No.12 (939), 2011
BELARUS Беларусь. Belarus
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May joy come to all!
Politics, Economy, Culture
good old Traditions of our forefathers
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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. 12 (939), 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
Founders: The Information Ministry of the Republic of Belarus “SB” newspaper editorial office Belvnesheconombank Editor: Viktor Kharkov
Union of three nations
Course converges In November, Gorki-9
residence, near Moscow, hosted a session of the Supreme State Council of Belarus-Russia Union State — for the first time in two years
Executive Secretary: Valentina Zhdanovich
“Feeling each note” Professor Eduard
Kuchinsky accidentally discovered his talent as a violinist and is now seeking gifted youngsters countrywide, wishing to turn them into world level masters
Venezuela comes closer
Thank you, festival!
On threshold of nuclear era
Teach and entertain! Yanka Kupala Na-
Improving living conditions
At one’s own place Belarus ahead of CIS
Technology of the future
On path to Victory Hall Belarusian State
states in Human Development Index
tional Academic Theatre premieres Night Before Christmas, staged by Artistic Leader Nikolay Pinigin
Design and Layout by Vadim Kondrashov, Georgiy Shablyuk, Aloizas Yunevich Беларусь.Belarus is published in Belarusian, English, Spanish and Polish. Distributed in 50 countries of the world. Final responsibility for factual accuracy or interpretation rests with the authors of the publications. Should any article of Беларусь.Belarus be used, the reference to the magazine is obligatory. The magazine does not bear responsibility for the contents of advertisements.
Dreaming of fairy letters Tamara Lisitskaya is truly multi-talented: a TV host, TV director, scriptwriter, radio host and prose writer
Publisher: “SB” editorial office
Images in real environment Alexey Kok-
This magazine has been printed at “Belarusian House of Press” Publishing Office” UE.
tev belongs to those Belarusian artists whose professional biography was formed in the 1970s
Sewn by fashion threads 3rd Belarus
Fashion Week proves essential to those already planning their spring and summer wardrobes
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Beautiful symbols Slutsk sashes be-
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© “Беларусь. Belarus”, 2011
e should speak about completion as if it’s beginning or even continuation. It’s vital to do so at the junction of two years, when one has practically become a history while the other one is only going to take its rights. These aren’t separated from each other by some concrete wall; otherwise, time would have stopped and frozen. Meanwhile, it continues its run and many events, more exactly their consequences, overflow from one year to another while receiving their new development there. This is the dialectics of contemporary chronicle, the dialectics of our life. The current issue of our magazine continues to explore this topic. The Union of Three Nations material describes that on January 1st, 2012, the Single Economic Space (SES) of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan is launched, opening the door to a new period of integration (preceded by our three states’ Customs Union). Commodities, services, capital and labour will be able to move more freely. The formation of a Eurasian Economic Union will be the next stage of co-operation between Minsk, Moscow and Astana. The major goal of the SES is to enhance people’s wellbeing and quality of life — as presidents Alexander Lukashenko, Dmitry Medvedev and Nursultan Nazarbayev agreed in Moscow in November. They signed the Eurasian Economic Integration Declaration. For Belarus and Kazakhstan — whose economies are much smaller than that of Russia — the preservation of national sovereignty during the process of integration is vital. Accordingly, the voices of Minsk and Astana in solving common issues need to be as weighty as that of Moscow.
Our Course Converges is also dedicated to the topic of integration. In November, Gorki-9 residence, near Moscow, hosted a session of the Supreme State Council of the Belarus-Russia Union State — for the first time in two years. Belarusian-Russian integration had seemed to be on hold but the Gorki9 meeting and its adopted decisions prove that our two countries have a serious future. Minsk and Moscow are moving towards their goal of fully-fledged
union. At present, Minsk and Moscow co-ordinate their foreign policy, jointly discussing external challenges and threats According to Mr. Lukashenko, Belarus and Russia are acting as a single state regarding issues of defence. Integration in the social sphere has also reached new heights: Belarusians and Russians enjoy almost equal rights in each state (as the Kazakhs do not yet). Integration originates from pragmatic goals, which are based on mutual benefits for all sides, as is proven in the Venezuela Comes Closer. Dozens of thousand kilometres separate Minsk and Caracas, taking 16 hours by plane and one refuelling stop. However, in recent times, Venezuela has become much closer to
Belarus. This former ‘terra incognita’ has transformed into a huge construction site, where Belarusians drill wells, construct agro-towns and accommodation, lay gas pipelines and build new plants. In late November, Minsk’s Victoria Hotel hosted the 1st 'Venezuela-Belarus: Achievements and Prospects of Bilateral Relations' Forum, reflecting the scale of our bilateral liaisons and outlining new areas for collaboration. Just five years ago, Belarusian-Venezuelan turnover totalled $5m but, by late 2011, this may have reached $2bn (matching that of Belarus’ largest trading partners in Europe). Despite its natural wealth, Venezuela (ranked first globally for oil deposits) can hardly be called a rich state. It faces many challenges: construction of accommodation, opening of new production facilities and creation of new jobs. In this respect, Belarus is an ideal partner, boasting well-developed industrial and scientific potential. Venezuela is presenting new opportunities to the Belarusian economy. In the past, oil contracts with Caracas have eased Minsk’s access (following a dramatic rise in Russian prices). Belarus has pioneered the Eastern-European region in terms of mastering alternative routes of supply and continues to develop its hydrocarbon co-operations. This is how our thesis about development is confirmed in practice. A range of other materials also reflect this tendency and even show a link between contemporary days and earlier times. Beautiful Symbols reveals the essence of how wonderful creations of human hands — Slutsk sashes — have become a bright example of Belarus’ rich cultural heritage. We’ll be proud of this heritage and admire it nowadays and in future. BY Viktor Kharkov, magazine editor Беларусь. Belarus
Good opportunity to meet more often Governmental agreement between Belarus and Latvia enters into force, simplifying trips for residents of border areas
he ambassadors of our two countries announced the agreement recently, after exchanging official notifications in Vitebsk. From next year, over 250,000 Latvians and Belarusians will be able to cross the border without the usual visa requirements.
Dialogue giving additional impetus Polotsk attends its first Covenant of Mayors ceremony in Brussels
Nadezhda Yurkevich, a teacher at the Braslav gymnasium, visits Daugavpils monthly to see her 60 year old father. She receives a visa free of charge for the purpose, but has to visit the Latvian Consulate in Vitebsk twice a year, travelling over a thousand kilometres. “As a child, I spent each summer with my aunt in a remote village near Daugavpils,” recollects Svetlana Matskevich, a colleague of Nadezhda. “We spent whole days with my cousins by the river. However, after Belarus and Latvia became sovereign states, we’ve met only two times. We still want to see each other often and hope that the agreement entering into force will promote this.” “The agreement aims to benefit people,” notes the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Latvia, H.E. Mr. Alexander Gerasimenko. “Just one visit to the consulate is enough to receive permission, costing 20 Euros. Pensioners, those with disabilities and children under 18 receive a visa free of charge.” Belarusian diplomats are working on similar agreements with Lithuania and Poland. According to Alexander Ostrovsky, the Head of the Foreign Ministry’s Chief Consular Department, Warsaw has taken recent steps to hinder work in this direction. However, Vilnius is keen to move forward.
fter signing the Covenant of Mayors in September this ancient city became Belarus’ first city to make commitments to the implementation of the EU 20-20-20 targets. A forum highlighting the importance and prospects of this initiative was also held as part of the ceremony. According to Alexander Poznyak, Chairman of the Polotsk City Executive Committee, the forum is the best way to discuss problems. “Its format provides local authorities with an opportunity to meet top officials from European institutions to discuss joint events, aiming to develop power engineering. I have no doubt that this dialogue will add additional impetus to achieving the targets on energy saving in Europe in general and in Polotsk in particular,” notes the official.
The Covenant of Mayors ceremony is organised each year. The Covenant signatories, as well as structures and organisations, providing assistance to this initiative, get together to show their intention to curb CO2 emissions by at least 20 percent by 2020 while discussing their ongoing activities in this direction. This year’s ceremony has united over 1,000 participants, including the heads of largest regions and cities of Europe such as London, Munich, Bucharest, Rome and Warsaw. Highranking European officials have also attended the event. Polotsk has elaborated its sustainable energy development plan as an obligatory condition for the SURE: Sustainable Urban Energy in the Region of the European Neighbourhood Partnership Instrument — towards the Covenant of Mayors EU project. The document will be submitted to Polotsk Council of Deputies in early 2012. The implementation of the plan of action will help Polotsk enhance its energy efficiency while considerably reducing its energy consumption.
In November, Gorki-9 residence, near Moscow, hosted a session of the Supreme State Council of Belarus-Russia Union State — for the first time in two years. BelarusianRussian integration had seemed to be on hold but the Gorki-9 meeting and its adopted decisions prove that our two countries have a serious future. Minsk and Moscow are moving towards their goal of fully-fledged union
rior to Alexander L u k a s h e n k o ’s meeting with Dmitry Medvedev and the session of the Supreme State Council o f t h e Un i o n State, documents relating to the Single Economic Space of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan were signed. Minsk, Moscow and Astana also agreed on the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Union. Accordingly, in Gorki, the Belarusian and Russian presidents had to discuss ‘the role and place of the Union State within the common architecture of integration’, which they did successfully. Mr. Lukashenko noted that, in recent months, integration processes within the post-Soviet space have been strongly activated, owing to the Russian Federation. He recalled PM Vladimir Putin’s article in Izvestia (dedicated to Eurasian integration). “After it was released, we were ready to sign those documents leading to the establishment of the Eurasian Union in just a few months,” the Belarusian President said. “I can proudly assert that much has been done in this direction [Eurasian integration] while building the Union State.” Experts and journalists wondered whether the Union State would preserve its practical sense, avoiding dissolution within the Single Economic Space. The Belarusian and Russian presidents
had an answer. “We won’t destroy the Union State; rather, we’ll develop it,” announced Mr. Lukashenko, adding that he and Mr. Medvedev had principally agreed on this. “Meanwhile, we need to be sincere: this is not just an economic union of Belarus and Russia; it is a military-political union as well,” the Belarusian Head of State asserted, noting the difference between the Union State and the Single Economic Space. “We are also focusing on issues of defence, foreign policy and social protection of our citizens.” At present, Minsk and Moscow coordinate their foreign policy, jointly discussing external challenges and threats. According to Mr. Lukashenko, Belarus and Russia are acting as a single state regarding issues of defence. Integration in the social sphere has also reached new heights: Belarusians and Russians enjoy almost equal rights in each state (as the Kazakhs do not yet). As Mr. Lukashenko stressed, the Union State has more aspects of integration than the Single Economic Space. It is the focus for all integration projects within the post-Soviet space. “We need to follow this path, s t r e n g t h e n i n g i t f u r t h e r,” M r. Lukashenko stressed, admitting that ‘the further we travel, the more difficult the path will be’. “However, we are fully ready to follow this path,” he added. Mr. Medvedev was equally decisive, noting, “Symbolically and importantly, the process of BelarusianRussian integration has been recently
activated.” Statistics confirm the trend: our bilateral turnover may reach a record $40bn by the end of this year. Mr. Medvedev added that there is more to life than trade figures. He emphasised, “It’s vital for our two states’ citizens to enjoy a better standard of living, feeling more confident!” As members of the Supreme State Council of the Union State believe, the package of documents signed at Gorki-9 aims to enhance people’s wellbeing.
At the Gorki meeting, important decisions were made in the fuelenergy sphere. Gazprom, JSC and Beltransgas, JSC signed contracts for the supply of gas to Belarus and its further transportation through the country’s territory in 2012-2014. In addition, the Russian gas company and Belarus’ State Property Committee signed a purchase-sale agreement for 50 percent of Beltransgas’ shares — giving Gazprom 100 percent ownership of the Belarusian gas-transport system. In line with the contract, in 2012, Belarus will buy Russian gas at $165 per 1,000 cubic metres — against the average European price of $400. Meanwhile, in 2013-2014, its price will be calculated under a special formula based on gas prices for Russia’s Yamalo-Nenetsky Autonomous District (fixed by the Federal Tariff Service of Russia) and the price of gas transportation from the place of its extraction in the Yamalo-Nenetsky Autonomous District to the Russian-Belarusian border.
Integration Minsk and Moscow have also agreed that a minimal discount on gas — which Gazprom will sell on the Belarusian market through Beltransgas — will be given: $16 in 2012. The figure is set to be readjusted after 2013 — depending on inflation. Experts note some advantages to the gas deal for Belarus. Firstly, Minsk receives $2.5bn for selling 50 percent of Beltransgas’ shares, with the money replenishing the country’s gold and currency reserves. In addition, Russia has agreed to re-structure Belarus’ gas debt, due to the difficulties being experienced by the Belarusian economy. Secondly, Belarus’ gas price of $165 per is the lowest among neighbouring countries. This fact is significant for the Belarusian economy, taking into account the huge volumes of annual gas consumption (reaching 21bn cubic metres). Thirdly, Belarus is receiving guaranteed transit volumes through its territory. In line with the contract, transportation of each 1,000 cubic metres via Beltransgas’ gas pipes will generate an income of $2 per 100km. Importantly, the launch of ‘Nord Stream’ won’t reduce the volume of gas transportation through Belarus; accordingly, gas transit related tax revenue will remain steady. Fourthly, Gorki agreements offer a guarantee that Belarus won’t face problems with Russian gas supplies. As the Russian Energy Minister, Sergey Shmatko, noted, the ‘gas wars’ between Belarus and Russia are a matter of the past. A line is being drawn beneath them. Belarus’ Deputy Prime Minister, Sergei Rumas, in turn, stressed, “Belarus is fully satisfied with the documents signed in Moscow.” It’s especially important that Belarusian and Russian gas prices are coming closer, as Minsk believes that equal conditions for legal entities are a basic principle of the Union State and the Single Economic Space. The Chairman of Belarus’ Statistics Committee and the Head of the
E nt re pre ne u rsh ip D e vel opme nt Council under the President, Vladimir Zinovsky, notes that the reduced gas price of $165 (against $270 in 2011) will help ‘enhance the competitiveness of our economy on the Russian market — and within the Single Economic Space in general’. He adds, “Belarus and Russia will benefit from this move — as will Kazakhstan I think.” Energy related expenses will fall in industrial production, lowering prime costs. Moreover, Russian and Kazakh partners — who use Belarusmade products in their manufacturing chains — could also obtain indirect profit. According to Mr. Zinovsky, gas related agreements will aid people’s standard of living as, in 2012, state run factories will gain additional funds to pay staff productivity bonuses.
Schedule for station
Another important energy related decision was made in Gorki: Russia confirmed its allocation of a $10bn loan to Belarus for the construction of a nuclear power station in Grodno Region’s Ostrovets District. Belarus’ Finance Ministry calls this credit ‘profitable, while the Energy Ministry adds that the station may be ready by 2018 if the money arrives in the coming months. Of course, any construction of a nuclear power station is a capital intensive project, requiring the participation of a strategic investor. EU states bordering Belarus also plan to build new nuclear power stations. French Société Générale Bank is to finance the first Polish nuclear power station (being constructed with French technology). Meanwhile, it was recently mentioned that American
Integration In spring, the foundations for the first reactor are to be dug. “Building will begin with concrete foundations for the reactor complex, in late 2012-2013,” explains Mr. Grusha, adding that dozens of Belarusian companies have voiced their desire to take part. “We are now assessing them, selecting the best proposals,” he notes.
At the session of the Supreme State Council of the Union State
Westinghouse and General Electric are to fund Lithuania’s Visaginas nuclear power station (built on the site of the former Ignalina station). Belarus has also made its choice. Ostrovets station is to be built and, logically, funded by Russia: the AES-2006 project. A $10bn loan is significant, asserts the Finance Ministry’s Head of the State Debt Department, Yelena Zhukova. She notes that the money will cover 90 percent of the total construction cost, with the remaining ten percent covered by Belarus. The loan is only to be repaid after ten years — with repayments given over 15 years; accordingly, the total loan period is 25 years. The Finance Ministry adds that the Russian loan is tied, being allocated for realised work and supplied equipment
and materials. According to specialists, inter-state procedures are soon to finish, making it possible to open the credit line. Meanwhile, the Energy Ministry’s Director of the Nuclear Energy Department, Nikolay Grusha, believes it’s possible to stay on schedule if financing is allocated in early 2012. The first block would be ready by 2017, with the second following a year later. Infrastructure for the future station is already being prepared in Ostrovets, paid for by Belarus. A road and railway have been laid, while three apartment blocks are ready for builders and engineers. In future, three residential districts and the necessary infrastructure are to be constructed in Ostrovets, to accommodate the station’s employees and their families.
The 2012 Union State budget was also outlined at the session of the Supreme State Council of the Union State, with Mr. Medvedev noting that funding matches that of 2011, despite complicated economic conditions. Revenue stands at 4,872,000,000 Russian roubles, including Russia’s share of 3,167,000,000 roubles. Belarus will contribute 1,705,000 roubles. The money aims to finance 13 programmes and 26 events, with half of the budget going to fundamental studies and assistance to sci-tech progress, industry, energy, construction, agriculture, transport, communications and informatics. 11.5 percent of the budget is being allocated to military-technical cooperation, law enforcement and security. Meanwhile, 17 percent is to be spent on the social sphere: health protection, dealing with emergencies, education, culture and mass media. In 2012, Union State programmes dealing with modernisation and sci-tech progress will receive special attention. Our two countries plan to jointly develop resource saving and ecologically friendly technologies, in addition to space related projects. It was announced at Gorki that the modernisation of our economies and the creation of new jobs are at the core of all Union State programmes. Their efficiency is to be supervised by a new State Secretary — the former Plenipotentiary of the Russian President in Privolzhsky Federal District, Grigory Rapota. He is to drive forward Union State bodies’ work. Politologists consider that the appointment of this highly experienced manager as the State Secretary of the Union State shows serious intentions of Minsk and Moscow. By Vitaly Volyanyuk
Union of three nations On January 1st, 2012, the Single Economic Space (SES) of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan is launched, opening the door to a new period of integration (preceded by our three states’ Customs Union). Commodities, services, capital and labour will be able to move more freely
he formation of a Eurasian Economic Union will be the next stage of cooperation between Minsk, Moscow and Astana — as presid e nt s A l e x a n d e r Lukashenko, Dmitry Medvedev and Nursultan Nazarbayev agreed at the Kremlin in November. They signed a declaration on Eurasian economic integration, while agreeing to establish a supranational regulating body: the Eurasian Economic Commission. In future, our union of three may welcome new members, becoming an efficient, fully-fledged military-political block — similar to the European Union.
Profitable to all
On signing the declaration on Eu r as i an e c onom i c i nte g r at i on in Moscow, Mr. Lukashenko, Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Nazarbayev stressed that the major goal of the SES and the future Eurasian Union is to enhance people’s wellbeing and quality of life. For Belarus and Kazakhstan — whose economies are much smaller than that of Russia — the preservation of national sovereignty during the process of integration is vital. Accordingly, the voices of Minsk and Astana in solving common issues need to be as weighty as that of Moscow. While preserving inde-
pendence, our three states also need to become more mutually dependant. The declaration mentions a ‘co-ordinated economic policy’, ‘co-ordinated parameters of major macroeconomic figures’ and ‘strengthening of co-operation in the foreign currency sphere’. Our three states will co-ordinate actions, agreeing
the Board. Their functions and authorities would differ, with each representing its interests. The most sensitive issues would be studied by the heads of state at the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council and only consensus decisions would be adopted. As Mr. Lukashenko, Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Nazarbayev
The Eurasian Economic Commission is to regulate SES work, taking on 175 national functions. The Commission would be the successor to the Customs Union Commission, based on the ‘principles of mutual benefit, equal rights and national interests of all parties.’ on important aspects such as foreign debt, budget deficit and the volume of agricultural subsidies. The Eurasian Economic Commission is to regulate SES work, taking on 175 national functions. The Commission would be the successor to the Customs Union Commission, based on the ‘principles of mutual benefit, equal rights and national interests of all parties’. Since the SES is to expand and amplify supranational bodies’ tasks, the Commission would have two levels (differing from the Customs Union Commission, which had just one): the Council and
stress, Minsk, Moscow and Astana agree on the creation of supranational bodies and the Single Economic Space as ‘this is profitable to all’. The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to Russia, H.E. Mr. Andrei Kobyakov, has been involved in Eurasian integration issues for many years. He speaks of the SES’ advantages, stressing that turnover between our three states is expected to grow. This should lead to stronger Belarusian, Russian and Kazakh national economies. As Mr. Kobyakov notes, most importantly, the SES opens doors for our three
Trilateral cooperation has sound perspectives
countries’ citizens. Workers will be able to move freely which, as the Ambassador explains, ‘will ease the finding of good, highly-paid jobs, while establishing and developing individual businesses’. Many are worried by such integration, especially as Belarus’ economy significantly differs from that of Russia and Kazakhstan. The state sector receives major focus here while Russia and Kazakhstan have more privately owned enterprises. Moreover, Belarus more actively regulates economic processes. Nevertheless, Mr. Kobyakov is convinced that no obstacles exist to integration and that the Belarusian economy is in no way at risk. He asserts that, importantly, the SES is creating equal conditions for our three countries’ companies. An open and transparent competitive environment is being created. According to the Ambassador, ‘time and competitiveness will show which is more efficient: private companies or state run enterprises’. “Those who work better will win,” he adds. Specialists also see no problem in our three states’ differing economies. Raw materials, oil and gas play a huge role in Russia and Kazakhstan, while Belarus lacks such natural wealth. However,
our Republic boasts powerful industrial potential — primarily, its machine building complex. According to Mr. Kobyakov, this is to our advantage, as our economies mutually supplement one another. Belarus is interested in supplying reasonably priced hydrocarbons while Kazakhstan needs Belarusmade machines and equipment. As a result, each would benefit from integration. The SES aims to enhance the competiveness of each country’s economy.
View from Minsk
Experts call the pace of BelarusRussia-Kazakhstan integration ‘record breaking’. In fact, it has taken our three states only a short period of time to cover the same ground which took decades for the European Union. As Mr. Lukashenko believes, the pace at which the SES has been established has been possible because of Moscow acting as the centre of integration processes and reconsidering some of its approaches. “Plenty of ideas have appeared since the Soviet Union’s collapse,” he said. “However, it was always said that nothing would be possible if Russia failed to take practical steps towards
integration, rather than declarations and announcements.” In fact, these practical steps and Russia’s respect for its partners’ interests (sometimes neglected in the past) have made it possible not only to declare but to really establish the Single Economic Space. The President of Belarus also notes that some people within our three countries still strongly oppose SES integration, asserting that it could lead to a loss of national sovereignty. “Attempts have been made to frustrate the process. However, we’ve overcome this, clearly announcing that we won’t lose our sovereignty and that nobody is coercing us,” Mr. Lukashenko notes, speaking of the voluntary and trust-based atmosphere of co-operation. “We are going forward because it’s profitable to all our three states.” According to Mr. Lukashenko, the advantages of the Customs Union and the Single Economic Space are already being felt. He explains, “Importantly, our conflicts, lack of understanding, ‘war’, ‘sugar’ and other trading wars will become things of the past. We’ve declared and are already almost operating under these conditions,
New Commonwealth which envisage the free movement of commodities, services, capital and people. Isn’t this to people’s advantage? Of course, we do this for our people. Everything is done with this in mind.” Minsk considers that ‘there is no need to reduce the pace of our economies’ rapprochement’. The European Union can serve as an example, being further down the road than Minsk, Astana and Moscow. During their November meeting at the Kremlin, Mr. Lukashenko, Mr. Medvedev and Mr. Nazarbayev announced that the Eurasian Economic
to Vladivostok. Naturally, such prospects are for the future. A possible transition to a single c ur renc y — fol lowing t he EU’s example — could be a topical issue for Eurasian integration in coming years. In his interview for Rossiya TV Channel, Mr. Lukashenko announced, “We’d probably use the Russian rouble as our single currency, if it were of interest to all sides.” However, the transition to a single currency must be well thought-out, the Belarusian President believes; he has no desire to repeat the Eurozone’s mistakes.
As Mr.Lukashenko, Mr.Medvedev and Mr. Nazarbayev stress, Minsk, Moscow and Astana agree on the creation of supranational bodies and the Single Economic Space as ‘this is profitable to all.’ Union could be established by 2015. According to the Russian and Kazakh presidents, Belarus is an ‘accelerator’ of this process. In his interview for Rossiya TV Channel, Mr. Lukashenko stressed that the Eurasian Economic Union could even be established by 2013. “We’ve prepared the basis [the Single Economic Space] within a year and a half. Let’s finish by late 2013. You know, Dmitry Medvedev and Nursultan Nazarbayev say that we’re quite able to do this”,” he said. The Belarusian President believes that the most important phase — movement towards the Union — has already begun. “The momentum of this movement won’t allow us to deviate from our path. Importantly, we are moving towards greater unification and greater unity.” Minsk also considers that mutually beneficial co-operation with other integration unions is essential — such as with the EU. Eventually, the European Union and the Eurasian Union could even integrate, resulting in a single economic space stretching from Lisbon
A great job is never easy
The establishment of the SES and the transition to the Eurasian Economic Union have received much coverage in the media. The French Press Agency has reacted to MinskMoscow-Astana integration with an article which reads: ‘The three countries have already established the Customs Union but the creation of a Eurasian Union — with its own executive body — will be a step forward’. Describing the functions of the Eurasian Economic Commission, the agency notes that ‘this is a body which would act under principles similar to those applied by its European Brussels-based counterpart’. “ Time will show what the Eurasian Union will become. I’d like to see it more ‘European’ than ‘Asian’,” comments one Russian State Duma deputy, Anatoly Lokot. “I’d like this union of three to be joined by our Ukrainian brothers, as their participation would strengthen this powerful union further.”
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan could also join the Eurasian Union in the future, with Kyrgyzstan’s new President — Almazbek Atambayev — already advocating the move. According to him, ‘a strategic partnership with Russia is needed’. “Any integration — as seen from the Belarus-Russia Union State example — is a blessing for people, being a response to their natural desire to live without borders, border controls and customs declarations, with relatives able to visit each other,” Mr. Lokot explains, speaking of the desire of former Soviet republics to move closer. Adil Kaukenov, the Head the Quorum.kz analytical group, stresses another aspect, “International experience shows that it’s impossible to shut yourself off, relying exclusively on your own force. This leads to either isolation or serious economic stagnation.” Mikhail Kovalev, the Dean of the Economics Department at the Belarusian State University, has his own view, saying, “A bridge is needed to connect the Chinese economy and the EU economy. The Eurasian Economic Union could be such. I think that our common historical past could inspire us to establish a common economic, scientific, educational and labour space.” Some experts also believe we could share a political and military space. Of course, sceptics do exist — within the EU and in Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan. Some cautious views are expressed, with some being afraid that integration is happening too quickly. Having failed to settle all Customs Union related issues, our three countries have shifted to the Single Economic Space. Mr. Kovalev notes that some ‘hidden rocks’ exist. Soon, ‘Russia will join the WTO while the three states of the Customs Union have already co-ordinated all tariffs’; correction is needed. Discussing the pace and degree of integration, most experts do not doubt that the move’s strategic benefits are obvious, outweighing all current difficulties. By Vitaly Vasiliev
Belarus and Venezuela established a joint trading house in Caracas
Venezuela comes closer
10,000km separate Minsk and Caracas, taking 16 hours by plane and one refuelling stop. However, in recent times, Venezuela has become much closer to Belarus. This former ‘terra incognita’ has transformed into a huge construction site, where Belarusians drill wells, construct agro-towns and accommodation, lay gas pipelines and build new plants
n late November, Minsk’s Victoria Hotel hosted the 1st ‘VenezuelaB elarus: Achievements and Prospects of Bilateral Relations’ Forum, reflecting the scale of our bilateral liaisons and outlining new areas for collaboration. Just five years ago, Belarusian-Venezuelan turnover totalled $5m but, by late 2011, this may have reached $2bn (matching that of Belarus’ largest trading partners in Europe). “Friendship and mutual understanding between our presidents has resulted in a true miracle: a breathtaking development of bilateral relations over less than five years,” stressed the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to Minsk,
Americo Diaz Nunes, at the Forum. He believes that the complementarity of our two economies is a key factor. Despite its natural wealth, Venezuela (ranked first globally for oil deposits) can hardly be called a rich state. It faces many challenges: construction of accommodation, opening of new production facilities and creation of new jobs. “Venezuela is striving to establish strategic alliances with friendly countries, interacting via fair exchange of experience and technologies and establishment of modern technoparks,” the Ambassador noted. In this respect, Belarus is an ideal partner, boasting well-developed industrial and scientific potential. Venezuela is presenting new opportunities to the Belarusian economy. In the past,
oil contracts with Caracas have eased Minsk’s access (following a dramatic rise in Russian prices). Belarus has pioneered the Eastern-European region in terms of mastering alternative routes of supply and continues to develop its hydrocarbon co-operations. The Venezuelan President is currently fighting cancer, under the eye of national and foreign observers. However, Mr. Chavez’s medical problems have not affected Belarusian-Venezuelan relations. In early October, Viktor Sheiman, the Aide to the President of Belarus on Special Matters, travelled to Venezuela to meet its President. Overseeing our Latin-American policy, he signed agreements to continue our oil co-operation, which is certainly
The first ‘Venezuela-Belarus: Achievements and Prospects of Bilateral Relations’ Forum opened up new cooperation prospects
at the heart of our bilateral economic relations. Last year, Petrolera BeloVenezolana, JV extracted 740,000 tonnes of oil; by the end of this year, 1.1 million tonnes are expected. In 2012, the figure is forecast to be 1.5 million — reaching the amount extracted domestically in Belarus. “We have consent to develop a large oilrich region, jointly with Venezuela and China. Hundreds of thousands of barrels are to be extracted daily,” Mr. Sheiman reports, adding that oil extraction should rise several fold once the new region is mastered. The First Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus, Vladimir Semashko, also spoke of the project at the Forum. The Junin-1 deposit is among the largest in Venezuela and, as Belarusian specialists confirm, could yield up to 10 million tonnes of ‘black gold’. Extra-heavy oil is also deposited there, which requires refinement; a plant needs to be built at a cost of over $10bn. Of course, a third party will be needed to help fund this. “If we establish a consortium of three companies — Belarusian, Venezuelan and probably Chinese — and find a source of financing, this project can be realised,” Mr. Semashko explains. He
believes it will gain momentum in a year or two, if oil prices continue growing. At present, the construction branch is to the fore. On November 21st, Mr. Lukashenko met the Chairman of the State Control Committee, Alexander Yakobson, who reported on the state of the construction complex. This year, domestic financing was cut but the President has ordered that more construction services be offered abroad to generate revenue (to help fund the building of homes in Belarus). With this in mind, Belarus plans to expand its participation in building accommodation in Venezuela. This year alone, 2,500 flats have been built in the city of Maracay and, recently, a pilot Belarusian agro-town was presented in Venezuelan Guárico. A $315m project (with Venezuelan investments) is being realised, with plans to construct a milk and meat farm, a large poultry farm, a dairy plant and a meat factory. “Works are on schedule and, in 2012, the first production facilities are to be launched,” the Deputy Agriculture and Food Minister, Leonid Marinich, told the Forum. “It’s planned that, next year, 1,500 hectares are to be cultivated, yielding a good return. If everything
goes well, Belarus could build another five agro-towns in Venezuela.” Following Venezuela’s request, our country is to construct 50-70 houses for workers. The Venezuelans are already drawing up lists of those wishing to become the first residents. As Mr. Semashko tells us, Belarus is realising a large scale programme on accommodation construction in Latin America, with 20,000 flats planned. In fact, construction is a complex branch, reaching far beyond bricks and cement. Prospects for co-operation are much wider, as Belarus’ Deputy Trade Minister, Edvard Matulis, notes, “The supply of Belarusian furniture for ‘social’ housing in Venezuela is currently being studied, with our largest factories expected to participate: Pinskdrev and Gomeldrev. We hope our Venezuelan friends will love Belarusian furniture.” Additionally, Belarusian specialists are laying gas pipelines to Caracas flats, with some already operational. 90 percent of Venezuela’s budget comes from oil exports. Accordingly, it prefers to use natural gas domestically. Belarus has suggested laying gas pipelines in Venezuela and Caracas to support the idea — including financially. Meanwhile,
Cooperation we are helping realise a project to change local vehicles over to liquefied gas (using equipment from Novogrudok plant). Thousands of sets have been supplied, with the establishment of a joint venture discussed. Venezuela’s rich natural deposits extend beyond hydrocarbons. Its Pequiven petrochemical company is liaising with Belarus’ Belgorkhimprom Design Institute to mine phosphate worth $5bn ($3.5bn has already been extracted). This shows the scale of our bilateral liaisons. By late 2011, Belarus plans to have launched several new facilities in Venezuela. Their successful operation will herald a new stage in bilateral relations, while allowing Venezuela to develop its industry — sadly neglected over the past few decades. In recent years, the country has relied on selling oil abroad, while buying imported goods. Meanwhile, unemployment has been a problem. The advantages to Belarus are evident: we are exporting our technologies and products, while mastering new markets. By late 2011, a new
Soon, an assembly facility for Belarusian tractors is to be built in Venezuela, able to produce 10,000 vehicles annually. Moreover, a Belarusian ceramic plant is also to be launched, making 100 million tonnes of bricks each year — reaching full capacity by June 2012. “A contract has been signed and we’ve actually started the construction of a plant to produce communal and road machinery in Venezuela,” Mr. Semashko tells us. “It’ll manufacture loaders, road-construction machinery and other vehicles — overseen by famous Belarusian Amkodor.” Venezuela also needs a 800MW TPP, as its large oil processing plant and neighbouring smaller industrial facilities require energy supply. Truly, Belarusian builders are going to be busy on the other side of the Atlantic. Huge prospects are opening up for BelarusianVenezuelan co-operation. The National Assembly — Venezuela’s Parliament — features busts of Venezuelans and foreigners of whom the country is proud. Among them are not only political figures and military leaders, but musicians and
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to Minsk, Americo Diaz Nunez:
"Venezuela is striving to establish strategic alliances with friendly countries, interacting via fair exchange of experience and technologies and establishment of modern technoparks.” plant manufacturing 5,000 MAZ vehicles annually will have been set up; their assembly should start in early January. “We’ve agreed to maximise local production within five years, acting stage by stage,” explains Mr. Semashko. “This project is a true advantage for MAZ, since the plant should increase its production volumes.”
scientists. On visiting the country, I thoroughly inspected the hall, with the hope of finding Venezuelan ‘Ignat Dameiko’ (a Belarus-born geologist and ethnographer who became a national hero in Chile). Sadly, I failed to find him. Those now building houses in Venezuela may one day find themselves given the honour however.
Innovative products from university laboratories Sphere of education could become an important source of innovations
he country’s leading enterprises rely largely on their own scientific developments or the achievements proposed by the science. The First Deputy Chairman of the State Committee for Standardisation, Viktor Nazarenko, believes that the sphere of education should be more actively involved into the process of the innovative economic development. “Our universities sometimes underestimate the capacity of their experimental facilities and specialists,” he noted recently at a conference on effective management in Grodno. “They have greater capacities at present than many companies, so should work more actively to generate feasible and effective products.” Innovation is particularly vital for Belarus, as the country does not abound in natural resources. Even small and medium-sized companies should be focusing on innovative development. The innovative development of the regions is a matter of particular concern, with Grodno hosting the international scientific conference entitled Efficient Management: Experience and Prospects for Business and Education. It gathered experts in management and quality control from Russia, Poland, Ukraine and Belarus, in addition to representatives of 30 universities and 15 companies. The forum explored best practice in developing and introducing management solutions and instruments, while discussing the integration of business and education and the innovative development of the national economy.
By Igor Kolchenko
On threshold of nuclear era In 2011, Russia and Belarus signed a contract to build a nuclear power plant near Grodno Region’s Ostrovets. A loan is due to be transferred by the year’s end, with Russia opening a credit line worth up to $10bn. Repayment will only begin in earnest after the first decade, with the total repayable over 25 years. Two reactors, boasting a capacity of 2.4GW, are to be built by Russian Atomstroyexport, CJSC
elarus has reached this point independently, having researched the matter thoroughly. The results are evident in Ostrovets — once an ordinary district centre in the north of Grodno Region, primarily known for being first mentioned in chronicles in 1496 and for having a very old Roman Catholic church. The situation has now drastically changed, with the town being frequently mentioned in the Belarusian and foreign printed and broadcast media. Delegations visit the site regularly and life for the 8,500 residents has significantly improved. Even the air seems to be filled with anticipation of change. “This is our new market: neat and clean,” notes Adam Kovalko, the Chairman of Ostrovets District Executive Committee. He leads a group of guests down the central streets with pride and satisfaction. “At present, 22 trade enterprises are operating here and we’ve been able to reject those whose stands aren’t up to standard. Our hotel
is considered to be the best among those in our region’s district centres, having been reconstructed. A new fire station is being built, designed to be able to tackle the new situation relating to the nuclear power plant; it’s due to open in late 2011. For the past eight years, the district police station has been an abandoned construction site; now, it’s a contemporary and comfortable workplace. In 2010, we held an international open air workshop for young sculptors; their ten best works now grace our park and other public places. Recently, the last streets lacking paving were covered in asphalt.” While the head of the district is listing Ostrovets’ latest sites, we’ve travelled into the town’s suburbs. There are newly installed traffic lights and the town’s first nine-storey buildings, with passenger lifts. Of course, the new accommodation is designed to house those who’ll be building and, later, working at the nuclear power plant. One block has 118 flats and the other 119. Brightly coloured, they lift the spirits even on the dullest of
At the NPP’s office block construction site
winter days. Patterned curtains hang at the windows, showing that workers are already settled in. Engineers live nearby. The town has two suburbs planned, with water and heating supply lines laid, alongside other utilities. Only houses remain to be built, with several high-rise buildings being commissioned. “The Belarusian nuclear power plant has no need of temporary accommodation or hostels,” stresses Mikhail Filimonov, the Director of the Belarusian Nuclear Power Plant Construction Directorate. He explains proudly, “The first wave of residential housing is designed to house around 5,500 builders, who’ll share flats in pairs, in comfortable conditions, fully furnished. The flats will then be given to nuclear power plant staff or will be sold.” “Power engineers, constructors and local residents will live side by side to avoid feelings of division,” adds Mr. Kovalko. “Since the supply lines are being constructed from state funding, we’ve managed to include housing for local residents, recognising their
need for improved housing at cheaper prices. The fourth housing co-operative is currently building a multi-floored apartment block. Each year, we’re seeing an increasing number of young graduates arrive, showing that people believe the nuclear power station can offer them a good career. Ostrovets is soon to become an ultra-modern town, with a population of over 30,000 people. Several new schools are planned, as are 12-13 preschool nurseries. Healthcare and retail outlets are also being expanded, leading to further well-paid jobs.” Rumours of the plans have quickly spread locally, with the District Executive Committee receiving applications from 2,700 people wishing to settle in Ostrovets. Some specialists from Ignalina Nuclear Power Station are among them (soon to be closed in neighbouring Lithuania). Most of these were born in Grodno Region, and headed abroad seeking well-paid jobs. Of course, such employment will soon be available in Ostrovets and there’s no call to be afraid
of nuclear power — as the specialists will be able to assure everyone. “Local residents are concerned as to whether Ostrovets will lose its identity and whether the influx of new residents will strip the neighbouring woods clean of mushrooms and berries,” notes Mr. Kovalko. “However, we can certainly say that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.” The local authorities are keen to see the nuclear power plant built, as it will help provide several thousand local agricultural workers with employment; increasing mechanisation would otherwise leave them without jobs. How are things going on the site of the future nuclear power plant? Before answering, we should visit the ‘mini-plant’ recently constructed near Ostrovets, producing concrete and mortar, metal rods and other components necessary for building. A road leading to the future nuclear power plant is newly completed and a parallel railway line has been laid. The peak of a modest hill 20km away opens up a wonderful panorama of fields, meadows and woodlands remains, interspersed with isolated farms and cottages, and a church in the distance. However, the first sharp contours of the future reactor are rising from this pastoral landscape. “Most of the preparatory works are completed,” notes Mr. Filimonov. “Topsoil has been removed, the land has been surveyed and supply lines have been laid, alongside above ground lighting. Housing for construction workers has been built, with canteens, meeting halls and drying rooms included. Major work on the reactor can begin as soon as the corresponding Belarusian-Russian documents have been signed.” There’s no delay on the construction site, as materials and equipment are constantly being unloaded. The long two-storey building producing concrete and mortar can be seen in the distance, able to deliver 180 cubic metres of highstrength concrete per hour, for continuous pouring (as is required for strong foundations).Within just two months,
the frame of the future building will be ready at one end of the site. Belarusian money has paid for everything so far, with hundreds of millions of dollars spent since 2007. Foreign specialists are surprised at how much was done prior to signing the main documents relating to the construction of the nuclear power plant. Nikolay Grusha, the Director of the Energy Ministry’s Nuclear Power Engineering Department, explains, “World experience shows that it takes several years to prepare and sign agreements to build a nuclear power station. The matter is especially acute for Belarus, since this is a whole new branch for the country: the first ever nuclear power station. We need watertight legislation. 2011 was a vital year for us in this respect; an intergovernmental agreement was signed in March on constructing the nuclear power plant— now being ratified in Belarus (there is no need in Russia). Contract and loan agreements have been signed, with the general contract next in line; it occupies hundreds of pages, outlining in detail the terms and types of work, as well as types of equipment and materials.” In 2012, the construction of the nuclear power plant should begin, with the first reactor becoming operational by 2017. The second block will be ready by 2018. Belarus is set to save 5bn cubic metres of expensive natural gas annually. Mr. Grusha notes that, in future, additional reactors may be built, at far less cost, allowing us to export electricity. The implementation of these plans allows Belarus to take its place among its neighbours, who are actively developing nuclear energy. Russia is building reactors in Leningrad and Kaliningrad regions and, after closing Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant, Lithuania plans to construct a more contemporary station on its border with Belarus. All these sites are united within a single energy network, to which the Belarusian nuclear power station will be able to contribute. By Vladimir Yakovlev
At one’s own place Belarus ahead of CIS states in Human Development Index
he Human Development Index is released two years after the national statistical services disclose their information, since such information is sensitive. In the 21st UN Human Development Report, our country has moved from 61st place to 65th. However, 18 more countries have joined last year’s 169. We have outstripped 14 rivals and are still ranked among those with a high Human Development Index, boasting a rating of 0.756 — the most desirable of all CIS states. Only Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia are ahead of us among the former Soviet republics.
Just a thousandth of a point can separate countries. For instance, Canada and Germany are divided by only 0.003, while Lichtenstein and Sweden are just 0.001 apart. Norway leads again, boasting long life expectancy and high average income per capita, coupled with low inflation and unemployment. However, the cost of living there is among the most expensive. The value of the rankings is debatable, since Cuba is ahead of Belarus simply by having a longer average life expectancy — while being behind in terms of income and education (the latter is an area in which Belarus is ranked very highly).
Professor of Economics Bryan Caplan is a little cynical, noting that immortality and endless GDP would still leave a country with a lower HDI than, for example, Tajikistan if its population was illiterate. All rating systems have their weaknesses and this is only one among many. Analysing the last five years, Antonius Broek, the UN Resident Coordinator / UNDP Resident Representative, sees Belarus’ position in the Human Development Index as a ‘rather good achievement’. If we look back, we can certainly give several arguments worth more than simple statistics.
For information National Statistical Committee of Belarus to learn true picture regarding employment
orld practice uses a survey of a representative sample to receive objective data and, from 2012, Belarus is to try the same method. The Deputy Chair of the National Statistical Committee of Belarus, Yelena Kukharevich, explains, “Research will be conducted every quarter, polling 7,000 households across all social layers and age categories. Families with children, couples and pensioners are to be included by random selection. To satisfy international practiсe, around 15 percent of respondents must stay with the survey for a full year, enabling us to survey around 25,000 each year.” The questionnaire has already been developed, comprising 62 questions. These cover gender, age, education, marital status and financial condition, plus questions on whether citizens are job seeking, studying or have moved abroad to find employment. Moreover, the research should give a better picture of labour migration. For example, at present, the correlation between those employed in the construction and transport spheres and those dismissed stands at 80 percent. However, no further information exists on those who are of employable age but are not currently registered among the economically active population. Ab o u t 4 0 0 , 0 0 0
people are unaccounted for, with no information available on their location or why they have no desire to find a job. The new system is to be initially trialed in 700 households, with some questions likely to be adjusted in view of results. The full survey will then be launched in 2012, with data from the first 7,000 households available by late April. This will show information on the number of employed and the level of actual unemployment, with more detailed information appearing later in the year regarding the share of women and men not working, their age and education. Such detailed information is required to develop the state population employment programme, helping us see where jobs are needed and in which spheres. Moreover, it should become clear how far the official level of unemployment differs from reality. By Irina Vakulenko
The medical element has been especially fruitful for Belarus. In late 2006, we had to admit that completing just eight kidney transplantations within a year was a poor result. At that time, we could only dream of liver transplantation, while heart transplants were unthinkable and cardiovascular operations were performed by just two clinics. Cancer screening — used extensively in many countries — was too expensive for general use; now, the situation is drastically different. Over the first five months of this year alone, 86 kidney transplants, 20 liver transplants and 14 heart transplants have been conducted, with six out of ten cardiovascular operations performed in the regions. Now, our oncologists doubt the efficiency of preventive medical examinations and use cancer screening as their corner stone. Finally, life expectancy has increased by two years, with the expectation of more if the new national programme for demographic security is followed. Good intentions are being made tangible. There’s still a long way to go to reach the top fifty countries within the Human Development Index rating but, of course, ratings exist to encourage states to better themselves. The process is endless, since rankings compare one country with another. As one progresses, everyone else must also do so. The ranking systems include the Physical Quality of Life Index (PQLI), the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), the Vanderford-Riley Well-Being Schedule and the Economist Intelligence Unit, but others also exist. In terms of happiness, Denmark has always been a leader, rather than Norway. Famous demographer Sergey Shcherbov explains that the Danes enjoy Europe’s highest employment coefficient, covering all age groups. Happiness stems from feeling useful, although feeling at peace with oneself does have its role to play. Such emotions can hardly be measured of course, whatever mathematical formula is applied, so such ratings cannot be anything other than subjective. By Lyudmila Gobasova
Technology of the future
recently heard an interesting expression: ‘The best bullet-proof vest is one which bullets never hit’. Who would disagree? However, as long as conflict exists, soldiers need efficient protection. The standard Russian army model weighs over 15kg, while a soldier’s load tends to exceed 40kg: assault rifle, helmet, radio, night goggles and other equipment. It’s no easy task to fight with such a heavy burden on your back! Naturally, they can’t do without weapons, so lightening the weight of a bullet-proof vest is the better option. Belarusian scientists have made their own contribution to solving the problem, suggesting that ceramic plates are used. You might imagine that ceramic is fragile. However, during tests, such plates perform as well as steel against a Kalashnikov assault rifle, while being 2-3 times lighter.
Spider web, titan or ceramic?
The materials used to produce bulletproof vests have been long debated, as has their construction. Some propose nanotechnologies while arachnologists from California University advocate spider webs. Others vote exclusively for titanium steel. Ceramic armoured plates are already manufactured in France, using complex, expensive and powerful press machines at temperatures of 1,000 degrees. The final product rivals steel. However, where a steel bullet-proof vest costs $500, the high-tech French equivalent costs over 1,000 Euros. To make them more affordable, Belarusian developers have chosen another method of processing.
It’s no secret that, during the Great Patriotic War, the creators of Soviet tanks used soft armour plating, which
Know-how deflected shells (as long as they did not hit at a perpendicular angle); they simply slid along the surface of the vehicle. Using the same idea, the Belarusian State Agrarian University has joined the Institute of Technical Acoustics of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus and the P.I. Masherov Vitebsk State University to create something similar with ceramic. Initially, the technology was planned for non-military use, to replace expensive hard alloy metal cutting devices, as well as in the construction and metal mining industries. Scientists presented their innovation at the Milex Exhibition of Arms and Military Machinery in Minsk a decade ago, attracting the attention of the Belarusian military, who asked whether the idea could be adapted to create a lighter bulletproof vest which retained its protective properties.
Vitebsk State University’s Physics Department. “We proposed ‘assembly’ as if by ‘construction kit’.” The external layer of the vest uses a 3mm thick ceramic plate which sends a bullet on an alternative trajectory. A second layer is made from ceramic balls or cylinders, with a soft filling (of secret formulation). This ensures the vest’s flexibility while the rounded surfaces help divert the bullet from its path. As a result, a lump of plumbum, rather than a bullet, reaches the third layer — another 3mm thick ceramic plate. The final penetrating plumbum penetrates the last layer of the ‘pie’ by no more than 1cm, into Kevlar fabric. It’s enough to save someone’s life, as proven by tests.
A 20x30cm armour plate has been produced from several small ceramic plates, as demon-
Yuri Bohan, dean of P.I. Masherov Vitebsk State University’s Physics Department:
“The know how of Belarusian scientists is that we proposed ‘assembly ’ as if by ‘construction kit.’ Since the specific weight of ceramic plates is 2.5 times lighter than steel, they should weigh no more than 10kg when complete... As no original components or expensive new equipment is required, the cost of the final product should be about $300.” “At that time, we had the idea of creating a bullet-proof vest which would force a bullet to ricochet,” recollects Yuri Bokhan, one of its developers, and the Dean of P.I. Masherov
strated at Vitebsk’s State University (each measuring 6.5x3cm and manufactured at a Russian factory). It can even be used to line integrated circuits in radio-electronics, while the balls and
cylinders are made by Belarusian enterprises (usually used to crush clay when making tableware and other ceramic items). To ensure the bullet doesn’t penetrate any gap between plates, upper layer plates overlap the edges of the lower layer. Additionally, especially vulnerable areas are filled with balls or cylinders. The results of tests have astonished even the cynical military. At first, they refused to believe that a bullet shot from 25m away by a superpowerful Dragunov sniper rifle could ricochet off the vest; however, the facts speak for themselves. The armoured plate ‘catches’ gun fire from a Kalashnikov assault rifle — 7 bullets of 5.45mm calibre; this provides third grade protection (in line with the Russian state standard GOST). To compare, first grade protection protects from knives and air rifles, while the second can save from a Makarov pistol. The fifth grade protects from machinegun fire. “We didn’t aim to come closer to the fifth grade, as third grade protection is adequate for field military actions,” asserts Mr. Bokhan. “Since the specific weight of ceramic plates is 2.5 times lighter than steel, they should weigh no more than 10kg when complete.” As no original components or expensive new equipment is required, the cost of the final product should be about $300. Victor Dik, the Director of Minsk’s Technomag enterprise (specialising in the manufacture of bullet-proof vests) notes, “We’ve assisted developers with trials. Despite the USA and Israel being trendsetters in producing bulletproof vests, Belarusian scientists have managed to achieve a level of protection beyond that of steel plates. This technology will prove essential.” The research was financed as part of a Belarusian state programme and is likely to continue — probably, jointly with the Institute of Powder Metallurgy. Specialists note that the innovation is almost ready for mass production. By Sergey Golesnik
Visitors are curious about every detail of the Second World War
On path to Victory Hall
he new Belarusian State Museum of Great Patriotic War Histor y, designed by Victor Kramarenko, is a ‘temple to Victory’. Museum’s Director Sergey Azaronok tells us that many artefacts have been donated by ordinary residents of Belarus, making it a true joint effort. The same was seen when the new National Library of Belarus opened (also designed by Mr. Kramarenko). The new War History exhibition is to open on May 9th, 2014, sited at Pobedy Park, near the Minsk — CityHero Monument: a symbolic choice. Mr. Azaronok is extremely busy, as we’d expect, holding daily meetings with specialists — including museum
staff and invited experts. Everyone is keen to see the events of 1941-1945 portrayed accurately yet in a modern and interesting way, making the most of the 21st century technology to allow interaction and fully engage the younger generation. How did it all begin? Not everyone knows that thoughts turned to the first war history museum even before the Victory Day of May 9th, 1945. In 1943, Belarus was occupied yet partisans had already begun collecting exhibits for a future museum, burying them in old weaponry boxes or sending them to Moscow by plane. On October 22nd, 1944, the first museum opened in Minsk — soon after Belarus’ liberation from the Nazis. It was situated in one of
Belarusian State Museum of Great Patriotic War History prepares new exhibition
the few surviving buildings: the House of Trade Unions (still standing in Svobody Square). For Minskers, it became a symbol of peace and restoration; they visited it as they would the theatre, in their leisure time. Former partisans became its first employees; after leaving the forests, they brought their weapons to the museum — beginning a peaceful job. They accepted military awards, while visiting former front lines, and even went to Berlin to recover stolen artefacts from the city, where fighting was on going. The museum moved to its current building in 1966 and exhibits continue to be added, truly enriching our understanding of those terrible war years. Why was a site chosen near the Minsk — City-Hero Monument?
Heritage It is symbolic, as Minsk was awarded its ‘Hero-City’ title for the scale of its local partisan and underground movement. The Independence Day parade, on July 3rd, which celebrates Minsk’s liberation from the fascists, is organised here. Importantly, in 1944, Pobedy Park was set out there, soon after the city’s liberation. The future museum building is both interesting and symbolic, taking the form of four rising rays of glass and steel — like a Victory firework; in 1944, the country was liberated simultaneously by four frontlines. All parts of the museum are also being built simultaneously. It is a true temple of Victory, dedicated to the heroic resistance of our nation, which lost every third citizen during those hard years. What form will the exhibition take? We’re using a classical approach, with visitors taking a journey through several halls. Meanwhile, you’ll be able to view exhibits on the ground floor from a first floor gallery. The Path of War — or Path Towards Victory — starts on the ground floor, moving upwards until it reaches the dome of Victory Hall. The first part of the journey shows exhibits from the start of the war, while the last room explores the final days. Victory Hall resembles the Reichstag dome; symbolically, a Belarusian flag is being placed at the top. Belarusians participated in the seizure of Berlin and the Reichstag at the end of the war. What’s currently on show and what changes are expected after the exhibition moves to the new building? We currently have over 11,000 exhibits. We plan to use 3D technologies in our new building to allow visitors to view everything via info-kiosks. You’ll be able to examine items from Podolsk’s Archive (which keeps documents from the 1941-1945 years); from Kiev's Museum of Great Patriotic War History; and from Moscow’s War History Museum. You’ll be able to take a virtual trip around other museums. Which exhibits are you most proud of?
We have a 1st Order of Nakhimov (only just over 70 were issued) and a collection of ‘home-made’ partisan weapons — unique worldwide. These were made from materials to hand but could shoot precisely. We’re also proud of our unique collection of hand-written partisan magazines: over 280 issues. Being established from 1943-1944, rather than decades after the war (by which time many artefacts had already been lost), we’re fortunate in having some extremely rare items. Letters received by soldiers on the frontline also deserve attention. They take the form of small triangles and, on reading them, a lump comes to your throat. Each artefact has its own precious significance: Dolganov’s unique gun from the Plamya (Flame) detachment (only 17 were made); the ‘Two Years in the Enemy’s
Do you have an Internet site? Yes: www.warmuseum.by. Our exhibits are being digitised for further placement within an e-catalogue. Afterwards, anyone will be able to visit our site to view them. Will there be any facilities for tourists? We’ll open a tourist centre. Of course, several tourist sites connected with the Great Patriotic War already exist. Among them are the Mount of Glory, Khatyn and the Brest Fortress-Hero Memorial Complex. We’d like to organise some single or several day excursions. A singleday trip through Minsk entitled ‘City Streets are Named After Them’ is planned. Not all Minskers know that many of their streets are named after Soviet Union heroes. Travelling through the city, you can learn about the history of the partisan movement, while finding out about Belarus’ liberation.
Sergey Azaronok, the Director of the Great Patriotic War History Museum:
“We currently have over 11,000 exhibits. We plan to use 3D technologies in our new building to allow visitors to view everything via info-kiosks. One will be able to take a virtual trip around other museums.” Rear’ partisan medal (only 30 exist); and a letter written by a small girl to her father, begging him to remain alive… Will the Minsk museum liaise with similar museums abroad? Each museum is unique. Moscow’s museum in Poklonnaya Gora, Kiev’s memorial complex, Slovakian Banská Bystrica’s National Uprising Museum and the Berlin-Karlshorst Museum (where Germany’s act of surrender was signed) each differ in some way. We’ll naturally liaise with foreign museums and exchange exhibitions. Belarusians and Europeans alike are eager to understand the events of WW2.
We also plan a more large scale project, creating a partisan village in Stankovo, near Minsk. It’s being recreated in the smallest detail, using drafts kept at our museum. We’re also developing routes taking in partisan sites and those from the first days of the war, allowing tourists to see the Belarus of 1941 — travelling from Brest and Grodno to Minsk. They can feel the horror of the Fascists’ invasion and the heroism of our defenders. These projects are likely to arouse interest, being another step in learning about Belarus’ history, which is part of Europe’s past. By Viktar Korbut
Improving living conditions Belta
Every Belarusian settlement boasts its own unique flavour
n small and medium-sized towns, only low-rise buildings are constructed while high-rise buildings are built solely in large cities. Minsk aims to retain its compactness via the development of satellite towns. They are the benchmark of Belarus’ new town planning policy for the next five years, stipulated three months ago by presidential decree. By 2016, the country’s housing situation should be more comfortable, meeting all our needs.
Closer to land
According to Larisa Smirnova, Deputy Director of the Belarusian Research and Design Institute for Regional and Urban Planning, Belarus has always focused on its provincial territories, as proven by various state programmes developing agro-towns — especially building housing. Over the last five years, much has been done to enhance standards of living countrywide. Agro-towns are rural settlements of a new type; over 1,480
now exist, boasting production facilities and social infrastructure. Their liv ing condit ions a lmost match those of cities. Much has been done to solve the ‘housing issue’, with 1.6 times more housing commissioned in the last five years compared to the previous five. Housing provision has increased, now standing at more than 24sq.m per capita. Meanwhile, some town construction problems do remain. “The misbalance between urbanites and villagers is not being solved quickly enough,” notes Belarus’ Deputy Minister for Architecture and C onstr uction, Dmitry Semenkevich. “Urban residents account for 75 percent of our population — making us one of the most urbanised states within the CIS.” Minsk and regional centres continue to grow at the expense of villages and small towns. According to specialists, this may affect the formation of a comfortable living environment. Over the last five years, Minsk annually expanded by around 12,000 people. As a result, buildings are being made more high-rise, while there is a deficit of parking and social amenities. Green park areas are a vital part of the equation. Our ‘capital fashion’ is being emulated by small towns, where the number of high-rise buildings is rising unreasonably. “Historically, towns used to have only a few f loors,” explains Ms. Smirnova. “Nine-storey buildings have appeared in small towns not because of lack of land but because it’s more cost effective.” During our period of industrialisation, large-panel housing boomed in Belarus, as it did in other former USSR republics. It allowed a great deal of housing to be erected and small towns felt the brunt. “Of course, each town has its own image and we should take this into account,” stresses Ms. Smirnova, discussing the need to change town planning strategy. “A small Belarusian town should be comfortable and attrac-
Life environment tive. In rich European countries, they don’t build nine-storey buildings as we commonly do in our small towns.” The new town planning policy for the next five years aims to stop the building of high-rise housing in small towns, which currently number 205 in Belarus. Correspondingly, housing construction factories must alter their production explains the Head of the Department for Settlements and Living Environment at the Belarusian Research and Design Institute for Regional and Urban Planning, Polina Vardevanyan. She wants to leave behind the ‘fast food’ version of building in favour of something more long-lasting. Naturally, homes still need to be affordable, easy to repair and reconstruct, and be quick to build. This only follows world trends.
general plans. We need detailed plans for each town’s centre, with regeneration of the historical core receiving attention. Plans must thoroughly consider which buildings should be demolished and which should be restored or rebuilt. Moreover, the historical heritage of each site must be taken into account.” Clearly, great responsibility lies with local authorities, from whom diversity of de velopment or ig inates. However, local residents can also play their part in transforming their environment. According to the Deputy Minister for Architecture and Construction, Dmitry Semenkevich, there are other ways to do this than traditional subbotniks [whereby residents give up a Saturday to perform public works]. They can
The appearance of each town should be unique in its own way, drawing on national traditions and world trends Favourable environment
The appearance of each town should be unique in its own way, drawing on national traditions and world trends. Each town’s particular needs should also be considered, alongside its potential, history and traditions. All should be reflected in its appearance. Turov, Zaslavl and Kamenets, dating to the times of Kievan Rus, should not resemble Novolukoml, Belozersk or Kostyukov, which were established less than a century ago, from industry and power engineering. The Silhouette of the Capital project aims to give Minsk highrise buildings which create a unique skyline; naturally, the same path would not suit a town of 20,000 residents. Each town is to have its own plan, as Ms. Smirnova tells us. She notes, “This requirement is being strictly observed. Around 70 of 200 towns have already presented their updated
keep courtyards and entrance porches clear, taking responsibility for their immediate surroundings. Mr. Semenkevich stresses, “We need to overcome people’s dependant attitude, passively waiting for others to do something for them. We should encourage them to show initiative.” The development of regional and urban transport communications is also a priority for the next five years. Various communal facilities are to be built, giving greater public access, while a better road network will reduce traffic congestion in our cities. More parking places are also planned, with underground and multi-storey parking to be built.
Nine small capitals
Improving the country’s innovative development is another key feature of our plan, with provincial towns taking on more of the load.
Meanwhile, the constr uction of satellite towns will ease congestion for our capital, spreading the population more widely. Ideally, Minsk’s population should not exceed two million, allowing no more than 1.2 million square metres of housing to be constructed annually. The appearance of high-density housing is to be improved, with more thought given to the decoration of facades, and the replacement of flat roofs with sloping. Balconies, stanzas and bay windows can all improve the appearance of flats, as can small details on porches. Much of the capital’s new housing is shifting 25-30km away, with nine settlements becoming satellite towns: D z e r z h i ns k , Z h o d i n o, Fan ip ol, Smolevichi, Stolbtsy, Uzda, Rudensk, Zaslavl and Logoisk. Each will boast its own social and production infrastructure, with high-speed roads and motorways connecting them with Minsk. Smolevichi and Zaslavl are leading the way, with new sites for housing being determined. Smolevichi’s population is to rise from today’s 15,000 to 60,000, while Zaslavl’s 14,000 residents will rise to 35,000. According to Ms. Smirnova, Minskers will be attracted to move to these satellite towns by the high quality of housing and the comfortable lifestyle. To enhance our country’s industrial potential, promising investment projects are being promoted across the regions. For example, Minsk, Molodechno, Slutsk, Borisov, Soligorsk and Zhodino — the largest cities — are to become centres of innovative development in Minsk Region. Dzerzhinsk, Z aslavl and R adoshkovichi will become cluster centres to manufacture construction materials and services while Myadel, Logoisk and Nesvizh are to focus on tourism and environmental protection. The plan should make Belarus an even more comfortable place to live, while creating the foundations for our future development. By Lilia Khlystun
May joy come to all! Belarus’ cities, large and small, are already preparing for their New Year celebrations. The fantasy element of this wonderful holiday is achieved to a large extent through brightly decorated shop windows: in small boutiques, huge supermarkets and, even, newspaper stalls. Lit garlands across our streets also create a festive mood, as do advertising posters for carnivals, parties and trips to Father Frost’s Residence. Markets selling fir trees add a special flavour, too
n mid-November, a pre-New Year mood reigned in Gomel, but there was no rush to prepare for this most favourite of holidays. The local Mayoral Office has years of experience in organising everything. Shops are the first to launch the ‘marathon’ of festivities, transforming inside and out. These are followed by city squares, streets and courtyards. When the expected date approaches, people decorate their homes with fir trees, wrap gifts and think over New Year menus. This year, I saw a decorated tree in a shop window in early November. It was sparkling with golden balls, looking amazing. Of course, I could not but enter and ask why they’d put up their tree so early. The shop assistant replied, “Do you think it’s early? Time passes so quickly that New Year arrives before you know it. Meanwhile, people stop by our window, smiling; their mood is improved.” No doubt, such decorations cannot but charm us. The shop with its early tree inspired me to start my own preparations and, a week later, golden and silver decorations were common in most shops. Another week later, special machinery arrived in the central square to raise the main New Year fir tree. Several years ago, Gomel stopped using real trees (as several hundred are needed to
Region create a huge tree). Artificial is more ecologically friendly. A special metal case is used, about 28m in height, with synthetic branches inserted. It is then decorated with giant balls, bows, bells and luxurious illuminations: around 150 ‘light pictures’ — all unique. Residents and guests love to take photos by the tree, as it looks magnificent. A playground for children is built nearby, with playhouses, labyrinths and chutes, as well as an ice rink. It’s impossible to feel bored… or cold. Having fun warms the heart.
On the eve of the New Year, the city organises festive competitions and most buildings are decorated. “Every year, we organise a contest for the best holiday decorations, encouraging companies and factories to take part, alongside ordinary residents,” the Mayoral Office tells us. “Of course, all try to be as eye-catching as possible. They’d do so anyway, but the prize is an added incentive.” City designers also play their part, planning illuminations for the main streets and squares, and overseeing the placement of fireworks and electric garlands o n t r e e s . Yo u don’t need to be a professional to become involved. Ordinary people l i ke to d e c or ate New Year presents from Father Frost their companies and schools, courtyards and balconies. The sky is the limit when it comes to imaginative ideas — from five-storey high ‘champagne bottles’ to horses pulling Father Frost. There’s no doubt that the city is wonderful at this time of year; it’s inspiring to walk its streets, with holiday pine scent in the air and everywhere covered in sparkling lights. By December 15th, all is complete, with the main fir tree installed and markets selling New Year trees (real ones in pots and artificial), cards, garlands and decorations. They stay open until December 31st, allowing everyone to greet the coming year with cheer. At the chime of midnight on 31st December, hundreds gather in Gomel’s main square to welcome the New Year… and celebrations continue through the following day — with songs, dancing and performances. The most impressive moment is the parade of Fathers Frosts, Snow Maidens and fairy-tale characters. Anyone wearing a carnival costume or mask can join them.
The New Year mood is conjured up via dramatic theatrical performances, Christmas concerts and unusual exhibitions and master classes. Wonderful ice sculptures appear in the city’s central park, made by Gomel’s Ruslan Yerokhov, who also works professionally with sand, marble and chocolate. In winter time, he prefers ice, taking it from local Lebyazhy Lake (if the weather is appropriate). It takes him five days and nights to create his fragile masterpieces — using a petrol-driven power saw, chisels, cutting tools and, even, an iron; he works hard to create his amazing angels, swans, dolphins and sea horses. Of course, they start melting when the temperature rises above zero but their images stay in the memory for much longer. Pre-New Year contests also create a festive mood — open to all. Gomel’s Palace and Park Estate traditionally chooses the most creative fir tree — which can be made from any material (even banknotes or lace). The staff return adults to their childhood, offering diverse master classes in making home-crafted gifts and decorations. The City History Museum invites everyone to learn how to make tree decorations as our grandparents did while the Gomel branch of the Vetka Museum of Folk Art offers master classes in sewing dolls — used by our forefathers as talismans to attract wealth, fertility and general good luck. Who wouldn’t want to receive such a gift? Moreover, making them puts you in a definite holiday mood.
Dreams come true
It’s already a tradition to exchange presents at New Year and Christmas, while people openly share their joy and do their best to help others. Kind deeds occur throughout the year but, from December-January, our thoughts turn more readily to generosity. Charities do their best to encourage us, with ‘fir trees of wishes’ installed in the city’s shops and in state establishments. The Red Cross Society asks disadvantaged children to place notes detailing their dreams on fir trees, so that the Father Frost can discover them. Of course, by taking a note from the tree anyone can make a child’s dream come true: most ask for sweets or toys — dolls and teddy bears. Public organisations and the city’s Mayoral Office also contribute, bringing joy to children in state care and those with disabilities. Every child receives a gift, with donations given by people far and wide. By Violetta Dralyuk
Season of magic and light
ur ancestors, like us, celebrated the joyful winter holidays with delight. Catholics in Belarus celebrate Christmas on December 25th while Orthodox believers revere January 7th. However, regardless of the date, all Christmas days are blessed with a special and elevated atmosphere, full of wonder a n d i n s pi r at i on — a s reflected in our beautiful folk traditions and songs.
‘January marks the beginning of the year and the middle of winter’
From Belarusian, Januar y can be translated as a bitterly cold mont h . Pe opl e us e d to say : ‘Januar y marks the beginning of the year and the middle o f w i n t e r ’. Forecasts for the next six months are made, with c e r t ai n c ond i tions believed to foretell future weather. For instance, snowfall in
January is supposed to herald heavy rain in early July and a warm January indicates a pleasant March. January snow leads to rain in July while light frosts promise fruitful harvests. Rain and thaw indicates poor weather later in the year; ‘When January is misty, the year will be wet’. Meanwhile, ‘If January is cold, spring will be late and summer will be cool’.
January 3rd is Prakop — a day which often sees heavy snowfall: ‘Prakop steps on snow and digs the road’. It is just three days before the long awaited holiday of Christmas: ‘Kalyada is already on the stove’.
Housewives would place a sheaf of wheat in the home and sprinkle the house and outbuildings with holy water — ‘writing Kalyada’.
The days leading up to Christmas are called Lent, with Christians encouraged to fast and reflect on their conduct. On 6th January, Orthodox believers refrain from eating ‘until the first star appears in the sky’, reminding them of the appearance of the eastern star which announced the birth of Jesus Christ. Once the Divine Liturgy has been performed, a meal can be prepared with vegetable oil, but no cheese or fish is allowed. The main dish is ‘sochivo’: porridge made from soaked wheat seeds, with poppy seeds, walnuts, honey and sugar. This is how the Russian word for Christmas Eve ‘sochelnik’ originated.
Januar y 7th — Or thodox Christmas. Christmas was a holiday celebrated in royal castles and peasants’ huts alike. Expensive cinnamon — worth its weight in gold — was purchased for Radziwill Castle, being cast into stoves and hearths to create a wonderful
Traditions aroma (the castle had 365 rooms!). The fragrance carried far and wide. Meanwhile, simple people would thoroughly clean their homes. “In various regions of Belarus the holiday was called either Kolyady or Razhstvo,” notes folklore researcher Yelena Dovnar-Zapolskaya. Regardless of the name, it was one of the richest holidays. All Kolyady evenings were considered holy, so it was forbidden to work, with spindles and spinning wheels hidden. Interestingly, the word ‘kalyada’ has two meanings: a holiday and a delicacy. In the evening, the whole family would gather, with the married elder daughter rejoining her parents at home. The table was covered in a white cloth, with hay beneath to ensure a good harvest. The evening Lenten dishes included ‘kutia’ (or coliphia): barley or oatmeal porridge. It required skilful cooking to maintain its texture. If the ‘kutia’ was good then people thought prosperity and wellbeing would reign in the house. Seeds always symbolise fertility of course. The dish was served with vegetable oil and honey, diluted with water. Depending on the family’s wealth, 7, 9 or more dishes might be placed on the table: fresh and salted fish, and mushrooms of every type — pickled boletus and saffron milk caps (sometimes very small, like buttons), alongside pancakes, oatmeal jelly, and herbal tea made from dried apples and pears. Sitting at the table, a prayer was recited: ‘Dear God, please give us strength for another year, until Kolyady comes again, allowing us to happily celebrate holy ‘kutia’ together’. Symbolically, Frost was invited to the table, to be placated — so that he wouldn’t kill the young shoots in spring. People believed that wishes and prayers held special power at this time of year, so it was prudent to ask for good health, prosperity for all those dear to you, and rich harvests. These ‘charms’ included the arrival of ‘kalyadushchki’ — who went from house to house singing Christmas carols; they wished happiness on each home, saying: ‘Be
h e a lt hy, like a saffron milk cap in the forest, may there always be money and live in prosperity’. Kolyady delicacies were extremely tasty! These included ham smoked on juniper, palendvitsa (sun-dried pork-loin), hard-baked herb s aus ages, cr ispy roasted krovyanka (blood sausage) with buckwheat, saltison (jellied pork head), vantrabyanka (sausages from giblets) stuffed with fried mushrooms and onions, and fluffy pancakes ser ved with mochanka (a thick soup made with lard from ribs and sausages). In the evening, people would endeavour not to argue and often visited each other, playing Kolyady games which would delight us even now. The weather was certainly used for forecasts: a clear sky with bright stars promised good harvests in the field and woods — an abundance of mushrooms, berries and nuts. Snow gave beekeepers confidence in bees swarming well while the complete absence of snow, matched with mild weather, promised a good harvest of buckwheat.
seeds were presented. It was always obligatory to observe a Lenten diet on this day, to avoid being struck with food poisoning for the rest of the year! In some Belarusian regions, the host of the house again invited Frost to the table, addressing him as a living creature: ‘Frost, Frost, come to eat ‘kutia’. Don’t come to us in summer, don’t break our bread’. After the festivities were over, the hay from beneath the table cloth (which had lain for a fortnight) was given to the cows, being thought to possess the power to raise their milk yield and protect the animals’ health. Crosses were also drawn onto the walls of all household buildings: ‘Kolyada leaves on a sleigh’.
On January 19th, Orthodox believers celebrate Theophany. On the eve of the holiday, a ritual dish is traditionally cooked from barley or other cereals and only Lenten dishes are offered. This ‘kutia’ was called ‘hungry’, ‘water’, ‘water Lenten’ or ‘theophany’. Oatmeal jelly, fish of all varieties, mushroom ‘polivka’, and mushrooms and pancakes with poppy
Traditions Holy water, naturally, was thought to have purifying powers. People would go to their nearest river to make ice holes in the form of a cross, often painting beetroot juice around the edges. The priest blessed the water and, according to custom, people would take an icy dip — it’s a tradition which still remains popular, although doctors and priests urge us to be careful. Water is revered for its life giving properties, and was once addressed as: ‘water, water — God’s assistance’. Holy water was sprinkled upon newly built houses and outbuildings, over beehives and upon fields before sowing. It was drunk during times of sickness and sprinkled over a patient’s bed and room. People would say: ‘Holy Theophany blessed water, purify the world and spring upwards’. Hard frosts were common during Theophany, with water slopped from a bucket sometimes freezing in globules as it fell to the ground. “Being in the midst of winter, with frosts remaining severe, water baptisms were saved for St. Peter’s Day, which is celebrated in July,” notes Ms. DovnarZapolskaya. “Looking at Theophany’s weather, people would make forecasts. Snow promised a good potato harvest and rich honeycombs while clear nights of stars hailed an abundance of wild strawberries, bilberries, cranberries, raspberries and red bilberries in the woods. Gloomy weather indicated a good cereal harvest while snow and gales promised unfavourable weather for Easter.” Even now, Theophany gathers crowds of B elar usian Or thodox believers to church. According to Father Oleg Shulgin, who serves Minsk Orthodox parish of the Joy of All Who Sorrow Mother of God Icon, people of all ages attend — even teenagers. Water is blessed on January 18th, after the vesper service (around midday) and, on January 19th, after the liturgy (at 9 a.m.). According to tradition, if pure water is added to holy water in church, it acquires the properties of
holy water. One can do the same at home. However, a prayer should be spoken and you should bless yourself while drinking the water. It’s said that, on January 19th, even tap water boasts miraculous healing properties; however, priests advise us to attend church. As for Christmas and Kolyady folk customs and traditions, priest Oleg Shulgin asserts, “Singing beautiful Kolyady songs is a wonderful custom, inspiring the spirit of the holiday in our soul.” However, he thinks that young girls w ho embrace wood stacks on Theophany evenings or make romantic forecasts from coffee grinds to discover who they’ll marry would be better served in addressing God through prayer in seeking a good husband.
‘Aksiniya will clear the road and sweep the bread’. January 24th celebrates ‘Aksiniya’ — the middle of winter. Those who worked the land would examine their fodder to assess how much was left for the winter. Meanwhile, severe frosts on this day promised a long winter, with March still seeing snowstorms. January 25th is St. Tatiana’s Day, when frosty, clear and sunny weather marks an early return of the birds. Snowstorms indicate a rainy spring and summer. January 30th is Anton’s Day, when frost on the trees indicates a rich harvest of berries and honey.
Cheerful Christmastide lasted from Christmas to Theophany. After long Lent, the soul required psychological release, so evenings saw young people gather for parties. The house of a widow was usually chosen, with her paid a small fee. Parents were happy to send their daughters to these traditional events, especially as chaperones of various ages attended. Musicians would be paid to play so that polka and other dances could be enjoyed.
Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s
In snowy winter, the stove is the heart of any house — regardless of the size of home. A traditional Russian stove was white, with a big sleeping ledge, while a ‘grubka s t o v e’ w a s surrounded by ceramic tiles. A mantelpiece of carved stone was another common embellishment. Naturally, the flames gave warmth, hope and comfort — much as taking from the oven a loaf of newly baked bread. Of course, Belarusian stove
Traditions art was seen in homes of all sizes and the wealthiest homes would employ the best masters to decorate their mantles and create elaborate tiles. Many folk customs and beliefs are connected with stoves. A wooden post was placed in one corner (‘home’ to the revered spirits of ancestors). When a family moved into a new house, they would take an ember from the previous fireplace. Meanwhile, on arriving at her new husband’s house, a young wife would bow in front of the stove and touch it with her hands to indicate her joining her new family. The stove and its ancestral corner were bestowed with female energy, so men were discouraged from approaching. Proverbs and riddles associate the stove directly with women. A house spirit in Slavic folklore — called a domovoi — was thought to reside in the quiet corners behind the stove or in the throat of the chimney. The porch of a warm house, because it’s known that there’s no bad weather, there’s only bad clothes. “Warm fur coats, to protect from the coldest weather, were sewn with the fur facing inwards and woollen cloth in the upper part: either thin English or thick local,” notes Ms. Dovnar-Zapolskaya. “Ferret fur and sheared sheepskin were popular for men’s coats while women tended to wear squirrel fur, with thick velveteen in a smoky grey colour. For those who were wealthier, marten and sable were worn by women and beaver fur by men. Minsk boasted various ‘fashion houses’ making fur coats — such as Pavlyut and Stefaniya Baleimis.” One of Yanka Kupala’s younger sisters worked at the Pavlyut fashion house, delivering coats to clients. According to Yadviga Romanovskaya, a niece of Yanka Kupala, dress patterns and various types of accessories and buttons were ordered from Paris; some buttons were made from precious or semi-precious stones, and could be framed or plated with gold or silver. The men who occupied the post of masters at any factory would often wear ferret fur.
Sparkling fir tree
New Year was once perceived as less important than Christmas but this changed when Soviet rule ‘abolished’ Christian festivities and bourgeois customs in 1929. Unsurprisingly, beautiful traditions survived even the revolutionary fervour. In 1935, the New Year fir tree returned to Soviet homes, bearing the red Kremlin star, rather than that of Bethlehem. During the Great Patriotic War, manufacture of fir tree toys continued, with decorated trees reminding people of the peaceful life they were struggling to preserve. However, war time trees were decorated not with golden balls, but with toy soldiers, tanks, guns and other ‘military’ themed items. New Year postcards were released in December 1941, to support and please soldiers at the front. Clearly, the power of New Year traditions was huge. A sparkling fir tree is the ultimate symbol of the festive season. The first written account of a decorated tree was made in Alsace, dating from 1605: ‘Fir trees are installed in homes at Christmas, with roses made from coloured paper hung on their branches, as well as apples, biscuits, pieces of sugar and brilliant yarn’. People were enthralled by the idea, with Russia embracing the novelty in the 18th century — by a decree of Peter I (Britain and Scandinavia adopted the trend at about the same time). Only in the 1830s did people begin to decorate their fir trees though, with wealthy Germans living in St. Petersburg kicking off the fashion. By the late 19th century, almost everyone had followed suit and confectionery shops were selling small fir trees for adorning tables. Trees gradually became taller, installed in hallways, and the first large public fir tree graced St. Petersburg in 1852. Fir trees are just as popular today, bringing cheer to our homes. Happy New Year! Merry Christmas! We wish you happiness and love! By Galina Ulitenok
Beautiful symbols Slutsk sashes become bright example of Belarus’ rich cultural heritage
ven though several centuries have passed since Slutsk sashes were widely used, one can’t but admire these elegant ornaments in delicate fabrics and wonderful colours; they are quite dazzling. If they were made today, they’d rival the couture of Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Valentino and Hugo Boss. However, they exist only in museums. Sadly, few Slutsk sashes are kept by Belarusian museums, as their beauty has sent them around the globe. Of course, we should be proud that their fame reaches so far. From time to time, attention towards them grows here. Many people currently believe we should be making every effort to return these Slutsk rarities to Belarus, even at great cost. Others are convinced that Belarusian culture is rich in wealth and every aspect deserves equal attention. Recently, Minsk hosted a historical and cultural exhibition entitled Slutsk Sashes as part of the National Heritage and Honour of Belarus. The Culture Ministry and the National Art Museum helped organise the event, which was dedicated to the 120th anniversary of the birth of famous Belarusian poet Maxim Bogdanovich. A Slutsk Sashes table calendar and Slutsk Sashes as a Destiny Sign documentary have been released, encouraging us to embrace our rich cultural heritage. “This is a landmark event, as our Slutsk sashes are a source of national pride; they are our calling card,” asserted Vladimir Prokoptsov, the Director of the National Art Museum, at the exhibition launch. He reminded all those present that few Slutsk sashes
Slutsk sashes at the National Art Museum
remain in Belarus. Until recently, some Slutsk sashes from Russia were on display for two years. Negotiations are now underway to bring sashes f rom Ukraine and L it huania to Belarus. Meanwhile, in 2012, a silver coin dedicated to Slutsk sashes is to be released, alongside the calendar and CD of the documentary — on sale at the museum and across Belarusian book stores. The Deputy Director of Minsk Printing Factory in Goznak, Lyudmila Vitkevich, tells us that the creators of the calendar have endeavoured to reproduce the texture of the fabric on the cover. “We’ve used special paper and metallised paint to depict the quality of Slutsk sashes, showing how their tightly woven fabric reflects the light,” she explains. Belarus’ Deputy Culture Minister, Tadeush Struzhetsky, is confident that the new exhibition will inspire other interesting ideas relating to Slutsk sashes.
We don’t need to present the sashes in any special way, as they’re already widely known; Slutsk sashes occupy an honoured place in the history of Belarusian decorative-and-applied art. In the second half of the 18th century, they were an indispensable part of the wardrobe of the aristocracy — symbolising dignity, noble birth, high social position and prosperity. They were far more than accessories. In the 19th century, Slutsk sashes began to be used to decorate castles and museums, and were incorporated into the vestments of Catholic priests. In the 18th century, King Stanislaw August Poniatowski and leading members of aristocratic families within the Rzech Pospolita (including the Belarusian Radziwills, Oginskis and Sapegis) began to manufacture ‘Kuntush’ sashes, inspired by Eastern models. These proved extremely popular. By the early 1770s, Slutsk sashes were viewed as the most perfect — in their design
and craftsmanship; they were admired as works of art as well as being part of a nobleman’s wardrobe. Today, these priceless artworks encapsulate the aesthetic taste and style of their time; they even embody the complex historical and cultural processes of the Rzech Pospolita. Slutsk sashes became the standard for other workshops, although their quality was impossible to reproduce. Until the late 18th century, Slutsk sashes were synonymous with all long silk sashes — regardless of their place of manufacture. By the 20th century, they were the ‘calling cards’ of Belarus’ artistic culture and of its bordering states, which were once part of the Rzech Pospolita. Undoubtedly, the dominance of Slutsk sashes was no accident. The founders and patrons of Slutsk workshop worked hard to promote and improve their goods. In the early 18th century, families competed to employ the best artists and craftsmen, creating collections of artworks. The
It is only one's soul that can embrace the true beauty of Slutsk sashes
‘Slutsk Persian’ business was launched by brothers Michal Kazimierz Radziwill and Hieronim Florian Radziwill; they kept a close eye on the workshop making the wonderful belts, ever encouraging improvements. Hieronim Florian built a new factory building, installing the latest equipment (at the time, the removal of looms from the Ottoman Empire -the largest exporter of ‘Kuntush’ sashes at that time — was forbidden under penalty of death). Michal Kazimierz personally sought out weavers, luring the best to come and work for him. Regardless of the expense, he sent his people to study crafts in celebrated studios; training could last for around seven years. In 1757, Michal Kazimierz sent two Nesvizh weavers — Tomasz Haecki and Jan Gadowski — to perfect their mastery under talented master Yan Madzharsky, at Stanislavskaya workshop of Domenik Misiarowicz (now called IvanoFrankovsk, in Ukraine). In 1758, Michal
Kazimierz invited Yan Madzharsky to his Nesvizh Residence, inviting him to head his workshop, and a contract was signed. The invitation to Yan Madzharsky became the second important landmark in popularising Slutsk sashes. The Armenian master aimed not to copy the style of Eastern models but to create a whole new, unique local version, surpassing imported examples in its perfection. This inspired experimentation and innovation, with Madzharsky often violating the canons of Eastern silk weaving. Eastern-style sashes drew on elements from Western European culture — from the baroque and classic genres — as well as on Belarusian folk art. Within just a few months, the Radziwill persiarnya (sash workshop) had transformed sash production, using a double-sided design; each side differed in colour, allowing it to be alternated for festive or everyday use. The ends were given long fringing, which was a
wonderful tribute to Belarusian traditional belts (which always had fringes, unlike Eastern belts). In the 1760-1770s, Yan Madzharsky performed his boldest creative innovations, developing new ornamental compositions inspired by Eastern sash decorations. Later, his work was continued by his son Leon. In total, seven new types of decoration with contemporary titles appeared: ‘karymfil’, ‘sukharyk’ (a piece of dry toast), ‘kitaiskoe oblachko’ (a Chinese cloud), ‘vasilki’ (cornflowers), ‘buket’ (bouquet), ‘tsvetushchie pni’ (flower buds) and ‘venechno-medalonny’. They were distinctive and extremely stylised, making them unique. Slutsk sashes also received their own inscription: ‘SLUCK’. Another was created after 1776, when the next owner took over — Karol Stanislaw Radziwill Panie Kochanku (1734-1790). When Yan Madzharsky transferred rental rights to his son Leon (around 1740-1790), the
Values sashes had the inscription woven on in Cyrillic capitals: ‘СЛУЦК’, ‘ВЪ ГРАДЕ / СЛУЦКЕ’; ‘ЛЕО МА / ЖАРСКИЙ ВЪ ГРАДЕ/СЛУЦКЕ’. Madzharsky’s Slutsk sashes drove out Eastern pieces from the Rzech Pospolita market, while the masters themselves acquired such popularity that even King Stanislaw August Poniatowski, who wished to open a persiarnya in Grodno, was obliged to ask Radziwill to ‘lend’ him a weaver. Undoubtedly, the Grodno enterprise would have closely resembled that of the Radziwills in Slutsk, producing fabrics in a similar style. Karol Stanislaw Radziwill was keen to remain independent from the Warsaw monarch however, seeing himself as king of Nesvizh and Slutsk. He refused, forcing Poniatowski to use French weavers. In the 1780s, Slutsk sashes were used as the model across the Rzech Pospolita. The workshops of Stefan Filsian and Pashalis Jakubovich (both located in the suburbs of Warsaw) followed the technique and designs closely, as did Krakow’s Frantishek Maslovski, Antony Putilovski and Yuzef Troyanovski. In the late 18th century, a French textile manufacturer in Lyon also began to make its own version of the Slutsk sash. In late 1790, Leon Madzharsky became a member of the nobility ‘for his contribution to the development of crafts in the state’. In 1791, he was granted a ‘Dar’ coat of arms and, in 1792, b e c am e c apt ai n of the horses in Novogrudok Province, while being awarded the honorary t i t l e
of royal gentleman-in-waiting. He headed sash manufacture until 1807 and, after his death in 1811, was buried at Slutsk’s Catholic Bernadine church. His factory continued its work until 1846, when a serious of state transformations led to its closure.
Curiously, only men were allowed to weave Slutsk sashes. According to the legend, if a woman’s hand touched the sash, its golden and silver threads would fade. Weavers were highly paid, despite only recreating the designs of artists (rather than inventing independently).
By the 20th century, Slutsk sashes were ‘the calling card’ of Belarus’ artistic culture and its bordering states Serfs were forbidden from involvement. At first, sashes from Persia and Turkey cost 500 golden ducats each; however, when production opened in Belarus, the price fell to 120. In comparison, a highly qualified master at the factory earned four Ducats a month. The factory released only 200 sashes annually, woven with gold and silver thread, so a high price was charged — affordable only by the elite: gentry and magnates. Slutsk sashes were certainly unique to our national artistic culture and made a supreme contribut i on t o We s t e r n and world applied and decorative art, being harmonious in their colour palettes and decorated with the finest and most delicate of ornamentation. By Victor Mikhailov
“Feeling each note” Professor Eduard Kuchinsky accidentally discovered his talent as a violinist and is now seeking gifted youngsters countrywide, wishing to turn them into world level masters
war years, so there was no opportunity to study music. Moreover, my father was a military man, so we used to travel to various garrisons: in Yaroslavl, Ulan-Ude, Khasan Lake and Khabarovsk.” What are your connections with Belarus? My mother was born here and my father’s parents also come from here. D o othe r family members have musical talent? My mother had a good voice and used to sing at home, although neither of my parents was involved in serious music-making. When I was 14, our neighbour — an officer — bought an accordion and invited me to listen to him play. I became very enthusiastic and, a week later, was playing the accordion myself. I didn’t know how to read music, so had to study independently. I then tried playing the domra (a Alexander Stodub
l a d a B e re z h nay a , a s tu d e nt of t h e B elarusian State Academy of Music (BSAM), is the only one in Belarus entrusted to play a precious violin created by Italian Andrea Guarneri in the 17th century. The rarity, donated at the instruction of the Head of State, was sought for many years. Vlada, a laureate of the Special Presidential Fund of Belarus for Support of Talented Young People, received the honour of having the instrument bought in London especially for her — due to the persistence of her teacher, BSAM Violin Department Professor Eduard Kuchinsky. He has trained several talented violinists, who bring fame to Belarus far and wide. Artem Shishkov has fans around the globe, as do some other gifted youngsters; they would never have gained such recognition without their teacher. In fact, Eduard Kuchinsky only became a violinist himself through the strange hand of fate. “I became involved with music by chance,” he recollects. “I was born before the war began but grew up during the
Teacher Russian folk instrument, similar to the mandolin) at the local house of culture and succeeded. I was so keen on music that my parents decided that I should study seriously. When I was 16, I entered K h a b a r o v s k’s Mu s i c a l C o l l e g e without any prior training. My peers had been to musical schools, while I began from scratch. However, they must have seen my potential. After studying the domra for two months, I went
to my first symphony concert, hearing Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6. In the beginning, violins play the secondary theme. I was so impressed that I almost froze with astonishment. When I ‘recovered’, I understood that I should play the violin, although I’d never held one in my hands. It took me 1.5 months to persuade the college’s leadership to transfer me to the violin class. I was told that it’s impossible to learn this instrument at the age of 16 without any prior experience, so it was ‘all-or-nothing’ for me; I told them to dismiss me from the college if I failed. The director and the head teacher were perfect musicians, as well as being lovely people, and agreed to meet me halfway. They insisted that I should quickly master the first seven grades and, if I failed, I’d be asked to leave. I began to study and, within a year, was playing with the symphony orchestra. You had talent! Ta l e n t i s n o t h i n g without hard work [he replies modestly]. Was it a labour of Hercules to learn to play the violin so quickly? No, I only studied three or four hours a day. Within three and a half years, I’d entered the Chisinau State Conservatoire. How did you find your way from Russian Siberia to Moldova? I saw a film about the country, where virtuoso violinists played heart-warming melodies, so I wanted to visit. Wasn’t that a rather emotional decision? I was 20 at the time but that’s true to some extent. There was a big contest in Chisinau, which I managed to get through. After graduating from the Conservatoire, I went to work at Donetsk’s Opera Theatre, as an Eduard Kuchinskiy, his wife Zhanna and their virtuoso pupils Vlada Berezhnaya and Pavel Botyan
orchestra concertmaster. By then, I was already married. Because of my son’s illness, I had to move to the warm Northern Caucasus; we settled in Nalchik — the capital of KabardinoBalkaria. Yuri Temirkanov — who later became a famous conductor — arrived there after graduating from Leningrad’s Conservatoire. He invited me to work as a concertmaster for the Nalchik’s philharmonic symphony orchestra. It was fate. How did you decide to move to Belarus? My son Arkady is also a traveller and is now a professor at the Taiwan University, teaching the cello. He’s lived there for 15 years now. Because of him, my wife and I returned to our historical homeland. My son was studying at a musical school in Nalchik, so we were pondering where he could continue his education and decided to move to Minsk. Arkady entered a secondary special musical school, at the Belarusian State Philharmonic Society, studying in Vladimir Perlin’s class. At first, I worked in the 9th musical school, before moving to the gymnasium-college at the Belarusian State Academy of Music, where I still work today. You’re working with talented youngsters. How many have gained world recognition after training with you? Somewhere around 17. Do most remain in Belarus or do they tend to go abroad? Unfortunately, many have left our country; only Vlada Berezhnaya and Pavel Botyan remain here. This year, three of my students left: Andrey Poskorobko, who works as a concert master in Yuri Bashmet’s ‘Moscow Soloists’ Chamber Orchestra; Ellina Sitnikova, who is studying under Zakhar Bron at the Academy of Music in Madrid; and Olga Moshanskaya, who is now in Hamburg, studying at a high school. Dasha Varlamova also studies in Hamburg and is a pupil of Prof. Garlitsky, who used to play with Spivakov’s ‘Moscow Virtuosi’. Alexander Yakonyuk teaches in Cologne and used to be a pupil of Victor Tretiak
Teacher — the best Soviet violinist after David Oistrakh and Leonid Kogan. Do those going abroad promote Belarus or do they forget about their homeland? I don’t view their departure as a positive move but they don’t forget their homeland. Unfortunately, music isn’t as popular in Belarus as sports. There are centuries of musical traditions in the West, so emigration is not an ‘escape’ from Belarus; it shows ambition. In the past, many Belarusians who have gained recognition abroad have promoted their homeland. Where is your pupil Artem Shishkov these days? He’s now a postgraduate student of the former Soviet violinist Dora Schwarzberg, in Vienna; he’s touring Europe. It was a difficult choice for him to leave but he realised there were opportunities he couldn’t miss. Fortunately, he is enjoying popularity worldwide. How did you discover his talent? When Artem was five and a half years old, he auditioned to enter Minsk’s 2nd musical school. I was one of the examiners, so saw him playing and understood that he should play the violin. He was going to study the piano, so I prompted his parents to change his specialisation. Which instrument do you think would suit me? A double-bass, due to your height [he responds, either jokingly or seriously, seeing my two metre height]. Was there something in Artem’s character which prompted you to see him as a future violinist. I could imagine teaching him mastery, feeling that we had twin souls. Within a day, his parents agreed to transfer Artem to the violin. He studied for a year or two with my wife, Zhanna Arkadievna, at the 2nd school, before I took over. With Artem, we toured the world. He won 15 contests. There has never been such a violinist in Belarus and I doubt there will be anytime soon. Do you keep in touch with Artem in Vienna?
My pupils never forget me. What do you receive in return for sharing the secrets of your profession? I’ve never set the goal of receiving something from a pupil. I was brought up to do my job. People assess me on that. My father used to tell me: ‘Don’t praise yourself; leave others to do so’. I continue to apply this precept even today. What future do you forecast for Vlada Berezhnaya? She is now a fourth year student at the Academy of Music, but is already a master. She hasn’t even graduated from the Academy yet… The Academy is unable to teach her any further, so her time is spent rather in vain there; she’s already outgrown this level. She tours, conquering concert halls worldwide; she’s invited to tour Germany every year and regularly visits France, Sweden, Moldova and the Czech Republic. Last year, she became a finalist in the ‘Best Talent of Europe 2010’ contest, held in Slovakia. Only three were chosen for the finals: a Canadian pianist, a German cellist and our Vlada. I’ve just remembered Yakub Kolas’ story of Symon, the Musician, who toured Belarus, seeking recognition. He failed, being poor. A hundred years ago, there were no higher musical educational establishments and only wealthy people could afford to pursue a musical career. Does this mean that our country is now more egalitarian? I think we’ve reached definite heights, because there were no particular traditions of violin playing in Belarus in the past. In the late 19th century, there was Mikhal Yelsky — a wealthy nobleman who aspired to be cultured, and who played the violin. However, he was merely an amateur and wrote simple music. Michał Kleofas Ogiński was an outstanding composer who became famous for one polonaise. We need to adequately assess our past to understand that many great talents are born today. However, we need to keep hold of them. Vlada will soon be 22; she is a laureate of the Special Presidential Fund
for Support of Talented Young People and I hope that the state will continue supporting her. What’s her secret? She’s known for her unique style of playing; she has a romantic nature, so is very sincere, charming her listeners. She allures audiences, as if placing them under a spell. It’s impossible to tear away from her. Nature has given her a gift. I’ve heard that Vlada plays an unusual violin. Tell us about it. It was made by 17th century Italian master Andrea Guarneri, created in 1673. We purchased it with assistance from the President. Vlada, Artem Shishkov and Pavel Botyan are my pupils — laureates of the Special Presidential Fund for Support of Talented Young People. During one reception where Artem met the Head of the State, he said: ‘We’re ready to play at contests and earn victories for Belarus, but we don’t have any worthy instruments to play’. The President responded immediately: ‘I don’t see any problem’. He promised to give our young talents suitable instruments. However, the officials failed to understand the implication of this, allocating only a small sum of money; they bought an utterly inadequate instrument of medium quality from a German firm. At the International Tchaikovsky Violin Contest in Moscow in 2007, Artem performed brilliantly, with the whole press writing about him. He was ‘Violin No.1 in Belarus’. Sadly, he failed to reach the third, final, round and didn’t win a prize (only a diploma). It was simply because his violin was of poor quality, unable to be heard above an orchestra — as is needed in the final round. Does a violinist have to enter a competition with their own violin? Yes. Does this mean that those with talent lose out on prizes if they lack the money to buy a good instrument? It does; playing an instrument is an expensive pleasure. Only those with personal wealth or those who have sponsors (state, private or among enterprises) can be involved in music. After
Master class for Vlada Berezhnaya
the Tchaikovsky Contest, the issue of acquiring a good instrument for Artem was raised. Vladimir Spivakov, who chairs the jury of the Tchaikovsky Contest, wrote letters to our President, joined by the former Russian Minister for Culture and Mass Communications, Alexander Sokolov. Officials resisted in every way, as I asked for $500-600 thousand for a violin (a modest sum in fact). In the end, the President gave the instruction to find sponsors, so we did. We gathered $230,000, buying an instrument from a special shop in London. I’d like to express gratitude to our embassy in the UK for organising this. I simply arrived to see the instrument and we purchased it. How does an older violin differ from a modern one in a master’s hand? An ordinary violin would be the equivalent of a biathlete using hunting skis and a shot-gun. Who is playing that violin now? Artem is in Vienna, isn’t he?
Artem waited six long years but the violin is now owned by the Academy of Music and Vlada Berezhnaya is playing it. What instrument does Artem play at the moment? When he arrived in Vienna, he was given a violin by the great Italian master Domenico Montagnana. He’s touring the world with this instrument. What instrument does Pavel Botyan play? He’s now a third year student and plays an inexpensive violin created by a Czech master from the 19th century, purchased for $3,000. How do modern violins differ from older ones? In almost nothing, except for their tone [he says smiling]. What determines this tone? In the 17th-18th century, special trees were grown in Italy — suitable for making violins and cellos: maples and pines. These varieties no longer exist
anywhere, having disappeared. We can chemically analyse the timber of that time but cannot imitate it. So the timber is more important than the strings? A bow scrapes the catgut strings while the sound resonates within the body of the violin. The Italians still make them but can create nothing similar to ancient models. Did you never want to go abroad, even for a short time? I was invited to Taiwan, Poland and Sweden, but had no knowledge of foreign languages. It’s a problem of my generation. I’m now over 70. My son knows seven foreign languages. Moreover, I don’t have the strength to tour much. You look wonderful though! Do you play sport? Music heals the soul! I’m rejuvenated by my students’ playing, rejoicing with them. Each note makes me younger. By Viktar Korbut
Seagull by the Baltic House Theatre-Festival (St.Petersburg) features famous masters of the stage, such as Juozas Budraitis, Vladas Bagdonas, Regimantas Adomaitis, Roman Gromadskiy, and others
Thank you, festival!
International Panorama Theatre Art Festival, traditionally held in Minsk every other year, once again allows us to penetrate fantasy worlds created by acknowledged stage masters from Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Hungary and Belarus
rowded halls, smiles, b ouquets of f lowers, evening dresses and dinner jackets announce the beginning of a performance, as does the audience’s applause. The magical names of world famous actors and directors create a festive atmosphere in which you can quite lose yourself, inspired by such creativity. We are compelled to reassess the value of our existence, and the role of theatre in reflecting life in all its aspects. The address of President Alexander Lukashenko reads that ‘The current festival surprises with artistic revelations and bright creative names. It’s symbolical that most of performances, included into the programme, have been staged on the basis of Russian and Belarusian classical works.
This means that our nations aim common and eternal Values while trying to live in concord and mutual understanding’. This year, Panorama isn’t so spacious compared to the last year’s, with the building of the Yanka Kupala National Academic Theatre, where most of festival’s performances used to be staged in the previous years, currently undergoing reconstruction. Therefore, theatrical companies had to demonstrate their ‘produce’ on various theatrical and concert grounds of Minsk. Over a week, theatre-goers had an opportunity to see nine performances, staged at the Central House of Officers, the Belarusian State Academic Musical Theatre and Minsk Concert Hall. As is traditional, the Belarusian Culture Ministry, Minsk’s City Executive
Committee and Yanka Kupala Theatre have acted as the founders of the Panorama Festival while the event’s general partner is still Belvnesheconombank, whose social mission is to support Belarusian culture. The festival opened with Anton Chekhov’s Seagull by the Baltic House Theatre-Festival from St. Petersburg. This joint Lithuanian-Russian project aroused huge interest, featuring prominent actors Juozas Budraitis, Vladas Bagdonas and Regimantas Adomaitis (well known to Belarusians for performing in Russian and Lithuanian films). Jonas Vaitkus, a ‘patriarch’ of Lithuanian stage directing, has invited all these into his performance. Of course, the works by all three masters are good. Budraitis’ Sorin is touching and sincere in his love to everyone while Adomaitis’ Doctor Dorn
Theatre festival is ironical, cynical, smart and quicksighted. Both definitely hit the psychological essence of images. At first sight, it may seem strange how in such a grotesque performance-buffoonery psychological characters harmoniously co-exist and reveal themselves. In total, critics note that it’s peculiar for Vaitkus to combine the incompatible: comic and drama, as well as real and conventional. We’ve seen in the Seagull his peculiar directing manner, when pain and tears, which should be felt by a character, hide under the grotesque outer appearance of an actor. At first sight, it seems that the co-existence of deep emotions of characters with grotesque intonations, used by actors, is almost impossible. Meanwhile, this director’s idea is brilliantly embodied by Natalia Indeikina-Arkadina, who sharpens Chekhov’s thought on limitless human egoism. Young actress Darya Mikhailova-Nina Zarechnaya is also present in the director’s ‘drawing’, alongside Anton Bagrov-Treplev and others. Each performs their own part of egoistic desires — characteristic for a person. One may want to ask why you are pretending in front of each other depicting what doesn’t exist and why do you hide yourself — a loving and sensitive creature — under sparkling clothes and abundance of high-flown words. Why do you close your soul-seagull in a cage or even kill it? It’s not accidentally that the stage director has introduced into the performance an image of a ‘live’ seagull — a dancing young girl in red, who is struggling in the net of these decencies and dies. This happens because a person is afraid to be himself and to breathe freely and confidently. Anyway, it’s also frightful to be weak, unloved and to be mocked at…, so I leave the question about topicality of Vaitkus’ Seagull without commentaries. Jonas Arcikauskas’ set design is full of surrealism. In the beginning of the performance it seems that the stage space has been organised extremely absurd, since there’re too many things on the stage. A huge seashell and a horse head on the column attract the attention, as do a female leg and an angel, maps and
a white bath on wheels, where Arkadina takes spa-procedures. There’s also place for a white piano and a huge ‘fake’ dog, sitting in a white boat, as well as Chekhov’s portrait and a stuffed seagull in the form of a wax dummy of a topless young girl in the finals. A bright red female mouth, resembling the manner of Salvador Dali, is ‘flying’ over this space full of symbols, alongside something cosmic in red illumination in the shape of a ‘devil’s eye’. All these symbols-rebuses stop being rebuses as action develops and are linked together while nourishing the mind. One can come to a conclusion that all items ‘play’ their own small roles reflecting the way of life of characters, as well as confusion in their minds and feelings: fragments of associations, hopes and dreams… There was also a huge lake there. Due to the video projector it was swashing in the depth of the stage while creating an illusion of the flow of endless life, on whose background the passions of Chekhov’s characters — hostages of their own illusions, desires and egoistic love — seemed small and completely unimportant before the eternity. A talented performance by the State Puppet Theatre — Drei Schwestern — is based on Chekhov’s Three Sisters drama. Director Alexey Lelyavsky staged a performance about the deepest loneliness of a person, about their helplessness in front of life’s mystery, about their inability to live ‘here and now’ and about routine chaos and illusions if it may be better somewhere. This is a universal problem. Maybe this is the reason why the title of the performance sounds in German. The characters of the Drei Schwestern catch at love to another person as a straw, which, alas, saves them only for some time or may be doesn’t save at all. They can also ‘travel’ into their childhood while embracing puppets or dreaming about the future. They speak into the hall and as if fall in a trance of distract before real moments of life, reminding speaking puppets. Most actors play brightly and recognisably. Servant Ferapont is good, as are Honoured Artiste of Belarus
Alexander Kazakov’s nanny Anfisa and Timur Muratov’s Lieutenant-Colonel Vershinin. Meanwhile, all actors of the performance are working as a team and one wonders how they manage to gallop on a horse, march, dance and argue with each other on a small stage. There’s place here for a lobby with footwear, for a dining room, and a servant’s room where servants peel potatoes and even for a father’s grave with flowers in pots. There’s also enough place even for puppets-statues, alongside a manor of three sisters, which is well located in the foreground. The horizon, where the characters are aiming to get, is illuminated in the background either in blue, or red or orange. It sometimes seems that it’s the Eternity looks into the estate of three sisters. Surprisingly how this device of stage design organisation (artist Tatiana Nersisyan) reminds of a child game on a small patch of land, in which there’s no limit to fantasy and where conventionality opens up broad opportunities for those playing. Meanwhile, a motif of eternity, which should be guessed in Vaitkus’ performances, penetrates Lelyavsky’s performance through and length and sounds Chekhov-style ‘embossed’ in the final, when the eldest of the sisters OlgaValentina Prazheeva pronounces her famous monologue: ‘… It seems that just some time will pass and we’ll learn what we live for and what we suffer for… If only we could know!’ The actress pronounces these so pathetically quiet and simultaneously dramatic that it seems that you’re merely a grain in the face of Eternity. Plastic performance, based on Leo Tolstoi’s Anna Karenina, by the Anželika Cholina Dance Theatre (Vilnius) has been looked forward to in Minsk, since there’s no such theatre in Belarus. The performance, awarded a Golden Stage Cross in Lithuania as the best performance of 2010, exceeded all expectations while keeping spectators on tenterhooks during the whole action. The performance stylishly combines ballet, plastic performance and drama. The inner dramatic nature of Tolstoi’s novel
Drei Schwestern by the State Puppet Theatre (Belarus)
— a world famous work about love, read through dance — is fascinating. Remarkably, but stage director penetrated deep into the inner state of a human, as well as their feelings, emotions, fears, doubts and hopes — all accompanying love — while interpreting in details the novel’s major storyline. I’d call such theatre a plastic theatre of experiences, where classical and modern trends harmoniously co-exist while supplementing each other. Maybe, no other performance of the festival, even the Idiot by director Eimuntas Nekrošius, hasn’t aroused such ovations as Anna Karenina while demonstrating us what true art is. Moreover, Anželika Cholina Dance Theatre’s performances are always a full house in the Baltic States, as well as in Europe and Russia. Hungarian Hairdresser — a tragic comedy — has harmoniously fit into Panorama’s palette. This performance is also about love. What can be better? The performance has been brought from Debrecen by the Csokonai Theatre and it was staged by Russian stage director Victor Ryzhkov based on the play by his fellow countryman Sergey Medvedev. A cheerful and charming hairdresser Nelli Syuch is waiting for a man of her dream from prison not noticing real life and adoration of her men-clients. The thing is that she’s waiting for her hero, with whom she’s fallen in love by corre-
Hairdresser by the Csokonai Theatre (Hungary)
spondence and hasn’t ever seen him. The performance from Hungary has been heartily welcomed by the audience and the hall often bursted into laughter, since the enchanting actress was very skilful in interpreting a female’s yearning about big and beautiful love. A laureate of the First National Theatre Award — Yanka Kupala’s Not Mine by A. Adamovich, who’s won the ‘Best Belarusian Performance’ nomination — aroused deep feelings towards characters’ compassion. It’s clearly, since Gartsuev theatre aims psychologism, when the inner life of major characters in the performance plays the leading role while its form of expressiveness is almost the same as in life: minimum external expressive means, which are used by actors in line with the director’s concept. The performance is about love of a Belarusian young girl Polina (Svetlana Anikei) and a German soldier Franz (Roman Podolyaka), who saves the girl and her mother from death. The performance also describes us what a person feels when he first falls in love and ‘practises’ love with his entire soul under dramatic conditions of the Great Patriotic War. Although the meeting with Meno Fortes Theatre, which has demonstrated F. Dostoevsky’s Idiot, staged by Eimuntas Nekrošius, made theatre-goers tired (the performance lasted for 5.5 hours), yet didn’t leave anyone indifferent. The
director of the performance doesn’t need any presentation, since his name has been always associated with original and spectacular performances. Once I’ve seen his very long performance, based on A. Chekhov’s Cherry Orchard. I’ve also understood that Nekrošius is the director whose performances should be seen each time one has such an opportunity, because he is a true virtuoso in his profession. A stage canvas of Nekrošius’ performances is always very solid and unified, without any drawbacks in the director’s concept. Undoubtedly, one may get tired of long sitting and of thinking that some topics could have been omitted in the performance, but one won’t ever get tired of the desire to guess Nekrošius’ metaphors. On the contrary, one will long remember these metaphors and ponder how these gimmicks are subjected to the performance’s super-task. It’s wonderful how the deepest essence of metaphors is revealed with the course of time. For example, a white shawl-veil of Nastasia Filippovna, which one can ‘figure out’ during the performance as a ‘cat’ or something obscure, later appeared to me as a pure stream of life or a sinless part of the character’s nature with her heavenly thoughts. Nekrošius-style life plays with us when we’re 20 or 50 and it’s sometimes difficult to sort out one’s feelings, so the tragic final is reasonable, since the director likes
Idiot by “Meno Fortas” (Lithuania)
people and justifies their actions. During the action it isn’t always clear why this or that item appears in characters’ hands and why, e.g. something with stretchers on the back creeps to the stage in the final and then jumps out from them in the form of a ‘cat’ and leaves the stage with loud wow. However, this isn’t the essence, because the audience is captured with powerful energy of mutual relations between Dostoevsky characters, who’s been studied in details by Nekrošius. Idiot is a performance on love, in whose nets young characters enmesh: Duke Myshkin (Daumantas Ciunis), Rogozhin (Salvijus Trepulis), Nastasia Filippovna (Elžbieta Latėnaitė) and Aglaya Yepanchina (Diana Gancevskaite). The performance also tells us how the ‘animal’ part of human existence dominates over a person whatever he makes and whichever high materials he uses to justify his actions. Escape of the ‘cat’ from under the stretchers is ‘read’ as a symbol of this ‘animal’ part, which disappears with human death releasing them from sufferings. The Vakhtangov Theatre (Moscow) has presented its performance-dialogue, entitled Dedication to Eve, starring Vasily Lanovoy and Yevgeny Knyazev. The actors have brilliantly revealed psychological motifs of actions in a banal, at first sight, duo of ‘a man-lover’.
Abduction of Europe, or Ursula Radziwill’s Theatre by the National Academic Yanka Kupala Theatre (Belarus)
A joint Polish-Belarusian project — Pinsk Gentry by Dunin-Marcinkiewicz, staged by Panorama’s director and Artistic Leader Nikolay Pinigin — was demonstrated by Polish Rampa Theatre. It was very pleasant to see People’s Artist of Belarus, Victor Manaev, a favourite of Minskers and the only Belarusian among the Polish actors, speaking purest Polish language. It was also nice to refresh memory about the life of Belarusian gentry — familiar to us by the performance with the same name from the Yanka Kupala Theatre. In my opinion, the festival closed with a very festive and educational-entertainment performance — Abduction of Europe, or Ursula Radziwill’s Theatre, which was added to the Kupala Theatre’s repertoire in spring. The performance invites theatre-goers into the past, into the castle of prominent Radziwill dukes, to take part in one of the festive evenings, which used to be so popular in Nesvizh. A ballet, comedy and opera were the highlight of the programme at that time, as was demonstrated by Nikolay Pinigin and his staging team. The costumes from that epoch have been also recreated with hoop skirts and wigs. The drama, adjusted by Sergey Kovalev, used original texts of Ursula Radziwill — a wife of the castle’s owner Michał Kazimierz Radziwill Rybeńko.
She is known to be a playwright and has written 16 plays and 17 opera librettos. Harlequin — a permanent character of commedia dell’arte — is a link for the participants of the ballet, comedy and opera in the Kupala Theatre’s performance. Alexander Kazela gracefully embodies a cheerful and quick-witted organiser of happy end of each story in this aesthetic and even somehow aristocratic performance. The remaining actors demonstrate with no less gracefulness their vocal and choreographic capabilities while efficiently performing the director’s tasks. It’s known that Pinigin always expects from actors psychological assessment of the image, so even where the actors need to ‘sharpen’ their role, e.g. to make the public laugh, it becomes clear why they do it, so this ‘making everything comic’ is smart and spectators laugh smartly. The 5th International Panorama Theatre Art Festival has been a success. The audience was again given an opportunity to feel in which direction the European theatre moves and its topics remain eternal while only forms change. This creative movement pleases, since it enriches soul, which is known to be especially beautiful in labour and in its endless aspiration towards perfection. Only one thing is left: to say thank you, festival. By Valentina Zhdanovich
Nikolay Pinigin, Artistic Leader of Yanka Kupala National Academic Theatre, tries to feel vibrations of time and understand their context
“I need to feel present in today”
t’s hard to understand the desires of a stage director, unless you’ve been in his shoes. Of course, they all want to create a dazzling performance commanded by beautiful acting, which will be received by audiences with pleasure. However, how do you ‘catch’ the latest trends and even be ahead of your time, while understanding the needs of your audience? Nikolay Pinigin is a famous stage director in Belarus, who has finally returned to his native theatre. In the past, his performances were filled with discoveries, bringing joy and laughter, as well as thoughtful and melancholy musings. He has made us ponder life, love and eternal human values, as understood by all nations. Mr. Pinigin has staged over 50 performances, including Ibsen’s Lady from the Sea, Kupala’s Locals, Higgins’ Harold and Maude, Gorky’s Children of the Sun, Schwarz’s Dragon, Mrożek’s Emigrates, Dunin-Marcinkiewicz’s Idyll, and Harwood’s The Dresser. My experience of Pinigin’s theatre has never been boring, although performances are not always to everyone’s taste. They give food for thought and surround us with a certain thrilling atmosphere. Of course, this differs according to the show. Harold and Maud, starring the incomparable Stefaniya Stanyuta, conjures up late autumn frost early in the morning, which fades with the rays of the noonday sun, leaving an aftertaste of cold freshness. The Dresser, with brilliant acting from Nikolay Yeremenko and Victor Manayev, makes us hold our breath. It’s spicy and woody, with the acrid taste of smoke — as when rotting leaves are burnt in autumn. Meanwhile, Idyll combines the aroma of hayfields and vanilla. The director’s ‘kitchen’ is capable of a variety of creations, each one able to transport us to another world, where we view ourselves as if in a mirror. We empathise, dream and muse on our daily routines. We see the glow that comes from contentment and the dark gloom of the unhappy soul.
theatrename A measure of theatre’s effectiveness is surely its ability to awaken our souls. The stage director is responsible for all before us: music, set design, lighting and acting. He stands at the top of the creative pyramid. Nikolay Pinigin has returned home after thirty years of working for the Bolshoi Drama Theatre in St. Petersburg, to become the artistic leader of our theatre. Of course, he continues to stage performances exploring joy and disappointment, without which the creative process would be impossible, and delights all theatregoers. Eternal fans of the Kupala Theatre enjoy his ‘tailored’ pieces, each shaped by a confident hand using ‘patterns’ of good taste. From serious TRANSLATION, by Brian Friel, to humorous Kolyady Night, (see my colleague’s article on p.47) his repertoire is diverse yet focused — each piece carefully chosen. How does he work? His job is certainly not easy, especially as the reconstruction of the Kupala Theatre’s building has obliged the company to lead a ‘gypsy life’ — moving from one site to another, which reduces their repertoire and rehearsal time. Kolyady Night had only five stage rehearsals, instead of the usual 4-6 weeks. Mr. Pinigin will no doubt have been keeping everyone calm, while looking forward to resuming ‘normality’ as soon as the theatre can enter its modernised building. Its repertoire will become more diverse again, and problems will ease. Mr. Pinigin’s speculations about Belarus becoming more European intrigue me, as do his views on our being on the eve of a global change in human consciousness. He came to our editorial office for our interview, noting that, in the late 1970s, he occupied my current desk while working as an assistant to a television director. He even attended a nearby kindergarten, as his parents were the first Belarusian television producers. Such are the mysterious turns of life, returning us to past haunts. Perhaps Fate wishes us to understand something unclear…
I’m truly delighted to see this talented stage director return to Belarus, as I believe he’ll enhance our native theatre in good time. You’v e head ed the countr y’s major theatre for almost three years. Does it give you satisfaction? What have you discovered during your term of leadership? Pre viously, I’d ne ver he ade d anything, always avoiding this. I simply wanted to create performances. I began to head the theatre just after my 50th birthday. I can’t say that this leadership has brought me great joy, as it isn’t easy and the current reconstruction has brought difficulties. Of course, no one in our theatrical company is pl e as e d, although the results w i l l improve
Power can be wielded for good or bad, enlightenment or totalitarianism. You pursue your own artistic path and not everyone will agree. Tovstonogov, an artistic leader of the Bolshoi Drama Theatre in St. Petersburg, used to say that each theatre is a voluntary dictatorship. If you believe in a person, you should obey him. Actors need to be intrigued to stay interested. The theatre isn’t the army, where everyone obeys a command. Leadership is a heavy burden, since you must overcome apathy and misunderstanding and are likely to meet dislike along the way. Tovstonogov was a lonely person, with no family and few friends in the theatre. However, he created wonderful staging. People were afraid of him. Of course, I have to be strict sometimes; there’s no alternative to the stick a n d c a r rot policy.
“Nothing is ideal. My perfect theatre would be filled with like-minded people who trust and like each other, and who feel relaxed, creating something significant here and now. We can all imagine this model. As a stage director, I am very concerned about being relevant today.” things for audiences and actors in the long run. Imagine being forced to leave your flat for three years, roaming nomadically; you’d hardly be happy. We’re doing our best but we’ll be pleased to enter our newly rebuilt theatre, returning to a normal routine — and a diverse theatrical ‘menu’. Alongside serious performances, we like to perform light entertainment and musicals. Directors need to keep a tight rein on actors, don’t they? Who is more stubborn — youngsters or veterans? Do you enjoy leading the pride?
Clever actors surely understand this? Most actors are devoted to their profession, understanding our lack of money and these difficult times. Thank God, they are in the majority, regardless of age. I’m staging a performance with older actors in spring; the draft title is ‘Fairy-tales for Adults’ as it explores five of Andersen’s fairy-tales. Old men sit on a park bench telling children fairy-tales and playing with them. It’s my gift to the older generation who are rarely engaged in our performances. It’s very difficult to find a play for them, although Belarusian
theatrename playwright Alexey Dudarev’s ‘Evening’ is performed on many stages and is well-loved by actors. There are few similar plays: most seem to feature a home for the elderly where life is dull and then the characters die. Fair y-tales p oss ess a playful element. I have no idea how successful my play will be but I feel I owe a debt to the older generation. We have many older actors with real skills, who have been awarded titles of people’s and honoured artistes. Director Alexander Gartsuev is currently staging ‘People of the Marsh’ by Ivan Melezh; it’s a wonderful performance that we’ve staged before and will again. It explores love, the impossibility of being together and the attraction between two affectionate hearts. What would be your ideal theatre and actor? When you serve the muses you shouldn’t be vain; you should be magnificent. If we could focus solely on creativity and put aside all else, we’d have a closed monastery, where people would be engaged exclusively in creativity. Of course, real life is full of problems to solve; nothing is ideal. My perfect theatre would be filled with likeminded people who trust and like each other, and who feel relaxed, creating something significant here and now. We can all imagine this model. As a stage director, I am very concerned about being relevant today. We live on the edge of a global change in human consciousness, so it’s tricky to decide what to stage. I have a large library at home of plays but I don’t think I’ll ever use them; those which worked yesterday are no longer in demand today. People continue to show huge interest in music — philharmonic and light musical theatre — because these are fundamental arts which endure in popularity. We work with the spoken word, so I must listen to the mood of the time, understanding the context in which we exist. The greatest skill an actor can possess is to be able to adapt his persona, adopting
various masks with ease, to portray characters and genres. They need to be able to express emotions easily and have a philosophical side. They must be able to understand irony and be comfortable with showing anger and aggression. They can work with their stage director, co-authoring a production. Those who are just m e d i o c re o b e y orders. In
f a c t , we have a very good theatrical troupe, with our youngsters
Yesenin wrote and ‘run after Komsomol in short trousers’. We need to be vitally alive to hear the vibrations of time and change alongside it. It’s no easy task. Each actor, director and creative person has a time when they flourish because they are truly in synch with their time. It’s a cliché that the old grumble about the ‘good old days’ and say that the younger generation aren’t the same; naturally, young people are very different today. Meanwhile, older actors boast experience, which gives them deeper empathy. There are no simple answers. Sometimes, a mature actor can be empty inside while a younger colleague is strong a n d energetic.
“The greatest skill an actor can possess is to be able to adapt his persona, adopting various masks with ease, to portray characters and genres. They need to be able to express emotions easily and have a philosophical side. They must be able to understand irony and be comfortable with showing anger and aggression. They can work with their stage director, co-authoring a production.” possessing these skills. Those from the older generation tend to be happier following orders but I often worry that I can’t offer them decent work. Do these older actors listen to you? Yes and no — as is normal. I think that I’m the same. We cannot help but follow what we are used to. When the fabulous director Lyubimov returned from abroad, he still struggled against Soviet thinking, even though it no longer existed. Not everyone can move with the times, despite our world changing so rapidly. We shouldn’t do as Russian poet
How do you govern rehearsals? I can’t be the judge of that. I’m awful at the moment because of the repairs. I don’t know any stage director who can put together a performance with just five rehearsals. It’s a complex task. How can you do in five days what usually takes 6-8 weeks? Tickets are sold, so nothing can be cancelled or postponed. Sometimes, I can be horribly aggressive. Rehearsals are my favourite time as you still have time to explore, dream and discuss. The sets are still being made. Rehearsal time is a way of life. Our profession is unique in allowing
theatrename us to simulate so many circumstances and act so many roles. Who else can ‘be’ a politician, a miner, an old or young man or a person in love — all within a short time? We learn about ourselves in the process. I know something of psychological theatre but see no riddle in the human psyche. I’m keen on the subconscious and the mystical — that which comes from Heaven as pure divine energy... supreme energy. Do you know how you want a performance to appear from the very beginning? No, never. You set off on a voyage into the unknown. Of course, initially, the play should provoke interest. Either deliberately or unwittingly, you come to realisations. As far as the composition of a performance is concerned, Fellini once said: ‘the script has been written and now the film is to be shot’. Of course, the words must first be written before they can be performed. This is a difficult time as theatre is not ‘what’ but ‘how’. A stage director needs to consider style, genre, image structure, music, set and lighting. Sometimes, everything falls into place quickly; at other times, it requires much time and effort. However, it’s vital to see how a play correlates with the present day. I don’t mean the obvious social direction but the deeper essence. For example, how does Ursula Radziwill’s baroque style ‘Abduction of Europe’ [staged by the Yanka Kupala Theatre] relate to our present day? There’s no direct parallel yet critics expected a modern day message from me. I was laughing, as it was really just a bit of ‘castle fun’ Nesvizh-style. Imagine the Radziwill family gathering in the castle, giving themselves roles and playing under the guidance of Ursula Radziwill. It was home fun, as we might enjoy ourselves. However, according to the context, it was mid18th century theatre; few nations can boast anything similar. It was a time of comic opera, ballet and comedia dell’arte: the highest culture of Europe. There were no
anecdotes, as we might see in the ‘Curved Mirror’ TV programme, broadcast by a Russian TV Channel. Next year, we’re going to perform in honour of the memory of Ursula Radziwill; that is all the context we need. Thank God, shops are selling tasty ‘Radzivilovsky’ bread’ and ‘Radzivilovsky’ stores are being constructed, while Nesvizh has been restored. This shows that the nation has a desire to understand its identity and deeper European roots. We did not originate in 1917, so who are we? Selfexploration is a major national issue. The Radziwill dukes were very wealthy — richer than many Polish kings. However, their wealth was created by those who lived on their land: peasants and craftsmen. Nesvizh’s theatre can be considered a national treasure. Its actors didn’t fall from the sky. Meanwhile, local people sewed costumes and German decorators and mechanical engineers were invited, being paid a salary. I think this is a serious part of our history, which our theatre is showing in the form of ‘castle fun’. There is no philosophical message. That would be nonsense, showing an inability to understand the nature of the performance. We view wall drawings of aurochs and bison as art, drawn by someone from the past, depicting a scene from their own time. The same can be said of this performance. We have not dramatically changed it from the original, although we can be proud of making it our own. Everyone knows that Shklov, Slonim and, to some extent, Tizengauz theatrical companies became the Mariinsky Theatre. It is historically true. It should be studied not only by specialists and theatre experts, but by school children, inspiring us to be proud of our past. Belarus’ European culture originates from those times. How self-critical are you? Does theatrical criticism serve a purpose? It’s a difficult issue. The great Russian poet Pushkin said: ‘O, Muse, obey God’s command. Don’t be afraid of insults. Don’t require laurels. Accept
praise and slander indifferently and don’t debate with a fool’. If you’re confident that you hear a voice from Heaven — and everyone hears this voice — accepts it as you should. I recall many proverbs on this theme. For instance, ‘Dogs bark, but the caravan goes on’ and ‘An empty vessel makes the greatest sound’. However, it may also be true that ‘Two heads are better than one’ and ‘A jackfish is in the pond so that the crucian carp don’t sleep’. You can choose which suits you. Pushkin may have written ‘God’s Command’ but, on returning to Russia after writing ‘Journey to Erzurum’, he opened Moscow’s first newspaper and saw criticism which disappointed him. He could not follow his own advice. We’re all human, enjoying praise and disliking criticism. However, there are different levels of criticism. I take note of considered criticism with pleasure, although I may agree or disagree. At the same time, there are throw-away reviews written in their dozens about every performance. Some journalists earn their living this way; it’s a spontaneous process over which we have no control. I understand that such journalists are just doing their job but I would prefer us to treat each other respectfully, encouraging mutual interchange. It’s also true that a performance isn’t ready for viewing until the penultimate rehearsal — by the artistic council or by critics. I sometimes see critics creep into rehearsals early on. What do they do this for? It’s normal to visit on the eighth or tenth run-through. Give us time to feel our way; critics should be taught this during their first year of study. Here lies the major point of misunderstanding. I used to keep reviews about myself but stopped doing so, although my mother continued, as it was interesting to her. Now, I’m almost indifferent to them; I prefer to believe the audience reaction. It’s the most vital critique. ‘We’re given sympathy, as we are given Godsend’. If you’ve been heard and understood, that’s
theatrename great; if not, you’ve done something wrong in failing to evoke a response from your audience. Are omnivorous audiences the best judge? What would you say about Minskers? Do they differ from residents of St. Petersburg? If an audience laughs during a performance, this doesn’t mean that it’s a success. Everything depends on how they laugh and what makes them laugh — this is the indicator of the performance’s quality. If we joke about motherin-laws, wives and husbands, we’ll always amuse people. I don’t know who attends our performances and it’s not something I’ve ever really pondered. Psychological theatre, which explores current problems, is not interesting to me, as I’ve already solved my own life dilemmas. Much of that which was unclear to me in the past is now clear. I’m ready to understand and forgive. However, this doesn’t mean that I can do so every day, however much I try; my pride can still be hurt. Why did I stage ‘Ursula Radziwill’ and ‘Kolyady Night’? I prefer to bring people joy. A new age is yet to arrive while our old knowledge is becoming obsolete. We’re in the middle of these two periods, so I believe we should await the new by performing plays with music and some moral lessons which are eternal. Over the course of time, I’ve become more cynical, working to please myself.
In my youth, I was very cheerful and could entertain half of Minsk with a guitar on my shoulder, staging sad performances. Now, I stage cheerful performances with only a weak smile on my face. I like Minsk audiences more than any other. In St. Petersburg, no one stands after a performance. I can remember only one incidence
“Rehearsal time is a way of life. Our profession is unique in allowing us to simulate so many circumstances and act so many roles. Who else can ‘be’ a politician, a miner, an old or young man or a person in love — all within a short time? We learn about ourselves in the process.” of a standing ovation, for ‘Quartet’ — starring Zinaida Sharko, Oleg Basilashvili, Alisa Freindlikh and Kirill Lavrov. The audience stood because there were eighty and ninety year olds on stage — the greatest stars of the city and of all Russia. They stood in respect. In St. Petersburg, the audience is more reserved, requiring more intellectual theatre. Belarusians and Minskers
Nikolay Pinigin was born on August 6th, 1957, in Ukraine. In 1979, after
graduating from the Belarusian Academy of Arts’ Acting Department, he worked as a stage director for Belarusian television. Then, from 1980 to 1982, he acted with the Maxim Gorky National Drama Theatre in Minsk. From 1985 to the mid-1990s, he was a stage director at the Yanka Kupala Theatre, boasting over 50 performances. These included Ibsen’s Lady from the Sea, Kupala’s Locals, Higgins’ Harold and Maude, Gorky’s Children of the Sun, Schwarz’s Dragon, Mrożek’s Emigrates, Dunin-Marcinkiewicz’s Idyll, and Harwood’s The Dresser. From 1998, he worked as a stage director with the Tovstonogov Bolshoi Drama Theatre (St. Petersburg) and, in 1994, was named Person of the Year in Belarus in the ‘Stage’ nomination. He has won prizes at numerous international festivals — in Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia. Since January 2009, he has headed the Yanka Kupala Theatre.
make good audiences. They may not be so well educated but they are very open, which is more important to me. They are open to simple human joys and sorrows; as they say, ‘even a wise man stumbles’. If I gave them a complex intellectual drama, it might create problems. For me it’s not food for
thought which is most important, but that I engage people’s hearts, souls and emotions. When we are astonished, laughing or crying, we understand more about life than when we are given a complex plot to follow. Thinking too hard can be our enemy, since our mind often won’t allow us to sleep, replaying events repeatedly. It is an instrument for human activity but if we give it complete control we go insane. It’s better to be able to feel, since our intuition is more reliable than our thought processes. Our mind may tell us that we should love a woman for her perfect hourglass figure, and because her father is a director of a bank and she owns her own flat. It would be logical. Whether you can actually fall in love with her is another thing. Your heart must decide… How is it possible to combine public taste with high art in this age of market relations? This is the ultimate question, since we are expected to teach while entertaining. Doctors’ psychological
By Valentina Zhdanovich
Teach and entertain! Yanka Kupala National Academic Theatre premieres Night Before Christmas, staged by Artistic Leader Nikolay Pinigin
tests are organised as games, and the same technique is used for children in kindergartens. When you play you learn better. If you are under stress, you can’t concentrate; accordingly, playfulness is essential in the theatre. You must appreciate the audience’s desires. Mr. Tovstonogov used to say that artistic concepts lie with audiences. This means that you should formulate what the audience anticipates. If you say something bizarre — that people are violet in colour, rather than lilac — you may get away with it. If you say something which is half expected but which is not yet formulated by people artistically, you may meet confusion. It’s a case of understanding the spirit of the time. Which performances should we next expect? I’d like to stage Adam Mickiewicz’ ‘Pan Tadeusz’. I’ll also be staging ‘Local Cabaret’, which is a French genre; it flourished in Poland between WWI and WWII and is completely unfamiliar to Belarusian audiences. I’ve already used Belarusian songs in a similar genre, as well as French, German and Polish. Whose play are you using? I don’t need a play as it’s a cabaret. Someone enters the stage and asks us to imagine that we are elsewhere: in Baranovichi or Grodno. Our artistes sing amusing songs, dressed in bourgeois hats with feathers, evening suits and top hats. I like the title very much. However, there is a very good Lithuanian play, called ‘Mister’, about Mickiewicz and his difficult years in Paris. It features Victor Hugo, George Sand and others… It’s an interesting dramatic work, but may not have wide appeal. At the Chekhov Festival we plan to perform Shakespeare jointly. It’s very convenient for us, as some of the costs are covered by the organisers. Moreover, we’ll tour Europe and elsewhere. I have various plans but I don’t want to look too far into the future. We first need to return to our theatre building after its reconstruction.
inter is soon to come, bringing romantic New Year holidays. As is traditional, our theatres are rehearsing well in advance. Mr. Pinigin has managed to lighten Gogol’s play, without using excessive psychology or mysticism. The costumes are beautiful and the music is inspirational and mischievous, composed by Andrey Zubrich. A devil rockets into the sky on a stove and those in disguise dance while true Ukrainian Kolyady songs are performed and Zaporozhye Cossacks relax on the roof of an imperial palace. New Year amusement reigns as actors play the clown, with touches of farce, sitting in woven baskets which suddenly overturn, as if in a Chaplin comedy. Artem Borodich plays blacksmith Vakula enchantingly, like a handsome model from the cover of Men’s Health. He has no idea of the language of love but is ready to sacrifice all for the sake of beauty Oksana. Two young primas from the Kupala Theatre — Anna Khitrik and Svetlana Zelenkovskaya — play the role of Oksana in turn. Khitrik’s Oksana is flirtatious and
unpredictable, aware of her beauty yet without conceit. She yearns for love. The devil, played by Pavel Kharlanchuk, is a trickster and deceiver with an engaging personality; we cannot help but love him, as he speaks directly to the audience, as he capers about. The playful style and mocking chaos of the Kupala Theatre has a clear inner structure — as perfect as the mechanism of a Swiss watch. Each small screw — and actor — has its part to play. As if in a children’s game, the action stops almost at the peak of our amusement, with Vakula presenting Oksana with festive boots. She gives him her heart and all the happy characters take a bow to the audience. Fairy tales, especially at Christmas, should always end well. By Vasily Petrovksy
he supervises several Inter n e t an d r a d i o projects, writes books and brings up her three children — Matvey, Katya and Igor. I may have omitted some of her jobs, so let’s allow Tamara to tell us about herself. Tamara, many know you in Belarus but do you have foreign fans? I wrote ‘Idiot’ and ‘White Centre’ — both novels, and have hosted various TV programmes for different channels. It might sound immodest but I was named among the top 50 beautiful and successful people in Minsk, in 2006. I’m also a laureate of the Popov Professional National Radio Award. How did you come to where you are today, juggling so many occupations? For a long time, I struggled to choose one path but I’ve given up now. I simply accept that I’m suited to having several professions. Have you always craved the limelight? I was a gloomy child — quite withdrawn and a true outsider at school. I failed to find a circle of friends for the whole ten years. Moreover, I wore glasses and had plaits — absolutely unfashionable! However, I found work on TV. It’s a strange combination: shyness and seeking publicity… It’s true. I often went to TV shooting straight from my school classes, being collected from my lessons. Someone would announce: ‘Lisistskaya, prepare for shooting!’ The other schoolchildren envied me and, during break time, would be unpleasant to me, saying I was too ugly to be on television. This may be why I didn’t enjoy school. I only went to discos twice. Both times were failures, as I didn’t know how to dance and nobody invited me to partner them. I spent all the time standing by the wall. However, I felt calm on TV, as I was respected there. I had no plans to make it a career at the time though.
My path to TV was accidental. I sang with a school choir and, alongside two other pupils, won the ‘Red Carnation’ contest (singing the ‘Kangaroo’ song as a solo). I then met a director — Vera Rutskaya (due to my mother’s efforts). I was frequently invited to host children’s TV programmes, festivals and TV
cultural programme on the Belarus-1 TV Channel. When did you realise that TV was your niche? In the early 1990s, when bold and innovative programmes were first released, I was invited to host live shows. Some time later, I moved to
Dreaming of fairy letters Tamara Lisitskaya is truly multi-talented: a TV host, TV director, scriptwriter, radio host and prose writer
bridges. In my seventh year at school, I began giving live radio reports, touring the city. By the time I needed to make an official choice of profession, the situation was clear. In 1990, I was fortunately accepted into the Journalism Department, where my peers were friendly and clever. If life were fair, they would all be famous. In fact, shy and unassuming Oleg Lukashevich is the host of the most well-known
Channel 8, hosting ‘Foxy Music’. There was no Internet at the time, so it was extremely difficult to find exclusive information and video clips for the show. Happily, my father brought magazines from abroad which we translated. Additionally, my friend had a ‘dish’, recording music videos, which we then de-digitised for broadcasting. This was when I first began to perceive myself as being beautiful. Some time later, I hosted ‘12, or Nearly Dusk’ for the 1st Belarusian TV Channel. I was among the first to shoot videos for our artistes (some of their single videos were recorded by me). I wanted to make good quality products.
Lifestyle is aimed at a day-time audience. In the morning, short segments of information and entertainment are needed, as people have just a few minutes to watch TV while preparing to go out for work. The day-time is perfect for soap opera lovers who are relaxing at home. All professionals know these ‘laws’.
Moscow is where the money is; there’s no time for slow dancing, reflection or friendship. If a local programme has low ratings, it’s retired. Nothing is personal; it’s just business. Minsk is more open to showing programmes for their educational worth. How can quality TV emerge under such conditions? It’s vital to know your audience; only then can you start creating a product for them. Housewives like celebrity stories and soap operas. Naturally, you also need to broadcast the right programmes at a time to suit specific audiences. For example, my ‘Only Women Know’ programme on Belarus-1 TV Channel
What role does a host’s personality play in the success of a show? It’s huge; you might have a questionable reputation but an engaging personality, which inspires people to watch and listen. How can you use your talent to succeed? I work on my notebook computer, writing in the smallest corner. However, I have no idea what I’ll be earning in five years’ time. I may find that nobody offers me work; all artistic people live with this fear. It inspires us, keeping us on our toes. Natural selection is the rule of the game. Previously, those with the sharpest teeth and toughest skin won
What’s the difference between modern TV and that of the past? TV used to be bohemian-modernistic, with extremely original sets; now, we rely on special digital effects. What about money?
the day; now, those with the steadiest nerves and best communication skills claim victory. With this in mind, I advise newcomers to search, call and visit. Of course, I also love to relax, sitting in an armchair, inventing stories. What is your new novel about? My ‘Kiss of a Stork’ is taking a long time to write, as I have other projects on the go. I also have three children and my husband, Gleb Morozov, works full time. I’m not a dependant wife. I have a tough schedule, so relaxation time is precious: time I can spend thinking about my novel. I usually have two hours each day for either going to the gym or writing. Writing relaxes me and I feel better when writing my own book rather something to order. It’s therapy. I’ve been writing since the age of seven, when I first began keeping a diary. Do you like to list your problems on paper? Your husband might better understand you on hearing about them… We’re friends but I try not to burden him with my feelings too much. I keep my anxieties to myself and work through tough times independently — with my paper and pen. Are you teaching your children anything in particular? They learn independency, with me as a model, and often accompany me on shoots. We regularly have visitors who are interesting and charming; the children see them and learn from them. The results are already evident. The daughter has decorated all her walls with drawings; she’ll become a wonderful artist if she chooses to do so. I’ll reveal another secret to you: I’ll probably organise my own personal art exhibition soon. By Viktar Andreyev
Images in real environment Alexey Koktev belongs to those Belarusian artists whose professional biography was formed in the 1970s
e was born two months before the end of WWII — in March 1945. Unsurprisingly, h is ch i l d ho o d was hard but, living in a village in the south of Belarus, he managed to appreciate the beauty of the landscape which surrounded him. It inspired him to choose an artistic profession. Mr. Koktev’s works convincingly confirm that true art originates from live national roots. He has left a wonderful legacy in Belarusian pictorial art — through his characters, their attitude to life and their passion for their native land. His works narrate history and our modern times. Mr. Koktev is a realist but does not simplify reality in his pictures. He loves to ponder in front of an easel and these reflections find their place in his pictures. He strives to give a philosophical interpretation, as appreciated by the National Art Museum, the Belarusian Union of Artists (where he has a collection), the Culture Ministry of Russia and many private collectors at home and abroad. He spends most of his days drawing, working from home. It is there that we meet to discuss art and life. How did you path to art begin? I was keen on drawing from the age of twelve. There was a man who worked at our Terekhovka editorial office — sadly, I do not remember his name. He loved to draw landscapes in his free time and I loved to chat to him. I was interested in his technique, as his style attracted
A.Koktev “Three Generations”
me. Later, I began painting myself, also reading much about art. It was a fascinating hobby. I moved to Gomel and began attending a club of fine arts, at the local House of Pioneers. I learnt the fundamentals necessary to become a novice artist and, later, attended Minsk Art College. After graduation, I entered Minsk Theatre and Art Institute’s Easel Painting Department, taught by famous Piotr Krokholev and Natan Voronov.
Mr. Koktev’s works convincingly confirm that true art originates from live national roots. He has left a wonderful legacy in Belarusian pictorial art — through his characters, their attitude to life and their passion for their native land. His works narrate history and our modern times
Does an artist need to formally study? Studies are necessary and important. The Easel Painting Department was a leading chair at the Institute, allowing young artists to learn from experienced masters, practicing under their guidance. Of course, we worked independently but teachers’ advice was always valuable. Were you taught the technicalities of how to draw and choose colours or did you rather learn more about the principles and philosophies of art? Everyone has their own perception of colour — not just artists. We each have our own view of objects, people and our environment: our own understanding. Of course, we were given professional advice at the Institute. Our teachers instructed us, observing our progress. Teachers do play a huge role in the formation of future artists.
Artpersonality What most attracts you: landscapes or still-life? Or do you prefer to depict human characters? Generally, I’ve always had a passion for nature and tended towards landscapes. Of course, after graduation, I also painted thematic works, portraits and still-life works. However, my true passion is our Belarusian nature; our land inspires
Yes, the women in my picture are lost in reflection. Of course, any letter from the frontline was a source of joy but they are discussing the fighting with sadness, musing on the hardships. Did your themes and genres change over time? Every painter goes through different stages, while easily returning to past
Which of the traditions of the Belarusian pictorial school do you find most significant? Belarusian art — and Belarusian pictorial art in particular — occupies a significant place globally: Kandinsky and Malevich were Belarusian painters, though working in France for a long time. They are representatives of Belarusian art.
me so much. However, I must repeat that I’ve worked in various genres. In painting a thematic picture, do you focus on action or character portrayal? Composition is key. My thematic pictures were devoted to the hard years of the Great Patriotic War, as we were an after-war generation. Many artists — older and younger — tackled this theme. It affected every painter. My 'Voice of the Motherland' is devoted to the Belarusian partisan movement, while 'Hard Years' is dedicated to war doctors. 'Letter from 1942' shows village women meeting by a well to talk. One has received a letter from her son or husband and is sharing her news with neighbours and friends… It must be vital to depict moods sincerely…
themes. If something sticks in their soul, they’ll always desire to paint it on canvas. This is natural for me as well. Time passes but I return to my earlier ideas. At present, I’m mostly working on landscapes and portraits. You spend so much time at your workshop. Artists’ lives aren’t simple, as they spend so much time alone, trying to portray their ideas and impressions. For an artist, their workshop is their home. They spend more time there than at their family home. Their work is everything; they talk to themselves and to their artworks. They can shut everything else out. When you are so absorbed, you forget all else, giving your full concentration to your work. It occupies your whole soul and mind.
Here, they’ve done much but are known as prominent figures in global art. Belarusian artists have always enjoyed success: at allUnion exhibitions and abroad. We still have prominent masters, such as People’s Artists of Belarus Leonid Shchemelev and Gavriil Vashchenko. No doubt, Belarusian art occupies a global place. Famous Belarusian artist Vitaly Tsvirko painted wonderful landscapes of our country, which are worthy of the world treasury. Were you influenced by Belarusian pictorial school traditions? Of course, but I have my own style. Each artist is interesting in having their own view of the world… Of course… a true artist must have their own style and angle. What defines the personality of an artist?
Artpersonality мода Their personality is defined by their works, which can tell you a great deal. Themes should match their time and artists should always remain at the cutting edge. By being interested in the world, you’ll be inspired in your work. Some of your pictures are devoted to history — such as the ancient
Is beauty vital for modern pictorial art? Beauty is an abstract notion, with various definitions across the ages. Looking at beauty from a contemporary point of view, we can assert that artists need to be heard and to receive attention. If a picture fails to attract an audience, it has no market. In turn, if it proves
What attracts foreign audiences to Belarusian pictorial art? Our painters’ works always boast huge professionalism. Does our modern time allow artists to realise themselves? It seems to me that national ideas must always inspire art. Significant works are born if this is present.
The kaleidoscope is a comprehensive overview of Alexey Koktev's creative activities
Belarusian city of Zaslavl. What attracts you to this as an artist? I lived in Zaslavl after graduating from the Institute. This ancient land is rich in historical places, so many of my landscapes and sketches are devoted to the city. I also have thematic pictures — such as ‘Old Timers of Zaslavl Land’, which hangs in Belarus’ Culture Ministry. Does pictorial art lose its power over the course of time? Pictorial art never loses its significance — especially realistic art; the latter will always have a place, regardless of other trends. Are you pleased with your choices? Yes, very much. I’ve loved this job since childhood. Today, I feel great love for my occupation and cannot imagine my life without it.
popular, audiences start searching for its hidden sense, eager to penetrate its depths. Is pictorial art topical in our modern times? No doubt, our electronic world has changed the face of art. In the past, museums attracted only the most educated people; now, anyone can view works virtually, from home. Of course, this is no substitute for seeing them with your own eyes, since this is the only way to feel the true energy of the artist. What defines the personality of a painter and influences their style? Time always influences. Some may write that an artist is ahead of their time but, in reality, they represent the time they live in.
Which is closest to your soul: art reflecting daily life or that based on associations? I must admit that artists always paint for their audience. If I draw anything, I want to share my thoughts with someone. I paint and exhibit because I want to communicate with my audience. However, to succeed, I need to use language which my audience can understand. Really, the ability to communicate is vital. What are your preoccupations? I talk about the history of my nation and my homeland. What is the key for modern artists? I’m a 20th century artist. I want to see how young painters represent the 21st century. By Víktor Kharitonov
Sewn by fashion threads 3rd Belarus Fashion Week proves essential to those already planning their spring and summer wardrobes
ho needs foreign brands when we have our own, equal in quality and price? Individual tailoring distinguishes Belarusian couture suits, since you’re very unlikely to see others wearing the same outfit designed by Aiplatov or Tarakanova. Of course, many of these collections are already proving popular abroad, as foreign fashionistas appreciate the talent of Belarusian designers. The fashion forum was previously called Belorussian Fashion Week — but this has now been changed to Belarus Fashion Week. The idea is conceptual and sounds smoother in English. Moreover, it is more politically correct, since Belorussia doesn’t actually exist. This year, for the first time, BFW had a New Names contest, which was won by Gomel’s Yevgeny Ivanchik, aged 22. In early October, he also won the Grand Prix at the International Mammoth 2011 Contest. His works are quite unusual, while being engaging to look at and inviting to the touch. Also, his reserved light-blue and grey palette is extremely wearable. Soon, Ivanchik’s collection will be more widely available, as BFW winners are awarded not only
Catwalk diplomas but the chance to create a knitted collection for wider production. His knitted wear on the catwalk was actually an experiment, as he usually works with costume fabrics. He explains, “It’s difficult to become a good designer without industrial production. Working at home with several seamstresses isn’t sufficient. To become known, I need to create a larger amount of clothes. It means that I won’t be able to serve individual clients in the same way.” This move from making clothes for a narrow ‘elite’ can surely be no bad thing. BFW’s mission statement is: ‘To create favourable conditions for developing ready to wear fashion in Belarus, while promoting designer clothes to potential customers. Every developing country should maintain its cultural legacy while encouraging fashion to move in new social directions’. The Ministry of Trade’s interest shows that BFW has reached a new level of importance. Belarus’ Deputy Minister Vyacheslav Dragun notices, “Belarus Fashion Week reflects more fully the state of the country’s modern fashion trends. Although not everything seen on the catwalk can be worn directly in everyday life, clothing manufacturers can use the ideas of famous fashion designers, adapting them for everyday wear.” BFW has previously been financed by sponsorship from large enterprises but designers are now beginning to pay for their own shows. A year ago, the idea was met with scepticism. Yanina Goncharova, who heads BFW, tells us, “We invited designers to the first fashion week. At the second, some were unwilling or unable to pay; by the third, they were fighting to take part.” The recent shows demonstrated women’s and men’s collections from such well-known names as Ivan Aiplatov, Boitsik, Efremova&Harydavets, Ludmila Labkova, Ulia Latushkina, Natasha Tsuran, and Tarakanova. International guests attended from Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Georgia and Nigeria. Anton Motolko, a blogger and photographer known for his honesty, was impressed by Irina Boitsik’s collection. He notes, “She put a great deal of effort into her collection. Some designers attach huge feathers or plate-sized buttons to their clothes while Boitsik’s collections are cut simply; nothing detracts from the basic silhouette. No embellishment is needed. Watching her show, I couldn’t escape from a feeling of weightlessness. It’s a pity that the catwalk wasn’t given powerful fans, to make the model’s hair and dresses flutter. Irina’s collections are a balm to the hearts of all those who love fashion — including professionals.”
‘Few people can imagine what I do’ I
van Aiplatov’s appearance at BFW was a surprise, even a sensation! He has always presented his collections in Moscow, with no need to promote himself in Minsk. Ever ybody knows of him and Values his work without seeing his collections walk down a home-grown catwalk. He sat in the front row of other designers’ shows and appeared serious, as always, but smiled sincerely whenever he saw something he liked. Why did you agree to take part in BFW this year? I always used to take part in fashion weeks in Moscow, and when Belarusian week appeared it coincided with that of Moscow. I couldn’t appear at both but kept an eye on events in Minsk. This time, I decided ‘to stay at home’. I have no regrets for doing this, because I realised that, apart from a few ‘invitation only’ events, people here hadn’t seen my works, and were keen to do so. Many spoke of me but few knew what I was really engaged in doing. What have you gained from BFW? All collections have commercial goals, so participation in BFW is good PR. I repeat again, people here have never seen my works. Have you shown your collections anywhere beyond Moscow?
I’ve been to the Czech Republic’s Brno twice, taking part in a prestigious exhibition of light industry. Do you aspire to become known in the West? I receive invitations for var ious wester n fashion we ek s but p ar t i c ip at i on costs between seven and ten thousand Euros, excluding flights and living costs. Who were your favourites at BFW, as well as strong rivals on the market of Belarusian fashion? Designers don’t tend to watch shows or pay much attention to others, they just prepare their own collections. I keep in touch with designers Lena Tsokalenko and Olga Samoshchenko, who are serious figures on t he fashion market, and chat with young designers at competitions. I’m busy with my work and family the rest of the time. When will you open your boutique in Minsk? If somebody wants to op en it, I’ l l b e keen, but no businessmen have approached me with any such proposals yet. I can’t do it myself, as design and retail are different spheres. Only large companies have the experience and knowledge to do this properly. Our fashion industry is still in its infancy.
By Viktar Novak
Angel song to win hearts Lida Zablotskaya reaches top three at Junior Eurovision while entrants for adult Eurovision Song Contest in Baku are chosen
oung Belarusian Lida Zablotskaya was confidently approaching first place at Junior Eurovision in Yerevan. However, during the television vote, Belarus awarded the most points to our major rivals, the Dutch and Georgians, placing them ahead. Such are the rules of the show and, of course, you can’t vote for your own candidate. Lidia has now returned to her native Mogilev from Armenia with a worthy third place and is pleased with her result. Before departing for Yerevan, the eighth grade pupil hoped to be among the leaders. In fact, she earned 99 points, admitting, “My dream has come true and I’m now among the top three in Europe.” Lida has been involved in music since the fourth grade, playing the piano and polishing her singing at Vdokhnovenie Studio. Who knows, triumph at adult Eurovision may lie ahead. First place at Junior Eurovision was won by a group of girls from Georgia with a lively song and routine. Lidia tells us, “My song — Angels of Kindness — is slow; more lively songs tend to win.” She reveals however, “I’m a playful angel of kindness, keen on adventures. I enjoy performing and making people smile. I’m a cheerful and positive person.” Belarus has twice won first place at Junior Eurovision: in 2005 — Ksenia Sitnik; and in 2009 — Alexey Zhigalkovich. In 2006, Russia won and Andrey Kunets came second. On the eve of the event, the Belarusian potential entrants for the
adult Eurovision were chosen, hoping to perform in Baku in 2012. After a TV performance, the public will select their favourite five candidates. In late December-early January, during a live broadcast on Belarus-1 TV Channel, the final winner will be announced. The professional jury has chosen 15 entrants to compete for the honour: Thriller, Litesound, Nuteki, The Champions, Evivoki, Gyunesh, Anastasia Vinnikova, Yuzari, Anna Blagova, German, duo Alexandra Gaiduk and Natalia Baldina, Yan Zhenchak and Outerplan, Alena Lanskaya, Aura, and Victoria Aleshko. I visited the auditions at the Youth Variety Theatre to see what we might expect. Many in Belarus can sing and dance well but there are few truly charismatic artistes — and not everyone can work brilliantly regardless of their mood. According to Alexander Tikhanovich, the Head of EuroFest, a professional artiste with experience is needed to worthily represent Belarus at an international competition like Eurovision. He explains, “This is a really tough contest, involving blood, sweat and tears. In the finals, the tension makes your hair curl. It’s easy to get stage fright. Some can manage while others lose their self-possession, being overwhelmed by excitement.” Of course, professionals never show that something is wrong, either in their soul or face. They have only one shot at winning the Eurovision Song Contest. By Alena Nekrashevich