No.7 (922), 2010
BELARUS Беларусь. Belarus
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Politics, Economy, Culture
Major holiday Belarus solemnly celebrates Independence Day on July 3rd
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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
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Customs Union enhances business
No. 7 (922), 2010 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 Executive Secretary: Valentina Zhdanovich
Basis available Syria to become Belarus’main partner in the Middle East
Trading is appropriate Belarus is clearly facilitating its movement towards the World Trade Organisation
essence of partnerships
360 tonnes: who can offer more?
In a wonderland of unexpected impressions Pripyat Polesie becomes attractive region for tourists
Future relies on intensive development Alexander Lukashenko interviewed by international TV company — CNN
34 36 39
Lakeland region Picturesque places in Belarus’ north-west fascinate at first sight
city of contrasts Path to ancestors National Historical Archives lead way to the past
Everything according to plan In 1982,
cultural production demonstrated in Minsk
the city authorities drew up a general plan envisaging the development of the capital for twenty years ahead
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Travelling through time
ay is symbolically connected with Victory over fascism. This year, May 9th was celebrated in Belarus as the 65th anniversary of the victorious end of the Great Patriotic War. The month of July was marked by Liberation and Independence. In July 1944, Minsk was liberated from the invaders, releasing long-suffering Belarus. Today, July 3rd is symbolically celebrated as Independence Day for the sovereign Republic of Belarus. After WWII, Belarus helped found the UN, honoured for its merits in the fight against fascism. Now, Belarus fully asserts its right to be a sovereign countr y and to command respect from its closest neighbours, and the whole world community. Sometimes, it has to prove this right, but feelings of honour and pride are especially accentuated during Independence Day celebrations. On the eve of the event, President Alexander Lukashenko gave an interview to CNN international TV channel, explaining Belarus’ foreign policy. The Future Relies on Intensive Development explores this topic. Today, many economic issues contain political elements. Just think of the formation of the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan. The theme of ensuring parity for all sides within this integration structure has recently dominated the relations of our three states. Regardless of the ambiguous
behaviour of some, the Customs Union was legally formalised at a meeting in Astana. The final nuances of the agreement are covered in Customs Union Enhances Business. We still need to assess the practical implementation of the Customs Union and its mutual benefits, so we’ll explore this topic further in the future. As a rule, the country’s sovereignty is proven politically and e c o n o m i c a l l y. Belarus has proven its competiveness even in these difficult times of global crisis, showing its readiness tobeincludedamong global economic communities. Trading i s Appropr iate describes how Belarus is accelerating its movement to join the World Trade Organisation, as noted by observers after the recent visit of the WTO Working Party on the Accession of Belarus to Minsk. We should mention that the World Trade Organisation, headquartered in Geneva, currently unites 153 states and customs territories. Each should offer other members of the organisation favoured trade terms, since this is the essence of WTO membership. Accordingly, export-oriented Belarus is keen to join. Belarusian industry primarily relies on innovation and, recently, surpassed itself with a 360 tonne heavy duty dump truck, produced by Zhodino’s machine builders. Situated near the capital, this company has survived troubled times to create models
which are the envy of its rivals at international automobile fairs. It recently demonstrated the new truck at its testing ground. A third of the world’s heavy duty dump trucks originate from this firm, known for producing vehicles which surpass others in terms of their technical capabilities, reliability and value for money. The current model is a modernisation of those made previously and other leading enterprises in Belarus are using the same approach. Read 360 Tonnes: Who Can Offer More? to find out further details. Traditionally, in summer, domestic agrarians are in the limelight. This year, Minsk organised the 20th International Belagro Exhibition — an agrarian forum uniting hundreds of participants from two dozen countries. Technical and technological agricultural innovations abounded. Stands were hosted by the National BelEXPO Exhibition Centre, and by the demonstrational venue of an agricultural enterprise, situated close to Minsk. The result was a celebration of the latest international experience in agroindustrial machine-building, showing ecologically clean products and alternative technologies. The event was also attended by representatives of agrarian ministries from around the world, proving that the solution of food problems is a burning issue for many countries today. According to High-Tech for Agrarians, Belarusian agricultural machine building firms presented one of the largest and most interesting expositions at Belagro. Some twenty years ago, our country only made tractors — from the great list of agricultural machinery; now, around 90 percent of domestic farming machinery is locallymanufactured. Time flies by and brings many changes, but Belarus’ manufacturing quality and dedication to customer satisfaction remain constant. As ever, we invite you to travel with us, visiting interesting places and meeting fascinating people. Please join us on our journey. BY Viktor Kharkov, magazine editor Беларусь. Belarus
Belarus solemnly celebrates Independence Day on July 3rd
uly 3rd marks the main holiday of B el ar us i an st ateho o d. Announced in 1996, it represents our country’s national revival. Following public wishes — voiced in a nationwide referendum — the holiday is celebrated on the day when Minsk was liberated from the Nazi invaders, in July 1944. In June 1941, Belarus was the first Soviet state to experience the force of Hitler’s army. On the second day of the war, Minsk was fiercely bombarded and, during those years of the Great Patriotic War, our country lost every third citizen. However, team spirit, mutual support, ardent patriotism and fidelity to the Motherland — natural for Belarusians — created a barrier against which the enemy’s troops finally crashed. On the eve of the Independence Day celebrations, Minsk hosted a solemn ceremony to bury the remains of unknown soldiers in the crypt of All Saints’ Church. The event gathered thousands of Minskers and guests to the capital, who had come to pay tribute to the defender-soldiers. In the niches of the crypt wall, the remains of the unknown soldiers were discovered by a special squad from the Ministry of Defense during search expeditions. These comprise the remains of an unknown
soldier killed during the Patriotic War of 1812 (in a battle against the French), the remains of a soldier killed in August 1915 (during the First World War, near Grodno as the Russian army resisted a German advance) and the remains of an unknown soldier from the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 (who fell in November 1943 after Soviet troops were forced to cross the River Dnieper). On paying tribute, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko noted, “Belarusian people have never surrendered to their enemies. We are ready today to face the toughest ordeals for the sake of independence and the right to live freely on this land.” The construction of All Saints’ Church is being supported by personal donations from the Belarusian President, alongside funds from the state budget. Celebrating Independence Day pays tribute to the heroism and endurance of Minskers, the self-sacrificing struggle of Minsk’s partisan fighters and the unprecedented labours of those who restored the country from the ashes. They built factories, manufactured the first products at local enterprises, and set up schools once more. The solemn parade in Minsk — marching from Oktyabrskaya Square to Pobedy Square — gathered several
thousand people, including veterans and youngsters. Alexander Lukashenko laid flowers at the Pobedy (Victory) Monument and wreaths and bouquets were laid by Belarus’ political and public associations, those from various religious confessions and foreign diplomats. A gala-concert entitled Belarus Is Us! was organised in front of the Minsk Hero-City Stella, with the traditional ‘Singing the Hymn Together’ part of the festive celebrations. The President of Belarus received congratulations on the Independence Day from heads of state, public and political figures from CIS and nonCIS counties — including the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, China, Venezuela, South Korea, Greece, Bulgaria, Indonesia, Cub a , G e r many, It a ly, Swe d e n , Switzerland, Vietnam, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Libya and many other countries. Modern life in Belarus fulfils the dreams of those who defended their homeland during the Great Patriotic War, notes war veteran Valentina Baranova, from Grodno. She believes that liberation from German occupation has enabled Belarusians to live as they do today — peacefully and happily.
Customs Union enhances business The new association, stretching from China to the European Union — the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan, began operations in July. Our three states’ presidents confirmed the single Customs Code in Astana, so we now have a common market of 170 million people, worth $1.5 trillion GDP. Experts are comparing it with such initiatives as the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community and the Common Market of the South (Mercosur)
h e C u s t o m s Un i o n (to become the Single Economic Space, as Minsk, Moscow and Astana are striving to create) could become a powerful engine raising the competitiveness of our three states’ national economies and their investment attractiveness. Although the formation of a single Eurasian market is experiencing a few obstacles, supporters of integration believe that contradictions and failures to speak openly won’t affect its longterm success. The Customs Union will allow us to more efficiently utilise the economic potential of the post-Soviet space. Interestingly, at the EurAsEC summit in Astana, the heads of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan noted that they are considering joining the Customs Union. Our three member-states could grow to five.
Common and private
Analysts believe the Customs Union could become the first successful geopolitical project within the CIS. Moscow is attributing special significance to the Union, seeing it as a test for its ability to act as the centre of regional integration. President Dmitry Medvedev sees the Customs Union is an absolute priority for Russia, while Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has called it ‘a historical choice for Russia’.
Like Kazakhstan, Belarus has long supported the integration of post-Soviet states. However, Minsk stresses that the Customs Union must be fully-fledged and work without exemptions or limitations (a goal yet to be achieved). With this in mind, President Alexander Lukashenko is cautious in his forecasts about the Union’s future, saying in Astana, “Time will tell.” Despite having launched the integration project, Minsk, Moscow and Astana are yet to achieve their major goal of creating a fullyfledged single customs territory. Russia has failed to abolish import duties on oil and oil products supplied to Belarus but Minsk and Moscow have reached a compromise, notes Belarus’ Deputy Prime Minister, Andrei Kobyakov. He tells us that a protocol adopted in Astana is an important achievement, stipulating terms for abolishing duties. Russia has announced that it will lift its exemptions once Belarus adopts and ratifies a package of documents on the Single Economic Space. “Such legal terms are a serious advance,” admits Mr. Kobyakov. “Of course, we didn’t want to push for this protocol but, as our partners weren’t ready, we had to voice certain conditions.” In compensation for preserving oil duties, Belarus has managed to defend existing national duties on imported
passenger cars. It was previously supposed that, from July, all duties on imported cars would be raised to the Russian level (significantly higher than in Belarus, as Russia is protecting its own car industry). Eventually, it was decided to preserve the existing tariffs for Belarus and Kazakhstan until July 1st, 2011.
Room for compromise
The integration mechanism has been launched but, as experts say, its ‘adjustment’ continues. It’s no wonder, since economic integration is a complicated process, requiring much effort and compromise. We can recall that European states have been forming their present market for decades. All ‘exemptions’ within the Customs Union will be lifted once the Single Economic Space comes into force. In Astana, Alexander Lu kashen ko, Dmit r y Medvedev and Nursultan Nazarbayev ordered their governments to facilitate the preparation of normative acts regarding the Single Economic Space. It was initially planned that the first package of documents would be signed by January 1st, 2011 and the second by July 1st, 2011. In Astana, we agreed that all documents must be ready by the end of 2010. The Single Economic Space will then come into force on January 1st, 2012.
Presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia during the Summit in Astana
Experts are certain that, on shifting to the Single Economic Space, discussion will continue, as it has done regarding the Customs Union. There are many sensitive positions: Minsk, in particular, is concerned about transitioning to uniform state support of the agrarian-industrial complex. At present, this support is much higher in our country than in Russia. Moscow, in turn, is worried about the transition to equal gas prices. A representative of the Belarusian delegation to Astana notes that Russia would like to implement this norm on its territory no earlier than 2015. Of course, this approach does not satisfy Belarus. Minsk advocates a unified transition to equal profit in the three states. As a result, the formation of the Single Economic Space won’t be easy. However, Mr. Kobyakov is convinced that the prompt preparation and adoption of all necessary documents is possible.
Despite shortfalls in the Customs Union’s work, we can already pinpoint certain advantages for Belarus. “Any product imported on the Union’s territory and put into free circulation can pass any border between our three states without control or customs clearance,” explained Mr. Kobyakov. “We can set up assembly facilities and freely sell products throughout the whole Customs Union. Investors coming to our country gain access not just to a 10m market but to a market of 170m people. This should inspire a drastic rise in investment.” Another advantage is our agreement within the Customs Code to unify laws governing technical, sanitary, veterinary and phyto-sanitary matters. All certificates and protocols of research obtained at Belarusian laboratories are now also valid in Russia and Kazakhstan. This should help Belarusian manufacturers avoid barriers to neighbouring markets.
In recent years, there have been cases where milk and meat (acknowledged acceptable in Belarus) were blocked by Russian controllers (perhaps for political reasons). In future, grounds for such misunderstandings will be eradicated. Minsk sees the new definition of the EurAsEC Court’s status as a step forward, stresses Mr. Nazarbayev. Speaking in Astana, he noted that this new document expands the Court’s authority — reaching over members of the Customs Union and the EurAsEC, in addition to economic entities. It should guarantee the protection of rights and the meeting of obligations by all participants of integration. Mr. Medvedev believes this shows integration entering its final stage. “A court is needed when real relations exist,” he said. Belarus is advocating these real relations, based on principles of mutual benefit and respect. By Vitaly Volyanyuk
Basis available Syria to become Belarus’ main partner in the Middle East
otes President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko on meeting Chairman of the People’s Assembly of Syria, Mahmoud al-Abrash, in Minsk. “I believe Syria should become our major partner in the Middle East. Via your country, we’ll be able to cooperate with every state in this complex region. I think Syria will benefit from this,” noted the Belarusian President. He announced interest in actively developing business ties with Syria and our readiness to develop joint economic projects, including with the participation of third countries, such as Venezuela. “We’re ready to supply a whole range of industrial manufactures to the Syrian market,” he said, stressing that our two states’ economies are quite complementary; this opens up broad possibilities for economic co-operation. Belarus views Syria as a longstanding friend, an important partner and an influential and authoritative
participant within the international arena. “Belarusian-Syrian co-operation is based on complete trust and intention of close interaction in various spheres. We’re constructively resolving matters within the frameworks of such international organisations as the UN and the Non-Aligned Movement. Belarus and Syria share resistance to external pressure and dictatorship and vigorously protect their territorial integrity and sovereignty,” remarked Mr. Lukashenko. The President noted that one of the first of his foreign visits as Head of State has been to Syria. “I clearly remember my meeting with the Syrian leader, Hafez alAssad. I was impressed by how deeply he understood the situation around Syria and how far-reaching were his aims for his country’s development. During the rule of new President — Bashar alAssad — I’ve seen Hafez al-Assad’s ideas being realised, as he explained them to me,” said Mr. Lukashenko. He added
At the meeting with the People’s Assembly of Syria
that, politically, he often relied upon conclusions drawn by Hafez al-Assad on the situation in the Middle East. “He helped me greatly in understanding the processes taking place in your region.” The Belarusian Head of State recalled his friendly relations with today’s President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. “It seems we’re able to significantly advance in our relations with Syria,” he said. Meanwhile, the Chairman of the People’s Assembly of Syria, Mahmoud alAbrash, confirmed that Belarusian-Syrian relations remain strategic. “Our relations have a long history. Importantly, they are characterised by trust and sincerity,” he noted, adding that a quick visit to Belarus by Bashar al-Assad seems feasible. The countries are now working on a free trade zone between Belarus and Syria. Mahmoud al-Abrash noted that Syria is interested in launching of a direct flight between Minsk and Tehran. The Syrian delegation also met their counterparts in Minsk — Belarusian MPs. During their meeting, a supplement to our inter-parliamentar y agreement on co-operation was signed, envisaging the creation of an inter-parliamentary commission. This will focus on promoting mutually beneficial projects in the economic and other spheres.
Meeting ambassadors Diplomats say that the arrival of a new ambassador signifies a new page in state relations
ol l ow i ng t h is l o g i c , ou r c o operation with Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Austria, Iraq, Egypt and some other countries is turning a new page. Belarusian diplomacy revolves around trade and economic issues, as President Lukashenko notes, since we have an export-oriented economy. “We’re interested in easing Belarusian products’ access to traditional and new markets, attracting modern foreign technologies and investments and diversifying our raw materials and energy supplies,” the President explains. “Our geopolitical position and historical-cultural characteristics bring balanced and constructive interaction with numerous partners in various regions around the world.” Addressing the ambassadors individually, Mr. Lukashenko ranked them not in alphabetical order but in regard to the importance of our bilateral relations. He began with Roman Bezsmertny, who now represents Ukraine, saying, “Relations with Ukraine have become truly strategic in recent times.” The President noted that, at presidential
level, a range of key agreements have been signed and that ‘their prompt realisation will give additional impetus to the social-economic development of our countries’. Some time later, Mr. Lukashenko chatted informally over champagne with the diplomats, asking the new Ukrainian Ambassador to pass his ‘kindest wishes to Viktor’ — the former President, Viktor Yushchenko. Mr. Bezsmertny was one of his main allies during the ‘Orange Revolution’ and, for some time, was Deputy Head of the Presidential Secretariat. However, on talking to journalists, Mr. Bezsmertny mentioned only another Viktor — Yanukovych, saying that, ‘since electing Viktor Yanukovych, dialogue between our countries has been active’. Mr. Lukashenko thanked the G e o r g i a n A m b a s s a d o r, G i o r g i Chkheidze, ‘for everything — even for your support at Eurovision’. The President told Austria that he hopes to see the initiating ‘of more large scale joint economic projects’. Of Portugal, he requested ‘fully-fledged political dialogue’. Mr. Lukashenko told all the diplomats working in Minsk that he hopes to see them initiate new projects while, importantly, being objective. Despite us living in an age of information technologies, ambassadors remain the major channel of communication with the heads of state who appoint them.
New ambassadors presenting ratifications
Border region without secrets Polish and Belarusian ecologists, customs officers and rescuers solve problems on both banks of the Zapadny Bug River
n African is among the passengers on the Warsaw-Minsk train. How long does it take for him to pass through customs clearance in Brest? It appears, very little. He passed through all forms of control — including a sanitary-quarantine examination — in the Polish capital after his plane originally landed. The Poles immediately shared the results of the examination with their Belarusian colleagues in Brest. This situation is being modelled by the Chief State Sanitary Doctor of Brest region, Oleg Arnautov, speaking about our Belarusian-Polish agreements — recently signed in the Belovezhskaya Pushcha. Discussing policy and sharing experience at a session of the BelarusianPolish Sub-commission on Border Cooperation were the heads of the customs, police, border, veterinary, sanitary, ecological and fire services. When realising joint programmes, safety issues are always foremost, with ecologists paying special attention to the ‘health’ of the Zapadny Bug River border region. The Chair of Brest Regional Committee of Natural Resources and Environment Protection, Tamara Yalkovskaya, tells us that, last year alone, 290 river water samples were tested and about 5,000 parallel researches were conducted. The aim is to monitor and keep control of waters in the border region.
Future relies on intensive development
Interview with CNN
Alexander Lukashenko interviewed by international TV company — CNN
he CNN journalist was keen to explore Belarus’ domestic policy and prospects for the country’s development, with most questions devoted to Belarus’ relations with its eastern neighbour: Russia. In particular, Alexander Lukashenko believes Russia will face harm if it loses Belarus. Talking about the recent disagreements between the two states, Mr. Lukashenko noted that, if Russia keeps on its present course, it will be a ‘bit harder’ for Belarus. “Such a policy on the side of Russia will lead to very bad consequences for Russia itself,” he said. “However, I don’t think that this is Russia’s officially recognised policy and
that Russia will stick to it. If it does, Russia will lose Belarus. This will create irreparable damage — dealing a serious blow from moral, material, military and political standpoints. Overall, there will be a big loss for Russia,” the Belarusian President emphasised. Mr. Lukashenko noted that he tries to approach relations between our two peoples and relations between the heads of Belarus and Russia independently since there is ‘a big difference’. “Nobody can prevent the normal course of events; its core is that we are very close people. We are virtually one nation; it’s hard to split us apart. I proceed from this as well. We have never been enemies throughout our history and, believe me, we’ll never
become enemies. It’s natural that we have some clashes — even fierce disputes — especially economically. We are a young sovereign state. Russia positions itself in the same way. We need time to realise who we are and what relations we should have; this is a period of adjustment. Russia needs to get used to the fact that Belarus is a sovereign and independent state,” the President said. Mr. Lukashenko stressed that Belarus is content to live in a union and have friendship with Russians but it strongly objects to ‘Americans, Europeans or Russians starting to somehow push us or place a tightening noose around our neck’. “If we position ourselves as a nation, we cannot let this happen. Everything else is of minor importance,” the Head of State said. The President is broadly confident about the vigorous development of the country in the future, as Belarus is promoting friendly relations with many countries worldwide. “We have many reliable friends. Besides Russia and the European Union, we have wonderful relations with Venezuela, Iran, North Africa and the Middle East, including Israel. Despite strained relations with your country, US businesses invest in our economy,” Mr. Lukashenko said. The People’s Republic of China is a serious partner and a great friend of Belarus. “We have excellent relations. China recently helped us out, opening credit lines of up to $20bn to promote our economy and I really appreciate that. The Chinese have a big business presence in Belarus, using us as a business outpost in their dealings with their European partners,” the President said. “This is why we won’t die,” resumed Mr. Lukashenko. “I’m confident about the future of my country and my people. As Head of State, I’ve always worked to provide a decent life for the 10m population of Belarus, to see them smiling and being happy — as they are today.” CNN programming is available in over 200 countries (over 200m viewers). The company was the first channel to provide 24-hour TV news coverage.
Trading is appropriate Belarus is clearly facilitating its movement towards the World Trade Organisation
s evinced by Minsk receiving a visit from the Chairman of the Wo r k i n g P a r t y o n Belarus’ Accession to the WTO, Bozkurt Aran. He negotiated with Belarus’ Deputy Prime Minister, Andrei Kobyakov, and met parliamentarians and representatives of the Foreign Ministry and the Economic Ministry. Afterwards, he proclaimed that the process of Belarus’ joining the WTO won’t take long, “I’m convinced that, of the countries about to join the organisation, Belarus is the most developed.” The recent ‘gas’ conflict with Moscow, alongside difficulties in forming the Customs Union with Russia and Kazakhstan, are pushing Minsk to actively seek out paths of diversification — regarding delivery of energy resources and sales markets. President Alexander Lukashenko recently admitted that the economy’s ‘survival’ and the country’s independence depend on these matters. Accession to the WTO should open up opportunities for Belarusian exporters. Headquartered in Geneva, the World Trade Organisation embraces 153 countries and customs territories. Each member-state must provide a regime of ultimate favourable trade to other participants; this is the core policy of WTO membership, which is why export-oriented Belarus is keen to join. Joining the WTO requires some adjustment of national legislation, to meet rules obligatory for all memberstates. The decision on the state’s meeting the organistaion’s norms was made
during a sitting of the WTO Working Party on Belarus’ Accession. The Head of this Group has visited Minsk recently — on Geneva’s initiative. So far, seven formal sittings have already taken place. The process was interrupted in 2005 — due to opposition from some Western countries. It then became impossible to reinitiate negotiations to prepare the final documents envisaging Belarus’ obligations as a WTO member.
20 percent a year, accession is a natural step,” he emphasises. Mr. Aran asserts that the WTO, IMF and World Bank are at the heart of the international economic system. “If you can conclude a multi-billion agreement with the IMF, you can agree with the WTO,” he believes. Mr. Aran notes that the process of Belarus’ joining has been unjustly protracted. “I hope the process will significantly speed up in the near future,” he said. At present, Geneva is waiting for a package of documents from Belarus. These will enable the organisation to assess whether our national legislation meets WTO requirements. The analysis of our trading and investment legislation will be in focus; recently, the latter has been liberalised, orienting towards the experience of developed states (existing members of the WTO).
Fortunately, in recent years, there has been a ‘thaw’ in relations between Minsk and the EU, with the situation regarding WTO membership changing. “All WTO member-states are interested in Belarus’ accession. The organisation cannot be universal without it. Your country plays an important role in the European region. Stability and security within the European system is a priority and this is why it’s important for Belarus to join the WTO,” stresses Mr. Aran. He added that Belarus should also be interested in accession since the WTO’s trading relations are ‘based on rules and these rules are observed’. “When a state which exports $39bn of goods annually has the chance to raise exports by up to
One for all or al10l for one?
The process of Belarus’ joining the WTO has been slow (through no fault of its own). However, the announcement of the Customs Union with Russia and Kazakhstan has changed the situation. Now, other states are viewing Belarusian trading legislation and its market with increased interest. Previously, Belarus had a market of just 10m; now, it is the gateway to a population of 170m. A year ago, the heads of the Belarusian, Kazakh and Russian governments decided to join the WTO as a single block — the Customs Union. Moscow announced that it would stop bilateral talks with Geneva, to begin a three-lateral format. A single negoti-
Bozkurt Aran (in the middle) is sure that Belarus’ admission to the WTO is a matter of time
ating delegation of our three states was even approved. It was an interesting idea, making it easier to reach favourable terms for accession when speaking on behalf of three states simultaneously. It’s no secret that such CIS states as Kyrgyzstan and Moldova (old members of the WTO) agreed to all of Geneva’s terms and have failed to receive the benefits they had hoped from membership. Meanwhile, China has entered the WTO on quite profitable terms. Soon after Minsk, Astana and Moscow voiced their plans, representatives of western states began to criticise. In particular, on June 17th, the European Parliament adopted a resolution stating that Russia’s conclusion of the Customs Union with Kazakhstan and Belarus ‘could be an additional obstacle to Moscow’s accession to the World Trade Organisation’. The notion of joining as a three state union began to fall into doubt. As a result of these diplomatic efforts, Russia has changed its initial position. Our block of three states has been substituted by a single negotiating group, with each country acting for itself. In future, this might create certain difficulties — since Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia plan to live under shared customs rules. None of us can change these rules alone, on agreeing with the WTO. Russia hopes to join the WTO first. After Dmitry Medvedev’s recent visit to the USA, the two heads of state announced September 30th, 2010 as the day when all talks on Russia’s joining the WTO will finish. The joint declaration by the two presidents shows that the USA is ready to support Russia in all respects and offer advice to aid the completion of the process. Belarusian producers will face foreign competition on their traditional Russian market once WTO membership is achieved but the Chairman of the Standing Committee for International Affairs at the National Assembly’s House of Representatives, Sergey Maskevich, believes such competition won’t be a real obstacle to trade.
“All WTO member-states are interested in Belarus’ accession. The organisation cannot be universal without it. Your country plays an important role in the European region. Stability and security within the European system is a priority and this is why it’s important for Belarus to join the WTO,” stresses Mr. Aran One’s own game
At the moment, all our neighbours — except Russia — are WTO members. Their experience demonstrates that the step leads to exporting success while domestic competition strengths. We can’t help but wonder whether our national firms are ready for the state to join the WTO. Candidate of Economic Sciences Galina Turban, who heads the Belarusian State Economic University’s International Business Department, has been studying the issue and believes that it’s impossible to foresee the exact consequences. Wide-spread opinion is that the major risk is the liberalisation of foreign goods’ access to the Belarusian market, since this will weaken local manufacturers’ positions. Competition is bound
to yield positive results eventually but will our enterprises survive long enough to benefit? They could go bankrupt while fighting for custom. Of 300 respondents questioned, 95 percent believe the major problem is the strengthening of competition from imported goods (both on domestic and foreign markets). Another concern is whether privileges will be abolished regarding taxation and loans and whether our free economic zones will be liquidated. According to Ms. Turban, individual privileges are subject to abolishment, since Belarus’ production and foreign trade will be bound by strict terms of non-discrimination. Companies receiving state support at present will face the most acute social
Global environment and economic consequences once the country joins the WTO. Last year, Belarus’ First Deputy Prime Minister, Vladimir Semashko, said that it could take some time for Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan to join the WTO as a single Customs Union. However, he added that this would be a blessing for us since, in the meantime, we’d have the opportunity to modernise our economy and approach WTO accession able to ‘compete in most branches of industry’. Ms. Turban notes that the liberalisation of the domestic market (even in case of immediate WTO membership) wouldn’t present acute problems, since the level of customs tariffs wouldn’t change significantly (according to the current negotiating terms). Moreover, a transitory period (usually of six years) will be used;
In recent years, the Belarusian economy has come close to achieving WTO norms, so no great dividends or losses are expected once the country joins the organisation. Being outside the WTO, Belarus has integrated into the global economy and adjusted its legislation to WTO norms. The country has reduced its level of import duties, making some even lower than those fixed within the WTO. “Joining the WTO arouses restrained optimism; we should quash our fear of negative consequences,” says Ms. Turban. “Moreover, global practice of doing business demonstrates that financial risk influences trade far more than joining the WTO.” The Foreign Ministry believes that if it was a goal to yield our Belarusian
Hyper-example for investors Speaking at the opening of the jointly built hypermarket, Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky and his Lithuanian colleague Andrius Kubilius stressed that the shop, built in under a year, should demonstrate the investment possibilities of Belarus to Europe
WTO as a chance to enter new markets
after its completion, tariff levels will remain at a level adequate to protect domestic producers. Import customs tariffs are no longer a basic protective measure for many Belarusian products in any case. To our advantage, after joining the WTO, Belarus will be able to have its trading disputes with other countries regulated, in line with established WTO procedure. At present, our trading partners can behave as they wish without sanctions.
economy to the WTO, this could have been already achieved. However, the WTO membership is not an ultimate goal for us. “The core is to preserve the country’s economy and ensure its stable growth,” notes Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Yevdochenko. This is why Minsk plans to facilitate its talks with Geneva but won’t sacrifice its national interests for the sake of joining. By Igor Kolchenko
he first stone was laid less than 12 months ago but, already, the OMA construction hypermarket is welcoming its first visitors. Such quick construction of an international-level shop well demonstrates that Belarus is an advantageous investment partner in Europe. The opening ceremony was attended by Mr. Sidorsky and Mr. Kubilius, with the project funded by Belarus, Lithuania and Finland. Belarusian OMA company partnered Finnish Kesko and Lithuanian Senukai. The construction, design and equipment of the hypermarket cost 9.5m euros, with the economic crisis making it possible to reduce some expenses. Mr. Sidorsky is pleased with such ‘profitable foreign investments into Belarus’. In turn, the Lithuanian Prime Minister noted that several Lithuanian businessmen have already expressed their desire to work in Belarus. “Entrepreneurs in Europe will see the success of these investments,” added Mr. Kubilius. The Lithuanian Prime Minister came to Belarus not only to attend the hypermarket’s opening but to discuss the setting up of a plant diluting gas. This could be built at Klaipeda’s port, ensuring alternative supplies of hydrocarbon fuel along the 285km pipeline to Belarus.
ournalists are naturally curious, so those at the Belarusian International Media Forum secretly hoped not only to visit forum sessions in Minsk, but also to travel the country. Many had ideas that Belarus boasts interesting, as well as economically and politically demonstrational, sites. They weren’t mistaken. The organisers and hosts of the media event arranged trips to the country’s leading enterprises, agricultural farms and construction sites, as part of the Contemporary Belarus: a Detached View project. Of course, a cultural programme was also envisaged, including tickets to
One of the major discussions was on integration within the post-Soviet space — a topical issue looking at today’s problems and tomorrow’s prospects. Officials invited to the event were able to speak on the benefits of these integration structures. They gave compelling arguments regarding politics, economics, the social sphere and, even, the successful implementation of joint space projects. However, the conversation particularly focused on problems hampering integration processes, with participants receiving suggestions to provide more social information about the lives of ordinary people. Life within the post-Soviet space
learn about new methods while discussing problems in receiving information and reacting to it.” “Journalism should warn society about dangers,” mused the General Secretary of International Journalist Unions Confederation. “I’d like to underline the most important journalistic mission, which we’ve somehow forgotten: assisting people. Newspapers should be more effective.” There were many interesting topical discussions at the Forum, referring to life and professional activities. The Internet’s competition with newspapers and television is one of the most acute issues for today’s journalistic community. According
Essence of partnerships V Belarusian International Media Forum outlines new paths of information communication Carmen at the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre. The media were able to cover every possible sphere at Minsk’s forum, discussing their themes against a background of fresh impressions. The great hospitability demonstrated by the hosts was evident and didn’t go unnoticed. On being asked what most astonished him about the Forum, the General Secretary of the International Journalist Unions Confederation, Ashot Dzhazoyan, noted that the event had a warm atmosphere — making it a home from home. Mr. Dzhazoyan expressed the opinion of all guests in saying that the event was a very useful communicative arena in which to gather journalists from almost 20 countries worldwide. Most were from the post-Soviet space: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
has changed dramatically, with the new generation growing up almost unaware of life in Soviet days. However, the thirst for community is still evident, as participants agreed. They believe it to be vital to preserve one’s own identity while embracing globalisation, consolidating efforts to jointly solve humanitarian problems. Many are convinced that international and inter-confessional relations must receive attention, alongside science education, the distribution of information, the promotion of culture and awareness of ecological issues. “We’re currently living in information isolation, unaware of what’s going on in neighbouring countries or even on other TV channels,” admitted famous Russian TV observer Lev Nikolaev, a host with the First TV Channel. “The meetings are extremely useful. They are a practical way of enriching our working arsenal. We can
to Mr. Dzhazoyan, circulations have fallen due to widespread blogs and news websites. Many specialists believe that web resources may soon completely replace newspapers. At present, for Belarusian editions and journalism, this problem isn’t so acute. “Today, the media in Belarus are one of the most dynamic segments of society,” notes Oleg Proleskovsky, Belarus’ Information Minister. “We’ve managed to preserve circulations of our printed editions despite all difficulties. Even district newspapers are often self-sufficient. Of course, the state should support the media, allowing it to implement social, historical, cultural and humanitarian projects.” The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, sent his greetings, attaching great importance to the event. Its high status was also stressed by Vladimir Makei, the Head of the Presidential Administration, who took part. He is convinced that the
Media Forum is ‘a perfect venue for the sincere and open exchange of opinions on topical issues’. Mr. Makei notes that the media is the most important instrument in forming public opinion, but is saddened that it can also be used as ‘the most powerful weapon in politics and economics, used for lobbying and propaganda’. He wishes that the growth of the media’s influence were accompanied by greater responsibility, saying, “If we believe that the media is a mirror, we should do all we can to ensure it’s clear and transparent, rather than distorting the truth. We shouldn’t forget that the media reflects our world while also creating and changing it.”
attendance. Their master classes boasted full houses, as students from the Belarusian State University’s Journalism department joined those from journalistic departments of other Belarusian universities in travelling to the event. They spent several consecutive hours listening to advice from the experts, and interrogated them in return with their questions. Clearly, the students were keen to gain all they could from this unique media forum. Belarus’ Information Minister, Oleg Proleskovsky, notes that these future journalists were keen to learn from the Forum’s announced topics and professional teachers.
our neighbours live and what they are achieving. The Forum is a venue for sharing life and professional experience, as well as disseminating information on various countries. Armen Smbatyan, Executive Director of the CIS Interstate Humanitarian Cooperation Foundation: We’ll continue the work launched by the media community in Minsk. I think that the press club of CIS journalists will become a place for discussion and sharing common ideas. Today, the world is highly politicised. We should do something to ensure we tell the real truth about each other.
A spirited dialogue during the Forum
Of course, journalists shouldn’t impose their opinions on us when these are unrelated to the truth, but this does happen. Sometimes, information wars are launched and facts are distorted; publications can be filled with hypocrisy and contradiction. Mr. Dzhazoyan noted that ‘journalism has become a service industry’. Fulfilling an economic or political order, the media don’t think of the destructive power of their materials, which can humiliate or offend a country. It’s especially distressing when such publications and reports are prepared by Russian journalists. Pavel Yakubovich, the Editor-in-Chief of SB newspaper, cited certain especially sharp examples in his speech at the Forum. The Forum was useful in many respects. Despite students having their examinations, leaving them little time for other activities, they flocked to the event, surprising the professional journalists in
Belarus advocates open dialogue b et we en p olit ici ans and me di a representatives, as the Head of the Presidential Administration stressed. He proposed that the 6th International Media Forum be organised in Minsk — and the idea was immediately approved unanimously. Belarusian good nature was apparent at the event, as proven by those in attendance. Gulnora Amirshoeva, Editor-in-Chief of Vecherny Dushanbe newspaper: Minsk’s international media forum enables journalists to share their experience while gaining closer acquaintance with Belarus. I believe that such meetings between journalists from post-Soviet countries are very efficient. Previously, when we all lived in one country, we used to communicate more often. Now, we stew in our own juice and are sometimes unaware of how
Maxim Shevchenko, a host of the Judge for Yourself analytical programme on the First TV Channel (Russia): Journalists should make efforts to preserve a cold mind and sober view of events when speaking of economics and politics. There are many political opponents, financed from abroad, who also have the right to express their viewpoints. However, they are ready to break everything and work to continue the separation of the post-Soviet space. We should preserve our commonality, which we’ve inherited from our ancestors. The participants of the Forum adopted Minsk’s Infinitive, which unanimously expresses our readiness to keep the media from becoming a source of tension — stirring disagreements, spreading rumours and using rhetoric to inflame national egoism. By Victor Mikhailov
Panorama Expansion of export geography Belarusian forestries master new timber sales markets
MAZ and ‘Belarus’ production to be launched in the State of Barinas Industrial allocation scheme for Belarusian automobile and tractor works approved in Venezuela
ccording to Victor Tsybulko, the Deputy Director General of Belzarubezhstroi JSC, the first stage of preparation is complete: topographic-geodesic and preliminary geological research. “Our task was to determine soil structure and ground water depth level. Based on these investigations, a general plan has been elaborated to build two industrial plants, also approved by Venezuela,” notes Mr. Tsybulko. Belarus is to apply a method of parallel design and construction, reducing time spent on surveying and building and erection works; this will allow the first MAZ automobiles and ‘Belarus’ tractors to be produced by July 2011. The construction of facilities to assemble and manufacture MAZ trucks and ‘Belarus’ tractors is being conducted within the industrial zone of the State PDVSA Corporation in Santa Inés (State of Barinas). CORPIVENSA Company — a department of the Venezuelan Ministry for Technology and Basic Industry — is a co-founder of two joint BelarusianVenezuelan enterprises: MAZ Ven, C.A; and VeneMinsk Tractores, C.A. Initially, machinery is to be assembled from Belarusian components, moving to Venezuelan-produced at a later date. At their planned capacity, the factories will be producing 5,000 MAZ trucks and 10,000 ‘Belarus’ tractors per year.
ur forestries have begun to supply timber logs, sawn wood to produce containers, and prefabricated components to Greece and Switzerland. Smorgon’s experimental forestry at Grodno production forestrybased association has dispatched goods to Greece while forestries of Minsk and Mogilev associations have supplied Switzerland. The Forestry Ministry notes that these are modest, trial supplies, which may be expanded in future. Belarusian timber is currently exported to 24 countries worldwide, with Poland importing the greatest volume (almost 63 percent of the total), followed by Germany, Lithuania, Latvia, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden. According to specialists, in H1 2010, Forestry Ministry enterprises plan to export around $50m of goods while preserving growth at the previous level — more than doubling sales from January to June 2009.
Software products listed in rankings Viaden Media — a Belarusian HTP resident — releases iPhone application which takes leading position on Apple’s App Store worldwide
everal months ago, Viaden Media began developing a software application for Apple’s iPhone. Now, their products are among the most popular on the App Store. The All-in Fitness Pedometer programme, placed on the market in late May 2010, was the most popular application for a fortnight in the highly competitive category of Healthcare & Fitness and ranked among the top 30 paid applications on the American App Store site. Moreover, it is the most popular application on the Russian App site. At present, the company is working on over 50 applications, releasing another five in June. The company plans to start developing mobile applications for other platforms, which should also enjoy popularity worldwide. These primarily refer to Google Android and BlackBerry smart phones, as well as applications for the Facebook social network.
Panorama Dream comes closer Pupils from Malorita district of Brest region use telescope to photograph starry sky
Geography may expand Molodechno furniture manufacturers to negotiate supplies to Lebanon, Iran and Venezuela
elegations from these foreign countries have already visited Molodechno furniture facilities and expressed interest in co-operation with Molodechnomebel, with contracts soon to be signed. “These states’ markets are very promising for us, since their housing construction is in full swing and there’s demand for good quality furniture,” notes Molodechnomebel’s Director, Valery Bushilo. Molodechnomebel exports around half of its goods to Belgium, France, Spain, Norway, the Czech Republic, the Baltic States, Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and other CIS countries. This year, the first batches have been dispatched to Uzbekistan, while Armenia and Azerbaijan saw first supplies last year. Russia is the company’s major sales market, although its share is annually falling against that of Europe and other countries. Over the last five months of 2010, exports to Kazakhstan have doubled while those to Ukraine and France have increased by 50 percent and supplies to Belgium have risen by 30 percent. In 2010, Molodechnomebel plans to expand production by 10 percent. Currently, the enterprise is studying plans to open a joint venture to manufacture contemporary upholstered furniture for the European market. Investors are now sought, to ensure the use of contemporary technologies and materials.
he Chairman of the Malorita District Council of Deputies, Piotr Gubei, recently visited the secondary school in the village of Lyakhovtsy to present five seventh-grade pupils with Presidential awards. Their names are now listed on a database created to of fer st ate support to gifted schoolchildren and students. The pupils have b e en g iven prize money from the Special Presidential Fund for their Handmade Projects and Photographing the Starry Sky. Sergey Kulbeda, Vladislav Gapanyuk, Victor Ye v t u s h i k , S e r g e y Nikityuk and Dmitry Kasyanyuk, headed by their physics t e a c h e r, I v a n
Interesting route expected Belarusian publishing house book tours take place abroad
he project is a joint initiative by the Information and Foreign Ministries of Belarus, with two exhibition sets of books on show — released by Belarusian publishing houses over the last few years. Each boasts over 500 of the best editions, on various themes
Kulbeda, make telescopes able to photograph the night sky. They used ordinary lenses, bought from the shops, and Kodaktype cameras. Accumulating material about the Moon and its surrounding stars at various times, the pupils are able to study the history of astrophysics and space at their after-school club, founded by their teacher. The club also welcomes schoolchildren from neighbouring villages. A c c o r d i n g t o M r. Kulbeda, his rural stargazers are now working on a new project, for presentation at the next republican competition. They are keeping their topic secret, as they hope that their results will again surprise and arouse interest among their peers and adults, in Malorita and in Minsk.
to reflect all spheres of Belarusian life. They give information on the development of Belarusian science, culture, literature and education. The tour is covering Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland, with assistance from Belarusian embassies in these states. The capital of the Russian Federation — Moscow — is to be the first venue to welcome the Belarusian exposition, followed by St. Petersburg and several other cities in the Russian regions.
tonnes: who can offer more?
360 Belarusian industry staking future on innovative products
ot long ago, Zhodino (50km from the B e l ar u s i an c apit a l ) witnessed crowds to make any international car showroom envious. The first 360 tonne heavy-duty dump truck was being tested at the factory (which manufactures thirty percent of the world’s dump trucks). The demonstration was attended by hundreds of representatives from mining enterprises and suppliers
of components, with some climbing the steep 7m ladder to reach the cabin of the giant vehicle, posing for photos near its 4m diameter wheels. Of course, they were impressed by its performance offroad. The 3,750hp engine allows 12-15 percent more load capacity, improving coal and iron ore mining efficiency. The latest innovation has taken years to perfect, with the first 320 tonne truck designed five years ago. A reserve of technical possibilities was created — now
implemented on the new model. Several months of thorough tests lie ahead before BelAZ releases the new model on the global market, but orders are already being taken. “The plant can manufacture a 320-360 tonne capacity vehicle monthly,” explains BelAZ’s First Deputy General Designer and Chief Designer for Dump Machinery, Oleg Stepuk. “We are approximately meeting present demand, with our 360 tonne vehicle rivalling anything else on sale on the global market.”
Economy Demand for BelAZ products is reviving, with sales of Belarusian dump trucks skyrocketing. Successful 2008 figures are almost being met, with maximum load capacity vehicles most in demand. In 2009, the plant manufactured about 6-7 vehicles of 220 tonne capacity each month; this figure currently stands at ten. Among the major buyers are Russian mining companies but those in China, Venezuela, Chile, India and Brazil are already demonstrating increased demand. This eloquently testifies that BelAZ has successfully coped with the consequences of the global financial crisis. Of course, its achievements are not accidental. Its designers, technicians and market specialists have had to seriously reconsider their roles and actions. As a result, apart from the 360 tonne vehicle, new models are being launched, reflecting buyers’ needs. Each is more economical, reliable and convenient, offering 240, 160, 136 and 60 tonne capacities. New vehicles can operate in quarries to a depth of 500 metres and can also navigate mountain terrain, in hot and cold weather (down to minus 55 degrees Celsius). To make this possible, vehicles are equipped with special engines, electricity and cabins — tailored to arctic or tropical conditions. They have LED lights (ensuring better visibility) and other features setting them apart from rivals’ vehicles. New generation dump trucks are designed to have an operational life of ten years, with haulage reaching one million kilometres. BelAZ staff are already working on new models, which rather resemble the stuff of fantasy. Being tested was an automated dump truck (no driver needed), which overcame all obstacles smoothly, like the other wheeled giants. The designers explain that it is operated remotely via radio signals, with the controller sitting at a monitor in a comfortable room several hundred metres away. A TV camera relays images of the road, allowing the vehicle to be steered by joystick. The model has been created at the request of deep
quarry mining companies, who need vehicles to work in unpleasant conditions of heat, smoke and dust, which are difficult for drivers. The design is the result of joint efforts by scientists from Belarus’ National Academy of Sciences and those from BelAZ, who have also developed another model suitable for challenging conditions, able to see through thick fog and dust, even at night. The experimental design is yet to go into production but there is no doubt that it will one day be used in mining pits. Belarusian machine builders are ready to break records with load capacities; however, tyres are a constraining factor. Designs allowing greater loads to be borne are soon expected to appear on the global market — enabling BelAZ to produce 420-450 tonne vehicles. A 500 tonne truck is also possible, with Zhodino specialists making preliminary
first quarter of 2010, innovative production in the country rose 2.8-fold against the same period of 2009. Meanwhile, 3.8 times more jobs were created, with 36 new facilities launched (covering the newest sci-tech developments). Minsk Tractor Works is a bright example, being known in dozens of countries. Every eighth wheeled cultivating tractor in the world originates here. In 2009, the plant developed a unique model, which won a silver medal from the German Agricultural Society, which organises the globally acknowledged Hanover Agricultural Fair each autumn. As a result, Minsk Tractor Works is ranked alongside such legends as John Deere and Claas. It is the first company within the CIS to receive such a high award in the twenty year history of the Hanover event, showing international recognition of the Belarusian school of tractor building.
Why did the ‘Belarus-3023’ impress the judges so much? In fact, for the first time worldwide, fluid
electromechanicaltransmissionwasused in addition to its powerful, economical diesel engine — allowing significantly enhanced productivity and reducing fuel consumption by 15-20 percent (in comparison to traditional models). Additionally, the tractor can be used as a movable electro-station in remote and underdeveloped locations. In 2010, the Minsk Tractor Works plans to manufacture at least 20 such vehicles for testing in real conditions, ready for batch production. calculations at the request of a Chilean company. Reduced fuel consumption is another focus, with some achievements already evident, allowing Belarusian dump trucks to meet the strictest requirements. Such work is typical for Belarusian machine builders, who are relying on their innovative products to allow them to compete on the domestic and foreign markets — essential, since Belarus’ economy is of an open character. In the
Its specialists are convinced that these will prove popular, since the ‘Belorus-3522’ has already experienced success. The 350hp vehicle is able to operate with devices of up to 12m in width and over a thousand have been produced, at the request of agricultural companies. Largely owing to these products, Belarus’ exports rose over 20 percent in the first quarter of 2010. By Vladimir Bibikov
The notions of ‘alternative energy’ and ‘renewable energy sources’ are no longer unusual, since our constant need for energy has pushed us towards new avenues
onstantly rising prices for traditional energy have inspired the use of local, accessible, renewable energy sources. It will soon be possible to calculate the profitability of any facility in advance. The first Belarusian information-analytical system on renewable energy will soon be launched. “Our University is now developing a system to automatically analyse the efficiency of renewable energy use at regional level — as part of a project on renewable energy. The task is to be practically implemented in Dzerzhinsk district of Minsk region. If the results of this pilot project are a success, we’ll implement it countrywide,” explains the Rector of the International Sakharov Environmental University, Prof. Semen Kundas. “By the end of 2010, we’ll have completed
our information-analytical system. This will include a geo-informational map of the region, indicating the potential of renewable energy sources such as water, wind, sun and bio-resources. Additionally, a ‘calculator’ will be available, enabling us to define the most profitable and pay-for-itself sources for each location.” Anyone can ask for advice — including farmers and representatives of companies. Remote help is also available — via the Internet. “We can choose the most appropriate source of renewable energy for any natural condition,” explains Mr. Kundas. “In some places, it’s more profitable to use bio-gas; elsewhere, solar energy is more viable. Micro and mini hydroelectric power stations suit other places.” The International Sakharov
Environmental University is compiling a database of suppliers of ‘alternative’ equipment and services, showing the basic technical characteristics of these products and prices. Meanwhile, the Volma International Innovative Ecological Park has been set up in Dzerzhinsk district, as a demonstrational site for renewable energy. Last year, a training-hotel complex was built there with an autonomous energy supply system (using ecologically clean fuel, including wood burning furnaces). The establishment of an innovative centre (offering consultations) at Volma is now being agreed with Belarus’ Education Ministry. In addition to choosing ‘green’ energy, specialists will be able to teach us how to breed quickgrowing willow (as a source of bio-fuel) and how to use Californian worms to produce bio-humus. Ecological tourism could also be developed there in the future. Volma is among the most beautiful corners in Belarus, boasting a rich history. The site now offers field training classes and seminars. Students pass internships there while specialists improve their qualifications. From the new academic year, a chair specialising in renewable energy will open at the complex. By Olga Osipenko
Soon it will become possible to calculate the most beneficial and compensating alternative energy sources catering for certain location
Illustrative sites Belarus’ experience in housing construction highly praised by CIS states
By Irina Pimenova
By Natalia Verbitskaya
quota for trucking permits in 2011 has also been raised. The parties stated that there are no problems in organising passenger transportation between our countries. The intergovernmental agreement on highway services — which came into force on June 24th, 2004 — allows transport to operate without permits where it is occasional. The Belarusian delegation has asked Finnish experts to provide assistance in simplifying the visa issuance procedures for international carriers, reducing the number of documents required to obtain a visa and extending the validity of visas. The Foreign Ministry of Finland is to be asked to help settle these issues.
elegation heads participating in the 29th session of the CIS Intergovernmental Council for Cooperation in the Construction Industry have highly praised the experience of Belarus in housing construction. Russia’s Minister for Regional Development, Victor Basargin, noted that all CIS countries began developing their construction industries at the same time, under almost the same conditions. Mass construction of housing was the most topical issue. He praised Belarus’ experience in housing construction, especially the development of small towns, noting that it is of interest to Russia. “We should not only draw people into our megapolises but also encourage people to stay in rural areas, small and medium-sized towns. Belarus is implementing a rural revival policy and we should make use of it too. I think we’ll develop a similar strategy in Russia in the coming year,” Mr. Basargin said. The First Deputy Minister for Regional Development and Construction in Ukraine, Anatoliy Berkuta, noted that Belarus’ price policy regarding housing construction merits attention. “Belarus has managed to solve the most important problem, reducing the price of each square metre. Land use planning and management is financed from the budget in Belarus, which comprises the lion’s share of cost — around 55-60 percent. As a result, you’ve really eased the situation for those taking out loans to build accommodation. Ukraine can learn from this experience,” he said. The official added that, at present, Belarus and Ukraine share similar approaches to the quality of constructed accommodation; social apartments built in Ukraine equal those in Minsk in their level of finish.
Moving forward Belarus and Finland to develop co-operation in the field of road transportation
n agreement has been reached at a session of the Belarusian-Finnish Committee for International Highway Services, recently held in Helsinki. Taking part in the session were representatives of the Ministry for Transport and Communications of Belarus and the Association of International Road Carriers — BAMAP. The agenda of the session discussed trade and economic co-operation between our two countries, as well as cargo and passenger transportation by Belarusian and Finnish carriers within the territory of our two states. Finland upheld a proposal by the Belarusian delegation to increase quotas for permits in 2010. The preliminary
Competitive height American investors to take part in ScientificProduction Association Planar’s large-scale innovation project
Made by Planar
t present, Planar is implementing a large-scale project to develop cutting-edge equipment to manufacture microelectronic devices. The quality of these products has already been highly praised by investors. “Contracts and agreements have been signed with American companies which are ready to promote Belarusian products on the CIS market,” the Director of the Belarusian Innovation Fund, Anatoly Grishanovich, says.
Planar is now exporting to Russia, Korea, China and elsewhere. Mr. Grishanovich is convinced that partnership with American investors opens up an additional opportunity to expand the sales markets. The official notes that companies from Russia, Switzerland and the Netherlands are among the major investors in Belarus’ innovative technology development. Joint projects help create new materials and find new innovative solutions, as well as set up new high-tech manufacture. “We are facing a challenge to create a sector of competitive products using the technologies of the fifth and sixth technological paradigms. We have good preconditions for that. Belarus has recently done a lot to stimulate and enhance the appeal of innovative activities; the improvement of the legal framework is just one of the measures,” Mr. Grishanovich adds. Planar is a single scientific-technical complex of enterprises which — using modern technologies — develops and produces optical-mechanical, control and measuring, and assembling equipment for microelectronics. The association manufactures equipment for the making of highly-precision mask-works for integral circuits, printed-circuit boards, highresolution microscopes and computer complexes on their basis, automates and semi-automates of cutting by diamond discs, probe stations, chip assemblies and facilities for thermal and ultrasound dewelding of microcircuits. The parameters of the domestic equipment fully meet the samples by leading global producers. By Olga Belyavskaya
Falling rates Loans become cheaper, with bank deposits rising in volume
he National Bank of Belarus has again reduced its refinancing rate by 0.5 percent — to 12 percent per annum. This is the third reduction of its base rate this year; according to experts, it’s a good sign for the economy. According to financial analyst Yekaterina Smirnova, last year, the refinancing rate was raised to restrain inflation. Over the first four months of this year, inflation stood at 3.1 percent — half that of the same period of 2009. Meanwhile, GDP rose, with public deposits in Belarusian roubles and foreign currency also rising at Belarusian banks. These have enabled the National Bank to reduce its refinancing rate, which helps make loans cheaper for enterprises and the public, while promoting the development of the real sector of the economy. Of course, cheap loans also bring lower savings interest rates. Previously, some Belarusian rouble saving accounts offered up to 25 percent income per annum. Now, 20 to 22 percent is the most available. However, interest rates for deposits in Belarusian roubles are still attractive, considerably surpassing the level of inflation and the return on deposits in foreign currencies. According to analysts, by midsummer, loan rates should have fallen to 15 percent. “This is quite possible,” asserts Ms. Smirnova. “If the economy doesn’t suffer from any turbulence, the banking system will be ready for such a reduction.” By Andrey Pimenov
To Istanbul via Minsk
onditions for the further development of the project have been recently discussed in Turkey by railway representatives from Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania — via whose territories the train currently passes. Extending the Viking’s route would support transcontinental ties with Scandinavian and Black Sea countries (as part of the 9th trans-European transport corridor) while strengthening B elarus’ transit and export potential. Major Turkish operators, forwarding agents and businessmen are already interested in container shipment on the Viking train. Specialists believe that the route’s extension could help attract additional cargo flow from Scandinavian countries, the Caucasus, Asia and the Middle East. D u r i n g t a l k s i n Tu r k e y, Belarusian Railways demonstrated its transit potential, focusing on its technological improvements to transporting cargo via direct, highspeed trains, primarily container trains. Such transportation should significantly reduce delivery times while ensuring reliability. At present, internat iona l t ransp or t cor r idors p ass v i a
Belarus: ‘East-West’ (Berlin-WarsawMinsk-Moscow-Nizhny Novgorod) and ‘North-South’ (Belarus, Russia’s Kaliningrad region, Lithuania, Ukraine, Moldova and Greece). Jointly with other countries, Belarusian Railways has already successfully realised a number of projects to launch modern container trains along these corridors, such as the ‘Eastern Wind’ (Berlin-Minsk-Moscow), the ‘Mongolian Vector’ (Brest-NaushkiMongolia-China) and the ‘Kazakh Vector’ (Brest-Iletsk-Arys). By Olga Belova
Viking container train passing via Belarus to extend its route to Turkey
Region of keen interest French investors keen to develop hotel business in Grodno, notes Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Belarus, H.E. Mr. Michel Raineri, during his visit to Grodno region
r. Raineri has met the authorities of Grodno city and region, discussing prospects for co-operation. In particular, the Ambassador is keen to develop our bilateral relationship in the sphere of agriculture, learning about investment proposals for French businessmen in various branches. According to Mr. Raineri, French businessmen aren’t yet actively investing in Grodno region enterprises because of a lack of information about Belarus and the Grodno region. He stresses that companies need to present their opportunities more widely and believes that the geographical location of the region, which borders the EU, is a major attraction. In particular, the first investments could appear in the hotel business; several French firms are already considering projects. T h e Gro d n o p ar t i c ip ant s of the meeting note that agriculture (including the creation of agricultural enterprises using French investments in the region) and industrial production are the most promising areas for their collaboration with France. There is also potential to expand educational and cultural ties. By Yelena Stasyukevich
World of agriculture
International specialized exhibition ‘Belagro-2010’ offers a lot to see
High-tech for agrarians
Future agricultural production demonstrated in Minsk
n early June, Minsk hosted the 20th International Belagro2010 Exhibition. The traditional agrarian forum gathered 430 participants from 19 countries and widely showcased technical and technological novelties of agricultural production. Stands from Belarus, Russia, Austria, Belgium, Germany, the USA, France, the Czech Republic and other countries took their place within the BelExpo National Exhibition Centre, on Pobediteley Avenue, and at the Gastellovskoe agricultural company demonstration site. They embodied today’s advanced international experience of agro-industrial machine building, showing the latest ecologically friendly materials and alternative technologies.
The exhibition was attended by heads and representatives of agrarian agencies from Russia, Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Lithuania, Latvia, Moldova and Ukraine. “This proves that the solution of food problems is topical for many countries; our wellbeing relies on it. The agro-industrial complex is supervising this task,” noted Belarus’ Deputy Prime Minister, Ivan Bambiza, at the opening ceremony.
Food security regulations
Every year, Belagro’s agricultural fair expands. Belarus has ensured its food safety and is now interested in extending exports of food and agricultural raw materials. Moreover, the global food market is advantageous to us, as
food prices are growing. According to data from the Agriculture and Food Ministry, in the first three months of 2010, its organisations’ exports stood at $478m — up 30 percent on last year. The geography of deliveries embraces about fifty countries, from neighbouring Russia to distant Venezuela. However, modern machinery and advanced technologies are needed to further increase foreign sales. Participation in the exhibition gives enterprises the chance to find new partners. International producers of agro-machinery show more interest in Belarus every year, recognising that we are a dynamically developing country, with a strong agricultural branch. German LTV has again shown its highly-productive agricultural Case, New Holland and Impulsa machines in Minsk, which already have a good reputation in Belarusian fields. Stotz Agro-Service — a Belagro regular — demonstrated its foreign made tractors and grain harvesters while French agricultural companies sent their representatives to Minsk for the first time. France’s collective stand was organised by famous French association АDEPTA, which unites 230 French companies and
World of agriculture specialists from the agricultural and food sectors, in addition to geneticists, producers of agricultural materials and those processing and packaging food. Foreign firms’ interest in Belarus’ agricultural branch extends beyond trade, as the Agriculture and Food Minister, Mikhail Rusy, notes. Companies from over 20 countries are investing in Belarus’ agrarian sphere, with the processing branch experiencing most popularity. Mr. Rusy believes that, over the next five years, more foreign investments will flow into Belarusian agriculture. Partnership with Iran regarding planting vegetables and berries is being considered and Russian investors are helping fund the construction of dairy farms. Meanwhile, the Dutch are building a pig breeding complex. Talks about new joint projects with Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia are underway and, probably, in the near future, new joint ventures will be established with Russian companies — in the dairy industry. One of the first such firms — set up jointly with Russian Unimilk — is operating in the Pruzhany district. However, strict demands are placed on potential partners, who must offer the most advanced technologies. “Terms of co-operation are strict,” says Mr. Rusy. “We require new technologies from raw material suppliers and milk and dairy producers. Technology should ensure that, over the next ten years, we can compete advantageously abroad.”
Sciences have developed about 80 percent of all models. The exhibition gathered all five scientific-practical agrarian science centres: involved in land processing, food, animal breeding, potato and vegetable growing and the mechanisation of agriculture. Their displays were on show at Gastellovskoe’s site, near Minsk. The Scientific-Practical Centre for the Mechanisation of Agriculture had the largest stand, with 60+ machinery and equipment models on display. Regarding their technical characteristics, many rival western analogues while boasting a lower price. Previously, it took two years to develop new machinery and about the same period again to conduct testing. Now, the whole process has been cut to 18 months. According to the Director General of the Scientific-Practical Centre for the Mechanisation of Agriculture (of the NAS), Vladimir Samosyuk, scientists plan to further reduce design and production time. Since Bealgro-2009, the Centre has experienced much success, with a contract signed to supply Europe with linen-harvesting machinery (manufactured jointly with French Dehont Technologies); this is the result of the Centre’s collaboration with the French for
Know-how for fields and farms
Belarusian enterprises producing agricultural machinery boasted the most interesting, rich stands at the fair. Two decades ago, our country manufactured only tractors (out of a long list of agricultural machiner y); today, almost 90 percent of the machinery used by domestic farmers is produced in Belarus. S c i e nt i s t s f r o m t h e National Academy of
Time being an important indicator
two years. Their partnership began with an agreement to jointly produce linenharvesting machinery for Belarusian villagers. However, after visiting the Centre’s plant and seeing its high-tech facilities, the firm ordered the production of components for its own assembly in France. This is not the only example of Belarusian agricultural enterprises’ fruitful partnership with foreign companies. Interestingly, in most cases, contacts were first established at Belagro. For example, the forum has led to the launching of large facilities in Belarus producing pesticides and fungicides, with August-Bel JSC as an investor. The Head of August’s representation in Belarus, Sergey Uskov, says that over $60m has been injected into Belarusian production. Eighteen chemicals using modern technologies have been mastered. “Foreign companies are convinced that agriculture, agricultural machinery building and processing are intensively and dynamically developing in Belarus,” notes the Deputy Agriculture and Food Minister, Vasily Pavlovsky. “They are ready to co-operate with Belarusian manufacturers on equal terms, while we’re keen to set up joint production. A number of joint ventures are to be established this year; the necessary contracts are to be signed in the near future.” Ukraine’s Minister for Agrarian Policy, Nikolay Prisyazhnyuk, has also voiced interest in setting up joint ventures in the agrarian field. “Ukraine is doing everything possible to organise joint production and leasing schemes, to enable B elarusian machinery to operate in our fields.” These examples brightly demonstrate that Belarusian agricultural machinery has high export potential, with developers continuing to create advances. By Lilia Khlystun
Pick up speed in space Belarus is steadily closing a gap with the developed countries in terms of digital technologies
elarus has been steadily re ducing t he dig it a l gap between it and the d e vel op e d c ou nt r i e s recently. Every year, the number of users of broadband Internet is growing. 3G communication has been launched and modern technologies make it possible to ‘speed up’ mobile Internet to 28 Mb per second. Moreover, the present possibilities of digital and interactive TV are obvious… In recent years, the country has made a great breakthrough on the level of national I T br an ch developm e n t . Russian Yandex has recently come to t h e
Belarusian market. It believes that the number of domestic users (in percentage ratio) equals global figures. The Head of the largest search system on the post-Soviet territory, Andrey Volozh, says that about 37 percent of Belarusians are already ‘on the Internet’; importantly, these are not sporadic but active users. The Communications and Informatisation Minister, Nikolai Pantelei, is convinced that, by late 2010, at least 1.8m subscribers to bread-band access will be registered in Belarus. In turn, Giprosvyaz JSC believes that, by 2015, the figure for the country will exceed 3 million. Mobile Internet users are also worth mentioning. Analysts say that, by late 2015, about 50 percent of handset users will access Internet via their phones. At present, the level of mobile telecommunication penetration in Belarus is high; according to the statistics, 105 handsets for every 100 citizens. Meanwhile, tough competition between the existing GSM-operators ensures regular launches of new tariff plans and reduction in their cost. Meanwhile, there are no grounds to say that mobile
Internet is less popular now. The Head of Mobile TeleSystems, Vladimir Karpovich, says that about 1.5m MTC subscribers use wireless Internet access. He adds that Belarus is now on the edge of the technological revolution which is likely to significantly speed up the attraction of new members to the ‘digital society’. The talk here is not only about third-generation communication (3G) — which the company is actively developing now — but its further evolutionary stages. Operators are already thinking over the prospects of receiving a frequency range to launch fourthgeneration communication — LTE. The officials from the Communications and Informatisation Ministry are convinced that Belarus’ lagging behind the West in its technological development acts as an advantage for our country. Operators have possibilities to create broad-band mobile networks and launch new 3G communication equipment which will enable them to shift to 4G via a mere change of software. The Communications and Informatisation Ministry declared that, by 2015, the country is due to finish work on the creation and development of basic components of the information-communication infrastructure — to develop the state system of telecommunication services. “This will include the all-state information system (integrating resources with the aim of providing electronic services); the single protected medium for information interrelation; the state system of public key management; the system of identification of individuals and companies; and the payment gateway integrated with a single information space (to ensure payment transactions),” says Mr. Pantelei. According to the Communications and Informatisation Ministry’s calculations, each family should have at least one computer with Internet access to ensure efficient access to e-government services. By Grigory Anikeev
Banner on the Web
or example, last year was record-breaking to some extent for Internet advertising. ZenithOptimedia Worldwide media agency has calculated that this segment has outstripped magazines for the first time and accounted for 12.6 percent of the world advertising market. By 2012, Internet is likely to account for 17 percent of the global advertising market. Analysts note that, in Q1 2010, banner advertising budgets in Belarus have increased by 23 percent on last year’s figures (in rouble equivalent). According to Belarusian agency Mernik Internet Research, the growth has occurred primarily because of the increasing budgets of traditional advertising leaders — mobile operators, and the generosity of companies selling basic goods and household appliances. “Additionally, in 2010, real estate, education and tourism have demonstrated greater activity in Internet advertising. Unfortunately, advertisers from banking sphere and automobile sellers, which were traditionally considered the ‘locomotives’ of Internet advertising
They say the economic crisis has slightly hampered the development of Internet markets, yet some business areas have stayed afloat and even seen some positive dynamics market, have eased off. At first sight, there are plenty of financial service advertisements on the Internet, yet just 2-3 banks are actively promoting while the rest are merely present on thematic websites with small budgets,” asserts Leonid Muraviev, the Head of Mernik Internet Research. Specialists note that recently the share of Russian websites has significantly increased in the budgets of Belarusian advertisers. The amount of funds ‘sailing’ abroad, has almost doubled while Belarusian websites account for just around 14 percent. There are lots of reasons for such non-patriotism. First of all, sometimes it’s easier for advertisers to advertise on the Russian websites due to their streamlined business processes. Secondly, the activity of companies promoting Russian advertising Internet sites has considerably intensified recently. Over the last six months alone, several representation offices of large Russian portals, successfully selling their advertising services, have opened in the country. In Q1 2010, the tut.by portal still remained a leader among sites working on the Belarusian market, accounting for
29 percent of advertising. The budgets spent by advertisers to place ads on this portal have risen by 33 percent. Russian portal mail.ru is next in line; its budgets have increased by 55 percent. Meanwhile, onliner.by — one of the leaders of the previous years — has worsened its positions and its share has dropped from 7 to 2 percent, while advertising budgets spent on this website have fallen by 60 percent. The leaders also include realt.by (up 23 percent), vkontakte.ru (up 2.8 times), kp.by (up 32 percent), rbc.ru and rambler.ru (up 10 times each). Among the Russian sites, vkontakte.ru is a confident leader (up from 10 to 15 percent), followed by odnoklassniki.ru, although its share has fallen from 21 to 11 percent. Meanwhile, Internet advertising can’t boast ‘rosy prospects’ for 2010. Many advertisers, who traditionally plan their budgets for a year, have decided to reduce their activity. Anyway, the Mernik Internet Research Agency notes that there is currently some tendency towards re-distribution of budgets of Belarusian advertisers in favour of niche and thematic sites. By Alexander Bekhovanov
Ecology such power stations burning the fuel granules, stimulating increased demand worldwide. According to specialists, the consumption of these briquettes is rising by at least 15-17 percent annually worldwide. “Such countries as Germany, Italy, France, Sweden and Finland don’t have enough resources to increase their briquette production,” explains Ly u d m i l a A r i n i c h , Director of Comtechnics (working in the bio-energy sphere). “Belarus possesses rather large amounts of unused timber waste, suitable for biofuel manufacture. It’s an area ripe to be developed by agricultural enterprises — processing straw, husks and other waste into briquettes.” As energy prices continue to rise, the attitude towards wood fuels has considerably changed. Weighty economic and political motifs are being added to its ecological stimulus. Belarusian power engineers aren’t standing aside either. The country is now shifting to local wood chip fuel sources; annually, mini heat power stations are being constructed, designed to burn timber and timber waste. According to power engineers’ forecasts, Belarus will soon be harvesting over 5.5m cubic metres of wood waste each year; at present, over 25 percent of this fuel is consumed by housing maintenance and utility enterprises.
Profits instead of problems
Waste transformed into a resource to manufacture popular goods
i mb e r w a ste — ‘mountains’ of sawdust found near saw mills until recently — is now being turned into fuel briquettes, sold at a profit. The first mini-factories began producing the popular fuel bars in Belarus around 10 years ago; today, there are over 30 such factories: state and private. Most operate on the premises of large saw mills and furniture production facilities, where plenty of sawdust is generated daily. Most of the granulated goods are exported, primarily to the EU, but consumption of such briquettes is rising annually worldwide; these are used to fuel electric power stations and to heat private houses and flats. Belarusians are now purchasing specialised wood burners for their cottages and summer houses (primarily where there is no gas pipeline). These work automatically, with one briquette lasting several days. However, at present, gas is 1.5-2 times cheaper than the sawdust fuel, which costs around 90 euros per tonne (each requires around 7 cubic metres of sawdust).
The granulating technology is rather simple, with sawdust dried in a huge drum before being compressed into briquettes. A big ‘mincing’ machine is used, with facilities operational day and night; they cease only for technical servicing and in cases of failure. The briquettes are, of course, a renewable energy source, allowing electricity generated from burning them to be sold at a double tariff. Accordingly, the number of power plants burning the recycled fuel is quickly growing abroad. The UK plans to construct around 20
By Yevgeny Gubanov
Specialist commentary O l e g DMITROVICH , D e p u t y D i r e c t o r o f C o m t e c h n i c s :
The timber processing industry isn’t ready to process all the timber being grown in our forests, so it makes sense to use low quality resources (unsuitable for construction purposes or furniture production) as wood fuel. It’s also feasible to export this fuel from Belarus to most corners of the world. We have relatively low salaries and little competition at present, so are in an advantageous position. However, prices for timber are growing, which could become a negative factor.
Preferences for innovations Park of Advanced Technologies may be set up in Belarus by late 2010
he Park will unite enterprises in the spheres of optics and electronics, under various forms of ownership,” notes the Chief Scientific Secretary of the National Academy of Sciences, Sergey Chizhik. The Park of Advanced Technologies is likely to gather around 30 laser, optics and electronics firms, where science is of primary importance. A range of preferential terms is envisaged for these companies. “The money left over due to the privileges will be spent by these enterprises on new developments,” explains the Head of the Nano-Optics Laboratory at the NAS’ Physics Institute, Sergey Gaponenko.
Foreign companies keen to invest in bio-technology
he Deputy Chairman of the Presidium of the National Ac a d e my of S c i e n c e s of Belarus, Sergey Rakhmanov, has told journalists that Russia and Asian countries are ranked among Belarus’ potential partners in the biotechnological sphere. In particular, negotiations are being conducted with India and China on a wide range of issues. Co-operation with Arab countries is under discussion, with the latter keen on Belarusian innovations in agricultural manufacture. Talks are also underway with European states, including Germany. “Belarus is focusing on finding investors to finance projects while guaranteeing sales of final products, including on foreign markets,” Mr. Rakhmanov explains.
Belarus has approved its Innovative Bio-technologies programme, which envisages the creation of large manufactures, including high-tech facilities. These will appear on the premises of the NAS, Belbiopharm Concern and the Ministry of Agriculture and Food. Such production facilities are to use foreign investments, with several European countries already making proposals. “We’re interested in innovations which enable us to speed up farming (using cellular technologies), while producing crops resistant to pests and diseases, with high efficiency,” notes Mr. Rakhmanov. Projects in the pharmaceutical branch are also planned, with Belarusian medicine embracing synthesised biotechnological products.
The implementation of the project will inspire domestic photonics, as well as the application of nano-technologies in optics, opto-electronics and electronics. The new structure will help create new jobs while increasing the output and export of science-intensive products. The Park will also ensure favourable conditions for the integration of Belarus’ science-intensive enterprises into transnational corporations. The maintenance and development of laser, optic and electronic manufactures will ensure the growth of Belarus’ international authority as a producer of contemporary technology, while deterring the brain drain of qualified specialists abroad.
By Anna Verbitskaya
By Irina Bogomazova
Everything according to plan In 1982, the city authorities drew up a general plan envisaging the development of the capital for twenty years ahead
owever, life introduces its changes too actively and steps have now been taken to avoid long queuing at high institutions to approve supplements and alterations. Minsk City Executive Committee has been allowed to independently introduce changes which don’t contradict key points of the city’s development. “Some are mistaken to think that the general plan describes in detail where, when and which house will be demolished or built. However, the general plan is a strategic document; it’s not rigid and static,” explains the Chairman of Minsk City Executive Committee’s Architecture and Urban Development Department, Victor Nikitin. Stifled by compact planning (i.e. neighbouring Vilnius’ territory is two times larger but the city has only onethird of the residents in comparison to our capital) Minsk has outgrown the borders of its ring road. By 2030, it may extend from 350sq.km to 550sq.km. Then the city won’t develop territorially. It w a s d e c i d e d t o restrict its population, which shouldn’t exceed
2m people. Back in 1982, they forecast that, by 2000, 2.1m residents will live in Minsk; however, the forecasts weren’t fully correct, since now Minsk’s population doesn’t exceed 1.8m. The capital is growing; unfortunately, this is due to the inflow of residents from outside Minsk rather than a rising birth rate. Victor Nikitin, the chief architect, approving the project
When choosing between Zaslavl, Logoisk, Dzerzhinsk and the other candidates for Minsk’s satellite-towns, preference was given to Smolevichi. The experimental residential district which should appear there will enable us to determine whether Minskers wish to live in the suburbs. At present, the authorities doubt this, noting that it’ll be difficult to push anyone to move from Minsk. Either definitely privileged housing, or conditions close to those in the capital, should be provided. Now, around 20sq.m is available for each urban resident on average; by 2030, this figure should reach 32sq.m — meeting the European s t a n d a rd s . T h e e c o l o g i c a l situation is also likely to improve, since Minsk is actively moving factories to the suburbs. 23 enterprises are to be removed from the city centre; in total, around 200 manufacturing facilities don’t meet environmental parameters. According to the general plan, open spaces in the Belarusian capital will be expanded to 14,600 hectares. New public gardens, parks, boulevards and increased forest-park zone will
infrastructure Citye enable Minskers to spend more of their leisure time in the open air. Those who pollute the environment will have their own standards. Although Mr. Nikitin admits that no European city has ever managed to cope with the growth of automobiles. It’s planned that each Minsk family will possess one car. This means that 380 car places should be built for each 1,000 flats. Additionally, the number of traffic roundabouts will be increased, with several streets being expanded. Another approved project is the construction of the second Minsk ring road. It will appear in 2013-2015 and will be located 10-15km from the city boundaries, so is likely to be called a ‘relief road’. Minsk didn’t abandon its previous plans to turn some central streets into pedestrian areas. The chief architect believes that streets can be ‘closed’ when social infrastructure is well developed there, including a network of stores and cafes. Then Minsk may acquire its own ‘Arbat’. At present, the Upper Town will become the first prohibited place for automobile transport. The historical centre, which will become pedestrian in summer, will be graced by stylised city guardians (true guardians of order, not dummies). In August, the construction of an aqua-park will begin at the water storage reservoir in Drozdy. These entertainment facilities — boasting 19,000sq.m — will be unique even for Europe. Construction is to be finished by 2012. The ‘Lido’ complex will grace Pobediteley Avenue with a trade-entertainment and sporting centre. A fourstorey building will house a cinema hall, a bowling hall and two large trading centres, with an ice rink on the upper floor. The complex is to open within two years. The chief architect notes that, over the recent years, the number of people wishing to invest in the development of sites in the capital has decreased. Dreamers and ‘seagull architects’, promising to inject exorbitant amounts of money, have left, with only real projects remaining. By Vyacheslav Benediktov
odern complexes shall be built here in addition to the capital’s zoo and Minsk’s 900th Anniversary Park. “A ‘Disneyland’ style site is to appear. Chizhovka-Arena cultural-entertainment and sporting complex shall be built. Additionally, the zoo is to gain a third section and the Belarusian Heritage Ethno-Cultural Centre is to appear. Meanwhile, Minsk’s 900th Anniversary Park will gain a new ideology of development,” explains Minsk’s Mayor, Nikolai Ladutko. Speaking at a recent meeting at the Mayoral Office, he noted that it will be a modern, attractive and, importantly, profitable recreational area for the city.
Just another colour Belarusian Disneyland being built in Minsk’s Chizhovka residential suburb Chizhovka-Arena will be able to host 7,000 people, welcoming international level championships, offering various sports and concert facilities at a high level. Apart from its modern ice arena, it will have basketball and volleyball courts, a conference hall and a restaurant seating 200, as well as other leisure areas. The Belarusian Heritage Centre will be unique for Minsk, covering 35 hectares. Its open-air museum is to promote the preservation and development of Belarusian culture and the extension of the tourist services market. Knightly palaces, bakeries, a mill, thematic areas and pavilions will reveal Belarus of old, delighting history lovers. All periods of our history are to be brought to life, including the ‘Capital City’ pavilion dedicated to the old principalities; it will feature a
fortress wall with gates, a voevoda’s house and other objects from past times. At the ‘Village Yard’, anyone will be able to celebrate the festivals of Kupalle, Kolyady and Maslenitsa while ‘Pan’s Mansion’ is to recreate the life of the 18th-19th century gentry, offering horse riding. A forest and natural environment site should also attract interest, as will a fisherman’s home, the house of a marsh witch, a beehive yard and small open-air cages of animals. Each area will have its own mood. Meanwhile, the ‘Famous People of Belarus’ pavilion and an exhibitioninformation centre of technical achievements are to demonstrate the feel of modern Belarus. The construction of the Ethno-Cultural Centre’s transport infrastructure is to start next year. By Oksana Shikut
Dynasty ‘Parent’ of the dynasty — Anna Slabova (Novikova) — shown during her school days
awarded the degree of a home teacher’. Soon after, the October Revolution of 1917 began and she taught Sunday classes for workers.
f course, there are plenty of people in more ‘modest’ professions — needing no publicity or celebrity status — who keep faith with the business of their forefathers. They build on the experience accumulated by their family and can achieve significant professional heights. The Korshikov-Kochnevs are a wellknown teaching family in Vitebsk, having been in the profession for 409 years (12 teachers in all). They even lecture abroad; one of today’s family members — a young nuclear physicist — lectures at a Swiss university. In the past, they’ve worked as ordinary village teachers; one headed a Polosk school. Another was Rector of Moscow State University of Railway Engineering. NadezhdaKorshikova—aspecialistat Vitebsk’s Oktyabrsky district’s Education Department — tells us about her husband’s grandmother, Anna Slabova (Novikova). “We have a document stating that she graduated from the pedagogical class of the women’s gymnasium (of Prince Oldenburg’s orphanage) in 1915 in Petrograd.” The certificate reads that ‘lady Anna’ knew her Bible and arithmetic well and diligently studied history, mathematics and French. She ‘was
Lyubov Patsevich — who worked as a village teacher). “I loved her erudition and ability to capture your attention,” Ms. Korshikova says with warmth and gratitude. She began her career in Polotsk District, where she met her husband, Fiodor Korshikov. In 1976, he was an assistant at Vitebsk Pedagogical Institute’s Physics Department. The establishment is a university now and Mr. Korshikov is an associate professor
Teaching for over 400 years In some families, professions are inherited. Such dynasties often become famous, especially if they are involved in painting, singing or acting
During the Great Patriotic War, she worked at a blockaded Leningrad enterprise and, after the war, was employed by a kindergarten. “She was always calm and collected, determined and very patriotic,” recollects Ms. Korshikova. “There was an impression that her classical education was so strongly rooted in her that it went uninfluenced by the hard war years or the passing of time.” Ms. Korshikova finished secondary school in Vitebsk region’s Verkhnedvinsk district, gaining a medal and entering the Belarusian State University’s Geographical Department (under the influence of her aunt —
at its Department of Theoretical Physics and Astronomy. “The prestige of a teacher in the 1970s was unshakeable. Their knowledge was viewed as the key to well-being in life,” adds Nadezhda. “From the first days of working as a teacher, I felt sought-after, so I never regretted my choice of profession.” Ms. Korshikova’s two sons graduated from the Masherov Vitebsk State University’s Physics Department. Elder son Pavel has headed a secondary school in Vitebsk for the past two years. “My parents did not insist on my entering a pedagogical university. There was no need in fact. In childhood, I read my
Generation father’s books on recreational physics and exact sciences with huge interest, as if they were fantasy or adventure novels. Physics is probably my fate.” Pavel has completed two Master’s Degrees: in mathematics and pedagogics. Speaking of whether his greatest passion is science or teaching, he notes, “I love being a director!” He then adds, “Seriously, we’re always learning. In order to lecture on the best achievements in physics or IT,
families, people approach the profession with more consideration,” believes Natalia Kozlova, a chief specialist at the Regional Committee of the Trade Union for Workers of Education and Science (which initiated the event, jointly with the Regional Education Department). “They should have a sense of their own significance. We plan to further support these families for whom teaching is more
Youngsters represent their country
The Korshikovs attend the Vitebsk teaching families gathering
or to head the department, I must keep up with the latest trends. I have to read a great deal, browse the Internet and publish articles in magazines.” Pavel’s grand-uncle was Rector of Moscow State University of Railway Engineering from 1955 to 1980; he was an academician and had his own room in a Moscow’s flat. Meanwhile, Pavel loves to work at his summer house. Those from Vitebsk region are organising a meeting uniting 24 teaching families, aiming to enhance the prestige of teachers and encourage others into the profession. Some families boast 4, 5 or, even, 6 generations of teachers. “In such
than a mere profession but is their fate and vocation.” Vitebsk teachers are already liaising with Russian colleagues and now wish to organise an international meeting of teaching families, exchanging experience and sharing their professional secrets. It would be interesting to know whose families are oldest and most numerous. The Korshikov-Kochnevs could certainly attend and Pavel Korshikov’s daughter may one day join the ranks of teachers. Seven year old Elya is only in the second class at school but has already announced her wish to head a kindergarten. By Sergey Golesnik
In August, Mogilev is to represent Belarus at an international youth exchange project in British Norfolk This will be the second meeting of youth groups from four countries: the UK, the Netherlands, Russia and Belarus. Participants will discuss interesting and important issues while learning about the cultural traditions of the member countries. The first forum took place in 2009 in Murmansk, with Mogilev being chosen as the next venue for 2011. The Belarusian group will include university and lyceum students with knowledge of English. Meanwhile, a desire to be sociable, creative and sporting is obligatory. The Belarusian students are to worthily represent their country, teaching their peers about its history, culture and traditions while taking part in discussions on youth issues. Musical and theatrical performances are planned, alongside various competitions, training courses and excursions. “Participation in youth exchanges enriches our experience of organising international projects while broadening the outlook of our youngsters. They establish friendships with those from other countries and can improve their command of foreign languages,” notes Anatoly Babakov, the Director General of the Youth Voluntary Labour League — a regional organisation.
In a wonderland of unexpected impressions Pripyat Polesie becomes attractive region for tourists
he Pripyatsky National Park has decided to attract tourists with spectacular tours. Belarus’ first wild animal park — Polesie Safari — is soon to open near the village of Lyaskovichi, inviting tourists to ‘dive’ into the world of wild boar, deer, elk and, even, aurochs. At present, around 3,000 hoofed animals live in the park. New routes along the River Pripyat by riverboat and barge have appeared, with motor cruises available to the most remote locations. Our correspondent has also walked along the tourist paths.
Today’s open air cages of animals are the norm but the new safari area also offers the opportunity to see wild animals in their natural habitat. You can observe their behaviour and take photos without having to peer through wire fences. The park covers an impressive 2,000 hectares, so cannot be traversed by foot in a single day. Tourists have access to a road train, able to observe animals from their open carriages, while keeping safe from potential danger.
On visiting Polesie Safari, you soon find that it’s better to keep your distance when ‘communicating’ with wild animals. Wild boar feel at home here — swimming in ponds, snouting moss in search of food or just racing through the forest. There are over 2,000 living here, so the Director General of Pripyatsky National Park, Stepan Bambiza, jokingly calls it the ‘wild boar capital’. 40 feeding grounds have been installed along the entire safari route, bringing the animals closer to tourists. Wild boar families come to investigate the tour buses, being used to the engine noise. National Park staff usually bring corn for them, which encourages them to approach. “The wild boar have eaten 1.5 tonnes of maize over the winter, so they come as a kind of reflex,” explains Mr. Bambiza. “As soon as they hear the engine noise, their appetite is stirred. Looking through our binoculars, we can see their excess saliva dripping!” As a rule, old boar stay away from people, living deep in the forest. Young wild boar live in big families and allow us to come closer. Some are so bold that
Natural environment they even cross the road a few metres in front of the bus or look into the windows by climbing a natural hill. Curiosity is natural for them.
Deer, roe deer and elk in focus…
Deer are more cautious. As soon as the forest ends, we see a whole herd but they don’t come closer. We manage to take a few photos and the whole family immediately gallop away — as soon as their leader smells danger. Several times, we also see some roe deer. They’re quite close to our bus, as if deliberately attracting attention. In fact, a fawn is hidden in the grass, so his mother is trying to draw away any potential threat. As soon as the bus disappears, the fawn jumps out of the grass. We even meet an elk, although it’s very cautious. He stands on the river bank, looking at us as if wondering whether it’s safer to stay on the bank or jump onto another. It’s the perfect moment to take a good shot. Even if your camera is a basic model, you’re guaranteed some super photo opportunities. The organisers of the safari know the animals’ behaviour, including where to find them grazing, which makes it easier for tourists to approach for photos. Foreign tourists keen on safaris will find that this is the best opportunity to dis cover the wonderful mysteries of Pripyat Polesie. Many arrive just to see aurochs; we were lucky enough to see them twice during our trip.
water level is high, you can reach the most picturesque locations — almost inaccessible in the summer. Guests come to see floodplain woods — known far beyond the Belarusian borders. The canals wind through ancient oaks, some struck by lightening, some split in two or burnt. However, they still put forth new, green branches, showing how life continues. Plenty of aquatic birds and waders can be observed during a riverboat trip and, if you’re lucky, you may even spot a wild boar, swimming across the river. Excursions by motorboat are organised by experienced people, since it’s easy to get lost in the water labyrinths or overturn at sharp corners. Fishermen are particularly keen on these places, so additional houses are to be built for them to stay for the night. Moreover, What a fun it is in the wild!
Large groups of tourists usually take steamboat cruises along the River Pripyat. The National Park boasts its own river fleet with ordinary steamboats and one modernised as a comfortable hotel, offering every comfort.
Wi t h t o u r i s m , f a r m i n g a n d forestry developing, Pripyat Polesie could soon transform from a desolate corner into a prosperous region, as proven by the village of Lyaskovichi, which houses the administration of the Pripyatsky National Park. Over recent years, the National Park has built a church, a modern school and a kindergarten, while a social assistance centre for pensioners is currently under construction… One of the central streets — Molodezhnaya (young) — has begun to live up to its title. Once, it housed old, broken houses; now, it boasts modern cottages with young families. Storks love to nest here; their number can hardly be calculated. The new school and kindergarten won’t be left without children. By Yevgeny Zhigunov
Among water labyrinths
seven tourist complexes also offer their services in the National Park.
Undoubtedly, the River Pripyat is one of the major sights of this National Park. It divides the area into two, while fusing the territory with plenty of streams, rivers, marshes and lakes. In spring, the Pripyat overflows 7 to 17km on both sides, creating perfect conditions for riverboat trips. When the
Lakeland region Picturesque places in Belarus’ north-west fascinate at first sight
Looking into blue lakes…
The Braslav Lakes National Park is located near the border with Lithuania and Latvia and, judging by the title, its major sights are its lakes. Standing on the banks of vast Lake Drivyaty, you could be in a
seaside town, with just a narrow passage separating it from small Lake Novyato. Its shores are completely occupied by urban housing. Two more lakes — the picturesque Berezhe and the small Svyattso, connected via a channel— are situated in Braslav’s western outskirts. These are only a few of the lakes ‘generously’ spread through the Braslav district. “No one has managed to calculate the exact number of lakes,” notes Andrey Kudin, Acting Director General of the Braslav Lakes National Park. “There are over 300, with the larger ones named; the smaller ones remain nameless. However, each possesses its own characteristics. Some lakes are so clean you can drink from them; they boast 10m transparency.” Pine woods are found near Braslav's borders, with
some ‘pine islands’ preserved even in urban areas of the towm, which is among the country’s greenest. A long chain of hills runs along Lake Drivyaty, with narrow streets fancily curving round their slopes while climbing upward … A steep hill with a plain, undeveloped peak — Zamkovaya Hill — stands out within the town’s panorama. It houses the citadel, Braslav’s ancient centre, once surrounded by powerful defensive embankments, which remain today. The hill is 15m high and, walking around the citadel’s perimeter, you can see almost all of Braslav from a bird’s eye view. Another place offering wonderful panoramic views of the lakes is Mayak (Lighthouse) Mountain, which is almost 40m high. Braslav residents are always glad to tell their guests the legend of God crossing the land with a huge jug, overflowing with water. Where he spilled some water, the lakes were created, with Snudy and Strusto being the true pearls. Only Lake Drivyaty is bigger, with smart houses standing on its banks. “Previously, only small villages were situated here. Now, many have sold their houses and left for Lithuania, with expensive summer cottages being built on the old sites. Each is worth at least $80,000,” explain local residents.
he numerous lakes and forests of Braslav area delight even the most sophisticated travellers. Many have already experienced this fascination, since this region, rich in natural beauty, is annually visited by over 6,000 tourists, with their number ever rising. One of Belarus’ four national parks — Braslav Lakes National Park — has been founded here.
Recreation The Braslav Lakes National Park, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year, invites us to holiday on the shore of its lakes. If you haven’t yet arranged your summer cottage, look no further. It’s wise to book in advance, as the resort is already proving very popular. “We can accept 180 visitors at any time, at our four tourist facilities,” explains Mr. Kudin. “Moreover, there are 33 tourist campsites within the Park, equipped with everything necessary: garden houses, campfire sites, BBQ grills and firewood. Demand is already outstripping supply.” To ensure everyone’s comfort, the Braslav Lakes National Park is developing a business plan doubling the capacities of its tourist recreation facilities, while ensuring the environment remains unspoilt. Tourists are attracted by its sulphurous springs; Shalkinya, or Zimnik, is the most famous, situated in Okmenitsa. It’s said to possess healing powers so people would come from neighbouring and remote villages to collect the water, which didn’t spoil. Elderly residents note that, once, a tall pine tree grew near the source, rising over the other trees. Its strength was thought to come from the Zimnik, from which its mighty roots were fed, as seen when it was chopped down. “Sulphurous springs enjoy great popularity among tourists,” notes Mr. Kudin. “Accordingly, we have plans to construct spas and preventive therapy facilities. This will mean reducing the National Park’s industrial zone by two hectares. However, we currently lack investors wishing to inject money into these projects.” Braslav area attracts not only Belarusian tourists. Last year, it welcomed around 1,000 travellers from Russia, Ukraine, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and elsewhere; most were keen on active leisure.
Armed with gun, fishing rod and camera
When visiting Braslav area, those keen on hunting and fishing immediately find themselves in a true paradise.
Time to rest!
It’s second only to the Belovezhskaya Pushcha in terms of diversity of wild animals and their numbers. “The hunting service of the National Park was formed from Belarus’ best forestry experts,” Mr. Kudin notes with pride. “Over the last twenty years, we’ve been working hard to preserve and increase the number of wild animals. Our hunting farm offers a whole range of services, which are popular with foreigners; last year, 280 big hunting fans came to stay.” Fishermen’s eyes also shine with joy on coming here, as the Braslav Lakes are home to over 30 fish species. “Fishing fees are a real source of income,” notes Mr. Kudin. “We aim to ensure comfortable conditions for fishermen, rather than large volumes of fish capture.” Eco-tourism is successfully developing in the National Park, with ecotourists enjoying watching elks, wild boar, roe, beavers, foxes and badgers. Meanwhile, 70 percent of the bird species nesting in Belarus are found in
the Park, including rare birds registered in the Red Book.
Braslav district is also famous for its historical monuments and religious buildings. The icon of the Mother of God of Braslav has many legends connected with it. Situated in Braslav Catholic church, it’s considered to work miracles; many pilgrims arrive to bow before it. Maskovichi citadel is a precious site, located in the National Park. In the 12th14th century, a fortified settlement of Polotsk Principality existed on this hill, founded by the Slavs, Balts and Vikings. Jewellery has been found during excavations, now on show at the local history and folklore museum, located in a wooden house. Here, you can find out about the area in detail. The Braslav district truly surprises us with its beauties. After visiting, you’re sure to wish to return to this wonderful area again and again … By Alexander Chernushevich
Spot on the map
City of contrasts Urbanites often grow tired of traffic noise and crowded streets, dreaming of spending just a few days in a tranquil village. Sadly, they don’t always manage to fulfil these fantasies, since they can involve a long journey to reach the countryside. In this respect, Zaslavl residents are lucky, since they enjoy modern multi-storey buildings and enterprises on one side of town and a historical centre of low ancient houses and cosy streets on the other. In fact, you can reach the unusual town-village in just half an hour, by taking the electric train from Minsk
I decided to start with antiquity, crossing the railway track to seek out the wooden houses hidden among green gardens. Street names like Zamkovaya (Castle), Rynochnaya (Market), Velikaya (Greata) and Symon Budny indicate that I’ve found my way. They bear witness to the rich, ancient history of this town. Legend tells us that the town was founded in 985, by Kiev Duke Vladimir Svyatoslavich, who conquered Polotsk. He forced the local governor to give his daughter, Rogneda, to him in marriage, despite her refusal. She then decided to take revenge by trying to kill her husband in his sleep. Her attempt failed and, according to the custom of that time, the husband was given the right to take his wife’s life. Their young son, Duke Izyaslav, stepped in to protect his mother, raising his sword against his father. Vladimir then
decided to forgive his wife and allowed her to return to her native land, together with his son. They settled at the mouth of the River Svisloch, living in a frontier fortress which was named in Izyaslavl’s honour — Izyaslavl. With time, this was shortened to Zaslavl. Many local legends and place names bear the memory of Rogneda, such as the Knyaginka and Chernitsa rivers, whose banks once hosted a monastery founded by Rogneda. She
Spot on the map became a nun or ‘chernitsa’. Today, the site of the fortress where the unruly duchess lived out her exile bears a stone cross recalling the woman who was one of the first in modern Belarus to adopt Christianity.
Our forefathers were building their forts a thousand years ago. My ascent to the ancient 11th century citadel in Zaslavl seemed endless; I was exhausted by the time I reached the top. Imagining the moat which once surrounded the castle, it’s no surprise that Zaslavl dwellers didn’t fear their enemies. In the 16th century, it became the first bastion of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The only entry point was a wooden bridge which could be lowered to allow thoroughfare through the single set of gates. Amazingly, something remains: orange bricks fixed with stones. Another wonder is a church built five hundred years ago within the castle’s walls! Today, its 35m belfry attracts visitors from far away to see the Orthodox Church of the Saviour’s Transfiguration. Initially, it hosted the Calvinist Cathedral, where famous protestant figure and scientist Symon Budny used to preach. It’s said that it was here that he finished translating the Bible into Polish.
Standing on the bank near the church, a wonderful view of the town and its historical centre opens up. It looks like a painting drawn by a talented artist, using a palette of the brightest colours. Above greenery, motley roofs and fences stands another architectural pearl of the town: the Parish Cathedral of the Virgin Mary. Every aspect is simple: stairs, arches and towers. At the same time, it has grandeur: I feel like a small insect beside the 300 year old cathedral, designed by Italian architect Carlo Spampani. It was created upon the order of Church of the Saviour’s Transfiguration, monument of architecture of the XVI-XVII centuries
There are plenty of valuable exhibits in the ethnographic complex ‘Mlyn’. Last century the mill was actuated by the very diesel engine
Antoni Tadeusz Przezdziecki, when he took over governance of Zaslavl.
Big festival for a small town
The Przezdziecki family was one of the most prominent in the Rzecz Pospolita, dreaming for decades of owning Zaslavl County. They wanted to demonstrate the significance and dignity of their family and their dream came true in the mid 18th century. The Sapega family could no longer manage Zaslavl and the town declined, allowing the Przezdzieckis to breathe new life into it. They built a brick factory and set up cloth manufacture, as well as tiling and lime production. They even began breeding Arab and English race horses at Zaslavl stud farm, which frequently won world events. They obtained the right to hold fairs in Zaslavl County, gathering up to 20,000 people, even though Zaslavl itself had no more than 200 residents. It was actually considered to be a borough, since this was its status as part of the Russian Empire. The Przezdziecki family built a family palace and a park, also designed by Italian Spampani. A library, a picture gallery, a
stage for theatre performances, spas, fishing ponds, greenhouses and factories were included, creating a huge estate. It was so costly that the family were obliged to sell much of their land in Zaslavl to cover the financial burden. Unfortunately, only small fragments of the former magnificent palace remain today.
To Zaslavl after flour
Looking at the massive log buildings near the railway station, you can tell they are around a hundred years old. All were erected in 1910 by a well-to-do Zaslavl resident, Mekhedko-Savitsky. The tallest three-storey wooden building is the steam mill, where local people once ground their wheat. Up to 60 carts carrying fifty bags each would sometimes wait near the mill. Just twenty years ago, it was still operational, creating as much noise as a jet plane passing overhead. Now, it’s only open for demonstrative purposes. “Old millstones were placed on the floor at the doorway,” guide Tatiana Orlova tells us. “Entering the building for the first time, you were supposed to make a wish, stepping onto the stone with your right
Spot on the map foot as you did so.” The stones are still there, worn down by thousands of feet. I hope my cherished wish comes true.
So many people came to grind flour at Zaslavl that the queues obliged some to stay overnight. The Mekhedko-Savitsky family built an inn to cater for guests, offering hand washing facilities, straw mattresses and a samovar. The building looks just as it did a hundred years ago. My attention is drawn by a building across the street; its balcony and carved handrails surely indicate it was owned by a wealthy family — but it has no windows and very high foundations. It turns out that it was a barn, designed to be dry so that wheat could be stored — in various boxes, tubs and chests. These were often received by the mill in payment for services rendered. We might think that it was easy for our ancestors to make their journeys by horse — rather than enduring temperamental cars. However, carts and horses also needed attention, with a blacksmith shop (built by the mill owner) clanging in Zaslavl from dawn until sunset. The blacksmiths repaired carts and made axes, scythes and locks for Zaslavl fairs. We rarely hear a blacksmith at work today, except at folk museums, or else where tourists might be invited to hit an anvil with a hammer for fun. The miraculous theatre of Konstansia Shakhovich
As a child, I heard stories about wood goblins, and water and house spirits. I yearned to see these mythical creatures and, a few years ago, my dream came true, thanks to Zaslavl’s Mythology and Wood Museum. Although supposedly for children, the museum is also enchanting to adults. On entering, you find yourself in a wild wood, hearing distant music. In the darkness, green eyes blink here and there. Behind a tree is an old snag-man; according to Belarusian legend, he trips you as you walk through the forest, hoping that you’ll drop berries from your basket. Swamp spirits, wood goblins and house spirits reside at the museum, which also shows us stuffed hares, hazel-grouse, martens, jays and other creatures. It’s a wonderful opportunity to gain acquaintance with Belarusian fauna and flora. The wooden house of the museum is located directly in the woods.
If you want to take up a musical instrument but are having trouble deciding which to chose, Zaslavl can help you. It houses Belarus’ only museum of musical instruments, with rare pipes, violins, zithers, lutes, penny whistles and more on display and played for visitors’ amusement. One corner is home to Vileika master Konstantin Kirget, who lived in the mid20th century. Since resources were scarce at the time, Kirget used anything available to create instruments, including animal bones and tin cans. One from Nescafe is 70 years old.
It’s hard for us to imagine that a single person can manage several puppets during a theatre performance. Besides pulling the strings, all the different voices are needed. The youngest audiences at Zaslavl’s batleika (puppet theatre) — one of the most popular entertainments in the town — often try to peep behind the screen to see how many people are there. Of course, there is only one: Konstantsia Shakhovich. She has dozens of her favourite puppets with her, which she treats like real children. She tidies their hair, sews costumes and creates new roles for them. Konstantsia writes her own plays, such as her rhyming Tsar-Tyrant, Little Red Riding Hood and Farewell to Primary School. These are well known to the young Zaslavl theatre-goers. Even children from Minsk attend her performances. She is one of the rare few who can create the voice of a tyrant tsar, a squeaky imp and a cordial angel. After each performance, she usually chats with the audience, discussing the characters and drawing parallels with real life. “It’s not enough for a child just to see a play,” explains Ms. Shakhovich. “It’s important for them to understand the real message. The bright costumes catch their attention but they should also learn something significant.” Zaslavl’s historical and cultural sites are certainly impressive. Besides puppet performances, you can enjoy theatrical installations showing Maslenitsa and Kalyady festivals, watch knights’ tournaments during the Zaslavl Tocsin event and listen to the annual chamber music festival.
Across the railway track to the town
Crossing the railway track, you see an entirely different life: cars, multistorey buildings, plants and beauty shops. Zaslavl tops the ranking of Belarus’ small towns. However, it has further pages in its history. To tell you more, I’ll need to return to the topic another day. By Lyudmila Minkevich
Path to ancestors National Historical Archives lead way to the past
his year, writer Vladimir Lipsky re-published his bestseller — Belarus’ first and only book on genealogy — I: A True Story about My Family Tree and Yours. He initially became keen on learning about the history of his family during his school days, when he used to gather telephone numbers and addresses of his relatives. Twenty years ago, he arrived at the National Historical Archives in Minsk for the first time; since then, it’s become his second home. “When you’re working with documents, you even forget to eat,” he admits. Who among us remembers their great grandmother? Of course, we can ‘resurrect’ her if we compile a complete family tree. Denis Liseichikov heads the National Historical Archives’ Department for Scientific Use of Documents and Information. I meet him, asking for his help in finding a path to my ancestors and he tells me how to compile a genealogical tree from the archives.
“Before visiting an archive, you need to ask relatives what they know about those who lived 50-100 years ago. You can also go to the cemetery to clarify dates of birth and death of ancestors. When you know the place and year of birth of a person, you can address us. In coming to the archives, you need to be ready to explain everything which might help the search. If we’re seeking data on your great grandmother, we should know her maiden name, place of birth, faith and social position. You shouldn’t include anything which won’t be found in our archives (events after 1917).”
Reference The National Historical Archives
of Belarus was founded on July 5th, 1938. It united documents from archives of courts of justice within the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Rzech Pospolita, chambers of the Russian Empire civil courts and from the archives of magistrates, town halls, district courts, individuals and magnates from the Radziwill, Drutskie and Paskevich families. At present, the archives contain over a million documents.
“If you have plenty of free time and want to find your ancestors yourself, write your application and pay your fee for consultation; you’ll then be allowed to look for information on your ancestors. You’ll be able
Genealogy to go to our reading hall and use our documents. However, I warn you in advance that compiling a family tree takes much time and effort. Hundreds of documents need to be studied and you can face particular difficulties. For instance, some materials will be in the Polish language while peasants in eastern Belarus were registered without their family names. ”
Time — money
“If you’re short of time, you can order your family tree from our archives. Usually, 5-6 archive employees are engaged in fulfilling such applications, with the search conducted only on one family name. If you’re looking for your ancestors from maternal and paternal lineage, you’ll have to pay for two family trees. After the investigation is complete, you’re given a certificate listing all your ancestors, as well as documents proving your kinship. Archive employees can also draw your family tree chart.” What resources can be used to discover the history of your family? Primarily, registers from Orthodox and Catholic churches, as well as synagogues. Before 1917, there were no Soviet authorities in Belarus to register birth, marriages and deaths; church institutions were primarily responsible for this. For example, if someone belonged to the
Registered on lists
Catholic faith, information on him, his wife and children would be placed in the church books, regardless of social status. Ancestors can also be found in military recruiting
lists, since service was compulsory after the militar y reforms of the 1870s. These lists may contain data on someone eligible for military service, and members of their families.
14th century. Must use gloves! The country’s most precious document contains brown
letters on yellow parchment, with lacing from a lost stamp. It is the most ancient rarity kept at the National Historical Archives. Created by Lithuanian Duke Fiodor Koryatovich, who owned lands in Ukraine, it dates back to the 14th century. The parchment can only be handled when wearing white gloves. Relatively small in size, it is kept in a modest office folder in a reliable safe. It found itself among the Nesvizh collection of the Radziwills and then came to Minsk.
The National Historical Archives of Belarus — 55 Kropotkin
Str., Minsk, tel. (+37517) 286 75 23 42. Documents from the Minsk, Vitebsk and Mogilev provinces, from the period of the Russian Empire — 1802 to 1917. The National Historical Archives of Belarus in Grodno — 2 Tyzengauzen Str., Grodno, tel. (+375152) 74 31 04. Documents from the Grodno province, as well as the Vileika, Disna, Lida and Oshmyany districts of the Vilnya province and from the Brest, Kobrin and Pruzhany districts. Important information on fees for archive services, as well as the documents needed to begin work: http://niab.belhost. by/arhiv/uslugi/.
Denis Liseichikov, Head of the National Historic Archives’ Department for Scientific Use of Documents and Information, and Vladimir Denisov, chief register of the Department, investigate the noble origin of the Lutsevich familiy
The archives also refer to noble families. If you’re related to the aristocracy, you’re lucky. Noble lineage is, of course, very special. Once, noble people purposefully studied their family trees — or were obliged to in order to prove their noble origin to the authorities. Materials from these times are useful in finding ancestors. A bright example is the family tree of Belarusian literary legend Yanka Kupala (Lutsevich). The Lutsevich family endeavoured to prove their noble origin from 1802 until the end of the 19th century. We have the family’s correspondence with various institutions and handwritten genealogical charts. According to one chart, we can see Kupala’s ancestors until the 17th century.
As far as the fates of peasants are concerned, among the most important sources are population censuses and census records; the earliest dates back to 1795. Since most Belarusians are descended from peasants, there are few chances to learn about your family tree prior to the 19th century. Exceptions occur when census records mention people born, for example, in the first half of the 18th century.
Information may seem scant but it can help shed new light on the history of your family. When you enter into legal matters held by archives, interesting facts can appear. If your ancestor was a very honest person and had done nothing bad in his life, the documents are unlikely to mention him. However, if your ancestor used to fight, argue or share property, he’ll be mentioned for sure. In one case about fighting, a piece of human beard was kept as material evidence.
Foreigners often address our archives, with letters arriving from Russia, Ukraine, Israel, Poland, the USA, France, the Baltic States, Australia and Argentina. Anyone whose genealogical roots are in Belarus can find their ancestors here. By Viktar Korbut
O tempora! O mores! Olga Bobkova, the Head of the Ancient Acts Department at the National Historical Archives, studies ancient books and manuscripts, restoring the biographies of Belarusians who lived 500 years ago. She can talk for hours about her work. Manuscripts take her on wonderful, exciting time travels
ometimes I think that I ‘resurrect’ people,” she admits. “They ‘revive’, coming to life from the pages of archives. I clearly see pharmacist Matys Chekhovich walking to Minsk Town Hall to meet Yezof Gaftor, a servant of Chancellor Lev Sapega, travelling from Nemiga Street. If someone from that time visited a contemporary flat and saw the cars on our streets, he’d think himself in a bewitched kingdom. Even we ourselves sometimes don’t understand what electricity is or how an engine works. However, we are like our ancestors in our feelings, because changes occur slowly in people. We think that 500 years is a great length of time but it’s only a moment in the grand scale of history. Even in medieval times, the law was sacred, with courts viewing each case objectively. Priest Semen — a clergyman with Slonim’s Prechistenskaya Church — filed a complaint against his servant Lavrish. According to the churchman, Lavrish came to his house to conceal a magic acorn. Fortunately, the court pronounced Lavrish to be innocent. Good didn’t always win over evil though; one mad noblewoman ran her servants’ feet off, made them climb trees and beat them during the February frosts. Another shielded her husband with her body when robbers rushed into the house. Time may march on but our human morals remain the same.”
Filon — Orsha’s headman After reading historical novels by Alexander Dumas and Walter Scott, some people sigh that Belarusian history doesn’t boast such romantic events. However, we do have a history filled with knights’ tournaments, philosophical disputes and unusual adventures. Our ancestors didn’t live on a wild island in the centre of Europe
Art reproduction of V.Vasnetsov’s ‘Tsar Ivan the Terrible’
ur subject for today was a commander, a diplomat and the first Medieval Belarusian writer. His descendant became a model Kmicic knight — Henryk Sienkiewicz’s favourite character. Although he may not be familiar to everyone, his name is closely connected with true legends.
according to general opinion, murdered by the king’s mother, Bona Sforza. Once the king died, the Rzech Pospolita and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were thrown into chaos, with candidates for the throne spinning intrigues. The French Prince Henri de Valois and Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible were the leading contenders.
There’s nothing extraordinary in inviting royal foreigners to take the throne. Moreover, European ruling dynasties are always closely connected by ties of blood and marriage. Those who didn’t want the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to find itself in vassal dependence on the Polish Kingdom spoke in favour of Ivan, as did the Orthodox nobility, who were concerned for their faith. Filon Kmita-Chernobylsky was among those who wished to see Ivan, or his son Fiodor, become King of Rzech Pospolita. Filon had earned a military reputation for bravely defeating Moscow troops near Smolensk and Polotsk and had gathered information about Moskovia, conducting diplomatic negotiations.
Filon was born in Orsha in 1530, earning fame young for his heroic deeds. He was appointed Governor of Oster Fortress, near Kiev, and King Sigismund II Augustus gave him the estates of Chernobylskoye and Orsha. Of course, we shouldn’t idealise politicians and military men. Filon often failed to comply with the law, being cruel as well as courageous and cunning in diplomatic affairs. The most curious part of our character’s life begins on the death of his patron, Sigismund Augustus. The King died without an heir — as described in the legend of the Black Lady of Nesvizh. Sigismund had been in love with beautiful Barbara Radziwiłł who was,
Filon and Ivan the Terrible
‘Three Bogatyrs’ by V.Vasnetsov
However, his plan failed and, in April 1573, the French Prince was elected to the Polish throne. Kmita-Chernobylsky was lucky enough to not be a vassal of the Russian Tsar (known for painfully disposing of those members of his court who failed to complete his tasks). The Tsar simply sent a goat’s head to Filon — showing his assessment of Filon’s diplomatic abilities.
Filon and Henri de Valois
Filon’s attitude towards Henri de Valois may have been similar to that of a heavy metal fan towards a boys’ pop band, but professional politicians aren’t guided by emotions. Orsha headman organised a solemn welcoming ceremony for the monarch. However, the Frenchman’s reign over the ‘wild northern country’ didn’t last long. The son of Catherine de Médici — known to us via Alexander Dumas’ novels — surprised Poland no end with his ‘effeminate’ ways: luxurious attire, cosmetics, jewellery and perfume. He and his court aroused mockery from the rough Polish nobility but this didn’t stop Rzech Pospolita fashionistas from quickly copying the new trends. Meanwhile, Henri didn’t know the Polish
Henry de Valois
language and had no desire to help manage his new country. The King enjoyed himself in revelry every night, while squandering huge amounts of money from the royal treasury. However, he soon tired of his Polish life, and rather older bride, Anna Jagiellonka, and planned a secret escape at night. He organised a feast for his senators to make them drunk and then fled to France to take the throne there — a much more attractive prospect. Henri’s elder brother — French King Charles IX — had died, leaving France’s throne open to Henri.
Filon and epistolary heritage
People’s Poet of Belarus Rygor Borodulin wrote: ‘Kmita-Chernobylsky was sending letters in the Belarusian language to the King, magnates and state officials. He considered the land to be his and didn’t stint on praising it’. The epistolary heritage of Filon Kmita-Chernobylsky is a true treasure, still inspiring us in discoveries. Undoubtedly, Filon possessed literary talent and his letters contain plenty of images and folklore expressions. He was also good at writing political essays. Yefim
Karsky was the first in Belarus to become interested in the Orsha headman’s letters and used them in his fundamental work — Belarusians.
Filon heads intelligence
Filon’s letters contain plenty of references to reports made by his numerous spies in neighbouring states. He headed the intelligence service — filling a role rather like M in the James Bond film series. He ran an especially wide espionage ring in Moscovia, of which Ivan the Terrible was aware. The Tsar took his own strong measures with the help of oprichniki (a private army devoted to the service of Ivan the Terrible and responsible for the torture and murder of many innocent people in Russia). Filon was also effective at questioning his enemy spies of course. Filon’s life contained many secrets and mysteries, which are reflected in the fact that his burial place remains unknown. An epitaph remains, written by Starovolsky, which reads: ‘Dear traveller, a courageous person lies under this stone, famous Senator Filon Kmita of Sarmatia, Head of Smolensk, an experienced warrior and the first of the first’. By Lyudmila Rublevskaya
m not a collector but, nevertheless, I keep theatrical handbills and tickets on my shelf… Each time I see them, when clearing the room, I recall my visits fondly. No doubt, it’s pleasant — especially when they’re designed beautifully and originally. The National Art Museum of Belarus has been organising its contest for the design of the best entry ticket for six years now, inviting all artists, designers and photographers to participate. There’s no age limit. Nikita Manichev, aged under 18, submitted his sketches two years in a row. Last year, his entry even won the People’s Choice Award. Quality is the key, since tickets are used at the museum for a whole year. “The theatre begins with a coat-checkstand while a museum starts with its ticket,” smiles the Director of the National Art Museum, Vladimir Prokoptsov. “This is why we want to give our visitors more than a simple shop receipt — at once crumpled and thrown away. We want to present them with a beautiful ticket which is interesting to keep.”
Designer Sergey Sarkisov’s work named best entry ticket for National Art Museum of Belarus
Really, an entry ticket is the museum’s ‘face’ — a universal document representing the National Art Museum. Of course, depicting a painting by one of the museum’s artists isn’t necessarily the best path, since the museum boasts Western European, Russian, Belarusian and Oriental art in its collection. Accordingly, contest entrants usually prefer to experiment with the façade of the building or a panorama of its expositions. This year, twelve participants submitted 23 works. “Sketches were even sent from Bulgaria,” notes Anastasia Karneiko, who supervises the contest. “The entrant was born in Belarus and studied the design of souvenirs at Vitebsk College. She now lives and works in the Bulgarian capital but often visits our Internet site — where she read about the contest.” Designs are chosen by jur y members’ secret vote. Lecturers from the Arts Academy, artists, designers and art critics award points without knowing the author. As a result, the best entry ticket is chosen and its
author receives a major award. Moreover, the National Art Museum Director has his own award, as does the public: the Audience’s Choice Award. This year, the latter went to Victoria Maevskaya. Meanwhile, the jury and Mr. Prokoptsov were impressed by Sergey Sarkisov’s work, which they considered to be professional in appearance and well-planned. “My friend, who works as a designer, suggested I enter the contest,” Sergey tells us. “I accepted although I had little spare time. However, my friend insisted that I must participate, so I had to try,” he smiles. Mr. Sarkisov works in graphic design, creating branded trademarks, logos, posters, booklets and visual communications. This was his first attempt to draw an entry ticket. “The most complicated stage was developing an idea. I had to make a ticket which would easily show the museum’s activity,” he notes, adding, “I began from the museum’s own history, traditions and architecture.” Sergey wanted to design more than just a creative ticket; he wanted to create
Success an interesting graphical object. “I think the National Art Museum’s entry ticket is aimed primarily at tourists, among others. This is why I tried to reflect modern European graphic design,” he says. Interestingly, Mr. Sarkisov submitted two entries, which differed slightly. He wasn’t pleased with the first and decided to change it; both were favourites and, in the finals, the jury was torn between Sergey’s first and second versions. Sergey frequently participates in national and international contests and often wins awards. Not long ago, he took part in the International Competition of Graphic Design — organised by the Chinese Design Academy; his posters were named among the winners. “The sphere of design has seen changing trends recently,” says Mr. Sarkisov. “This is why it’s important for me to take part in contests and forums, to feel that I’m ‘on trend’.” Mr. Prokoptsov tells us that the winning designs have been sent to the printing house already. Next year, art lovers will see them on their tickets, as they enter the world of pictures and sculptures. By Lyudmila Minkevich
Admired by jury and spectators Charounast choir from Borisov wins festival in Belgium
he prestigious event brought together 127 groups from 27 countries, with Belarus represented by the choir from Borisov. Choir members were aged from 10 to 25, arriving from China, Japan, Singapore, Austria, Italy, Germany and elsewhere. The contest programme included music from various epochs and in different styles, including a compulsory folk performance and a piece of contemporary music from one’s own country. The international jury, which comprised professionals from Belgium, Germany, Norway, the Czech Republic, Austria and other countries, recognised the Belarusian choir’s programme (of 8 songs) as best. The Belarusian River song so delighted the jury and the audience that the young artistes were asked for an encore.
Alongside the major prize, the Belarusian choir has received numerous invitations to perform at concert grounds around the world and to take part in various contests and festivals. The Charounast choir, of the children’s city musical school in Borisov, always participates in its regional choir contest for musical schools, organised once every 3-4 years. Over the last 15 years, it has always claimed victory at this event. The choir regularly tours Poland, Germany, Holland and Belgium. A week before the performance in Neerpelt, the young choir was touring Germany, having been invited. The choir is headed by Lilia and Alexey Maltsevichs, with Yelena Shulga as concert master. By Darya Kozhemyakina
Art market Tastes differ
Art of selling masterpieces Belarusian art market working for domestic and foreign customers
alking through the halls of Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery, I not i c e pl e nt y of masterpieces by Belarus-born masters, including Marc Chagall and Ivan Khrutsky. However, the world’s largest museum doesn’t mention that these prominent painters hailed from Belarus. Of course, this fact isn’t important to the museum. We can be born anywhere; it’s the country which recognises our talent and gives us the opportunity for self-realisation that claims us. Chaïm Soutine, born 100 years ago near Minsk, soon left for Paris
while Minsker Boris Zaborov moved to the banks of the Seine in the 1980s. Both are now claimed by history as French painters. Today, many B elarusian masters stay in their homeland, yet those wishing to buy their artworks have to travel to Berlin or Warsaw. This is because Belarus’ art market is in its infancy. Artists fetch greater prices for their works abroad. However, new private and state art galleries and salons open in Belarus each year; meanwhile, more local people are ready to invest in these artworks. Gradually, we are realising that artworks offer spiritual and material nourishment.
Six months ago, a new gallery opened in Minsk, occupying a unique venue — a former glass-bottle buy-back centre. To stress its orientation towards contemporary Belarusian art, it was named ‘Ў’ — to honour the unique letter of the Belarusian alphabet. Since the letter is unusual, everything hosted by the Ў Gallery is also extraordinary. Outside the gallery, guests are welcomed by brightly coloured, upside-down film posters and an old Zaporozhets car (the smallest and cheapest car of the former USSR). They’re invited to post suggestions regarding the gallery’s future into the car. At present, the Ў isn’t a profitable enterprise; it relies on sponsorship to keep its doors open. However, it’s already a centre of Minsk bohemianism. “In addition to artistic shows, the Ў Gallery hosts literature presentations and creative workshops, as well as artistic evenings, seminars and lectures,” explains Yekaterina Shaternik proudly, who directs the venue. “We have a café and a book store, where we invite visitors to buy or just read anything they fancy.” The Ў Gallery isn’t the most prestigious but is different in showing unusual, experimental works. It caters for a range of tastes and only time will tell which will prove popular. Of course, plenty of galleries exist in Minsk and in our regional cities. The Modern Fine Arts Museum alone regularly hosts exhibitions of new and acknowledged artists. Is this not sufficient for the showcasing of up-andcoming painters and for those keen on high art? “These venues need design improvements,” notes Ruslan Vashkevich, a ‘new wave’ artist. “Museum and galleries are complex, self-funding enterprises.” The Museum of Modern Fine Arts does organise exhibitions; however, and it’s not easy to obtain a place, since the selection process is very strict. The artistic council views candidates with considerable bias.
Art market Road towards fame
Those wishing to see artworks by very famous masters should visit the Art Gallery in Nezavisimosti Avenue. The gallery prefers to work only with members of the Artists’ Union and rarely makes exceptions. It simply doesn’t have enough room to showcase everyone who’d like to see their works on display. At present, the Union of Artists unites 1,200 members. Artists need to hold five national exhibitions to join. S e r g e y T i m o k h o v, D e p u t y Chairman of the Union of Artists’ Organisation of Exhibitions, understands the problem but believes we shouldn’t exaggerate the situation. “The art market in Belarus is still young and ‘narrow’. However, we’ve long sold works abroad. There are many Belarusian painters whose works are popular in the West. It would be unwise not to make use of this opportunity. I won’t tell names but around 30 percent of our members sell their pieces abroad. Other artists, who aren’t our members, also aim to reach potential foreign customers. It’s very easy now, thanks to the Internet. Meanwhile, many painters go to Berlin or Warsaw, taking photos of their works to local galleries. If salon owners are interested, they’ll take 2-3 pieces ‘on approval’. If these sell quickly, permanent co-operation is offered. Naturally, this can result in ‘masterpieces’ being lost abroad, since they remain there. It sometimes
happens that every work by a talented painter will leave the homeland. Think of Boris Zaborov, who emigrated to Paris in Soviet times. He recently donated a single sketch to the National Art Museum, which caused furore. When Belarusians start buying these works themselves, we’ll be able to say we have an established art market,” asserts Mr. Timokhov.
For those who can’t afford Van Gogh
Minsky Vernisazh Trade Fair, located in Oktyabrskaya Street in the centre of Minsk, is another alternative to art galleries. Here, artists earn their daily bread, drawing what is popular and what sells well. In the West, it’s forbidden to copy masterpieces for sale; however, our Minsk masters are happy to copy even Leonardo da Vinci. “I copy reproductions from albums,” one tells us. “I can f u l f i l any ord e r. People want works by prominent artists at home but not everyone can afford a Van Gogh!” Another artist, called Zhanna, explains, “I have a
Sotheby’s catalogue, from which I copy many outstanding pictures.” She’s selling works depicting views of Venice, Paris and street carnivals. She makes her own frames and is ready to offer discounts. Foreigners visiting Minsky Vernisazh tend to appreciate classical Belarusian paintings by Tolstik, Savich, Kishchenko, Litvinova, Shchemelev, Savitsky and Alshevsky. Maybe, years from now, works by these authors will fetch prices akin to those commanded by Chagall. Most haven’t left for the West, but remain in Belarus, found in many private collections. They could be the backbone of our market for contemporary and classical art. By Viktar Korbut
Checking authenticity If you’re interested in a painting in a private gallery but you
doubt its authenticity, you can gain expert advice from the National Art Museum. People far and wide address them for help. “Usually, we’re able to determine the age, origin and authenticity of an item ourselves,” stresses Vladimir Kurennoy, the Director of Antikvariat — an antique shop in Minsk’s Troitsky Suburb. “However, sometimes, we send our employee or customer to the museum.” Nadezhda Usova, Deputy Director for Scientific Work at the National Art Museum, tells me that several commissions are operational at present, authenticating pictorial and decorative -and-applied pieces, as ordered by individuals and organisations. There’s also an attribution council, uniting famous art historians and artists.
Two in one,
or footsteps of vaudeville comedy Premiere of Russian Vaudevilles, presented by Maxim Gorky National Academic Drama Theatre, expects full houses for new theatre season
he theatre season in B e l a r u s h a s n’ t y e t finished, with rehearsals in the mornings and performances at night. This routine is, of course, accelerated by new stage productions — always a big event for the theatre and its fans, even when a play isn’t well received. This isn’t the case with the new work by the Russian Theatre though (as it is traditionally called). First of all, I’d like to pay my compliments to the producers.
Young actor Andrey Senkin striking the right note
Although Sergey Kovalchik is still considered to be a young director, his staging experience is truly impressive. Russian Vaudevilles is his third play since having been appointed as chief director. He has proven himself to be a clever strategist, inviting Olga Klebanovich, People’s Artist of Belarus, to co-direct with him. She accepted delightedly and notes that Sergey has a wonderful feeling for comedy. He also values the musical aspect of a play, being an accordion player (he recently gave a charity performance). His latest effort is inspired by stylish cabaret-band Serebryanaya Svadba (Silver Wedding), using vaudeville art, ironic lyrics and paradoxical songs.
Alexandra Bogdanova and Ivan Trus complement each other
The music and songs in the play are loaded with meaning, showing the details of routine life via vaudeville art, highlighting the characters’ wit. Well considered songs lend additional strength to the sweet paradoxes and follies, jokes and grimaces in which the vaudeville genre is naturally rich. Original Russian vaudeville originated in the 19th century. Piotr Grigoriev — author of St. Petersburg Joke with Tenant and Landlord — was an actor and playwright. For almost 50 years, he played on the stage of the Imperial Drama Theatre in St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, dramatist Pavel Fyodorov wrote Az and Fert; he headed the repertoire department and
managed the St. Petersburg Theatre School, translating and adapting French vaudevilles and light comedies for Russian taste. Both left a significant literary heritage, still widely used by theatres around the world. According to Sergey Kovalchik, he has long wanted to stage a vaudeville show, since it’s a ‘wonderful opportunity for a young theatre company to learn’. For the four students from the Academy of Arts who perform as orchestra members and play different music instruments, it’s also a great training opportunity on the professional stage. Vaudeville is a rather complicated genre, since it’s easy for the balance to tip from light comedy to
farce, from elegance to vulgarity. This performance has managed to tread the path smoothly however, with young and older generations playing their parts beautifully. Anna Malankina plays Marfa Semenovna in Az and Fert: goodlooking, graceful and smart in her execution. Another bright actress is Alexandra Bogdanova, who is also ver y charming, playing daughter Lyubushka; she is to be married off ‘without fail’ by her father, Ivan Andreevich Mordashov. The latter is played by Anatoly Golub, who recently joined the Gorky Theatre (this is his second worthy role for them). He has created a complex character, whose ‘decoration’ seems to come from a huge internal life. I must confess that I loved watching him unveil his role, raising his emotional depth as each scene progresses. His monologues contrast splendidly with his dialogues with his wife, his daughter and her bridegrooms. At any moment, you expect him to stumble and make a mistake: either in intonation or expression. He could easily have made his character absurd, which would bore us and make us doubt his academic theatre skills, but Golub performed everything brilliantly. His Mordashev rushes onto the stage as if scalded and, in my view, fulfils his goal brilliantly: playing the father of a family obsessed by the idea of marrying their daughter only to the man whose initials coincide with the monograms already printed on their Dutch linen and exp ensive D utch cro cker y! The director tandem grip is felt throughout the entire performance and his cast indeed shapes the material well, first softening it, then sculpting it to their intended task. Olga Klebanovich is an expert in psychological theatre, so naturally brings this experience to her job as co-director. She asserts that she primarily asks actors — especially young ones — to fill the lives of their heroes with internal content. To be more precise, she asks them to create a
Ivan Z hdanovich
biography for their characters, generating memories for them to bring them alive and make them appealing to the audience. The actors themselves also prefer to adopt this technique. I recall with great pleasure the work of young actress Dubrovskaya in Az and Fert, playing maidservant Akulka. The role is small, with hardly any lines, but Dubrovskaya skilfully performs her amusing part, using expression, gestures, curt phrases and funny mimicry. Naturally, this was well-thought-out by the director. Sometimes, we can almost feel that she is a doll controlled by the experienced hand of a puppeteer. St. Petersburg Joke with Tenant and Landlord tells the story of Mr. Ivanov, who is searching for a way to pay off his numerous
Scene from the Az and Fert vaudeville
debts. His attempts to settle the problem with creditors don’t advance further than reasoning and smart tricks but, finally, he comes up with a plan to swindle a sizable sum out of his landlord — played by two young actors — Ivan Trus and Oleg Kots. Trus’ performance is distinguished by increased affectation and striving to create an ideological basis for his unwillingness to repay debt. Meanwhile, Kots’ manner of performance is somewhat different: his Ivanov is more cunning and careful compared to the simple-minded and cowardly character of his colleague. Both actors have perfect vocal skills and perform their songs well. A recent graduate of the University of Culture and Arts, Andrey Senkin is natural in the role of Levka, Ivanov’s servant. His monologue opens the performance and bears great significance. On the opening night, Senkin touched the heart of the play precisely, easily following the melody
of the choir, telling of the numerous temptations of life in the capital and the desire to rush after easy money. We might think that we have nothing to learn from these funny stories about monograms and creditors, about peasants trying to settle in a large town and about the archaic Russian language once used by the lower middle class of St. Petersburg in the last century. However, the themes of these plays are eternal: ordinary people assuming exaggerated authority and the lust for power and wealth. Production designer Alla Sorokina has chosen a bank note as the main element of the theatre set design with good reason. All the action takes place against the background of a hundred Rouble note, used during the rule of Russian Empress Yekaterina II. The entrances and exits in the ‘wall of money’ symbolise different ways of reaching wealth. In a word, the performance gives us many ways in which to think about its themes and laugh. Its underlying messages are clear — even declared; as the story unfolds, these messages only strengthen. Russian Vaudevilles, by the Russian Theatre, is undoubtedly a success. I hope audiences will keep it running for a long time. The sparkling new show still has a few aspects to improve upon, harmonising its components. As is traditional, the tenth performance is still considered to be ‘opening night’. However, I personally like the very first show, since it’s rather like trying on a new suit with the white threads still hanging. The fabric is yet to be sewn firmly and some adjustments are still needed… As a rule, the fine tuning is done smoothly, with the experienced eye of the director seeing every rough moment. All that’s needed is for the actors to be pliant (as we can see they are). Relying on young actors has been well justified. By Valentina Zhdanovich
Finding the magic potion Minsk puppeteers’ performance recognised best among 17 works by theatrical companies from Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Spain, Poland, Russia and Slovenia
h e B e l a r u s i a n St at e P upp e t T h e at re h a s demonstrated its new performance — Why Do People Get Older? — at the 23rd International Walizka Theatre Festival, recently held in Polish Łódź. The intelligent work appeals to adults and children alike. ‘Do youngsters need to be shown the naked truth about life?’ some said on seeing the premiere, held early in the 2010 theatrical season. Alexey Lelyavsky, the theatre’s director and play’s producer,
is convinced that they do. It’s difficult to disagree; as the Russian proverb says: a fairytale is a lie, yet it teaches a good lesson. In other words, children should try to understand from their earliest years that bad feelings and emotions -such as rage, envy and greed -- destroy people. It’s right for them to read and watch stories which show that wrongful action leads to retribution. Leading character Rygorka is told by his parents that Zmei has stolen their magic potion, which helps people stay young. Zmei has also stolen local beauty
Marylya. Impressed by this story, the young boy decides to find Zmei and save the young girl, while returning the magic potion. He finally meets Zmei and their dialogue is a key moment in the performance. It reveals that we don’t deserve eternal youth, since we lack true unity and peace in our souls: brothers quarrel and hosts send away their old dogs after many years of faithful service. This slightly sad performance contains plenty of allegorical images, pushing us to ponder eternal human values. Belarusian writer Anatoly Vertinsky has drawn on Belarusian fairytales, which don’t always have a happy ending. Meanwhile, the humansized puppets in Why Do People Get Older? are skilfully ‘brought to life’ by the theatre actors, using the director’s quirky sense of humour, flash animation and special effects. Mr. Lelyavsky is now working on a performance for adults — Drei Schwestern, based on Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters. Its premiere is scheduled for September (the start of the new theatrical season). By Mikhalina Cherkashina
Musical knowledge Oleg Yeliseenkov is one of the most popular pop composers and a producer bringing success to many artistes
n recent years, Belarus has tried to win the Eurovision contest. The highest place we’ve achieved so far is the sixth — occupied by Dima Koldun, a pupil of Mr. Yeliseenkov. Our interview with the maestro begins with an attempt to reveal the secret of success. How have you personally achieved recognition? Initially, my own pop compositions were repeatedly rejected. I was told that they didn’t suit. Then, a new project was launched — a song contest in Baltic Jurmala. Participants were chosen in Moscow and two of our artistes took part in ‘Jurmala88’, both performing my music. My family name was announced twice on TV, during prime time broadcasting of this most popular festival. Afterwards, I was called from the Belarusian Radio musical department and asked to come and record something. “Shall I perform anything first?” I asked, but they replied, “No. There’s no need. Choose a time, come and record whatever you wish.” I didn’t expect such an answer. From where does your ability to spot talent originate? I’m probably lucky. I remember being told, at a pop music contest in Lida called ‘Star Constellation’, “A guitar player wants to see you.” I was indignant, answering, “Why a guitar player? This is a vocal contest!” Then, a bald-headed
young man came in, wearing canvas boots and a jersey. He sat nearby and I asked, “Do you have a guitar?” He then took out a perfect guitar and began playing. I realised that he had true talent. We immediately introduced a new nomination — especially for that man — and began to promote h i m a c t ively. It’s pleasing for me when DiDyuLya recalls this moment w i t h gratitude each time. Who determines the quality of music? Who is able to do this? You don’t need a special musical education to understand and appreciate music, just as a technical cast of mind does not hamper a career in art. Few people realise that, in the Middle Ages, music was viewed as an exact science, rather than art. Each melody follows laws of symmetry and mathematics. Many members of the famous Russian Moguchaya Kuchka composers’ club (Great Group) were not professionals. Borodin — who composed the opera ‘Prince Igor’ — was a chemist. He was Mendeleev’s companion-in-arms and son-in-law and composed his genius music in his free time only.
What is genius music? I used to think only of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ as hits but, as I grew older, I
put aside my ‘stylistic’ glasses. Since then, I’ve tried to understand all music. At present, only young people perform on stage. There are few older generation artists — or music aimed at these people. In the 1980s, the situation was different
— with the domination of elderly composers and numerous singers of the same age. However, our 1980s music seemed to be inspired by the 1960s rather than western recordings of the time. We sometimes mix up ‘taste’ and ‘quality’, with our taste preferences — especially in youth — dominating all others. We only love that music which suits our style, and consider music bad if it fails to fit in the genre we admire. Over the course of time, these ‘curtains’ fall and we gain the ability to distinguish the quality of music for itself. S hou l d buy e r s and sellers of music assess quality — rather than composers? Quality and sales are not always inseparable. Sadly, we realise the value of our hits only after decades pass. When a song is performed for forty years, we acknowledge it, saying that it’s great! It’s like long and short beam car headlights. We shine with short beams, demanding hits now and here. However, we should understand that some songs have long beams and some shine closely. We need short-term hits;
without them, our modern pop music wouldn’t exist. The great Sergei Prokofiev always felt awkward about his waltz from his opera ‘War and Peace’. However, this is probably his greatest hit. What do you think about Eurovision? It’s as important for a country to participate as to send sportsmen to the Olympics or world championships. It gives Europeans the chance to know that Belarus exists. How is it possible to win? Is there any recipe? There’s a proverb: ‘what’s good for Russians is death for Germans’. Rephrased, we could say: ‘what’s good for our national song contest is a failure for ‘Eurovision’. A potential hit accepted with enthusiasm in Belarus is bound to fail in Europe. Meanwhile, a song which our audience greets without much enthusiasm may actually be good for ‘Eurovision’. There’s no need to overestimate the importance of ‘Eurovision’; it’s well attended and is similar in quality to our Belarusian Star Constellation. Watching the broadcast from Oslo, I realised that some singers would have failed to reach the finals of Star Constellation, because of weak performance skills. How do young would-be pop singers promote themselves, with your help? People ask how much it will cost for them to use my songs but I always propose collaboration. I may have to pay them after hearing their voice, if they are a true genius. I want to find an artiste whom I won’t need to ‘drag along’ but who will drive themselves. We’ll then advance at double speed and, only then, will a breakthrough happen. By Viktar Korbut
Profile Oleg Yeliseenkov grew up in the Belarusian town of Molodecheno.
His farther was among the founder of the local music school. In 1982 Mr. Yeliseenkov graduated from Belarusian State Music Conservatory completing the course of the composer Dmitry Smolsky. From 1986 to 1987 he lectured in the Estrade Department of Minsk Institute of Culture.
Grodno hosts 6th festival of ancient melodies
his unique holiday was b egun by the leader of Slonim’s branch of t h e Un i o n o f Po l e s in Belarus, Leonarda Rewkowska, back in 2005. Since then, it has expanded, drawing participants from other towns in Grodno region — Novogrudok, Shchuchin and Lida. Ancient melodies are popular among local Poles and Belarusians, who share common traditions. The Poles have long resided in Belarus’ western regions a n d i t’s n o t a l w a y s possible to distinguish them
from Belarusians. According to Ms. Rewkowska, Slonim’s official statistical data reports that Poles account for only 6 percent of the local population but almost one third of residents have a grandparent of Polish origin. Fates and family trees are closely interlaced, with people living as friends, regardless of their origin. A polonaise is a solemn processional dance of moderate tempo, performed in Poland since medieval times.
Central street of Slonim
Later, it became fashionable in the ballrooms of Belarus and Russia. The most famous polonaise melody was composed in 1795 by Belarus-born Michał Kleofas Ogiński. The Ogiński family owned Slonim for two centuries and founded a theatre there, turning the town into the country’s cultural centre. It was often called a ‘northern Athens’. A beautiful tradition existed in Slonim until WWII. A member of the local fire-fighting brigade’s orchestra would climb up the fire tower (which is still preserved in Slonim’s centre) to perform Ogiński’s polonaise every morning and evening. Six years ago, the tradition was renewed. In late May, hundreds of polonaise performers from Belarus and Poland arrived in Slonim and solemnly marched through the town’s ancient centre (passing Orthodox and Catholic churches, and a synagogue) to the House of Culture, which hosted competitions in performing Polish melodies. A polonaise is played in Slonim in most schools. Anna Ruzhitska plays it on the violin, hoping to demonstrate her mastery at home and abroad. Maria Girko — a teacher at the local children’s art school — plays it on the Russian balalaika. “There’s nothing strange in this,” notes Ms. Girko. “The balalaika was made popular in the 19th century by Russian composer Vasily Andreev. He enjoyed experimenting and composed works in various styles for balalaikas. He also wrote a polonaise.” Anna Maretskaya, t he C hief Specialist at Grodno Regional Executive Committee’s Department for Religion and Nationalities, tells us that musicians from Belarus, Lithuania and Poland have gathered at the Avgustovsky Canal for several years already. Ms. Rewkowska underlines, “Poles feel themselves to be equal citizens in contemporary Belarus. They can freely speak their native language and perform their songs.” Michał Kleofas Ogiński called his polonaise Farewell to the Homeland. Now, the ancient melody is returning. By Viktar Andreev
This is only the beginning Belarus’ best books donated to US Library of Congress
he Director of the National Library of Belarus, Roman Motulsky, has solemnly donated books to Georgette Dorn, Acting Chief of the European Division of the US Library of Congress, in Washington. All are laureates of national and international book contests, including B e l a r u s’ H e r i t a g e . Treasures collection (published by Minsk Colour Printing Factory) which won the ‘Published in the CIS’ diploma at the 5th International Book Art CIS Contest. The editions show life in Belarus: its history, traditions, culture and nature. According to Mr. Motu lsky, t he y should help disseminate
Impressive palette People’s Artist Victor Gromyko becomes laureate of 2010 International Sholokhov Award
he International Sholokhov Award for literature and art was founded in 1992 by the International Community of Writers’ Union, Russia’s Union of Artists, Sovetsky Pisatel Publishing House and Sholokhov’s Moscow State Open
information about the country among Americans, undoubtedly improving mutual understanding between the USA and Belarus. Ms. Dorn noted the importance and good timing of the Belarusian initiative, stressing interest in promoting co-operation between the National Library of Belarus and the US Library of Congress. Belarus has launched an international project, Belarus Today, which aims to promote Belarusian culture abroad via outstanding national publishing products. Within the project, the country will annually donate about 100 of the best Belarusian books to the five largest libraries in the world. The books to be donated represent Belarusian social-economic and political life, as well as the country’s many centuries of history and culture. This year, novels, scientific textbooks, works of fiction, encyclopaedias, reference books and photo albums are going to Russian, Ukrainian, Polish and German libraries. They will help lay the foundation of Belarusian book collections with the most authoritative libraries in the world, or should significantly complement the existing collections of Belarusian books. The US Library of Congress received the books first. Pedagogical University. It’s annually granted to writers and poets, as well as state and public figures. Victor Gromyko — a veteran of the Great Patriotic War — has dedicated many of his paintings and several books to the military topic but he notes that that these works ‘have little of the bloodshed characteristic of war’. “I was primarily interested in human characters and the wondrous victory. Despite our unsuccessful early war years and almost complete loss of military resources, we achieved a turning point,” believes Mr. Gromyko.
Such unfamiliar features First Australian film festival takes place in Minsk
he forum was organised by the Australian Embassy to Russia and Belarus (concurrent) with previous such events always a success in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Now, Minsk residents have been able to enjoy four films brought to Belarus by Australian diplomats. “We chose films which show that Belarusians and Australians have more shared features than differences,” notes the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Australia, H.E. Ms. Margaret Twomey. “Foremost, we’re ordinary people. Stories about love, hope and ordinary human feelings touch a chord of understanding with everyone.” Meanwhile, the festival has revealed new and unknown facets of the ‘green continent’. Romulus, My Father — a melodrama — shows immigrants trying to find happiness in a strange and, sometimes, very unfriendly country. My Mother Frank is likely to be enjoyed by those with a subtle sense of humour; the lead character is over 50 when she decides to drastically change her life, entering the university where her son is already studying… Ms. Twomey has already visited Minsk three times. During her first trip, she immediately noticed the unusual architecture of our buildings. Now, the Australian Ambassador believes that the people are most notable; we continue to surprise her with our open, friendly character.
Plenty of time ahead
Ksenia Sitnik leaves open the possibility that she may try in the future for the adult Eurovision
Dnieper Souvenir for Spivakov Mogilev virtuosos conquer Moscow
nstrumental band Dnieper Souvenir, of Mogilev’s children’s musical school No. 2, has caused a stir at the 7th International Moscow Meets Friends Festival — organised by the Vladimir Spivakov International Charity Foundation.
inner of Junior Eurovision-2005 Ksenia Sitnik leaves open the possibility that she may try in the future for the adult Eurovision. Next year, Sitnik will be 16, enabling her to apply for this contest. The young performer spoke to journalists at the presentation of her second solo album — The Republic of Ksenia — which coincided with her birthday. “I don’t think it’s reasonable to go to the adult Eurovision so early, where everything greatly differs from the children’s competition. Although I don’t exclude this opportunity in future, studies are most important for me now,” notes Ksenia. According to Svetlana Statsenko, her mother and Artistic Leader, it’s naïve to believe that by winning the Junior Eurovision Ksenia will automatically become best at the adult event. “My attitude towards this contest is rather calm. As soon as I see that Ksenia is ready for it morally and vocally and that she is able to perform a suitable song, than she’ll probably apply. Anyway, I don’t aim to send her to Eurovision as soon as possible,” she said. The second album of the singer, prepared over four years, includes 11 compositions. “Each of them displays a small part of me and what I’m doing. My mood often changes, so the
songs are very different. However, my favourite piece is probably the Hero of the Novel, with Sergey Bily writing music and lyrics for it,” admits Ms. Sitnik. A video clip is soon to be shot for this song. All tracks of the album were written specially for Ksenia. The Boys are Drawing War, dedicated to the events of the Great Patriotic War, is the only song she’s re-recorded, with arrangement made by Victor Pshenichny. The title of the album — The Republic of Ksenia — characterises our Belarusian starlet well. “Each of us is a personality, living in one’s own world: either real or the one, created by oneself. I think I live in the world I’ve imagined myself. This is my world and my republic,” explains Ksenia. The young artist is likely to become a songwriter soon, since she writes good lyrics. Ksenia has also tried to write music, yet not very successfully. She is now working on a real detective novel, whose secrets aren’t disclosed yet. Summer holidays are close, but Ksenia won’t have any rest in the near future. In summer, she’ll study at Oxford University to enhance the level of her English. Speaking about her ideals in music, Ksenia noted that she enjoys J:Mors and Palats bands most out of Belarusian performers.
The band from Mogilev was the only Belarusian representative at the brilliant forum, bringing back two diplomas of laureates and two gratitude letters. Their success can be viewed as a recognition of the
domestic pedagogic school at the highest level. The festival gathered 1,500 young virtuosos from France, Italy, Spain, the USA, Mexico, Israel, China, Sweden, Japan and elsewhere. The rich festival programme traditionally includes concerts, contests, exhibitions, master classes and Russian violinist, conductor and public figure Vladimir Spivakov personally. It also features the Virtuosos of Moscow state chamber orchestra and talented pupils from musical establishments from all over the world.
By Tatiana Pastukhova
By Mikhail Kovalev