No.7 (946), 2012
BELARUS Беларусь. Belarus
Magazine for you
our major holiday
Politics, Economy, Culture
Belarus celebrating its Independence Day on July 3rd
Events in Belarus and abroad
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Беларусь.Belarus Monthly magazine No. 7 (946), 2012 Published since 1930 State Registration Certificate of mass medium No.8 dated March 2nd, 2009, issued by the Ministry of Information of the Republic of Belarus
Foothold on continent of opportunities
Right to choose
Exact orientation of partnership
Museum collection unveiled
High status of friendship
Heritage for all National Art Museum
Boundless business Gomel Economic
View from orbit
Forum-2012 proves largest to date
launches albums celebrating Belarusian classical artists — to mark Year of Books
Orthodox All-Saints Parish plays an important role in the spiritual life of the Belarusian capital
Executive Secretary: Valentina Zhdanovich
Design and Layout by Vadim Kondrashov Беларусь.Belarus is published in Belarusian, English, Spanish and Polish. Distributed in 50 countries of the world. Final responsibility for factual accuracy or interpretation rests with the authors of the publications. Should any article of Беларусь.Belarus be used, the reference to the magazine is obligatory. The magazine does not bear responsibility for the contents of advertisements.
Sympathetic images This year sees the celebration of the 130th anniversary of the birth of Yanka Kupala and Yakub Kolas
Publisher: “SB” editorial office
Agreement on peace signed in Skoki
This magazine has been printed at “Belarusian House of Press” Publishing Office” UE.
Another fabulous Pas de Deux Belarusian ballerina Yekaterina Oleinik receives third prize and title of laureate at Helsinki International Ballet Competition
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Better familiarisation with our neighbours Latvia’s tourist operators bring
House of mercy The House of Mercy of the
Editor: Viktor Kharkov
Philosopher, Professor Mikhail Vish- nevsky:‘The wave of change passes through us’
home many impressions from promotional tour through Vitebsk Region
Belarus in the superlative’ Franco Milasi, who heads the Italy-Belarus Association, has big plans for bringing people around the world into closer, more kindly contact
What connects Belarus and Cambodia? The first thing which comes to mind is 17 years of diplomatic relations and constructive political dialogue
Expertise for villages
Franco Milasi: ‘I’d like people to speak of
Founders: The Information Ministry of the Republic of Belarus “SB” newspaper editorial office Belvnesheconombank
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© “Беларусь. Belarus”, 2012
It’s impossible not to draw attention to the country’s political life, despite the imprint of summer. The date for elections to the House of Representatives has
elarus has many good traditions, such as respecting elders, knowledge of history and pride in modern innovation. On 3rd July, the whole country honours these via its Independence Day. Though created at the junction of the turn of the century, it is loaded with symbolism as nothing else. Independence and Sovereignty are sacred concepts for the state, honoured and respected. We are rightly proud of our rich history, formed over a thousand years ago in Polotsk. Natives of our land were known throughout Europe and, even, across the world. Unsurprisingly, the holiday marks the liberation of Belarus from the Nazis in World War II. This heroic victory over the brown Nazi plague saw unparalleled self-sacrifice. Even in today’s Belarus, most families preserve the memory of lost loved ones from those days; so many failed to return home from battle. The living embodiments of the holiday are greyhaired veterans, in the symbolic military parade of war victors, and young soldiers, wielding the latest combat equipment. Independence Day also traditionally features dazzling fireworks. In fact, every one of us has our part to play in celebrating the annual day of remembrance: students, teachers, factory workers and farmers. Anyone who values their Motherland is worthy.
been set (see Right to Choose). The election campaign will end in early autumn, so we should expect a politically active summer. The recent visit of Alexander Lukashenko to Latin America is another important political event. Touring Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador back to back, the President enjoyed a busy schedule. The most obvious economic results of Belarusian aspirations in the region are
evident in Venezuela. Over a remarkably short period of time, experts from Belarus have created entire industries and have built residential districts. New ambitious projects are planned, with the models to be replicated in other countries across the region. Offers have been made to potential partners, as you can read in Foothold in Continent of Opportunities. What else does our magazine hold for you, dear readers? Unlimited Business details the Gomel Economic Forum2012: the most ambitious to date, with over 400 business representatives from 30 countries taking part. Unlimited Business focuses on foreign business interest in specific regions of Belarus. Village Expertise tells eloquently of hundreds of companies (from two dozen countries) showing their agro-achievements, at Minsk’s international Belagro fair — held for several years already. Franco Milasi, who heads the Italy-Belarus Association, has been helping our two nations liaise for many years and is a frequent guest in Belarus. He declares: ‘I’d like people to speak of Belarus in the superlative’. We make these words the title of our interview, which explores many interesting aspects of Mr. Milasi’s work. BY Viktor Kharkov, magazine editor Беларусь. Belarus
Known for certain
Right to choose President Alexander Lukashenko tells National Assembly that elections to the House of Representatives will take place on September 23rd while the Council of the Republic will be formed by end September
f course, there is plenty of time for candidates t o c om e for w ard : t h e i r n o m i n at i o n begins 70 days before the election date and, by this time, district and divisional election commissions should be already formed. Those with serious intentions should remember the most vital aspect, as stipulated by Mr. Lukashenko in his State of the Nation Address to the Belarusian People and the National Assembly: ‘I guarantee that the forthcoming election campaign will be held at the highest level and in strict compliance with the laws and Constitution of
our country’. Mr. Lukashenko specified tasks during the session. In this respect, the Belarusian President warns, “We won’t be aiming to please anyone from outside; the elections are organised for the Belarusian nation, exclusively to serve its interests. Belarus is a sovereign state and won’t accept any interference. We need to have one goal in mind: holding elections in strict compliance with national legislation, fairly, openly and ensuring the will of the Belarusian nation.” Mr. Lukashenko demands a thorough approach towards the formation of election commissions. He adds, “Of course, there should be no restrictions on
the registration of candidates for the role of deputy. All those who have the right to be registered should be registered. Every citizen of the country should be granted the full opportunity to realise their rights to elect and be elected.” Local authorities should guarantee pre-election public events to match those of the Presidential elections in 2010, with attention paid to impartiality and transparency within the electoral process. The President has asked that international observers be given every assistance, yet notes, “We won’t ‘drag’ international observers into the country — as we did before. At the same time, we should grant the right to see how elections are taking place in Belarus to all those who wish it.” He is keen to see the election campaign comply strictly with the law, and hopes that participants will behave responsibly, observing the principle of equal rights, responsibilities and obligations. The Chair of the Central Election Commission, Lidia Yermoshina, advises the organisers of local elections to fulfil their obligations carefully, saying, “The atmosphere of the elections is determined by public feeling. People usually have a healthy respect for elections when they believe all is fair. We need to do all we can to inspire confidence in equality of access, with no special preferences.” These will be the first parliamentary elections held under recently amended legislation, with a new form of signature collection allowed: picketing (proven popular during the Presidential elections). The Chair of the Central Election Commission believes that a list of places should be drawn up where picketing is unambiguously prohibited. Also, printing enterprises need time to prepare in advance. Alongside funds allocated from the budget, candidates are now able to use their own funds (up to 1,000 basic units — equal to Br100m). They also have greater opportunities to produce campaign materials. By Kirill Dovlatov
on continent of opportunities The President of Belarus spent the whole of last week in Latin America, with an intense schedule, encompassing three official visits: to the Republic of Cuba, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Republic of Ecuador
r. Lukashenko’s stay in each countr y featured meetings and negotiations between heads of state, as well as with heads of ministries and our large enterprises. Every minute was scheduled tightly, with the Belarusian delegation also including the First Deputy Prime Minister, Vladimir Semashko. Clearly, the trip was inspired by more than diplomatic courtesy. Latin America is showing great potential for expansion of collaboration. The ceremonial meeting of the President in Cuba was held in Havana’s Palace of the Republic. Beforehand, the Belarusian delegation, headed by Mr. Semashko, negotiated with Cuban colleagues, while being welcomed by the Cuban Vice President of the Council of
Ministers, Ricardo Cabrisas. He noted that Cuba has adopted a programme of economic development until 2016 and that co-operation with Belarus harmoniously fits into this strategy. During negotiations, prospects for collaboration in diverse areas were discussed, with several documents signed. An agreement on co-operation was concluded between our governments regarding quarantine and plant protection, as were joint memorandums between the Belarusian Industry Ministry and the Cuban ministries for Agriculture, Metallurgy Industry and Machine Building. A similar document was concluded by our health ministries and our head of the State Committee for Science and Technology signed an agreement with the Cuban Ministry for Sciences, Technology and the Environment.
Mr. Lukashenko arrived at Revolution Square, laying a wreath at the Island of Freedom’s José Martí Memorial. He also wrote in the book of honorary guests: ‘I’m delighted by this historical site, which is dedicated to a wonderful son of Cuba — the poet, philosopher and great humanist José Martí. The energy, dynamism and freedom-loving spirit of the heroic Cuban nation is felt here especially brightly! I wish you all peace, health and prosperity’. The Palace of the Republic hosted a solemn ceremony for the official meeting. Together with Raúl Castro Ruz, the President of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers of Cuba, Mr. Lukashenko walked along the formation of the guard of honour and top level negotiations then took place, with the heads of state warmly greeting each other.
Hugo Chávez and Alexander Lukashenko meeting in Caracas
The President of Belarus emphasised that his visit coincides with the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our countries. Over these years, BelarusianCuban interaction has reached a level of strategic partnership. The Belarusian President asserted that the expansion of multi-faceted relations with Cuba is a top priority within the Belarusian state’s foreign policy. The visit by the President of Belarus to Havana had been long promoted by the local media, with the same situation observed in Venezuela; banners depicting portraits of Hugo Chávez and Alexander Lukashenko hung in Caracas’ streets and TV channels gave full of reports on cooperation between our states. Even the severe faces of security agents in the hotel brightened on seeing our delegation — whether the minister, plant director,
Foreign Ministry employee or journalist. The President of Venezuela’s security was also very amiable, helping us around the official residence: Miraflores Palace. Mr. Chávez waited for Mr. Lukashenko at the porch, looking at the television cameras and being unable to restrain a smile, being a very sociable person (a trait he shares with the President of Belarus). It’s no accident that the word ‘friend’ is often heard when they chat; this time, the word ‘brother’ was used more often. Mr. Chávez took a microphone from its stand and spoke warmly about relations with our country, stopping only when the Belarusian President’s delegation arrived. The warm embraces of the heads of our two states weren’t merely for show; they were evidently glad to see each other. The military orchestra played the national anthem of Belarus and the
guard of honour froze. Surprisingly, the solemn music was sung live by the men’s military choir (no lip-synching, as you might expect). Throwing a glance at the main porch and judging by the movement of lips, it seemed that even the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Rafael Chávez, was singing our anthem. He then sang his own anthem, soundlessly moving his lips in a touching manner. I’ve long noticed that, when presidents Lukashenko and Chávez meet, formalities fade into the background. The President of Venezuela explained this emotionally and simply, saying, “Over the last year, we’ve built a strategic union of Belarus and Venezuela. We have a brotherhood. Welcome to Venezuela! Welcome to Latin America!” The President of Venezuela noted that he had a telephone conversa-
візіт visit tion with Vladimir Putin on the eve of the visit, telling Mr. Putin that he had chosen well in going to Minsk for his first official visit on being elected to the post of president of Russia. Venezuela is clearly keen on closer co-operation with all post-Soviet countries, which mirrors Belarus’ interest in Latin America. Mr. Chávez noted our opportunities for development and the presidents continued to chat, ignoring formal diplomatic protocols. After a short conversation, they went into the residence, from where a live television broadcast was launched, beginning with the two presidents’ initial greeting and ending with their tête-à-tête. Mr. Chávez took on the role of host for the multi-hour TV programme. He noted that this was the third visit by Alexander Lukashenko to his country, with initial conversations about intentions developing into definite agreements on co-operation. Now, we are at the stage of assessing results and making further plans. A TV bridge allowed connection with all key sites, including the factory making Belarusian MAZ vehicles in Barinas city, captured from a charming bird’s eye v i e w. E mpl oye e s chatted with those in Caracas, saying how pleased they are with results. B elar usian MAZ vehicles are leaving the workshop, while our MTZ tractors are assembled nearby. Moreover, a joint venture is to be launched manufacturing construction equipment. The next TV link showed a new residential district, constructed wit h help f rom
our builders. Hundreds of people have already received their keys for their new flats, while thousands will soon be able to move in. The next link showed a factory producing construction materials while another revealed a Caracas district, where Belarusian specialists have helped lay gas lines, sharing their knowledge and skills with the Venezuelans. A better quality of life is being created with our assistance and many plans are yet to be fulfilled. The visit resulted in the signing of over twenty joint documents, foreseeing more housing construction, production facilities and infrastructure. The two sides agreed on the building of a heat power station, also involving China (our strategic partner) and a second line is to be launched at our construction materials plant, to meet growing demand. Meanwhile, a new gas pipeline is to be laid between the cities of Barquisimeto and Barinas. More ideas were discussed, with Mr. Lukashenko suggesting that Belarusian furniture and household appliances could be made
Rafael Correa Delgado, the President of Ecuador, meeting Alexander Lukashenko
directly in Venezuela — to furnish the new flats (rather than importing from Belarus). Mr. Chávez appeared very interested in the proposal. Addressing Mr. Chávez, President Lukashenko noted sincerely, “Anyone who knows me well will vouch for my lack of flattering ways. I’d like to let you know that, were it not for you, we wouldn’t have implemented these projects and enjoyed such success. Probably, Belarus wouldn’t have a presence in Venezuela. I don’t exaggerate.” Mr. Lukashenko delicately tackled the forthcoming Venezuelan Presidential elections, at which the nation will make its choice. He commented, “Most Venezuelans support what we’re doing with Mr. Chávez. However, some doubt the intentions of our collaboration, as may be natural in these times of politics. However, I’d like to repeat that Belarus is here as a brother — at the request of your president-patriot. He is my friend and the friend of the Belarusian nation. You should know that whatever is said, our country will do whatever is asked by my friend Chávez. I’m convinced that, within a few years, we’ll be talking about more serious projects — despite our enemies. No one will stop us on this path. This is my short answer to those who doubt us.” The presidents bid farewell, agreeing to meet again within a few years. By then, new projects will b e u n d e r w ay i n industry, agriculture and power engineering. Meanwhile, new countries are joining these largescale endeavours and bilateral collaboration is acquiring a more global scale.
visit візіт The Belarusian President next flew to Ecuador, and immediately after landing in the capital of Ecuador — Quito the delegation went to Plaza Grande Square — to the Heroes of Independence Monument: symbolic to Ecuadorians. The site has a long and complicated history, linked to Ecuador’s independence. There, President Lukashenko laid a wreath. The decree to build the monument was issued by President Caamaño in 1888. However, even ten years later, nothing had been done. In 1898, a special common fund was created, to which all the municipalities of the country sent one percent of their income for 5 years. The monument was built in Italy, requiring a complex journey to Quito, where it was unveiled in 1906. Even five years ago, the idea of Belarusian-Ecuadorian co-operation would have seemed strange to many, since we are located so far apart. Last year’s $47m turnover is a drop in the ocean — rather as the Pacific washes the west coast of Ecuador. However, it is more than has been achieved in the past, despite our countries clearly showing potential for growth. We are certainly in a position to complement one another. Back in 2006, turnover with Venezuela stood at a mere $6m, with few prospects for immediate growth. By 2011, rapid development had been seen, with trade rising over 200-fold! Our trade and investments over the past two years are estimated to be worth nearly $1.5bn. It is clear that we are enjoying more than simple trade. Building plants in Venezuela have been provided with Belarusian technologies and expertise, rather than just products. What can be more valuable? The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, and the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa Delgado, are determined to promote bilateral relations, as confirmed during their meeting in Quito. Discussing the economic element of our relations, Mr. Lukashenko mentioned that we have a
true opportunity to raise trade volumes, which he believes to currently be ‘rather small, taking into account the potential of our countries’. He added, “We have no closed topics and are ready to carry out any wish, if we can, relating to science, new technologies and certain areas of economic organisation. We’ll show you everything you are interested in and, if it is profitable, we can share our experience with Ecuador.”
According to Ecuador’s President, a sci-tech research university is being created in the country and he considers that Belarus could help greatly with this: “Everything is ready for our joint work. We would like this visit to become a new starting point in our relationships.” Mr. Lukashenko noted that Mr. Chávez first introduced him to the leaders of nearby countries in Latin American and that this visit to Ecuador was taking place under his protection. Caracas holds status and significance in Latin America. What binds Belarus and Ecuador? We are incrementally building our political superstructure of partnership, with both states pursuing independent dialogue within the world arena and seeking out constructive-minded countries. We also share a socially-oriented domestic policy. Although high-level visits haven’t been evident until today, we have liaised within a multilateral format and understand each other well, offering mutual
support of initiatives and promoting candidates to UN elected bodies. In turn, the President of Ecuador is convinced that Mr. Lukashenko’s visit will strengthen friendly relations between our two countries. He noted, “We’re happy that you chose to visit Ecuador during your trip through Latin America. We know that Belarus is a much-developed country, with high technologies, occupying a solid position in the world.” He stressed that Ecuador is eager to acquire contemporary technologies in Belarus’ possession. “We’re aware that your state is highly-developed in science, technologies and industry. We need new technologies, so we’d like to see Belarus’ suggestions regarding sci-tech co-operation.” Rafael Correa Delgado believes that Ecuador also has something to offer Belarusian specialists. He tells us, “We have the largest natural laboratory in the world: the Amazon Basin. Belarusian specialists are welcome to come and conduct scientific research here.” He added that a sci-tech research university is being created in the country and considers that Belarus could help greatly with this. “Everything is ready for our joint work. We would like this visit to become a new starting point in our relationships.” How can we help each other economically? We are ready to offer Ecuador highly desirable competitive industrial goods and services, at reasonable prices: quarry, agricultural and road construction machinery, tractors, trucks, buses, mineral fertilisers, chemical fibres, machine tools, tyres, optics and electronics. Belarusian specialists are also ready to help set up telecommunications and computer systems, with joint ventures encouraged. Joint mineral extraction is a promising sphere, as proven in Venezuela. Without doubt, there are great advantages in importing our technologies. During the visit, documents were signed in the above mentioned spheres. Now, action is required. By Kirill Dovlatov
orientation of partnership
e share a close position in the international arena on many issues, yet our business interaction lags behind. On meeting the Chairman of the National Assembly of Cambodia’s Parliament, Heng Samrin, the Belarusian President noted that it’s a little awkward to speak of trade turnover, which stands at just $2m. The potential for greater collaboration is clearly far greater, as proven by several recent events. This March, Cambodia was visited by a delegation from the Belarusian Industry Ministry, which agreed expansion of co-operation in the spheres of industry, power engineering and extraction of mineral resources. MAZ and BelAZ signed memorandums on co-operation with VietnameseCambodian Vinacomin-Reththy Company, also agreeing to supply heavy duty dump trucks and quarry machinery. Amkodor has established similar contacts with local Jos Sovann Sokntearos, while MTZ has agreed to sell 350-400 tractors to Mekong Machinery this year. Other preliminary agreements have been agreed, so we can certainly view the current visit by the Cambodian parliamentary delegation as a move to strengthen and expand liaisons.
What connects Belarus and Cambodia? The first thing which comes to mind is 17 years of diplomatic relations and constructive political dialogue Mr. Lukashenko is delighted, noting, “We’re ready to co-operate with you in all areas and are ready to expand our collaboration to the full extent you desire. We can raise trade turnover several fold but need to set up direct trade-economic ties, enabling us to act without intermediaries.” Political dialogue continues at a high level, with the President of Belarus noting, “We don’t have any contradictions or disagreements regarding the global international political agenda.” Mr. Lukashenko also thanked his guest for the assistance provided by Cambodia in helping Belarus gain observer status at the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations). Cambodia currently presides over this organisation and our interest in this region is well known. Friendly mutual relations have been established with a range of states, while business interaction is gaining momentum with some countries. This is a promising foreign political and economic direction, as the ASEAN unites ten states, with a total population of around 602m and total GDP of $1.8 trillion. Clearly, there is solid potential for developing mutually beneficial collaboration. Heng Samrin thanked Belarus for a warm welcome and underlined Cambodia’s desire to further strengthen and reinforce relations. By Kirill Drobov
High status of friendship Nobel Prize Laureate in Physics, Zhores Alferov, is familiar with Minsk, having studied at school #42 after the war. He received a ‘physics vaccination’ lasting his whole life, and still has many friends in the Belarusian capital. Having reached undreamed-of scientific heights, while becoming a major Russian politician, Mr. Alferov continues to view Belarus as his native country. He proudly calls himself its ‘plenipotentiary envoy’ in the world
r. Alferov met the Belarusian President as an old friend, a smile immediately lighting his face. The President didn’t conceal his joy either, saying, “I’ve been keeping a close eye on you, as well as on your speeches and announcements. I’m always grateful to you for your position. Even if we make a false step somewhere or don’t behave in the way we should, you always rush to protect Belarus. This is your keynote, for which I’m very grateful.” Mr. Alferov responded briefly that it’s natural and can’t be otherwise. Only those who judge by actions, rather than by words, and who respect each other sincerely can speak in this manner.
Academician Alferov has many times proven that his respect for Belarus is more than romantic nostalgia; he is always ready to lend his authority and, where necessary, his shoulder. As Co-Chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Council, which plays a significant role in the development of high-tech industry in contemporary Russia, Mr. Alferov wished to discuss how best to promote the Foundation’s five areas of work: power engineering and energy-saving; information technologies; space technologies; biomedical technologies; and nuclear technologies. The Nobel Prize winner noted that he is determined to see Belarusian scientists involved in this work, especially talented young people. Moreover, Mr. Alferov was pleased to inform the President that Belarusians have been involved in all five areas, with definite success (although their degree of participation needs to be expanded). The Skolkovo Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Council, which has already gained a reputation as a competent international venue for scientific collaboration, unites prominent scientists from Russia, the USA, France and Germany. According to Mr. Alferov, he is promoting an offsite session of the Foundation’s Council, being held in Minsk on September 20th-21st. “In March, we held a session in Berlin; Novosibirsk’s Akademgorodok hosted the meeting in May. Minsk will become a city where authoritative scientists will be able to hold their session; undoubtedly, it will have wide resonance.” Mr. Alferov doesn’t conceal his reasoning. “When I suggested holding an offsite session in Minsk, I thought about the international press which, in my view, gives a distorted view of Belarus today. I’d like outstanding foreign scientists to see with their own eyes that Belarus boasts good science, with new technologies developing, including the most advanced. I’d like them to see that Minsk is among the beautiful, cosy and comfortable cities in Europe. Moreover, it’s very important that Belarus becomes an active participant of the process of creating promising new international companies,” he emphasises. The President of Belarus supports Mr. Alferov’s ideas and has promised to assist in organising the Minsk session of the Scientific Advisory Council of the Skolkovo Foundation — to be hosted by the National Library. According to the Presidential Press Service, the meeting also tackled how best to develop hightechnology and science in the academic institutions and universities of Belarus.
“I’d like outstanding foreign scientists to see with their own eyes that Belarus boasts good science, with new technologies developing, including the most advanced.”
By Denis Krymov
panorama ‘Turn-key’ supplies to Africa Wholesale supplies of Belarusian machinery for large international companies working in Mozambique and SAR
Belarusian district in Northern Palmyra The Business Co-operation Council has met in Minsk, with Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich suggesting the building of a turn-key Belarusian district in St. Petersburg
ccording to the PM, Belarus is also ready to consider building a St. Petersburg district in Minsk. Mr. Myasnikovich hopes to see St. Petersburg extend its scientific and technical co-operation with Belarus in the sphere of personnel training. Particularly, he would like to see branches of St. Petersburg universities open in Belarus and vice-versa. A joint university could even be created. He added, “A joint council for the defence of theses could also operate.” He believes that an interagency working group is needed to define the most promising bilateral projects, including those in the scientific and technical sphere. The PM also emphasised the need for financial co-operation. “St. Petersburg is a powerful financial centre not only in Russia, but also in Europe. If the major St. Petersburg bank becomes part of the Belarusian banking system, it will contribute greatly to the development of our partnership,” he added. The Governor of St. Petersburg, Georgy Poltavchenko, believes that co-operation with Belarus is already bearing real fruit.
avel Krupnov, the Director General of Promagroleasing JSC, notes that requests for supply have followed a visit by a delegation of Belarusian businesses to Mozambique and the South African Republic. Large, wholesale companies from the African states
have asked Belarus to deliver machinery via international leasing (with guarantees of payment). Moreover, the establishment of assembly enterprises for several Belarusian plants in Africa has been discussed. Mozambique may host a trade fair for Belarusian machinery, allowing a
Yanka Kupala Square to appear in Israeli Ashdod Square named after great Belarusian classical writer to appear in Israeli city of Ashdod
shdod municipality’s city authorities are supporting a proposal by the Belarusian Embassy to Israel and the All-Israeli Union of Belarusian Expatriates in naming the square. “The adopted decision reflects the unique history of good neighbourly relations between Belarusians and the Jewish community and is dedicated to the
large number of potential customers to gain familiarity with Belarusian machine products. Mozambique is a very promising market for Belarus, having used Belarusian tractors in Soviet times and having specialists who once were trained at Soviet universities. “A good foundation already exists for today’s new economic and social relations, between contemporary Belarus and Mozambique. We are recovering forgotten markets,” underlines the Director General of Promagroleasing JSC. Mozambique is in need of the latest machinery and technology, as well as staff training and reasonable financing terms in order to raise its development. “All these are part of ‘agro-financial e n g i n e e r i n g ,” explains Mr. Krupnov. “We shouldn’t repeat the mistakes of other states who supply only machinery, without offering maintenance or training services. Complex turn-key solutions include machinery for every stage — from soil preparation to processing and storage. This is the competitive advantage of Promagroleasing JSC.”
forthcoming 130th anniversary of the birth of this Belarusian literary classic,” notes a statement from the Belarusian Embassy to Israel. Ashdod is Israel’s sixth largest city, located on the Mediterranean Sea coast. It boasts a population of around 210,000 and has one of the largest communities of Belarus-born people in Israel. It was recently twinned with Brest. The city’s sights include Givat Yona (Jonah’s Hill): according to legend, it houses the tomb of Jonah the Prophet. There is also the unique natural phenomenon of the Big Dune, and an artificial harbour for yachts, which can moor up to five hundred vessels.
Gomel Economic Forum-2012 proves largest to date, bringing together over 400 representatives of business circles from 30 countries worldwide, each showing interest in this Belarusian region as never before
deposits and powerful industrial and scientific potential. These create the basis for business, attracting investors.
The Economic Forum is a comfortable venue for finding out about the region’s potential and opportunities. Naturally, it tends to lead to new liaisons and contracts. Moreover, many faces are recognisable, unsurprisingly; those who take the risk of doing business with Gomel Region return repeatedly. A bright example comes from Turkish
omel Region is deservedly considered to be one of the most dynamically developing in the Republic, boasting g r e a t prospects. Its solid foundations rely on its favourable geographical position, considerable mineral
Dangi Profile Company, which injected funds into industrial production a few years ago, successfully making welded metal pipes. Now, they are keen to develop hotel services in the city. Another Turkish firm has begun nego-
Guide for businessmen
tiations regarding significant injections into the development of 8 Marta Sewing Factory. Other projects have been kicked off as a result of the economic event, including plans to manufacture passenger carriages, with Kryukov’s
A guidebook for investors has been developed in Gomel Region, showing step-by-step stages to help businessmen to implement investment projects. A package of documents is described in detail, as are procedures of state registration for legal entities setting up in Belarus using design documentation developed abroad. The allocation of land lots and property are detailed, while information on services is also covered. The guidebook makes a comparative analysis of the privileged terms offered by existing Presidential decrees, showing the advantages of each region. Investors keen to develop business in Belarus aren’t always familiar with our legislation, so the guidebook offers genuine help in realising projects. The edition is part of a series released especially for the Gomel Economic Forum.
Wagon Building Plant (Ukraine), and the construction of a trade centre in Mozyr, using Finnish capital. Meanwhile, a line to produce polished glass at Gomelsteklo JSC could be launched. Good news travels fast, especially in the business sphere, so the annual Gomel Economic Forum found itself attended by new potential investors. This year, our traditional partners from Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Germany, Sweden, Italy and Poland were joined by those from Ireland, the Seychelles, Georgia and Serbia.
The major venue of the forum was t he business cent re of t he Administration of Gomel-Raton FEZ. Investors and financiers, as well as representatives of authorities and diplomatic missions, toured six specialised sections proposing around 40 key projects to potential investors. The
News largest and most interesting tackled the region to be utilised more effecBelaruskali’s industrial development tively. An investment project in Vetka of Petrikov potash salt deposit and District would generate a chain of artithe construction of mining facilities ficial water reservoirs for breeding fish, (at least 1.5m tonnes per year). A co- while creating agro-tourism zones. investor is sought for a project lasting The largest of the signed contracts from 2012 to 2021, fully exploring the deals with the construction of an air deposit to draw on the real capacity separation unit, at the Belarusian Steel of this resource (thought to outstrip Works (worth $23m) and the creation of any other in Belarus). The construc- solar parks to generate electricity (worth tion of a sodium carbonate factory in $28m). Irish Pure Energy Intelligence Mozyr and the estabCompany is to take part lishment of coated in the latter, explains Seven investglass manufacturing CEO Torsten Markel. ment agreefacilities, including “We see that Belarus ments were those with energ yhas real problems in saving coatings, were the energy sphere, with signed at the also among the main event — worth which we can help,” he attractions. notes. “We’ve studied over $100m: Ever y economic the local market and branch was represented, understand that we can offering promising inject around $8bn into business proposals. projects dealing with Gomel Region farmers the use of solar and (who now export to 25 wind energy, as well as countries worldwide) bio-gas.” proposed 16 investThese plans are to be a record in the brought ment projects, covering to life by 2016. history of the the building of major By this time, solar parks forum pig breeding facilities will have been built on in Gomel District, an 110 hectares in Yelsk and enterprise to grow and process poultry Bragin districts. The capacity of the new in Lelchitsy District, sausages and solar electricity stations will total 28MW, ravioli producing facilities at Gomel’s with generated electricity distributed Meat Packing Plant and the construc- across the regional power system. tion of an enterprise to process river Moreover, a plant to manufacture and pond fish in Zhitkovichi District. deluxe beverage-grade alcohol is to be constructed in Gomel Region, with Closer to figures investors’ help, alongside an energy Seven investment agreements were unit at Kalinkovichi’s Dairy Factory. signed at the event — worth over Protocols of intentions have been $100m: a record in the history of the signed covering the construction of forum. Projects soon to be launched entertainment and logistics centres, include the establishment of a plaster scooter manufacturing and facilities to and construction material factory (total produce pesticides, among others. volume of $17m investments). Gomel The Gomel Economic Forum-2012 needs to solve its ecological problems is already being called one of the most connected with significant stocks of successful events of the year; however, waste from a local chemical plant its organisers won’t rest on their laurels. and this new factory would aid in the Mutual co-operation is being reinforced process. Meanwhile, the construction with definite actions, with necessary of a logistics centre in Gomel District conditions created. would allow the transport potential of By Violetta Danilyuk
Designers suggest alternatives Minsk Motor Plant OJSC creates first ‘Belarus’ tractor engine with low horsepower
t has taken about a year of hard work by engineers to create a modern lowhorsepower engine to rival western counterparts. The MMZ-3LD is aimed at buyers in Belarus and the CIS specialising in small-sized agricultural, road construction and municipal vehicles, mini-power units and diesel generator plants. The Minsk three-cylinder engine was first presented at the Belagro2012 international exhibition, built by Minsk Motor Plant OJSC. Meanwhile, the event also saw the Development of Domestic Diesel Engine Building conference. The plant aims to present other new developments meeting the latest environmental standards, including a series of engines complying with Euro-4 standards. In fact, a Euro-5 engine is almost ready. In addition, MMP heavy motors are being tested by MAZ, BelAZ and Gomselmash, while a number of new engines are now being trialled for the Minsk Tractor Works, using an impressive 300 horsepower, certified in Prague to meet Stage 3B international standards.
Expertise for villages Latest achievements in agriculture were on display at Belagro-2012
nternational Belagro-2012 SpecialisedExhibition,hosted by Minsk in early June, brings together agricultural specialists, scientists and heads of enterprises. This year, 420 companies from 20 countries took part, displaying their latest agro-innovations and advanced technologies, across two big sites: the football stadium in Pobediteley Avenue and a field belonging to Gastellovskoe agricultural enterprise. The forum was attended by delegations from Russia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and France, alongside thousands of guests, proving again that the agrarian business is a promising sphere. Innovation is an ongoing process, with new ideas ever flowing, needing only funding to bring them to mass production, to the benefit of people around the world. Leonid Marinich, the Acting Agriculture and Food Minister of
Belarus, expressed his wish that the next, 23rd, agro-forum will enjoy an even broader format. “We hope that, next year, the AgroIndustrial Week of the Eurasian Economic Community will be organised as p ar t of Belagro.”
Agrobonuses Those who have taken part in the agrofair regularly (domestic and foreign) have noticed how much it has grown in the past two decades. The First Belagro exhibitions in Minsk were far more modest, occupying two small city sites, attended by a few entrants. Most of the advanced technologies came from abroad, and the exposition itself was more like a museum than a venue for signing contracts. In the mid-1990s, agricultural enterprises lacked funds to buy new machinery or the latest technologies. Now, all has changed, with Belarusian villages developing, agrarian production rising and farming exports on the rise. Smallholders can choose the best technical and technological solutions, as is understood by foreign partners taking
part in the event once again: German, Polish, French and Dutch companies. The Belarusian agrarian branch has quite glowing prospects. Alongside trade with neighbouring Russia and Ukraine, it has the real opportunity to enter EU markets, as noted by Mr. Marinich at the opening ceremony. He underlines that Customs Union states have almost ensured total domestic food security. “Today, we must unite our efforts to create the best export potential, promoting the common brand of Customs Union produce to the world community,” notes Mr. Marinich. He adds that Belagro demonstrates the technical and technological potential of Belarusian farming and that of its partners, while being a good venue for discussing Belarusian initiatives.
visitors, as did goods produced by the scientific and practical centres of the National Academy, Gomselmash and Belagroservice. MTZ’s stand presented its MTZ3222 tractor (which debuted at last year’s Belagro). The unique vehicle can hoe, sow and distribute fertilisers in a single pass (the first domestically produced tractor to do so). Farmers can now purchase domestically-manufactured goods, which are cheaper, saving time, fuel and labour. Of course, the MTZ-3222 isn’t cheap but it soon pays for itself. In total, this year, MTZ presented 22 models, boasting capacity of 9 to 350HP. Belagroser vice Republican Association used almost two and a half hectares to display its equipment. According to Nikolay Labushev,
International Specialised Exhibition Belagro-2012 proved again that the agrarian business is a promising sphere. Innovation is an ongoing process, with new ideas ever flowing, needing only funding to bring them to mass production, to the benefit of people around the world Review of experience and achievements
Gastellovskoe JSC’s demonstrational field was impressive in offering a show of diverse agric u l t u r a l m a c h i n e r y. As always, around 70 percent of exhibitors were Belarusian, ever more confident in competing against world known brands. Minsk Tractor Works, B o br u i s k a g rom a s h and Lidagromash saw huge interest from
Growth and development
its director, their range covers soil pro c e ss i ng , s ow i ng and fo d d e r harvesting, as well as grain storage, milking and refrigerating equipment. They even produce trailers to transport cargo. He tells us, “With each year, our enterprise masters new farming technology, designed to meet demand.” Stones in the soil are always in abundance in spring, presenting a problem for many farms each year. Everyone takes part in helping remove them! However, Minsk Agroservice JSC has a new solution. Several years ago, the enterprise produced its first stone collector, highly appreciated by labourers. This year, it presented a more
Agrobonuses productive vehicle, able to collect stones from four hectares within an hour. Over 70 vehicle and equipment models were demonstrated by the Scientific and Practical Centre for Agricultural Mechanisation, from the National Academy of Sciences. One of the most interesting achievements was its full set of machinery to preserve and process potatoes and onions (keeping steady humidity and temperature in storage, to ensure maximum market pricing). Safe storage of the harvest until spring has always been the main concern of farmers, since autumn harvests can rot in the wrong conditions. Now, this problem has been solved. Belarus’ Prime Minister, Mikhail Myasnikovich, is delighted by the success of Belagro-2012, praising the achievements of Belarusian agrarians, scientists and industrialists. He stresses the special contribution of the National Academy of Sciences to developing agriculture and notes that Belarus has re-oriented itself towards concrete projects and contemporary technologies, whose quality is appreciated worldwide.
Contacts and contracts
Experts note that interest towards Belarusian agricultural machinery and technologies continues to rise, as proven by the dozens of contracts and protocols of intentions signed at
Belagro. The exhibition was attended by around 40 official delegations from Russian regions, as well as those from the CIS and beyond. Joint projects were negotiated, with the accent on mutually beneficial collaboration.
the minimum while launching contemporary technologies in all spheres of agriculture. “Belarus already boasts good results in agricultural manufacture; I’d say of world level,” stresses Mr. Myasnikovich.
Experts note that interest towards Belarusian agricultural machinery and technologies continues to rise, as proven by dozens of contracts and protocols of intentions signed at Belagro. The exhibition was attended by around 40 official delegations from Russian regions, as well as those from the CIS and beyond “Such contacts should end in signed contracts and treaty documents,” notes the PM. “Documents have been signed by the Government so each trade fair and exposition should bring definite economic effects.” It certainly seems to be the case. Each year, our original national developments, machinery, equipment and technologies (inspired by international experience) prove themselves ever more competitive with those from abroad: in quality, taste and, importantly, price. We need to reduce costs to
“To make the next step, we need to explore high technologies in animal breeding and fodder production, at minimum cost.” Last year, Belarus exported $4bn of agricultural produce. By 2015, this should reach $7bn. Participation in the Belagro international exhibition should promote sales, via signed contracts and the acquaintance of farms with advanced technologies. Belarusian farms gain expertise from participating in this major farming forum. By Lilia Khlystun
panorama Many aspects yet to be agreed New version of Red Book of Belarus to be released within three years
reparations for the new edition are underway, explains Natalia Minchenko, the Head of the Ministry for Natural Resources and Environmental Protection’s Department for Biological and Landscape Diversity. “In 2013-2014,
To the origins of ancient settlements After 15-year break, archaeologists begin major digs on River Menka
ield excavations have begun in the village of Gorodishche (Shchomyslitsa Rural Council) where the rivers Ptich and Menka meet and where Minsk is thought to have been founded. Many interesting archaeological finds have been made in the area over the centuries as it was only in the spring of 1607 that the town was moved to where the rivers Nemiga and Svisloch meet.
scientists will be studying rare species, to make proposals for alteration. By late 2014, we should have a new edition of the Red Book.” Experts will be assessing developmental trends and existing threats to rare plants and animals, while monitoring changes in population and contributory factors. Ms. Minchenko believes that some species could be removed from the Red Book, noting, “Vendace fish, for example, are currently registered in our Red Book, yet are common in Lithuania, caught on their side of Lake Drisvyaty. Aspects such as these require discussion.” She continues, “The list of rare and endangered plants and animals is constantly being updated, with nine new species of plants and ten new mushrooms added in early 2012. Some have been discovered in Belarus for the first time while others, previously thought to have vanished, have been rediscovered. Many are subject to protection, in line with international conventions.” “We’re going to include this archaeological complex among our tourist attractions as large and small ancient settlements remain; they just need proper form,” asserts the Head of the Pre-Industrial Society History Centre at the History Institute of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, Olga Levko. “We’re also working on a third edition in our series on the largest Belarusian cities, which will be dedicated to Minsk. The first two books have been about Vitebsk and Polotsk.” The excavations are due to take some time, involving students from the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts, who have already arrived to help archaeologists.
Electric locomotives to accelerate transit Two electric cargo locomotives arrive at Baranovichi depot from Chinese Datong
he new locomotives will soon be serving Belarusian railways and, by the end of the year, the depot will have another ten such electric engines. Their purchase was a necessity, as demand has been steadily growing for transit across Belarus. Freight trains travelling from Russia have to be made shorter and lighter in Orsha, to allow existing locomotives to pull them, which brings additional work and lowers capacity. The new electric locomotive can pull heavy and large freight carriages up to 9,000 tonnes (and more, depending on the route) to a speed of 120kmh. The other advantages for the driver are air conditioning, a microwave oven, a refrigerator and a bio-closet.
The new engines are developed jointly by CNR Datong Electric Locomotive Co. and a leading French transport machine building enterprise. Presenting the electric locomotives in Baranovichi, the Director of the Chinese Export and Import of Electrical Equipment Company, U Xiaolu, noted some differences between those especially made for Belarus and those used in China.
View from orbit Scientists from the Belarusian State University’s Geography Department have not especially planned the release of their Cosmo-Geological Methods of Finding Mineral Deposits monograph to coincide with the imminent launch of the Belarusian satellite but view it as a good sign. The thesis is a guide for geologists using satellite photographs of the Earth
e’ve studied the re mote s e ns i ng systems of the Belarusian c r af t , s o we know that the data it will gather will prove useful in studying the Earth’s depths, in the search for mineral resources,” explains the Head of the Belarusian State University’s Dynamic Geology Department, Doctor of Geographic Sciences, Professor Valery Gubin. “Like the best foreign satellites, the Belarusian craft has two removable systems: providing 2m and 10m resolution.” Our Belarusian geologists already have experience of working with space data, analysing geological sites photographed by various satellites. Some Employees of the Belarusian State University's Dynamic Geology Department photos show ‘dislocation by glacier’ — whereby the movement of ancient immense glaciers not only pushed the National Academy of Sciences’ glaciers significantly changed the face rocks but also pressed hydrocar- Unite d Inst itute of Infor mat ics of the Earth, forming long valleys in bons from the depths — distributing Problems, which has played a leading which sand and gravel accumulated. them across vast areas. The Pripyat role in creating the Belarusian remote Glaciers often broke rocks, trans- oil and gas fields are the result of sensing system. Simultaneously, the porting them great distances — now glacial movement, so it’s reasonable BSU reported on promising sites called ‘erratic blocks’. These can be to suppose that further reserves may which may yield mineral deposits (in seen easily from space and are of great yet be discovered. Belarusian Poozerie). interest to geologists. A BSU report on the cosmoNaturally, the main aim of the Analysis of space data also helps in geological search for mineral resources satellite is not to search for deposits the search for oil deposits, since those was presented to scientists from but to gain a true aerial view of the
Research country. This will aid in compiling new geological maps (the previous pictures — taken over 40 years ago — used an obsolete approach). Moreover, the satellite will allow cosmic monitoring of the geological environment: p otassium salt mining areas can exp erience subsidence over mines, marshes are being formed, and we do have some seismic activity. Territories situated close to large pits also deser ve attention, as the level of ground water is affected and water erosion is common. “Space geolog y offers a new approach to studying the Earth’s crust and searching for mineral deposits,” says Prof. Gubin. “We study territory, viewing sites of interest from a practical and scientific point of view. For example, our shots depict large features on the Earth’s crust — formed about 4 billion years ago: ‘nuclears’. They can have a diameter of several hundred kilometres and are only noticeable from space. We’ve discovered a similar Polesie ring structure in the south of the country, with the help of space pictures. It needs thorough study as, about 300m years ago, it influenced the formation of Pripyat paleorift, playing an important role in the formation of sites which are now promising sources of oil.” Other areas due to be studied are Turov Depression (in Pripyat Graben), which is difficult to p e n e t r ate w it h ge o - phy s i c a l equipment due to its marshes. Orsha Depression, the suture zone of Pripyat Graben and Ukrainian Shield are also to be studied, in addition to depths
in the north o f the country. Many geological objects are likely to reveal their secrets after being photographed from space. By Denis Dovlatov
ver its 20 years of independence Belarus has made a few errors of judgement, failing to act in time or choosing a wrong path. It’s easy to say this in hindsight. Correspondent Nina Romanova here interviews the first pro-rector of Mogilev State University, Doctor of Philosophy, Professor Mikhail Ivanovich Vishnevsky. Mikhail Ivanovich! Today, in our country, there is lively debate on the role of social disciplines and the humanities. Surely, state paid philosophers should provide us with a clear picture of the world. Can you do this?
Philosopher, Professor Mikhail Vishnevsky:
‘The wave of change passes through us’
To where is Belarus moving and how can our nation succeed in this complex and ever changing world? We often contemplate this without realising that we, Belarusians, are individually responsible for our historical path. On understanding this, we can’t but view the matter differently. What matters to you? What are your ambitions? What are your skills? ‘Nation’ and ‘people’ are just words, as are ‘God’ and ‘life’. Modern philosophy tells us that there is no reason to be categorical about God or the meaning of life. You either believe or not; abstract thoughts have no relevance. We can only take our own journey through life
I think that creating a single world vision is not only impossible but dangerous. There was a time when institutions existed to do so: the church (which punished those who failed to comply); and Marxist-Leninist ideologists (who took decisions for everyone). These collapsed, as it was impossible to make everyone think identically. Modern philosophers aim to encourage individual thought, so we build our own picture of the world. General schemes are dangerous, as they create the illusion of complete clarity, while life is ever changing. We need to keep a fresh outlook, promoting creativity. Is this the ‘creativity of the masses’?
The masses do not create anything; specific people do. Those who succeed are able to adapt to circumstances, thinking widely and seeing that order and chaos are closely related. This isn’t my own idea; this is synergy — a broad scientific conception. Absolute order is as dangerous as absolute chaos. Should the state act as a regulator, promoting a certain sense of order? It must support reasonable order while taking a step back, since excessive regulation hinders development. People may make mistakes but let them learn from experience. The same is true for children, who need the opportunity to make their own mistakes in order to learn. Without this, we hinder their development.
Opinion Diogenes said to Alexander the Great, ‘Do not stand in my sun’. Alexander the Great was a successful conqueror but he didn’t create a secure state. As soon as he died, the Diadochi divided his power and all his great deeds came to nothing. What can we learn from that? I suppose… that he didn’t understand the overall dynamics of development. Some rulers left a more defined legacy — such as Genghis Khan. His Yassa (law) was followed by the Mongols successfully. Alexander the Great had only his personal vision and authority rather than a system to continue after him. Society needs to be organised in a way whereby other people invest their will in continuing a system. I think that the effectiveness of those in authority has been brought into question in Belarus... There are many examples of inappropriate working, which brings the authorities into question. To be frank, its representatives are neither respected nor feared. Our modern world requires an entirely different level of efficiency; we have too many guidelines and documents. Why bother to ‘simulate’ effective administration to no end? We need to develop self-government and, dare I say it, certain people should be held responsible for the devaluation and depreciation of our currency, which impacted on people’s incomes. Either inaction or incompetence was the cause. On the other hand, shouldn’t we also take responsibility? Before the crisis, were we really earning our salaries? Did we create new production lines or create an innovative economy, generating income? I also criticise myself, as a ‘master’ if not an ‘owner’ of our country. Of course, it is painful and disappointing when a spirit of discord appears; it can disrupt society, undermining its cohesion. However, this isn’t a disaster — simply a common mistake needing fixing. When we see that a situation is worsening, we should explain that it is time to act more cautiously. Of course,
everyone wanted to receive more than they had invested, but such a course cannot lead to anything good. Probably, we behaved like typical Europeans. One look at the European Union is enough to see how the crisis exposed serious problems... I understand your subtle irony. However, I found it shocking to see the civic feelings of many Europeans disintegrate so severely. They had no wish to ‘share’ what they had acquired, despite the crisis situation; some compromise and sacrifice was needed to avoid collapse. This striking selfish-
“The nation is more than any one individual; it is an entity of historic, historical and cultural value, existing across the generations. People come and go, but the country remains.” ness (where sacrifice was once evident) was unpleasant to witness. The Greeks fought for independence, sacrificing their homes and, even, lives, while France also fought hard. Today, people have no desire to sacrifice anything or pay anything — unwisely and sadly. We Belarusians are not the same. Sacrificing your life for independence is surely ‘easier’ than sacrificing your bank account and home. The spirit of discord you mention was connected with the idea of nobody wishing to suffer at the expense of their neighbour. How can we avoid such inequality? I am not an economist or businessman so I can’t give economic prescriptions but, if we compare Belarusians with others around the world, I feel satisfied. In our difficult situation, we did not express utter exasperation or a desire to destroy. Rather, we showed wisdom, looking to the future with confidence. Our coun-
trymen are not inclined to extremes; they know how to watch, wait and learn. We hope to adequately respond to challenges, developing civilization. We need such challenges in order to find effective responses. I’m an optimist. Is the same true across the whole country? The nation is more than any one individual; it is an entity of historic, historical and cultural value, existing across the generations. People come and go but the country remains. On the other hand, our nation thrives thanks to the efforts of individuals. The wave of change passes through us. We are like a chain connecting past, present and future. Our children’s future perceptions depend on our responses to today’s events and the lessons we learn. We should avoid splitting society, being sensitive to change and responding appropriately. We all want to live in harmony, with good understanding of one another, avoiding spoiling our own and others’ lives with careless or irresponsible actions — as explained by Heidegger, an interesting philosopher who believed we were concerned for our place in the world. Belarus is the subject of our common concern. Do children need to be encouraged in having public spirit? I have given various suggestions, which have been partly used in designing the school syllabus for social science. I’m on a Ministry of Education working group which is updating sociohumanitarian education. As I understand, we don’t impose values? It is an illusion to believe that we can offer an interpretation of the world which people can accept readily. People can use the most significant ideas of the past and today in shaping their own thoughts. We should trust people’s ability to interpret information; they are not babies needing to be fed from a spoon. Individual responsibility is vital through our entire society — from top to bottom. Thank you for the interview. By Nina Romanova
Grigory Pomerantsev, the Chairman of Riga Tourism Development Bureau’s Board:
rom Februar y 1st, 2012, a simplified regime for mutual trips began for residents living in the border areas of Belarus and Latvia. Almost 5,000 Latvians have already taken advantage of this opportunity, crossing the border to take part in cultural, educational, scientific and sporting events. “It was a necessary and timely step,” asserts Dagnija LaceAte, the Head of the Latvian Consulate in Vitebsk. “Tourism is becoming a major stimulus to border movement, with Latvian tourist operators interested in potential not only along the border but across Belarus as a whole. Jointly with Vitebsk Regional Executive Committee’s Department for Physical Culture, Sports and Tourism, we organised a promotional tour for Latvian tourist operators through the Dvina River area. Vitebsk residents have also become acquainted with one of Latvia’s most widely promoted tourist brands — Live Riga — during this promotional campaign.” The Latvian guests (from over a dozen of the major tourist operators and carriers of the country) visited the large cities of Vitebsk and Polotsk, as well as
“If, after this trip, I was asked to recommend something to Latvian tourists, I’d primarily think of the Berezinsky Biosphere Reserve in Vitebsk Region; it has a wonderful museum, with animals and open air cages, which would certainly appeal to families. You can stay in the nearby hotel. Meanwhile, Borovoe and Lesnoe spas, as well as the Belarusian Defence Ministry’s spa, impressed us all with the level of their medical treatments, contemporary equipment and highly qualified staff. Moreover, they are found in very scenic locations.”
with our neighbours
Latvia’s tourist operators bring home many impressions from promotional tour through Vitebsk Region the 50km border zone covered by the simplified border crossing procedure. Certainly, they were able to see that, besides visiting relatives, there’s much to capture the imagination: Braslav and the Braslav Lakes National Park, alongside resort facilities in Miory and at Rosinka spa in Miory District. Few such facilities are found in Latvia.
Vitebsk residents are ready to offer children from abroad recuperative stays, while guesthouses for parents are currently being constructed in Rosinka. The Latvian guests toured Vitebsk Region’s other district centres and were pleasantly surprised by an organ and chamber choir concert at a local Catholic church in Glubokoe.
Tourism They admitted readily that they’ll return home with many wonderful impressions. Grigory Pomerantsev, the Chairman of Riga Tourism Development Bureau’s Board, tells us, “If, after this trip, I was asked to recommend something to Latvian tourists, I’d primarily think of the B erezinsky Biosphere R e s e r v e i n Vi t e b s k Region; it has a wonderful museum, with animals in open air cages, which would certainly appeal to families. You can stay in the nearby hotel. Meanwhile, Borovoe and Lesnoe spas, as well as the Belarusian Defence Ministry’s spa, impressed us all with the level of their medical treatments, contemporary equipment and highly qualified staff. Moreover, they are found in very scenic locations.” In turn, Mr. Pomerantsev presented the famous tourist project ‘Live Riga’, which he hopes will appeal to potential tourists and tourist operators from Vitebsk Region. We are invited to wander the ancient streets of the Latvian capital, take a cruise by yacht, go to the opera or take part in fairytale winter celebrations. The first Christmas fir tree was installed in Dome Square 500 years ago last year. “R iga p osit i ons it s elf as t he ‘capital of the Baltic region’, making the attraction of Belarusian tourists among its top priorities,” asserts Mr. Pomerantsev. “However, we also believe that Latvian and Belarusian tourist operators should study how best to unite tourist inflow via transborder tours. We could conquer the tourist markets of third countries, allowing Belarus to gain more visitors from Germany or Sweden.” L atvian professionals have suggested that spas in Vitebsk Region build indoor swimming pools, to attract foreign guests in the off-season
period. The Director of Riga Travel Agency, S v e t l a n a Telicane, notes that tours to Logoisk and Silichi are enjoying the greatest popularity in her company, with clients offering good feedback. They only regret the absence of discounts for regular clients and large groups in hotels. “This is world practice, so Belarus should take this into account,” explains Ms. Telicane. The guests and hosts are delighted by their close friendly co-operation. “Latvians are ranked second after Russians for the number of organised tourist groups visiting Vitebsk Region,” notes Natalia Yeliseyeva, the Deputy Head of Vitebsk Regional Executive Committee’s Department for Physical Culture, Sports and Tourism. “We’re conducting fruitful work, and have signed a co-operative agreement with Daugavpils Tourism Information Centre. We’ve invited the Latvian delegation to celebrate the Day of Belarusian Written Language Day in
Glubokoe and a return visit is being planned to Latvia for tourist operators and journalists.” According to Oleg Matskevich, the Chairman of Vit e b s k R e g i on a l Executive Committee, this testifies to our good neighbourly relations. It’s no surprise that turnover more than doubled between our countries in 2011 (compared to 2010). We’re now impleme nt i ng j oi nt bus i ne ss projects to construct a spa in Braslav District and to set up a logistics centre in Verkhnedvisnk District. Meanwhile, a Czech investor is improving infrastructure at Vitebsk Airport, while renewing air traffic w it h ot he r B el ar us i an re g i ona l centres, as well as with Kaliningrad. In addition, two L-410 passenger aircraft have been purchased and negotiations are underway regarding freight and charter transportations. The last aspect is of special interest to Latvian tourist operators. “During the New Wave Festival, around 250 private planes arrive at Riga Airport daily. Vitebsk must surely experience similar demand during the Slavonic Bazaar,” supposes Mr. Pomerantsev, who is an expert in the sphere of air transportation. “I believe we can share our experience in developing private aviation, to our mutual profit.” By Sergey Gomonov
House The House of Mercy of the Orthodox AllSaints Parish plays an important role in the spiritual life of the Belarusian capital
of mercy T
here can hardly be a Minsk res ident who hasn’t heard of the building, consecrated ten years ago and located in the beautiful grounds of the National Library. “It feels as if no more than a day has passed,” admits its senior priest, Fiodor Povny. Of course, his job is a
true spiritual vocation and he has a strong team of like-minded people around him, easing his workload. He asserts that his plans have been more than fulfilled, with new areas of activity appearing. He doesn’t try to conceal the fact that some were sceptical about the worth of the ‘toy-like’ church, which is located in such a secluded corner of the city and seems designed to cater only for wealthier citizens. Its sleek rooms are filled with modern medical equipment and highly qualified professionals. In f ai r n e ss , Fat h e r Fi o d or d o e s not avoi d ans we r i ng even the most ‘inconvenient’ questions. He explains that the philosophy has always b e en to of fer help to
those people who dedicate their lives to improving society. Humanity, compassion and mercy are never forgotten here. The Eleos Medical and Social Rehabilitation Centre is at the heart of the House of Mercy (‘eleos’ being ancient Greek for ‘mercy’ and the name of an oil used to treat wounds). Father Fiodor emphasises that the House of Mercy is not a home for the elderly, despite having many older patients. “You know, at one time, we were pleasantly surprised; now, I view it as the result of our work. Those who leave our centre have two basic attitudes: some say that they deserve attention and respect for having worthily behaved throughout their life, so they haven’t lived it in vain; others experience a revelation
“It feels as if no more than a day has passed,” admits its senior priest, Fiodor Povny. Of course, his job is a true spiritual vocation and he has a strong team of like-minded people around him, easing his workload. He asserts that his plans have been more than fulfilled, with new areas of activity appearing 26
and decide to live their lives to their fullest. When you hear this from a man of 90 years old, you can’t help but rejoice for him, for yourself and for the whole of our House.” Farther Fiodor considers that the past ten years have been unique, as every patient has the chance to talk to the priest if they wish to do so. The medical, social and spiritual intertwine to help heal. The success of the approach is confirmed by doctors. Not just the elderly or seriously ill but young people also benefit from spiritual and moral guidance. The medical centre of the House of Mercy has expanded its number of patients, with war veterans increasingly replaced by retired workers and the parents and wives of Afghan s oldiers; t he y are now re aching an age where medical, social and, sometimes, spiritual care is needed. State social and health services liaise
with the House of Mercy effectively, providing a good example of the Church and society sharing common humanitarian goals, working together to improve lives. The House of Mercy is quite an experiment, implementing church models practically, working with state social institutions. Of course, enthusiasm alone would not be enough. Medical specialists need to be paid, having their own families to support. Since the parish relies on charity donations, an appropriate organisational system is required. Father Fiodor stresses that the House of Mercy operates differently to a private centre though, being non-profit making. There is no owner seeking dividends. Rather, all are united in wishing to help others, using the best equipment and materials to allow effective treatment. In addition to rehabilitation, the House of Mercy offers social support
The philosophy has always been to offer help to those people who dedicate their lives to improving society. Humanity, compassion and mercy are never forgotten here. The Eleos Medical and Social Rehabilitation Centre is at the heart of the House of Mercy (‘eleos’ being ancient Greek for ‘mercy’ and the name of an oil used to treat wounds) to vulnerable citizens: the disabled, orphans, the seriously ill and the elderly. Father Fiodor is also proud of the House’s work with young people — who come not just from the parish but from across all Minsk. School classes run at the House of Mercy (not Sunday school classes but regular lessons, using traditional Belarusian, Orthodox forms of education). “We’re integrated into the formal education system, but don’t interfere with the teaching of official subjects from elementary school,” explains Father Fiodor. “We’ve introduced ‘Foundations of Christian Culture’ as an optional class. It’s a hot topic as to whether religious education should be taught obligatorily in schools but our experience suggests that lessons only have significance where students and parents truly desire them. We have the unique opportunity to shape the spiritual core of the young. The first
graduates of our elementary schools are already preparing to receive their certificates of secondary education. They aren’t forced to go into the church or undertake an active spiritual or religious life. The mere fact that these children go to church and are active participants of our youth group and enjoy other activities within our parish shows that they are active in the external environment. It’s certainly pleasing and encouraging. These aren’t just my observations but those of people who see them in wider situations. Our children can be relied upon to complete difficult tasks; they can be trusted. Sometimes, chatting to these near adults, they tell me that their fondest times have been spent at our House of Mercy school. I’m sure our boys and girls will bring great benefits to society.” A go o d l ibr ar y is , natu r a l ly, essential for the children; about 8,000 (religious and secular) editions are
kept at the House of Mercy. In fact, All Saints Parish also houses a memorial church to all innocent victims in our Fatherland, with construction almost complete. The crypt is already open to visitors on Saturdays and Sundays, when crowds of believers and tourists gather to see its unique structure. In addition, visitors can see the icon-painting workshop and craftspeople sewing vestments, including those made from linen. Some even weave sacred vestments (such as a mitre) from golden Belarusian straw. Their works have been on display t hre e t imes at t he Nat iona l Ar t Museum. The Director of the Louvre even wrote in the guest book: ‘It would be an honour to grace the walls of Paris’ Louvre with these artefacts’. We will hope that, in a few years, it will be so. The Lord rewards acts of great mercy. By Galina Ulanskaya
‘I’d like people to speak of Belarus in the superlative’ 28
A friend of ours
Franco Milasi, who heads the ItalyBelarus Association, has big plans for bringing people around the world into closer, more kindly contact
first met Franco at Minsk’s House of Friendship (at an event organised by the Italian Embassy to promote Calabria Province, where he lives). I immediately felt he radiated kind-hear tedness. His smile was typically Italian and his ‘Victor, how are you?’ disarmed me. I’d heard that he was imple menting joint projects with Belarusian partners. Also, I’d discovered that he is a Professor and teaches Italian to non-native speakers. However, my knowledge was tenuous. He had visited our country many times, which alone was a reason for professional interest. He easily agreed to be interviewed and, as I switched on my dictaphone, he began to draw a diagram to show the history of his association. In fact, Mr. Milasi is President of the Italy-Belarus-Russia Association. He explains, “Everyone has heard of Russia while Belarus isn’t as wellknown around the world. We used to have one big organisation: USSRItaly. During the cold war, Italians knew little of the Soviet Union but, with my friends (who were also keen on Russian culture) I worked hard to promote better understanding. At the time, many were looking to the West and America for values but my friends and I were looking to Russia.”
To Russia or to the Soviet Union? F.M.: At that time, of course, it was the Soviet Union. When it collapsed, the USSR-Italy Association ceased to exist. However, a decade ago, with my friends, I decided to renew ItalianRussian ties by setting up schools for the study of Russian language and
“I gained understanding over the course of time, and began to view things positively. Belarus is very civilized, your people being well-broughtup and educated (by European standards). Minsk is the cleanest city I’ve ever seen.” culture. Then, Chernobyl occurred and, of course, we learnt more about Belarus. Beforehand, we only knew that Belarus had suffered greatly during WWII. Frankly, this wasn’t a great deal
of knowledge about your country. After the Chernobyl disaster, closer collaboration began between ordinary people from Italy and Belarus, with many families welcoming your children for recuperative stays. These children, naturally, grew into adults and studied Italian. Our association gathered pace and, over the last decade, I’ve visited Belarus frequently. What was your first acquaintance with Belarus? F.M.: I first learnt about Belarus from children staying in Italy for recuperative trips after the Chernobyl accident. I knew a little of the history of wartime in Belarus but it was the Chernobyl tragedy that made me travel here. My friend at the Italian Embassy in Minsk assisted, inviting me to stay, ten years ago. It was a rather different world to my own but I gained understanding over the course of time, and began to view things positively. Belarus is very civilised, your people being well-brought-up and educated (by European standards). Minsk is the cleanest city I’ve ever seen and respect for the law is evident everywhere. I’d like to mention again that your people are exceptionally kind-hearted and friendly. There’s no aggression towards those who differ, unlike in Italy. Belarus’ benevolent, friendly and
A friend of ours heart-warming atmosphere inspires me to return repeatedly. Dozens of my acquaintances have come to Belarus with me; many have since married and some live and work here. Meanwhile, many Belarusian students come to Italy to study. Franco resides in Reggio Calabria, in the south of Italy, teaching Italian to non-native speakers at Dante Alighieri University (the only one for foreigners, located by the coast). Students from all over the world attend, including those from the Belarusian State University’s Philological Department. The association headed by Mr. Milasi promotes the University abroad. What inspired you to set up this bridge between Italy and Belarus? F.M.: Undoubtedly, my own enthusiasm guided me. Belarusians I’d met shared my enthusiasm so our mutual affection and energy led to joint projects. Some are already completed, while others continue. From where did your enthusiasm originate? F.M.: I sincerely wanted all the wonderful things I’d seen in Belarus to be more widely appreciated, including in Italy: art, music, painting and ballet. I want people to sp e a k ab out Belarus in the superlative What have you achieved so far? F. M . : T h e Days of Calabria in Belarus have been held successfully at the Minsk House of Friendship while concerts featuring Belarusian music
students have been hosted by the Cilea Theatre in Reggio Calabria — at the invitation of the Italian Academy of Music. We’ve arranged ‘reciprocal exchanges’, inviting your students to
take master classes which conclude with a joint concert by Belarusian and Italian students. Belarusian students can receive a scholarship in Italy of 600 Euros per month to allow them to
“People HERE never lose heart, remaining positive regardless of difficulties. I’d like also to note that, in recent years, I’ve noticed more construction in Minsk, which makes me think that the economy must be moving forward, despite the global crisis. It impresses me greatly.” attend. These cultural events all aim to strengthen the bridge connecting Belarus and Italy. How do you describe Belarus to friends and acquaintances in Italy? What do you tell them about first? F.M.: I stress that Belarus is culturally r i ch . I’d l i ke m ore Italians to experience this, so I tell them to come here themselves. There are also other tourism opportunities. Many of my friends are keen on hunting, and would enjoy your genuine hospitality. Such trips create a solid bridge for developing business ties, since people
A friend of ours qualification (including certification as a teacher of Italian to non-native speakers). Pleasantly, the university is in a friendly and relatively inexpensive location.
“My next dream is to organise an event in Reggio of the highest cultural level, as I want to welcome Belarusian guests with the same warmth. I’m ‘Franco Belarus’ in native city, which I don’t feel shy about; it’s a true honour.”
remember the warm atmosphere here. They then tend to return. How do you f ind Belarus on arriving after a six month break? Do you ever notice changes? F.M.: People never lose heart, remaining positive regardless of difficulties. I’d like also to note that, in recent years, I’ve noticed more construction in Minsk, which makes me think that the economy must be moving forward, despite the global crisis. It impresses me greatly. Which projects would you like to implement in future in Belarus? F.M.: As far as future humanitarian projects are concerned, we’re focusing primarily on children — particularly, recuperative stays for Belarusian children, with Italian families. We’d like to implement a co-operative project between the Belarusian State Choreographic C ollege and the National Choreographic Centre in Rome. The Rector of the Centre plans to empower me with the authority of an ambassador, to make this project a success. Of course, Moscow and St. Petersburg are highly respected by Italians for their music and ballet. However, I believe that Belarusian ballet can rival the best seen worldwide. I intend to invite teachers from Rome and those aged 16-20 from Belarus to study at our institution, staying with Italian families while visiting Rome. Italian youngsters will have the same opportunity to come to Minsk. I’m the ‘ambassador’ of this project. We also have a similar project with the Academy of Arts and are planning such liaisons in the sphere of fashion. Is such major collaboration really possible? F.M.: Of course. As a teacher, I can say this. Italian young people lack the drive I’ve seen in your country. B elarusian youngsters overcome difficulties, showing true determination. I wish everyone had this quality.
Materialism has taken over from personal achievement (including educational goals) as the ultimate aspiration. When I see Belarusian young people, they inspire me, being well-mannered and speaking several foreign languages. Why are foreign students drawn to your university? F.M.: We offer short courses of one month duration, which are convenient to those working, since they can devote their vacation to studying Italian. People can study in the morning, then enjoy excursions in the afternoon and at weekends. They might visit the countryside, sea or historical sites. Importantly, they get to meet people from all over the globe of around the same age, which gives them unique linguistic experience. Some courses last 3, 4 or 6 months; there are even three year courses, which confer a
You’re keen on hunting, as are your friends, so we must ask your thoughts on Belarusian nature. F.M.: Oh-oh-oh! (here, Franco’s face lights up as only an Italian’s can). We love the wilderness of the countryside and the warm welcome we receive. For hunting, we usually hire a house near a river or lake. On returning, our hosts are so kind and warm, we feel their welcome is heartfelt, from the soul. Clearly, we make an economic contribution, since we go to restaurants, buy tickets of your airlines and take taxis; we’re always happy to spend money in your country. My next dream is to organise an event in Reggio of the highest cultural level, as I want to welcome Belarusian guests with the same warmth. I’m ‘Franco Belarus’ in my native city, which I don’t feel shy about; it’s a true honour. By Victor Mikhailov
Bow to the land and the people
For the Great Patriotic War veterans and their children and grandchildren, who are often foreign citizens, Belarus remains a sacred place, where they come to celebrate the Victory Day in May and the Independence (Liberation) Day in July
uch meetings tend to be emotional, with pain and joy intermixed. Every year, there are fewer veterans present but such is the suffering which wounded their souls that their descendants also share that pain. However, some have their own pain...
Country of white angels
Each year, on Victory Day, Aslambek Ismailov of Uzbekistan arrives to see his old comrades in arms Viktor and Sergey, in Belarus: in the 1980s, they fought in the Afghan War. “We became like real brothers, so we want to see one another, having gone through so much together. We always understand each other well,” explains the former paratrooper. Words are clearly unnecessary. I meet these sworn brothers in a beautiful location near the Vileika water reservoir, in Lyudvinovo. They sit on a grassy bank, speaking slowly, admiring a white swan on the water. Viktor is a former military pilot and retired colonel, the most senior of the three Afghanistan veterans. In fact, Mr. Ismailov’s grandfather died in the Great Patriotic War, in the summer of 1944, freeing Belarus from the Nazis, long before Aslambek was
born. He is buried in a mass grave in a village in Kobrin District (Brest Region). These three soldiers, each with their own war memories, travel there annually to pay their respects to the liberators of Belarus, laying a wreath at the memorial to all those who never returned home from Afghanistan. Minsk is home to about 5,000 Afghan War veterans, as the Belarusian Union of Afghanistan War Veterans tells me. It’s enough to populate a small town. Grandchildren have now taken the baton of grateful remembrance of those who brought liberation from Fascism to the citizens of Belarus and Europe. Writer Chingiz Abdullayev from Azerbaijan (whose books exceed 26 million copies) is among those faithful grandchildren. Speaking at the end of last year, at the second Congress of the Union of Writers of Belarus, he recalled the past. He m e n t i o n e d B e l a r u s a n d Belarusians very warmly, noting, “I can portray people of various nationalities as evil, but I cannot imagine a bad Belarusian. I can’t manage to do so. My writer’s imagination is clearly not enough. Perhaps, this is connected with my father, who passed through
Belarus during WWII, fighting on the First Belorussian Front. He told me that he was welcomed in every home. Some cities of the world recall the angels — such as Los Angeles — but my father felt your land to be a country of angels. He said that he always knew that no traitors were present in the houses he visited. People only supported, welcomed and understood.” He continued, “When the terrorist attack occurred on the Belarusian underground, my first thought was which outside force was responsible. The Azerbaijani people expressed their sincere condolences for this tragedy. Some of my countrymen said to me that, when someone kills a Belarusian, you feel that an angel has been killed. When you experience tragedy, all nations of the former Soviet Union feel your pain. The attitude towards the Belarusian people is special, perhaps due to your heroic past and for your having suffered the heaviest casualties during WW2. We are deeply grateful to you for having kept the spiritual values dear to all former Soviets, who defeated a cruel, inhuman enemy together. I beg you, remain the Republic of Angels. We’ll love and honour you.”
Soldier-grandfathers bring us closer
Several years ago, I visited Kazakhstan to meet Astana veterans parading in honour of the Constitution Day: one of the most important national holidays. Some elderly Kazakhs wore commemorative Belarusian awards on their chest and proudly explained their part in helping liberate Belarus. They added that some travel to Belarus to meet fellow soldiers, although numbers are dwindling now, due to their age. Preparing my article on those touching meetings, I learnt that tens of thousands of Kazakh regiments passed through Belarus, where they saw their last battles. For those who liberated us in 1944, the words ‘war’ and ‘Belarus’ are forever synonymous, hung with painful memories. To mark the 65th anniversary of the liberation of Belarus from the Nazis, in 2009, five thousand veterans from fraternal states received commemorative medals. I’ve been repeatedly convinced that Kazakhstani young people revere our military history. I remember meeting grandchildren of Kazakhs who had died for Belarus. Nurlan Rskeldin guided us on a tour of the enormous
Grandchildren have now taken the baton of grateful remembrance of those who brought liberation from Fascism to the citizens of Belarus and Europe new buildings in Astana and, on learning our nationality, said, “We’re almost relatives!” Both his grandfathers were killed during the liberation of Belarus, although he has no idea of their burial locations. He’d like to find the graves. He wrote: ‘Rskeldin Amanzhol Rskeldinovich, Belorussian Front, died liberating Belarus’. The grandson of another liberator of Belarus, Igor Gabidulin, is a top manager of a company producing and selling processed cereal products. His grandfather was burned in a tank during warfare and Igor himself has served as a paratrooper, near Grodno. With Belarusian Victor Statsevich, from Vitebsk, he ‘passed through Afghanistan’. Belarus has clearly figured large in his life.
Roads of ‘Caravan of Friendship’
In May, Minsk welcomed the ‘Caravan of Friendship,’ uniting social activists from Saint-Petersburg and Leningrad Region. “We dedicated our rally to Victory Day,” explains Irina Rogova, the President of the Belye Rosy (White Dews) RussianBelarusian Co-operative Fund. “This holiday reminds CIS citizens of the days when we stopped the ‘brown plague’. The legendary ‘Road of Life’ over the ice of Lake Ladoga saved the residents of blockaded Leningrad from starvation. We took a capsule of soil from the shore to Khatyn as a sign of our deep respect for Belarus and its heroic people.” Meanwhile, the International Council of Vsevolozhsk District of Leningrad Region has suggested a regular ‘Caravan of Friendship’, held at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture. Its leader, Victor Malashenko, notes that other events linked to Victory Day and the Day of Liberation of Belarus are held there. Of course, Belarus was the location of much fighting. At the end of April, in the centre of Rossotrudnichestvo, the ‘Through the Roads of Victory’ rally met, gathering veterans from Ukraine and Sevastopol. Their routes lay through
Descendants many hero cities of military glory. The former soldiers met young people and unfolded a copy of the Victory Banner, reminding everyone that the terrible war was won together. Recently, Bryansk building college students visited Belarus’ Khatyn, bringing soil from the village of Khatsuni, in Bryansk Region: there, on October 25th, 1941, 320 civilians (including 60 children) were shot. Mr. Malashenko joined the rally of airborne troop veterans from Yaroslavl in Minsk. The men originally travelled through Voronezh to Stalingrad (now Volgograd) and Izmail, before heading through Austria, Hungary and France. They reached the English Channel in 1944, where the Soviets’ allies landed. They washed the wheels of their old Zhiguli car and then headed into Germany, the Baltic States and Belarus. Mr. Malashenko notes that everyone attends the meetings with pride, remembering the glorious traditions of their fathers and grandfathers to whom they owe their lives. Those brave souls thought first of their Motherland, and only then about themselves... The Chairman of the International Council of the Leningrad Region, Yury Palamarchuk notes that public organisations are united in strengthening friendship and harmony between people of different nations, in every possible way, promoting our living together in peace and tolerance, regardless of nationality or faith. “Belarus played a great role in the victory,” asserts Mr. Palamarchuk. “We’re confident that those who remember the war and victory should visit Belarus, seeing the memorials of glory and those in memory of the victims of Fascism. Here, as nowhere else in the former Soviet Union, the importance of the Great Victory is obvious. We come to honour the memor y of victims, to worship this sacred land and to thank Belarus for remembering and honouring war heroes.”
Who will come with the sword to us...
Many interesting people met at the Russian Centre of Science and Culture, with speeches given, explains the Director of Minsk school #67, Valentina Dashkevich. She notes that a museum named after the Battalion of Belarusian Eaglets has operated at the school for over thirty years. It is the regular meeting place for soldiers from the Battalion and features an exhibition on the life and fate of those whose childhood was seared by WW2. Schoolchildren show visitors around the exhibits. Interestingly, many of the grey-haired veterans of the Battalion were younger than the children are today when the war began. Valentina tells me that the school has many friends abroad. This year’s Victory Day celebrations in Minsk saw guests
Veterans from Battalion of Belarusian Eaglets join descendants of Great Victory soldiers and German guests at traditional location, near the monument to Soviet Union Hero Marat Kazei
arrive from Saratov, in Leningrad Region, as well as from Germany. In 2010, liaisons were established between Belarusian school students and their peers from the Johannes Rau International Centre for Education and Exchange, in the German city of Wuppertal (in Northern RhineWestphalia, Western Germany). In what are these young Germans interested? They come to Belarus to gain better understanding of our cultural heritage and historical past. With young Belarusians, they tour memorials, museums and art galleries, allowing both to improve their language skills. The Historical Workshop (a Belarusian-German project to improve knowledge of WWII history in Belarus and Germany) is particularly fascinating, promoting understanding of our countries and people. Ms. Dashkevich explains that Minsk schoolchildren explain historical events in Belarus to their German peers, while showing them around memorial sites such as Khatyn (one of many villages destroyed) and Kuropaty (a mass grave near Minsk from the days of Stalin’s terror). Meetings are arranged with the Battalion of Belarusian Eaglets veterans, allowing them to tell their own stories of their involvement in war. School #67 traditionally hosts an international scientific-practical youth conference annually, just before the Victory Day. This year, students from Russia presented reports. “Of course, in showing our guests our memorials
Requiem and school museum we are laying bare the harsh truth of war,” asserts Ms. Dashkevich. “It’s interesting for me to watch the reaction of young Germans. Can they celebrate our May 9th holiday with us or sincerely lay flowers at our monuments on this sacred day? Teachers and students (aged 18-20) come to us from Germany’s Berufskolleg Barmen Europaschule. Amazingly, the young know nothing about the war, despite their grandfathers and grand grandfathers having fought on our land. I asked the leader of the delegation, Dirk Rummel, who teaches history, philosophy and modern German literature and business, if his father fought in WWII, as my father did. His father did not (which made me calm myself a little) although his grandfather did.” Ms. Dashkevich continues, “Of course, it’s important for the headteacher of a school to know about his own grandfather’s military experience with the Wehrmacht, such as where he was stationed. I asked him why he brings his students to Belarus and he replied, “I’m here with them for the second time, because my grandfather fought here, although he told me no details.” Ms. Dashkevich’s voice quavers. “It turned out, his grandfather commanded a division of which only two people survived; he returned to Germany without his hand and shook with fear if anyone asked him about the war afterwards. His grandson became a history teacher as he wanted to understand what really happened in the past. It’s interesting for him to see with his own eyes where his grandfather fought. To some extent, he can compensate for his ancestor’s actions by telling German children of what happened.” Why does Ms. Dashkevich, the daughter of a WWII veteran, receive quests from Germany? “On neither side do we bring any hostility; we meet with hospitality, singing and dancing together. We teach them our Belarusian dances and sing the Katyusha with them — in Russian and German (the text was specifically translated). We also meet veterans, so they can share first hand experiences. Perhaps, they’ll remember that those who ‘will come with the sword to us remain here forever’. I
think that these young Germans who have visited us will grow up to be good people. At Khatyn, you could have heard a pin drop. We met prisoners from Jewish ghettos and concentration camps, which brought the Germans to tears. They were shocked by all they saw and heard, and by the parade of veterans. Afterwards, we went together to the monument to Soviet Union Hero Marat Kazei; a traditional veterans meeting of the Battalion of Belarusian Eaglets takes place there on the Victory Day. Our guests from Germany stood in grand formation and placed flowers, with great sincerity.”
Instead of an epilogue — a time for reconciliation
A tradition already exists for the grandchildren and children of those who fought on Belarusian lands in WWII to travel here in remembrance. Some defended legendary Brest Fortress, or took part in the partisan movement, liberating us from the enemy. Naturally, people’s modern day views on the Germans can be ambivalent. I do recall one conversation with Larisa Korotkaya, a former partisan from the Detachment for the Motherland Assault Brigade (which operated near Minsk, in Logoisk District). Reporters asked her if she ever met ‘normal’ Germans during the war and this courageous woman (who later became a candidate of philological sciences and taught at the Belarusian State University for a long time) replied in the affirmative. She even looked for some after the war, as they had collaborated with the partisans, risking their lives to supply medicine. The TV programme Wait for Me helped her in the task. Ms. Korotkaya remembers Carl Heinz Danielsmeyer and an older soldier called Erich, who admitted his desire to defect to the Soviet side. He defended her young son from abuse by young Germans in Ostroshitsky Gorodok and, while his German division was staying in the village, brought the family food. Growing trust between Erich and Larisa, who understood German quite well, led him to reveal his communist sympathies. Larisa has no idea what fate befell him.
‘Moscow-Brest’ train of memory Muscovite veterans (who defended the western frontiers of the Soviet Union in the early years of the Great Patriotic War or who participated in Operation Bagration to free Belarus) were passengers on the unusual train, alongside over 200 members of children and youth organisations from the Russian capital
he first stop was made in Minsk, where passengers joined Belarusian veterans in laying flowers at the Pobedy Square monument. They also visited the Museum of Great Patriotic War History, as well as the Mound of Glory and Khatyn memorial complexes. On June 22nd, at 2.00pm, the train arrived in Brest, where veterans once helped defend the walls of the fortress. The Day of Memory and Grief saw the former soldiers visit the Brest Hero Fortress Monument and the Defence of Brest Fortress Museum, as well as taking part in a service at Ceremonies Square, laying flowers at the Eternal Flame and dropping wreaths into the Western Bug and Mukhovets rivers.
By Ivan Zhdanovich
Searching for lost
Vladimir Likhodedov, a collector and the co-author of the exhibition
Some dates have an almost mystical association. June 22nd is one such for us; in 1941, the Great Patriotic War began and, in 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia, bringing many years of warfare — as portrayed on 19th — early 20th century lithographs, engravings and postcards. Vladimir Likhodedov and Vladimir Peftiev have allowed their collections to go on show at the 1812: War and Peace exhibition, hosted by the Belarusian State Museum of Great Patriotic War History
On the Large Road by Vasily Vereshchagin
he launch saw the reading of a message from the Minister of Culture, Pavel L atushko, noting the importance of unique private collections being made public. The Russian Ambassador to Belarus, Alexander Surikov, emphasised that our country reveres war monuments which mark the common history of our two countries. Both sides of the war are presented (known as versinage). Ninety eight lithographs by Colonel Christian Wilhelm von Faber du Faur, who fought in the 1812 campaign under
Projects Marshal Ney, show photographic acc urac y in sketching s oldiers. Meanwhile, those by Russian Vasily Vereshchagin, who was born after the war, demonstrate heroic resistance, including an attempt ‘to take down the image of Napoleon from the pedestal of the hero, to which he was brought’. A portrait of the Corsican is impres-
existed in the Russian Empire). These are ‘second-class monuments’ but those in Polotsk, Maloyaroslavets and Krasnoe (near Smolensk) are being restored. There is another in Kaunas. The Klyastitsy monument is little known so we hope that this rare lithograph will encourage the public to lobby for its restoration. Another unique photo captures a monument to Polish and French soldiers from Napoleon’s army; the concrete cross, established in the 1920s, stands on the road between Vileika and Molodechno, although the exact location is unknown. I’m convinced that it should also be restored.”
sive, showing him out of uniform, in a cocked hat and furs, but he appears frozen and gloomy. Another depicts a stable at the Cathedral of the Dormition in Moscow. Never before have so many lithographs by Faber du Faur been on show. However, about 200 lithographs and engravings are displayed in all. In a separate hall there is a series of postcards: Belarus in 1812. Dating from the mid-19th to early 20th century, they show battle scenes and those from everyday life on our land: the Battle of Klyastitsy, Napoleon Crossing the Niemen, the Battle of Mir; and the capture of Polotsk and Borisov. Vladimir Likhodedov tells us, “ The most interest ing exhibits, in my opinion, are images of two monuments which have fallen into ruin: an obelisk in Klyastitsy and another in Smolensk (only six such
A monument to soldiers from Napoleon’s army on the road between Vileika and Molodechno. Post cards from Vladimir Likhodedov’s collection
The theme is further discussed in a book by Mr. Likhodedov and Kirill Sokolov, entitled Monuments of the Year 1812 on Old Postcards. The edition was launched at the exhibition, alongside an early draft of an illustrated album entitled A Chronology of the Patriotic War of 1812 on Old Postcards and Drawings, by Vladimir Likhodedov and Vladimir Peftiev. All funds from the exhibition are to be spent on reconstructing the 1812 war monuments.
Open ground for language Centre for Russian Language, Literature and Culture launched in Grodno
he Days of Russian Language have been hosted by Yanka Kupala State University of Grodno. Teachers and students participated in a round table discussion entitled The 1150th Anniversary of the Birth of Russian Statehood and visited a photo exhibition: Monuments in Russian Architecture. The event culminated in the official launch of the Centre for Russian Language, Literature and Culture at the university. “We have established solid relationships with Belarusian universities, including Yanka Kupala State University of Grodno,” noted the Head of Rossotrudnichestvo Representation in Belarus, Victor Malashenko. “However, as time passes, we should seek out new paths of co-operation. The creation of the Centre for Russian Language, Literature and Culture at Yanka Kupala State University of Grodno will support our mutual work.” The Head of the Russian Language Department at Yanka Kupala State University of Grodno, Professor Alexey Nikitevich, believes that the Centre will contribute greatly to developing liaisons with Russian colleagues, raising the standard of education. “The Centre for Russian Language, Literature and Culture is important to us primarily as a unique teaching site; we plan joint seminars, compet it i ons and stu d e nt e xchange programmes. We’ve already agreed that famous Russian scientists will lecture at our university. Now, our main task is to acquire the latest textbooks and to create a modern computer base for the Centre.” The Days of Russian Language in Grodno enjoyed a rich programme.
By Lyudmila Ivanova
To past through present
Heritage for all National Art Museum launches albums celebrating Belarusian classical artists — to mark Year of Books
Vladimir Prokoptsov, the Director of the National Art Museum:
“The heritage of Yuzef Oleshkevich, Ivan Khrutsky, Appolinary Goravsky, Stanislav Zhukovsky, Vitold ByalynitskyBirulya and Ferdinand Rushchits is shared by Belarus, Russia, Lithuania and Poland”. 38
he series began with works by Ivan Khrutsky, followed by paintings by Vitold Byalynitsky-Birulya, Valenty Vankovich and St anisl av Zhu kovsky. The latest album is entitled Prominent Painters from Belarus: interestingly, not Prominent Belarusian Painters as, although all were born in Belarus, they each spent many years abroad — studying and working — and have been ‘claimed’ by other countries. Let’s take a tour of the past, analysing these artists’ fates, styles of painting, and where their heritage is kept. The books include text in Belarusian, Russian and English and the Director of the National Art Museum, Vladimir Prokoptsov, tells us that a list of 35 artists has been prepared for reproduction. “These masters received their professional education mostly in Moscow and St. Petersburg, primarily in line with 19th-early 20th century Russian art. Their lives and works are often connected with Lithuania and Poland. Accordingly, the heritage of Yuzef Oleshkevich, Ivan Khrutsky, Appolinary Goravsky, Stanislav Zhukovsky, Vitold Byalynitsky-Birulya and Ferdinand Rushchits is shared by Belarus, Russia, Lithuania and Poland.”
According to the Head of the Russian Art Department at the National Art Museum, Alexey Khoryak, the study of Khrutsky’s art — conducted in 2010 to mark his 200th anniversary — inspired the release of this series of albums. “Belarus then hosted two conferences, with foreign specialists in attendance. They re-checked facts from the master’s biography, dispelling stories which had no real evidence,” he says.
Ivan Khrutsky: occupying an honourable place in the Tretyakov Gallery
He was born near Lepel, halfway between Minsk and Polotsk — to a Greek-Catholic priest whose family spoke Belarusian and Polish (natural for early 19th century intelligentsia). On coming to St. Petersburg’s Academy of Arts, Khrutsky became engrossed in Russian culture. The Russian Wikipedia names Ivan ‘a Belarusian and Russian artist’ while the Polish version calls him ‘a Polish and Russian painter’. His first album was published in Minsk alone
To past through present
At Ivan Khrutsky’s exhibition at Belarus’ National Art Museum
but Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery gives his works pride of place in the Hall of Russian Art. On show is his depiction of the interior of his mansion in Zakharnichy, near Polotsk (where Khrutsky spent his last years on returning from St. Petersburg). Khrutsky is an acknowledged master of still-life painting, but is also known for his landscapes, church pictures and icons. From 1845-1855, he painted churches in Kaunas and Vilnius, at the order of his patron: Lithuanian Metropolitan Iosif Semashko. His largest collection of pictures is kept at Minsk’s National Art Museum but, until the war, Belarus had no works by Khrutsky. “Yelena Aladova — who created the Art Museum —purchased 25 works by the master, from private collectors, over the 30 years following the war. His works
have been depicted on stamps issued in the USSR and in modern Belarus, while both Russian and Belarusian coins show his works,” stresses Nadezhda Usova, the Deputy Director of the National Art Museum, noting his significance.
Vitold ByalynitskyBirulya: foremost impressionist
Born 140 years ago, he became famous in the 1917 Revolution and was much revered in Soviet times. After WWII, a museum opened at his Mogilev two-storey stone mansion, dedicated to his artistry.
Belarus — including the National Art Museum — holds over 1,500 works by the painter, who continued the traditions of Levitan. He was a true original and is viewed as the foremost impressionist painter nationally. I n t h e e a r l y 2 0 t h c e n t u r y, Byalynitsky-Birulya’s works gained recognition at exhibitions in Munich and Barcelona and was among the most prominent Itinerant artists. He lived almost his whole life in Russia, building a summer house near Tver — called Seagull. From May-mid June 1947, he lived and worked at his Belaya (‘White’) summerhouse near Minsk (now in Kurasovshchina suburb), cre at ing s e vera l dozen sketches for his ‘Belarus’ series, which includes ‘Spring is in Bloom’ — one of his most famous canvases.
To past through present
The name Byalynitsky-Birylya speaks for itself: he was born near Belynichi, not far from Mogilev, and is buried in Moscow’s Novodevichy Cemetery. “This landscape painter does not divide Belarusian and Russian cultures; he unites them,” asserts Mr. Prokoptsov, who recently completed a painting devoted to Byalynitsky-Birulya. Mr. Prokoptsov’s picture is soon to go on show at the National Art Museum — depicting a terrace in the early morning light, with a table carrying two wine glasses seen through open doors. Mr. Prokoptsov began his canvas while staying in Russia’s Tver Region, drawing from a real scene. However, his background of lilacs is fictional, since the region is filled with tall pines. “It’s a true paradise for an artist. When painting, you can endlessly experiment with colour: from bright violet to deep pink and snowy
shades of white,” Mr. Prokoptsov smiles.
“It’s a true paradox: two former Vankovich family homes stand in Minsk and a great 19th century artist was born in one, yet no original paintings remain in Belarus,” sadly notes Yelena Karpenko, who heads the Old Belarusian Art Department at the National Art Museum.
painting for exhibition in Minsk until mid-summer: a portrait of Wojciech Puslowski — a leading member of early 19th century Slonim gentry. The picture has already attracted attention from the public. The Lithuanians have a warm attitude towards Vankovich, as do the Poles — who view him as their ‘own’. English Wikipedia names him ‘a Pole’ but the Polish version leaves this ‘national issue’ aside, stating that the painter ‘was born in Minsk Region’. The Russian version laconically specifies: ‘He is a Belarusian and Polish painter, a representative of Romanticism’. Vankovich studied at Polotsk’s Jesuit College — like Khrutsky — and later attended at Vilno University and St. Petersburg’s Academy of Arts. Vilno
Fortunately, the Lithuanian Art Museum has offered a Vankovich
The Vankovichs Estate “Bolshaya Slepyanka”
Valenty Vankovich: houses left without masterpieces
To past through present
Stanislav Zhukovsky: an Itinerant artist born near Volkovysk
Named as ‘a Russian Itinerant of Polish origin’ by many reference books, he was actually born in Belarus, in 1873 — at Yendrikhovichi mansion, near Volkovysk. However, his fate was to travel.
In 1892, Zhukovsky opposed his father’s will and moved to Moscow to study pictorial painting. He was lectured by Levitan and graduated from Moscow’s College of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. From 1895, he participated in exhibitions by itinerant artists and, in 1899, his Moon Night was purchased by the Tretyakov Gallery. By the early 20th century, Zhukovsky had become one of the most famous landscape painters in Russia, following Impressionism. He lived primarily in Moscow, also setting up a private school (where he lectured from 1907-1917). From the late 1900s, Zhukovsky drew interiors, with windows used to provide a ‘keyhole’ view onto landscapes beyond. From 1902-1903, Zhukovsky exhibited his works at World of Art shows and his landscapes brought him recognition — enjoying great demand among collectors. In 1923, he moved to Poland and was arrested by the Nazis during WW2, dying at Pruszków concentration camp in 1944. Belarus was his birthplace and he was much inspired by this; in his ‘Polish’ period, he drew landscapes of Polesie, the Belovezhskaya and Svisloch pushchas and the interiors of palaces and mansions of Western Belarus. Some of his paintings are on show at the National Art Museum but the largest collection can been found in the Prominent Painters from Belarus album.
His Majesty the Statute First code of law of medieval Belarus only kept in Mogilev and London
By Viktar Korbut
(now known as Vilnius) connected Vankovich with the most prominent Belarusian in the 19th century: Adam Mickiewicz. They met around 1821, soon becoming friends. Adam devoted his To an Artist poem to Vankovich, later visiting St. Petersburg to meet the local intelligentsia. He was well received but soon left for Europe. “It’s no surprise that his paintings can be found in Vilnius and St. Petersburg — where Vankovich’s talent became apparent. However, his life began in Minsk,” stresses Ms. Karpenko, hoping that the artist’s house-museum will eventually acquire some original pictures by the master. So far, it showcases only good copies.
n early July, Mogilev residents and those from Mogilev Region living in Russia raised $45,000 to buy the original Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Published in Vilnya in 1588 by the Belarusian Mamonichy Printing House (under the direction and funding of Chancellor Lev Sapega) it was in the possession of a private collector in Moscow. Published several times, it was translated into Polish and Russian, for use as a code of law across Lithuania and Belarus until 1840. It shows the level of development of Belarusian society in the Renaissance, being written in Belarusian — used at the time not only in culture but in law. The solemn ceremony to welcome the Statute’s return was attended by the Minister of Culture, Pavel Latushko, who noted the importance of the event, “We appreciate the need to return historical and cultural treasures to their homeland not only at state level, but at the level of private collectors and businesses.” The rarity is now being stored at the Museum of Mogilev History, on display in a special showcase; it is the only copy of the rare edition in Belarus, although another can be found in London’s Library and Museum named after Frantsisk Skorina.
Link of times
t’s common knowledge that each of us lies at the centre of our own world. Meanwhile, we cannot help but imagine that the worlds of prominent writers are even more impressive — able to create such amazing characters. It’s always interesting to learn which real life people inspired a novel’s leading protagonists, just as we are fascinated to discover more about a writer’s life and creativity.
literary experts affirm, he arrived on foot from Stolbtsy, walking along the Nieman River. At the Kolas Museum, we can learn more about how the memory about our outstanding writers is being honoured here and abroad. Landmark projects are being implemented to mark his anniversary, explains Zinaida Komarovskaya, the head of the museum and a laureate of the Special Award of the President for
of Belarusian Song and Poetry, in June, will be followed by a Republican artistic exhibition in September. Twenty volumes containing Yakub Kolas’ works are also being released to mark the anniversary. A four series film — ‘Talash’ — was recently shot by director and script writer Sergey Shulga, at the Belarusfilm National Film Studio, based on Yakub Kolas’ ‘Marshes’ story. A monument in the shape of an original bell-lyra is to be
‘I’ve come especially for you’ Those who visit Yakub Kolas State Literary and Memorial Museum have the chance to write their cherished desires while sitting at the writer’s table, using his ink and pen. They can also have their photo taken beside a Pobeda car once used by Yakub Kolas, and listen to ballads played on a hundred year old gramophone Accordingly, Yakub Kolas State Literary and Memorial Museum is carefully preserving precious exhibits connected with the life and creativity of the outstanding writer: not only manuscripts, books and the table at which Yakub’s uncle worked but the Pobeda car driven by the legend. Of course, Yakub Kolas was an academician at the Academy of Sciences of Belarus, as well as a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of the BSSR. This year, we’re celebrating the Year of Yakub Kolas and the Year of Yanka Kupala: both classical writers of Belarusian literature and people’s poets born 130 years ago. They first met a century ago, at Smolnya farmstead, near Minsk Region’s village of Nikolaevshchina. There, in the house of his uncle Anton, Yakub Kolas welcomed Yanka Kupala for a summer visit. As
‘Museum Affairs’. Much has been done to honour the memory of the great poet under her guidance. Ms. Komarovskaya, how are the anniversaries of the classical writers of Belarusian literature being celebrated? A range of events is being organised while the most major will take place in the writers’ home villages. Molodechno District’s village of Vyazynka, where Yanka Lutsevich (Yanka Kupala) lived, is hosting a celebration in July, as is Stolbtsy District’s Bervenets farmstead, where Kastus Mitskevich was born (later known as Yakub Kolas). Writers, poets, artistic groups and masters of decorative-andapplied arts are taking part, while a large exhibition of Kupala and Kolas’ books is being prepared at the National Library. The 12th ‘Molodechno-2012’ National Festival
unveiled in Warsaw to mark the 130th anniversary of these Belarusian classical writers. Meanwhile, sculptors Lev and Sergey Gumilevsky (who have created monuments to Kirill Turovsky in Gomel, Yanka Kupala in Moscow and Frantishek Bogushevich in Smorgon) are working on a new monument to the Belarusian poets. It is to adorn the Eye of the Sea in Mokotów — one of the central districts of the Polish capital. Which precious exhibits have been recently added to your museum treasury? Members of the Union of Writers of Belarus Ganad Charkazyan and Stanislav Sokolov acquired a book in Moscow, which they’ve donated to us: ‘Trial in the Forest’, released in 1943. It boasts Kolas’ own note, which reads: ‘To S. Koshachkin, an employee of ‘Pravda’ newspaper’. We
Link of times also have poetry written by him for the newspaper in 1948, as well as a poem written by hand in Belarusian. We’ve received a donation of 40 books and magazines — from the late 19th century — given to the museum by the former Chairman of Stolbtsy District Executive Committee’s Culture Department, Anatoly Grekov. He has done much to promote Kolas’ creativity in his homeland. Meanwhile, Mr. Grekov heads a voluntary council, established two years ago. What are its goals? We have decided to install a ‘Yakub Kolas. Meditation’ sculpture on the Minsk estate where the writer spent his final years of life. He devoted much time to helping little-known people. We can remember his words: ‘I live not for my own sake but for yours’. He was anxious for the future of the country, writing in his last letter to the Central Committee of the Communist Part of Belarus (not long before his death) that our culture should achieve a definite level and our native language should be
near a tree personally planted by Yakub Kolas on his return to Minsk from war. The voluntary council has paid for the sculpture, with fund raising ongoing. What would you do with a large grant for museum development? We plan to make capital repairs to the museum façade and revamp the grounds. As you know, we also have our Nikolaevshchina branch in Stolbtsy District, with four memorial estates: Okinchitsy (where writer Kastus Mitskevich was born); Albut (whose ‘New Land’ poem is well-known); Smolnya (where Yakub Kolas and Yanka Kupala first met and which now houses a literary museum); and Lastok (which now boasts an exhibition dedicated to ‘Symon, the Musician’). We need a great deal of money to develop these estates and would like to restore a tavern on the bank of the River Nieman, where Yakub Kolas’ parents once resided. It’s described in the poem ‘Symon, the Musician’. The Mitskevich family lived there
Zinaida Komarovskaya, the head of Yakub Kolas State Literary and Memorial Museum: “Writers, poets, artistic groups and masters of decorative-and-applied arts are taking part, while a large exhibition of Kupala and Kolas’ books is being prepared at the National Library. The 12th ‘Molodechno-2012’ National Festival of Belarusian Song and Poetry, in June, will be followed by a Republican artistic exhibition in September. Twenty volumes containing Yakub Kolas’ works are also being released to mark the anniversary.” heard. Of course, being a mature person, he thought about the future while also looking back. He turned the pages of the past and recollected his native Stolbtsy and Pukhovichi districts, which he loved greatly. Moreover, he was thinking about his family; his son Yuri failed to return from the war while his wife Maria Dmitrievna had died. Sculptor Andrey Zaspitsky has already made a model of the composition, which is to be erected
from 1885 to 1890 and I’m convinced that Kolas was inspired to write ‘Symon, the Musician’ from his recollections of that part of his life. His father worked for some time as a forest guard on land owned by the Radziwill family. Kolas loved Lastok, writing that even skylarks sang better there than elsewhere. This is why we’d love to restore the house. I’ve heard that you can study the personality of the great poet endlessly…
I agree. If we look at his photos, he may appear gloomy and wearisome but he had a subtle sense of humour, writing humorous poems. Some of his verse is quite intriguing; the unpublished ‘A Song to Sleep during Insomnia’ is like a lullaby, written by the poet in post-war 1945. Does Kolas Museum take part in international projects? We’ve signed co-operative agreements with our colleagues from various countries. In particular, we liaise with Mikhailovskoye State Memorial Historical-Literary and Natural-Landscape Museum-Reserve of Alexander Pushkin, in Russia, and with Alexander Pushkin Literary Museum, in Vilnius. We’ve also seen great creative results from our strong ties with Maxim Rylsky Literary and Memorial Museum, in Kiev. This year, we plan to organise the international ‘Creative Legacy of Yanka Kupala and Yakub Kolas in the System of State-Cultural and Spiritual-Aesthetic Priorities of the 21st Century’ conference, partnering the National Academy of Sciences and the Union of Writers of Belarus, as well as the Education and Culture Ministries. According to sociologists, virtual trips are becoming popular. How do you attract visitors? The Internet can’t replace direct contact with items and places connected with the life of Yakub Kolas. Also, I believe that tourists are attracted by new sites in Kolas’ lands. This year, a ‘Tree of Life’ public garden opened in Smolnya; there are 43 trees — from 17 districts of Belarus. Each has been planted to honour a certain classical writer from domestic or foreign literature. The first saplings were planted in an avenue leading from Mikhailovskoye while Skorina’s oak tree, from Polotsk, is also growing strong. Bicycle and walking paths have been developed, including one from Okinchitsy to Smolnya, passing through Albut; it’s about 5km long. By Yanina Pokrovskaya
Sympathetic images This year sees the celebration of the 130th anniversary of the birth of Yanka Kupala and Yakub Kolas. They were both outstanding writers and remain significant figures: symbols of the formation of our national identity. It is no wonder that their characters remain at the heart of Belarusian art and that their styles continue in popularity
ew artists, especially of the older generation, fail to touch upon the nature of patriotism, giving reference to the past and our revival from dark days. Such has been the influence of Yanka Kupala and Yakub Kolas that they transformed from people to idols. Inevitably, as time passes, events from our past take on greater resonance. Our current attitude towards our heritage brings a new note to the interpretation of Kolas and Kupala, whose lives are now viewed as being more complex than previously supposed. This allows us to interpret their works anew. The great masters’ protagonists were always distinguished and easily recognisable, with strong characteristics: Kolas’ Lobanovich and, even, Kupala’s guslar player (with his vivid
appearance and spirit which angrily rejects the money of a powerful prince). Sadly, too many characters today are two dimensional, lacking the ability to
This monument to Yanka Kupala was erected in Kutuzovsky Avenue, Moscow. Sculpture by Lev Gumilevsky
Yanka Kupala and Yakub Kolas in children’s creative works
convince, shock or truly interest us. Their dialogue may be loaded with emotion but we only perceive their words as shallow slogans. Meanwhile, the covers of bestsellers usually feature leggy blondes and muscular heroes, with little reference to reality. Where are the powerful protagonists of the past? Not long ago, Yanka Kupala’s museum in Minsk celebrated its 60th anniversary, opening a new exhibition which includes several unique items. The interior of the Hotel Moscow has been recreated — where Yanka Kupala’s dead body was found under mysterious circumstances in 1942: the door of room #414; part of the stairs; and the low stone parapet from which he fell. Many stories have sprung up but his death remains an unsolved mystery, exciting the imagination of literary critics and artists such as Yury Krupnenkov, with his Yanka Kupala. July 28th, 1942. The theme is novel in itself, while being challenging to depict. A man dies, but his works remain, revealing his story. Our ancestors tried to take these things with them to their mounds... Some monuments to Yanka Kupala look like mounds, with his figure placed on top — as described in the poem Barrow. Architect Georgy Zaborsky suggested a
similar monument to the poet as early as 1942, while sculptor Alexey Glebov later designed a monument dedicated to the poet’s 80th birthday with the same inspiration. Sadly, it was never implemented. Zair Azgur is the foremost sculptor of Kupala and Kolas in Belarusian art. In 1924, he created the first sculptural portraits of Pesnyary, for Vitebsk museum. He describes his acquaintance with Yakub Kolas in his memoirs: ‘It was the first time I had seen a real poet, looking upon him as if upon a miracle.’ At their first meeting, Yakub Kolas read Zair Azgur his New Land. The sculptor stared attentively into his face, later writing: ‘It’s easy to chat with him. The poet reminds me a little of a peasant who has worked hard to gain everything he has. Accordingly, he is sullen and reflective, withdrawn into himself ’. Unfortunately, those first sculptures have not survived; we lack even sketches. Only photos of portraits created in 1939 by Azgur remain — prepared for the Decade of Belarusian Literature and Art in Moscow. However, even these radiate life. Azgur wrote: ‘I wanted to convey the movements of the poet’s soul, which I observed and which delighted me. This is exactly what is very difficult to show
The Belarusian Pesnyary have inspired many portraits over the years, including pictures of their homes. Most preferred Vyazynka, where by the 70th anniversary of Yanka Kupala’s birth was opened a museum in a sculpture. Kupala’s calm nature hides a very sensitive soul, which reacts to everything. Those who know the poet can confirm this’. Of Yakub Kolas he wrote: ‘He posed for me with pleasure in 1928 and 1939’. Of course, time has brought change to the artistic style of Zair Azgur; the impetuosity of his early works has become more rounded — as seen by the monument which stands in Yakub Kolas Square in Minsk. The severity and simplicity of the central figure is like that of a huge boulder, softened slightly by decorative sculptural groups on each side. Interestingly, he has placed it in the middle of water. The bronze plaque reads: ‘This lake, with saplings and birch trees planted around the monument, should speak of Belarus’ countryside — as I read of in Yakub Kolas’ works’. The figures would look even more organic were it not for the busy crossroads nearby. The Belarusian Pesnyary have inspired many portraits over the years, including pictures of their homes. Most preferred Vyazynka, where by the 70th anniversary of Yanka Kupala’s birth was opened a museum. Artists even painted the friends and colleagues, with illustrated books being reprinted in various
Art Creativity series: from academic anthologies to school editions. The theme was popular with recognised artists and students of the Theatre and Art Institute alike, each giving their own interpretation, although rarely intimate and soulful. Rather, they tended to be official and solemn. We don’t see individual people’s thoughts, doubts, dreams or hopes, but view each figure often as a ‘teacher of the nation’... Only recently have we begun discussing Kupala’s tragic end. Few know of his aristocratic origins but these left their mark on the poet. His Nameless, penned in 1924, shows his depth of bitterness regarding the fate of his homeland, hidden behind light poetry. The heroes of the poem are unnamed — generalised as ‘we’. In The Eternal Song, Kupala’s first dramatic poem, the hero is simply denoted as a man, as in A Dream on the Mound. During the Halt gives us a mysterious stranger — although he reminds us of Kupala. Many writers revealing the Belarusian psyche showed their characters as lacking in egotism, calm and stoic. Yanka Kupala found such passiveness occasionally unsatisfactory, though he was Belarusian himself. Modern young artists perhaps need to look at Yakub Kolas and Yanka Kupala not only as patriotic symbols but as ordinary people who yearned to promote their mother tongue and help their homeland — despite difficult circumstances. Some of the younger generation assert that it’s impossible for modern urbanites to imagine rural life and work, making it very difficult to empathise with such literature. However, if we read attentively, we can feel the poets’ real admiration for their native land.
Ziar Azgur is the foremost sculptor of Kupala and Kolas in Belarusian art. He describes his acquaintance with Yakub Kolas in his memories: ‘It was the first time I had seen a real poet, looking upon him as if upon a miracle.’
A monument to Yakub Kolas at the Minsk square having the same name. Sculpture by Zair Azgur
Of course, a natural question arises as to how a modern artist should develop the Kolas-Kupala theme. Should they use precise ethnographic and historical details? Museum staff are keen to receive more art works showing stages of the lives of the poets, including portrayals of their native places. Sculptors Alexander Batvinenok and Alexander Chyrgyn used such detail in their image of Yakub Kolas, which stands outside the Kolas Museum. Similar techniques were used for Yakub Kolas’ Family by Grigory Tabolich, Yanka Kupala in Vilnius by Alexander Ksyandzov, and Yanka Kupala the Engineer by Vladimir Novak. In fact, several of the poets’ literary works are yet to be explored by artists. Arlen Kashkurevich is now proposing illustrations to accompany the poem A Dream on the Mound and Mikhail Basalyga is keen to illustrate The Christmas Pudding. No doubt, each will bring their own interpretation. Where artists seek to bring their own flavour to such works, the medium used can make a huge difference. Works of decorative and applied arts are particularly effective, while graphic works can give us unexpected figurative comparisons: as in Raisa Siplevich’s Kupala Song and the graphical triptych of Vladimir Savich. The key to understanding the world of Pesnyary is its diversity of folk art, which is surprisingly lyrical and musical, inviting harmony. Artists, no less than musicians, actors and translators, need to feel the words of the great men’s poetry, in order to convey their style. They should empathise with their themes and images, and narrative, anecdotal technique. The best works are those which are honest about the creative destiny of our Belarusian legends. By Vasily Kharitonov
panorama Cultural concert festival
Winged beauties bring good luck
12th National Festival of Belarusian Song and Poetry, hosted by Molodechno, celebrates ‘double star’ of Belarusian writers Yanka Kupala and Yakub Kolas
Minsk Regional Centre of Folk Art currently houses a unique exhibition of live exotic butterflies from all over the world, with visitors invited to watch the process of feeding, mating and metamorphosis
Performance worth its weight in gold Young soloist from Bolshoi Theatre of Belarus, Konstantin Geronik, wins gold at 4th International Ballet Competition in Beijing
his year the jury of young performer contest once again decided not to award the Grand Prize, although Darya Shulgina from Grodno received the first prize for her singing (she was unable to attend the prize giving ceremony, as it was her graduation day). It is vital that young talent has the chance to show its potential on local stages, before it can achieve international acclaim. Moreover, national culture is a foundation of Belarusian unity, as emphasised by Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich, reading a greeting from the President at the festival. The city’s Molodechno Arbat quarter is sure to be remembered, having been brought alive with crafts stands. Its new concert hall is also impressive, seating over 2,500 (and offering tickets online). There can be no doubt that the event will be held again next year. Some have even compared Molodechno with San Remo, as Belarusian is considered to be among the most melodic languages, second only to Italian!
n the first round of the competition, the jury and critics were captivated by variations from the ballets Le Corsaire and Flames of Paris, brightly performed by the Belarusian soloist. In the second round, he danced a modern number called Inspiration (choreography by Yevgeny Chernov). In the third, his masterful classical technique was to the fore, with variations from the ballets La Sylphide and Don Quixote. Konstantin Geronik was highly praised by the international jury, comprising famous artists and directors. These included Syao Suhua (China), Evelyn Terry (Germany), Gilbert Mayer (France), Gregor Hatala (Austria) and Ruslan Pronin (Russia), headed by famous American choreographer and ballet-master Bruce Marks. More than 70 ballet dancers from all over the world took part in the competition in Beijing.
Only elite invited Belarusian State Circus to take part in prestigious International Circus Festival, hosted by Monte Carlo next January
t’s a great event not only for our circus, but for the whole country,” asserts the art director of the B elarusian State Circus,
he butterflies are able to fly freely, often landing on the bright clothes of visitors. Of course, there’s no need to be frightened of these winged beauties, since all are completely harmless. The exhibition in Minsk includes rare species from the impenetrable jungles of the Amazon and from the distant archipelagos of the Pacific Ocean. Naturally, visitors can learn a great deal about the butterflies, which have been associated with beauty, spring and eternity for thousands of years. The Ancient Greeks saw butterflies as symbols of the immortality of the soul, with the goddess Psyche depicted with butterfly wings. Butterflies are welcomed into homes in Southeast Asia, being believed to bring good luck. In India, couples present each other with butterflies as a sign of loyalty and love during wedding ceremonies. Tatiana B ondarchuk. She notes that the invitation to participate in this elite competition itself shows that our national circus art is at the highest level. In August, the Belarusian State Circus will be taking part in the Latin American Circus Festival and, in November, will join the Festival of Circus Performers in France.
Agreement on peace signed
This year is the 95th anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty between Germany and Soviet Russia. It has always been thought that it was concluded in Brest-Litovsk, but it now turns out that the document was signed in Skoki: a village in Motykaly Rural Council in Brest Region
rof. Anatoly Gladyshchuk, a physicist at Brest Technical University and a keen local historian, discovered the amazing fact while researching. The truce was signed at Niemcewicz Palace (a secret site and general headquarters of the Commander of the Eastern German Front, Prince Leopold of Bavaria). Sergey Semenyuk, the Director of the Historical and Memorial Museum of Niemcewicz Estate, joins Prof. Gladyshchuk and I in visiting the very hall where the treaty was signed.
They agreed on the borders… in the dining room
We request that the bus driver stop near the palace and are asked: “Near the school?” Local residents don’t call it a palace, since it housed classrooms for forty years. “I studied here for 13 months,” admits Mr. Semenyuk, who has known the estate since childhood. He learnt about the noble Niemcewiczs from Prof. Gladyshchuk’s book —
Niemcewiczs: Real Stories, which made a splash among historians and has inspired the restoration of the palace. “The Prince of Bavaria did not pay to live in Skoki,” laughs Mr. Antonovich. “Yet, I had to pay for a copy of his diaries.” It was known that the Prince had written a diary in Skoki but Prof. Gladyshchuk was the first to study it, requesting the document from the
Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz (b. 16th Feb, 1757, Skoki — d. 21st May, 1841, Paris) was a writer, historian and social activist. He took part in the uprising of 1794, as an adjutant of Tadeusz Kościuszko, and helped create the Constitution of Rzecz Pospolita in 1791
Bavarian Royal House of Wittelsbach. The director of the private Bavarian Royal House archive sent an envelope containing the text of the Prince’s diary and photographs. Prof. Gladyshchuk tells us, “On December 15th, 1917, the Prince wrote: ‘We all gathered in our large dining room, where the documents were officially signed. It was an historical event of world scale which, perhaps, no one party will forget’. Just imagine, the informal redistribution of Europe took place there and boundaries were discussed. This makes the palace of global importance.” I ask how he, as a physicist, became interested in local history and Prof. Gladyshchuk tells me the story. Ten years ago, in May 2002, Brest Reg iona l L ibrar y held an international scientific conference devoted to outstanding writer and public activist Julian Niemcewicz. It was attended by representatives of the Niemcewicz family, from Poland, France and Canada. The daughter of
Heritage We should try, since those portraits have no meaning in Kaluga; they belong here,” Prof. Gladyshchuk asserts. Alas, the Skoki museum only has electronic copies. “There’s only one original exhibit: my book,” Prof. Gladyshchuk jokes sadly, hoping for the best. The Belarusian Commission (under the Council of Ministers) is working to identify and return national cultural treasures currently held abroad, to allow the public to enjoy them. It knows all about the valuables taken from Skoki and is working to ensure their return.
The Niemcewicz Estate Museum
the last owner of Skoki, Teresa Veriga (born in Skoki) was among them. On her trip to the family estate, she peered anxiously at the walls of the palace, so familiar, yet belonging to someone else. Prof. Gladyshchuk drew the attention of those present. On returning home, Ms. Veriga sent him a manuscript entitled For my Grandchildren, which includes much new information, including on the portraits which hung in the palace.
Lost while being saved?
The Prince of Bavaria didn’t find the Art Gallery in Skoki since valuables were removed to Kaluga in 1915, to save them from the impending front. “The gallery was located in this saloon,” explains Prof. Gladyshchuk, indicating the empty walls of a large room on the ground floor. Six portraits, including one of Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz and one of his father, Marceli, once hung at Kaluga Regional History Museum. “I tried to establish contacts in Kaluga but failed.
for the birthday of Julian Ursyn, we conducted an Ursyn-evening. Only five people came but it was a start,” adds the local historian.
A Catholic church crypt was once found across the street from the palace. Nothing remains however; you’d never know it had existed. “All those who visit are sure to ask where Niemcewicz family members are buried. The answer is that they lie here, including the parents of Julian. They were originally in the old crypt of the Ursyn evenings and Catholic church, which was destroyed knights’ battles in 1939. Janina Guziuk, who lives in The current owners Terespol, Poland, had the remains o f Ni e m c e w i c z E s t at e reburied in the paupers’ grave (Brest District Executive behind the Catholic church. Committee) have great I met her. When the estate plans for the new revives, we should place museum, with two rooms a more fundamental to be filled with exhibits monument but a simple c on n e c t e d w it h t h e cross will be sufficient history of Pribuzhie. for now,” notes Prof. T h e Gladyshchuk. He’s keen basement to see that builders will be don’t accideng ive n ove r tally disturb to the knights’ the graves. club. Brest Regional “ Thanks to Executive Committee is pictures found eager to support the restoSergey Semenyuk, the by my student Director of the Historical and ration, allocating a large a t P o z n a ń Memorial Museum of sum of money this year from its University, two Niemcewicz Estate, showing budget. One day, not only the the ‘Histrocal Travel’ book by towers and the Julian Niemcewicz published palace but the servants’ living main building in Saint-Petersburg in 1859 quarters may be completely have begun to restored. The foundations of one resemble a small castle; the knights wing have been found, so a fence has complete the scenario,” smiles Prof. been set up to protect them. The park’s Gladyshchuk. unique hornbeam avenue could also be As for the other rooms, decisions replanted. The estate was the oldest and are yet to be made. However, it’s most beautiful near Brest, laid out in clear that they’ll also be used for the the English style, with lawns. It remains museum. The main exhibition will recognisable, thanks to a local school. be devoted to the Niemcewicz family Without denigrating the global and to Tadeusz Kościuszko (a national importance of the Niemcewicz estate hero of the USA). The latter stayed at in Skoki, Prof. Gladyshchuk emphathe palace more than once. sises, “This is our history first and “I’d like to see cultural and social foremost.” Who can disagree? events brought to life here. In February, By Valentina Kostovskaya
After the August holidays, the Maxim Gorky National Academic Drama Theatre (previously known as the Russian Theatre) will launch its 80th jubilee performances, explains its director, Eduard Gerasimovich — Honoured Worker of Culture of Belarus. Soon to celebrate 30 years of directing his native theatre, he is doing all he can to ensure an impressive schedule. Clearly, three decades is a significant milestone, so what is the secret of his longevity?
can’t help but think that his time in the army stood him in good stead. Mastering aviation technical maintenance, he would sign off on an aircraft’s readiness to depart; clearly, he was given great responsibility but never felt anxious. He explains, “I was a skilled technician, so I had no fear.” Of course, at that young age, he had no thoughts of leadership either. Despite his success as an electrical engineer, he
Theatre Personality yearned to work in the arts, particularly in theatre direction. He was going to become a student of Vladimir Malankin, at the Theatre and Art Institute (now, the Academy of Arts), in the stage acting department rather than that of directorship. He well remembers Mr. Malankin telling him that didn’t think he was capable of becoming a stage director, since he wouldn’t be able to apply literary criticism to the performances. He couldn’t help but agree and this was enough to make him rethink his goal. Who knows how the threads of Fate are woven? At a particular moment in our existence we have to choose our path, as in the Russian fairytales of Ivan-Tsarevich, the Firebird and the Grey Wolf. However, I’m convinced that we are presented with choices which have the potential to match our talents (even if we don’t realise it at the time). It’s vital to make the right choice, as happened with Mr. Gerasimovich. He became a director at 38 and has since helped his theatre gain the titles ‘academic’ and ‘national’. He also tours a great deal abroad, taking part in international festivals and winning prizes.
It’s obvious that his sense of responsibility and dedication have served him well over the years. He has developed a new system of salaries for actors and has sought out titles of People’s and Honoured Artistes of Belarus for them, as well as ensuring them flats to live in. Mr. Gerasimovich has worked to see actors treated in a worthy fashion and feels his efforts are widely appreciated; in recognition, he has a clutch of certificates, diplomas and prizes, alongside the muchcoveted Frantsisk Skorina Medal. We’re chatting in his little office at the Theatre, where everything is modest. A wonderful batik-style picture hangs on the wall, showing the good taste of its owner. “My daughter made it to give to me as a present,” Mr. Gerasimovich smiles, seeing my glance. Clearly, he’s very pleased. He’s happy to chat about all manner of subjects unconnected with his directing work. It’s refreshing to meet such a cheerful, optimistic person, especially as his efforts
are so much ‘behind the scenes’ while the actors steal the limelight. Of course, without him, the Theatre would cease to function, regardless of its 230 members. Have you ever come across plays which use a theatre director as a major character? What might interest a playwright about your profession? Thank God, I’m yet to come across such a play. I’d have to immediately reject it, as everything — from beginning to end — would be untrue. Theatre directors are unpredictable, so it’s impossible to forecast how they’ll behave in any particular situation. Sometimes, you prepare to speak on one topic and find yourself led elsewhere. Life constantly pushes you to compromise (in the best sense) and you have to be dispassionate, using psychology with actors while keeping calm yourself. You need to retain your heart however, or you’d lose your ability to communicate with people. Everyone has their own joys and sorrows. Are the subtleties of my work really interesting to those wishing to come to the theatre to explore their feelings? Audiences need to be moved by emotions and empathise with a protagonist. Meanwhile, directors have to make ‘unpopular decisions’; sometimes, they act against their own better judgement but are forced by circumstances. It’s rare but it does
Discussing things with Sergey Kovalchik, the Artistic Leader of the Russian Theatre, it is easy to come to consensus
Personality Theatre happen. I’m kind-hearted, often becoming anxious if I have to be strict with anyone. This is why I can’t imagine a director’s life being a suitable subject for a play. It’s clear that the production process may not arouse interest among audiences but a director’s inner life could be of interest… Perhaps… but everything depends on the playwright’s talent. I still don’t see what might attract audiences. When my grandson, Sasha, was four, he came to my office and sat in my armchair. I offered him sweets and he told me how ‘cool’ it was here. He then asked whether I watched television at work and I joked that I watched cartoons. He thought that was great and told me that he also wanted to become a director (laughing). Do you think some people are simply born to be directors and does Belarus offer good training? Our Academy of Arts’ Theatre Department offers a course called ‘organisation of theatrical business’; I lecture in theatre organisation, planning and management. Already, a great many theatre workers in Belarus have graduated from our department: directors, deputies and administrators. My own deputy, Igor Andreev, trained as an actor and as a director. Another student of my course is my backstage chief (looking after costumes, sets and lighting). I’m completely convinced that you can’t ‘learn’ how to become a director simply by studying management. You have to know how the theatre works from inside. Leading a theatre is vastly different to leading any other group of people. Do you think a theatre should be led by someone trained as a director or someone trained in stage crafts? I don’t think you can do both jobs; I hope my colleagues in this situation won’t be offended. Directors always play second fiddle. Stage directors and actors sign contracts to perform different jobs to mine. When you are ‘in charge’, it’s easy to let your authority go to your head but I always tell my students that this is inadmissible. Just because you have the power to hire people and enjoy a certain
“When you are ‘in charge’, it’s easy to let your authority go to your head but I always tell my students that this is inadmissible. Just because you have the power to hire people and enjoy a certain status does not mean you should become big-headed. If you have too much sense of your own importance, you stop being true to yourself.” status does not mean you should become big-headed. If you have too much sense of your own importance, you stop being true to yourself. There’s no place for vanity when you’re heading a group, especially a theatrical company. Creative people can find a thousand ways to bite off your head and will never yield precedence. They feel that the theatre owes its existence to their labour. Actors and stage directors take first place. Do you see actors as superstars? Yes, if we compare their position in the theatre with that of the director. However, I don’t like it when actors or stage directors swell with importance. If an actor has played a couple of roles and received good reviews, they can begin to think they’ve ‘arrived’. True stardom comes from your attitude towards work. Moreover, ‘diva behaviour’ can make others feel uncomfortable, since they don’t tend to appreciate hearing other people’s light-hearted anecdotes or jokes before a performance.
People’s Artist of the USSR Rostislav Yankovsky had his own way of teaching jokesters a lesson while People’s Artiste of the USSR Alexandra Klimova was also able to shoot daggers at those of whom she disapproved. Playing Lady Macbeth, she’d lie on animal skins forty minutes before the performance, while centring herself on her role. No one was allowed to disturb her and she’d give a murderous look to anyone making a noise or some other distraction. This was justified preparation, respected and blessed in the theatre. I do understand that different actors exist, so we can’t judge everyone in the same way. Just as planes fly at different altitudes (civil or military) and must be kept separate, so it is with some actors. Otherwise, a clash may occur. Why are you using an ‘aviation’ metaphor? I worked in aviation, in the army, for three years, as a mechanical engineer, so I know the feeling of responsibility from those years. I had to sign off on planes, guaranteeing their readiness to fly. You must be able to repair cars then? I’ve never tried. How did you move from plane maintenance to the arts? After the army, I spent some time working at Minsk’s civil aviation factory. However, my passion for the arts was stronger. I was also keen on music and had my own orchestra, beautifully named ‘Orpheus’. We performed in Minsk Region’s Ostroshitsky Gorodok. I wrote lyrics and music, entering the Theatre and Art Institute in 1969, under Vladimir Malankin. The Institute was just beginning to train people in this sphere, including the future leaders of theatrical companies. I finished the course and came to the Russian Theatre as deputy director. I’d originally wanted to study stage craft but Malankin persuaded me that directing would suit me better. However, I’d like to repeat that I don’t think you can become a director unless you have a particular affinity for it. Did your parents give you this affinity?
Theatre Personality No, they were ordinary workers. My father was injured in the Great Patriotic War, invalided out of the army in 1944. He moved to Kuibyshev Region’s Oktyabrsk, where my mother had been evacuated. I was born there on June 22nd, 1945, and went into the army there. Immediately after my demobilisation, our family left for Belarus, settling in Ostroshitsky Gorodok, where I spent my younger years. My wife, Klavdia, also comes from there. We met during a graduation ball and have always since been together. You spent many years in ‘command’. Does this change your character? Not in essence, although the burden of paperwork (connected with taxation, statistics and financing) weighs you down. I’ve taken a leading role in promoting particular issues and have gained the ear of some officials, which is pleasing. Do you have problems with copyright and, if so, how do you solve them? For ‘Wild Strawberries’, we spent over a year trying to gain permission from Ingmar Bergman, although the performance was already rehearsed. Some mechanisms are not easy to navigate. We also had difficulties in gaining permission for ‘Lion in Winter’, by James Goldman. It’s world practice to ask such permission, but there is little precedent for it in Belarus. We are developing our co-operation with the National Centre for Intellectual Property, which should help us set up the appropriate mechanisms (including foreign currency transactions). Theatre repertoires depend on this, alongside academic theatres; we need access to good foreign plays. Which actors are closest to you and with whom are you friends? I’m friendly with many good actors and get along with most of those at our theatre. As to whom I seek out as friends, it’s a delicate issue. Being the director, I can’t show favouritism, and must be open to everyone, offering my shoulder as needed or messing about like a child when necessary. The whole company is dear to me, although I trust some people
more than others, from past experience. I admire some for their talent, dedication, inner purity and spirituality. Of course, besides being a director, I’m an ordinary person with certain preferences — as is natural. I feel a spiritual attraction to some actors though, such as Rostislav Yankovsky. I’ve known him for many years as a particular friend. You initiated the unveiling of a memorial plaque to People’s Artiste of Belarus Anna Obukhovich, didn’t you? Do you have any similar plans? I’m a very scrupulous person as far as morals go, having developed my feelings over many years. No one goes behind anyone’s back here, so there is nothing to damage our atmosphere of open benev-
Do you influence repertory policy and, if so, how? I think so but the chief stage director has the final word. Certainly, if I dislike something, I express my opinion. However, I try to justify my views. I do believe that we need to observe a balance of playwrights: foreign, national and Russian. It’s not easy to choose a repertoire so I’m glad that I can work with Sergey Kovalchik [the Artistic Leader of the Russian Theatre]. We’re happy to listen to each other. Of course, his opinion takes precedence, so I’m always attentive to his suggestions. It would be awkward if I acted in any other way. The stage director is chief while the director is ranked second. Everything
“I’m a very scrupulous person as far as morals go, having developed my feelings over many years. No one goes behind anyone’s back here, so there is nothing to damage our atmosphere of open benevolence. People know that I respect them and that I’m honest, so they respond to me similarly.” olence. People know that I respect them and that I’m honest, so they respond to me similarly. Of course, I doubt they all love me. Some may dislike me very much for certain approaches I have — such as regarding sobriety in the theatre. However, I have a wonderful backstage crew, alongside good stage shifters. In all, we are a good team and enjoy a healthy atmosphere, of which I’m proud. It’s important that we remember actors who are no longer with us, since they were an indispensable part of our team. We organise evenings to recall their birthdays, inviting the youngsters (who eagerly agree). It took over three years to gain a memorial plaque to Anna Obukhovich but its unveiling was a joyful event for us all. Thank God, everyone else remains alive, so I have no further plans in that direction.
works fine as long as I don’t write our plays or personally direct performances and my wife doesn’t work at the theatre as an actress. I can then sit comfortably and sign the necessary paperwork as head of the theatre. I’m convinced that problems appear if you flout those rules. I can express my opinion when needed, knowing that I can speak objectively. Under which circumstances would you write off a performance? When audiences seem to lose interest, as it can indicate that a theme isn’t topical. For example, we’ve staged ‘The Sole Heir’ thousands of times, even using two acting teams. To continue running it, we’ll need another team of actors again; we haven’t decided yet. Everything becomes outdated eventually, including costumes and sets. It’s easier to stage a new performance than to ‘repair’ an old one. Moreover, if a
performance involves a large company, we can’t bring it to a festival or take it on tour. Why do you have no big tours planned at present? Big tours cost a great deal more than we can afford, although we can manage smaller tours and travelling to festivals. Do your actors ever play pranks on you or have a nickname for you? I’ve long been called Gerasim, which I like. Pranks are rare, since those who had a talent for them have since passed away. I cherish their memory.
Are you popular at actors’ parties? Do they joke freely with you? It’s difficult for me to judge my popularity. Sometimes, actors spring a joke on me but they tend to prefer to parody their stage directors. I do appreciate a good joke but it needs to be appropriate. In serious situations, I have to rise above pranks — even if the whole theatrical company is laughing. Could you stand in for an actor on stage in an emergency?
No, no and no. This is taboo. I’ve already said that I wouldn’t write plays, wouldn’t stage performances and wouldn’t marry an actress. So, acting is your fourth ‘pillar’. Wouldn’t you like to just show up on stage, as famous Russian film director Eldar Ryazanov did? Whatever for? I sometimes have nightmares where I’m in that situation and can’t remember my lines! Do you feel influenced by the wider arts? Eduard Absolutely. I don’t like pop arts but Gerasimovich with young I’m keen on lyrical poetry and prose, actors alongside classical and other good music. In my youth, I enjoyed reading Rubtsov’s verse and Hemingway’s stories. I remember Belarusian director Valery Maslyuk reciting his own clever poetry to me (he had released a collection). I even wrote my own verse at the age of nine — on the theme of the evils of smoking (after my father beat me for smoking with friends). I hung my poetry on the wall after my flogging. Where does your positive attitude come from? Nothing is better than nature for curing and calming us, while inspiring optimism. I like to look at lakes and rivers, observing the movement of their currents; these are a true miracle. I’m also keen on forests and fishing but I can’t stand hunting. For over twenty years, I’ve holidayed only in Belarus with my wife and friends — around the Vitebsk Region’s lakes. It’s so beautiful there. We tended to camp in tents, but recently bought a caravan — so now we sleep on sheets. I’m always glad to chat with my family. I have two daughters and a son, who are all adult and independent. Don’t you feel the burden of years of directorship? No. I haven’t even noticed them, as I enjoy my work greatly. By Valentina Zhdanovich
Pas de Deux
Belarusian ballerina Yekaterina Oleinik receives third prize and title of laureate at Helsinki International Ballet Competition
he 7th International Ballet Competition has been held at the Finnish National Opera H o u s e, a s p a r t o f jubilee events devoted to celebrating the 200th anniversary of Helsinki as the capital of Finland. This year, 100 dancers from more than 20 countries took part over the week, entering three competitive rounds of classical and modern dance. Ye k a t e r i n a O l e i n i k , p a r t n e r i n g t h e leading master of the Belarusian ballet, Igor Onoshko, performed the pas de deux from Don Quixote, followed by a modern number called Fragile Eternal Paradise, by Grodno choreographer Dmitry Kurakulov. In the third round, she danced the pas de deux from Swan Lake and a piece from I and I, by Belarusian choreographer Dmitry Zalessky.