No.10 (937), 2011
BELARUS Беларусь. Belarus
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Politics, Economy, Culture
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SaSHeS SiLK Men’S WoVen By nS Were BeLaruSia ion HiT a True faSH During Ce an in fr of THe reign ; LuDoViC XV THere Were To TS Mp aT Te aLL faKe THeM pe. oVer euro nS CoLLeC Tio ga Be n in THe LaTe y 19TH CenTur
Made in Slutsk pp. 40 — 41
pp. 36 — 37
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Беларусь.Belarus Monthly magazine No. 10 (937), 2011 Published since 1930 State Registration Certificate of mass medium No.8 dated March 2nd, 2009, issued by the Ministry of Information of the Republic of Belarus
Massive China — huge prospects
Trajectory of sustainable development On september 14th, Belarus witnessed an event awaited equally by national businesses, foreign investors and the public: the Foreign and Currency Stock Exchange launched an additional session for trading in foreign currencies, aiming to determine a market rate for the Belarusian Rouble
Bold challenge New tractor truck by Minsk Automobile Plant ready to compete on global scale
52 Convenient routes
Setting out for a marsh outing
Polesie chronicles It’s been a year now
always been a success at Moscow Book Fairs
“We live here, our souls remain there…”
Executive Secretary: Valentina Zhdanovich
Design and Layout by Vadim Kondrashov, Georgiy Shablyuk, Aloizas Yunevich
Oksana Lesnaya: moments of free flight This year, Oksana Lesnaya, a leading
Беларусь.Belarus is published in Belarusian, English, Spanish and Polish.
“Mammoth” to bring in fresh ideas National Beauty School hosts competition for designers, as part of 12th Festival of AvantGarde Fashion
Master class by Eduard Astafiev Famous Belarusian sculptor thinks of himself as a happy person
Enchanted by power of music Sincere and straightforward — she is as she is Belarus’ Lidia Zablotskaya, from Vdokhnovenie (Inspiration) Studio at Mogilev’s City Gymnasium #1, to sing at International Junior Eurovision-2011 Song Contest, hosted by Yerevan on December 3rd
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Publisher: “SB” editorial office This magazine has been printed at “Belarusian House of Press” Publishing Office” UE. 79 Nezavisimosti Ave., Minsk, Belarus, 220013 Order No.2869 Total circulation — 1982 copies (including 784 in English).
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since Belarus launched a programme aimed at development of Pripyat Polesie. The unique area embracing seven districts in Brest and Gomel Regions along the Pripyat River is sure in for dramatical changes of its appearance
Books of weight Belarusian expositions have
Editor: Viktor Kharkov
Story musical to be staged in Minsk for first time
actress with the Maxim Gorky National Academic Drama Theatre, celebrates her 20th anniversary with the troupe
It’s not only Broadway where… West Side
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Old paths towards new impressions
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© “Беларусь. Belarus”, 2011
From the editor
Joint place for bread and song
eople say: ‘Where there is bread, there will be a song!’ when preparing for serious action. However, this famous proverb hides another meaning: success is worth celebrating with all possible festivities and with whole-heartedness. Belarusians traditionally reward the hard labour of their harvesters in autumn, when most crops have been gathered in; this year’s harvest is especially rich, inspiring high spirits. The country has celebrated its Dazhynki Republican Festival of Rural Workers for the fifteenth time, honouring agrarians for their self-sacrificing efforts. Belarus currently boasts a strong agrarian sector, supplying food not only domestically but also abroad. Our agrarian exports may reach $4bn this year — an impressive figure. Meanwhile, the Dazhynki Festival is more than just a holiday for those cities which host it; each receives a ‘face lift’ — becoming even more attractive and convenient for citizens. The Dazhynki Republican Festival of Rural Workers has ancient roots. Long ago, after the last sheaf was threshed, villagers would gather to celebrate ‘dazhynki’ (originating from ‘dozhinat’ — ‘to finish the harvest’). This Belarusian custom began in an age when everything was done by hand. As the proverb says ‘bread crowns all’. Accordingly, ‘dazhynki’ was among the major holidays for rural workers. A century ago, most Belarusians lived in villages, so ‘dazhynki’ is a true folk festival with very old traditions. At present, it is celebrated on a nationwide
scale and, recently, its 15th anniversary was hosted by Molodechno — situated halfway between Minsk and Vilnius. Our Bread spirit article explores the event more deeply.
Every nation in the world would love to enjoy some sort of relationship and economic co-operation with the huge Asian market, via China. Belarusian diplomacy began in this direction earlier than others: in the late 20th century. Today, Belarus is among China’s footholds in Europe, as vividly confirmed by the arrival of a large Chinese delegation in Minsk in late September — led by the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, Wu Bangguo. New bilateral initiatives were announced, as covered by our Massive China — huge prospects article. Only worthy parties enjoy partnerships with equal rights, generating bold ideas and putting them into practice. In this respect, Belarusian machine builders deserve special attention. Not long ago, specialists from Minsk Automobile Plant (a Belarusian
machine building giant) presented a new model of tractor truck, able to rival any worldwide. The amazing MAZ novelty is detailed in Bold challenge. Stability and clear understating of economic laws is vital for any business. Moreover, these are essential for the economy. In mid-September, Belarus witnessed an event awaited equally by national businesses, foreign investors and the public: the Foreign and Currency Stock Exchange launched an additional session for trading in foreign currencies. Crucially, it determined a market rate for the Belarusian rouble. Find out more in our Trajectory of sustainable development article. Man cannot live by bread alone. Our interest in art and literature has deep roots, which continue to nurture our modern Belarusian cultural space. Examples abound, as epitomised by Master class by Eduard Astafiev — a wonderful story about the famous sculptor and his artistic philosophy. Meanwhile, Commedia dell’arte speaks of new premieres at the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre and Sincere and straightforward — she is as she is looks at to our young Belarusian talents as they prepare for the International Junior Eurovision Song Contest. In a word, the palette of our publication is diverse. We hope that you find it interesting and meaningful. VIKTOR KHARKOV, editor of magazine “Беларусь. Belarus”
Panorama Discussions on selected issues Minsk hosts two-day Japan — Eurasian Countries Forum
At major crossroads Belarus’ parliamentary delegation attended 66th Session of UN General Assembly held at UN’s New York headquarters
he forum — held for the second time — was fully devoted to the multi-faceted theme of the peaceful development of relations and international co-operation between Eurasian countries — as is becoming more evident in our mutual desire to tackle global problems.
he primary objective of the Belarusian delegation will be to promote foreign political initiatives dealing with: human trafficking; creation of effective international mechanisms to raise accessibility of technologies; promotion of new and renewable energy sources for developing countries and transitional economies; raising of well-being of future generations; and strengthening of international support for states with medium levels of income. There are almost 170 issues on the agenda, with mitigation of the consequences of the global financial and economic crisis taking a leading position. Measures to improve the international financial system must be agreed. Strengthening of the UN’s role in preventing and handling armed conflicts endangering international peace and security is another priority. Moreover, preparations for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (to be held in Rio de Janeiro next year) will be agreed, as will events to be held as part of the 2012 International Year of Sustainable Energy for All. The UN General Assembly session will include thematic meetings — such as the Nuclear Security Summit and the Conference on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Up on B el ar us’ init i at ive, t he s e cond Ministerial Meeting of the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking will be held.
Countries make friends A concert by an orchestra of Chinese national musical masters (performing music by Chinese composers) gathers a full house at the Belarusian State Philharmonic Society, launching the Days of Chinese Culture in Belarus
peaking at the opening ceremony, the First Deputy Culture Minister, Vladimir Karachevsky, noted that the exchange of Days of Culture helps strengthen relations between Belarus and China. He stressed that, in recent years, such cultural forums have become true gems in our co-operation. The Days have been organised since 1993
The first forum took place in 2002, in Japanese Kyoto, attended by a Belarusian delegation — featuring members and friends of the BelarusJapan Society. Japan responded by inviting Belarus to organise a similar forum in Minsk. Not long ago, a large delegation from the Japan — Eurasian Countries Society arrived in the Belarusian capital, with scientists, public figures and specialists in the field of nuclear studies among the two dozen guests. T h e f or u m’s t h re e sections were devoted to themes of interest to both sides: the provision of a peaceful future, ecological security and overcoming the consequences of the Chernobyl and Fukushima-2 disasters. and, every year, become even more interesting. “Belarusian audiences’ interest in these cultural events is growing,” Mr. Karachevsky emphasised, adding that unique artistic teams arrive from China to demonstrate the magnificence of Chinese culture. The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of China to Belarus, H.E. Mr. Lu Guicheng, noted in his speech that such cultural forums also help strengthen understanding between our nations. China and Belarus are geographically distant but their mutually beneficial collaboration is unhampered, as is our people’s desire to be friends and learn more about each other.
Massive China — huge prospects Minsk visit by second most senior person in the official hierarchy of Chinese power confirms China as Belarus’ strategic economic partner
n the past, the vastness of China’s population was mentioned to stress the country’s greatness. The figure currently surpasses a billion (1,350,000,000) — making it the most densely populated nation on the Earth. However, other figures also tend to be highlighted now, most often dealing with its economic successes. China is a rare example of a country emerging from the global crisis with more confidence and strength than in the past. China’s GDP continues to grow — by 10 percent last year, to reach about $3 trillion. Over half of its goods are exported to generate foreign currency, giving it the world’s largest gold and currency reserves — exceeding $3 trillion. Its permanent production growth and huge savings have made China a major creditor. Without exaggeration, it is the hope of the global economy. It’s enough to see how affable Washington is in its relations with Beijing. Similarly, various European states feel no shame in asking China for financial assistance. In 2010, the country set a record for incoming foreign investments, which totalled $106bn. Meanwhile, China is
quickly turning into a capital exporter, with experts predicting direct investments into foreign states reaching well over $100bn in the years to come. There isn’t a nation on the planet which isn’t keen to establish partner relations and economic collaboration with the huge Asian market. Belarusian diplomacy began developing in this direction in the late 20th century, well before some other nations. Today, Belarus is
Credit of trust
In September, the Chinese delegation made a large Moscow-MinskTashkent-Astana tour, with the second most senior person in the official hierarchy of Chinese power paying an unprecedented four day visit to Belarus. In the language of diplomacy, this indicates China’s supreme degree of interest in Belarus. During his stay, he held numerous
“We are grateful that, at a moment’s notice, China is ready to offer its friendly shoulder of support. Belarus is hugely thankful to China for its assistance in developing our macroeconomic situation.” Alexander Lukashenko among China’s footholds in Europe, as vividly confirmed by the arrival of a large Chinese delegation to Minsk in late September — led by the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China, Wu Bangguo.
meetings in the Parliament, talking to government officials, and visited Chinese sites in Minsk: the modernised TPP-2, the Beijing Hotel (under construction) and the Confucius Institute at the State Linguistic University. The meeting with the
Minsk’s warm welcome
President at his Residence in 38 Karl Marx Street drew a line under the series of Minsk talks. Mr. Bangguo noted that his visit aimed to check up on progress made on previous agreements by our heads of state, and he certainly kept journalists busy. Moreover, new initiatives were announced, such as a ChineseBelarusian Industrial Park to be built in our country. Beijing is allocating a $1bn loan on privileged terms to Minsk to finance joint projects. Previously, Beijing launched a $15bn credit line to Belarus to realise its projects and over $4bn of projects are now being implemented here, with credit support from the Chinese Government and banks.
20 years on
Alexander Lukashenko thanked the Chinese leadership for their ‘immense support — both moral and material’. Both sides agreed that ‘our relations are stronger than they have ever been before in our bilateral relations’. Economic figures of co-operation objectively indicate the level of our co-operative development. However, political impetus inspires business ties. The B elar usian President has visited China six times, while Chinese leaders have regularly come to Minsk. In January, our two countries will celebrate their 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations,
Cooperation with turnover rising almost 70 times over that period — reaching $2.3bn in 2010. Bilateral relations have now reached a strategic level — as the two states’ leaders have announced. In his welcoming speech, Mr. Lukashenko stressed, “We’re grateful that, at a moment’s notice, China is ready to offer its friendly shoulder of support. Belarus is hugely thankful to China for its assistance in developing our macroeconomic situation. In this respect, I’d like to thank the People’s Bank of China for its efforts; the agreements and contracts signed over the past few days will drive forward some ‘breakthrough’ projects. I’m convinced that the launch of the first Belarusian communication satellite and the establishment of a Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park will create a solid foundation for long-term partnership in the field of high technologies, while becoming a calling card for China in Europe.” His last visit to Minsk took place in the last century. On meeting the President, Mr. Bangguo said, “14 years on, I’m again in Belarus. Huge positive changes have occurred in your country over this period of time. What I’ve seen over the past few days in Minsk is hardly comparable to the situation observed back in 1997. Importantly, all these successes have been achieved despite complex external conditions — including huge pressure from the USA and the West. In recent years, Belarus has faced certain difficulties as a consequence of the global financialeconomic crisis, including increased gas prices and tougher sanctions from the West. We know that you’ve taken measures to counteract these challenges, as the results are already evident. Being your sincere friends, we’re glad to observe the successes achieved under your leadership and are convinced that the country will overcome its temporary hardships, continuing its advancement.”
Moreover, joint ventures successfully operate countrywide, including those focusing on white goods production. In Minsk, Mr. Bangguo visited TPP2, which uses Chinese money and technologies, also signing several cooperative agreements.
Paper Mill. Additionally, a facility to produce sodium carbonate is planned near Mozyr (with a capacity of 300,000 tonnes a year) and a credit agreement has been signed to construct a hydroelectric power station on the Zapadnaya Dvina River.
Mr. Lukashenko assured the top level guests that China can rely on Belarus as foothold state in Europe, irrespective of other countries’ reactions. As ever, favourable business conditions are to be created for Chinese companies in Belarus
Mr. Bangguo believes that very favourable conditions for bilateral cooperation have been established, with our economies complementing one another. “China boasts huge consumer and investment demand, with our companies increasingly investing in foreign nations. I’ve visited some Belarusian enterprises to see the strong industrial base present. Your country occupies a leading position worldwide in the spheres of micro-circuitry, quarry machinery and tractor production. Moreover, you boast huge deposits of potassium salt. We have great potential
Chinese delegation at the negotiations
for co-operation in these fields. The Chinese Government will encourage our most powerful companies to invest in your country,” he emphasised. Mr. Lukashenko assured the top level guests that China can rely on Belarus as a foothold state in Europe, irrespective of other countries’ reactions. As ever, favourable business conditions are to be created for Chinese companies in Belarus. The consistency of BelarusianChinese relations shows that each jointly realised project sets an example to businesses, encouraging further ventures. At present, Chinese companies are modernising Belarusian TPPs, cement plants and transport infrastructure.
‘Road map’ for privatisation
Belarus’ Prime Minister, Mikhail Myasnikovich, admits that he is pinning great hopes on a Chinese-Belarusian Industrial Park. He views this as a huge infrastructure project and stresses that ‘few such sites exist worldwide — in their scale of activity or volume of investment’. “We consider that, taking into consideration our national features, we’ll be able to match the success of the ChineseSingapore Industrial Park in the city of Sudzou,” Mr. Myasnikovich added. A framework agreement has been signed between the Belarusian Government and the State Development Bank of China envisaging modernisation of Dobrush
China also plans to produce a communication satellite for Belarus. The State Military-Industrial Complex of Belarus and the Great Wall Chinese Industrial Corporation have agreed to create a national satellite communication system in Belarus. The most intriguing ChineseBelarusian framework agreement has been signed between the Belarusian Government and Eximbank, envisaging financial co-operation to privatise Belarusian companies and attract Chinese investments into the Republic in 2011-2012. This has been much commented upon by foreign analysts, such as Moscow’s Kommersant, which states: ‘Russia has a powerful rival in its fight for control over Belarusian enterprises. As a result of the visit by the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress of China — Wu Bangguo — to Minsk, an unprecedented agreement on co-operation regarding the privatisation of Belarusian companies has been signed by Chinese investors. As the Press Secretary of Russia’s Prime Minister, Dmitry Peskov, tells us, Belarus has no similar agreement even with its Union State partner Russia. Experts are convinced that China’s battle for Belarusian companies will significantly aggravate Moscow’s efforts to take over its neighbour’s enterprises’. Although Moscow journalists are certainly keen to create a story, it’s
Diplomacy hardly possible to overestimate the significance of the Belarusian-Chinese ‘road map’ to privatisation. Co-operation in the field of energy is of special significance. Belarus has invited China to take part in a tender to realise energy projects worth $2.5bn; this will be double the figure seen by Belenergo and China currently. In 2008, Belenergo joined Chinese partners in implementing six investment projects to modernise the Belarusian energy system. Two are now finished: Minsk TPP-2 has been reconstructed and a 1.5MW wind facility has opened in the village of Grabniki. Specialists say that the reconstructed TPP-2 should generate an additional 325m kW/h of electricity annually (with total capacity reaching around 460m kW/h), saving an incredible $15m of fuel every year. Quite soon, a steam-gas facility at Minsk TPP-5 is to launch, while Chinese steam-gas facilities at Bereza and Lukoml TPPs are to open in 2014 and at Vitebsk TPP — in 2015. In the coming eight years, about $500m of direct Chinese investments are to be allocated towards the construction of six hydro-electric stations countrywide. As Energy Minister Alexander Ozerets tells us, China has also been asked to develop a coal deposit, launching an electricity station (using solid fuel). Belarus is also keen to co-operate with Chinese firms in constructing electric transmission lines for the first Belarusian nuclear power station. During his visit, Mr. Bangguo noted that China leads regarding the length of these lines, having rich experience in the field. The dynamism of our joint projects is impressive, with many billions of dollars of investments forthcoming. It inspires us to believe that the plans outlined during the recent visit will be realised. By Igor Kolchenko
Energy related collaboration
Multi-vector openness Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko received credentials from foreign ambassadors
he ambassadors of important partners for Belarus on the international arena have presented their credentials to President Lukashenko, opening a new page of relations with these states. “Belarus is open to mutually beneficial partnership,” the President told the foreign diplomats. Several months ago, Maira Mora was appointed as the first head of the EU Delegation to Belarus and is the only diplomat to have twice presented her credentials to Mr. Lukashenko. From 2004-2010, Ms. Mora headed the Latvian Embassy. She returned to Minsk recently, representing all 27 EU states. The President noted that she is ‘extremely knowledgeable’ regarding the situation in Belarus. “I hope that her rich experience of working for neighbouring Latvia’s diplomatic service — a country far from alien to us — will allow her to actively promote BelarusianEuropean relations while ensuring principles of equal rights and mutual respect,” he added.
Mr. Lukashenko is convinced that any problems observed in BelarusianUkrainian relations can be resolved. On accepting credentials from Viktor Tikhonov, he admitted that he expects ‘consistent and systematic work to build a true partnership’ from the new Ukrainian ambassador. Azerbaijan is another important partner of the Republic within the post-Soviet space. On accepting credentials from its new ambass a d or, Is f an d i y ar Va h a b z a d e , the President asked him to send ‘words of the greatest gratitude, as — however strange it might seem — Azerbaijan was the first to back Belarus in hard times’. Among other states sending their ambassadors to Minsk were Brazil, Greece, Zambia, India, Malaysia, Namibia, Serbia, Thailand and Turkey. Minsk is keen to develop active cooperation with all of them; as Mr. Lukashenko stressed, all nations are equally important to Belarus, whose foreign policy is multi-vectored. By Igor Slavinsky
Trajectory of sustainable development On September 14th, Belarus witnessed an event awaited equally by national businesses, foreign investors and the public: the Foreign and Currency Stock Exchange launched an additional session for trading in foreign currencies, aiming to determine a market rate for the Belarusian Rouble
he additional session closed at a level of Br8,600 per dollar while the main session saw the level set at Br5,355 per dollar (for foreign currency need to buy critical imports such as energy and medicine). In the days that followed, the rate at the additional session fell, while rising slightly at the main session. As a result, the market rate and the official rate have come closer. A week after the additional session’s launch, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Rumas and the Deputy Chairman of the National Bank’s Board, Taras Nadolny, announced, “If everything goes to plan, we’ll put an end to the multiplicity of exchange rates.” Experts note that a unified, balanced exchange rate would be a serious step towards economic ‘recuperation’; enterprises, entrepreneurs and foreign investors would gain a clear focus for their future activity. At the same time, economists stress that external financing will also be necessary to stabilise the Belarusian foreign currency market. Its major resources include income earned from privatisation and International Monetary Fund loans. In addition, experts believe that the state needs to toughen its monetary-credit policy, cutting financing for state programmes and rejecting rouble emission (to ensure balanced economic development). The Government and the National Bank are already working on this issue.
The significant devaluation of the Belarusian rouble this year has affected people’s standard of living. However, from a macroeconomic point of view, it has yielded positive results. In May, the official rate of the Belarusian national currency fell from Br3,100 to Br5,000 per dollar. Trade figures from the first seven months of 2011 show that the Belarusian
EconomyFinance economy has become more balanced. According to the National Statistical Committee, from Januar y-July, exports to the EU rose 2.2-fold, to reach $8.6bn, while the positive trade balance with the EU stood at $3.8bn. Our trade with Russia has a negative balance of minus $5.9bn but the pace of Belarusian export growth to Russia (up $43.1 percent from January-July) is approaching the pace of import growth (up 42.4 percent). July data is indicative, as the positive foreign trade balance reached $380m — the best to date in the history of sovereign Belarus. Experts note that, in July, we exported 65 percent of our total manufactures (up from 4546 percent previously). Meanwhile, our imports were estimated at 66 percent. In recent years, Belarus has witnessed a negative foreign trade balance, buying more than it has sold. However, the drastic devaluation of the rouble has led to our exports and imports becoming more balanced. Experts expect the single balanced exchange rate for the national currency to rest at Br6,000-7,000 per dollar by the end of the year. In addition, the Economy Ministry hopes that Belarusian exports will continue to rise, outstripping imports. The Deputy Economy Minister, Alexander Yaroshenko, also notes that devaluation has somewhat closed the gap between production and consumption. In January, the pace of growth of real salaries in Belarus outstripped labour efficiency by 20 percent. However, from January-July, this gap was cut to 2.9 percent. In dollar equivalent, salaries fell, better reflecting labour efficiency.
Dealing with mistakes
Alexander Gotovsky, the Deputy Director of the Centre for System Analysis and Strategic Studies at the National Academy of Sciences, believes that we must temper domestic demand while expanding exports. This should balance the situation
on the foreign currency market. He stresses that domestic demand fell following the devaluation but that additional measures are still needed to ensure economic revival. “In recent years, we’ve stimulated GDP growth via domestic demand; this has been a major reason for the currency deficit. From 2009-2010, external markets demonstrated less demand for our pro du c t s , du e t o the global crisis.
that the state will do all it can to avoid expanding domestic demand via budgetary and credit emission, while inspiring exports. In turn, enterprises’ increased foreign currency revenue should bring stability to the monetary market. Belarus hopes to receive foreign loans and direct foreign investments, which will encourage an affordable rate for the Belarusian rouble and sustainable and balanced work for the national economy.
Experts note that a unified balanced exchange rate would be a serious step towards economic ‘recuperation’: enterprises, entrepreneurs and foreign investors would gain a clear focus for their future activity To keep pace with existing production volumes and maintain GDP, our state stimulated domestic sales via emission,” explains Mr. Gotovsky. This enabled agricultural companies to raise their purchase of Belarusian tractors, combines and cargo trucks, renewing their fleets — which was no bad thing. However, as a result, we almost exhausted our foreign currency buying metals, components and energy from abroad — as the machinery was bought internally rather than exported. Mr. Gotovsky asserts that the Government now needs to ‘stop stimulating domestic demand, pushing producers to sell more actively abroad’. “The state shall, probably, have to reconsider its investment portfolio, postponing some programmes, projects and construction sites. Some will have to be permanently put aside, since this is the only way to radically cut emissions,” Mr. Gotovsky notes. The Economy Ministry agrees, as Mr. Yaroshenko notes. He explains
Minsk hopes to receive $5-8bn from the International Monetary Fund to solve macroeconomic tasks. In September, on the eve of the arrival of an IMF mission to Belarus, PM Mikhail Myasnikovich noted that our country can solve its challenges even without IMF loans. The Government does not view this issue as critical but Mr. Myasnikovich added, “Talks are underway and Belarus has no plans to reject a new IMF programme.” Minsk is interested in the Fund’s financial support. Experts say that this help will be useful. Doctor of Economic Sciences Alexander Luchenok tells us, “After devaluation, our export revenue has come closer to import expenditure. However, our foreign trade balance will remain negative even by the end of the year. Accordingly, we need additional foreign currency resources to meet our payment balance deficit. In addition, we need to meet our outstanding obligations.” Belarus’ foreign debt is
estimated to reach $5.3bn this year, falling to $4.9bn next year. No doubt, IMF money will be useful. Moreover, as Mr. Luchenok says, the Fund allocates resources at profitable interest rates. The Administrative Director of the Belarusian Economic Research and Outreach Centre, Pavel Daneyko, also views IMF loans as useful. He stresses, “It’s impossible to level out the economic misbalance within just a few months. Around three years will be needed to achieve balanced foreign trade. However, it won’t be a catastrophe if we fail to receive an IMF loan — even though it would help us through our transitory period.” He does note that receiving an IMF loan would send an important signal to investors, showing that our economy is reliable and that our economic policy is reasonable. “To receive an IMF loan, several serious conditions must be met, such as restricting salary growth,” adds Mr. Luchenok. “From a macroecon o m i c point of v i e w,
Trade at the additional session of the foreign and currency stock exchange was a success
this might be a wise decision, as it would restrain inflation. However, our people’s interests must also be taken into consideration. A compromise is needed. Moreover, Belarusian state policy is socially oriented.” M r. D an e y ko b e l i e ve s t h at restraining salaries is reasonable. He explains, “If salaries rise as a result of export growth and inflow of foreign currency, this is natural and good. However, if we start raising salaries artificially — to compensate for rising prices — inflation may accelerate even faster. The volume of roubles in the national economy will continue growing, leading to increased pressure on the foreign currency market. Through these measures, we’ll simply speed up the inflation-devaluation spiral, which isn’t a good idea.” He asserts that salaries will gradually return to their previous levels, owing to economic factors. “At present, Belarusian seamstresses’ work is estimated to be worth around 3 cents per minute — less than in China. I expect that, in the near future, Belarusian light industry will receive more orders f rom
abroad, in addition to direct foreign investments. This trend will be seen in other branches as well,” he notes. The growth of exports and investments should create a healthy basis for raising salaries and restoring people’s standard of living. As Mr. Daneyko emphasises, we must step aside from artificially raising incomes. The National Bank is paying attention to the IMF and experts’ recommendations. In September, its Chair — Nadezhda Yermakova — commented upon salaries, saying, “If the official exchange rate of the national currency changes significantly, we’ll need to raise salaries — taking into consideration inflation. However, this money must be earned. As regards those employed by state-run enterprises, additional tax payments should be in place. Salaries will only be raised when we have a deficiency-free budget.”
Issues of property become more acute
Minsk plans to use privatisation to pay off its foreign debts, increasing gold and currency reserves and enhancing economic efficiency. Back in August, President Alexander Lukashenko announced that, by the end of 2011, the country hopes to have re ceive d ab out $5bn from strategic
EconomyInvestments investors. In September, the Chairman of Gazprom’s Board, Alexey Miller, came to Minsk, negotiating large privatisation projects. On meeting the President, he said, “In recent months, our talks have been quite successful. I know that they’re being conducted under your direct control. We’re approaching a stage where a serious package of documents is ready. Among them is a new contract for gas supplies to Belarus — from January 1st, 2012. This is supported by an intergovernmental agreement on the principles of price and tariff formation, in addition to an intergovernmental agreement and a purchaseand-sale agreement for 50 percent of Beltransgas’ shares.” Gazprom already owns 50 percent of the Belarusian gas transport system’s shares but the Russian company plans to gain 100 percent. The controlling package is estimated to be worth $2.5bn. Mr. Lukashenko has invited Gazprom to participate in buying other Belarusian companies’ shares, saying, “There are plenty of proposals. If Gazprom agrees to Belarus’ conditions, there’s a package of issues available for study.” Experts say that, in the near future, Gazprom’s purchase of GrodnoAzot (producing nitrogen fertilisers and using Russian gas as a major raw material) could be discussed. In addition, Gazprom’s participation in privatisation of Brestgazoapparat, JSC seems possible; the facility manufactures gas equipment. Large enterprises in the field of petro-chemistry and electricity could also become a focus of attention. Minsk stresses that enterprises’ enhanced efficiency is the real goal, rather than the simple attraction of foreign currency. However, conditions for investors remain unchanged, as businesses must be socially oriented, with guarantees given that employees’ interests will be protected. By Vitaly Vasiliev
Talking essence President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko discusses prospects for mastering new potassium salt deposits with Head of Boulle Mining Group, Jean-Raymond Boulle
he Luxembourg-registered Boulle Mining Group has been showing interest in Belarusian deposits since last year. Involved in the mining of nickel, diamonds and titanium ore worldwide, it is now interested in Belarus’ potassium salts. Mr. Lukashenko met Mr. Boulle in July, outlining his position, “You can make promises but, I’d like to tell you here and now that, if new companies appear, ready to start working tomorrow, we’ll work with them. We’d like our agreements to be concrete and scheduled in a businesslike manner.” It seems Boulle Mining Group promptly reacted to the President’s comment, with its heads recently arriving at his Residence with detailed proposals. Mr. Lukashenko stressed that several investors are already showing interest in developing new potassium salt deposits, explaining the reasons for such enhanced interest, “The market for potassium fertilisers is on the rise. All large market participants say the same thing. Growing consumption and demand for food are contributing to rising fertiliser prices. It’s certainly a very prof itable business for ou r state.”
The President asked Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich — who also attended the meeting — to work promptly with the investors. “Vitally, we must not hamper the process. New deposits should be developed by those investors who propose the best terms,” he said. A similar focus is being applied to the possible sale of Belaruskali shares. “We’ll sell to those who offer the higher price if we need to sell shares in our major enterprise,” Mr. Lukashenko noted. Speaking of Belaruskali, he added that its assessment has been completed, with Sberbank of Russia confirming its previously announced value of $30bn. The President is keen to see a single approach applied to all investment projects. “Everything should be honest and open, conducted via tender. The best conditions and the best proposals will be immediately accepted,” he emphasised. After the meeting, Mr. Boulle noted that the dialogue was constructive, explaining, “We consider that there is a favourable climate for investing in Belarus. Boulle Mining Group is negotiating a multi-billion dollar project with the Government, to invest in the mining industry.”
Bold challenge New tractor truck by Minsk Automobile Plant ready to compete on global scale
Minsk Automobile Plant presented its new MAZ-6440 truck. The truck design is absolutely new to the enterprise
EURO-4 engine. The 6440 model is the second attempt by MAZ to create a conventional truck. The first occurred in 1947; the prototype has taken 64 years to realise! The designers have worked quickly to develop the new model within just eight months, combining the best achieve-
ments of contemporary machine building in its design, level of comfort, security, ecological standards and technical-operational parameters. Nikolay Lakotko, MAZ’s Deputy Chief Designer, gave me a mini-presentation on what makes MAZ-6440 different from its predecessors and how it’s likely to attract custom. Primarily, it differs in shape; although the designers say the bonnet is primarily functional, it directly influences comfort. Meanwhile, the engine is placed in front of the cabin, rather than underneath,
i ns k Aut om o bi l e Plant — one of B e l a r u s’ l a r g e s t machine building giants — has recently presented an absolutely new model of tractor truck, with a 1.5m bonnet prote c t ing its 600HP
Contacts allowing the vehicle to have a low and flat floor. Drivers won’t have to climb another step and will be less disturbed by noise and vibration. Security is also essential, with the bonnet serving as an additional protective barrier in case of road traffic accidents. It can prevent significant damage to the cabin and serious injury to drivers. The new vehicle has been designed to cover long distances, so each detail in the cabin is functional: automatic transmission, cruise and climate control systems, a GPS navigator, stability control, and comfortable seats with heated backs and cushions. Trips certainly won’t be wearisome. However, if a driver does become tired, he can sleep in the cabin; there are two beds located behind the seats, across two levels, enabling even the tallest drivers to fully lie down. It’s a Belarusian achievement, with 80 percent of its components produced domestically. Only the automatic transmission and the improved system ensuring enhanced traffic security are imported. The 600HP engine, which was assembled at Minsk Motor Plant within just a few months, is powerful enough to allow it to pull up to 120 tonnes. Even BelAZ’s quarry machinery and Gomselmash’s forage harvesters boast only 425-450HP engines. Alexander B orovsky, MAZ’s Director General, believes that domestically-produced engines should be used universally across its range; it’s his top priority. At present, the Belarusian automobile giant imports engines from Yaroslavl Motor Plant and other manufacturers. Of course, much testing lies ahead; the first prototype will go to the Belarusian State Circus, used to transport construction equipment and scenery. However, the designers have no doubt that trials will prove successful. Mr. Lakotko, who designed the model, tells us about the niche he
expects it to occupy on the market and whether it’ll be competitive. He explains, “We’ve primarily oriented the design towards the Russian market and those countries which have no serious restrictions regarding the size of trucks. In Europe, the maximum length is 16.5m; in Russia, this figure is 20m. Our model is 18.45m long with an attached semitrailer. However, we’ll continue working to expand our range. Scania, Volvo and Mercedes also have similar models. We think that we’ve produced a vehicle of almost the same level and have even outstripped our rivals regarding value for money. It’s too early to speak about the definite cost of the model though.” It’s a p o l i c y of re a s on a b l e conser vatism. MAZ-6440 offers value for money, while being easy to drive and meeting all international requirements. If a customer needs a vehicle to be tailored with the latest technical innovations, their order can be satisfied. The enterprise has produced a new range of tractor trucks, buses and mini-buses, testifying to MAZ’s success by bringing a positive balance of $130m this year. New markets are being mastered, including those in Africa and Latin America. It’s no surprise that foreigners take an interest in the company. Negotiations with Russian KAMAZ have been underway for several months regarding a joint holding. Mr. Borovsky tells us, “At present, according to the schedule, the factory’s assets are being assessed. We’ve also received an interesting proposal from the GAZ Group. If we create a holding with the latter, we’ll have both engines and transmissions. However, we’ll see who offers the better terms. In fact, we could give 48 percent of our shares to KAMAZ and 25 percent to GAZ, gaining the best of both worlds. There’s no reason to reject either. The controlling stake would still be in the hands of the state.”
High level of interest Belshina conducts negotiations with potential commercial transport partners during Moscow’s ComTrans-2011 Fair
he exhibition is the largest of its kind in Russia and the CIS by the number of professional visitors. This year, it gathered 320 companies, showcasing the best examples of buses, cargo trucks, trailers, wagons and special machinery. In addition to Ford and Volvo, other firms demonstrated interest in co-operating with the Belarusian tyre manufacturer; among them were DAF Trucks, Iveco and TagAZ, JSC. Belshina’s representatives also held talks with existing partners. As regards Volvo, the expansion of co-operation was debated. Previously, the company has supplied tyres for Volvo trucks and is now negotiating with Volvo’s Russian representatives to supply passenger car tyres. Ford was also keen to discuss opportunities, while Iveco and TagAZ, JSC need cargo tyres. Some time ago, the Belarusian enterprise met with internationally known Volkswagen. Moreover, Belshina is now expanding its presence in India (where Belarusian large and super-size tyres for cargo trucks and agricultural machinery are needed). Belshina has also risen one position in the annual sales ratings of Tire Business — for the largest global tyre producers and sellers.
By Dmitry Mirovich
Convenient routes Belarusian transport specialists focus on developing infrastructure
corridors cross our nation — known as number II (connecting Berlin and Moscow) and number IX (FinlandGreece). The IXВ branch covers Gomel to Kaliningrad. By 2015, Belarus hopes to generate almost $3.5bn from transit but, at the moment, our transport corridors enjoy no more than 25-40 percent of their real capacity. In recent months, the President of Belarus has been focusing on the country’s transport potential, stressing at one event, “Our country is a transit state, which primarily e nv is age s i n f r ast r u c tu re.” Mr. Lukashenko states that Belarus shall continue focusing on the development of its transport infrastructure and road construction. Additional possibilities are opening up as a result of the Cu s t om s Union.
Minsk has every reason to hope that cargo flow from Kazakhstan and Russia (heading westwards) will concentrate on Belarus, since our western border is simultaneously the border of two huge economic unions: the European Union and the Customs Union. Since April 1st, 2011, a single ‘one-stop’ control has been used at the external borders of Belarus and Russia. Now, a trilateral agreement has been prepared for signing, envisaging car control on the external border of the Customs Union. Following a range of special measures, transit flow rose by 21.5 percent in the first half of the year and, according to estimations, exports of automobile transport services are expected to attract over $850m into the country. Despite financial difficulties and the global crisis, Belarus’ automobile network and railway transport continue developing, yielding economic profits and enhancing the quality of life in the country. Both Minskers and guests to the capital are already witnessing positive changes.
any opinions exist regarding t h e n atu re of Belarus’ major resource. Some claim human potential, while others note our fertile lands or potassium salts. I believe that our geographical position is our main treasure, although our location has brought as much sorrow as joy over the centuries. The frontlines of the last two wars passed through our territory but, at present, Belarus’ position between the West and the East and between southern and northern Europe is not only honourable but advantageous. Tw o t r a n s European transport
‘City Lines’ trains offer a totally new level of comfort and speed
Transport City starts with railway station
The ‘City Lines’ project is the first stage in realising a new format of passenger transportation; Belarusian Railways launched it back in 2010 and the project is a breakthrough not only technically but also organisationally. It
the Minsk-Brest section is allowing trains to travel at a speed of 140km/ h. Another positive aspect deals with co-operation with neighbouring Lithuania. In 2010, a plan of action was signed envisaging speedy railway passenger communication. Its first stage is now complete, cutting travel time between our two capitals from four to three hours. Moreover, by 2015, journey time should be reduced to just two hours, following electrification of the Molodechno-Vilnius section. Over the coming five years, Belarusian Railways plans to completely electrify the Belarusian section of the IXB international transport corridor, aiding launch of efficient and speedy electric trains. The move will attract additional transit flow and, importantly, improve the ecological situation.
Cargo pulled up
As a theatre starts with the coatcheck room, cities begin with their stations. Speaking more broadly, the transport system forms the ‘face’ of a city. In this respect, Minskers are lucky, as anyone who has ever witnessed a Moscow or Kiev traffic jam can easily confirm. However, our capital is ever expanding. It can be a true challenge to get around during rush hour and, to cope with this, we must act quickly. In early September, Mr. Lukashenko devoted one of his working days to discussing transport-related issues, visiting the reconstructed Tsentralny bus station and launching a promising joint project by Minsk Mayoral Office and railway workers. The President also made a short trip by a Swiss-made city train. Specialists note that the ‘City Lines’ joint project was initiated at an opportune moment, becoming a real ‘breakthrough’. Minskers now have a new form of transport: the city train. In fact, the underground is not being extended as quickly as we might wish to keep up with new residential suburbs. Millions of square metres of accommodation are being generated, with more people than ever requiring use of public transport. Every day, two million people use public transport in Minsk. The capital’s Mayor, Nikolai Ladutko, tells us that 48km of rail has already been laid near the city, requiring only the right kind of train. After assessment, Swiss Stadler was chosen as the best option, with plans to set up a joint facility in Belarus. Stops just need to be constructed, alongside links to other transport services.
At the platform of the reconstructed Tsentralny bus station in Minsk
envisages the classification of connections as international, interregional, regional, city and commercial — a new approach for Belarus. In October, the first Swiss train was launched on regional lines, able to travel at a speed of 160km/h. In total, ten electric trains for regional and city lines were ordered from Stadler, which is to service the interregional lines connecting Belarus’ regional centres. “Initially, we plan to increase the speed of trains travelling between Brest and Minsk,” explains the Deputy Head of Belarusian Railways’ Passenger Services, Alexander Belostotsky. “The Baranovichi-Brest section will become the first stage of the project; its infrastructure is currently being reconstructed.” Belarus ‘inherited’ well-developed railway infrastructure from the Soviet Union but this now needs modernisation. The process is underway and
From January-July, Belarusian Railways transported over 74.5mln. tonnes of cargo — up 13.5 percent on the same period of 2010. To raise the figures even more, railway infrastructure must be revamped. In early 2010, Belarusian Railways signed a contract with China Machinery and Electric Equipment Import and Export Corporation and Datong Wagon Repair Plant to buy 12 cargo electric trains in 2012; these are developed by the Chinese jointly with a leading French machine building company — called Alstom. The purchase of new electric trains is in response to rising transit flow through Belarus. Cargo trains arriving in our country from Russia have an average weight of about 5-7 tonnes. “At present, trains with such loads need breaking up at Orsha station as various sections of the line can only cope with 4,700 to 5,500 tonnes,” explains Belarusian Railways’ Press Service. “This results in reduced carrying capacity and financial loss.” Belarus also needs high quality wagons for its own exports. On July 29th, the President of Belarus visited
An almost 190 km long road is to surround Belovezhskaya Puscha National Park
Road construction continues
Not long ago, journalists asked the President about his views on the further development of transport and roads in the country, wishing to learn his priorities. Pointing to the recently constructed Zhdanovichi railway station (a destination of the city train), Mr. Lukashenko said, “The whole country should be developed in the same way, irrespective of anyone else’s wishes.” He stressed that ‘despite increasing pressure,
no disorder or destruction will be accepted’. He notes that German standard motorways will be open within about five years, connecting Minsk with regional centres. Some works are complete while others are ongoing. At present, the road towards Mogilev is being revamped, while the second ring road around Minsk is being constructed — covering 154km. This is to open by 2017, easing transit flow through Minsk and solving ecological problems. One of the major tasks in developing transport infrastructure is to shift the IXВ trans-
European corridor (Gomel-Vilnius) away from Minsk ring road. “We are focusing on road construction and will continue doing so in the future,” stressed the President. B e l av t o d o r D e p a r t m e nt — involved in road building in Belarus — is to continue construction works despite cuts to budget financing. Its Director, Anatoly Lytin, explains that a proposal has been made to build and reconstruct roads using loans from Belarusian banks and the World Bank, in addition to possible loans from Chinese banks. Chinese investors are showing interest in reconstr ucting Zhlobin-Gomel section of Minsk-Gomel motorway, with the total cost of the project approaching $400m. Only small sums are to be allocated from the state budget for road works, with Belavtordor’s annual budget reduced from Br300bn to Br200bn or less. Infrastructure-related projects — especially dealing with transport — are essential for the development of the economy. To ensure competitiveness, comfortable and fast road travel and environmental friendliness, countries around the world are investing huge funds into road construction and machine building. China is the most dynamically developing country, with up to $1bn allocated to transport infrastructure over the coming five years; most will be spent on building 108,000km of new roads, including motor ways. This should aid its economic development. By Igor Slavinsky
Osipovichi Wagon Building Plant, stressing that, over the coming two years, a range of components for railway carriage production should be mastered there and at Mogilev Machine Building Plant. “We must make our own wagons. This would be an industrial breakthrough,” Mr. Lukashenko asserted with confidence. Modern carriage production at Osipovichi plant aims to solve several vital problems. Firstly, it should satisfy domestic needs. Cargo flow across our territory is growing, while our railway fleet is becoming obsolete — requiring us to purchase rolling stock from abroad. The second impetus is the need to earn foreign currency. Osipovichi wagons should sell well, g e n e r at i n g i n c om e a n d creating a thousand new jobs in the small town. Russian money has been found for the pilot investment project. This will set the scene for future co-operation with foreign partners, allowing us to see how well obligations are fulfilled and whether our partners remain pleased with Belarusian business conditions. So far, work lags behind our outlined ambitious plans but, by the end of the year, industrialists promise that lost time will be made up for. Cargo carriages are already manufactured in Mogilev while wagons for transportation of cement, grain and timber are undergoing certification tests in Russia — the major market for Belarus. Mass production should soon begin.
panorama Generating income from wastes Austrian STRABAG Umweltanlagen GmbH to build plant to produce biogas from liquid communal waste in Minsk
Green light to initiatives Belarusian and German Railways agreed on cooperation
he Head of Belarusian Railways, Anatoly Sivak, recently discussed partnership with Rüdiger Grube, the CEO and Chairman of the Management Board of Deutsche Bahn (the German National Railway Company). They focused on issues of joint collaboration in the field of cargo and passenger transportation. The Press Service tells us that ‘the heads of the Belarusian and German railway administrations have defined priorities of further partnership in the field of cargo transportation: preserving existing routes to serve leading European concerns (from and towards Kaluga) and the organisation of new projects dealing with container shipment by speedy trains’. As regards passenger transportation, Belarusian Railways aims to further improve the quality and accessibility of its services. According to its staff, ‘this issue is topical — taking into consideration Belarus and Russia’s hosting of global level sporting events in the near future, which will inspire increased passenger flow from Europe’. With this in mind, Belarus has invited Deutsche Bahn to jointly organise a Brest-Berlin-Brest interchange route, using the German railways’ trains. The Germans are keen to establish closer ties with Belarusian railway workers, inviting Belarus to participate in a new European Commission project regarding co-operation along the EU’s external borders. Mr. Sivak has backed the initiative, expressing his hope that such co-operation will become more regular.
ur Austrian partners are to construct a facility in the capital, similar to that in Brest Region,” explains the First Deputy Chairman of M i n s k C i t y Executive Committee, Igor Vasiliev. The decree ‘On implementing the Installation of Biogas Units at Minsk’s Treatment Facilities project and the establishment of a joint
Mindset for success Belarus invites Qatari businessmen to invest in major transport projects
o s s i b i l i t i e s f o r j o i nt projects have been recently discussed at a meeting between B e l a r u s’ Tr a n s p o r t a n d Communications Minister, Ivan Shcherbo, and Qatari businessmen. Mr. Shcherbo informed the foreign guests of the structure of Belarus’ transport complex, stressing that the Ministry is open to co-operation and aims to do its utmost to promote such partnerships. Mr. Shcherbo is convinced that Qatar will
exploitation venture’ is in the pipeline; the draft has been studied by ministries and other governmental agencies, with financial issues finalised. M r. Va s i l i e v t e l l s u s that Minsk City Executive Committee has signed a letter of intent with Czech ECOCLEAN ENERGY a.s., regarding an investment project to build a waste treatment plant in Minsk. This would be able to annually process 50,000 tonnes of solid communal waste. ECO ECE has
b e e n set up to realise the project and a designer has been chosen, with the company holding talks with Czech banks regarding financing. find interesting projects in Belarus, available from a list of opportunities, as proposed by our country. The Qatari businessmen expressed interest in Belarusian projects. The Transport and Communications Ministry tells us that Markus Vanko, the Investment Director of the General Portfolio Investment Department of Qatar Holding Company, has noted that the Eastern company is ready ‘to inject significant funds and implement joint projects to generate success and benefits’. The position is supported by other members of the Qatari delegation, including representatives of Qatari Diar Company.
Bread spirit Ancient roots of Dazhynki Republican Festival of Rural Workers
ong ago, after the last sheaf was threshed, villagers would gather to celebrate ‘dazhynki’ (originating from ‘dozhinat’ — ‘to finish the harvest’). This Belarusian custom began in an age when everything was done by hand. As the proverb says ‘bread crowns all’. Accordingly, ‘dazhynki’ was among the major holidays for rural workers. A century ago, most Belarusians lived in villages, so ‘dazhynki’ is a true folk festival with very old traditions. Under the President’s initiative, the holiday has been celebrated on a nationwide scale since 1996 and recently celebrated its 15th anniversary in Molodechno, situated halfway between Minsk and Vilnius. In bygone days, the most respected woman in the village went to fields on the last harvesting day just after sunrise, later joined by other women from the village. When the last sheaf had been gathered, each took an ear from a common sheaf and they processed to the house of the most respected to celebrate the harvest safely gathered in. They would share pancakes with lard, fried eggs, honey and porridge — said to inspire rich harvests.
To d ay, t he b e st B el ar us i an agrarians, responsible for growing and harvesting the greatest volumes of grain, gather in the major square of a Belarusian city to congratulate each other, joined by villagers from all over the country. The holiday is hosted each year by a new city, with state funds allocated to renovate the centre and houses in the suburbs.
The Dazhynki Republican
Festival of Rural Workers has already been hosted by Stolin (1996), Mosty (1997), Nesvizh (1998), Shklov (2000), Mozyr (2001), Polotsk (2002), Pruzhany (2003), Volkov ysk (2004), Slutsk (2005), Bobruisk (2006), Rechitsa (2007), Orsha (2008), Kobrin (2009) and Lida (2010). This year, it kicked off with a traditional huge parade, with folk teams performing scenes from traditional customs. A column of young families marched with prams re-equipped as mini combine harvesters and tractors while young bikers and rockers marched alongside musicians playing wind instruments. In modern Belarus, ‘dazhynki’ is still celebrated in rural areas as it has always been. However, the national holiday has also become an occasion
for general entertainment: for rural workers and urbanites alike. A large screen was installed in Molodechno’s main square, creating a TV bridge for each region to show its farming achievements. The streets of Veliki Gostinets and Vilenskaya were closed to traffic, allowing trade stalls to operate and open air parties to be enjoyed, with music and dancing. As ever, quite a few tourists arrived to join the festivities. As is traditional, President Alexander Lukashenko attended, presenting awards to those rural workers who have won the 2011 national harvesting competition. This year has seen a rich harvest, with the President stressing the significance of farming within the country’s economy. “National dignity, people’s selfrespect and the country’s true sovereignty are hardly possible without food provision,” he noted, adding, “No country can be viewed as successful if its agrarian sphere lags behind. Belarus boasts a strong agrarian sector, providing food not only domestically, but also exporting. This year, food exports should reach $4bn, ranking the agrarian branch among the most important for generating foreign currency.” Traditionally, many tourists attend Dazhynki and, this year, ceramic souvenirs were produced especially for them. Among these was a figurine of the Mother of God (similar to the
monument erected at the entrance to Molodechno) and a picture featuring the town sights (including Oginski Musical College and a monument to this Belarusian-Polish composer). In addition, the National Tourism Agency published a pocket guide to Molodechno’s history and sights, also providing addresses of city hotels, restaurants, shops and entertainment centres. The Summer Amphitheatre, seating 2,500, regularly hosts concerts and performances; the first show was organised a month before Dazhynki, as part of the Belarusian Song and Poetry Festival. Deputy Prime Minister Valery Ivanov praised Molodechno’s efforts at making this year’s Dazhynki so memorable; he pronounced it to be the best to date. “The Ice Palace, the Summer Amphitheatre and the Central Square were built from scratch or rapidly reconstructed. Moreover, the holiday has brou g ht
change not only to Molodechno but to neighbouring districts and the main roads in the region, which are now more beautiful.” The local park — much loved by city residents — has acquired a new face, with ponds boasting fountains, geysers and waterfalls now found beside the lovely trees. A summerhouse on Love Island is especially popular with newly-weds and young couples posing for photographs and it’s become a new tradition for them to leave padlocks on the bridge on their wedding day. Meanwhile, the city centre now features a wonderful sculpturefountain called ‘Adam and Eve’, by famous master Vladimir Zhbanov. Before installation, the composition aroused much dispute, as many thought the figures — inspired by the festival of Kupalle — to be too erotic.
However, it now attracts crowds of admirers. The local railway station is also home to a new sculpture: of a gracious ‘Passenger Girl’. Its author, Vadim Matskevich, tells us that his work is so loved by local residents that they have twice tried to take off her bronze earrings. The local ‘Broadway’ — as youngsters name the central street — has also undergone change. They love to gather in the evening, to relax and chat. Moreover, the city’s main roads have been resurfaced and the pavements retiled. The country is now preparing for the next farming year. Dazhynki will be hosted by Gorki (in Mogilev Region’s Gorki District) in the second week of September 2012 — in line with Mr. Lukashenko’s instructions. An organising committee has been set up — headed by Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich — to prepare and organise the holiday. By Viktar Korbut
The festive parade has become a tradition at Dazhinki festivals
International trade routes have long passed through Grodno Region, along the Polish and Lithuanian border. The advantageous geographical position of the area ALONG the Nieman River continues to arouse enhanced interest among businessmen from various countries, despite the echoes of the recent global financial crisis. Previously, turnover and investment was concentrated primarily on Grodno’s major enterprises but regional areas are now playing a more active role in attracting capital and promoting trade
Products by Smorgon Machine Assembly Plant were the center of attention
he trend was obvious at the Northern Vector fair, recently held in Smorgon and demonstrating goods from 70 Belarusian companies. Simultaneously, the city hosted the International Economic Forum, gathering guests from ten countries. Smorgon is one of three district centres situated in the north of Grodno Region, being home to 115,000 people.
They reside over an area of 4,300 square kilometres, including Ostrovets and Oshmyany districts. The warm ‘northern’ meeting was being organised for the second time, having been hosted by Oshmyany last year. A great deal of funding was spent on its organisation, to ensure worthy representation of the area’s products. The Deputy Chairman of Grodno Regional Executive Committee, Alexander Rusanov, notes, “Grodno
Region’s northern lands are unique in their geographical position, while boasting strong enterprises with well qualified staff. International motorways and railways pass through, connecting Minsk and Vilnius. However, analysing the economies of these three districts, we believe that more foreign investments could be attracted. There are 87 large buildings and facilities which are currently unused for various reasons and are ready for sale or rent. Strong impetus is needed to inspire the speedy development of border liaisons. We decided to organise a fair and an economic forum in the northern districts to address this and, although the finals results are yet to be seen, I’m convinced that we’re moving in the right direction. Figures speak for themselves. Last year, just 69 companies with Lithuanian capital were registered in Grodno Region; in 2011, their number reached 120. We’re also closely liaising with Polish businessmen; there are now 129 firms with their participation, against 78 in the past. Importantly, the initiative to attract investors has been demonstrated at district level — including in Smorgon, Oshmyany and Ostrovets.”
Business geography This time, the Northern Vector fair featured 54 projects. Smorgon District awaits investors to construct a miniTPP, poultry yards, lines to produce framed residential houses and ice cream and to reconstruct a cereal workshop. Oshmyany Dist r ic t, in turn, proposes an orchard for development, with the building of a fruit warehouse, and the industrial farming of cranberries and blueberries. Other projects include construction of windmills and a hotel complex, in addition to joint manufacture of lighting equipment and development of road side services along Minsk-Vilnius motorway. Ostrovets has some interesting projects on offer to investors in the trade and banking sector, in addition to agro-tourism. During the fair, foreign guests were able to view ‘northern’ proposals at their leisure, although some agreements were actually signed at the event. For example, Syrian businessmen are to build a cheese making plant in Smorgon District while Oshmyany has joined Lithuanian Ukmerge in signing a draft co-operative agreement to ensure safe traffic. The Deputy Head of Lidzbark Warmiński District of Poland’s Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, Jarosław Kogut, signed an agreement with Ostrovets District, explaining, “It’s my second time at the Northern Vector. I initially simply intended to study potential projects but am now ready to commit to definite projects. One proposal deals with construction of a package making facility; there’s a businessman with me who’s keen to study the opportunity. We’re also interested in joint ecolog-
the setting up of a free economic zone currently being debated; Grodnoinvest FEZ would be an example for Grodno Region’s enterprises. Interestingly, a significant share of its members has been attracted via annual economic forums — in Grodno and Lida. The Northern Vector is now set to fulfil this task although business development has a far greater scope. Grodno Region’s southern districts are ready to join a new FEZ (with Slonim as its centre). Accordingly, the region starts working under new economic conditions. The Ambassador ExtraordiA lot of countries attended the Northern Vector fair nary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Lithuania and Finland, ical and cultural projects, in addition H.E. Mr. Vladimir Drazhin, is optimistic to exchanging delegations of young about the future development of these people and teachers. I hope we’ll border businesses, saying, “Established establish close contacts with Ostrovets traditions are unique to the economic life of Grodno Region and Belarus. I’m Forestry in the near future.” The Forestry’s export-oriented glad to see that Lithuanian territories activity benefits the company itself and are widely represented here, focusing its numerous foreign partners. Over on development of bilateral trading 60 percent of its processed timber is relations and investments in Belarus bought by Germany and Lithuania and Lithuania. In 2010, our two states while France, the Scandinavian states enjoyed turnover of $1.1bn; we expect to and Germany purchase its eco-friendly see this figure rise by at least 50 percent this year, with business co-operation fuel pellets. Meanwhile, Ostrovets is an attrac- in the regions playing a special role. tive venue for foreign hunters, organ- Work is underway regarding 52 agreeising 15-20 shooting tournament ments, in various economic fields. annually. Guests enjoy relaxation in Figures well confirm that Belarus and natural surroundings, staying in two Lithuania demonstrate mutual interest. hunting lodges. Success is aided by In Belarus, there are 450 companies releasing caged wild animals into the with Lithuanian capital, while 300 firms forest. More capital investments and with Belarusian money are registered holidaymakers are expected in coming in Lithuania. We’ve actually established years. On another note, a nearby settle- parity in capital investment: last year, ment is being built for those soon to our Lithuanian partners invested $49m work at the Belarusian nuclear power into the Belarusian economy, while we station, with much infrastructure injected $50m. These sums are ever required. Wealthy investors are sure to growing, which is very inspiring. Our present task is to expand trading borders. find mutually beneficial projects. In 2012, the Northern Vector fair The multi-vector policy of our economy and the International Economic Forum well contributes to the process.” By Iosif Popovich are to take place in Ostrovets, with
Setting out for a marsh outing
n i n t e r n at i o n a l conference in Minsk — d e d i c ate d to the jubilee — is to gather representatives from Ukraine, Russia, Lithuania, L atv ia, Poland, G ermany and elsewhere, focusing on how best to care for one of the major ecological systems on the planet. So great is its importance that it helps define our climate and biological diversity.
Isles of primeval nature
It’s hardly possible to overestimate the significance of the world’s marshes, since they absorb carbon dioxide and generate oxygen, shaping the climate and sustaining our biological balance. Belarus’ lowland bogs are really unique across Europe; our Sporovskoe and Zvanets, in Brest Region, have been unchanged for millennia, being home to rare birds and plants. Over 50 percent of the global population of
rare aquatic warblers and around 10 percent of the European population of greater spotted eagles reside there. Moreover, 70 percent of the flora and fauna listed in the Red Book exist on marshes. Numbers of animals, birds and plants are a unique indicator of the condition of our lands. For example, last year, the Eurasian curlew — a bird which lives on open highland marshes lacking vegetation, joined our list of engendered species. Some marshes have become drier, allowing pines to grow and, accordingly, reducing the population of Eurasian curlew. Numbers of blackcocks and wood grouse are also falling. In the mid-20th century, Belarus boasted 2.9m hectares of natural marshes; by the 1960s, melioration had altered Polesie greatly, with roads and infrastructure built. At that time, nobody thought of the negative ecological consequences. Now, only 860,000 hectares of marshes remain,
This year is significant for ecologists worldwide, marking the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Ramsar Convention, which aims to preserve and ensure sustainable use of the Earth’s wetlands. Belarus — whose marshes are called ‘Europe’s lungs’ — joined the convention in 1999, as an independent state
Ecology of which 60 percent suffer from an altered state. The Head of the ScientificPractical Centre for Bio-Resources’ Foreign Co-operation Department at the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, Alexander Kozulin, explains that another 500,000 hectares are now ‘dead’: 90 percent are peatlands and 300,000 hectares are now too dry and sandy even for farming use (also being a fire risk). In 2002, peat fires began in this area, later spreading across Belarus and costing around $1.5m to extinguish. Ecologists believe that such territories should revert to use as secondary bogs, since they produce no economic profit. In fact, they could bring ecological benefits — both nationally and internationally. Rare plants and animals should return in time, while conditions for fishing and hunting can be created.
Money spent on marshes
The Head of the Department for Biological and Landscape Diversity at t he Natura l R es ources and Environmental Protection Ministry, Natalia Minchenko, tells us that Belarus has experience of restoring drained marshes, with support from international organisations. In Europe — where marshes have long since been drained — the process is more costly. Irrespective of their location, bogs can influence the ecology of the whole planet. In 2006, the Global Environment Facility allocated $1m to revive 28,000 hectares of Belarusian marshes, allowing them to become waterlogged once more. Dokudovo marsh, near Lida in Grodo Region, was among the first; its 3,000 hectares of developed peat lands were a constant concern to local residents on hot days. Every year, the marsh caught fire, covering the city and suburbs with smog. Moreover, sandstorms were common. In 2007, the restoration of the marsh began At Pripyatsky National Park
and, after the draining channels were closed, water flooded in, damping the peat layers. Grass began growing and the site is now loved by fishermen and holidaymakers. Meanwhile, local residents no longer suffer from sandstorms or fires. The project cost $50 per hectare. When we compare it to the money spent on fire extinguishing, its economic feasibility is clear. Moreover, what price can we place on climate stabilisation? The project — run jointly by the Forestry Ministry and the Global Environment Facility — covered 15 developed peat lands on the territory of 12 forestries, becoming truly unique. In 2006, when specialists were preparing to restore a marsh for the first time, nothing of the kind had previously been attempted in Belarus or abroad — although some efforts had been made to use degenerated peat-bogs for alternative purposes, such as farming or forestry. The land never produced rich harvests though, while young trees were destroyed by fire. In 2008, a ne w prog ramme was launched with support from G e r m any ’s C l i m ate In it i at ive : Climate and Biodiversity (also known as Belarus-1). One of its articles envisaged the continuation of marsh restoration, with Germany allocating over 1m Euros. According to Mr. Kozulin, alongside the restoration of marshes, our country is also studying the sale of its greenhouse gas quotas. Each country is provided with a certain quota for carbon dioxide emission, with huge fines for those who surpass their limit. However, to avoid cutting their industrial production, they may buy quotas from another state — such as Belarus. Our country emits a relatively small amount of carbon dioxide, while our marshes aid absorption of the gas, so we can sell part of our quota. The more marshes we restore, the more quota we’ll have free for sale. Annual profits could reach millions of Euros.
Ecology Along Polesie paths
Belarus’ Polesie enjoys global significance, being home to four major reserves: Srednyaya Pripyat, Zvanets, Sporovsky and Prostyr. They are vital ornithological territories and Ramsar sites. At the initiative of the Belarusian Government and the Global Environmental Facility, a joint project worth $2,200,000 is running for its fifth year — supervised by the Global Environmental Facility, the UN Development Programme and the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Ministry. It aims to ensure sustainable functioning of Polesie’s protected wetlands. This territory is unique. After major melioration in the 1960s and 1970s, many low-lying peatlands were drained, with tilled crops grown for many years. After 15-20 years of such use, fields began demonstrating less fertility; they still belonged to farms but it became economically unprofitable to work them. Proposals were developed to change their usage, as the project’s head, Gennady Artyushevsky, explains. It was recommended that some lands be used as forests and the others as secondary marshes, reducing farms’ losses, while improving the environment. Local authorities approved the proposals and we expect to see results within five years. Interestingly, these pilot experiments have spread all over the country; the State Property C ommittee is
Scientists are intently keeping watch over marshes
developing similar land use schemes for 25 Belarusian districts. Polders (former fish spawning areas which attract birdlife) are a special case, being farmed during the 1970s and 1980s but now enjoying poor harvests — due to weak soil fertility and a damaged hydrological regime. They are covered with silt and grass and are overgrown with bushes, preventing them from being farmed, yet their ecological significance has also been lost. These low lying areas beside the Pripyat River are now returning to use for fish breeding, with over 3,000 hectares being covered by two new pilot projects. “One polder is being used to breed fish and grow green forage,” explains Mr. Artyushevsky. “The second — on the border of Pinsk and Luninets districts — has been left wild for thirty years, despite enjoying 3,000 hectares of low lying land, which can be profitably used. We’ve been reviving its natural hydrological regime, allowing pike, ide and other fish to successfully spawn and attracting wetland birds.” Naturally, the project has affected the local population and their employment. Four ecological-educational centres have opened at reserves in Bereza, Drogichin, Luninets and Stolin districts. In addition, five nature trails have been organised, while 15 local ecotourist miniprojects have been
realised. The latter ensure comfortable accommodation and good quality tourist services. The project is due to be completed by the end of the year.
Registration and control
T h e bi ol o g i c a l d ive rs it y of our planet is under threat; scientists predict that 15-40 percent of anima ls and plants may b e endangered by the middle of the century. With this in mind, wetland creatures require special attention. At present, the Natural Resources and Environmental Protec tion Ministry, the UNDP to Belarus and the National Academy of Sciences’ S cientif ic-Prac tical C entre for Bio-resources are preparing a new project: Sustainable Development of Peatlands in Belarus. According to Mr. Kozulin, it aims to develop a strategy for sustainable use of our wetlands and their complete inventor y. All aspects are to be analysed, including the quality of peat, the diversity of local flora and fauna, and the functions of each marsh on a regional and global scale. Representatives from various ministries and agencies are to be involved, including officials from the Natural R e s ou rc e s and E nv i ron me nt a l Protection Ministry, the Energy Ministry and the Agriculture and Food Ministry. A list of all marshes is to be compiled, later defining specific areas of development for each. Some will be used for peat digging, while others may become reserves, with special measures taken against fire. The $2.7m project is being financed by international ecological organisations. Another $7m is to be allocated as part of a state programme for restoration of ameliorated lands. This grand project focusing on Belarusian marshes is to be completed by late 2012, with results likely to be evident by 2013. Scientists are convinced that we’ll significantly improve the state of ‘Europe’s lungs’. By Lilia Khlystun
panorama Avgustovsky charm
Medicine for bravery
Visa issues simplified for foreign tourists visiting Avgustovsky Canal
National Academy of Sciences’ Physiology Institute develops medicine to encourage extroversion
Keeping eye on birds Specialists from Sweden and Finland take part in open ornithology championship
he APB-BirdLife Belarus Public Association’s nature conservation specialist, Semen Levy, tells us that a team of Belarusian and Finnish ornithologists won the event, recording 115 species of birds in Minsk Region. It is their third victory in four years. Second place went to the Grodno team, which recorded 114 species while the Turov team came third, recording 110. A total of 13 teams took part in the championship, with six recording over a hundred bird species. The data will help scientists study the habitats of birds in more detail, while learning about their migratory paths and the features of autumn migration to the south.
he reconstructed Avgustovsky Canal has been one of Belarus’ major tourist symbols for several years and was recently the subject of discussion at a session of the Council of Ministers’ Interdepartmental Expert and Co-ordination Council on Tourism. Its participants are keen to develop the site to encourage domestic and inbound tourism. The session — hosted by Grodno Region — was chaired by Anatoly Tozik, Belarus’ Deputy Prime Minister. Those in attendance have visited the Avgustovsky Canal, Svyatsk Palace and Park Estate, Rudavka-Lesnaya border checkpoint and Gostiny Dvor motorway service station, alongside Tyzengauz’s Estate and Garadzensky Maentak agro-tourist facilities. A range of decisions were adopted, aiming to enhance the park’s tourist attractiveness. In particular, the simplification of the visa regime should encourage foreign guests. Local authorities are working with the Transport and Communications Ministry to develop infrastructure along the Avgustovsky Canal, including cruise routes and camp sites.
Joining high-tech Chinese Huawei opens educational centre in Minsk
he centre is located at the Higher State College of Communications — established in line with an agreement between Bel Huawei LLC and the College. Modern ‘packet switching’ technologies are now available to students; as College Rector Andrei Zenevich admits, ‘our future relies on such educational centres’. “Cooperation with the Chinese company has enabled
he new medicine is inhaled as a nasal spray, containing endotoxins usually found on the walls of the colon; these bacillus help activate the immune system. Vladimir Kulchitsky, Deputy Scientific Director at the National Academy of Sciences’ Physiology Institute, explains, “During our early tests, it w a s n ot i c e d that rats and mice stopped hiding in holes after inhaling endotoxins. They became braver, moving into open spaces.” The findings could help athletes and students push themselves forward and may help those whose shyness prevents them from forming relationships. “Athletes can use this medicine with utter impunity,” continues Mr. Kulchitsky. “If a correct approach is used, endotoxins are absolutely harmless and shouldn’t fall into the same category as forbidden drugs.”
our students to use the most advanced equipment,” he notes. According to Mr. Zenevich, the Chinese company’s interest in opening the centre in Belarus is rooted primarily in the need to train specialists to operate modern equipment. Trainees will later be offered employment with Bel Huawei LLC, Beltelecom and mobile communication providers. The Director General of Bel Huawei LLC, Xu Zhidong, stresses that the Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturer is ready to organise further training for Belarusian specialists.
At the Polesie Call festival
Polesie chronicles It’s been a year now since Belarus launched a programme aimed at development of Pripyat Polesie. The unique area embracing seven districts in Brest and Gomel Regions along the Pripyat River is sure in for dramatical changes of its appearance
he state’s great interest in the River Pripyat area is easily explainable: Belarusian Polesie is unique in Europe for its flood plain oak forests and for having the largest bog lands — the ‘lungs’ of the continent. Meanwhile, it has rich mineral deposits. No other place on the earth is quite the same. Undoubtedly, century old oak forests are a true local treasure; most of the trees are 80-200 years old while the Tsar-oak is over 800 years old and
the Tsar-pine tree is 500. During the spring floods, when the River Pripyat overflows its banks for dozens of kilometres, numerous islands are created, necessitating the use of boats. You can even catch fish with your bare hands among the trees… This true wilderness of rare animals and birds attracts hundreds of scientists and tourists from around the world, each lured by the area’s diversity and beauty, as well as its historical and ethnographic traditions, which have been preserved in isolated Polesie settlements.
The town of Turov is a true ‘pearl’. The ancient capital of Polesie was first mentioned in 980; called the ‘second Jerusalem’, it boasted around 80 churches. Today, the most memorable local landmarks are all connected with the Christian faith — such as the stone cross at St. Boris and Hleb’s cemetery, which attracts hundreds of pilgrims from around the globe. It’s said to radiate warmth and to have healing powers. The local population (of around 3,500) honour it as a sacred relic. Naturally, legends abound regarding such sites.
Region The mission of the new state programme, running until 2015, is to inspire the development of this unique land. Its key aspects are the comprehensive use of natural resources, efficient land reclamation, the creation of new manufactures, the development of tourism and the improvement of the quality of life for the local population. The programme includes hundreds of actions, reinforced by serious financial injections from the state, enterprises and investors.
Picture a year after
The first year of the programme has already passed, so I recently set off to Polesie to gauge progress. Zhitkovichi District, within Gomel Region, is encompassed by the development programme. I last visited it in spring, when the district centre looked clean and well-cared-for. Only a few grey ruins of buildings which once surrounded the town square caught the eye. I hardly expected to see external changes, as so short a time has passed and financial constraints must surely have affected the plan, but the town certainly surprised me. “What’s this new building?” I asked, not recognising a five storey building near the square. “Earlier this year, a hotel opened here,” explains Sergey Tobolich, Deputy Chairman of Zhitkovichi District Executive Committee. “It’s called the Chetvert Veka (Quarter of a Century) Hotel. We’ve wanted to build it for almost 25 years; now, the programme has allowed us to construct this contemporary hotel. Recently, its restaurant opened for business, boasting new design and new equipment. It’s unique across the region. We’re breathing new life into ancient local recipes to create our own flavour.” Total renovation of local communal transport has been another achievement, bringing a completely different
approach towards town services and their development. I spot some local women chatting beside a colourful flower bed and ask them how they view the improvements. Olga Telegina tells me, “They’re significant: a hotel and a restaurant have appeared and a long awaited kindergarten has thrown open its doors in the village of Khilchitsy.” I n Tu r o v, c o n s t r u c t i o n i s rapidly underway at Turovshchina, JSC, funded by a loan from Belagroprombank. Warehouses are being built for a future dairy factory, which will specialise in cheese production. “We plan to launch the first stage of the enterprise next summer,” notes Alexey Denisov, Director of the enterprise. Meanwhile, Nikolay Bambiza, Director of Turovshchina, JSC, tells us that an automated commercial dairy farm for 1,000 cows is also planned. New jobs are being created for local residents, with money flowing into the district budget; naturally, this will be used to bring external and internal transformations for Polesie area.
We walk along a good asphalt road to the ‘heart’ of the legendary town, passing a church, museum and wonderful views over the River Pripyat on our way. Tourist specialists agree that Pripyat Polesie is one of the few regions of Belarus to have preserved its authentic cultural traditions, making it truly fascinating to visitors. There’s so much to s e e , while great efforts are being made to provide comfortable accommodation and easy travel. Hotels have always been a ‘problematic issue’ for Turov, as it lacked enough beds during the peak
season. The local hotel enjoyed substantial repairs inside and out a year ago while a completely new hotel complex is soon to be constructed on the river bank. There’s also a floating Polesie Hotel, which smells of timber inside. Its rooms are made from natural materials, offering all possible amenities: a cosy café and places to sunbathe on deck. By the time the next tourist season begins, it will be fully operational, as will camp sites along its route. Tourists will have a wealth of excursions to choose from. “ There’s no doubt that we’ll have enough guests,” notes Fiodor Kuzmich, captain of the ‘Pripyat’ tow ship. “On arriving in Turov from the CIS and beyond, guests immediately notice our hotel on the river bank and ask when we depart.” Tourist infrastructure in Polesie area is being expanded, as is its cultural wealth. The unique traditions of the Pripyat River regions are celebrated in the Polesie Call festival — a highlight of the year. Last autumn, it was held for the first time in Lyaskovichi agrotown, in Petrikov District. It proved so popular that it is set to become a regular event. The forum brought together over 500 amateur artists and folk masters, who preserve our ancestors’ ancient crafts and creativity. It was recognised as one of the brightest festivals in Belarus. Of cours e, t his is only t he beginning, with so many plans ahead. We still have four years to transform our Pripyat Polesie. By Violetta Dralyuk
A monument to the Terek bird in Turov, which was the first town to host the Bird Holiday festival
Some books on display at the Moscow Book Fair could not but leave a hefty impression
Books of weight
Belarusian expositions have always been a success at Moscow Book Fairs
elarus has won the Grand Prix at the 8th International Art of Book Contest, for its Radziwills:18th-19thCentury Album of Portraits (Petrus Brovka Belarusian Encyclopaedia Publishing House). It has already received the ‘For Spiritual Revival’ award in Belarus and proved interesting to Moscow’s historians and bibliophilists. The Moscow International Book Fair is a traditional venue for the discussion of joint plans, as Lilia Ananich, Belarus’ First Deputy Information Minister, notes. She explains that Belarus and Moscow have agreed to jointly fund some new editions describing the historical, cultural and literary interaction of Belarus and Russia. Visiting the opening of the Belarusian stand, Sergey Stepashin, Chairman of the Russian Accounts Chamber, held some weighty volumes in his hands
(in all senses of the word — as some albums weighed up to 5kg), promising to promote the work of Belarusian publishers to a wider audience. D m it r y St r u kov. A l bu m of Drawings. 1864-1867 details the work of the famous Moscow researcher, created while on expedition through the North-West of Belarus in the mid19th century. The collection shows the architecture and way of life of Belarus from that time, and was prepared for printing back in the 19th century but failed to be published. Many enthusiasts — including Moscow art experts, Vilnius museum employees and, of course, workers from the Belarusian Encyclopaedia Publishing House — have worked hard to bring the edition to life, with full-colour pictures on true watercolour paper. The exhibition’s major accent was to give a long-term forecast of the future
of publishing. Representatives from one of the most successful Russian publishing houses — Eksmo — were present, stressing that book sales in Russia continue to fall. It’s thought that the market may soon fall by another 510 percent: the same as was observed in 2010, when sales fell by over 8 percent. One segment of the book market remains healthy: that dealing with training and education. However, electronic display boards, which are becoming widespread through the school system, could threaten the future of textbook publishing. Anyone who would dare to call themselves civilised is surely a regular reader of course. Ozon — the largest bookstore on the Russian Internet — sold 3.3m books, worth $1bn Russian roubles, in the first eight months of this year, up 37 percent on 2010. By Larisa Rakovskaya
Ancient but ever young
Remarkable creative project implemented at State Museum of Belarusian Literary History
he human mind is capable of great power, conjuring up amazing images. The work of painters and writers never disappears without trace, even when manuscripts and canvases are lost. Symon the Musician, Paulinka and StratimSwan are among the classics of Belarusian culture deservedly celebrated by the Planet of Creators and their Characters exhibition, which recently opened in the Troitsky Suburbs. On show are art works and examples of writing from the Art Museum of Belarus and the Museum of Belarusian Literary History — allowing them to be contrasted and compared. “We’re offering a wonderful opportunity for people to see literary characters and writers come to life,” notes Director Lidia Makarevich. “Portraits of characters from works of domestic literature,
Minsk-Mensk: Pages of History exhibition of rarities launched at Presidential Library of Belarus a longside those of writers themselves, painted and sketched, are at the heart of our exhibition.” The exhibition includes masterpieces of painting, graphic art and sculpture by prominent artists and sculptors Piotr Sergievich, Ivan Akhremchik, Arlen Kashkurevich, Vladimir Savich and Sergey Vakar. For the launch of the exhibition, musicians and singers performed and an album by famous photographer Vladimir Kruk — On the Photo Waves of Memory — was presented. The album is dedicated to outstanding figures of Belarusian culture — such as actress Larisa Alexandrovskaya, composers Vladimir Olovnikov and Mikhail Aladov, and writers Ivan Chigrinov, Yanka Bryl and Andrey Makaenok.
Original palette Belarusian diaspora demonstrates its national culture at events in Buenos Aires
n the Argentinean capital, representatives of various diasporas gathered for a unique festival, demonstrating their national cultures and cuisines. A wonderful parade took place through the city streets, featuring national costumes with symbols from each continent and country, followed by a superb concert and a festival of local culinary skills. Buenos Aires traditionally organises such events and, with support from the Belarusian Embassy
to Argentina, a Belarusian diaspora took part for the first time. The galaconcert also featured a Belarusian show: the Raduga (Rainbow) dance ensemble performed our national folk dances. In addition, an exhibition of Belarusian crafts and books about our country was organised. Guests to the pavilion were even able to sample Belarusian national cuisine.
espite being ancient, Minsk (previously called Mensk and Menesk) remains young. It has risen from wars and destruction by the industry and determination of its residents, growing anew from the ashes — like the mythical Phoenix. The Minsk-Mensk: Pages of History exhibition features rare and valuable books from the library’s department of old printed and rare editions. A mong t he m is the unique Memorable Book of Minsk Province and 1889 Calendar of Emperor Nikolay II Reigning: Ni nt h Ye ar / P ubl ishe d by Minsk Province Statistical Committee; Constitution (Major Law) of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic (1927; in Russian, Belarusian and Hebrew). Periodicals such as Minsk’s Eparchy News, 1877: Official and Unofficial and Luchynka: Literar y-S cientific Magazine are also on show. The exhibition showcases the rare Textbook on Russian Law from the Library of His Imperial Highness Crown Prince and Grand Duke Alexey Nikolaevich and Maxim B ogdanovich’s original Vyanok (Wreath) collection. The editions reveal Minsk life through history, from its foundation until today, with photos of streets, squares, parks, suburbs, and old and present architectural monuments neighbouring Minsk maps and plans.
“We live here, our souls remain there…”
can easily imagine them dressed in national folk costumes, ascending the ladder of the shining combat ship ‘Ivan Bubnov’, in Sevastopol Bay. With fresh breezes, the sea and seagulls, sailors greet the ensemble with applause. Naturally, many know Alla Gorelikova as a popular person in Sevastopol; she’s been a municipal council deputy for two convocations. Smiling, she explains that besides being the singing coach of her choir, she dresses in a beautiful costume to sing beside them; she is their founder, conductor, creative director and, sometimes, even composes songs. To accordion accompaniment by Vladimir Nekrasov, Ms. Gorelikova waves her head and begins singing Belarusian songs over the Black Sea: I Love My Land, Water Song, Belarus, Early Ivan, and Folk Towels… The repertoire includes more than twenty compositions. One, very cordial, which has become the ensemble’s calling card,
In many regions of Ukraine, you can find associations of the All-Ukraine Union of Belarusians — which include 14 amateur performance groups. The ‘People’s’ title is bestowed on only one ensemble, from Sevastopol: Belaya Rus, headed by Gomel-born Alla Gorelikova. For more than ten years, she’s managed the Sevastopol City Belarus Society, which she also founded. was written by Ms. Gorelikova herself — both lyrics and music. Especially touching are the words: Live forever, bloom, Belarus! You are our happiness, our hope and sadness We live here but our souls remain there Where little storks roam the fields… The song evokes a warm response from the audience: the melody immediately brings to life images of home.
Where little storks roam the fields
While singing, Ms. Gorelikova becomes excited by remembrances of the wonderful fields of her childhood, imagining the little storks evoked by the song. She was born in 1951, in the village of Selivonovka, in Zhlobin District of Gomel Region. Ivan and Yevdokia Rubanovs were a happy family: they were expecting a baby-
sister for Alexander and Victor, who were born in the 1930s. Their father wasn’t drafted into the army, due to disability. The family endured hard times but survived, working hard from dawn until sunset. Later, the older brother became a teacher, while Victor worked as an engineer at Baikonur. Alla graduated from secondary school in Redky Rog village, where her brother taught, and was soon keen to gain independence, wanting to help her parents. She took employment as an electric sewing machine operator at Gomel’s Komintern Enterprise while studying part-time in Vitebsk. She successfully received a degree in manufacturing engineering for the sewing industry while discovering a passion for public service via the Komsomol. She was elected onto the local committee and later headed it at the Elegant Production Association. The experience proved useful when she became a municipal council deputy in the Crimea.
Compatriots Sevastopol, Sevastopol
Alla didn’t immediately like the Crimea. “Imagine, Sveta, I wasn’t at all fascinated by Crimean beauties!” she tells me in Minsk. “We were going there to live, not on holiday as most do; I panicked, crying a lot, as I thought I’d never see my native Belarus again…” I decide to tell her that my husband, Yuris, and I experienced similar feelings on emigrating to the USA. We’d cry on hearing Belarusian songs… Alla and I were chatting at the Victoria Hotel. We were participants of the 4th All-Belarus People’s Assembly. I represented the Belarusian diaspora in the USA while she — the Belarus Society and the All-Ukraine Union of Belarusians. Sometimes, you see a person for the first time and it seems that you’ve known them your whole life; so it was with us. We began by discussing female topics. She told me how she lived in Bakhchisaray District with her husband and son before moving to Sevastopol, where they built a new flat and had a daughter. Son Andrey is now 35, while daughter Irina is 26, studying to be a designer in London. Sadly, she later separated from her husband,
and went to work at a factory making knitted sportswear. After 15 years, she finally retired from her position as head of the shop floor, and then met her new husband — Oleg Chernousov. He is reliable and devoted, and sings in Alla’s ensemble. Together, they run the house and care for Alla’s aged mother, who celebrated her 99th birthday recently and is still a Belarusian citizen.
Room for creativity
At the forum in Minsk, I noticed Alla taking notes and became curious. She explained that she intended to report back to her Belarusian friends in Sevastopol, via the Belarus Society’s News from Home magazine. There are many Belarusians in the Crimea; the last Ukrainian census registered over 275,000. “Our souls are drawn to our native land,” emphasises Alla. “This governed the foundation of the All-Ukraine Union of Belarusians in 2000, which helps us to develop our national culture, defend our rights and strengthen relations with our homeland. We’re supported by the Belarusian Embassy in Ukraine
and the Culture Ministry of Belarus.” Belarusian societies currently exist in 15 Ukrainian regions, while the Belarus City Society in Sevastopol was registered on July 5th, 2000. I was eager to learn more about the lives of our fellow-countrymen at the Black Sea, so we agreed to keep in touch. Back in the USA, on the website of the All-Ukraine Union of Belarusians, I found a page about our Sevastopol compatriots, seeing that they’re on friendly terms with those of other nationalities around the city — of which there are many. In fact, when Ms. Gorelikova was founding the organisation, she was supported by many Sevastopol Belarusians. The society is part of the Crimea Union of Belarusians. Three years ago, she was awarded at the Public Recognition forum, in the nomination ‘I Am Honoured to Live in Sevastopol’. She was awarded with a medal dedicated to the 65th Anniversary of Belarus’ delivery from German Fascist occupation, thanking her for strengthening friendship between the people of Ukraine and Belarus. Chatting on Skype, we look through Alla’s photos of festivals, folk celebrations and rites, meetings and assemblies… One shows society members at the Dialogue Club, taking part in the Days of Slavonic Written Language and Culture. Some show folk arts
On warm nights, one can hear Belarusian songs performed by Belaya Rus ensemble in Sevastopol’s Primorsky Avenue
Compatriots festivals, and children’s and youth to represent Belarus without knowing cially to accordion accompaniment! My events. Friendship lessons at the chil- its language. She read extensively and father played the accordion very well, dren’s library are organised under their wrote. Once, in Minsk, she was given a being invited to weddings, birthday initiative. Others show them visiting whole bag of Belarusian language books parties and village celebrations. My memorials, such as the common grave — including a three-volume Russian- brothers were also musicians, playing in the northern part of the city. They Belarusian dictionary (essential for wonderful music. I used to sing their honour the memory of fellow-coun- her efforts). The language revived in Oginski’s Polonaise, and waltzes such trymen, locating Belarusian settle- her heart and she now encourages as Berezka, Danube Waves and Turkish ments in the Crimea and Sevastopol, every member of the Society to study March. My love for music and singing and gathering materials on Belarusians similarly. was born in my native Selivonovka. In who participated in the city’s defence Founding the ensemble, she the early days of founding the ensemble, during the Crimean War and the Great decided that all songs should be sung many wanted to join us; now, only 20 Patriotic War. in Belarusian. “Nothing unites people remain — the most talented! We sing In the centre of Sevastopol, near the more than a good song; it makes them as a full choir, as well as giving solo, Eternal Flame, is the Avenue of Hero- rejoiceandfeelnostalgic,bringslaughter trio and quartet performances. We also Cities, which includes memorial plaques and tears,” says Alla. “I remember how, involve children, to ensure this love for dedicated to Minsk and Brest Fortress. in our village, everyone Belarusian music continues.” Sevastopol Belarusians regularly congratu- l o v e d Belaya Rus artists received their late war veterans on the Victory Day and singing, beautiful stage costumes from the the Independence Day — such as native- e s p e Culture Ministry of Belarus on the Belarusians Nadezhda Nekrasova and fifth birthday of the ensemble. Ms. Innesa Davydenko. Gorelikova collected them from Among those who help Ms. Minsk in 2006. “We all love Gorelikova is deputy Lyudmila Malko, singing and do our best who graduated from the Belarusian to make our songs State University and is now a Russian help p eople,” and Belarusian language and literaa d d s A l l a ’s ture teacher. She writes sheet music husband, Oleg for recitals, dedicated to Belarusian Chernous ov. literature. Yelena Yakovenko, who is “Our ensemble skilful with her needle, arranges folk never sits still arts exhibitions. Other helpers include for too long with Vyacheslav Vatchin, Valery Kazyanin such an energetic and naval captain’s mate Igor Nikitin. leader (he laughs). We particiFestivals include Belarusian Christmas pate in the Days of Belarusian Celebrations, Early Ivan, Spring Culture in the Crimea and in Calling, and Maslenitsa, attracting folklore festivals, and give crowds of urbanites keen to enjoy concerts on ships and for themselves and discover something military units in Ukraine and new about Belarusian culture. Russia. We’ve given dozens, In Minsk, Alla often buys items or perhaps, even hundreds from the Skarbnitsa folk arts shop. of concerts over the past ten “Folk holidays are my favourite thing years. It’s so wonderful to hear in the world,” she confesses. “I write my our songs in the city!” own sheet music, inspired by Vladimir They’ve clearly been Mulyavin and Pesnyary. We’ve even lucky in their friends arranged several events dedicated to his memory.” She decided to study native Belarusian from scratch ( i n d e p e n d e nt l y ) when she realised Ms. Gorelikova not only manages the ensemble, but also writes lyrics, composes music and performs songs that it was unethical
Compatriots — collecting people of rare spiritual beauty and purity, who complement each other well. Oleg supports his wife in all her efforts, helping her develop her singing creativity.
Wreaths of songs
Recently, Belaya Rus ensemble presented a new programme. In late spring, Alla messaged me to let me know about her numerous ideas, sharing her joy at recent achievements. She also
Listening to them, I recollected my favourite places in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine… They evoked deep feelings and fine images with their words and melodies; some I immediately memorised by heart. Alla tells me how these songs helped her to overcome a difficult disease. Around five years ago, she was diagnosed with an awful illness but managed to keep her spirits up, finding a renewed passion for life.
Alla Gorelikova decided to study native Belarusian from scratch (independently) when she realised that it was unethical to represent Belarus without knowing its language. She read extensively and wrote. Once, in Minsk, she was given a whole bag of Belarusian language books – including a three-volume Russian-Belarusian dictionary (essential for her efforts). The language revived in her heart. Founding the ensemble, she decided that all songs should be sung in Belarusian. Nothing unites people more than a good song; it makes them rejoice and feel nostalgic, brigs laughter and tears mentioned her recital, which took place in May. “We prepared long and hard, performing twenty of my own compositions (some with my lyrics, too). We sang for two hours, provoking so many congratulations and compliments.” I naturally regretted not having heard the concert, but Alla showed me the photo-reportage. There were beautiful people, a full house at the Sevastopol Business and Recreation Centre, and Alla appearing in an elegant black dress on stage, receiving congratulations and flowers. The event coincided with her 60th birthday. Some photos show her conducting the ensemble and I can see the excited faces of the audience: somebody smiles while somebody secretly wipes away tears… Alla for the first time presented her own compositions, with lyrics also provided by S. Yesenin, A. Block, P. Brovka, and A. Kuleshov, and Sevastopol poets L. Guselnikov, N. Svitenko, and L. Novikova. Later, Alla sent me recordings of her songs — all tender, lyrical and touching.
While in hospital, she wrote her first song, starting with the melody, then adding lyrics. Clearly, her creativity and, of course, the love and support of her husband and family, helped her to successfully overcome the surgery and rejoin her choir. Her inspiration stayed with her, bring more songs, born one after another. Sometimes, the melody appeared immediately and words came later. Several of her verses and the poem Dozhinki were published in the Crimean magazine Kamyshovaya Bukhta. She also loves writing songs using the verses of favourite Belarusian poets like Esenin and Block. This is how she made her wreath of songs. She has her own secret: despite the fact that Alla was raised in a musical family, she is not able to read musical notation. She records her melodies on her mobile phone. Later, professionals like Sergey Ananiev from Bakhchisaray make the necessary arrangements. He has electronically recorded all her songs and, soon, the collection will see the light. Oleg tells me that his
wife wants to dedicate the song collection to Belarus and I’m sure that the motherland will recognise the gift of its talented daughter. In my view, Alla’s songs are worthy of any stage. Alla dreams about giving her recital in Minsk and these dreams seem likely to soon come true, as others agree. “When you’re abroad, you truly feel your love for your native country!” Sergey Ananiev tells me, speaking of Alla’s efforts. “When people start composing songs, it’s like a thank you to their homeland. I speak as another expatriate, coming from Vladivostok. Alla is a wonderful, honest person who has managed to preserve her purity of soul. It seems that Belarusians are very kind-hearted, tolerant and reliable people. I write this not to flatter you: my grandfather was also a Belarusian by origin. From childhood, I heard his wonderful, musical Belarusian language, and listened to magical Belarusian songs. I believe this gave root to the wonderful melodies of Alla. It is the music of Belarus which comes from her independently! Her unique experience with her choir is also a big inspiration. Such songs were always intended to be simple and easy to sing — giving them sincerity.” Another person with Belarusian blood has joined the creative ranks of Sevastopol Belarusians thanks to Alla. I admire Sergey Ananiev’s opinion as he clearly has great musical experience, as well as a degree in music. Alla’s way of composing songs — singing them rather than using an instrument — really impresses him. “It’s right that the song should be primarily sung easily!” he asserts. “It should also touch the soul. Alla’s songs largely reflect her personality, as she is easy to get along with.” My new friends have invited me to Sevastopol! People say that, on warm nights, on Primorsky Boulevard, you can hear wonderful songs sung by various choirs — including the Belaya Rus ensemble. I should definitely go! By Svetlana Gebeleva
Back to the past
Familiar places still have some new discoveries to offer
he summer tourist season was rich in discoveries, with even the remotest corners yielding unexpected surprises — from art galleries to ancient settlements. You might think that our castles had long since revealed their secrets but new finds continue to be discovered. Meanwhile, ambitious plans are afoot countrywide. Just imagine, how might a quiet museum in Zdravnevo, near Vitebsk, become a centre of attraction for thousands of visitors and journalists? Wonderful events are taking place, alluring travellers from near and far.
Nesvizh: Radziwiłł Palace unveils its secrets
Several restored halls at 16th-18th century Nesvizh Castle have now opened to the public, following many years of reconstruction. The Director of the Nesvizh National Historical and Cultural Museum-Reserve, Sergey Klimov, gave me a tour of the Kamenitsa and Southern Gallery, where restoration works have now finished. “By the end of the year, we plan to have opened 27 more halls. Particular aspects of the Castle restoration requiring special attention — such as restoring frescoes
Old paths towards new impressions and mantelpieces — will also continue after 2011.” Mr. Klimov notes that even more exhibition venues may appear at Nesvizh Castle over the course of time — in the basements and underground tunnels. Authentic pieces have been located at foreign auctions and with private owners, with several now purchased: Slutsk sashes, coins and medals. Furniture has been acquired and is now being arranged inside the Radziwiłłs’ former residence.
Nesvizh Castle is soon to open its doors to visitors
The first engineering investigations were conducted in 2005. Strengthening of its arches, vaults and walls is the major aspect of repair, taking several years to remove the building from its preemergency condition. The Resurrection Cathedral stands on oak piles which need moisture to retain their shape. When a contemporary building was constructed nearby, ground water disappeared, making the timber dry out and sink. As a result it began to lean, like the Tower of Pisa, with cracks evident in the Borisov: Russian plaster. Additional retrospective engineering investigaThe Resurrection tions have been vital. Cathedral in Borisov, B o r i s o v ’s not far from Minsk, Resurrection is being restored Cathedral is built in late 19th-early in the retrospec20th century style. tive-Russian style, This year, its façade with Moscow Resurrection Cathedral in Borisov reconstruction and church architecrestoration will be ture styling. It was completed, as will that of its interior. constructed in 1874 by an engineer from Natalia Golosova, who is heading the St. Petersburg — Piotr Merkulov. The restoration, notes that the church is to 12m high red brick building actually be crowned with crosses, inspired by stands on the site of an even more those of the Orthodox church from the ancient version of the Resurrection late 19th-early 20th century. Church, which burnt down in 1865.
Back to the past
Golshany Castle has become a popular site for historical festivals
Golshany and Krevo: legacy of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Golshany village, located on the border with Lithuania, retains the ruins of the Sapegi family’s castle, founded in the 17th century and described in Vladimir Korotkevich’s Black Castle of Olshany. A nearby fortified hill, located within a few kilometres, also remains: once home to the Golshansky Dukes, who founded the settlement. This summer, archaeologists unearthed the foundations of a tower from the Golshansky’s fortress. Pavel Kenko, a research officer with the National Academy of Sciences’ History Institute, believes that the tower was built in the 12th century. “It seems that it was destroyed by fire, and we’ve found body parts (fingers and legs) alongside hundreds of arrowheads. The ancient fort, which is around 25m high, has been razed to the ground several times, with occupied layers evident from the 5th, late 10th, 11th and 12th centuries (unearthed to a depth of 2m). A silver buckle from the belt of a male warrior has been found — as only previously discovered in the ancient capital of Lithuania (in Kernavė — between Vilnius and Kaunas). However, our true treasure is a 5th century Hun arrowhead;
The parishioners of Farny Roman Catholic Church in Grodno are now rejoicing the splendour of the new altar
they were a nomadic nation, which eventually destroyed Rome.” Golshany was clearly once an important historical site for Belarus and all Europe. This summer, archaeologists have also been digging near Krevo citadel, nor far from Golshany. It was constructed by great Lithuanian dukes in the 14th century. In 1385, a political union on the alliance of Poland and Lithuania was signed there.
it weighs up to 150kg. “It’s made from a huge oak branch. River water preserves timber brilliantly, especially oak. The place where it was discovered was once a densely populated area, with many burial mounds nearby; the most ancient date back to the 6th century.” At present, the idol is being kept at the National Academy of Sciences’ History Institute, where its exact age is being determined.
Drissa: greeting from last pagan
Grodno: Jesuit church altar takes centre stage
Minsk divers have joined Polotsk archaeologists in raising a pagan idol dating from pre-Christian times (before 988). It was found on the bed of the River Drissa (in Vitebsk Region’s Rossony District). According to specialists, the find is unique worldwide, being made from wood. Nothing similar has been located in Eastern Europe. Despite having spent around a thousand years lying 3-4m below the water, the 1.2m statue is in good condition. Denis Duk, who heads Polotsk State University History Chair, tells us that An ancient pagan idol the forefathers of the Belarusians used to warship
In August, Grodno hosted the solemn unveiling of Farny Roman Catholic Church’s restored altar. It was damaged by fire in 2006, which destroyed the relief columns, part of the balustrade, decorations and four sculptures. The composition has been restored using photos, with Belarusian carvers joined by masters from Vilnius (who added the gold-leaf). Pawel Sadlej, Chief Restorer at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, was one of the scientific leaders of the restoration works.
Back to the past
I. Repin’s descendants from France visited Zdravnevo Museum-Estate
Farny Church in Grodno was consecrated in 1705 and is one of Belarus’ oldest Roman Catholic churches. Its central altar includes over 20 figures, which were created by Königsberg carver Schmidt in the 1730s. A solemn church service and consecration of the new altar was performed by the Archbishop Metropolitan of Minsk and Mogilev, Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz. Jan Kuczynski, the church’s priest, tells us that work will continue in other parts of the interior.
Logoisk: a wooden phoenix
A knights’ settlement once stood in ancient Logoisk, in the Tyshkevichs’ picturesque park. After a joint meeting of the Ministry for Sports and Tourism and the Ministry for Culture, the idea appeared to construct a wooden knights’ castle on the site, alongside a town of craftsmen. Alexander Varykish, a famous tour guide and ‘pioneer’ of animation in Belarusian tourism, once planned such a ‘fake’ castle near Rakov, supported by local authorities; he’s now hopeful that a similar project will be implemented in Logoisk. “It’s an ideal site, boasting rich history and being located near Minsk. It would attract numerous tourists in winter, expanding the tourist season and allowing it to operate all year round. The local authorities are keen to discuss I. Repin’s Museum in Zdravnevo
ideas and assist in construction, offering labour and equipment. Designs are now being submitted, with reference to the Culture Ministry and the NAS’ History Institute. Initially, we’d need to conduct digs at the proposed site, since we may find the remains of some old foundations, upon which new buildings could be built. It may only take 18 months to implement the project.”
Zdravnevo: Repins’ return
Vitebsk and its suburbs were recently visited by French relatives of the Russian painter Ilya Repin. Four of his great-great-grandsons — Yvan, Serge, Nadine and Michel Diakonoff — were visiting for the first time. These fifth generation relatives are descended from Tatiana Repina-Yazeva — the granddaughter of the painter, who settled on her grandfather’s estate in Zdravnevo near Vitebsk after the October Revolution. She married Ivan Diakonoff, a
son of local priest Dmitry Diakonoff, and had four children: Valentin, Kirill, Galina and Roman. The Repin-Diakonoff visiting party first toured the village of Verkhovie (called Sloboda during their famous forefather’s time, then Repino). There, they visited a cemetery where Ilya Repin’s father — Yefim Repin — and priest Dmitry Diakonoff are buried. They sampled birch juice and admired a poplar aged over a hundred years, which grew back in the time of Ivan Diakonoff. Later, they visited Zdravnevo Museum-Estate, which was created on the site of the former estate owned by Ilya Repin. He bought it in 1892 and, until 1902, enjoyed it as a summer retreat with his family. There, he created his famous pictures: The Belarusian, A Moonlit Night, The Duel and In the Sun. His watercolours, drawings, icons, original photos, letters and books are still kept there. The party also met the descendants of peasant Sidor Shavrov, on the former family estate, who inspired Repin’s Belarusian picture. The oldest representative of the family was Lyon resident Yvan Diakonoff, 59 — an engineer with France Télécom Corporation. He donated verse to the museum, which was written by his grandmother, Tatiana. The visit has drawn global attention to the artist’s legacy, as kept in Belarus, with many pictures currently on show at Vitebsk’s Regional Art Museum and at the National Art Museum in Minsk. By Viktar Аndreev
It’s not only Broadway where… West Side Story musical to be staged in Minsk for first time
est Side Stor y was the brainchild of composer Leonard B ernstein and scriptwriter Arthur Laurents, choreographer Jerome Robbins and lyricist Stephen Sondheim. Of course, the plot was adapted from Shakespeare’s famous Romeo and Juliet tragedy, with the action shifting to the mid-20th century New York. The play has been performed 770 times on Broadway, also winning a prestigious Tony Award. In its run of over 50 years, the musical has featured several global stars: in 1957, the role of Maria was performed by budding actress Elizabeth Taylor and, in 2009, Anita was played by Jennifer Lopez. In 1961, West Side Story was screened by director Robert Wise, winning ten Oscars and making the story of Maria and Tony known worldwide. Within six months, the show will be ready for its premiere at the Belarusian State Musical Theatre. Already, a team of professionals are working on the production, including producer Alexey Grinenko. Since childhood, Alexey has had two passions: English language and American musicals. He dreamt of performing on stage — singing in English and dancing, rivalling foreign artistes. Last year, at the age of 32, he gained a place on one of the most prestigious post-graduate courses in the world — studying to be a producer at the City University of New York. Of
course, he kept his ties with his native country and his experience now makes him perfect for staging famous West Side Story — creating a new interpretation of the old play. To offer his help, US conductor Philip Simmons visited Belarus early this summer. Alexey, what inspired you to prepare a Minsk performance? I’ve been working with the Belarusian State Musical Theatre since 1998. Last August, I moved to New York and now perform in Minsk as an invited artiste. I’d like to promote the best examples of American musicals in the Republic. At Minsk Linguistic University, I even defended a Master’s degree paper on American drama. However, I needed to see this art with my own eyes — to become a professional and receive a scientific degree. To succeed, I began searching for the best theatrical schools in America, eventually entering the University of New York. I was lucky. The best universities are interested not only in fees but in enrolling the most talented, to ensure the progression of the profession. I submitted my application to New York from Minsk, giving me own reasons as to why I’d chosen theatre studies and what my goals in life are. This was the decisive factor, as I gained a free scholarship: the University seeks personalities, not just money. Did your life story convince the admission board?
Yes. They appreciated my experience and my life-long love for American musical theatre. They were interested in my experience of working with Russian language theatre; those in the West love Russian theatre. From September, I’ll be teaching Stanislavsky method-acting at the City College of New York. I’m now compiling my own programme and, from next semester, will be running a ‘Workshop in Musical Theatre’. Where do you live? I rent a flat in Brooklyn, sharing with a young man from Uzbekistan; he studies banking and is to work on Wall Street. I joke that when he gets a flat in Manhattan — a more prestigious district — I’ll rent a room from him, paying the same sum as we now pay in Brooklyn. I go into Manhattan every day, attending the University and theatres. From October, I’ll be studying dance alongside Broadway actors. Every evening, it takes me 40 minutes to travel to Broadway by metro, enjoying local performances… Why don’t you immigrate to the USA rather than returning to your homeland? My parents and sister live here. I return for them, for myself and for our Musical Theatre. Honestly, I’ve always been sad by the lack of opportunity to chat in English in Minsk, as I love the language so much, wanting to penetrate its depths. I came up against problems at University, scoring a ‘four’ in my first exam after the first semester. I was told that I’d made three grammar mistakes, although I was convinced that I was correct. I showed my teacher my textbook, asking whether I’d misunderstood something, and she explained
that the book was really for third year students. She told me that I’d be able to use such grammar when I reached the third year. So, I was prohibited from knowing too much in my first year. I then understood that grinding through textbooks wasn’t the best way for me to learn English. I decided to improve my vocabulary and phonetics in practice, chatting to foreign friends and recording my own voice. I would then listen to the recording to find my mistakes. This released me from schooling. I don’t wish to offend anyone but Belarusian teachers are not native speakers. I needed true authorities, from whom I could take my cue. What did you decide to do? This was 1996. That year, the Arts Academy was enrolling a group of artistes from the Musical Theatre, preparing them for musicals. The course was run by Boris Vtorov and Alla Shagidevich (who works in Germany now). Vocal singing was taught by Honoured Artiste Valentina Petlitskaya and People’s Artiste Natalia Gaida, while People’s Artiste Vladimir Ivanov — from the Opera and Ballet Theatre — taught us dancing. A team of talented people was formed and our course was unique. In America, the comedy drama TV show ‘Glee’ is very popular; it reminds me of our group, which was so unusual. Everyone was different but, looking at other groups, you felt we’d been chosen well. Did you view yourself as unusual? Musical or dramatic theatre often needs original personalities who can play roles in such a way that they stick in the audience’s memory. The term ‘musical theatre’ excludes opera (except rock opera — a type of musical). It values the personality of each actor. In operetta, actors tend to be stereotyped into certain roles: heroes, villains or fools. Western
musical theatre eliminated this division in the 1950s; like dramatic theatre, it requires flexibility and a wide range of skills. Does musical theatre unite drama, opera and ballet? Inopera,acharacteriscreatedprimarily through the actor’s voice; this isn’t sufficient in musical theatre, since dancing, singing and acting are needed. Mr. Vtorov realised this clearly, curing us of ‘operetta set patterns’ — as he calls them. What does that term mean? It’s when everything is banal and insincere. I don’t refer to parody or emphatic movements (such as when an operatic singer wrings her hands and widely opens her eyes to portray the mood). However, as I noted earlier, modern musicals rely on drama. Konstantin Stanislavsky spent his life trying to erase patterns from drama, replacing them with truth; it’s no easy task — especially in musical theatre. In real life, nobody sings; people talk! It’s a real challenge to stage natural dialogue in a musical. Nevertheless, modern operatic performances are being inspired by what’s been achieved in musical theatre. For example, Metropolitan Opera actors are eager to find a certain truth in their genre. In Belarus, many stagings look as if they’ve come straight from a museum, failing to portray characters believably.
Our theatre tends to position itself as conservative, trying to preserve its ‘traditions’. Is this bad? I’m not saying that it’s bad. In my view, modern directors and actors should conceptually bring these pieces to life, making them accessible. They shouldn’t view their texts and sheet music as a set of rigid artistic elements about a remote and alien world. Audiences react differently if they see themselves or their neighbours in the characters on stage. Moreover, such characters should not necessarily live in Minsk! In one good staging of Chekhov’s ‘Cherry Orchard’, I recognised myself and my mother. Meanwhile, I felt similarly about ‘Next to Normal’, where the action takes place in an American province. The female protagonist suffers from bipolar disorder (mood swings bringing elation and depression). On hearing her monologues, I felt that I understood her and could empathise, despite her condition placing her
Enthusiasts more can be added to Shakespeare’s or Aeschylus’ works. However, Sophocles developed the detective genre in his ‘Edip-Tsar’ long before Agatha Christie, while Aeschylus’ Orestes solved Hamlet’s conundrum long before Shakespeare. Why do we then love ‘ H a m l e t ’, rather than viewing it as
“Musical theatre values the personality of each actor. In operetta, actors tend to be stereotyped into certain roles: heroes, villains or fools. Western musical theatre eliminated this division in the 1950s; like dramatic theatre, it requires flexibility and a wide range of skills.” reality far from mine. When I attended this performance in New York, I could hardly understand my reaction: just five minutes in, I was moved to tears. I looked behind me and saw that others were crying too. It showed how well the actors had moved people’s hearts. I’ve seen this show several times and can say that it deserves its Pulitzer Prize. West Side Story is about love. In your opinion, how have its authors managed to create a story which touches our hearts? What new interpretation can there be on this topic, so well recorded by Shakespeare? Shakespeare drew much of his inspiration from the drama of Ancient Greece — so he wasn’t original either. Theatre is not an original art. Why? Originality — in the sense promoted by romanticism — is alien to the theatre. To be more correct, its originality lies in its portrayal of time-honoured themes. We might think that nothing
audiences speechless. I don’t just mean the works of new playwrights who are inspired by his drama, but actual interpretations of the original text. Does money drive the direction of art? Actually, this stimulus could benefit your theatre. Those in America understand that mistakes lead to smaller audiences. A single street could be offering portrayals of works by Shakespeare, Aeschylus and a modern author, each in competition. Accordingly, every detail is well considered. Should the theatre sacrifice tradition for the sake of revenue and audiences? It must be based on traditions but what are these really? Sometimes, people hide their laziness behind them. Moreover, they love to skulk behind famous names, authorities or others’ dead forms. We continue to believe that we should imitate the talents of the past, using them as a canon, being prohibited from altering anything. Meanwhile, those in the West feel that nothing is set in stone. They like to analyse the circumstances of a play’s original success, finding out about the staging and actors. It’s often found that a theatre was supported by the monarch, so playwrights wrote with their benefactors in mind. Some plays found popularity not for their own genius but for their cast. Legendary 18th century English actor Harrick David could make any play popular. Some works contemporary to Harrick have been found in which he did not appear. They failed to gain recognition at the time, as people were dazzled by the authority of this single actor but their content makes them masterpieces. Harrick’s authority carried the plays to success. We shouldn’t rely on such a narrow interpretation of success, looking carefully at the context of a play, understanding that classical writers were ordinary people rather than icons.
plagiarism? Shakespeare had a different outlook, presenting the story from a new angle. We could accuse playwrights of thieving stories from each other — for instance, Chekhov perhaps stole his ‘Seagull’ from Ibsen’s ‘Wild Duck’ and the plot of ‘Uncle Vanya’ from Turgenev’s ‘A Month in a Village’. However, Chekhov and Shakespeare gave each plot new meaning. What is the difference between American and Belarusian theatre? In America, there is a never-ending passion to reflect modern reality. Even when staging old plays, local directors try to find ways to chime with the concerns of the day. Shakespeare wrote his works for his own time and for his own people, so the texts must be interpreted anew for our present. Should we then change horses to cars? No. Texts are full of instances. American theatre is commercial. On са cпектакля staging Shakespeare, it wants Сцэна to leave
By Viktar Korbut
moments of free flight This year, Oksana Lesnaya, a leading actress with the Maxim Gorky National Academic Drama Theatre, celebrates her 20th anniversary with the troupe
k s an a h a d tou g h times in the past. She felt the hands of time ticking away and wondered how long she might have to live. She felt set apart from the world of healthy people and from her vocation, wondering why she had been ‘chosen’ by the black hand of fate. However, the trial of those days made her reassess her situation and gave her the realisation that life is a great gift. She began to acknowledge one simple truth: if you look at everything and everyone in a positive light, sooner or later, the world will return your positivity. The saying that an echo reflects back our call helps Oksana preserve the spiritual balance which she found impossible at a younger age. The world of theatre is one of boiling emotions. The rhythm of her life has now levelled. She has regained her health and returned to a full, active career of theatrical performances, non-theatre repertory and cinema work, bringing us unique characters, filled with energy and strength. They exist on a knife edge. Sometimes, she is a proud and inaccessible woman — at others, she is full of tenderness and femininity. She can be a vamp, a composed business woman or a bohemian poet. Her portrayal of the romantic folk heroine Zoska in Yanka Kupala’s Broken Nest received high praise. Olga Klebanovich, People’s Artiste of Belarus, played Marylya opposite her. She stresses, “Oksana seemed to float across the stage; she was so ethereal yet so tragic.” Playing young girls and women, Oksana manages to break out of the mould and even has a natural sense of the comedic. Audiences often don’t know whether to laugh or sympathise, as her characters change emotions as quickly as children. Everything is told through her facial expressions, which nakedly reveal the inner world of her characters. Her bright palette of feelings is enchanting and her ability to portray a diverse range of women
ActorsName is impressive. Each one is unique, lodging in the memory… I ask if she has become more emotionally controlled with the years, and she replies that she tends to react less violently these days. In her youth, she would expend huge emotional energy on trifles; now she preserves her inner strength for more important matters. I wonder if such as thing is possible in an actor’s profession, since the roles require great emotional input, but she laughs. Oksana tells me, “Professional skill is needed. In penetrating a role, an actress must remember that she does not truly become the character. She remains herself, simply bringing the role to life.” She has played dozens of stage roles: Yevlampia in Nikolay Ostrovsky’s Wolves and Sheep, Leda — the queen of Sparta — in Amphitryon (based on an ancient Greek myth), Inken Peters in Gerhart Hauptmann’s Before Sunset, Anna in Maxim Gorky’s Vassa and Nastasia in Fiodor Dostoevsky’s Uncle’s Dream. Her cinema roles have also been numerous. Today, she arrives at our editorial office directly from shooting a children’s film — Striped Happiness — in which she plays a teacher. Oksana, you seem able to play any role. All actresses think this of themselves and I’m no exception. I’m a true ‘character’ actress, although I lean towards romanticism and sentiment. I can say without exaggeration that such roles are perfect for me. In ‘Wolves and Sheep’, I played Yevlampia — a woman set apart by her romantic dreams. I’m also intrigued by heroic stories. Did you ever yearn for one role only to receive another? The role of Yevlampia didn’t immediately appeal to me. In fact, I felt that I was wasting the summer (when rehearsals were taking place). I couldn’t see myself as the widow of a businessman stupidly signing blank papers. However, director Arkady Kats told me that such women do exist, living in
their own inner world. The usual rules of society have no meaning for them. He advised me to draw on Yelena Solovei and Renata Litvinova and I was sceptical but he told me to trust him. “If you start to overact, I’ll pull you back. Just search for a character which differs from the rest. Yevlampia is like a bird who understands nothing, being above routine. She wants only to love; this is the only thing that interests her…” Did you find her inner soul? It can’t be otherwise. I played Yevlampia as if walking on thin ice. Although she is a real person, she is very strange. I found melodious tones in her voice and gestures. My Yevlampia was all a tingle. The whole performance was nice. Tell u s, please, about your other favourite ways of creating a character. I’m keen on dramatic heroines — be they sharp and prickly or lyrical and romantic. I use my voice, movement and gesture and like to gradually build my rhythm. Tension mounts until broken, leaving a suddenly calm atmosphere. This catches the audience’s attention. In life, I’m also interested in ‘chameleons’ whose mood changes quickly. Theatre has its own laws. What are your views on them? If you’re devoted to your profession, then everything falls into place. Of course, there are difficulties and tensions — since these accompany all creativity. Even those whose principles are whiter than white can be led astray and even the most easy going and kind may not get along with everyone. Our profession is guided by ambition and pride — this is what motivates us — so we all like to prove ourselves to be the best. Why else would we be on stage? Accordingly, some unpleasant traits come to the surface… but which of us is without sin? Each one of us acts as our conscience directs, controlling our negative emotions as best we can. Naturally, we’d all like to be perceived as being kind.
ActorsName How long have you understood this? It’s taken me many years to understand that we should hold our tongues when words of criticism spring to mind. We are all human, so it’s better to view others as reflections of yourself, trying to see only the best traits. We often forget that we cannot fully understand another person’s point of view unless we’ve walked in their shoes; we judge by our own life experience — but this may be lacking. We may think that we’ve understood and can offer advice but it’s better just to be patient and listen. Mr. Stanislavsky once said that a role should ‘sit well’ with an actor’s own life, adding to their personal experience. He believed that ‘all moments of the role and an actor’s tasks will become not just imaginary, but ‘tatters’ of one’s own life’. Do you ‘project’ your own life situations onto those of your characters? T h i s i s a ve r y complex thing to do and it’s always very difficult for me to answer this question. On the one hand, s ome proj e c t i on exists; on the other, I have to invent some of the drama. Of course, I do rely on my own life experience — but I tend to recall feelings rather than events — as these make me stronger and wiser. Undoubtedly, my life experience helps me in each role, but I don’t use it in its ‘pure’ form. People say that mature actors have more depth because they’ve experienced both joy and sorrow in life; pain expands the soul. We can’t always be in high spirits,
since troubles always come. These give joy meaning. Maybe this is a principle of human existence on the Earth. What are you currently rehearsing? Unfortunately, nothing new at present; in the current repertoire, I’m in ‘Ninochka’, ‘Vassa’, ‘A Profitable Post’, ‘An Ideal Husband’ and ‘Before Sunset’. I’m also with a non-repertory company, in addition to shooting for the cinema, so I’m not upset. I can’t play young girls any more (laughs). In ‘Before Sunset’, which has long been part of our repertoire, Mr. Yankovsky’s character calls my heroine a young girl. This embarrasses me, because the audience can clearly see my age, however good I look. I understand that age restrictions aren’t important if the play
“I’m keen on dramatic heroines – be they sharp and prickly or lyrical and romantic. I use my voice, movement and gesture and like to gradually build my rhythm.” is worthy. However, before each performance, I ask Mr. Yankovsky to call me ‘young woman’. However, he says that I’m a young girl to him (laughs) and that he won’t change anything. As far as greater engagements are concerned, it’s good that an actor’s life has its high and low tides, as this gives you time to assess yourself, finding something new, which can be
useful later. When an actor ‘jumps’ immediately from one performance to another, they become tired from the burden; this can lead to them falling into a rut. Rehearsal ‘down time’ is beneficial, as long as it doesn’t last too long (laughs). Which cinema shoots do you most remember? Each shoot is interesting in its own way. If you’re open to life, you’ll find things of interest everywhere. I’ve played in a lot of Moscow TV series — usually vamps. Belarusian film director Margarita Kasymova invited me to film ‘Temptation’, a film about love, playing a deceived wife. She’s a successful entrepreneur who transfers her business to her husband so that she can spend time raising her son. The business expands and her husband acquires a lover. It was a big role, which I enjoyed immensely, and was my first experience of Belarusian cinema. Russian actors played alongside me. I also remember working with Russian film director Sergey Gazarov, playing a single-mother journalist, nicknamed R adio. Her prickly character made a change for me — as I’d been playing a lot of softly feminine roles. I also worked with Belarusian film director Alexander Yefremov on two pictures: ‘Rhymed with Love’ and ‘Sniper’. I was then invited to work with Belarusian film director Andrey Kudinenko on ‘Massacre’, playing an awful Baba-Yaga (a witchlike character in Slavic folklore), who turned into a beautiful woman once a spell had been removed. I wore amazing prosthetic make-up to make me hag-like. I like the dignity bestowed on Belarusians in this film, as it insults me to see us portrayed as unhappy or poor — on stage or screen. We are a proud, strong and kind nation. I perceive my fatherland in this way. When and how did your acting style take its present form? I have no idea, as it seemed to evolve over my whole life. I think this happens to all good actors, whose experience
ActorsName shapes their work. The danger comes in ‘stopping rowing the boat’ — since immobility can fossilise you. My foundations were laid at the Theatre and Arts Institute (now, the Academy of Arts), which I entered immediately on leaving school. I studied with Zinaida Brovarskaya and Valentin Ryzhy, who taught us well. As a student, I understood that we should take everything best from each teacher. I’ve been lucky and remain so, making friends with experienced stage masters. I’ve always treated them respectfully. While studying, I admired those who, despite their knowledge and huge experience, remained friendly and open. I remember that I made a discovery at that time: the more cultured a person, the simpler their outlook and the more pure their character. At what age did you ‘become infected’ by the theatre? As a teenager, I attended performances at the Young Spectator’s Theatre, the Maxim Gorky National Academic Drama Theatre and the Yanka Kupala National Academic Theatre. I was greatly impressed by a performance at the Maxim Gorky Theatre — ‘Two on the Swings’. I remember crying terribly. Alexandra Klimova, a People’s Artiste of the USSR from the second half of the 20th century, was perfect. Like all little girls, I was excited by love stories. I was a rather impressionable child and I still cry when I watch ‘Wait for Me’ — a Russian TV programme about people being reunited after many years. You have a family story connected with this TV programme, don’t you? Yes. My family appeared on a similar show, produced by Agniya Barto — a Soviet writer, screenwriter and children’s poet. I’d told journalists many times about my father and brother losing each other and my mother during the bombing in WW2 — only finding one another twenty years later. What is dear to you from your time with the Young Spectators’ Theatre?
“While studying, I
admired those who, despite their knowledge and huge experience, remained friendly and open. I remember that I made a discovery at that time: the more cultured a person, the simpler their outlook and the more pure their character.” It was my first theatrical company and it accepted me very warmly. The staff treated young actors well. My first entrance on stage was in the role of Butterfly in ‘Thumbelina’: I flew Thumbelina to a leaf. My shoes were two sizes too big, so were constantly falling off, which amused the audience and me. Having played many roles with this theatre, several years later, I was invited to the Russian Theatre, where everything was different. I was accepted intelligently and rather reservedly. However, by that time, I was also different. My colleague once said that you represent vulnerable womanhood. Do you agree? I think that two strands struggle within me: one active and the other vulnerable. Probably, this is true of every woman. Sometimes, it seems to me that I’m an extremely fragile person; at other times, I feel fiercely independent. Many think that our judgments of ourselves can be too remote from reality. What do you think when you look in the mirror? I sometimes think that my nose could have been shorter, my lips more pouty and my eyes larger. If I dwell on such thoughts, my other side steps in to reprimand me, reminding me that we
can’t choose our parents or genes so I should just accept myself as I am — and like myself. Of course, people see us in different ways and their vision can differ greatly from our own. I learnt some time ago that, while at the Institute, I was seen as very composed and self-contained, although I’d thought of myself as being cheerful and chatty. Are you of an organised nature? I’m very responsible, with periods of serious self-discipline. However, this only happens when I’m over-tired. This side of me can be overwhelming, but I’ve been like this since childhood. I sometimes think I was born this way! Not long ago, I began using a day planner to ensure that I don’t forget anything! Do you sway between liking yourself and not? Naturally — everyone’s the same. It’s not normal — or healthy — to like yourself too much. A happy medium is best. Of course, we’re sometimes overwhelmed with emotions. Every now and then, we feel pleased with ourselves, thinking that we’re doing everything correctly — as Bulat Okudzhava said, ‘as if we’re living correctly’. At other times, we’re dissatisfied with everything. It’s normal to feel this way: we’re biological creatures living in the
ActorsName shadow of the moon’s tides and beneath the sun’s magnetic storms. Just like any other member of the human race, my moods can change, as does my world outlook. My relations with people, even those closest to me, go through different phases. Between these ups and downs, there are periods of free flight. These short moments tend to come when I’m achieving something: either perfect acting in a performance or something else… It’s like a short flight from a trampoline. You feel ethereal — as if flying! You want the condition to last forever so it’s always surprising when we come down to Earth. How long have you enjoyed this acceptance of yourself and the knowledge that you won’t dance to someone else’s tune to the detriment of your personality? In my profession, it’s impossible not to dance to someone’s tune. I’m dependant on others. As far as life is concerned, experience teaches you to become your own person. I used to feel as if everyone else should bow to my wishes when I was playing a difficult part — not even breathing. Later, I realised that you have to combine the real and virtual worlds. You need to cook, and find time to chat to your husband while simultaneously
responding to your son; other people’s needs are as important as your own. In one interview, you noted that family is at the core of everything. In ‘Anna Karenina’, Russian writer Leo Tolstoy noted that ‘happy families are all alike’ while ‘every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way’. I believe that our family has a good mixture of both. It smells like pies in your home. Of course! I’m keen on baking pies, charlottes and puddings with raisins. Tell us, please, about the men in your life. About real men or those on stage? (laughs) I’m engaged in
Vladimir Mishchanchuk. I adore all my male stage partners but I’m not interested in how they behave in their real lives, outside the stage. Some things are best kept private. I like to think of them having only good traits, since this makes them more interesting to me. It’s probably easiest for me to like them when I invent these good qualities myself. In real life, practical approach is needed in relations with men though. Yes, it’s more difficult to love someone when you endure the daily routine of family life together. I sometimes think that I know someone well but may then discover something
It’s good that an actor’s life has its high and low tides, as this gives you time to assess yourself, finding something new, which can be useful later a non-repertor y version of the comedy ‘A Lady and Her Men’. My character has three men in Michael Cristofer’s play, acting opposite wonderful Sergey Zhuravel and Oksana Lesnaya on the set of Andrey Kudinenko’s “Massacre”
utterly different. This just proves that we’re guided by illusions. It’s good to know that a man is an important component of female life. He is a catastrophe which can’t be avoided and we can’t exist without him. I don’t understand emancipated woman who flaunt the idea of doing everything themselves, saying that they don’t need men. The world revolves around yin and yang. A woman can only be whole with a man. I love my female friends but this can’t replace the company of a man. Do you like to be in the limelight? Actors always love to be liked, accepted, admired and ‘showered’ with flowers. This is our work. It’s stupid to pretend that I don’t desire these things. The real and virtual worlds combine, visiting each other. Meanwhile, only the best is given to guests. By Valentina Zhdanovich
“Mammoth” to bring in fresh ideas National Beauty School hosts competition for designers, as part of 12th Festival of Avant-Garde Fashion
he forum’s guests were astonished at least three times. During the Festival, it became clear that the latest looks for men are somewhat lacking in masculinity; in fact, many of male models had legs just as beautiful as the girls! In addition, their movements were quite feminine. Meanwhile, festival guest Vladimir Chekasin — a jazz musician — considerably enhanced the status of the event with his wonderful performance during the two-hour show. One member of the InZhest Plastic Theatre shockingly burst into flames, as if from a firework spark, obliging her to disappear promptly behind
the curtains. It was rather like being in Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland! Certainly, the performance of avantgarde art can burn your fingers. Speaking personally, I’d love for designers to be more relaxed in their ideas, applying non-standard approaches and pure fantasy. They still seem to be inspired by what already exists in magazines. Additionally, the method of making hats from melted discs needs improvement. Many are inspired by the theme of the cosmos, with fantastic winged creatures moving sadly among the audience. High-heeled boots also seem to reign supreme; they may not be suitable for walking to the shops, but they look
great on the catwalk. Designers also continue to draw on Soviet motifs, with pioneer ties and forage caps evident at almost every festival. A single leader was chosen from the 10-15 finalists: Gomel’s Yevgeny Ivanchik. He received the heavy Grand Prix mammoth figurine, being acknowledged the undisputable winner of the avant-garde fashion contest. Yevgeny, from Gomel’s Crystal Nymph Centre of Fashion and Beauty, has shown his talent previously — at the Fashion Mill Festival. His ‘Good Morning, My Emperor’ collection sold out and his fans rave about his hats made from sofa cushions and brushes. By Vika Presnova
Master class by Eduard Astafiev
duard Astafiev is 68 but looks much younger, perhaps because of his active lifestyle, being involved in sport. His bicycle, which he prefers to any other type of transport, is always on hand at his studio. Moreover, he loves his work. Today, he is one of the nation’s most prominent sculptors. We chat about his creativity and the essence of his profession. How did you become a sculptor… consciously or accidentally? Like all children, I was keen on drawing. Then, someone suggested that I copy something. I began doing so and became interested in caricatures. Life was rather difficult in the 1950s, especially as I was brought up without a father: my parents divorced while I was still young. I wasn’t very focused, so others stepped in to push me. However, I did love drawing. I later discovered a studio at the Theatre and Arts Institute in Minsk, where famous teachers taught. I managed to attend for one year before going into the army. I also spent two
and a half years working at a factory before joining the military. I have no idea how I managed to work and study simultaneously (finishing the tenth form) while also attending a studio and going out dancing. After returning from the army, I again worked and applied for the Institute’s Design Department. I wasn’t accepted but it may have been to my advantage, as I then became interested in sculpture. I was advised to put on an exhibition at the Officers’ House and entered the Institute’s Sculpture Department, learning from outstanding teachers such as Alexey Glebov and Andrey Bembel — both People’s Artistes of Belarus and great masters. I learnt so much from them. At the same time, I was studying at the Institute (now, an Academy). My colleagues had already finished college, while I had little experience. Taking my entrance exams, I didn’t even know how to make a ‘skeleton’ for a sculpture. After graduating from the Institute, I was sent to Vitebsk, keen to
Famous Belarusian sculptor thinks of himself as a happy person
CreativityPersonality start from the bottom and work my way upwards. I later moved to Minsk, as my family lived here. At first, I wasn’t given anything very responsible to do at the artistic factory but, after some time, when they saw my skills, I was given orders for serious monumental artworks. Each project was long-term, sometimes taking years to complete.
It’s an intense process from design to completion. I took every order, since I needed to support myself and my daughter. We lived like students. Did you gain fulfilment through monumental sculpture? If that was true, I’d have retired! Of course, I continue to realise my potential with each year that passes. Every artist has certain works which are especially close to their heart. The monument to Frantsisk Skorina is such for Mr. Astafiev. Many sculptors and painters worldwide have dedicated their works to the first Belarusian book printer and enlightener Frantsisk Skorina. One of Rafael’s frescoes depicts a man similar to Skorina’s self-portrait, as published in the Bible he later released. It’s quite possible, as researchers say, that Skorina met the great painter, alongside contemporaries such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. The streets of many B el ar usi an cit ies are graced with monuments to Skorina, as are cities abroad. However, the sculpture of the
Belarusian enlightener in Prague, where he began his publishing activity, is most notable. According to some historians, Skorina’s grave is also located in Prague and the ashes of his son also rest there. Famous sculptor Eduard Astafiev was entrusted to commemorate the memory of the Belarusian enlightener in the Czech capital. Jointly with architect Yuri Kazakov, they visited Prague and agreed the site for the monument with local authorities. The 2.5m metal sculpture shows him with the first Bible in his hands, welcoming guests to the Czech capital in the public garden of the Old Town, just a few steps from the National Library. Curiously, according to Mr. Astafiev, five centuries ago, young Skorina used to work as a gardener in that exact spot. The sculpture has become a landmark for the history of two cities and for the artist himself. Eduard Astafiev was born in Russia to a Russian father and Belarusian mother. His father — Boris Vasilievich — went to the front in 1942, when his son was just two weeks old. Leading a penal battalion, the chance of returning was slim, yet he did survive, coming home on crutches. Accordingly, the theme of war is close to Mr. Astafiev, who has created a sculpture to his father’s memory. Boris Vasilievich’s last surviving medal is ‘frozen’ in a granite piece, creating an eternal memory of an ordinary soldier’s merits and of the Great Victory. Mr. Astafiev has created dozens of monuments and memorials in Belarus, dedicated to war. One honours prisoners of the death camp, sited at the cement factory in Mogilev Region’s Krichev. During the war years, the invaders tried to restore cement manufacture at the enterprise, fencing the surrounding area with barbed wire. A strongly guarded concentrated camp opened, where 18,000 people met their death. Among its prisoners were Moscow soldiers
CreativityPersonality taken captive in 1941: Alexander Okaemov, the first performer of Orlenok (Eaglet) song on All-Union Radio, and Gennady Luzenin, the Chief Choirmaster of the Moscow Philharmonic. They managed to contact Krichev’s underground partisan unit, for which Hitler’s soldiers tortured them. However, they refused to reveal any information and were eventually taken before a firing squad. Okaemov sang Orlenok song as he faced his death and the last words of his friend Gennady Luzenin were: ‘Farewell, life! Farewell, Homeland!’ The heroes were awarded ‘For Courage’ medals posthumously, with streets in Krichev named in their honour. A monument stands on the site of their execution. The sculptor dedicated many works to the memory
Svetlogorsk — merchant Shatile — was unveiled to mark the town’s 45th anniversary. Moreover, due to Mr. Astafiev, Svetlogorsk has become the first in Gomel Region to have a monument to its founder. Mr.Astafiev has left a ‘Dubochak’ sculpture in Grodno Region’s district centre of Ostrovets, which is called by local residents a ‘small Ostrovets resident’. Mr. Astafiev underlines that he is interested in life in all its manifestations — as becomes obvious on viewing his exhibition at the Museum of Belarusian Literary History. Although it contains only a portion of his works, it shows much about his personality. Most are made from bronze, steel or glass, with a few from iron, a fragment of stone or a mirror. Each piece encourages us to ponder the great and heroic or
The sculptor dedicated many works to the memory of Belarusian figures of history and culture, as well as heroes of war. Enough exist to create a whole gallery devoted to our fellow countrymen of Belarusian figures of history and culture, as well as heroes of war. Enough exist to create a whole gallery devoted to our fellow countrymen. The sculptor’s cherished dream is to make a sculptural composition of 12 portraits — like the Bible’s 12 apostles. These would depict Frantsisk Skorina, Yevfrosiniya Polotskaya, Kirill Turovsky, Kastus Kalinovsky and other Belarusian legends. Eduard is always pleased to take part in open air workshops held in small Belarusian towns. He believes that this is a wonderful tradition, where new friends can be met and new discoveries made, inspiring further artworks which can be left to local residents. His monument to the founder of
simply to smile at life’s delights. The tragic and comic come hand in hand in Mr. Astafiev’s works. Sculpture is so creative, as well as being labour-intensive. Has this ever produced obstacles? No. When you feel an idea and your efforts bear fruit, it’s easy to smooth over any difficulties. When you succeed, you receive moral satisfaction. Of course, it’s physically difficult to work with stone; you need to wear a mask and glasses. However, the results make everything worthwhile. Are you inspired by others’ ideas or are most of your works your own views on modernity? Everything depends on whether a piece has been ordered or whether
it’s my own creative work for an exhibition. If I receive an order, the theme is already determined. Five years ago, I was asked to create a monument to Roman Shatila, who lived in Shatilki village in 1560, on his own estate. The settlement later became Svetlogorsk, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. Of course, the theme is interesting and I enjoyed working on it, researching costumes. I visited the theatre to speak to the chief director and spent a lot of time in the library, learning about the clothes and weapons of that time. The monument was unveiled in Svetlogorsk in 2006. The town hosts open air sculpting workshops, so it boasts a great many works. It’s a pleasant place to visit, being surrounded by the forest, and the sculptures give the town its own identity. It’s a very cultural place, which reveres hand-made arts; I have a great many pleasant recollections connected with Svetlogorsk. So far, I’ve taken part in three open air forums there. Your studio is filled with sculptures. What are your favourite themes? Many of my works are connected with female images. Of course, sculpture requires a special approach. You need to prepare your workplace and ensure the right lighting. Back in the Soviet times, there were thematic exhibitions dedicated to sport, labour and agriculture, for which I made works. About 25 of my pieces are held by Belarusian museums, and I’ve made a similar number of memorial plaques, which are found in Minsk and other Belarusian cities. Recently, my memorial plaque to General Morkovkin was unveiled. He set up a border detachment in Smorgon (after the Republic of Belarus was established) and was then Minister of Border Troops. Do you prefer realism when portraying people? I studied the great masters of realism in the 1960s and early 1970s, so I understand their school. At that
time, stylised, formal works were unwelcome; even now, I like to show real faces and figures. I aim for realism down to the smallest detail — even a beautifully tied knot, created in bronze or marble. Each piece requires its own approach and solutions. What characterises the Belarusian school of sculpture? Can we be proud of our achievements in this sphere? I think we can, as we’ve enjoyed the skills of great masters, especially in the post-war period. They set the tone in sculpture: Grubbe, Zair Azgur and Glebov. Years ago, I toured our Soviet republics, as well as visiting Italy, Poland, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine: each has its own school. The Baltic States boast their own approach while Belarusians capture amazing facial expressions. Alongside interesting architectural forms, this makes our sculptors instantly recognisable. Many monuments were created after WWII, when the tragedy of what had happened couldn’t be reflected fully
on canvas. I believe Belarus possesses its own sculptural school. Why is participation in exhibitions important? It gives me the opportunity to show my creativity and my own concerns. Art is only self-expression through artistic images. I’m an individual, so I have my own perception of the world and my own way of portraying it. I see myself as a happy person, as I love my work. I can embody my ideas in metal and in other materials, bringing my essence to people. Are you interested in others’ reactions to your works? I have no desire to court popularity. I just live my own life and reflect my thoughts. We have artistic councils, where professional opinions regarding one’s works are expressed. I’m obliged to listen of course. These are the opinions of specialists, but I don’t really listen to the opinions of ordinary people. What are you currently working on and what are your creative plans? Do you have any fresh ideas?
It’s no good letting yourself become stagnant. I’m currently preparing for an exhibition and have further promising plans. What advice would you give young sculptors? The wise Chinese advise us to embrace change and they are probably right. Crucial moments change our human interrelations and art. In the Soviet times, even young artists were given commissions; now, young sculptors have to find orders themselves. It’s very hard for them. I’d advise them to be confident in their strengths and remain optimistic. What’s your creative ethos and what guides you? Professionalism and honesty… don’t be afraid to redraft your work and don’t make anything you’d be ashamed of showing to others. Sculpture endures for centuries, so my works will be scrutinised by generations ahead. We should make sure that we’re proud of our works, and that our conscience is clear. By Viktor Mikhailov
Commedia dell’arte and others 79th season of National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre promises great premieres and ambitious projects
he Opera and Ballet Theatre plans to give Minsk audiences seven new performances by August 2012. According to Vladimir G r i d y u s h k o, t h e D i r e c t o r General, in early September, the first premiere was Gioachino Rossini’s comic opera The Barber of Seville, staged by Italian conductor Gianluca Marcianò and chief director Mikhail Pandzhavidze. The performance is presented in the genre of a square theatre, following the carnival traditions of Italian commedia dell’arte — from the second half of the 16th century. The actors wear the traditional character-masks of Colombina, Clarice, the Doctor and Harlequin. “Traditional theatre has always endeavoured to reflect daily life while commedia dell’arte has never done this, being more like a grotesque exaggeration of human nature,” Mr. Pandzhavidze explains. “We use the principles of square theatre: a little rough and ordinary, but clownish and absolutely truthful. Our ‘fools’ always speak in a straightforward and frank manner.” In mid-autumn, the Opera and Ballet Theatre will present ballets from Sergey Dyagilev’s Russian Seasons: Scheherazade and Tamar. These will be staged by prominent dancer and choreographer, People’s Artist of Russia Andris Liepa. December gives us another premiere: Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia
di L ammermoor — a masterpiece of Italian Bel canto opera. The first half of 2 0 1 2 w i l l a ls o b e intense, offering us pre m i e re s of Giselle and Anyuta, staged by two People’s Artists of the USSR: choreographers Nikita Dolgushin and Vladimir Vasiliev. The premiere of Giacomo Puccini’s grand opera Turandot sees a new stage version by Mikhail Pandzhavidze, predicted to be a highlight of the 79th season. Its Nessun Dorma (None shall sleep) aria remains one of the most popular of all time. In m i d - D e c e mb e r, Mi ns k’s International Christmas Opera Forum will bring together prominent singers and conductors from the CIS and beyond for the second time. The Old New Year night will see the Opera and Ballet Theatre once again host its wonderful New Year Ball and, in summer 2012, Nesvizh will host its Nights of the Bolshoi Theatre at Radziwills’ Castle. Opera tours are also scheduled for Lithuania, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Egypt, in addition to major tours of Belarus, across regional and district centres. By Alexey Ivanenko
Songs we love Singer Valery Daineko on stage and in life
ladimir Mulyavin led legendary Pesnyary band, joined by Valery Daineko in the 1970s. Without insult to his fellow performers, Mr. Daineko can be called the foremost voice of this number one band. He still performs with Belarusian Pesnyary ensemble and his major hit — Belovezhskaya Pushcha (composed in the Soviet times) — remains as popular as ever. The number of downloads on YouTube is testament to this, as is the fact that almost every citizen of our former Soviet states knows the song by heart, often singing at home and on family holidays. Valery is a rare guest in Minsk these days but we managed to meet, on the eve of a grand tour. Autumn is usually the season when Belarusian Pesnyary undertakes its major concerts. Valery, you are known to everyone but, please, remind us of your life story. I was born in Rudensk, not far from Minsk, but spent my pre-school years in Berezino — on the bank of the Berezina River. At present, I’m building a house there — a twist of fate. At the age of six or seven, my parents and I moved to Minsk, where we rented a room. How did your path to music begin? I was rather sickly as a young child, so began school late — at the age of eight. Simultaneously, I began attending the musical school headed by my father. After my first year of studies, I shifted to a school overseen by the Conservatoire and, in my seventh year, set up a band, called ‘Menestreli’. At the time, ‘The Beatles’ set the fashion, so our repertoire was much influenced by their music. Did your parents significantly influence your musical taste? My mother was not a musician but had a unique ear. When I failed to play all the notes correctly in my room, she’d shout from the kitchen: ‘Wrong!’ Meanwhile, my father played several instruments and sang, also heading
a musical school. From an early age, my parents prepared me and my brother Gena for a musical career. My brother played the piano while I played the violin. Our father wished us to become classical musicians but jazz and rock music enchanted us; at night, we secretly listened to nonclassical music. I failed to gain entry to the Conservatoire, since I didn’t pass my history exam. My father then helped me enter a musical college. How did you come to join Pesnyary? During my studies at the musical college, I took part in a casting for ‘Pesnyary’ and was invited to join. I went to the audition with Leonid Bortkevich: me on the violin and him on the trumpet. I received an invitation to the band immediately but my parents persuaded me against it, wanting me to finish my studies at the musical college and receive a diploma. I also hoped to enter the Conservatoire the next year. I already knew all the songs by ‘Pesnyary’ and the musicians in the band but, actually, wasn’t that bothered about listening to them. I was fonder of jazz and rock. However, I eventually joined ‘Pesnyary’. When the band began, it followed ‘The Beatles’ heavily — who were my idols. Probably, no ‘Pesnyary’ would have existed without ‘The Beatles’. Vladimir Mulyavin loved them and was greatly inspired by their music, which seemed avant-garde but managed to conquer the world in the 1960s. Why does Belarusian Pesnyary seldom perform in Belarus? We’re often invited abroad, traditionally touring neighbouring states. Our studio is situated in Moscow, where we record new songs, but we still love to work at home, in Belarus. Every two years, ‘Belarusian Pesnyary’ premieres a new programme in Minsk but our credo remains unchanged: we always perform live. By Viktar Korbut
Enchanted by power of music
ladimir Baidov is the artistic leader and conductor of the Classic Avantgarde choir, with the Belarusian State Philharmonic Society, founded in 1988. It comprises twenty professional musicians, most of whom are laureates of prestigious national and international contests. The repertoire includes ancient Belarusian music, 17th-20th century foreign music and masterpieces of Russian classical and avant-garde music from the early 20th century, as well as compositions by contemporary composers. What interesting events has the choir enjoyed recently? Last year, we presented several programmes based on works by Stanisław Moniuszko — a founder of the Polish-Belarusian opera school and the most famous musician born in Belarus. Two years ago, the ‘New Sky of Stanisław Moniuszko’ CD was released with the assistance of the Polish Institute. At the same time, his ‘Loteria’ (Lottery) musical comedy was performed in Belarus — for the first time in over 170 years. The score was found in Poznań and the libretto was translated into Belarusian.
On June 22nd, 2011, we presented an exclusive programme, entitled ‘Souvenir from the Maestro’, which featured music by Chopin and his contemporaries. We used the Warsaw archives to locate rare music and then toured agro-towns near Myadel, Volozhin, Vileika and Kletsk, giving concerts which were subsidised by the state. You travel abroad in search of forgotten national music, while presenting this to foreign listeners. Of course. Last September, we visited Astana to take part in the Day of Belarusian Culture in Kazakhstan. We represented our country alongside staff from the Modern Fine Arts Museum and two soloists from the Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre of Belarus. We performed ancient Belarusian music, including works by Jan from Lyublin, ‘Polotskaya Tetrad’ (Polotsk Notebook), ‘Vilenskaya Tetrad’ (Vilnya Notebook) and fragments from Moniuszko’s ‘Loteria’, as well as Belarusian folk songs arranged for an orchestra and romances. This April, we went to North Korea for the ‘April Spring’ Friendship Art Festival, which brought together
musical, choreographic and circus groups from China, the USA, Cuba, France, Italy, Finland, Germany and South Korea. Belarusians have been taking part in this festival since 2000; the National Concert Orchestra of Belarus (headed by Mikhail Finberg), I. Zhinovich National Academic People’s Orchestra and the Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre have already demonstrated their artistry at the event. This year, our ensemble represented the Republic, with its ‘Dances of the Nations of the World’ programme (premiered at the Belarusian State Philharmonic Small Hall on the eve of the trip). Indian, Japanese, Tibetan, Romanian, Moldovan and Italian music was performed, in addition to Belarusian and Korean music. The Koreans heartily welcomed us, giving us ovations and even singing along with us. They were especially delighted to hear Korean music performed by Belarusian musicians; we received a special award for this. The international jury praised our professionalism and energy and the originality of our programme. We were given two prizes and, alongside the
Exposition other winners of the festival, took part in a gala-concert at the Grand Opera Theatre in Pyongyang. The title of your band indicates that you perform classical and avant-garde music. Which prevails in your repertoire? In recent times, we’ve been performing less avant-garde music, as it doesn’t appeal to the general public. Its performances need to be subsidised. For example, music by contemporary composers tends to be popular only with the elite in France, the Netherlands and Sweden. Such concerts are viewed as part of their cultural legacy — with no ‘box-office’ variants. Unfortunately, concerts of contemporary music aren’t subsidised in our country, so our repertoire leans towards more ancient Belarusian music. Where do you find musical scores of original ancient music? We buy them or find them in foreign archives, photocopying scores. We were surprised to learn that no national music exists in
were designed for playing at home — a widespread hobby at that time. What is, in your opinion, the reason for Belarusians showing less interest in academic music, after two centuries? Sadly, the prestige of the profession of a musician has fallen in our country. Meanwhile, the Philharmonic in neighbouring Poland has a huge reputation, regularly gathering full houses. Ours enjoy less attendance, though preparing no less interesting programmes. I believe that musical traditions should be formed within families. What are your next plans? On October 5th, the Belarusian State Philharmonic Society’s Small Hall will host a festive holiday (organised jointly with our old partner — the Polish Institute), dedicated to ou r b an d’s 20th annive rs ar y. We’ll perform
Modern Art of Chinese Textiles on show at National History Museum of Belarus
The choir was founded in 1988. Its repertoire includes ancient Belarusian music, 17-20th century foreign music and masterpieces or Russian classical and avant-garde music from the early 20th century, as well as compositions by contemporary composers our Belarusian archives. Fortunately, scores are kept in St. Petersburg. Unexpected discoveries also occur. Recently, one of our colleagues found a pile of photocopied music scores in Poland, from the mid-19th century. I was astonished to see that the covers were clearly decorated by a professional painter and the publishing house was located in Minsk. Belarus had its own musical publishing houses in the mid-19th century. Judging by the cover, these scores were rather expensive, although they
Landscape of fabrics decorates interior
K a r o l S z y m a n o w s k i’s ‘ P r i n c e Potemkin’, Witold Lutosławski’s ‘Little Suite’, Dmitry Lybin’s ‘Post Scriptum’ symphony, Pavel Streletsky’s ‘ S u m m e r D r e a m s’ a n d J e r z y Kornowicz‘s ‘Scenes from Bulgakov’. In early December, we’ ll be inviting all music lovers for a t r a d it i ona l fe st iv a l honou r i ng I. S oller tinsky, in Vitebsk. On February 23rd, jointly with some dance groups, we’ll give a concert including wonder f u l music by Strauss and his sons.
he exhibition showcases works by famous masters, teachers and students from 18 leading Chinese art universities — using wool, cotton, flax and silk fibres. Weaving was invented by the Chinese back in the Neolithic era, spreading worldwide via the Great Silk Road. Tapestries portray the spirit of the time and each artist’s understanding of Chinese history, culture and their surroundings. The central place is occupied by Purity, Distance, Silence — an original composition made from three fine organza pieces, portraying rivers, lakes, high mountains, the sea and the endless sky; it creates t he impression of sp ace and solemnity and won a gold medal at the 6th From Lausanne to Beijing International Fibre Art Biennale, organised in China since 2000. Other works on show in Minsk have also been awarded prizes at Beijing biennales over the years.
Culture mosaic Trips to the past and present
Inspiring nature and travels Minsk’s Modern Fine Arts Museum hosts Françoise Limouzy’s Water and Rock exhibition
he exhibition showcases about 70 pieces in ink and acrylic paint, on canvas and paper. Ms. Limouzy’s works have been inspired by her trips around the globe and have already been exhibited in Belarus: in Vitebsk in March and in Gomel in May. Françoise Limouzy was born in July 1957. After studying the history of art and drama, she began her career as a theatre comedy actress (primarily in Paris), to which she devoted the next 12 years of her life. Afterwards, Ms. Limouzy left Paris to travel. Impressions from her trips are reflected in her paintings. At present, she lives in Paris, where she teaches yoga, and in the south of France, where she was born. Ms. Limouzy stresses that she doesn’t belong to any academic school but is ‘enthralled by the curious and mysterious process of contemplation, allured by the sensuous, charming power of nature’. She tells us, “I have a close relationship with colour and form and, being confident, my brushes become weapons of creativity. I first used watercolour and pastel techniques before shifting to acrylic paints and ink — using big brushes. I can draw sitting, standing or kneeling, with a big sheet of paper in front of me on the ground, grass or in the kitchen. I’m interested in traditions and always listen to advice — given to me by life itself. I use water to draw, sometimes rainwater, since it’s a pleasure for me to be closely connected with natural elements. I need to ‘dissolve’ colour, making it more transparent and easier to use. I want to make it flow, illuminate and mix, while playing with its intensity. If I’m in the countryside, I usually leave my works to dry in the sun.”
The Minsk — Capital of Belarus edition continues the Cities and Historical Places of Belarus series, which began with an edition about Polotsk
eaders are invited to take a stroll ‘through the streets and squares of ancient and contemporary Minsk’, enjoying landmark sites. The book is released by the Pachatkovaya Shkola Publishing House and is designed primarily for younger readers’ use in school lessons and at home.
Surprises of the season “Ice, Circus and Polar Bears” — this is the new show the Belarusian State Circus premiered on opening of its next season
he unique artistes from Krivoi Rog have already toured widely, entertaining the public with their ‘arctic’ arena.
The edition contains stories of ancient times, of how the Belarusian capital was founded, of the revolutionary and war periods, of post-war renovation and modern times. Special sections are dedicated to Minsk’s museums and its honorary citizens. There is even a ‘Minsk in Poetry’ section. The book has been wonderfully illustrated, boasting images of landmark buildings such as the National Library, the Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre, the Ice Palace and Arena Complex. It authors hope the edition will be interesting ‘to all Belarusians, as well as to tourists and travellers from all over the world’. Naturally, huge volumes of meat and fish have to be on hand for feeding the animals, although the brown bear is fed only on plants. The animals from the North are to demonstrate their artistry under the guidance of tamer Alexander Denisenko, an Honoured Artiste of Russia. The first half of the show will feature the Crystal Revue programme, with clowns, jugglers and acrobats performing on skates. This season, several surprises are in store, including a major programme devoted to Minsk Circus’ 40th birthday — to be celebrated in February. The wonderful show is premiering this autumn, with a tour of Sochi, Latvia, Egypt and Singapore planned. The Assistant to the Circus’ Artistic Director, Vasily Kremenetsky, tells us that some new artistes may debut at these jubilee celebrations; they are now studying at Glinka College of Music’s Circus Art Department.
A gift from partner Belarus’ National Art Museum obtained a sculpture by Svetlana Gorbunova “Artist and City. M.Chagall.”
he sculpture has been presented to the museum by its general partner — the BritishAmerican Tobacco Trading Company, which has been sponsoring the museum for over a decade. “This is an important event both for our museum and our Republic — domestically and abroad,” notes the National Art Museum’s General Director, Vladimir Prokoptsov. The sculpture is devoted to 20th century prominent artist Marc Chagall, who was among the founders of the Parisian pictorial school. Israel, France, Russia and, naturally, Belarus, view him as their ‘own’ but the image of his native Vitebsk was ever depicted on his great canvases. Belarusian master Svetlana Gorbunova (awarded with the Frantsisk Skorina Medal) has also created a monument to Symon Budny in Nesvizh, a memorial complex on the site of the burnt village of Litovets in Minsk Region’s Dzerzhinsk District, and a tombstone to Kondrat Krapiva. She was inspired to create a sculpture of Chagall after visiting the USA. “The UN General Assembly’s hall has a glass window by Chagall, which made me feel the nostalgia of the artist. I then had the idea of creating Marc Chagall’s image,” explains Ms. Gorbunova.
Virtuosos of combs and scissors Belarusian team wins 73 medals at International Neva River Banks Beauty Contest, ranked first among 15 teams from ten countries
t. Petersburg’s prestigious competition brought together over 4,500 masters from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Latvia, Finland, Italy and Japan. Belarus was represented by students from Minsk State Technological College and, despite being the youngest, they were acknowl-
Ecology via comic strips Belarusian-Swedish exhibition of caricatures on show at Gavriil Vashchenko Picture Gallery in Gomel
he exhibition is devoted to sustainable development, featuring installations, photos and collages, combining classical caricatures and modern art trends. Of course, the ecological theme is topical
edged best in almost all nominations, capturing the contest’s Grand Prix (by points). Anastasia Yatkova, an international master and absolute champion of Belarus and Russia, was responsible for gathering the talented team of young people, creating a national squad of hairdressers. “Our youngsters caused a stir at the contest,” she tells us. “Honestly, this was unexpected, as our rivals were strong.” The virtuoso hairdressers — led by Ms. Yatkova — are next to head for Italian Milan, which is hosting the World Championship for Hairdressing, Decorative Cosmetics and Nail Design. They’ll also take part in the Ukrainian Open Championship, in Kiev. for Gomel Region, which was most affected by the Chernobyl disaster. The project explores our society’s sustainable development, while spreading information on ecological problems. It was launched in 2010 in Iceland, later moving to the Balkans, Malaysia, Latvia and Russia. Each host country had two sections at its exhibition: one comprising local artists’ works and the other showing pieces by Swedish artists.
Sincere and straightforward — she is as she is
ollowing the results of votes by the jury and audience, talented Lidia earned the greatest number of points out of ten entrants. This was her second time at the national selection round; last year, she was ranked fourth. “Sometimes, a favourite is absolutely evident,” notes Lyudmila Borodina, the Executive Producer of Lad TV Channel, analysing the results of the national contest. “However, this year, there were so many strong children with well-staged performances and unusual props; I think some theatrical elements have been inten-
sified. Unfortunately, adults seem to be over-training children for contests more often these days, forgetting that they are just children. Lidia’s singing is sincere and spontaneous: something which comes only from the heart. We may lack perfect staging but teachers understand what we’re looking for.” It seems that, this year, the jury chose a rather classic performance. Musically, that’s true, but Lidia’s performance uses the interesting metaphor of sculpture — bringing inanimate beings to life through music. We plan to embody this more clearly on the Yerevan stage.
Belarus’ Lidia Zablotskaya, from Vdokhnovenie (Inspiration) Studio at Mogilev’s City Gymnasium #1, to sing at International Junior Eurovision-2011 Song Contest, hosted by Yerevan on December 3rd Lidia plans to prove that Belarus is worthy of being called a treasury of talents. She tells us, “Honestly, I didn’t expect to win, only wishing to wor t hily repres ent Mogile v Region. Now, I’m looking forward to performing in Armenia, conveying the message that there should be more kindness in the world. I’ll try to be professional, working and rehearsing hard.” We wish Lidia every success and hope that her image remains light and romantic, as admired by the audience and jury. By Valentin Pavlovsky