in the chaos

within this five-year plan, not less than 40 percent

while our second partner — Kazakhstan — is

of social disruption and economic regress several

of export growth will be provided by high-tech

on the verge of joining. “This means that we

times in the history. As they say, to break is not to

production with low import capacity, bio-,

are actually working in the conditions of

build — much mind is not required.

nanotechnologies, pharmacy, information technologies and optoelectronics. For the past two

Already within this five-year plan, not less than 40 percent of export growth will be provided by high-tech production with low import capacity, bio-, nanotechnologies, pharmacy, information technologies and optoelectronics

years, we have created and develop 30 biotechnological productions on the basis of domestic developments. Agricultural and pharmaceutical areas with the greatest growth potential are especially important for us. By 2015, we will reach volumes of hundreds of thousands of Dollars, for the five-year plan, more than five-fold increase in production is expected — from $70 to $360 million — and revenue per employee in these areas from the current $39 to $212 thousand. Not planned $60,000, but $212,000!” explained the President. By 2015, due to Belarusian technologies

severe global competition. So, there is no other

Mr. Lukashenko emphasised that our way

the complete demand of the domestic market

choice, but to rapidly update our economy,” the

is not destruction, but creation, not Manilov’s

in feed additives will be meet, as well as need

President believes.

dreams, but real projects of systematic economic

for proteins and conservatives of feed, milk

development, improvement and steady increase

replaces, medicines of blood plasma, medical

a lot about the issue of modernisation today.

of our production potential.

diagnosis and treatment at the cellular level.

“Our opponents say that the authorities have

Modernisation is underway

“This is a new bio production with high added

The Head of State noted that media is wicked

found another pre-election slogan. They say that everything will be limited just with empty

value, which will give us advantages in the market of the Single Economic Space,” noted

talk. They come to a strange conclusion that the

The President of Belarus noted that

the Belarusian leader. Mr. Lukashenko also

competitiveness of the growth of the potential

modernisation has started long ago in the

added that ‘these are just a few examples, the

of Belarusian products has been exhausted

country and that we are now entering the

list of which can be continued both according

and in absolute terms, the degradation of our

final stages of modernisation. The Head of

to industries and regions’.

economy is going on. Therefore, there is no need

State brought as an example petrochemical

The Head of State brought the examples

to modernise it, we should just forget about

industry. Technical modernisation of the light

of how modernisation shouldn’t be conducted.

it and take a radically different model,” said the

stream at Belshina JSC has enabled to organise

“According to the Committee of State Control,

Belarusian leader. “Well, we’ve already faced this.

the production of new generation tyres while

in 2007, the Gomel branch of Petrikov House-

Over this time, I have already got such lessons

contemporary manufacture of polyether

Building Plant decided to reconstruct sintering

several times. I was suggested: ‘There is no need

textile threads was organised at Svetlogorsk

plant with a solid increase of capacity. They have

in new harvester, no need in new machines, we

Khimvolokno.

described an investment project until 2015.



беларусь.belarus  2013


Message a completed cycle of production and sales of goods. There are examples of good work. These are agricultural complexes Snov, Dzerzhinsky, Zhdanovichi and several others.” Secondly, according to the Head of State, to increase export potential the industry needs to complete the creation of food companies this year, with such integrated structures primarily focusing on the expansion of sales markets both in the CIS and non-CIS states. “However, everything should be without excessive cases,” required the President. He underlined that we don’t need voluntarism in this Belta

process. Uniting the poor, one will not get much advantage. We should look for ways for the poor to become rich tomorrow and to make any steps For several years, only the Ministry of Architecture and Construction Innovation

capital investments, from each hectare of land and each farm?

only in this direction,” said Mr. Lukashenko. “Thirdly, taking into account modern

Fund has allocated Br9bn for reconstruction.

“Frankly speaking, I’m worried about quality

requirements of the food market and the possi-

Over the several years, Br9bn has been injected

characteristics of the situation in the industry

bilities of receiving greater profit, it’s necessary

into the reconstruction from the Architecture

rather than about volume indicators,” admitted

to change the structure of our agricultural

and Construction Ministry’s innovation fund.

the President. “We’ve learnt how to reap good

exports,” stressed the President. He noted that it’s

However, they didn’t take into account that house

harvests. And we sustainably increase the gross

not enough just to make animal breeding, that

building factories are moving to the production

production. The pace of growth in 2012 was 117.5

provides 90 percent of food exports, a priority of

of modern upgraded panels, where construc-

percent. The food export reached almost $5bn

development, but the main thing is to increase

tion expanded clay is not used. In other words,

— 125 percent on 2011.” Meanwhile, the Head of

the depth of the raw material processing. We

knowing about reducing the need for expanded

State is concerned we still don’t manage to reach

should sell products with higher added value. It’s

clay, they planned growth of its production. The

the level of the lossless operation at all farms.

enough to bring carcasses and semi- carcasses to

result is that this money was thrown to the wind,” continued the President.

“Without taking into account the state support, over 500 organisations -- about one

the markets; we should sell the final products,” said Mr. Lukashenko.

“In order to avoid such situations, every

third of the total number -- are unprofitable.

According to the Head of State, salaries of

enterprise should have a modernisation plan,

The debt load of the agricultural sector is very

budgetary workers, pensions and allowances in

confirmed with deep study of the market

high. These are serious disadvantages in the

2013 will be raised several times. “The growth of

and prospects of development,” resumed Mr.

work of the industry,” emphasised the President.

population welfare is one of the major goals of

Lukashenko.

Therefore, according to him, the most important

our policy,” noted Mr. Lukashenko. The number

Agriculture should become lossless

task in 2013 is to ensure the financial sustain-

of low-income households is falling both in cities

ability of farms, accelerate their self-financing,

and villages. “Yes, in recent years, a considerable

and, first of all, do everything for loss-making

gap has formed between payment for labour in

“The most important task in 2013 is to ensure

companies to disappear. “This will greatly

the budgetary sphere and the national economy

the financial sustainability of farms, accelerate

improve the economy of the entire agricultural

as a whole. Today, this correlation stands at

their self-financing, and, first of all, do everything

sector and will help raise the level of income of

around 80 percent while it should be no less than

for loss-making companies to disappear,” under-

villagers,” the Head of State is confident.

90 percent,” said the Head of State.

lined the Head of State.

According to the President, technological

It has been stipulated in this year’s budget

“The strategy of development of the agri-

renovation of production, the improvement of

that the first grade wage rate of the budgetary

cultural branch has been determined in the

management methods and structural changes

workers, as well as pensions and allowances,

Republic. “We aren’t going to reject it,” said the

should promote the dynamic development of

will be enhanced several times. “However, this

President. High levels of expansion of produc-

the agricultural sector.

shouldn’t be simply indexation of price growth

tion volumes and food exports, as well as the

“In the next year or two, the Ministry of

or ‘imitation’ of salary growth,” warned the

increase of economic efficiency and incomes of

Agriculture and Food and local authorities should

Belarusian leader. “I’ve put a task before the

rural employees, scheduled for a five-year plan,

primarily establish a major agricultural complex

Government this March to reduce the gap in

should be fulfilled,” asserted Mr. Lukashenko. He

in every district,” believes Mr. Lukashenko. “It

labour payment among those working in the

added that the question is how to do it better?

should combine a number of agricultural produc-

budgetary sphere and those working in the

How to achieve the highest payback from

tion enterprises and processing plants to ensure

national economy. After the first six months I’m

2013  беларусь.belarus




Message waiting for the report on the adopted measures

What’s the essence of these plans?” added the

should connect everything: from economy and

aiming to change the situation.”

Mr. Lukashenko. “Unless you do this, don’t even

education to management and security.”

“My requirement remains unchanged

start talking about salaries, and don’t dump this

Mr. Lukashenko underlined that IT is able

— salaries should be earned!” underlined

issue either on the Government or the President,”

to secure the achievement of several strategic

Mr. Lukashenko. “ Their growth depends

noted the Belarusian leader.

targets. Foremost, it’s able to eliminate the red

completely on us. If we manage to modernise

“If you don’t do this in the nearest time,

tape problem through the implementation of

enterprises, enhance labour productivity and

you will follow in the footsteps of notorious

e-government project. Moreover, it’s possible

beneficially sell our goods, we’ll be paid more and,

ministers,” warned the President. “Don’t nurture

to create a brand new accounting and control

accordingly, the incomes of budgetary workers

illusions that objective differentiation in labour

system: from monitoring of financial flows

will increase, as will pensions and allowances.

payment will disappear. I refer only to elimina-

to the control over the movement of goods.

tion of distortions.”

Moreover, another moment is additional effect

Meanwhile, the Head of State admitted that the budgetary sphere in the country needs opti-

“Of course, it would be nice if everyone’s

in energy saving, as informatisation may help

misation.“You would agree with me that a teacher

salary rises as quicker and more often as

achieve technological breakthrough in trade,

or a medical worker shouldn’t feel ‘defective’

possible. However, there’re no easy solutions

education, medicine and security while also

before employees from other spheres. Moreover,

here and empty printed money immediately

giving a significant impetus for the develop-

I’d like to underline that there shouldn’t be any

leads to price growth. This brings to nothing

ment of domestic IT market. “It’s vital to under-

populism,” added the Head of State. “I’ve said

any rise in salaries and incomes,” summed up

stand the peculiarity of the IT sphere, as it gives

about medical workers and teachers. However,

the Belarusian President.

high profits under minimum material expendi-

I could have said the same about others. Unless

Informatisation for breakthrough

tures,” said the President.

they begin to optimise themselves, there can’t be any conversation about high salaries.”

Moreover, according to the President, Belarus finds itself in a situation of a wheelbarrow

For example, Mr. Lukashenko proposed to

The Presidential Administration, the

without a wheel. “Belarusian programmers are

raise the rate of teachers from 18 to 20 hours

Government and the Operational and Analytical

working in the West while Belarus itself lags in

per week. “Meet us halfway in this respect,

Centre of the President of the Republic of

the IT sphere,” noted the Head of State. Moreover,

as happened with the state apparatus where

Belarus need to team up for the development

Mr. Lukashenko also reminded that the country

I made the decision to make redundant 25

of proposals on the organisation that would

launched a project aiming to construct 4G LTE-

percent of the staff. The nation will soon under-

specialise in IT penetration in Belarus. “In this

standard networks. “Unfortunately, we’re ahead

stand if we use this situation to raise salaries

respect, I instruct the Government jointly

of the curve in this area but also try to catch up.

for state officials,” believes the President. Why

with the Presidential Administration and the

These networks are successfully operating in

can’t they do the same with these two hours

Operational and Analytical Centre to think over

many countries while we only begin to create

in order to show this to people? Why hasn’t

and submit proposals on the definite structure

them,” said the President. The Head of State

the Education Ministry cleared our educational

with all necessary powers, which will govern

noted in this respect that it’s better late than

structure from all types of ‘hangers-on’? There’re

all process,” said Mr. Lukashenko. The President

never but it’s bad that the government hasn’t

so many various methodical and other groups

explained that the world experience clearly

seen this in due time. “Even if it did see, there

there who don’t bring any benefit to education.

shows that successful informatisation can be

were no proposals. If one proposes they will have

They only demand from teachers to write plans:

conducted not within separate departments

to implement this tomorrow,” noted the Head of

targeted plans, promising plans and others.

but only in a centralised manner, according to

State. As a result, other structures, rather than the

the single plan and from the single centre.

Government and the Communications Ministry,

The Head of State stressed

The President stressed that a small state

become a large-scale

cannot take everything under control at once.

nationwide project and

Belarus needs its own niche in the global

it should cover every

economy of knowledge. “High quality of our

area of our life: from

education in IT is justly praised worldwide,” the

online education

Head of State noted.

and telemedi-

Which investors Belarus needs

cine to computer systems

of

fuel consump-

Belta

tion



беларусь.belarus  2013

became initiators of the project.

that IT penetration should

Any enterprise can be sold in Belarus but

record.

there won’t ever be any backroom deals. “The

Information tech-

principles have been announced more than

nologies, like the

once. If you want to buy anything, then pay the

nervous system,

market price, plus, take a commitment to invest


Message money in the production, save jobs, give people

Direct state support of citizens in ensuring housing is being currently preserved and will be preserved in future. However, it’s becoming more targeted

a decent salary,” said the Head of State. Mr. Lukashenko is confident that privatisation isn’t a panacea for all woes. “The IMF, the European Union and anti-crisis funds all advise to conduct privatisation and to sell state enterprises. However, there’s no need to bend us very low and our partners and our close brothers shouldn’t do this,” he said adding that Belarus won’t agree for selling at dumping prices. “As soon as situation on the market normalises we’ll start discussing this issue. I haven’t invented anything. Europe and

practice shows that the enterprise management

America say that now it’s not profitable to sell

system is the most important for medium and

assets,” assured the President.

large enterprises, where hundreds or thousands

Ensuring privileged housing doesn’t become rented…

If someone tries to use this situation and

of employees work, and not who owns it -- state

In the State of the Nation Address the

divide the country, this won’t happen,” said

or a private owner. We take easy this issue and

President noted that state support in housing

Mr. Lukashenko. According to him, Belarus has

we support the diversity of ownership forms,

construction will be targeted as well as strictly

markets and domestic produce can rival what

but our approach to privatisation is unchanged,”

controllable regarding its target use. “We also set

is manufactured by would-be shareholders in

noted Mr. Lukashenko.

strict requirements for renting of housing which

quality and price. He brought MAZ as an example

Meanwhile, the Belarusian President noted

was constructed using the state support. These

which boasts its own modernisation programme.

that we need such privatisation and such

people have built housing using privileged loans

I ask potential investors, “How much will you

investors that will ensure the expansion of the

and then offered it for rent and received income

invest in the modernisation of MAZ, since you

commodity markets and the creation of new

from this. Then why we helped these people if

came here?”The answer is that there is no money.

industries and technologies, as well as good

they don’t need housing?” said the President.

Moreover, I’m informed that there are foreigners

salaries to employees. “We don’t need such

“Each family should have their own flat, a house

from Germany and America behind them. These

investors that pay little salary to employees and

and a roof over their heads. This is why in the past

are just interested to close MAZ here, as they don’t

all money is taken by the group of shareholders,”

years we’ve injected colossal funds into housing

need competitor,” said the President. However,

he summed up noting that one should be equal

construction even in violation of the laws of

according to him, it’s not enough for Belarus to

to our joint project with the Swiss Company

macroeconomics.”

produce an axle or cook cabs by hand at a large

Stadler — one of the European leading manu-

The Head of State noted that hundreds of

machine building plant. My dear, the Belarusian

facturers of railway rolling stock. Together with

families have acquired their housing due to very

people elected me, and I won’t be involved in

Belkommunmash, they have established an

powerful state support and we built 5m sq.m.

this action!” he emphasised. “Do you want to

enterprise for the production of the railway and

of housing per year on average. Moreover, over

create a joint management company? Let’s do

urban passenger electric transport in the Minsk

half of these were for those in need to improve

it. Let’s work 3-5 years and see what we will get

Region. “Very soon, this site will start launching

their living conditions. We outstrip all CIS states in

from this. I think that this is the last time I answer

excellent Belarus-made modern electric trains

these positions,” explained Mr. Lukashenko.

the question about privatisation of Belarusian

and urban electric transport which are equal

The President announced that, “Direct state

enterprises by foreign, as well as our domestic

in their quality to the Swiss transport,” said Mr.

support of citizens in ensuring housing is being

investors,” added the Belarusian leader.

Lukashenko. He paid attention that although the

currently preserved and will be preserved in

The Head of State also focused attention on

plant is still under construction, there is already a

future. However, it’s becoming more targeted

the major approach to modernisation. Its essence

decent portfolio of foreign orders for its products.

while taking into account real financial opportu-

is not just the update, but the creation of new

“Moreover, our co-operation with the owner

nities of citizens. We’ll be providing state support

quality and achievement of higher standards

of this company, Peter Spuhler, does not stop

only to those who really need it. To everyone who

and competitiveness. “Only then, we will get

there. With his participation, we are negotiating

needs it!”

more efficient economy structure — not import

about the production of special machinery for

Upon the President’s instruction by this April

based, but export oriented. This is the sense of

municipal services with another Swiss manufac-

the lists of such families have been adjusted. As

our structural reforms, not in the distribution of

turer,” continued the Head of State. Accordingly,

a result, 85,000 citizens were struck off the list;

state assets for a song, absolute privatisation,

a corresponding investor has plans to set up in

these hadn’t right to be among those on the

as we are advised by home-grown and ‘import’

Belarus the production of communal machinery

waiting list.

experts, but in the acquisition of new quality of

(undeveloped by the country) which is of great

According to Mr. Lukashenko, from this

economy,” said the President.

demand worldwide. Mr. Lukashenko under-

year, housing is built in line with a state order

lined that such investors are welcome on the

for those who are on the waiting list. “At first, a

Belarusian land.

house will be constructed and then ready-made

Meanwhile, he underlined that he doesn’t refer to radical change in property relations. The

2013  беларусь.belarus




Message accommodation will be allocated to citizens on

The President warned several times the

go away who accidentally found their way to the

prices which are formed on the date of the house

leadership of regional and district executive

state apparatus or who don’t see themselves on

commissioning (with a privileged bank loan

committees, as well as the Minsk City Executive

the state service,” noted Mr. Lukashenko.

issues),” explained the Belarusian leader.

Committee, that responsible developers should

Alongside the reduction of the state

Moreover, the opportunities are also widened

construct. “It isn’t normal when developers come

personnel, it’s also necessary to revise the

for citizens to independently solve their housing

and take resources in our banks as intermediaries,

functions of state authorities. “The departments

issue. “We’re forming a sector of rent housing

hire our construction firm which builds for them

complain that there’s much work and they can’t

while increasing the share of individual housing

and then sell housing at the highest prices on the

cope up. However, if we look closer, half of

construction,” said the President of Belarus.

market. Is it normal?!”

functions should have been already rejected. As

Developers will be strictly controlled

The President stressed, “You should take

a result, they burden themselves and the popula-

this money in the banks, come up to developers,

tion, and enterprises also suffer. I’d like to say that

oblige them to build — these are primarily

all money -- saved on the reduction of the state

“Moreover, in the nearest time, the responsi-

state enterprises and even private companies

apparatus — will be given to raise salaries for

bility of developers in the shared-equity construc-

on which you have a considerable influence

state officials. A person, who devotes themselves

tion will be made more rigorous. The terms of

— and then sell on a normal price and put

to servicing the state and is deprived of other

cost of construction, stipulated in the contract,

money into the state pocket.” According to

opportunities to earn, should be able to maintain

will be rigidly controlled and strictly observed,”

Mr. Lukashenko, there shouldn’t be such char-

their families,” emphasised the President.

said the Head of State adding that if these are

latans on the construction market. “They don’t

Moreover, Mr. Lukashenko also said that

violated due to the fault of developers all addi-

understand anything in construction; but are

he is often informed that there’s some tension

tional expenditures will be covered by them.

hanging about close to Ladutko or Lukashenko,

among state officials in the view of the reduction.

Moreover, developers will also pay a significant

showing that they are the closest and the

“Some feel offended by the President’s decision. I

penalty to equity holders.

dearest. Then they go to a minister and begins

underline that we won’t offend anyone. All those

to run rings around them. Specialists should

who are worthy to serve in the state apparatus

construct, take loans from the banks and invest

to the nation and the state will be employed and

them,” noted the Belarusian leader.

involved. Those talented people who’ve found

Reduction of state apparatus

their way to the state service accidentally will be

Grigory Rapota, State Secretary of the Union State: The President’s State of the Nation Address is a landmark act which reveals the position of the Head of State while demonstrating his assessments of the situation and his views on the future, and what is the most important the choice of priorities. It seemed to me that evident adherence towards values of the Union State and the Russian-Belarusian relations is extremely vital. Speaking about the Address, one fact aroused special interest: this year, Belarus will cease exporting round timber and will supply only timber processing produce, since forest is a renewable resource in Belarus which isn’t used to the full degree. Therefore, the adoption f such decisions is great progress on the way of achieving definite goals. This issue is interesting from the point of view of solving the same problem in Russia, which is also a timber power.

10

беларусь.belarus  2013

The President also tackled the norms of the

obligatory given the work.”

Prices need to be stopped

recently adopted Decree which envisages the

The President is confident that at present,

reduction of over 13,600 state officials in Belarus.

there’re no and there can’t be any grounds for

According to Mr. Lukashenko, the model of state

price rises. “Any facts of their increase above the

management should meet the real state of public

forecast level, especially what concerns consumer

relations, so we’re now pursuing another stage of

goods, should become the issue of immediate

improvement of the management system.

and strict investigation. The Government and

“Of course, on the one side, there’re not

the National Bank, alongside local authorities,

many state officials in our country. The number of

were strictly demanded to perform price regu-

officials is double in Austria, Slovakia and Bulgaria

lation more efficiently,” said the Head of State.

— the countries which can be comparable with

According to the Belarusian leader, the domestic

Belarus in terms of population and size. On the

market should be decisively protected from all

other side, when calling the population to save

those who try to make money out of surplus

resources we can’t allow overspending for the

profit while using their position.

state apparatus, and we don’t need this today.

“We should also monitor prices in the sphere

Saving should be demonstrated in one’s own

of housing and public utilities in the same way.

example and we have reserves for this,” noted

It’s necessary to control estimates of expendi-

the President adding that central state authori-

tures of almost each structure in the housing

ties will be ‘cut’ by around 25 percent, regional

and public utilities, power engineering and gas

executive committees — by 29 percent while

branch. The feasibility of expenditures at each

district executive committees — by 17 percent.

stage of price formation should be controlled

“Meanwhile, the reduction shouldn’t be

in the strictest way,” underlined Mr. Lukashenko.

senseless and mechanical. We can’t allow losses

“In practice, it’s vital to be guided by a well-

of initiatives and responsible workers who are the

known rule: prices grow quickly where someone

core of the state apparatus. First of all, those should

misuses their offices on the market and who


Message calculate these prices carelessly and irrespon-

afraid to stop a trespasser, who crushes every-

sibly,” noted the Head of State. “My requirement

thing on the way to enter Belarus. So I would like

towards the Government and the National Bank

to issue a public warning that the border guards

remains unchanged: the growth of consumer

will use firearms upon the first act of disobedi-

prices within a year shouldn’t exceed the forecast

ence,” underlined the President.

figures. It would be better if this rise stands at

Struggle against corruption

about 10 percent. Is it little?!” The State of the Nation Address lasted for more than two and a half hours. In the end

“Economy is the basis which is the founda-

Mr. Lukashenko answered the most burning

tion for the state and the whole national security.

questions of the deputies and made it clear that

We can’t slow down in struggling against

several moments in his performance will receive

corruption primarily there where there’s big

continuation in the form of instructions to minis-

money budgetary money. Each official should

tries and departments.

clearly understand that they will have to answer

Security

according to the law for the use of powers in

The Head of State underlined that optimisation and the improvement of the state apparatus’ activity directly refer to the power bloc.

mercenary purposes,” noted the President.

Foreign economic contacts “We should go where we’re waited for.

Gong Jianwei, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China to Belarus: During his State of the Nation Address the Belarusian President clearly outlined three major moments: speed, flexibility and creative approach. I liked this moment, since firstly China is also trying to develop in line with this course and, secondly, we’re building our bilateral Chinese-Belarusian relations on these principles. I’m pleased that President Alexander Lukashenko has confirmed the firmness of our collaboration and similarity of the positions of our countries regarding the future.

According to the President, the Armed

I’ve already instructed the Foreign Ministry to

Forces are undergoing serious modernisa-

completely reorient the policy of our foreign

tion “Of course, we aren’t going to be at war

economic and political missions according to

with anyone; however, we’ve always paid and

our interests. We should seek out those countries

will continue to pay special attention to the

where we are welcomed and which are ready to

provision of military security. The quality of

open new markets for us,” said the Head of State.

emphasised Mr. Lukashenko. There’s no need to

preparation of overhead personnel and the

According to the President, the Belarusian-

make pressure on us. You’ve already assured that

troops has been significantly raised.”

Chinese co-operation is a positive example. The

all these sanctions are counter-productive.”

According to him, the foundation of the

same applies to India, Vietnam, Venezuela and

“Don’t force us to introduce same-sex

Investigation Committee has completely

the neighbouring states. Belarus has also begun

marriages. This will not happen in Belarus, at least

justified itself. “The structure and functions of

tapping into the huge African market.

in the near future. That is for sure, when I am the

the Interior Ministry have been optimised and

Speaking about the Single Economic Space,

President,” said Mr. Lukashenko meaning western

the work is currently being finished to set up

Mr. Lukashenko noted that in this area the policy

countries. “Moreover, we definitely won’t have

an independent State Committee of Expert

of Belarus is absolutely clear and transparent.

fewer democracy than you have,” assured the

Evidences. This is the modernisation of the

“We’re moving towards the Eurasian Union

President of Belarus.

power bloc. I say this so that no one says that

jointly with Russia and Kazakhstan. Probably,

this is the invention of the President on the eve

we’re ready for this Eurasian Union even more

of the presidential elections. I tell you what has

than others do and we’ll definitely build it,”

been already done,” added the Head of State.

stressed the President of Belarus.

Address delivered by the Head of State on April

State border

Co-operation with SES and West

19th to the Belarusian nation and the National

“A range of serious organisational and

The President instructed to make proposals aiming to simplify or abolish the visa regime. The traditional annual State of the Nation

Assembly, can be called sensational without exaggeration, since it contained a range of conceptual

personnel decisions was adopted to strengthen

“We’re connected by the Union State

the protection of the state border and the

relations with brotherly Russia and we have no

order will be established at the checkpoints.

political disagreements. We enter the highest

Agrarian-industrial formation in Belarus

I’ve addressed this issue at least thrice and have

level of the bilateral collaboration as part of the

is replaced by the era of IT which penetrate

warned the top officials of the State Border

Union State,” noted the Head of State adding that

all spheres of the society. Before usually cool-

Committee that have been renewed consider-

the relations with the neighbours are a natural

headed and unhurried Belarusians rapid time

ably recently: God forbid that anyone else easily

priority for Belarus.

puts new key requirements: speed, flexibility and

announcements and ideas which testify to the start of the new stage in the country’s history.

crosses the state border, you will have yourselves

Mr. Lukashenko stressed that Belarus hadn’t

creativity. The economic safety margin for this

only to blame. I’d like to warn everyone, who tries

ever created any problems and difficulties for

has been created in Belarus. Now, the political

to cross the state border (where I also used to

its neighbours, especially those located in the

will has been declared: the country has firmly

serve), that we’ll act without mercy. The situation

West. However, I’d like to repeat again that we

settled down to a complex, yet the only correct

has deteriorated so much that border guards are

won’t ever fall on our kneed in front of someone,”

and promising course of renovation.

2013  беларусь.belarus

11


Investments

Co-operation

picks up steam

Stadler Rail Group is making a significant contribution to the development of relations between Belarus and Switzerland, noted the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, on meeting the company’s CEO, Peter Spuhler

H

e praised the latest joint investment project, which is producing S t a d l e r passenger rail and urban electric transport in Belarus, in liaison with Belkommunmash over the next four years. “I didn’t expect us to so quickly agree and I’m surprised at your urgency to launch production in Belarus. We’ll make sure that we promptly solve all issues set up before the Belarusian side,” stressed the Head of State, emphasising that the trains and rolling stock

12

беларусь.belarus  2013

produced will fulfil domestic needs and allow export. Mr. Lukashenko notes the importance of the Stadler Rail Group, which is a leading European manufacturer of railway rolling stock, with goods sold within Europe and the USA. Its modern Swiss electric trains are already known in Belarus, as ten were purchased in 2010, following a tender, operating on city and regional lines. “Accordingly to our agreement, we’ve already begun production of passenger rail and urban electric transport in the Minsk Region,” stressed the President. “It’s expected that, this year and next, we’ll be manufacturing Belarusian electric trains and trams to rival those

made in Switzerland. As far as I know, we’re on schedule but, if there are any questions, please let me know. I’m personally overseeing the construction of the plant.” Mr. Lukashenko stressed that he is ready to listen to offers from the Swiss regarding the acceleration of bilateral agreements and noted the importance of the project receiving no delay. “The sooner we launch the site, the faster it will bring benefits to the Swiss company and to Belarus,” he said. Mr. Lukashenko has ordered the Government and Belarusian Railways to create a line connecting the capital with Minsk National Airport. “We need to study existing railway lines and


Brands

Heavy-duty dump trucks being tested in India and Zambia Famous Belarusian manufacturers’ vehicles making impression on Asian and African markets

Vadim Kondrashov

B

branches without delay,” he asserted, believing that this will significantly expand the airport’s usefulness. He added, “More people will use the airport if it’s easy to travel out from and reach. Currently, it’s quite problematic.” He also noted that existing railway lines should be taken into account and funds diverted from other state programmes if necessary, to ensure that the airport is catered for. He believes that an airport link can be achieved at reasonable cost if wise planning is undertaken and that a line could be operational by late 2014 — early 2015. The Director General of the Swiss Stadler Rail Group, Mr. Spuhler, estimates that the new line making

passenger rail and urban electric transport in Belarus will be ready to launch by October-November of this year. He notes that the first doubledecker trains for Russian Railways are to be ready by December 2014 and thanked the President for the opportunity to discuss the project, which he believes is running well. He underlined, “I came not to reveal problems. We feel the active support of the Government and the Minsk Region’s leadership and have managed to solve two or three small problems very quickly.” Mr. Spuhler also notes that winning the tender to supply Russia with trains has been significant and is delighted that they’ll be assembled and produced in Belarus. “I think this project is of great importance for Minsk. At the Belarusian plant, we’ll be able to produce not only electric trains but double-decker trains,” he explains. During the meeting, mutually beneficial expansion of co-operation between Belarus and Stadler Rail Group was discussed.

elarusian flagship BelAZ, which is well known worldwide, is ever seeking out new sales markets, such as those in Asia and India. The company is currently marketing itself and hopes to set up a service and maintenance centre for its machinery by the end of the year, in India, as a joint venture. Kirill Kazachenko, BelAZ’s Deputy Director General for Marketing and Export Policy, tells us, “We’re entering the Indian market with a view to offering good service, which should help us in promoting our goods.” By the end of the year, the enterprise plans to sell ten 220 tonne vehicles to private Indian coal companies — worth $22m. Meanwhile, jointly with Indian partners, BelAZ is taking part in tenders to supply machinery to African countries: particularly, Zambia. Many European countries, including Russia (the major buyer of Belarusian heavy-duty dump trucks) are forecasting reduced production volumes, which may result in less demand for BelAZ goods. According to Mr. Kazachenko, extracting industries are stagnating around the globe, requiring BelAZ to be proactive in seeking out new customers. He adds, “It was expected that coal prices would rise in the second half of the year but this didn’t happen. Our traditional buyers lack funds to pay for our machinery so we’re focusing on new custom in Australia, South-Africa, Zambia and Indonesia.”

2013  беларусь.belarus

13


Meetings

Integration action plan Belarus and Kazakhstan could raise bilateral turnover considerably over coming years

I

n the meeting with Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister, Serik Akhmetov, the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, has proposed expanding Belarus’ participation in the industrialisation of the Kazakh economy. “Belarus has established a very promising organisation with Kazakhstan and Russia, which I hope will help our nations’ citizens. I absolutely agree with Nursultan Nazarbayev that our organisation shouldn’t be politicised,” notes Mr. Lukashenko. “We aren’t in a hurry, so we can solve current problems calmly, enabling us to move on in mastering new processes and solving new problems.” The Belarusian President notes that the SES is already seeing results, including increased bilateral collaboration. In 2012, trade turnover between Belarus and Kazakhstan totalled around $1bn. “Once, we only dreamt of such figures; now, they’re a reality,” the Head of State emphasises. “I believe that Belarusians need to work more actively to help industrialise the Kazakh economy, since it’s beneficial for us.”

Gateway to Asia President Lukashenko meets Speaker of Singapore Parliament, Halimah Yacob, in Minsk, finding that Belarusian initiatives are well received in South-East Asia

M

r. L u k a s h e n k o h a s c o n f i r m e d B e l a r u s’ interest in developing cooperation with Southeast Asian nations during his meeting with the Parliamentary Speaker of the Republic of Singapore, Mdm. Halimah Yacob. “We are actively working in the region, w it h S i ng ap ore and Indonesia in particular, and with all of Southeast Asia

14

беларусь.belarus  2013

According to Mr. Lukashenko, Kazakhstan is also keen on such co-operation, having always promoted it. He also stresses that Belarusian goods are good value for money. “If you need something, we can deliver it. Kazakhstan isn’t a stranger to us; rather, it’s a rich and promising country with a great future. Interaction with Kazakhstan benefits our state and our people,” continues the Belarusian leader. Mr. Lukashenko notes that Belarus is searching for new sales markets for its produce far beyond its borders but sometimes forgets that it does have closer markets. He emphasises also that the economies of Belarus and Kazakhstan are complementary. On May 29th, Kazakhstan is to host a top level meeting within the SES framework, discussing the intensive development of integration processes. Serik Akhmetov agrees that foundations need to be laid, allowing us to move forward steadily and consistently. Mr. Akhmetov believes that existing bilateral trade of $1bn could be raised further, saying, “We have huge potential and should at least double trade over the next few years.” He adds that processed and agricultural goods dominate. “We need to set up joint ventures in most branches of the economy, then export widely,” underlines Mr. Akhmetov.

in general. We have major interests there,” notes the Head of State. “Since Singapore is a gateway to Southeast Asia, I hope our co-operation will bring a huge positive effect in the future,” continues the President of Belarus. He stresses that the March visit of the Belarusian delegation to Singapore was of great importance for the country. “I recall with significant pleasure my visit to Singapore; we really learnt a lot there,” adds Mr. Lukashenko. The Belarusian le ader b elie ves t hat Mdm. Yacob’s visit will help develop bilateral relations. He conveyed his good wishes to the President and Prime Minister of Singapore, on behalf of the Belarusian people,

and expressed his hope that they will also visit Belarus. Mdm. Yacob notes that Singapore and Belarus enjoy friendly relations, which grew stronger during the Belarusian President’s visit to Singapore. She stresses that a key area of collaboration is trade and investment, with bilateral agreements and memoranda signed at the recent Singapore business forum. Several documents aim to inspire economic partnerships between our two states, building upon past agreements to supply tyres, BelAZ heavy-duty dump trucks and potash fertilisers to Singapore and neighbouring states, as well as the setting up of an assembly production line of BelAZ vehicles in Singapore. Mdm. Yacob’s visit to Belarus is her first to our country and, undoubtedly, brings a new phase in developing our relations.


Meetings

New faces On accepting credentials of ambassadors from foreign states, President of Belarus notes that the formation of a ‘belt of neighbourliness’ is a priority of Belarusian foreign policy

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he ambassadors of Angola, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Iran, Cote d’Ivoire, Laos, Lithuania, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines and Chile have presented their credentials to the President of Belarus. Addressing the diplomats, the Head of State underlined that history has taught Belarusians to appreciate peace and trust, making friends without bearing grudges. He sees this as a reliable basis for dialogue and mutually beneficial co-operation. “Whatever regions you represent, you’re acquiring a longterm, sincere partner in the centre of

Europe in Belarus. We aren’t just ready for efficient interaction but are ready to assist our friends where necessary,” Mr. Lukashenko asserted. Mr. Lukashenko noted that Belarus is keen to implement initiatives which reinforce ties between countries and which expand horizons of collaboration. “Belarus hopes for mutual enrichment of cultures

Being united in actions President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, noted during the meeting with the Russian Defence Minister, Sergey Shoigu, that Belarus will remain committed towards collaboration with Russia in defence issues

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r. Lukashenko explained, “Belarusians will always adhere to the declared policy, without deviation. We’ll always be united in our actions, especially regarding systems of defence and security; we’ll continue on a single course.” The Belarusian leader remarked that an agreement had been reached earlier that the relevant specialists from both sides would review the mutual relations in defence issues. “We don’t conceal from anyone that we’re the closest nations and are trying to build a united policy in our common Union State. Since we have a common armed force in this direction within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation and the Union State, then we should train it respectively,” said the Head of State.

and deeper understanding between nations. In this context, one of the undoubted priorities of Belarusian foreign policy is the formation of a belt of neighbourliness,” emphasised the Head of State. “Our principle is not to create any problems for our neighbours, while building trust and jointly overcoming Page difficulties.”

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Mr. Lukashenko underlines that our military forces have no intention of initiating aggression He continued, “We’re trying to prepare them to defend our Fatherland and our common interests. We have enough land and don’t lay claim to anyone else’s. However, we won’t give ours away.” According to him, co-operation between the military departments of Belarus and Russia has no problems and these relations are an example in the Union State. If we’re going to train our armed forces, our security forces, to defend our common interests, then we need to arrange relevant events, including exercises. I don’t understand why the West is so concerned about our regular exercises. This isn’t the first. We’re just smoothing our co-operation. New people have joined us, so we need to check our long-standing system. This isn’t directed against the Poles or the Baltic States or NATO. Of course, they should all understand that if they behave badly towards us, we’ll respond in kind,” underlined the Belarusian President.

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MEETINGS

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Accepting the credentials of the Ambassador Extraordinar y and Plenipotentiary of Lithuania to Belarus, H.E. Mr. Evaldas Ignatavičius, the Head of State stressed that Belarus and Lithuania are united by common history, culture, treasures and traditions. “There’s nothing to divide us, as our two countries have many joint interests: in the spheres of security, trade and industrial co-operation. We should jointly use and expand our existing transport and logistics potential. We’re ready to make our relations an example of truly neighbourliness,” noted the Belarusian leader. “We hope that Lithuania’s presidency of the EU in the second half of 2013 will help stabilise Belarusian-European relations.” Accepting credentials from the ambassadors of Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Chile, the President emphasised that Belarus is keen to expand its interaction with Latin America. The ambassadors are, respectively, H.E. Mr. Estuardo Meneses Coronado, H.E. Mr. Rubén Alberto Beltrán Guerrero, H.E. Mr. Gustavo Antonio Otero Zapata and H.E. Mr. Juan Eduardo Egiguren Guzmán. “Every year, interaction with Latin American states embraces new spheres and projects. Last year, our total trade turnover with countries in this region exceeded $2bn. Moreover, various major projects are being successfully implemented: in the spheres of oil extraction, construction and industrial and agricultural manufacture,” noted the Head of State. “We can now confidently say that Belarusian goods, technologies and specialists are known for their high quality in Latin America.”

“We’re ready to share our accumulated experience with Mexico, Peru, Chile, Guatemala and other states. I’m confident that our nations boast huge potential for collaboration,” noted the President. He confirmed that Belarus is ready to expand mutual trade with countries in this region and to implement joint projects in the spheres of mineral extraction, construction, logistics and joint assembly. The Head of State noted that Asian countries are Belarus’ traditional partners but that a new phase of co-operation is possible. Accepting the credentials of the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Iran to Belarus, H.E. Mr. Mohammad Reza Sabouri, Mr. Lukashenko expresses confidence that our level of interaction may be significantly raised if Iran wishes to do so. “Belarus is interested in successfully implementing joint projects with Iranian capital and will continue to create necessary conditions to support this,” the Belarusian President added, emphasising that our countries also share similar positions on most international issues. “Belarusian-Iranian contacts are of a purely peaceful nature: not directed against any countries or blocs,” underlined the Belarusian leader. Laos and the Philippines are also invited to step up their mutually beneficial collaboration with Belarus, as President Lukashenko noted on receiving credentials from the H.E. Mr. Thieng Boupha and H.E. Mr. Alejandro Bunola Mosquera. He underlined, “We’re absolutely satisfied with joint efforts aimed at strengthening Belarus-Laos co-operation. We’ll

Every year, interaction with Latin American states embraces new spheres and projects. Last year, our total trade turnover with countries in this region exceeded $2bn

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be glad to welcome the Laotian Head of State to Minsk this year, in order to continue our dialogue, covering a whole range of mutual relations, determining promising new projects.” The President also praised the role of the Philippines in global and regional politics, saying that it enjoys deserved respect among global and regional organisations. “There are no problems between us to impede the essential expansion of all-embracing interaction,” stated the Belarusian leader. Mr. Lukashenko added that major opportunities exist to develop relations with African countries, speaking to the ambassadors of Angola, GuineaBissau, Cote d’Ivoire and Nigeria: H.E. Mr. Joaquim Augusto de Lemos, H.E. Mr. Seko Intchasso, H.E. Mr. Bernard Tano-Boutchoue and H.E. Mr. Assam Ekanem Assam. He emphasised, “Belarus plans to expand its network of diplomatic missions in Africa and has much to offer partners from Nigeria, Angola, Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau.” Mr. Lukashenko told all the diplomats present that Belarus is keen to see potential achieved in the trade and economic sphere. Belarus’ wide range of industrial and agricultural products is in demand in Africa, with Nigeria soon hosting joint production of ‘Belarus’ tractors, MAZ trucks and buses. “Nigeria is a foothold on the huge African continent, where our focus is now placed seriously,” continued the Belarusian leader. “Belarus is rightfully proud of its achievements in science, education, transport and civil engineering. I urge you to drive forward opportunities for bolstering interstate ties in all areas,” remarked the Head of State. “With your aid, co-operation between our countries could gain considerable impulse, reaching new heights.” Mr. Lukashenko expressed his hope that relations between Belarus and the countries represented by the diplomats will become a worthy example of friendship and mutually beneficial collaboration.


Panorama

Heroes from the Island of Freedom

 Batteries with Polesie registration

Day of Cuban Press celebrated in audience hall of Minsk’s Press House

nternational investment forums are known to be one of the most efficient marketing instruments aiming to increase sale volumes. This was also the goal of the 4th Brest International Forum, recently hosted by the city over the River Bug and bringing together nearly 200 guests. These are representatives of diplomatic establishments of Kazakhstan, Russia, the Czech Republic, Vietnam, Poland and Latvia, as well as businessmen from Europe. Speaking at the opening ceremony, the Chairman of the Brest Regional Executive Committee Konstantin Sumar noted that the issue of international economic co-operation has recently gained relevance. “Over the past decade foreign investments into the region

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his wasn’t merely a warm and friendly meeting of colleagues but a short trip into the epoch of powerful Cubin-Soviet friendship. It turned out that the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Cuba to Belarus, H.E. Mr. Alfredo Nieves Portuondo, once graduated from the Higher Military and Political College in Lvov and worked as a journalist in Cuba before becoming a diplomat. However, during the meeting he underlined that he remains a journalist, as ‘this speciality is for the whole life’. His daughter Aliana, who was also present in the hall, followed in her father’s footsteps. “We meet our Cuban friends, brothers and colleagues whom we’ve long known as open and friendly people,” noted Vadim Gigin, the First Deputy Chairman of the Belarusian Union of Journalists and Editor-in-Chief of Belaruskaya Dumka (Belarusian Thought) magazine while introducing the guests of the event. The Ambassador spoke about the establishment of Cuban media and their important role in the life of residents of the Island of Freedom and the whole Latin American continent. Newspapers and radio still remain powerful weaponry in Cuba in struggling against economic blockade of the country from the USA. In particular, due to journalists, the movement of solidarity is growing worldwide with five courageous Cubans who were unfairly imprisoned in the USA. The press release which was spread on the Cuba stand during the recent Mass Media in Belarus international exhibition, reads: ‘In September 1998, five Cubans — Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González, Antonio Guerrero and René González — were arrested in Miami by FBI. Their mission in the USA was to monitor the activity of organisations and groups which belonged to terrorist activity against Cuba, primarily against anti-Cuban groups in the south of Florida ’. They all were convicted in conspiracy against the USA and some in espionage, although even the director of the national intelligence said during the court that no secret information was found along those data which were given to Cuba.

Delegations from 13 countries take part in 4th Brest Investment Forum

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 Traders take fancy to network Number of domestic online vendors increasing daily

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ccording to the Deputy Trade Minister, Irina Narkevich, speaking at the First Industry ECommerce eTRADE Conference, over 5,000 online-shops were operational in Belarus in early April.

have raised 14 times. Today, we are ready to offer the participants of the forum some 40 promising investment projects — in the agro-industrial sector and tourism,” added the Governor. We’ll see in the nearest time whether the forum has been a success. However, during the first day of its work a large contract was signed on the establishment of the battery production facilities in Bereza and Pinsk. Moreover, it’s planned to attract around $200m of foreign investments into the economy of the region. In total, the Brest Region has agreements worth over $1.3bn. Only last year, the number of such virtual shops rose by twenty percent; in the first quarter of this year, their number increased by another six percent and, according to the Deputy Minister, further growth is likely. All the necessary legislation is ready for the development of Internet trading in Belarus. Mikhail Makhtadui, who heads the Internet Tax Control Section Ministry for Taxes and Duties, notes that his department keeps a check on violations — such as owners lacking documents confirming the legality of imported goods. “If such violations are detected, the business entities are brought to task,” asserts Mr. Makhtadui.

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Forum

Room for initiatives Klaipeda recently hosted the 9th International Belarusian-Lithuanian Economic Forum: a starting point for our neighbouring states’ bilateral initiatives. Substantial dialogue between Belarusian and Lithuanian business communities is promoting further talks, as noted by Belarus’ Prime Minister, Mikhail Myasnikovich, who spoke at the Forum’s plenary session, on April 18th, 2013. His speech follows:

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welcome you to this high level forum on behalf of the Belarusian Government. It’s great that, here, in Klaipeda, we can jointly discuss topical issues of our bilateral co-operation and joint projects, trying to find a common response to the challenges of our turbulent world economy. Lithuania is not just a neighbour and trading partner for Belarus. Belarusian sovereignty and independence share a single cradle with this country. Our common history, culture, traditions and mentality are a good basis for successful interaction in many spheres. I’m thankful to Lithuanian businesses working in Belarus and to you — Mr.Dargis — personally, for organising this forum and inviting us. I’m also grateful to Prime Minister Mr. Butkevičius for his brilliant speech, delivered today. I highly appreciate all those who are friendly towards Belarus, speaking the language of partnership. In building our bilateral relations, we proceed from the fact that Belarus and Lithuania are members of a single, large European family. We are linked by powerful economic and cultural ties and — importantly — unbreakable human contacts. It’s our destiny: to live together and work jointly for the wellbeing our people, while preserving peace and tranquillity in this corner of our common European home. These are not abstract thoughts but the axiom of our life; we must be guided by them in thinking of our countries’ fates and our nations’ wellbeing.

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In this respect, I’d like tospeak about the importance of trust and the development of mutually respectful dialogue, without which no integration or co-operation is possible. Our governments must create conditions for business activities — breaking false stereotypes and enabling potential partners to really assess the advantages of mutually beneficial co-operation. Joint companies and projects will bring more profit than protectionism or isolation, as experience confirms. In Belarus, almost five hundred companies operate with Lithuanian capital; over the past five years, our bilateral turnover has exceeded $1.5bn — almost doubling. However, I think that businessmen would agree that our Belarusian-Lithuanian co-operation enjoys even greater potential. We’re only just approaching what’s possible, for our mutual benefit. The agenda of our business dialogue includes many interesting projects in the field of machine building, wood processing, logistics, retail and agriculture. Importantly, most relate to high technologies and innovative solutions. The Belarusian economy is attractive in its science intensiveness and favourable conditions for business, with our Government relying on this to meet its economic policy goals. Our country has opened its economy to foreign investors and to privatisation; these days, joint companies can be established at any state enterprise, with shares sold to strategic investors under


Forum clear and transparent rules. We are ready to apply the most advanced investment forms — such as the establishment of foreign or mixed companies and concession agreements. Your initiatives will receive attention, being studied for mutual benefit and conscientious partnership. Belarus is using European legislation to guarantee the rights of investors, making it possible to incorporate British, Swiss, Italian and other rights in agreements — or arbitrage. Business registration procedures have been significantly simplified in Belarus; the process of market and innovative transformation is now irreversible. Belarus’ tax on corporation profits is among the lowest in Europe: just 18 percent. Moreover, high-tech facilities are almost completely exempt from taxation. An encouraging taxation package is now introduced for investors, though such tax-related decisions were not easy for the Government. Austerity measures have been necessary but we’ve ensured budget consolidation. Belarus has enjoyed a debt-neutral budget for the past three years. With this in mind, my point is that, in our modern world, the state determines economic growth, the creation of attractive conditions for investors and development of high-tech facilities.

State Sea Port) which are topical and promising. We’ll find solutions which follow principles of mutual benefit and partnership. I propose to establish a platform for transport and logistics as part of our Belarusian-Lithuanian business dialogue, involving ministries and business unions. I hope you — Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. Minister Sinkevičius and Mr.Chairman Dargis — will render support in realising this initiative. Secondly, our countries enjoy industrial and agro-industrial business co-operation. In the first half of 2013, a facility will open in Lithuania to produce Belarusian Amkodor road-construction and communal machinery. Meanwhile, Lithuania’s Vakaru Medienos Grupe will launch wood processing production in Belarus. I’d like to thank you, Mr.Paulaskas, for choosing Belarus for the development of your business, as well as for the great job you are doing at the Lithuanian Business Council for Economic and Trade Co-operation with Belarus. I’m convinced that your speech at the Forum will help all those considering business projects in Belarus to make a correct and timely choice. Last year, our mutual flow of investments totalled $250m: $170m was injected by Lithuania into Belarus and $80m was placed by Belarusians. We have real potential to double this figure in the coming two years if our two states and businesses can demonstrate co-ordinated work. It’s a good synergy format for our countries’ capital, which could create a solid basis for our economic growth, ensuring the creation of new jobs and the production of competitive products and services. Financial co-operation is our third direction. At present, Belarus is actively developing instruments of financial leasing for its produce, as well asthe domestic market for inter-banking (following the European model), focusing on export credits. We view the Lithuanian banking sector with optimism, since it has managed to cope well with the challenges of the global crisis. Our countries have concluded all the necessary agreements to ensure fullyfledged financial collaboration. Belarus is ready to apply tied credit and leasing schemes on the Lithuanian market — jointly with Lithuanian partners — via the Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus. Our Government is using five schemes of export credit and invites Lithuanian colleagues to join. The first envisages compensation (by the Belarusian budget) of a share of loan interest to non-resident banks providing loans to those buying Belarusian goods. This scheme has proven effective in the Russian Federation, liaising with Sberbank and VTB Bank, so we’re ready to expand it to the Lithuanian market. The second scheme regards export credit for non-residents (such as Lithuanian buyers of Belarusian goods) and is provided by our banking system. The third is international, involving the Belarusian Development Bank’s affiliate: Proma- Page

Lithuania is not just a neighbor and trading partner for Belarus. Belarusian sovereignty and independence share a single cradle with this country

International integration is imperative. I want to emphasise that several spheres of Belarusian-Lithuanian business integration can contribute to our states’ economic development. Firstly, transport and logistics offer a wonderful opportunity for closer Belarusian and Lithuanian capital co-operation, as well as the establishment of joint companies integrating EuropeEurasia logistics. Unique possibilities are open to our countries if we make use of our geographical advantages, further capitalising on our transport-logistical sector. As Europe’s geographical centre and gateway to the huge Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan, Belarus could become the largest logistical hub in Central and Eastern Europe. This year, we’ll settle the issue of a single market for Belarusian, Russian and Kazakh transport services. Already, there are nine logistical centres countrywide, while another 40 projects are being realised. The first Belarusian-Lithuanian sites have been launched in the Minsk Region, with further work afoot. This is a rich topic for our countries’ transport ministries, as it embraces a range of issues: tariffs, transit conditions, business integration and regulative practices. Yesterday, we discussed several possible infrastructure related projects (for Klaipeda

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groleasing. It’s ready to work with Lithuanian partners under international leasing schemes. The fourth scheme envisages price discounts for those buying Belarusian goods with national bank loans or leasing agreements. The fifth deals with tied state export loans, as being currentlyrealised in Belarus by the Development Bank. The work is large in scale with the period of credit lasting up to 5 years (2 years under privileged terms). I propose that Lithuanian businesses use these instruments to develop mutually beneficial trading and credit co-operation. As economic theory indicates, the best way to develop economic relations between states is to steadily move from pure trade towards investment — and further sci-tech (innovative) liaisons. We are approaching an entirely new level with Lithuania; our rapid growth of mutual trade is accompanied by a mutual flow of capital and new projects in the innovative sphere. Our countries certainly enjoy the necessary resources and potential. Belarus is well recognised by world ratings: 45th position (out of 146 countries) in the World Bank’s Knowledge Index and 59th place in the Knowledge Economy Index. Meanwhile, we understand that it’s impossible to cope with global technological challenges alone; as Goethe wrote: ‘Science and art belong to the whole world’. An intergovernmental agreement on science and technologies — concluded in 2008 — has enabled Belarus to set up a BelarusianLithuanian Innovative Centre, while launching joint financing for promising works. From 2011-2012, 19 joint sci-tech projects were realised in the fields of nano-technologies, genetics, lasers, ecology and the environment, micro-biology, medicine, energy and social and humanitarian sciences — worth over $500,000. In 2013-2014, 14 new fundamental and applied sci-tech projects are planned, including detection of shale gas (rare in Belarus and Lithuania) and technologies to treat cancer and create new materials. Bio-technologies are another promising field, with Lithuania known as a leader in Eastern and Central Europe. To date, 15 research bio-technology centres operate countrywide in Belarus — focusing on world level developments. In 2007, the first medical-pharmaceutical valley in the Baltic States was established in Vilnius. Moreover, the Republic of Belarus is establishing its own sci-tech park: Belbiograd. Within 18 months, we’ve created three dozen new, innovative production facilities in Belarus, aiming to generate goods worth hundreds of millions of US Dollars within two years. I invite our Lithuanian partners to co-operate with us, realising joint projects with Belarusian companies. We’ll offer financial support and extremely favourable conditions. As regards IT, Lithuania is among the top EU states (per capita) in training such specialists while Belarus is second (behind India) in IT exports per capita. The Belarusian High-Tech Park is the largest of its kind in Central Europe, with seven of its resident-companies being among the prestigious Global Services top 100. Among its residents are firms from 50 countries and we are inviting Lithuanian businesses to join our High-Tech Park

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— particularly regarding experience exchange and staff training in this rapidly developing sphere. Belarus and Lithuania share similar scientific priorities with regard to EU technological reform. I believe in the high level of our countries’ sci-tech potential and well-established ties, feeling confident that we can launch a new page in innovative cooperation. This collaboration will bring long-term profitability onboth sides. Belarus consistently promotes open platforms and technological transfer within the EurAsEC, CIS and UN. Our initiatives are also present in our dialogue with the European Union (the Eastern Partnership). Our country creates no problems for anyone in the world. We solve our issues of balanced development independently and our economic policy is focused on human interests. Belarus’ Jinni Coefficient — which characterises the concentration of income — is among the best in the EU and CIS: 0.284 against an average of 0.3 in the EU. Belarus has an open economy and, in 2012, our foreign trade in goods and services exceeded $100bn, with a GDP export quota (indicating an export-GDP ratio) of 85 percent. We do not accept any political approach to issues of economic collaboration — not least because this affects our Single Economic Space partners. The SES is not an EU alternative for Belarus. Last year, our exports within the SES rose by 12 percent while the same growth was registered in sales to the EU. We also demonstrate a near equal volume of exports: $17bn with the SES and $17.5bn with the EU. With this in mind, the SES and the EU are equally important to us. The President of Belarus has initiated the Integration of Integrations, creating a wide platform for co-operation and economic liaisons —from Vladivostok to Lisbon. This real Eurasian project is based on principles of free trade, non-discrimination, mutual respect and constructive dialogue between nations across the continent. In 2013 (when Lithuania chairs the EU), we should see additional possibilities for our Belarus-EU path, while significantly advancing in the normalisation of our relations. I’m convinced that this is the right path to take; sanctions, dictatorship and ultimatums have no prospects and must remain in the past. We have a duty to pass our children the legacy of a strong state, with citizens at the centre of our nation. We can only achieve this by strengthening and developing multi-sided co-operation across our region. Belarus is ready and open for collaboration and dialogue with the European Union, following principles of mutual respect, benefit and partnership. We are ready to participate in international integration — via our industrial and intellectual potential. Your participation — Mr. Prime Minister — in this forum opens new possibilities for Belarusian-Lithuanian cooperation. I’m convinced that our dialogue will contribute to the further development of promising avenues of economic, scientific and cultural co-operation, via the realisation of joint projects. The Belarusian Government is creating comfortable conditions for their study and implementation.


Forum

Advanced acceleration Belarusian-Lithuanian forum: politicians focus on driving forward integration

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ithuanian Railways’ first EU funded train is launching on the Vilnius-Minsk-Vilnius route in May. Ancient Vilnya (as it was called when Belarusians and Lithuanians shared the Grand Duchy of Lithuania) is not only the closest European capital to Minsk but almost a ‘suburb’, which can be reached by electric train. Two such high-speed trains are to run between the capitals of Lithuania and Belarus and no one doubts the benefits or popularity of the route. That Belarus and Lithuania are ‘accelerating’ towards each other was clearly demonstrated at the BelarusianLithuanian Economic Forum, held in Klaipeda, Lithuania, at the end of April. Meanwhile, our countries’ participation in major integration associations (Lithuania in the EU and Belarus in the Customs Union with Russia and Kazakhstan) provides additional incentives and opportunities. Business community dialogue between Belarus and Lithuania at the Klaipeda forum is surely a prologue to

wider Belarusian-European dialogue. Everything is moving towards ‘integration’ on the Eurasian continent: a strategy suggested by the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko. Of course, not everything is simple, but intensified contacts are vital to establish an atmosphere of trust. To achieve this, we need to move forward seriously in normalising Belarusian-European relations. Political dictates and sanctions must become a thing of the past. The first step in this direction has already been taken, as the Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania, Algirdas Butkevičius, noted at the forum, saying, “Lithuania’s presidency over the EU this year is a good opportunity to update relations between the EU and Belarus. Lithuania is ready to assist Belarus in this path.” This important statement is certainly the result of impressive progress in the economic co-operation of our two countries. Business projects and contacts on both sides are intertwined, so that politicians have no choice but to follow the footsteps of our mutual business interests, which are in the public interest, intensifying contacts in various fields.

As to the Lithuanian business community’s influence on national foreign policy towards Belarus, the Lithuanian Prime Minister notes, “Lithuania and Belarus lived for centuries as one state, sharing a neighbourhood and common historical and cultural heritage; this is the basis for close co-operation between Lithuanians and Belarusians. Lithuania, of course, has always been interested in developing stable, friendly and good-neighbourly relations with a democratic and prosperous Belarus, based on principles of good faith and mutual benefit. We have no choice but to co-operate, developing trade and contacts in every sphere — including trade, investment and culture. Lithuanians and Belarusians are hardworking people and our potential for cooperation is not yet exhausted. I believe that Belarus, like Lithuania, is an integral part of Europe. However, it is no secret that, over the past few years, relations between Belarus and the European Union have undergone tough times. It inspires me that Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich emphasises Belarus’ interest in deeper co-operation with the EU. Some important steps have already been Page

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taken in this direction and we hope to see Belarus take more, opening the way to full-scale resumption of dialogue between the EU and Belarus.” Clearly, it’s a two-way process but certain economic conditions are inspiring the Lithuanian PM’s positive mood. Mr. Butkevičius comments that, after Lithuania’s accession to the EU, exports of Lithuanian goods into Belarus quadrupled, indicating shrinking economic growth in Europe. Only Germany, the most powerful EU country, with huge industrial potential, and little Lithuania have shown export growth; the latter primarily due to flexible policies and its good transit potential. According to Mr. Butkevičius, Belarus is a vital partner of the Republic of Lithuania in the economic sphere, being the sixth most important market for Lithuanian businesses. Lithuania is also the third largest investor in our country, making us strategic partners.

Klaipeda — Sea Gates of Belarus At the centre of this strategic partnership is, undoubtedly, the port of Klaipeda: the northernmost ice-free port of the Baltic Sea. It is also the largest transport hub of Lithuania, connecting sea and land routes and providing the main shipping lines to ports in Western Europe, Southeast Asia and the American continent. Port activity generates 4.5 percent of Lithuanian GDP and 23,000 jobs, while a third of transhipped cargo is of Belarusian origin. In particular, Belarus exported 5.7m tonnes of potash, 2m tonnes of fuel oil and 880,000 tonnes of nitrogen fertilisers through Klaipeda last year. In future, Belarus could double these cargo volumes, as Belarusian PM Mikhail Myasnikovich announced at the forum in Klaipeda. The transport and logistics sector is the strongest in Lithuania, positively affecting the welfare of the whole country, so it’s a strategic move.

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A landmark moment for Klaipeda was a message from the Belarusian PM that the biggest Belarusian exporter, Belaruskali, has purchased a 30 percent share in one of the largest terminals in Klaipeda — at a cost of $30m. Used to ship potash, the terminal is the first Belarusian investment in the port and the largest by a Belarusian enterprise within the EU. Major Belarusian company Grodno Azot is also negotiating with the port of Klaipeda, to create a joint cargo handling venture. Clearly, Belarus has serious, long-term plans for co-operation in the field of transport and logistics. Our Lithuanian partners are guaranteed to benefit.

Integration in all directions Belarusian-Lithuanian relations are unique not only in their geographical location and unusual extent of human intimacy but regarding their similarity of economic interests. Speaking at the forum, Mr. Myasnikovich named areas where business integration could make a special contribution to economic growth. Our two countries have entered a stage of active investment partnership. In 2012, Lithuanian investments into Belarus reached $173m: up on 2011 by 1.5 times. Various innovation projects are underway and Lithuania has good experience in the fields of information technology and medicine — especially oncology, cardiology and biotechnology. Belarus’ new national scientific and technological park — BelBiograd — is focusing on pharmacology, microbiology, biotechnology and nanotechnologies. In all, Belarus has launched 30 new innovative productions. As our two countries share similar scientific priorities, this invites further co-operation for the coming 20-30 years. Liaisons in the financial sector look quite promising, since Belarus is developing its system of international financial leasing and international lending. Lithuania has experience in this area and our mutual industrial and agro-

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Forum

industrial co-operation is closely related to financial co-operation. The Prime Minister of Belarus stresses that we should not oppose the integration of Western and Eastern Europe. The Common Economic Space (CES) of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan is not an alternative to the EU, since Belarus enjoys almost the same turnover with each (actually slightly more with the EU). Our country will promote economic integration in both directions. The Deputy Foreign Minister of Belarus, Alexander Guryanov, noted at the Belarusian-Lithuanian Economic Forum, “Our processes of integration with Russia and Kazakhstan should not be viewed as a desire to separate from our Western partners. The Customs Union is a new opportunity, including for our Western partners. Lithuanian businesses should benefit from Belarus’ integration with Russia and Kazakhstan, as the first phase of the Customs Union forms a common customs regime with third countries, as well as bringing single customs clearance. Since 2012, the CES has been enabling investment co-operation across our common space of ‘three’; now, the Lithuanian border is the border of the Customs Union, with Belarus acting as a western gate to a market of 180 million consumers.”


Forum

Conducting business interests The Belarusian PM especially thanked Sigitas Paulauskas, the Chairman of the Board of VMG (Vakaru Medienos Grupe), for his company’s particularly successful investment co-operation with Belarusian partners. The President of Belarus’ Business Council for Trade and Economic Co-operation with Lithuania, the First Deputy Chairman of the Board of BPS-Sberbank, Vladimir Koleda, added, “Eighteen months ago, the Ambassador of the Republic of Belarus to Lithuania, Vladimir Drazhin, introduced me to some bright representatives of Lithuanian business: Sigitas Paulauskas and Vidmantas Kučinskas. They are involved in the hospitality industry, own assets in the timber industry, and produce compound fertilisers, sugar and processed turkey meat. We began by recognising our mutual interests and how we could help one another; the main message we received was the need for risk-sharing.” Arvi’s President, Mr. Kučinskas, emphasises that he is ready to organise production and processing of turkey meat in Belarus, if a reliable partner can be found. BPS-Sberbank has stepped forward to share some of the financial risk, giving a loan to set up industrial production of turkey meat. With a

capacity of 5,000 tonnes per year, the complex plans to breed poultry and then process the meat to various degrees, to create a range of products. Another good example of effective co-operation with Lithuanian business is VMG’s purchase of shares in Borisov’s Svuds Export, whose goods are fully exported and where 180 people are employed. There are too many projects to list individually but Belarusian banks are encouraging further investments from Lithuania, being willing to share financial risk where proposals look feasible and cost-effective. BPS-Sberbank is ready to provide up to $300m for projects involving Lithuanian capital in our country. Meanwhile, Belarus is working with Sberbank of Russia, which is present in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, nine European countries (including Germany), Turkey, India and China. Belarus can provide support to Lithuanian businesses through BPS-Sberbank domestically and in these countries. Mr. Koleda tells us, “Through the Confederation of Industrialists of Belarus, we have launched the Business Council for Economic and Trade Co-operation with the Republic of Lithuania, of which I am chairman. A similar structure has been created by the Confederation of Lithuanian Industrialists, chaired by Mr. Paulauskas. We are ready to combine our

efforts to use the Council as a platform for establishing business contacts between our two countries, developing constructive proposals.” The Chairman of the Lithuanian Council for Co-operation of the Party, Sigitas Paulauskas, notes the successful implementation of VMG’s investment in the Mogilev Free Economic Zone, worth over 90m Euros and creating 900 jobs. He adds that such projects show Belarusian and Lithuanian businessmen what is possible. He hopes to see the Lithuanian Business Co-operation Council support business interests through information centres, aiding fruitful relations. Crucially, he believes it to be vital that politicians listen to business needs and that they maintain constant dialogue with entrepreneurs and industrialists at all levels. The Belarusian Ambassador to Lithuania, Vladimir Drazhin, summarised the outcomes of the Klaipeda Forum, saying, “Over recent years, bilateral trade and economic relations between Belarus and Lithuania have seen not only stable positive dynamics but a level of strategic partnership. We are gradually integrating the economies of our two countries, showing prospects for further strengthening and development. This success is evident in efficient, well-co-ordinated work by Belarusian and Lithuanian businessmen, who enjoy regular contact, meeting for consultations and identifying strategic areas of possible liaison.” Last year, Molodechno hosted the First Belarusian-Lithuanian Forum for Regional Co-operation. Close ties between regions bring stability and viability to business projects, tying them to the specific economic interests of individuals. The impressions of Klaipeda are still fresh, with Belarusian guests soon to set off for the next regional forums in the cities of Alytus and Druskininkai. There can be no doubt that the business communities of our two countries are establishing ever more links, creating a mutually beneficial economy and promoting the well-being of citizens. By Nina Romanova

2013  беларусь.belarus

23


Cooperation

T

Belarus and Latvia celebrate anniversary of diplomatic relations by signing inter-governmental agreement

wenty years ago, in April, Belarus and Latvia established diplomatic relations. Coinciding with the anniversary, the border region of Vitebsk hosted a meeting between the Foreign Minister of Belarus, Vladimir Makei, and that of Latvia, Edgars Rinkēvičs. The pair signed an inter-governmental treaty regarding the Belarusian-Latvia state border, detailing simplified procedures for crossing by residents from border territories. Trade-economic, political and humanitarian issues were also discussed, with serious attention paid to Belarus-EU relations.

Dialogue against economic background L atvia is B elar us’ imp or tant economic partner, being ranked fifth in 2012 in terms of turnover. Our volume of bilateral trade has increased 4.6 percent on last year, reaching almost 3.5bn. Belarus exports petrochemicals, as well as metallurgical and machine building goods, agricultural and forestry produce and foodstuffs, while importing medicines, fish, fabrics, knitwear, cement, motors and power units, as well as metal constructions.

In all, 373 enterprises with Latvian capital have been registered in Belarus, while 1,123 companies are operating in Latvia using Belarusian capital. The National Exposition of Belarus in Latvia and the Baltic Region BelarusianLatvian Investment Forum, hosted by Riga in December 2012, helped promote our economic relations. According to Mr. Makei, despite a positive trend in our trade-economic relations, the potential is far from met. “Proposals are being elaborated which will be beneficial for both states. We hope that the visit of the Latvian Minister will inspire interaction between our two states,” he noted. Mr. Rinkēvičs recollected that our foreign ministers last met almost three years ago. “I’d like to believe that Belarusian and Latvian diplomats will meet more often from now on. We’ve discussed much more in Vitebsk than was planned; we should continue searching for shared viewpoints in conducting dialogue.” Belarus-EU relations were high on the agenda, as Mr. Rinkēvičs noted, “Contacts between Belarus and Latvia are important in strengthening and developing bilateral relations while ensuring

greater mutual understanding between Belarus and the EU. I’ve brought to the notice of our Belarusian colleagues how the EU views particular issues on democratic rights and freedoms. I’ve listened to the position of my Belarusian colleague and it would be naive to think that all existing problems can be settled within a single day or in a single meeting. We do not agree on everything but we’re discussing these points and are working on them. The most vital thing is that we’re ready to move forwards.” “Despite problems which exist in our relations with the EU

Neighbours 24

беларусь.belarus  2013


Cooperation

Border unites us During the meeting in Vitebsk, the Head of the Latvian State Border Guard, Normunds Garbars, joined the Chairman of the State Border Committee of Belarus, Alexander Boechko, in signing an international agreement on the Belarusian-Latvian border regime. The document finalises the international-legal execution of the borders — as launched in 1992 — and regulates how the border should function when crossed by citizens, transport vehicles, aircraft and cargo. Moreover, it has a mechanism to deal with specific incidents and confirms the absence of territorial issues between our states. The state border between Belarus and Latvia stretches 170km so it’s no surprise that our two nations a re c on n e c t e d by close interregional and human ties, as well as by trade. A t hird of a l l Braslav families (a district centre i n t h e Vit e b s k Region) have relatives in Latvia and just 45km separate Braslav from Daugavpils. In

Soviet days, many young residents of the district centre studied at universities in the Latvian city and it was often easier to find employment there than in Minsk or Vitebsk, since Daugavpils is five times closer by road. Of course, after the collapse of the USSR, some people remained there. Sadly, relatives were left divided by the border so, in February 2012, an agreement came into operation to simplify border crossing between Belarus and Latvia for those who live within a small radius. On the Belarusian side, this covers Braslav, Verkhnedvinsk, Miory and Vidzy while Daugavpils, Krāslava, Dagda and Zilupe are covered in Latvia. Residents are registered by the local administrations, which can offer a visa for just 20 Euros (free for pensioners, those with disabilities and children under 18). Last year, over 8,000 Latvians and around 500 Belarusian used the new system. Mr. Rinkēvičs notes more good news, telling us, “We’ve instructed our consular services to further simplify border crossing by eliminating some bureaucratic procedures. We’ll soon introduce corresponding amendments.” According to the Chairman of the State Border Committee of Belarus, Alexander B o echko, inconveniences for Belarusians are primarily connected with the remoteness of the consulate, which is located in Vitebsk. It isn’t easy for residents of the Verkhnedvinsk and Braslav districts to visit in person, which explains why fewer Belarusians are applying for the special visa. The problem may soon be

settled, as a Consular Department of the Latvian Embassy to Belarus may open in Braslav. According to the Head of the Latvian State Border Guard, Normunds Garbars, Belarus and Latvia are already discussing the issue. The Grigorovshchina international checkpoint is currently undergoing reconstruction, with the first stage now ready. By the end of this year, it should be operating at full capacity, processing 3,000 people daily (doubling the previous figure), as well as 2,000 automobiles (up from 500-600).

Mutual understanding through arts A new exhibition of drawings by famous Latvian teacher, historian and artist Johans Kristofs Broce is dedicated to the 21st anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two states. Hosted by the Dukhovskoy Kruglik exhibition hall, the opening was attended by diplomats, the heads of the Vitebsk City Executive Committee, art experts and artistic celebrities. Broce’s unique works explore the churches, castles, parks, estates and houses of Riga, Livland, Kurland and Estland, captured in Chinese ink or watercolour, painted with a quill. They also feature representatives of various ethnic groups who settled in Riga in the late 18th century. Dedicated to Vitebsk residents, the show includes a depiction of Ludza Castle: once part of the Vitebsk Province. The exhibition even includes the first documented trade treaty between the territories of Latvia and Belarus, signed in 1229.

ever closer

By Sergey Golesnik

2013  беларусь.belarus

Vadim Kondrashov

we’re not in deadlock,” notes Mr. Makei. “We’ve reached definite understanding regarding how we’d like to develop our bilateral co-operation with Latvia, including in the context of relations with the EU.”

25


Exhibition

Avanced format

for information

26

беларусь.belarus  2013

A le x

N

eedless to say, our everchanging world of infor mation revolution has brought the emergence of hundreds of new products and services, ensuring the promotion of the global economy. Belarus is part of this, as President Lukashenko stressed in his address to the Belarusian people and the National Assembly. The informatisation of society is being conducted on a national scale, covering all areas of life, without exception, promoting the renewal of the state.

ander

R uzhechka

Today, in Belarus, we can share news in seconds, read newspapers on tablets and mobile phones, and watch 3D TV at home. The recent 20th International Specialised TIBO Exhibition and Congress on Telecommunications, Information and Banking Technologies and the 17th International Specialised Mass Media in Belarus Exhibition presented the latest innovations of modern society. Specialists from various spheres are employed on this task, as was evident at the TIBO and Mass Media in Belarus forums. Everyone from mobile op erators and medical specialists to tourist agencies and the media is digitalising information, making it more

widely accessible to the public, and easier to store and retrieve. Of course most printed magazines and newspapers already have online versions, incorporating multimedia galleries. Journalists also blog and chat with readers via social networks. When reading a greeting f rom t he President of Belarus at the opening of the 17th International Mass Media in Belarus Specialised Exhibition and 20th International T I B O — 2 0 1 3 Specialised Forum on Telecommunications, Information and Bank Technologies, Alexander


Belta

Exhibition

R a d kov, the First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration, Internet versions of Belarusian media became publicly accessible sources of fresh information. The State Secretary of the Union State of Belarus and Russia, Grigory Rapota, noted, “He who owns information, owns the world.” A common information space has now appeared. “Mass media around the globe has an independent online presence, thanks to the Internet,” said Mr. Rapota. “We are keen to encourage its development, rather than see it destroyed.” The Mass Media in Belarus event was held as part of TIBO-2013, since the latest technologies and print media are

inseparable. Online and PDF versions of most publications exist, while video calls enable news to be reported directly from the scene; centralised telephone exchanges ensure quality and modern technologies allow news to be related faster than ever. TIBO also presented the latest surveillance systems and 3D

home TV sets. Systems for recording road accidents were on display, alongside Horizont’s plans for digital television broadcasting. Beltelecom showed its ‘smart home’ technology, which can be used to remotely control home appliances, lighting and heating. “Belarus is paying considerable attention to the development of high technologies,” asserted the Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus, Anatoly Kalinin, at the opening of the exhibition. “We’ve created a complete system via the High-Tech Park and Ministry of

Communication and Information, generating over $500m for the state budget from service exports. I’m convinced that these exhibitions will significantly expand the influence of Belarus in the field of information technologies.” Foreign guests agreed that the TIBO and Mass Media in Belarus international exhibitions are promising economic and investment platforms. Ali Mohammed Oglu Abbasov, Azerbaijan’s Minister for Communications and Information Technologies, noted, “Conditions have been created to showcase the latest developments and there are opportunities to discuss current issues in the field of new technologies and mass media.” Over 300 companies, from 30 countries, presented modern developments and technological solutions, including representatives from about 600 publications — from Belarus, Russia, China, India, Cuba and Venezuela. Major companies set up alongside regional authorities, allowing levels of efficiency to be compared. The Gomel Region’s stand saw visitors looking at a virtual 3D-view of the town of Petrikov and a system of online diaries for parents. Meanwhile, the Minsk Region presented a new version of the Minsk Region Executive Committee’s website, with eservices. Deputy Information Minister Vladimir Matusevich stressed that new technologies are vital to the media. He explained, “Mobile formats are of particular interest, allowing readers to receive all the same articles as are present in printed editions, using a tablet or cell phone. More than half of the Belarusian population is using the Internet so media editions need to master new formats, especially if they want to attract a younger readership. The slogan for the 17th Mass Media in Belarus Exhibition is ‘Convergence, multimedia, interactivity’.” By Vasily Kharitonov

2013  беларусь.belarus

27


Environment

28

I

Cheaper and more accessible Financing is essential since just 40 percent of flats will be built with state support in future. The question is whether families can afford to pay for their own homes. One way of reducing prices is to build quickly and efficiently. Reduced rates on loans are also necessary (February saw home loan rates fall to 16 percent in urban areas and 14 percent in villages). In fact, housing policy is taking an absolutely new direction regarding financing, as the Head of the Housing Policy Department at the Architecture and Construction Ministry, Alexander Gorval, tells us. “The [latest] document outlines mechanisms to replace privileged state support, assisting families in improving their housing conditions. Housing mortgages are among these, with a national mortgage agency being established — based on experience in Russia and in other states,” he explains. Cheap loans are the most attractive aspect of mortgages. Belarus has its own law on mortgages but, to ensure its efficiency, low inflation is needed. Mr. Gorval believes that mortgage loans will soon become more accessible, with the mortgage agency helping in provision. As foreign practice shows, successful mortgaging relies on a well-thought-out system. When inflation falls and stabilises to a steady level, citizens will gain access to another attractive path to owning their own home: the construction savings scheme. This allows saving for a period of 5-7 years — generating at least 25 percent of the future price of a flat. The bank then contributes the remaining 75 percent, which can be repaid over many years. A system of housing construction bonds is also being formulated.

беларусь.belarus  2013

Alexander Stadub

D e s i g n f o r l i f e

n early April, the Belarusian Government approved its state housing policy for 2013-2016, focusing on how best to provide accommodation. Families on the waiting list are to be able to choose the arrangement which most suits their financial situation: a mortgage loan, a state order for housing, stateowned rental apartment; or a savings plan for building their new home. Volumes of housing construction will continue growing countrywide: last year, 4.2m square metres were built but, in 2013, up to 6.5m are expected, rising to 9.5m in 2015.


News Low-rise housing is to make up 40 percent of new construction in future (up from 31.5 percent in 2012). Moreover, the state is to pay for infrastructure and propose a series of designs. This year alone, the Government has tripled its funding for building roads to service new housing.

Choices Those without funds to build their own home may choose the ever more popular tenancy option. The first such homes — designed for rental from the state — were built last year in Belarus and 220 thousand square metres of similar housing is being constructed this year. By 2016, there should be a million square metres of such accommodation available annually. The domestic housing policy also envisages the provision of housing to those deemed ‘vulnerable’. Capital construction departments will receive bank loans for the purpose, as Mr. Gorval explains. “Initially, the state order will cover only those on the waiting list who have the right to state support,” he tells us. The policy only allows for each citizen to receive state housing support once — be that through privileged loan terms or a subsidy for building a home. Exceptions will be made where children are born or adopted, as detailed in the relevant Presidential decree. Meanwhile, where people have ownership of state built housing, no private rental is allowed until five years after a loan is repaid. Experts are viewing the new housing policy as an entirely fresh stage in the development of Belarusian accommodation. The previous concept (of 2008) has met its goals and a new document is now required, to cover housing construction and to identify those truly in need of state provision. The policy also covers utilities and pricing, helping families solve their housing problems. By 2016, over 24 million square metres of accommodation will exist countrywide, providing 27 square metres per capita. Even today’s 25 square metres per capita makes Belarus a leader within the post-Soviet space, ahead of Russia (23 square metres), Ukraine (22) and Lithuania (15). The guidelines are being used to create a detailed plan, developed by the Construction and Architecture Ministry and other state bodies, ready for Government review in late June.

President Hotel solemnly launched Alexander Lukashenko cuts symbolic ribbon, leaving hotel to welcome first guests

T

he Head of State was given a guided tour of the hotel facilities, including its congress hall, conference rooms, swimming pool and restaurants. He was especially interested in the quality of construction and the payback period. The 11-storey President Hotel occupies the former site of the Oktyabrskaya Hotel, having been built from January 2011 onwards. Funding came from Hotel Minsk, while a Turkish company was the general contractor; Turkish Eximbank provided 85 percent of the loan and Belarusbank JSC Savings Bank the remaining 15 percent. The new hotel can accommodate twice as many guests as the former facility and is an ideal place to relax and hold official and business events, having excellent facilities for hosting foreign delegations at the highest state level, alongside international organisations and businessmen visiting Belarus. The hotel’s congress hall can seat 600 while its five conference rooms have a total of 136 seats and its two VIP rooms can accommodate 105 guests. Each is equipped with multimedia stereo and conference systems, simultaneous interpretation and video conferencing facilities. The hotel’s three restaurants can seat 460 people in total, supplemented by five bars and four banqueting halls. It also has a fitness and spa centre, with swimming pools and saunas, in addition to a nightclub and an underground parking area.

By Lilia Khlystun

2013  беларусь.belarus

29


High-tech

Parks

offer

unprecedented

privileges

Famous business sites of High-Tech Park and ChineseBelarusian Industrial Park set the bar

A

journey of a thousand miles is said to begin with a single step, and the successful Belarusian ‘Silicon Valley’ High-Tech Park cer tainly seems to prove so. Meanwhile, interest is increasing daily in the new ChineseBelarusian Industrial Park. According to estimates by one of the world’s top analytical companies,

Belarus is among the premier 30 states for offshore programming, having begun on this path in 2004. Belarus’ ‘Silicon Valley’ was originally dismissed by many as a fantasy but Decree #12 ‘On the High Technology Park’ has led the way (signed by President Alexander Lukashenko on September 22nd, 2005). The goal of the project has been to create favourable conditions for the development of export-oriented programming and all spheres of new and high technologies. It aims to focus

According to estimates by one of the world’s top analytical companies, Belarus is among the premier 30 states for offshore programming

30

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resources on scientific potential and, already, the HTP is one of the leading innovative IT clusters in Central and Eastern Europe. It is home to over 100 resident companies, employing over 13,000 people. Belarusian scientists are taking part in a range of IT projects: from systematic analysis, consulting and selection of hardware to design and development of complex systems. More than half of the HTP companies manufacture their own software products and, last year, six were among the world’s top suppliers of IT services. According to Valery Tsepkalo, the Director of the HTP’s Administration, affiliated enterprises of world famous companies may soon become residents: VeriFone (an American IT developer and one of the world’s largest manufacturers of payment terminals) and Yandex (a Russian IT company which owns the


Fact

Mysterious ice keeps its secrets Belarusian polar researchers return home with unique samples for further investigation

Vadim Kondrashov

O

search engine of the same name and an Internet portal). Mr. Tsepkalo notes that interest from major foreign companies has increased dramatically of late. In 2012, an affiliated company of Russian Sberbank-Technology Company joined the HTP, alongside 12 other new residents. There are 188 organisations resident in all — half of which are joint and foreign ventures. Last year, the HTP created 2,500 jobs, employing around 15,000 specialists. The Belarusian-Chinese Industrial Park occupies the same 8,000 hectares or more, located in the South-West Smolevichi District, north of Minsk National Airport. About $16bn has been invested so far, helping establish sites for electronics, machine building, chemical plants and biomedicine production. In addition, there are residential, office and logistics zones and financial centres. The new industrial park is to host scientific research projects, with incentives including tax breaks (on profit and property ownership). Like those at the original HTP, employees will pay just 9 percent income tax. Belarusian indus-

trial giants are showing interest, with Horizont planning new plants. Of course, the Minsk Region (the largest in Belarus) is primarily interested; around 500,000 jobs are to be created in the area, explains the Chairman of the Minsk Regional Executive Committee, Boris Batura. “We’re aiming to start construction of the first sites at the industrial park by May-June. The state investment programme envisages funds for infrastructure (water, canalisation, heating, power supply and gasification) to support the expected $5bn+ of investments due to arrive in our region,” he emphasises. The Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park is to occupy around 80sq.km, offering unprecedented privileges and preferential conditions for residents, to attract investments: modern infrastructure, significant tax breaks over extended periods and one-stop services to speed up registration. Naturally, resident companies will also gain access to the Customs Union market, avoiding duties and quota restrictions.

ur Belarusian polar researchers have spent around six months in the Antarctic, headed by Alexey Gaidashov, of the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Physics (named after B. I. Stepanov). The team also included Mikhail Korol and an associated professor of the Microbiology Chair of the Belarusian State University’s Biological Department, Vladislav Maymin. They were particularly studying the effects of aerosols in the atmosphere while conducting palaeographic, physico-geographical, climatic and meteorological investigations. Belarus plans to construct its own station in the Antarctic, so the team was assessing its possible influence on the Antarctic environment, as well as conducting biological research. Particularly, they took samples of microorganisms on the icy continent, which have now been brought to Belarus with the aim of growing them for further study. Samples were gathered from the bottom of ice-bound Lake Nizhnee. “It looks dead yet life is humming down there,” stresses Mr. Gaidashov, noting that underwater camera footage has been taken in the freshwater lake. The Belarusian satellite has also been engaged in research.

2013  беларусь.belarus

31


Researchers

Comets of Professor Bekish

V

ladislav Bekish heads the Chair of Medical Biology and General Genetics at Vitebsk’s State Medical University. Under the age of 40, he comes from a dynasty of doctors. Vladislav continues the traditions of the scientific school, which is wellknown far beyond Belarus. He is the author of numerous monographs and textbooks and helps organise an annual international conference of parasitologists, gathering leading specialist from Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and China, in Vitebsk. Prof. Bekish’s office is filled with diplomas; one awards corresponding membership of Belarus’ National Academy of Sciences. “It belonged to my father, Yan Bekish,” explains Vladislav. “The Cambridge Bibliographic C entre ranked him among the 20th century’s top thousand outstanding scientists; I keep his medal in honour of the award.” The Chair headed by Vladislav was previously headed by his father, while his mother and senior brother are also doctors; he must have been destined for the profession since early childhood. Mr. Bekish tells Vladislav Bekish and PhD candidate Dmitry Kuzhel conduct analysis using the DNAcomet method

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Scientific approach helps Belarusian scientist defend his PhD thesis us, “In truth, I knew that I wanted to become a scientist by the age of six, after watching the wonderful Soviet film An Open Book. My father was invited to head the Chair in Vitebsk while I was a baby, so we moved here from Minsk. I used to watch him working and would look at his textbooks, microscopes and seminar notes. His colleagues and pupils from Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic States often v isite d us for dinner. I always loved to be


Researchers surrounded by educated people so my entry to Vitebsk University was natural. In 2012, you were granted a Presidential scholarship for scientific research. Can you explain the value and significance of your work for ordinary doctors and patients? For many years, my father and I were studying how parasitic worms influence the human organism. After my father died, two years ago, I continued. The commonly held view is that worms can be treated with a few tablets but these drugs are highly toxic to our body. Worms in our blood have an aggravating influence while porkworms (which live in our muscles) can cause acute anaphylaxis; in fact, 8 percent of those contracting this parasite die. Moreover, when these worms die, our DNA is adversely affected; it can result in birth abnormalities or miscarriage in pregnant women. Our task is to find a combination of medicines to reduce these harmful effects, while aiding quicker recovery and protecting our human genes from damage. We have the health of future generations in mind. Are you inventing a new drug? No. Inventing new medicines is a complicated and expensive process.

Yan Bekish's awars: diploma and medal of the Cambridge Bibliographic Centre

Rather, we’re combining existing drugs and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines with vitamin-antioxidants. Six of our developments have been put into practice, halving treatment related expenses. How did your experience at Sweden’s Uppsala University help you? We’ve seen that genes remain undamaged after our treatment;

Assessment in line with ‘Hamburg score’ The European Scientific-Industrial Chamber has awarded academician Piotr Nikitenko, an advisor of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, with the highest award: a gold medal and a special diploma (diploma di merito) for his teaching and for his amazing contribution to the theory of the innovative development of society

I

t is especially pleasant for our countryman to receive one of the most prestigious European awards, as it is bestowed only for high professionalism and at the decision of inde-

damaged cells resemble a comet when viewed under a microscope (using electrophoresis). The ‘tail’ is leaking DNA (which should be absent if the cell is healthy). It’s an expensive and unique method of checking DNA, which required us to buy $10,000 of equipment for the Vitebsk State Medical University after my trip to Sweden. The original funding was allocated to my father, as he was an authoritative scientist. Due to its costliness, the DNA-comet method is only used to visually confirm scientific conclusions. Your daughter Anya is 8. Will she continue your family dynasty? It’s too early to say but I won’t deter her from choosing medicine. I’d be happy for her to take up any profession. You’ve achieved so much in science. Are there any summits you’d yet love to reach? Parasitologists worldwide dream of eradicating every parasite [laughing] but, of course, this is impossible. Parasites have always co-existed with people and animals and are unlikely to die out. However, scientists and doctors can reduce the number of deaths and help us to make a complete recovery. By Sergey Golesnik

pendent experts, whose opinion isn’t influenced by the political situation. In contemporary European science, this is like the ‘Hamburg score’. Academician Piotr Nikitenko is a famous scholar, specialising in economic studies. He has written over 250 research papers dealing with national security, governance and state construction, as well as sci-tech and innovative development. His research on accumulation and efficiency of public production has made a significant contribution to the development of the theory and methodology of sustainable development. He has developed an economic and mathematical macro-model of noosphere public production, reflecting the unity of the natural (environmental), tangible and intangible (social) spheres.

2013  беларусь.belarus

33


рэсурсы


Expertise

Council of Europe confirms status Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers extends Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park’s European Diploma for Protected Areas for further five years

Piotr Kostroma

R

elevant documents are already on their way from Strasbourg to confirm the prestigious award, which recognises the successes of national parks and nature protection reserves. Of course, such awards also support Belarus’ image as a preserver of eco-systems (the status was first received in 1997, then suspended in 2007). There are no direct financial benefits, but indirect benefits are manifold. To qualify, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection was obliged to submit a park management plan to the Council of Europe’s Committee for Activities in the Field of Biological and Landscape Diversity. Despite application in 2012, it has taken some time for all the recommendations given by the Council to be applied successfully. Vasily Arnolbik, the Deputy Director General for Science, believes that the Council is now seeing positive trends in the Pushcha. He explains, “We’ve assessed each area and zoned them according to function. The reserve zone has almost doubled — from 30,000 to 57,000 hectares — and protected areas are now marked. The international experts have praised our environmental work, our new infrastructure and our direction of tourism development.” B elar us’ recent joining of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (the Bern Convention) may also have played a role, as this is a serious step towards pan-European standards of nature protection. At present, the National Park is one of the most titled among protected natural sites in Belarus and in Europe. In 1992, UNESCO registered part of the Pushcha on its World Heritage List and, a year later, it became a biosphere reserve.

2013  беларусь.belarus

35


Border

Unknown island

T

he island is connected with Brest Fortress via two bridges: a new cable bridge and the old hanging bridge. The latter links Pogranichny Island with Gospitalny Island but is too dangerous to cross; entrance is forbidden, guarded by border officers on both sides of the

36

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Pogranichny Island is located between two bridges — automobile and railway — which unite Belarus and Poland across the Zapadny Bug River. Once called Zapadny Island, it was home to Brest Fortress’ Terespol Fortification. From September 1939, the state border of the USSR (now, the Belarusian border) ran along the by-pass canal, around the island. Zapadny Bug River. The cable bridge was constructed recently, only opening in February and welcoming the first tourists in May. Pogranichny Island is now part of city territory and a tourist attraction, although it remains a border zone, requiring presentation of your passport to enter. In summer 2011, the President of Belarus unveiled a monument to border guards and those members of their families who died at Brest Fortress’ Citadel, requesting that the

island become open to tourists. As in the famous military song: ‘the birds are singing here and the trees are growing, on concrete bunkers, powder depots and even through the red bricks of the former barracks’. On a June morning in 1941, 72 years ago, the small island was the first place to be taken by the Nazi invaders. Its peace was showered with the blood of dozens of people, since drivers were attending a training course at the site. Also stationed there were a transport company and a


Border combat engineer platoon. There were also training camps for cavalrymen and sportsmen, a veterinary hospital and a blacksmiths. Meanwhile, the 9th frontier post of the 17th Red Banner Border Guards Detachment was on duty; a total of almost 300 people were the first Soviets to see the ugly face of that war. In 1991, a monument was erected to the motor transport arm of the 17th Detachment of Red Banner Border Guards and to those training to be drivers for the Belarusian Border District. It was once possible to reach Pogranichny Island from the Citadel via beautiful Terespol Bridge, through the Terespol Gates. Famous traveller and ethnographer Pavel Shpilevsky said that it was ‘similar to the Chain Bridge in the Summer Garden’ adding that ‘the Brest bridge is longer and its chains are made from wire while those in St. Petersburg are made from cast iron’. Terespol Bridge was blown up during the Great Patriotic War, but only after the forces of Hitler and Mussolini had driven across. Sergey Smirnov described this ‘visit’ in his Brest Fortress book in the following way: ‘Hitler and Mussolini get into a car and drive along the dusty road between two lines of soldiers, who passionately stretch out their arms in Fascist greeting, excitedly yelling ‘Heil Hitler!’. Suddenly, a wide river surface appears in front of them, followed by the deep tunnel of the gates. This is the Zapadny Bug

River and these gates are the Terespol Gates of Brest Fortress. The cars of the Fascist dictators and those who serve them drive over the 1941 bridge, which connects Zapadny Island and the centre of the Fortress, stopping near the Terespol Gates. Through the tunnel, the Fuehrer and Il Duce appear in the courtyard, standing and looking around, enjoying the panorama of destruction before them. To the left are piles of stones and the deformed shell of the 33rd regiment building; the ruins of the border guards’ house are in front of them. Everything speaks of long and heavy fighting…’ Probably, the bridge will be restored, as the city authorities hope. I’ve walked into the centre of Pogranichny Island, along the road next to the border and canal. Some plans are afoot to create another hanging bridge, to unite the Island with Polish Terespol. It’s a small island, being only 400m at its widest, and occupying 46 hectares. There are two border markers: one Belarusian and the other Polish, situated symmetrically either side of the canal. Terespol is close by… Employees from Brest Fortress Defence Museum conducted investigations at Terespol Fortification in 2006, finding around four dozen mid19th—early 20th century sites: aircraft shelters, fragments of powder depots and casemates in earth mounds, as well as barracks which once housed a school for non-commissioned personnel. There’s also a customs booth,

which dealt with travellers crossing the Russian Empire border in the late 18thmid-19th century. The watch-house is older than the Fortress itself but cannot be explored by tourists, being located beyond the public zone of the border. An excursion route has been developed by Alexander Korkotadze, who heads the Museum of Fort 5 branch of Brest Hero Fortress Memorial Complex. Information boards are sited along its length and an observation platform is located on the embankment where Terespol Bridge once started. The opening of Pogranichny Island is a first step in creating a historical and cultural centre for the 300 hectare territory of the Brest Hero Fortress Memorial Complex, within the Brest-2019 project. Brest City Executive Committee has joined forces with Vladimir Mikulik, an investor with roots in Brest, in creating a joint programme of action. Historical experts are to liaise with the business and cultural community of Belarus, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Austria, the Netherlands and the UK in developing the legendary site. The future of Brest Fortress is certainly at the heart of the development of the city and of the region. Brest Fortress has many historical layers, each of which must be taken into account. When serious work begins, it will become clear what needs to be restored: the Town Hall, Berestie Castle or the monasteries… By Valentina Kozlovich

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Megapolis

Holiday in city streets

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he street will be pedestrianised again at weekends, all the way down to the little park on Komsomolskaya St re e t . O k s an a Ni k it ina, He ad of the Cultural Department of the Lenin District of Minsk, notes that, where similar pedestrian areas have been set up abroad, it usually takes 3-10 years for the notion to really become popular. She adds, “This year, from September 20th-23rd, a three day street theatre project is being organised for Belarusian and foreign companies — both professional and amateur.”

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Belta

Last year, musicians, artists, citizens and tourists gathered on a pedestrianised section of Minsk’s Karl Marx Street and, this May, when the warm weather has returned, the tradition will be revived Throughout the summer, a range of street drama groups will perform, with the best chosen by the end of the summer, by audience vote, for the final September shows; these are to be hosted in the main courtyard of the historic museum, near the Grunvald Café and the Palace of Chess and Checkers. Souvenirs and craft items will be on sale from May to September, while talented musicians will entertain live, without amplification equipment; last year, some residents complained that the sound level was too intrusive. Extra benches are being installed and 5D-stages are being set up, as well as photo-booths. Karl Marx Street has existed in Minsk since the 19th century and is


Fact well preserved, featuring elements of Classicism, Eclecticism and Stalinism. Its courtyards transport you to another time. Of course, there are many such streets in Minsk and the Ministry of Culture has approved a draft plan to set up historical zones, protected by the state: these fall from Independence Avenue to Yubileinaya Square (near

It is now prohibited to construct any building not in keeping with the existing 16th-20th century appearance of the capital’s centre. Moreover, the operation of industrial and warehouse facilities is strictly forbidden, as is any activity polluting the air or water, or causing significant traffic overburdening or excessive noise. All activity within the historical district must enhance

Branches of one tree Latest census shows that nearly 300,000 citizens of Belarus are ethnic Poles

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Frunzenskaya metro station) and from Independence Square to Victory Square, being the core of pre-war Minsk. Besides 1930-50s buildings, there are some 17th century structures and even older foundations are buried underground, as Minsk was founded in the 11th century. Minsk’s historic centre is protected under category ‘1’ in the state list of historical and cultural treasures of Belarus.

the enjoyment of residents and tourists. Restoration is to continue, including for buildings failing to meet modern town planning and aesthetic standards. The area along the River Svisloch is being protected, to preserve the 20th century ‘water zone’. This includes the small park laid in the 1950s at the intersection of Nemiga and Gorodskoy Val streets (known for its monument to Adam Mickiewicz) and the park around the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre. No new constructions will be allowed. By December 2013, restoration of 18th-19th century Loshitsa Manor should be complete, ready for a grand opening in 2014 — coinciding with the World Ice Hockey Championship. Work has been on-going for five years, rebuilding the late 19th century wooden part of the house, which is in poor condition. A café is to launch in its basement and its grounds will host folk festivals with knights, craftsmen and artists.

oles are the third largest ethnic group after Belarusians and Russians. Recently, the 8th Congress of the Union of Poles of the Belarus Public Association met in Minsk, gathering 93 delegates. From every region, they represented the 6,500 members of their association; of course, many more people are involved at its 70 branches and 12 Houses of Poles. Polish language lessons are available to all, alongside classes in singing and dancing. Concerts and art exhibitions are organised, for adults and children, and the Union of Poles pays special attention to local historical monuments and memorial sites. Today, in Belarus, there are two schools which teach through the medium of Polish: in Grodno and Volkovysk. Fully financed by the state, they offer separate classes in Polish, as well as teaching a range of subjects in Polish. Like other national-cultural public organisations, the UPB receives constant support from the Commissioner for Religions and Nationalities, as is noted with gratitude. The Glos znad Niemna (Voice from the Neman River) newsletter is published with financial aid from the Commissioner and the edition is to be presented at the Mass Media in Belarus Exhibition, at the Commissioner’s stand. At the Congress, the Union of Poles also elected its new chairman: Mieczyslaw Lysy. By Alina Kolesnikova

By Viktar Korbut

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Demography

A very

interesting situation Birth rate and life expectancy rose last year

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ander

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t’s no s e cret t hat the population of developed countries grows older ever y year; it’s a trend seen in the USA, Japan, and Europe. The European birth rate is dropping catastrophically; meanwhile, more migrants from developing countries across Asia and Africa enter each year. Some would say that this fall in the birth rate is a direct result of women’s emancipation and greater independence. Belarus is also following this global trend, having seen a decline in the birth rate since the early 1990s. As to whether it’s possible to reverse this tendency, some would say it’s unlikely. However, optimists remain positive,

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Monument noting last year’s rise in the number of babies born (as reported by the National Statistical Committee). At the recent press conference, the demographic situation from the last decade was presented, showing that cities are home to more residents than ever and that downward demographic trends may have been turned around. Natural increase was registered in 76 out of 113 cities, as well as in 22 out of 91 urban-type settlements. “Last year, seven thousand more children were born in Belarus than in the previous year. We believe that this trend will continue in the future,” stated Irina Shestakova, the Director General of the Demographic Statistics Department of the National Statistical Committee. In fact, it’s becoming more common for couples to have second, third and, even, fourth children; it’s a trend observed over the past few years. Pleasingly, the average lifespan of Belarusians is increasing, standing at over 72 years as of last year — rivalling rates in the CIS and elsewhere worldwide. Representatives of the National Statistical Committee also reported ‘fresh’ figures and data, e.g., those dealing with population number. As of March 1st, 2013, 9, 462,000 people lived in Belarus. Moreover, in JanuaryFebruary 2013, 19,000 babies were born in the country — 1,000 up compared to the same period of the last year. Interestingly, but Belarus is ranked 89th worldwide in the number of population. If we view only the European continent we’re among top twenty, and our Belarus is close to such countries as Sweden and Azerbaijan in these terms. Everything points to the stabilisation of Belarus’ demographic situation, as acknowledged by foreign experts. The fall in infant mortality and higher life expectancy have significantly affected Belarus’ position in the UN’s Human Development Index (from 65th to 50th place, among 187 countries). Maintaining these positive trends is now essential. By Yury Chernyakevich

Symbol of faith Five metre bronze monument to Patriarch of Moscow and all-Russia Alexy II installed in Vitebsk, near Holy Dormition Cathedral

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n the Feast of the Annunciation, the monument was solemnly unveiled and consecrated. Alongside numerous believers, church clerks and heads of the region and the city attended the ceremony. There were many guests from Russia, including patron Anastasia Ositis, who financed the monument. The sculpture stands beside Holy Dormition Cathedral, which stands high on the bank of the Zapadnaya Dvina River. It is considered to be one of Belarus’ most beautiful churches, designed by Iosif Fontan in the late 18th century. Thought to be inspired by Anorio Longi’s church, in Rome, it was sadly reduced to rubble in 1936, during the years of ‘militant atheism’. However, restoration works began sixty years ago. In 1998, Patriarch Alexey II visited Vitebsk and laid a capsule (containing a letter) in the church’s foundations, as well as consecrating the first stone of its restoration. He visited again in 2000, giving his blessing for its speedy completion and, in September 2011, the new Holy Dormition Cathedral was consecrated.

The monument was jointly created by famous Belarusian sculptor Vladimir Slobodchikov, by Prof. Igor Morozov and by Igor Voyush. Addressing the parishioners and expressing gratitude to those who took part in creating the monument, the Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk Filaret, the Patriarchal Exarch of Belarus, noted,” The unveiling of the monument testifies to the faith of our people while also showing the spiritual unity of all Orthodox nations, who love each other and the whole world.” The Chairman of the Vitebsk Regional Exec utive C ommittee, Alexander Kosinets, underlined that Belarus is keen to encourage the spiritual and moral education of the nation. Close collaboration between civil and spiritual powers brings only benefits. Such interaction, as promoted by Alexy II, has already reaped tangible results. Church members are promoting spiritual ties b e t we e n ord i n ar y believers, business people and patrons of ar t , su ch as Anastasia Ositis, who financed the monument to Alexy II in Vitebsk. Her next p l a n s i n c lu d e the foundation of a monastery in the Gorodok District. By Sergey Gomanov

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Sincere views of Vasily Sumarev 42

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x ander

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Art personality

o understand the origins of Vasily Sumarev’s creativity, we need to travel back in time forty years, visiting him in his studio, where it is now quiet. In days gone by, it was filled with the laughter and high spirits of children, who painted, sculpted, made prints and wove tapestries on homemade looms. Collective creativity reigned. It’s difficult to imagine Mr. Sumarev working in such a lively atmosphere. Since childhood, ever since he can remember, he has created art works. Early on, he helped his father and brother with carpentry. He then attended the chil-


personality

Art

Honoured Artist of Belarus Vasily Sumarev was born in 1938 in Minsk. As a schoolboy, he attended the art studio at the Minsk Railway School, headed by painter Victor Versotsky. In 1959, he graduated from the Minsk Art School and entered the Belarusian State Theatre and Art Institute (Belarusian State Academy of Arts) in the painting department. His years of study coincided with a favourable period of development for Belarusian art, when bold ambitions and experimentalism reigned. His graduation painting, Raftsmen (1965), reflected his desire to explore the expressive classic Soviet ‘severe style’. My World

dren’s art studio at the railway school, before studying at the Minsk Art School and, then, at the painting department of the Belarusian Theatre and Art Institute, from where he graduated in 1965. These years of study coincided with an interesting period in Belarusian art, when a new, post-war generation of young artists brought a spirit of daring and a search for truth, defying traditions. Mikhail Savitsky, Georgy Vashchenko, Algerd Malishevsky, Georgy Poplavsky and Boris Zaborov entered the scene, questioning old ways and opening new doors. Each exhibition caused a storm of

controversy, capturing the imagination of students and young teachers alike, helping them become friends and colleagues. Mr. Sumarev’s formative years were surrounded by this environment, shaping his fine art skills, his artistic taste and his very views on life and art. He found his own path, while learning from Mr. Konchalovsky the importance of fully experiencing life, its pleasures and rich colours. Through Kustodiev, he came to an understanding of the cultural importance of national origins and became fond of the Primitivist artists. After that, a major moment in everyone’s

biography came, when it is necessary to think over the well-learnt paradigmatic notions and the formation of one’s own positions starts. There comes a time in everyone’s life when we question all that we have been told or have read and form our own opinions. In fact, Mr. Sumarev distinguished himself as an original artist from his very first works: Raftsmen — his graduation painting — was exhibited at the All-Union Review of Creative Works by Art University Graduates. This was followed, in 1966, by his first series of independent works,

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Art personality

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from an unexpected point of view, intriguing us to look closer. Minsk’s sites transform into a new plastic composition, where familiar details — seen from unexpected points of view and from unusual angles — intrigue viewers. His works are rather like old engravings of city views, framed with particular scenes. A sharp sight, observation, the immediacy of impression from what he saw in life and an increased interest to traditions, issues of stylistics, rethinking of the experience gained at the institute, and the search for own painting style — all is entwined in the works of Mr. Sumarev, determining the variety of his creative aspirations. He combines sharp insight and observation with fresh and vivid immediacy,

Alexander Ruzhechka

inspired by travels to Leningrad and Karelia — Urban Landscape, Northern Village, Pit and Chemical Plant — which went on show at a national exhibition of works by young Belarusian artists. Chemical Plant was then selected for the All-Union Exhibition of Young Artists. These works were greatly expressive, full of colour and shape, finding their summit in Chemical Plant, which showed the harsh features of an industrial building, painted in cold gradations of emerald-blue, black and white, with sharp angles of buildings reflected in the mirrored surface of the river. Meanwhile, pipes rear up close to one another, as if ready to burst, bringing tension to the composition. We are alienated yet fascinated. A state of alienation, which is specific for this landscape, is gradually changed with a sense of lyricism and personal connection towards what is happening. These qualities are gradually becoming more common for his creative works. In Frost (1966) gloomy shades recede gradually, creating a newly awoken frosty morning, when everything is cloaked in mist and a sense of the unreal, yet is already p e r m e at e d w it h t h e rhythms of the coming day and the warmth of human presence. Small figures in the foreground and silvered trees beyond create an encircling feeling, drawing us closer into Sumarev’s world, which seems to acquire several dimensions. Reality and dreams merge, coloured with childhood memories and lingering echoes of the past. M r. S u m a r e v ’s portrayal of his hometown, in TPP2, coincided with the 900th anniversary of Minsk, showing the city in all its diversity, combining architectural images from different eras

Mу House

and fragments of nature, as seen from his windows and on walks to his studio or city centre. We see the house where Mr. Sumarev was born and raised, alongside ordinary suburban p e ople and t heir e ver yday concerns, depicted with amazing warmth. He gives us the familiar

created in his own style. At first glance, we might imagine that his art developed in one direction but this is far from true.


personality His early attempts on the civic theme timidly echo the ‘severe style’ of early 1960s monumentalism: The Letter, The Return and The Rundown. However, almost at the same time, Mr. Sumarev created a series of paintings in various genres, with interesting interpretations, combining landscape and household patterns in a single composition, with definite plot — as seen in Frost and TPP-2. His use of folk art suits his ‘micro-world’ of stylised images and ‘miniaturisation’, where details are painted meticulously, including human gestures and facial expressions to create lifelike characters. One series of scenes features a city square, with buses, shop signs and a queue at a kiosk. Called Sunday, it sparkles with rainbow colours, high spirits and light. In Merry Winter in Loshitsa, we see festivities painted with boundless imagination and almost childlike candour. The colour palette is quite musical, while his reverence conveys the feeling of a winter fairy tale, populated with children who resemble tin soldiers. His love for children and sincere belief that every child has an artist inside them colours his works, which also display a naive charm, extravaganza of colour and courage in combining the unusual. Perhaps, only professional perfectionism and a sense of humour protect him from deliberate Primitivism. It would be easy for him to fall into thematic works — such as we see in his Physical Culture and Sport or Always on the Lookout, which seem to be created halfplayfully. The same deliberateness is felt in his vividly orange Hot Day. Training Firefighters (early 1970s) with its fiery red trucks and human figures before an urban background of smoke. We see slogans on buildings and a courting couple by a fountain, as well as a fussy old woman taking her goat into a courtyard. It’s like a fairy tale, where real life slows and we watch from above, distanced. The perspective structure of Sumarev’s compositions with consistently high horizon makes it possible to disclose the maximum possible area of observation and populate it to the uttermost

Art

Celebration at Traktarny Village

while also to view the space as conventional environment. This technique is evident in The Day Awakens, where silver tones sparkle like precious metal. Conventionalism of the space is emphasised here with very refined, almost silver colour, sparkling as a precious metal. His New Year Soon to Arrive presents the colourful kaleidoscope of a market fair, dominated by crimsons, yellows and blue shades; a carousel spins around a huge tree, with its interlaced branches and flocks of birds. He captures specific details, while keeping each within its place in the overall composition. A lot of scenes, episodes and plots do not violate the integrity of the experi-

ence. With all the ‘verbosity’ of the works Mr. Sumarev remains an interesting and thoughtful interlocutor. It’s impossible to be bored by his works, where detail and plot tell a clear and credible story. The sense of ‘looking within’ a slice of the life of others is enduringly fascinating, allowing us to return to his works again and again with the same excitement. My House (1970) — a large-scale work — has been exhibited many times, with popularity, and is currently housed by the Tashkent Museum of Art. At the request of the Ministry of Culture of Belarus, Vasily Sumarev has made a copy, placing it in his own carved wooden frame. Part of the diverse panorama of

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Art personality Soviet art from the 1970s, its bird’s eye view of Minsk depicts a red, two-story wooden house at the centre: the home in which the artist was born and raised, close to the railway. He shows us the world of his childhood with optimism, since neighbours look out from the windows, celebrating a wedding. Others are drying fish; in the street, painting characters are talking, doing exercises, reading a book. World of home is full of details of everyday life, remembered by the eye of the artist in childhood. The painter skips all sad and pathetic that is stored in memory, and shows us the purity of the children’s hopes, aspirations and warming with soul’s warmth attention to seniors. My House truly captures his essence as an artist, showing how life comprises a multitude of simultaneous events. His stylised folk art reflects that which lives in his heart. It is no reaction to what is considered fashionable; it is the most appropriate style for his memories. My House is a ‘family photo’, depicting relatives and neighbours, memorable episodes and feelings from childhood, adolescence and youth. These form a panorama of life, set against a background of new town building, helicopters and rushing trains... Against this drama, the merry red house sails through the years, like a fabulous ship. Once, it seemed huge and sunlit — as depicted in the painting — filled with glowing colours and wideopen windows. It hosted weddings, the reading of books, the drying of carp and other scenes of everyday life. The artist repeatedly returns to his favourite subject, looking closely at what is happening in ‘his’ house. He focuses in, providing a close-up of a single window in The Wedding: created two years after My House. His desire to highlight the window with the wedding as an independent composition is significant, showing his need to move towards portraiture, giving a more thorough evocation of the inhabitants of the house. His Still Life with Laska — created the same year — shows us inside the house, with household

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objects representing their owners. One nature (he loved to paint outside) and the window is open wide to the sunny world traditions of the school. His landscapes while another is closed off from prying are worth special mention, being so eyes, filled with crumpled newspaper. A vividly alive, with an emotional narrative table is half covered with a white cloth, and, often, clear plot. In Sumarev’s landon which stands a cup and empty milk scapes, spatial environment — simulated bottle with a flower; underneath, is a flop-eared mongrel, Laska. The other half of the table has a cutting board and meat grinder with blood-red meat. Mr. Sumarev combines simplicity with gravity, inspiring us to think. Two of his works, painted at different times and on different topics, are good examples. One is devoted to war and the other to the Revolution: October. Its sharp form and colour, symbolic structure, shifts of perspective and energetic angles transform the city into a globe, surrounded by beautiful demonstrations. Again, we look down from above. It is as if years and distance give monumental scale, despite the small size of the canvas. Mr. Sumarev’s hand in the work is obvious. Panorama of events can be seen from a height, as if through years and distance that gives the painting a monumental scale, despite its small size. A symbolic generalisation, to which Mr. Sumarev moves in this picture and that may seem not very typical for his style yet peculiar for the artist’s worldview, Sumarev’s intonation is felt in it, as well as the particular imaginative vision that characterises all his creative works. Works of Vasily Sumarev At the time, Mr. Sumarev was with the colour — becomes a habitat impressed by the first capital of the scene of novels, when different beginGrand Duchy of Lithuania, Novogrudok, nings co-exist on one canvas either drawing inspiration from this historic in harmony or in contrast — colour region of Belarus. His Tale of Novogrudok and graphic, emotional and narrative. (1976) presents a romantic, moonlit Sometimes, the plot motif, brought into hillside landscape, featuring the ruins the landscape, becomes a component of of an old castle, giving a sense of legend. the plastic composition. Meanwhile, My Mother’s Land is one of Five Minutes of Rest combines the clearest examples of traditional, epic various styles, giving us emotional landscape painting in 1970s Belarusian and philosophical insight. It lacks his painting. We see his deep respect for usual composition and plot, using


personality an impressionistic interpretation of colour and vague forms, reminding us of memories of war. Meanwhile, his still life works are interesting in imbuing household items with a deeper metaphorical impact. His Blue Still Life, Eastern shows a decorative glass and tray; we cannot help but wonder to whom they belong. He achieves results significantly beyond the narrow scope of his experiment and

plays with trends and styles without any clear schedule of evolution. He revives particular genres repeatedly — sometimes with a touch of humour or naivety, sometimes a little harsh, but always sincere and open-minded. Honoured Artist of Belarus Vasily Sumarev holds many state awards,

including his recent Order of Frantsisk Skorina. He is also a laureate of the rare ‘Friend of Children’ award, for his many years of work with gifted children. Immediately after graduating from university, Mr. Sumarev became head of one of the most famous children’s art studios, at Minsk’s Textile Workers’ Palace of Culture. No doubt, his work with children over so many years shaped his own creativity. You’ve always striven to do something for children, without being paid. Once for a year, I’ve designed paintings at the two children’s cafes in Minsk’s Gorky Park: countertops and wall art. The city authorities asked me what I’d like to be paid but I refused the offer, saying that I didn’t need to make money from children. They smiled and promised to call, so I admitted that I didn’t have a phone. The next day, the phone was installed. In 1989, I was nominated for the Republican ‘Friend of Children’ award. I’d previously visited a home for disabled children in the Ivatsevichi District, where I met a boy who needed dentures. He’d entered an electricity transformer vault and burned his hands. I promised that, if I got the award, I’d give the prize money to the child, and kept my word. If it’s no secret, how much did you receive? A thousand Roubles: a large sum at that time. We, artists, earned good money then, although that is hardly relevant. I’ve always remembered the golden words: ‘always do your best by others’. This is my guiding principle in life. Mr. Sumarev believes that his years of work in his studio have been the best

Art

of his life, giving him spiritual fulfilment. His My World depicts him among many students creating their first ‘masterpieces’. A swallow flies into the room through the open window; of course, swallows are messengers of hope for young creators of beauty. As to the recipe for artistic success, Mr. Sumarev is convinced that personal dedication is essential, alongside finding your own ‘voice’ and inspiration. He also believes that art should show our love for the world, enabling others to share our passionate visions. From painting his famous My House, to his recent Fatherland, which decorates the interior of the new National Library of Belarus, more than 35 years have passed. His style is always recognisable in its use of poetic folk art and his intimate relationship with his characters and homeland. My House restores half-forgotten memories of early childhood, showing us the simple, everyday, peaceful life of his friends, relatives and neighbours. This he admires warmly and fondly. Of Fatherland, Mr. Sumarev says, “Each age has its memorable cultural characters. The city of Novogrudok is one such: a legendary symbol for Belarusian people. When, 30 years ago, I saw this city for the first time, with its Castle Hill and the ruins of a 13th century castle, I was seized by such excitement that I couldn’t paint this miracle. Since then, I’ve depicted Novogrudok many times, at various times of year. I painted Fatherland for the library to show my emotional relationship with the history of my native country, which endures today. History moves forward, bringing good people into the world: kind, generous, funny, sometimes sad, hardworking and courageous. I tend to show my contemporaries in a fun, sparkling, festive atmosphere: at weddings, sporting competitions and other such events, and in lively scenes. I never paint definite locations, creating a generalised image of our homeland, with everlasting spiritual continuity and nostalgia. By Victor Mikhailov

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Theater

Follows tradition while being young Alexander Gelakh is a rising star of the Belarusian State Academic Musical Theatre. Not long ago, he demonstrated the depth of his talent at the theatre’s premiere of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.

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t would have been a challenge for even the most experienced singer but Alexander performed Beppo perfectly. Children’s works and classical plays are also in his repertoire; The Bat, Yunona and Avos, and Aladdin and His Magic Lamp. His senior colleagues feel sure of his bright future. Alexander, how would you advise young artistes on gaining attention? Truly, I have no idea. In my case, it was probably the alignment of the stars. C e r t ai n p re re qu i sites exist for a successful career. Do you come from a musical family? I don’t, although my father and both grandfathers were amateur musicians, playing the harmonica in clubs. None had a professional education. Nevertheless, I ’v e d e f i n i t e l y ‘inherited’ my sense of rhythm and musical ear from them. I was keen

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on singing even in early childhood. At kindergarten, I could hardly fall asleep during the day as I was always singing — disturbing other children. It was a challenge to calm me. Logically, my mother was invited to take me to a musical studio, where I could study singing. At the age of five, I began attending the Centre of Children’s Art, in my native Kobrin. I even toured with concerts. Is Kobrin a musical town? Certainly. It has raised many talented young people — including singers. W he n di d y ou decide to ‘conquer’ the capital? That was another turn of Fate. After graduat ing f rom t he musical school and from Brest’s Musical College (where I studied the button accordion), I was eager to continue my education. I d e c i d e d to

move to Minsk, entering the Belarusian State Music Academy’s Preparatory Department with ease. I didn’t want to be dependent on my parents and needed pocket money, so I began working at a shop near our hostel. I was invited to take part in an audition at the Musical Theatre and had nothing to lose, so I dared. The chief choirmaster, Svetlana Petrova, heard me, alongside Alexey Isaev — the Artistic Head at the time. As a result, they took me on part-time in the choir for the next three years. This was the beginning of my ‘affair’ with musical theatre. Do all choir members secretly wish to launch an independent vocal career? Or are some content that choir singing is their vocation? I believe that choir singing is a vocation; I’ve met people who adore it. Meanwhile, I’ve always loved singing alone, taking responsibility for my own mistakes, rather than others’. Moreover, I feel freer artistically, avoiding the restrictions of particular frameworks. I can sing as God guides me. How were the rehearsals for Pagliacci? Is Ruggero Leoncavallo ‘your’ composer? My part isn’t complicated, being simple for audiences to understand. However, it was a challenge for me to find the best way to perform the role; I’m still pondering this. The opera involves


Theater

much acting so I have to work hard in every sense; I’m just 24 so I still have time to polish my mastery. Do modern musical theatre artistes need acting talent? I think modern artistes must possess a range of qualities, to satisfy the demands of directors and audiences. Naturally, acting talent is welcome, since musical plays combine drama with singing. It’s important not only to sing from the score, but to interpret the role in a way that creates empathy. To achieve this, you need more than a perfect musical ear. Do you have your own favourite classical operetta role? Alfred, from ‘The Bat’; it’s a great role for any artiste. I’m happy to sing it. Are you anxious when singing along‑side stars from the Musical Theatre? On the contrary: I feel at ease. I know that I can rely on my older colleagues, who’ll help me anytime. They are experienced artistes and would help if I made a mistake. Is there much rivalry among Musical Theatre artistes?

I have no sense of this: I’m simply doing my job. How do you feel about children’s performances and your role of Aladdin? Each role is complicated in its own way. ‘Aladdin and His Magic Lamp’ is good ‘training’ for me, as children never pretend to enjoy themselves. Do you dream of singing in another opera, after Pagliacci? I need to grow into the operatic genre and have made no plans regarding my future career. The Musical Theatre also premiered Imre Kalman’s Mister X operetta recently… I performed the role of Tony. Was it a ‘traditional’ telling? It was your second role directed by Anna Motorina — who staged Pagliacci… Ms. Motorina explains her desires clearly, making it easy for her actors to follow what’s required. Of course, something might not be fully achieved immediately but we know the ultimate goal. Sadly, I haven’t seen any previous

version of this operetta (which has been staged by the Theatre in the past); the present ‘Mister X’ is quite a ‘traditional’ performance, in my view. Should classical operettas be given a contemporary interpretation? I’m probably being seditious but I prefer original interpretations, to avoid losing the author’s style and intention. Classical operetta is the highest in taste, with no need for alteration through a director’s wild fantasies or a fusion of genres. We simply need to follow the author’s thoughts. Actors dream of playing Hamlet, Chatsky and Treplev; what do tenor singers dream of? Probably, playing Vodemon, in Tchaikovsky’s ‘Iolanthe’. However, this role is for a dramatic tenor, so I need to grow into it. Lensky, from ‘Eugene Onegin’, is also a very beautiful role. Does this mean that Alexander Gelakh admires theatrical traditions and classics? Yes, and I’m proud of it. By Valentin Pepelyayev

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Rarities

Instrument’s history

musical

Alexander Ruzhechka

Capricious

“Organs are usually thought typical of Western churches but this is not completely true,” notes Olga Savitskaya, a candidate of art and an associate professor at the Belarusian State Music Academy’s Department of Musical Theory. “After Ktesibios invented an organ in the 3rd century BC, they became secular musical instruments for a long time, played at feasts and to welcome top guests. The organ only came to Catholic churches in the 7th century.” In Belarus, the first organs appeared around 800 years ago, with organ music flourishing in the 16th-17th century. “Minsk, Brest, Grodno and Nesvizh were the largest centres of organ music, while talented Shymkevich, Mazovich and Rogachevsky not only played organs but composed music for these instruments,” continues Ms. Savitskaya. “Some pieces of old Belarusian organ music are still played today: Andrey Rogachevsky’s Canzona and Matet (composed in the 16th-17th century). In 1872, a school of organists was established in Minsk: the only one of its kind across the whole Russian Empire.”

king Instrument with own caretaker and four-storey building easily hidden behind its facade

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he organ is often called ‘the king of musical instruments’, being the largest and one of the oldest in the world. The first organs were made in the 2nd century BC, but were water-powered at that time. It’s said that an organ can easily replace a whole orchestra, so where is the oldest organ in Belarus?

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Organ in six carriages Concert organs appeared in the 19th century, with one of the first such instruments being made in France. In the mid-20th century, it was fashionable to make universal organs — which could perform various styles: old, modern, romantic and classical. One such is found at the Belarusian State Philharmonic, in the Large Hall; it was made by a famous Czech firm — Rieger-Kloss — under the guidance of outstanding organist Jiří Rheinberger (celebrating his 50th birthday this year). It is the largest organ in the country and required six carriages to transport its various parts to the Belarusian capital. It stands about 12m high and 15m wide, with four manuals and a foot-beater, 73 acoustic registers, 10 air bellows and 6,366 pipes (the smallest are about 1cm tall and have the diameter of a pencil, while the largest are around 8m, with a diameter of almost 50cm).

Doctor for ‘king’ The 21st century unveiled a new page in the history of the Philharmonic organ, being revived by talented Stanislav Chernyavsky: an organ caretaker since 1963. For over four decades, he breathed in unison with the organ, being minutely aware of its character, its strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge he passed to his son, Gennady, who now takes care of the magnificent instrument. Ms. Savitskaya believes that the organ would have failed to survive without their help. Naturally, its life also relies on those willing to learn to play. “The Minsk organ is lucky; in its 50 years of life, only three men have played it: outstanding and talented Oleg Yanchenko, Alexander


Rarities Fiseisky and Konstantin Sharov. The latter has been playing the Belarusian Philharmonic organ since 1983.” The Belarusian organ and its organists have attracted attention from many prominent foreign musicians and from audiences. The Vatican’s leading organist, Sacchetti, has given a guest performance on the wonderful instrument at the Philharmonic, as has Belgium’s Peters, Latvia’s Lisitsina, Russia’s Roisman and Grodberg, and several others. “The Philharmonic organ combines various instruments in a wonderful manner; interestingly, it can even substitute an orchestra in such organ-based symphonies as that by French Widor and Vierne,” notes Ms. Savitskaya. “The possibilities of this ‘king of instruments’ are endless. Poland’s Marek Stefanski — who recently toured Minsk — amazed audiences with an organ tango! That was spectacular of course.”

Organs with character Two other major concert organs are to be found: at St. Roch’s Roman Catholic Church in Minsk and at Polotsk’s Sophia Cathedral. Although both were made in the Czech Republic, they enjoy different characters and tone. In fact, Belarus boasts around a hundred organs, of various sizes and appearances, hand-made by Italian, German and Polish masters. Belarus’ oldest organs are found in the Farny and Frantsisk Roman Catholic churches of Grodno and Budslav, as well as in the villages of Novaya Mysh (Baranovichi District) and Trakeli (Voronovo District). All were made in the 18th century. Other outstanding organs are kept in Nesvizh and Pinsk, at St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church in Vitebsk and at St. Stanislav’s Roman Catholic Church in Mogilev; they are true ‘kings of music’.

Alexander Ruzhechka

Alexander Stadub

By Lyudmila Minakova

Return down through the ages Statute of Grand Duchy of Lithuania on show at exhibition in Minsk

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he Great Statute of the Grand Duchy exhibition, dedicated to the 425th anniversary of the establishment of the Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (adopted in 1588), has opened at the National Library of Belarus, in Minsk. According to the Director of the National Library, Roman Motulsky, who took part in the opening ceremony, the exhibition is vital to the cultural life of Belarus. “In every epoch, we view events subjectively. By collating historical documents, we can make a more objective assessment,” he asserts. The exhibition showcases various editions of the Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania: from the collections of the National Library and the Mogilev History Museum; and reprinted editions of the Statute and other legislative collections from the 16th-19th century. The main exhibit is the Statute of 1588 in Old Belarusian, which was printed in Vilno, in 1594-1595. It is the only original copy in Belarus, on loan from the Mogilev History Museum, having been bought in June 2012, from a private collector in Moscow, for $45,000. There are only about 30 copies of the edition worldwide — kept in Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine and the UK. The Statute of 1588 was compiled by such prominent statesmen as Chancellor Astafy Volovich and Court Chancellor Lev Sapega, and was published by Piotr Mstislavets, at a Vilno publishing house, funded by the Mogilev Mamonichi merchant family. The original Statute represents the highest achievement of ancient Belarusian legal thought, having influenced the cultural, historical and legal traditions of European states. The Statute is not just a document; it is a monument of utmost cultural importance. By Natalia Zlotnik

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Soulful musi

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Virtuosi

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Minsk Philharmonic’s cosy hall attracts fans from Belarusian capital and beyond for Polish KRACOW DUO

arlier this year, a teacher of the Culture and Art University, Ye v g e ny Po p l av s k y, dropped by the editorial office to collect an issue of our magazine for his senior colleague, Ms. Albina Pekutko: featured on the cover of the January 2013 issue, celebrating her Presidential Award ‘For

mination and the importance of selfeducation, using every opportunity to nurture his professional skills. During his internship at the St. Petersburg Conservatoire, he took part in master classes organised by Dutch composer Ton de Leeuw (hosted by Repino, near St. Petersburg), as well as attending master classes at Gdańsk’s Academy of Music (named after Stanisław Moniuszko) and at the Music Academy’s Electro-Acoustic Music Studio in Krakow.

For the first time the virtuosi come in Minsk at the invitation of the Polish Institute, under the organizational assistance of Yevgeny Poplavsky in 2011. Their performances have proven so popular that they willingly accept a proposal of the project organizers to perform the new program at the Rygor Shirma Chamber Hall Spiritual Revival’. Ms. Pekutko heads the Choir and Vocal Art Chair. Yevgeny mentioned his teaching at the university and his work as a composer, being a graduate of our conservatoire. He studied composition under Belarusian composers Igor Luchenok and Dmitry Smolsky. He is a strong believer in self-deter-

In Krakow, at the International Contemporary Museum Festival in 2010, where his Con Amore was performed, Yevgeny met a couple of talented young musicians, Jan Kalinowski (cello) and Marek Szlezer (piano). So impressed was he by their professional approach towards contemporary music and their diverse repertoire that he initiated


Virtuosi hanging in tradition fashion, inviting audiences to let their gaze wander. The sub due d pale green lighting is also very soothing. Sitting in the second row, directly in the centre, just two metres from the stage, I was able to see the stool and music stand with notes awaiting cellist Jan K a l i n ow s k i ,

Ivan Zhdanovich

Yevgeny Poplavsky: There is also my music in their repertoire

regular links, launching this new aspect of cultural co-operation between Belarus and Poland.

Krakow duo According to Nat a lia Ganu l, who hosts Jan and Marek’s concert programme, the pair have been friends since childhood. Of course, it’s their shared interests and mutual understanding that have kept them close. They share a love of music and joint education in Krakow and Paris, as well as having both defended candidate dissertations. They even both teach at the Academy of Music in Krakow. The pair are inspired to popularise contemporary musical culture at home and abroad, being welcomed at concert halls across Europe. They’ve played at international festivals in Ukraine, Slovakia, France and Germany and have toured

the Middle East, as well as making a trip to China for the Days of Krakow. Their recorded albums include a CD of chamber works by Fryderyk Chopin. Despite their world travels, their recent visit to Minsk has been their first, at the invitation of the Polish Institute, under the organisational assistance of Yevgeny Poplavsky. Unsurprisingly, their performances have proven popular, playing alongside Dmitry Lybin and Yevgeny Poplavsky, with a repertoire of music by Belarusian composers.

Ode to music The Rygor Shirma Chamber Hall is unusual is allowing the audience to sit very close to the stage, enabling a communion of souls to take place. The 19th century style high backed velvet chairs are supremely comfortable and the hall boasts paintings

alongside a piano for Marek Szlezer, to the left. In the first row, in front of us, a grandmother sat with her grandchildren: a boy aged about four and a slightly older girl. My colleagues and I discussed whether such a concert was appropriate for young children but came to the conclusion that teaching children about serious music from early childhood is probably wise. Without question, the children behaved well. Hostess Natalia Ganul then appeared, giving what I consider to be an indispensable opening speech, regardless of information on the performers and their repertoire being in the programme. Her engaging manner immediately focuses the audience’s attention, in anticipation of the concert to come. Ms. Ganul’s voice is so enchanting that even those young children hung on her every word. My colleagues smiled at seeing the grand-

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Virtuosi

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t h e s ou n d of crying, the roar of a river or the gentle whisper of the breeze. These evocative images united to form a symphony of sound. Marek and Jan then led me into the complex world of Dmitr y Shostakovich’s Sonata in D-minor, with its heart-warming exploration of love and kindness. From the first notes, the melody penetrated the very pores of my skin, allowing me to breathe with it. Rather than images, I saw colour — purple, lilacs and pink shades which filled me with joy. The first section finished with a work by Belarusian composer Dmitry Lybin: House of Ghosts. As Ms. Ganul explained, this post-avant-garde instrumental piece combines ‘musical recol-

Ivan Zhdanovich

mother put her hand on each of their knees, to remind them to be quiet. Before commenting on KRACOW DUO and on Belarusian and Polish musical cultures, Ms. Ganul presented the honorary guests: the Director of t he Pol ish Institute, Piotr Kazakevich; B e l a r u s’ Deputy Culture Minister, T a d e u s h Struzhetsky ; and the French Ambassador to Belarus, H.E. Mr. Michel Raineri. Each half rose on hearing their name, turning to bow before the audience. There’s something inexplicable, even mystical, in anticipating performers entering the stage. On first seeing them, I couldn’t help but inwardly exclaim at how much they looked like their photos on the programme. Wearing black tie, they bowed elegantly, accepting the audience’s welcome applause with smiles. Finally, they sat and Kalinowski touched the strings of his cello, then looked over at Marek. After a small nod, the music of Polish composer Witold Lutosławski sprang to life. Almost rivalling Fryderyk Chopin in the history of Polish music, he is honoured by 2013 being named ‘The Year of Witold Lutosławski’ by the Polish Sejm. It was the first time I’d heard his Grave: a movement for cello and piano. Expressive music is always astonishing, stopping all other thought, but this piece awoke feelings in me with which I was unfamiliar. It was as if I heard only the breathing of the planet, listening to all that was occurring in every corner and every continent, from the rustling of leaves to rocks falling from a mountain. Sudden sounds made me recall a train sharply braking or the crack of torn tree branches. Metaphors from life filled my mind to fit each musical phrase: the shimmering heat of the desert or the throaty shout of a train conductor, the singing of a spring well or rush of a sea storm,

pering, cracking, squeaking, breathing and scratching — sent chills through the audience, as if we really were in the presence of ghosts. During the interval, we exchanged opinions on how the music had affected us and on the skill of the musicians. The two young children trotted out behind their grandmother, having sat still for long enough.

During performance of the original work by Belarusian composer Dmitry Lybin “House of Ghosts”

lec tions’ of mystical scenes from famous operas. Written at the request of a French cellist, it was adapted for KRACOW DUO’s concert to allow the piano to take part fully. With the lid open, Marek even plucked the very strings of his instrument, while Jan make his cello ‘squeal’ by ‘bowing’ with his fingers. These strange sounds — whis-

Continuation The second half began with Yevgeny Poplavsky’s In the Moonlight (2012), arousing recollections of the full


Fact moon and its pale light, which reshapes the contours of familiar objects and filters night sounds to create fantastical illusions. I imagined a forest on a summer night, filled with rustling and crackling, and a mirrored lake, the cry of an eagle owl, the splash of water and muted laughter. It also made me remember Gogol’ s Viy and Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka, as well as a scene from Mikhail Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita: Margarita flying on a broom over forests and lakes. I recollected sleepless warm summer nights as a student, the moon shining gleefully, inspiring random fantasies, and imaginings of sounds and smells, when

all senses are heightened and the soul yearns for something wonderful… After the concert, Poplavsky dedicated this work to his wife, Helena, of the famous noble family of Leshchinsky. He explained: ‘In the atmosphere of this wonderful summer night, filled with moonlight, I’ve tried to reveal the great light of the female soul and her poetic mood, which is manifested in the shadows, colours and sounds of the cello and piano’. The piece premiered at the International Festival of Modern Music: 24 Days of Music by Krakow Composers. The second section finished with Ludomir Różycki’s Dwa Nokturny, and Alexander Tansman’s Fantasies for Cello and Piano — both prominent Polish composers. This rounded off the programme well, having given us a breadth of musical experiences united in rousing great emotions. The applause was unanimous for the Polish musicians, whose encore was Sonata for Cello and Piano, by Sergei Rachmaninov. The concert ended on a cheerful and spiritual note and I thought, a s

I have done many times b e f o re , h ow music evidently removes all walls between us. By Valentina Zhdanovich

Flying Dutchman mooring in Minsk Foreign specialist to help stage first opera in German at Bolshoi Theatre

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xperienced co-rehearsal and coach Malte Kroidl will soon arrive in Minsk to work on Richard Wagner’s Flying Dutchman, with famous German opera director Prof. HansJoachim Frey. It will be the first opera in the history of the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre of Belarus to be sung in German. The theatre has only once before staged an opera by Wagner: Lohengrin, in the 1970s. The premiere of the Flying Dutchman is scheduled for December, with Malta Kroidl arriving in Belarus in September-October. The Director General of the Bolshoi Theatre, Vladimir Gridyushko, emphasises that it will be a huge help, as the voice coach will be able to help singers with diction and pronunciation in German. He adds, “The soloists like working with such coaches, making use of every minute.” The theatre is liaising long-term with Italian coach Paolo di Napoli, who helped in staging Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida and Gioachino Rossini’s Barber of Seville, working with director Mikhail Pandzhavidze. He also gave master classes last May, at the 1st Youth Opera Forum, in Minsk. The Italian master is now preparing Belarusian performers for Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot, which premieres in late April. “Вялікі тэатр для мяне як любоў і лёс”

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Mosaic

Star named after Alena Lanskaya’s song Belarus’ representative at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, Alena Lanskaya, has been given the honour of having a star named after her song: Solayoh

Beautiful style always in fashion Minsk hosts Fashion Mill finals

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ver 110 collections were demonstrated during the final stage of the festival-contest, with the best chosen by international fashion and design specialists from the

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t is located within the Great Bear constellation and can be seen unaided. It should even be in the ascendant for the night of Alena’s performance at Eurovision. A certificate was recently presented to Alena, by the International Star Registry’s local representative. To register a celestial body, the co-ordinates are calculated, as are the time, date and the place of first sighting (e.g. May 14th, 22:50, Swedish Malmö). Certificates specify the name of the star’s owner and the data of the celestial body, accompanied by a map of its location within its constellation and within the whole night sky. The International Star Registry (named after German Titov) is unique worldwide in officially registering star names. Ms. Lanskaya’s Solayoh was recorded at the Abbey Road Studio in London, where The Beatles used to work, produced by Sam Okell. Kim Chandler gave Alena vocal coaching. Meanwhile, the video was shot in Istanbul, by Turkish producer and filmmaker Senol Korkmaz. Choreographer Zile Aleksa Raifovic, of the Serbian Zilennium Dance School, directed the dance moves.

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UK, France, Italy, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia and Ukraine. A ‘Photo’ nomination was awarded, alongside ‘Fashion School’ and ‘Fashion Master’ in a gala presentation. Guest collections included the Strong Beginning charity project, featuring pupils from Minsk’s regional boarding school for children with impaired hearing, and the Design-March proj e c t , i nvolv i ng f am ou s Belarusian athletes.

All’s well that ends well Ello international channel airs Belarusian language video of Aura’s Do You Hear Me?

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ussian channel Ello boasts over one million subscribers and has more than one billion views, leading among Russian and CIS musical channels. Moreover, it’s ranked among the top-50 world musical channels. The shooting schedule for the video for the song — shot in Dubai — prevented Aura from entering the selection round of Eurovision-2013. “At first, I was slightly upset that the dates for our trip to Dubai and for the contest coincided; we’d been preparing the song for the selection round, intending to surprise everyone by filming the video in advance. However, our work is now yielding fruit and I think that all will end well. I wish our entrant in Malmö every success,” notes soloist Yulia Bykova. Aura formed in 2005, and has already written over 300 rock-pop songs for artists in Belarus, Russia and Moldova, as well as taking part in various festivals and contests.

BELARUS #05/2013  

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