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Belarus — Russia

pp. 25—32

No.8 (923), 2010

BELARUS Беларусь. Belarus

Magazine for you

Politics, Economy, Culture

Nesvizh court of musical wonders pp. 22-23


DIMENSION 200 no.8 (911),


4 6 3 " #&-

Belarus Беларусь.

e nomy, Cultur Politics, Eco


for you

SaSHeS SiLK Men’S WoVen By nS Were BeLaruSia ion HiT a True faSH During Ce an in fr of THe reign ; LuDoViC XV THere Were To TS Mp aT Te aLL faKe THeM pe. oVer euro nS CoLLeC Tio ga Be n in THe LaTe y 19TH CenTur

Made in Slutsk pp. 40 — 41

pp. 36 — 37


Magazine for those Magazine for thosewho want to know who want to know more more Six circulations – in Belarusia German, French, Spani

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Six circulations – in Belarusian, English,



Беларусь.Belarus Monthly magazine No. 8 (923), 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

From a cosmic height 4


Tactics growing into strategy Belarus and

Syria have proven their intentions regarding the creation of a ‘whole new level of strategic partnership’, as stated in a joint declaration by presidents Alexander Lukashenko and Bashar Al-Assad, signed in July in Minsk


Remembered forever Remains of unk-

nown soldiers re-interred within All Saints’ Church crypt


Successful niche for exporters




Trolley bus for Argentina Argentineans

soon to appreciate Belarusian transport as Belkommunmash dispatches trolley buses to one of the largest cities in the country — Córdoba

Through generations and borders

Be-La-Rus youth camp gathers friends from Latvia, Belarus and Russia for 19th time

Founders: The Information Ministry of the Republic of Belarus “SB” newspaper editorial office Belvnesheconombank Editor: Viktor Kharkov Executive Secretary: Valentina Zhdanovich

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


‘Simplemente Maria’ The famous tennis player,

Goodwill Ambassador, Maria Sharapova visited Gomel first ago after the Wimbledon Tournament

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


Open air artworks

Publisher: “SB” editorial office


“I interpret the reality...” Grigory Sitnitsa

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


reflects upon the personality of an artist, his creative essence and place in society and the role of the Belarusian Union of Artists

79 Nezavisimosti Ave., Minsk, Belarus, 220013 Order No.1413

Sounds of summer Guests from all over

the world gather at arts festivals in Slonim, Alexandria, Strochitsy, Postavy, Vitebsk and Grodno

Real diversification Alexander Lukashenko meets Lithuania’s Prime Minister, Andrius Kubilius

12 Transit resource Logistics are a new pri-

Total circulation — 2043 copies (including 737 in English).

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

ority for the Belarusian economy

16 Neighbouring business 

Subscription index in Belpochta catalogue — 74977


For future foreign subscribers for ‘Belarus’ magazine, apply to ‘MK-Periodica’ agency.

Belarusian road: from the River Bug to the Amur It may be that no other langua-

ge in the world boasts such a meaningful and beautiful word as ‘gastsinets’. In Belarusian, it means the same as the English word ‘present’ or German ‘Geschenk’.


Inspiration from the past

E-mail: Telephone in Minsk: +375 (17) 227-09-10.

© “Беларусь. Belarus”, 2010

2010  беларусь.belarus


editor’s note

Dreams coming true


can’t help but mention the weather. We’ve suffered a whole month of incredible heat. It has been the topic of numerous conversations, as nothing similar has been seen in years: 30 to 40 Celsius is certainly unusual. How should we behave if this continues? We need to adapt urgently to these unique conditions. Doctors recommend that we take time to understand the phenomenon of heat, which affects our economy and lifestyle. Our buildings and techniques — just like human behaviour — have been designed for certain climatic conditions; when the weather changes, urgent adaptation is required. Today’s ‘abnormal heat’ may become the norm tomorrow. We need to research more universal materials, able to resist high (and low) temperatures.

беларусь.belarus  2010

We primarily refer to agrarian science. This year, Belarus boasts a good harvest, with grain growers courageously working during the heat, giving us a successful crop. This year’s harvest may enable us to earn revenue from exports, since many countries have already announced a deficit of wheat and other crop cereals. The lessons we should learn are evident: prompt investigations are needed to ensure we grow more universal cereals, resistant to nature’s cataclysms. Our machinery, roads and farmers should be ready for any weather conditions. However, the recent hot weather didn’t bring anything too extraordinary and our rescuers were able to behave calmly, keeping a vigilant watch on our countryside. In fact,

they went to help our neighbours — the Russians — who were suffering from fires in many regions. When trouble is nearby, what can we do but help? As far as other inter-state relations are concerned, Belarus and Syria are keen to promote political and business relationships, as stimulated by the official visit of the Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad, to Minsk. Our article entitled Tactics Growing into Strategy is dedicated to SyrianBelarusian prospects. Potential for the Region explores this topic further, with the Belarusian Ambassador to Syria, H.E. Mr. Oleg Yermolovich, noting that Syria undoubtedly attracts interest, being a key country in the Middle East. Closer interaction with this country is of pragmatic importance for Belarus. Diversity is always welcome in the political environment. Belarus and neighbouring Lithuania could greatly advance their bilateral relationship, as we note in Real Diversification, which is devoted to Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius’ visit to Minsk. Everyday economic life is also u n d e r f o c u s . Tran sit R e s o u rc e explores logistics as a priority for the domestic economy. Successful Niche for Exporters accentuates the importance of exports and finance leasing. Both note that Polish entrepreneurs have recently begun to actively invest in Belarusian production. To some extent, this is a landmark tradition, as Poland used to be a very active trade-economic partner of Belarus. In Neighbouring Business, we discuss the revival of former business ties. We continue to have hopes for a better future, and our dreams may come true, if we pursue them wholeheartedly.

BY Viktor Kharkov, magazine editor Беларусь. Belarus


Timely proposal

 Under new programme UNICEF assistance to Belarus for 2011-2015 expanded to $8m


UN General Assembly adopts global plan of action to counteract human trafficking, initiated by Belarus


he UN General Assembly has adopted by consensus a global plan of action to combat human trafficking, which is the practical implementation of Belarus’ initiative on the formation of a global partnership to fight this social evil. The global plan of action is the first UN anti-human trafficking document of this kind, which primarily focuses on the protection of trafficking victims. The plan envisages the establishment of a voluntary fund to help these victims. The adoption of this plan is a testimony to the political will of the UN member states to put an end to this modern form of slavery. The document was conceived as an efficient instrument to mobilise and unite efforts of all interested parties to prevent and suppress human trafficking: governments, international organisations, civil society, the private sector, and the media. These joint efforts should be directed to coordinated, well-balanced and universal frameworks.

In September 2005, the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, put forward the initiative to activate international efforts to combat human trafficking at the UN Millennium Summit. Belarus suggested that the world community united its efforts within the framework of the Global Partnership against Slavery and Trafficking in Human Beings in the 21st Century, and develop a global plan of action or a UN strategy as instruments for a co-ordinated and all-round solution of the human trafficking problem.

 For the sake of peace and security Team of Belarusian peacekeepers to head for Lebanon


hePresidentofBelarus,Alexander Lukashenko, has signed a decree to send Belarusian soldiers to help maintain international peace and security in the Republic of Lebanon. According to the document, nine military men from the Armed Forces of Belarus are to join the United Nations Interim Force — as staff officers, hospital doctors and specialists in military-civilian interaction. They will provide information for the mission’s activity, giving medical assistance to other peacekeepers and establishing interaction between the Interim Force and the civilian population and public organisations. The decision has been taken based on Belarus’ commitments arising from its joining of the UN Standby Arrangements System in 2001, which governs the participation of members in peacekeeping operations.

he Executive B oard of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has unanimously approve d a d r af t U N IC E F countr y programme for Belarus, covering 2011-2015, at its annual session at the UN Headquarters in New York. One of its most vital goals is to help Belarusian children in accordance with national priorities. Compared to the previous programme, UNICEF assistance to Belarus (from regular and additional resources) will be increased by 40 percent to reach $8m. While presenting the document at the UNICEF a n n u a l s e s s i o n , B e l a r u s’ Permanent Representative to the UN, Andrei Dapkiunas, particularly stressed the programme’s aim to support children living in Chernobyl affected areas, as well as disabled and handicapped children.

 Honourable mission Belarus elected deputy chair of 65th Session of UN General Assembly


wiss Joseph Deiss is to chair the 65th Session of the UN GA. Other deputy chairs include Botswana, Gambia, Mauritania, Senegal and Sudan from Africa; Afghanistan, Indonesia, UAE, Pakistan and Uzbekistan — from Asia; Nicaragua, Surinam and Ecuador — from Latin America and the Caribbean; a n d Lu x e m b o u r g — f r o m Western Europe.

2010  беларусь.belarus



Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad, and Belarusian President, Alexander Lukashenko, during Minsk talks

Tactics growing into strategy Belarus and Syria have proven their intentions regarding the creation of a ‘whole new level of strategic partnership’, as stated in a joint declaration by presidents Alexander Lukashenko and Bashar Al-Assad, signed in July in Minsk


he President of Belarus has visited Syria twice: in 1993, during the leadership of Hafez al-Assad, and in 2003, when the country was ruled by the current president. Warm personal relations have been established between Mr. Lukashenko and Mr. Al-Assad, as noted during the July talks in Minsk. Belarus and Syria share similar positions on most international issues, advocating a multi-polar world based on respect for the independence and sovereignty of each state. The two countries render mutual assistance within international organisations and actively co-operate with the UN and the NonAligned Movement.

беларусь.belarus  2010

“I’m very pleased that we enjoy friendly relations with you,” noted Mr. Lukashenko to Bashar Al-Assad. Both presidents believe that mutual understanding at a political level should be converted to active economic relations. Our turnover with Syria has been modest; in 2008, it stood at $85.5m, and even dropped to $57.7m last year due to the crisis. The establishment of assembly facilities in Syria may significantly raise Belarusian exports. Minsk is ready to partner Damascus in all branches — including machine building, agriculture and the military-technical sphere. “Proceed from the fact that you are our friends. We are ready to make anything you like in Syria,” asserted Mr.

Lukashenko while inviting his colleague to close economic collaboration. A packet of documents has been signed in the presence of the two presidents, dealing with co-operation in various branches and reflecting the breadth of our mutual interests. These include ‘an executive programme of technical and scientific co-operation in the field of agriculture’ and ‘a memorandum on intentions in the field of remote Earth sensing’. In addition, the two sides have discussed possibilities for co-operation within a multi-lateral format. Minsk advocates setting up a free trade zone between Customs Union states and Syria (to be studied by the Customs Union Commission). In turn,

Topical Damascus is ready to use its potential in the Middle East to become a bridge for Belarus, connecting it with the markets of Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan (Syria trades duty-free with these countries). Mr. Lukashenko and Mr. Al-Assad have also agreed to develop joint projects with Venezuela. In the near future, the Belarusian, Syrian and Venezuelan heads of state are to meet in Damascus to define avenues of trilateral co-operation. In a similar format, Minsk and Damascus have agreed to collaborate with Qatar. Political initiatives were economically specified at a session of the Belarusian-Syrian Business Council, recently held in Minsk. Syria’s Trade and Economy Minister, Lamia Asi, noted that Damascus is ready to implement 13 joint projects with Belarus. Syrian businessmen are proposing to open joint trade houses in Minsk and Damascus and to organise several trade fairs in 2011. Moreover, representatives of Syrian businesses are keen to set up a joint venture to import and assemble Belarusian agricultural machinery — primarily tractors and laser level graders. There is also interest in joint ventures to assemble and manufacture borehole pumps and electric transformers (to supply Syria and its neighbouring states). Belarusian partners have been invited to establish a joint enterprise to sell food products produced in both countries (vegetables, fruits and dried milk). Joint ventures in marine and land transportation have also been discussed, in addition to those dealing with olive oil and tourism. To improve our business contacts, more regular, direct flights are planned between Minsk and Damascus, as well as simplification of visa procedure. Ms. Asi hopes that business collaboration and trade turnover will expand between our states. “Our manufacturers won’t be in direct competition, since they offer different goods, which can be used to our mutual advantage,” she underlines, stressing the mutual complimentarity of the Belarusian and Syrian economies.

Launch of Syrian production

political significance. It’s also a serious economic partner, boasting a large market of almost 23m people. There’s enough room for our manufacturers to launch their activities. Remarkably, Syria has been and remains the most vital non-CIS partner for MAZ, with around 4,000 vehicles being sold over the last decade. “Contracts have been The Ambassador the result of our President’s visits to Extraordinary and Damascus,” notes Mr. Yermolovich. Syria stands out against a backPlenipotentiary of ground of other countries in the region Belarus to Syria, H.E. for its strong engineering-technical Mr. Oleg Yermolovich, is manpower. Many of its specialists confident that another received their education in the USSR, top level meeting will so speak perfect Russian. “We plan to use this potential to the utmost,” drive forward our stresses the diplomat. “It’s a good founbilateral relationship dation, which can be used for setting up ach time our Belarusian and several assembly facilities. Ready-made Syrian heads of state meet, our goods can be sold to Syria and in other economic co-operation — which countries, because Syria has a duty-free is of primary importance — reaches trade regime with most other Middle a whole new level. The head of the Eastern states. This means that our assembled vehicles Belarusian mission to Damascus tells elarusian yrian can be sold to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon us that negotiarelations are and Turkey.” tions are currently time tested MAZ, Minsk underway to open assembly facili- becoming as strong Tractor Works and Minsk Wheeled ties for Belarusian as amascus Tractor Plant are buses, tractors and steel currently negotitrailers in Syria. ating with Syria. All BelarusianSyrian relations are time-tested, technical parameters have been agreed becoming as strong as Damascus steel. on a bus project, with only a signature The Soviet Union established good ties from the Syrian side required. Our Ambassador notes another with Syria so, when Belarus became an independent state, Minsk didn’t have interesting assembly manufacture any trouble renewing them. Belarus venture — a non-traditional form of had only to continue its work in all collaboration. Syria is offering to set up directions: trade-economic, education a joint venture to produce baby food; it will be a long-term project, with techand culture. Today, Syria is a key country in the nologies and dried milk being required Middle East. Accordingly, we decided from Belarus. Taking into account the to locate one of our embassies for this need to diversify Belarusian exports region in Damascus (also covering and remove one-sided orientation neighbouring Lebanon and Jordan). towards the Russian market, it should Damascus plays an important role in have good prospects… By Igor Kolchenko regulating the Middle East, with great







By Vitaly Volyanyuk

2010  беларусь.belarus


From a cosmic height Belarus’ revenue from innovative equipment production to be measured to $1bn in the future


ccording to the c omp a ny ’s G e n e r a l D i r e c t o r, V l a d i m i r Pokryshkin, it’s now possible to say that the country has its own cosmic sub-branch — space engineering, with Peleng at its hub. After the USSR’s collapse, the enterprise continued to exist courtesy of military orders but its activity has now been diversified, with significant investment into the modernisation and development of its production. Peleng produces civilian devices and develops space technologies, making various optical and electronic instruments. Its comparison microscope

enjoys huge demand (used by criminologists) and the company produces a wide range of meteorological equipment, used by meteo-stations. It is also developing systems to protect the border. However, Peleng’s developments in the field of space engineering are most promising from the state’s point of view. So far, it has participated in 35 spacecraft launches. Peleng’s specialists have also participated in the making of a Belarusian satellite for remote Earth monitoring — due to be launched in Q1 of 2011, jointly with Russian Canopus-B (an exact copy of the Belarusian satellite). Peleng’s optic-electronic telescopes for satellites have been highly praised by the AllRussian Scientific-Research Institute of Electromechanics (VNIIEM). Space engineering companies from Russia and further abroad are now showing commercial interest and Peleng is working on a new orbital telescope to receive pictures with a 1m resolution. Combination of science and creative work is the reality of Peleng

Mr. Pokryshkin notes that the company has concrete proposals from foreign partners and about $130m of orders are being negotiated. Peleng has a solid reputation abroad, always fulfilling its obligations under concluded contracts and agreements. Mr. Lukashenko has acquainted himself with Peleng’s new developments, having visited its design department, as well as its optical and mechanical workshops, its surface mounting workshop, its X-ray lab and its spacecraft assembly workshop at its research-and-design Kosmos division. Talking to Mr. Pokr yshkin, the President noted that the state would contribute to further developments into space engineering in Belarus, adding that revenue from this segment should reach $1bn. “Seeders, tractors and combine harvesters are good but space technologies are the key,” the President emphasised. “The country must have another face — another mentality. Our direction should be towards billiondollar landmarks in the space engineering sphere. If any help is needed, we’ll provide it.” The President also inspected a new building under construction, where space equipment is to be assembled and tested. In November, construction works should be complete, allowing modern equipment to be installed. By Vitaly Volyanyuk

беларусь.belarus  2010


Bright future prospects Large industrial enterprises of Chinese Shandong province interested in doing business in Belarus


uring his visit to Minsk’s National Academy of Sciences, the Vice Governor of Shandong province, Li Zhaoqian, noted that Shandong is home to powerful industrial enterprises and factories. “They are coming to Belarus to forge new partnerships,” he said, adding that Shandong is ready to scale up its co-operation with Belarus in machine building, biotechnologies, medicine and the chemical industry. “We have common interests and good projects for the future. I’m convinced that our partnership will be mutually beneficial,” the official said.

New workable plans

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences of B elarus, Mikhail Myasnikovich, stresses that Chinese experts are becoming more selective today regarding sci-tech co-operation with their Belarusian colleagues — primarily focusing on top level scientific projects. At present, Belarusian and Chinese specialists are negotiating new contracts regarding pro duction facilities, including those to manufacture agricultural machinery. Recently, we signed a contract to supply technologies to develop and produce new materials for China — worth 350,000 euros. By Nadezhda Veremeeva

Export-oriented innovations Centre for Technological Forecasts to appear in Minsk


he Centre is being set up at the Belarusian Institute of System Analysis and Information Support for the Scientific and Technical Sphere. Specialists will monitor trends in the country’s innovative activities and make forecasts by applying contemporary methods. These will tackle the development of particular scientific trends and projects. “The Centre will be involved in developing the best ways of implementing scientific

ideas,” explains the Institute’s Director, Alexey Busel. “We’ll take into account whether we have enough resources and personnel.” Analysis is being organised via a unique database holding around 70,000 reports by Belarusian scientists in various branches of science. The Centre’s experts plan to monitor opportunities for realising innovative projects, as well as prospects for exports. They are already conducting similar analysis on a tele-medical system, which is successfully operating at Minsk’s medical institutions. Its major goal is to offer remote consultations to regional and district medical establishments, offered by top specialists at central institutions situated in Minsk and regional centres. Tele-medical technologies open up new opportunities for Belarusian medicine, allowing professional consultations to be given to patients residing in remote areas, far from consultative and diagnostic centres. This enhances their access to medical expertise, improving the chance of correct diagnosis in ambiguous cases. In the future, tele-medicine will be used for the online broadcast of lectures by leading domestic and foreign specialists during seminars, conferences, congresses and TV bridges. By Olga Belyavskaya

Oncoming traffic Belarus and Slovenia agree to co-operate in motor transport sphere


erms of co-operation have been discussed at a session of the Belarusian-Slovenian Joint Committee for International Motor-Service, held recently in Minsk. As our countries’ traffic transportation volume has risen this year, a final quota for trucking permits has been agreed. Preliminary quotas for trucking permits in 2011 have also been adjusted. During the meeting, the Slovenian delegation proposed that Belarus liberalise bilateral transit transportation. Slovenia is ready to render assistance

in simplifying visa procedures for Belarusian carriers and in reducing the time spent on processing applications. In turn, Belarus’ Transport and Communications Ministry has told its Slovenian counterpart about the proposed new national logistics system, in the building of which Slovenian investors are being invited to participate. By Anna Bogomazova

2010  беларусь.belarus

Panorama  Anything possible World Bank ready to assist Belarus in building broadband Internet access networks


Evident advantage

longside broadband Internet access, the World Bank is ready to help Belarus in creating an innovative environment. In particular, it refers to offshore programming. Additionally, the WB plans to help set up an ‘electronic government’ system — currently being developed in our country. During the Electronic Tr a n s f o r m a t i o n f o r Competitiveness and Economic G r o w t h s e m i n a r, h e l d i n Minsk, Juan Navas-Sabater of the World Bank noted that, in the near future, 75 percent of the Belarusian population will

According to authoritative Mercer Consulting, Minsk is one of the cheapest European cities


esearches of the cost of living throughout Europe are conducted annually and, this year, the Belarusian capital has been ranked among the five cheapest European cities for foreigners. Mercer Consulting’s research shows the relative cost of living in 214 cities on five continents, covering over 200 parameters, including housing, transport, food, clothes, household goods and entertainment. This thorough investigation of the cost of living worldwide aims to help international companies and representational offices determine how best to compensate foreign employees. The cost of accommodation is one of the major parameters influencing a city’s ranking. New York is the norm against which the index is calculated, with prices measured in US dollars. Minsk is ranked 192nd worldwide, followed by European Tirana, Skopje and Sarajevo. Angola’s capital — Luanda — is recognised as the most expensive city for foreigners, followed by Tokyo, N’Djamena, Moscow and Geneva.

беларусь.belarus  2010

have broadband Internet access boasting a download speed of around 100Mbt/s. The largest cities can use optical fibre networks to achieve such speeds while it is much more difficult for rural areas (where it’s now more feasible to use wireless technologies). “However, technology is developing rapidly worldwide, so even this may become possible in the near future,” Mr. NavasSabater explains.

 Quantity to strengthen activity Co-ordination Council of Young Deputies’ Club to lobby young people’s interests


e need to provide young peoplewiththeopportunity to take part in legislation,” notes Igor Buzovsky, the First Secretary of the Belarusian Republican Youth Union’s Central Committee. “In this way, we can prepare tomorrow’s political elite to be competent and professional. At present, we have a range of problems which need solving.” 93 representatives from local councils of deputies (members of the Belarusian Republican Youth Union) have taken part in elections for the Co-ordination Council of the Choice of Youth Club. The election procedure was observed by the Chair of the Central Election Commission, Lidia Yermoshina, who notes that the number of young deputies on local councils has fallen by 300 (compared to the previous convocation). At present, the number of lawmakers in Belarus is nearly 22,000, with only about 1,000 of them being young people. Younger Belarusians are especially active as deputies in large cities. For example, in Minsk, the number of young deputies of the new convocation has almost doubled. They are now ready to take part in politics and are interested in this sphere.


Venue for interesting meetings

 Chicks receive ‘passports’ Grodno ornithologists ring six common kestrel chicks hatched on Bernardine Monastery’s façade

Centre for Iranian Studies opens at Belarusian State University’s International Relations Department

 Law is good but marketing is better

he Centre boasts a unique collection of scientific and educational literature in Persian, enabling teachers and students to use original materials to study Persian linguistics, history, arts and country studies. The solemn opening ceremony was attended by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Belarus, H.E. Mr. Seyed Abdollah Hosseini, and Iran’s Deputy Minister for Science, Research and Technology, Dr. Mahmoud Mollabashi. The Centre is to host meetings with the Iranian intelligentsia, seminars and conferences. Taraneh Hatef, senior Persian teacher at the Oriental Languages Chair, has made a great contribution to the opening of the Centre, training 30 future specialists in Persian language and culture. According to the Dean of the BSU’s International Relations Department, Victor Shadursky, the Oriental Languages Chair also offers Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Persian and Turkish languages. The department plans to set up centres for each of these languages, similar to the Republican Sinology Institute (named after Confucius). Centres for Korean and Iranian studies should also appear. Such centres provide students with the opportunity to learn more about the politics, economy and culture of the countries whose languages they study.

Belarus’ 2010 higher education entrance campaigns are nearing, with young people making their choices regarding future specialities



t’s a huge step in determining our life ahead. Ever yone wants a job which will give them pleasure and a good income. Which spheres of study are most popular today? This year, university entrance examination boards are expecting the greatest number of applicants for courses in economics, computer technologies, jurisprudence, journalism, marketing and banking. Meanwhile, recruitment agencies have analysed the country’s labour market, doing their best to guide young people into careers which will be in demand in coming years. As far as economists are concerned, enterprises need high class professionals and should be ready to pay them. We’re living in the 21st century — an age of high-tech — so IT specialists are vital. According to the latest statistical data, e x p e r i e n c e d pro g r a m m e r s boast the highest salaries in the republic. Marketing and PR specialists are also in demand. These professions allow us to take a creative approach, which is especially attractive to imaginative youngsters.


pecialists began to observe the rare birds in the city back in March, installing a web camera in their nest. Footage of the adults and chicks was displayed on a plasma screen installed in one of the squares in the regional centre, allowing the public to enjoy a rare glimpse of the birds’ lives. Ornithologists have decided to ring the common kestrel chicks with a personal number,

Now they have passports

enabling them to further observe the development and behaviour of the rare birds. According to Dmitry Vinchevsy, who heads the Grodno Regional Branch of ABP Birdlife Belarus, the birds have recently flown to Grodno from Western Europe. They tend to nest in cities and suburbs, in the niches of buildings or in the abandoned nests of ravens and rooks. Grodno ornithologists are aware of five such nesting places in their regional centre. The common kestrel is registered in Belarus’ Red Book and has been named ‘Bird of the Year’ in our republic in 2010. Its sight is 2.6 times better than that of humans; if we shared its eyesight, we’d be able to read an eyesight test from a distance of 90m.

2010  беларусь.belarus

Remembered forever



During the ceremony at All Saint’s Church-Monument in Minsk

Remains of unknown soldiers re-interred within All Saints’ Church crypt


hree soldiers have been reburied in the crypt, having died in battle. One lost his life struggling against French cavalrymen in 1812 — during the Patriotic War. More than a century later, another was fatally wounded while facing an attack by the Kaiser’s troops near Grodno, during the Second Patriotic War (as it was called at that time). The third never returned from the battlefield near Lloev, in 1943.


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Three Patriotic wars: three lives given for the sake of their Motherland. “They weren’t born heroes but they certainly became heroes, protecting their country and people without hesitation. They didn’t seek glory or honour,” noted the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, speaking at the re-burial ceremony. Alongside the Metropolitan of Minsk and Slutsk Filaret, the Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus, the Head of State lit an eternal lamp from the Holy Fire, brought from Jerusalem.

“In this sacred place, it is as if we are standing at the intersection of time, where we can assess our past. We should do this to understand our present and look into our future, since history is a good teacher and prophet. However, do we always have enough wisdom to pay attention to its warnings and lessons?” Mr. Lukashenko pondered. “Belarus has never acted aggressively to subject its neighbours or establish hegemony over other nations. On the contrary, tolerance and respect are our watchwords; Belarusians are well aware of the cost of independence. Our land, situated at the centre of Europe, has seen over 80 wars. We mustn’t allow any more to occur. We’ve well learnt lessons from history and are aware of the terrible losses conflict can bring to us all — both the defeated and the winners,” stressed the Belarusian leader. “Unfortunately, the world community has failed to draw conclusions from the bitter lessons of history. Some politicians begin real wars rather than using civilised methods to resolve problems. It seems they didn’t play at soldiers enough in their childhood. Ecological and technogenic catastrophes, terrorism and nuclear blackmail are among those endless threats which could bring our world civilisation to collapse in an instant. Meanwhile, we must match our intelligence, trust and collaboration against blind power and political fervour. We need the determination of nations and responsible leaders. Let common memory help us thaw the political ice and live further, surrounded by mutual tolerance, allowing each other to be diverse The celebratory looks of the ChurchMonument

Meetings and go our own way,” underlined the Belarusian President. The Church-Monument, whose first stone was laid almost 20 years ago, is to become a symbol of unity for our aspiration towards consent. It is unique in many respects, with an octagonal domed roof reaching over 70m skywards and a crypt whose doors are decorated with six bas-reliefs entitled ‘Tears of Belarus’. Each depicts an event which took a heavy toll on lives in Belarus: Grunewald, Smorgon, Solovki, Khatyn, Trostenets and Chernobyl. Over 500 niches are located inside the crypt’s walls, containing soil from each historical, patriotic battlefield. The greatest church in the country is to become a national pantheon, with prominent figures re-buried there, with memorial plaques installed. “The Church was erected to honour all the saints after consideration. We believe that their holy intercession will protect Belarus from trouble and grief,” noted Mr. Lukashenko. The Belarusian President has taken an active role in the creation of the unique monument; its greatest bell, weighing five tonnes, is a gift from the Head of State. “Today we’ve buried the remains of unknown soldiers,” resumed the President. “They must have been young people and were someone’s children. Let us ensure that our own children live quietly, in peace. It’s worthwhile to live and struggle for the sake of this foremost goal.” By Vladislav Stepantsov

Real diversification Alexander Lukashenko meets Lithuania’s Prime Minister, Andrius Kubilius


lexander Lukashenko believes that Belarus and Lithuania could accomplish a great deal if they act now. If time is lost, we could fail to ever catch up. “To strengthen the sovereignty, independence and power of our states, we should take a range of immediate steps, aiming to intensify our independence,” stressed the Belarusian President when welcoming Lithuania’s Prime Minister, Andrius Kubilius, to Minsk. The Head of Belarus noted that he understands that Lithuania has its commitments to 27 EU states: to each of them in particular and to the EU in general. Mr. Lukashenko believes that Belarusian-Lithuanian areas of co-operation, which currently exist and may be outlined for the future, don’t contradict EU policy, by which Lithuania is guided. According to the President, both countries have similar problems and ways of resolving them. Mr. Lukashenko underlined that Belarus is ready to solve these problems. “During my presidency, I never believed, not for a moment, that we would have problems with trade and economic co-operation or with promoting economic growth,” he said. Mr. Lukashenko also emphasised that he ‘would not want to look for new partners, as Lithuania is our close neighbour, and we can always come to an agreement’. Mr. Lukashenko expressed his deepest condolences on the passing of Lithuania’s ex-president, Algirdas Brazauskas. “We knew him well in Belarus and collaborated with him. He was an outstanding person, who has left a significant mark in the history of Lithuania,” he added. In turn, Mr. Kubilius noted that Mr.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius

Brazauskas was one of the most famous politicians in Lithuania over the last 20 years and had done much to promote the intensive development of BelarusianLithuanian relationships. Lithuania’s Prime Minister believes that both countries have good opportunities for liaisons in power engineering, aiming to strengthen their independence. “Dependence on one supplier of resources can sometimes create problems. In this respect, we have good opportunities. We can take this path to strengthen our independence while implementing joint strategic projects in which the EU might take an interest,” he said. He believes that the European Partnership gives good opportunities in this respect. According to Mr. Kubilius, Belarus and Lithuania could significantly progress in their bilateral relations and Lithuanian business experience of working on the European market could prove useful to Belarusian business circles. By Tatiana Polezhai

2010  беларусь.belarus



Transit resource

Logistics are a new priority for the Belarusian economy


orld experience shows that, today, the development of logistics systems is gaining special importance. This refers to the contemporary management of purchases and sales, as well as service maintenance of cargoes and the transport and storage of goods. The use of logistics brings serious advantages in the competitive struggle to gain sales, while considerably enhancing product promotion on domestic and foreign markets. Germany is a world champion in regards to using its geographical and geopolitical location to its benefit. It possesses so many containers that, if we


беларусь.belarus  2010

placed them in a line they’d stretch three times round our planet. Their logistics system involves over 400,000 employees, while the volume of corresponding services exceeds 16bn euros. We can’t say that Belarus, which t rades wit h over 170 count r ies worldwide, is starting from scratch in logistics development. However, it’s too early to speak of particular success; logistical services account for just 7-8 percent of our current GDP. Therefore, logistics is to be a priority for Belarus’ geo-economic policy. The new branch requires no great outlay from the point of view of added value. Prof. Piotr Nikitenko, Doctor of Economic Sciences, is confident that

Belarus can objectively claim the role of a transit state, referring to its global transEuropean highways which run from north to south and from west to east. The country boasts a favourable geographical location — at the intersection of major transport routes connecting Western Europe with Russia and South-Eastern Asia — while also connecting the Baltic States with the Black Sea. The Government has already approved a programme to develop Belarus’ logistical system until 2015. This envisages the improvement of the country’s market image while strengthening partnerships between state and business. In particular, entrepreneurs won’t have to take care of large warehouses, since a logistics centre will be available to order goods and services. According to the Institute of Economics at the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, total cargo turnover of Belarusian transport and logistics centres may stand at 25-30m tonnes per year by 2015. If we manage to implement everything stipulated in the programme, the country may receive at least 20 percent of its GDP via logistics development by that time. In other European countries, this figure stands at 20-30+ percent of GDP. Domestic financing will join foreign capital to create large transport and logistics centres at 50 locations. Minsk-Beltamozhservice — the first transport and logistics centre — began operations in March while a project to set up a logistics centre at Minsk Airport has already been signed. Iranian investors plan to build Prilesie transport and logistics centre. However, Orsha’s Aircraft Repair Plant promises to surprise everyone by constructing an international multi-model logistics centre at Orsha. Construction is to start next year, with facilities uniting air, road and railway connections. “In 1993, we managed to regain our factory’s qualification to repair Mi helicopters and are now actively moving towards international markets by working with special military exporters,” notes Director Vladimir Troitsky. “Today, the

Economy industrial potential of our enterprise is at full capacity, while existing infrastructure doesn’t bring in enough revenue. This refers not only to the aerodrome, which meets all international requirements and is in very good condition.” Orsha is a large railway junction located at the intersection of the largest highways — 2nd corridor (EuropeMoscow) and 9th corridor (HelsinkiSt. Petersburg-Kiev-Odessa-Sofia). It would be extremely unwise not to use such a beneficial geographical location to our advantage. “The idea of setting up a multi-modal logistics centre at our enterprise occurred to us,” continues Mr. Troitsky. “Aircraft should fly here to use the airdrome, with neighbouring territories bringing in money. We won’t attract passenger flights but we can attract cargo planes. According to international practice, a logistics centre services a radius of 500-550km. In our case, this covers Minsk, Moscow, Kiev, Vilnius, Riga and, slightly further away, Warsaw and St. Petersburg.” The volume of investments needed to create Orsha logistics centre is estimated at around $12m. The construction of a warehouse terminal is planned, in addition to office buildings, which will house customs and border checkpoints, insurance and leasing companies, a bank, a hotel, a restaurant and a café. Latvia’s Loģistikas Partneri, boasting huge experience in the creation of such centres in Austria, Kazakhstan and Moldova, is taking part. According to preliminary information, an Austrian company — which is also a major investor — will be constructing the centre. This year, a joint company is being set up to implement the project, with 25 percent belonging to the Aircraft Repair Plant and 75 percent being owned by the investor. Calculations show that, within three years, the project will fully pay for itself — if all goes well. Transit via Orsha should become attractive for Belarusian manufacturers and foreign exporters, primarily those from neighbouring countries. By Yevgeny Nikonov

Scale of impression Largest Belarusian logistics centre to be built by 2021, with first sites operational much earlier


he invitation was voiced at a session of the Belarusian-Turkish Mixed Commission for International Highway Transportation, recently held in Minsk. Belarus has informed the Turkish side of its work to develop a logistics system and has invited Turkish investors to participate in building logistics centres in Belarus. The final permit quota for international automobile carriers for 2010 has been outlined, with parties agreeing that permit quotas ‘B’ and ‘C’ will be increased for Belarusian carriers. Under analysis were the dynamics of passenger transportation development between our two states, which have a low level of traffic at present. We have agreed to continue co-operation to increase traffic flow. The issue of obtaining visas for long distance drivers was also on the agenda, with both sides expressing willingness to simplify procedures.

he Belarusian transport-logistics centre is to be situated on the crossroads of the two largest Eu r o p e a n t r a n s p o r t c o r r i d o r s : O d e s s a - K l a ip e d a a n d Mo s c ow B erlin. It will be located several kilometres from the Minsk ring road and 30km from Minsk’s National Airport. It is to include warehouses (designed as universal modules), a fuelling station and motor way services, with the first coming into operation in three years’ time. The centre is to occupy 200,000sq.m — more than the largest logistics complex in neighbouring Poland. Owing to its optimal structure and strategically important proximity to the transport network, the Belarusian centre will be able to collect, process and store cargo without restriction. Belgian AOI NV is investing in the project and is to be involved in the design, construction and functioning of the complex, which will cost about 288m euros. No one doubts that the B elgium company’s funding will soon recoup its costs since logistics centres generate profits worldwide. In Germany, they account for 25 percent of the budget. Belarus has no serious rivals among its neighbours, since existing Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian complexes are smaller than that planned for Belarus. Similar projects in Russia and Lithuania (close to the Belarusian border) are currently ‘frozen’. Belarus — situated at a major crossroads — will, no doubt, come to occupy a leading position in continental shipment once its transportlogistics complex is ready.

By Anna Bogomazova

By Victoria Kamendova

Advantageous offer Ministry of Transport and Communications invites Turkish investors to take part in construction of logistics centres


2010  беларусь.belarus



Successful niche for exporters


Leasing contributes to faster delivery of new machinery to customers

emand for equipment and machinery on the international market is recovering and Belarusian manufacturers can easily use this interesting and convenient instrument to promote



Export leasing is hardly a Belarusian novelty, although the country was the first to implement it in the CIS

беларусь.belarus  2010

sales of their products. Of course, it’s always a treat to put on new ‘shoes’ but the trick is to do it before your rivals. The Economy Ministry has calculated that, this year, Belarus should export at least $400m of goods abroad on international leasing terms.

Globally, international leasing deals are widely used, with countries promoting sales of their own goods this way. Results are significant, benefitting all parties. Manufacturers are pleased to see deals almost 100 percent financed via leasing while buyers can take advantage of financing from abroad at lower interest rates; the move always influences the cost of the deal. The first international leasing transaction occurred in the 1950s, set up by American leasing companies. Later, British firms began using the same method and the practice is now quite popular in Asia. In Eastern Europe, Belarus is still the only country using the scheme, although the Russians and Ukrainians are showing interest. According to Promagroleasing’s Head, Pavel Krupnov, it was wise to enter the market during the peak of the global economic crisis. “Foreign demand is already resuming its normal course but the major characteristic of revival is that business needs are not always supported by finances. As previously, potential buyers are restrained by a lack of accessible funds. This is why the number of outright purchases will be small in the coming years; most transactions will be made under leasing terms,” he says. Belarusian export leasing has been running less than six months. In late 2009, a Presidential decree appeared,

Economy envisaging the measures necessary to create this avenue of financial services. In December 2009, Promagroleasing began promoting Belarusian exports to neig hb our ing st ates: Russi a, Ukraine and the Czech Republic. The Deputy Economy Minister, Anatoly Filonov, is convinced that the scheme of export leasing is effective. “In 2010, Belarusian manufacturers plan to supply goods worth 940m Russian roubles, 15m euros and Br528bn to Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and the EU — all via international leasing (proceeding from agreements and concluded contracts). In addition, sales markets are being studied and the establishment of affiliates is being discussed — with the aim of increasing exports and investment leasing,” he explains. Mr. Krupnov adds that, at the moment, eleven leasing agreements are being negotiated (and are almost complete) for 2,149 units of machinery. There are plans to establish co-operation with the Middle East, South America and South Africa. Already, deliveries of $10m of BelAZ machiner y to the South African Republic are planned, on conditions of international leasing. However, specialists assert that the scheme of export leasing — which is now being trialled with neighbouring markets — is not faultless. The Chairman of the Belarusian Union of Leasing Companies, Alexander Tsybulko, says that, in Russia, Belarusian companies have faced the problem of registering leased objects. “At present, a provision (regarding registration of automobiles and machinery) is operational in this country, so all Belarus-made cars must pass customs clearance — irrespective of the fact that we are building a Union State,” he notes. However, the issue is being settled. During the recent sitting of the Customs Union, the Belarusian Industry Ministry was asked to develop samples of a vehicle passport — similar to that used by Russia. By Alexey Burmistrov

Game rules improve market climate Leasing legislation ‘polished’ by the government


ack in the days of the Great Depression, Henry Ford decided to sell his cars by using a scheme of payments, delaying the final payment. Clients paid their debts monthly, which consisted of the cost of the capital and part of the automobile cost. Accordingly, he found that he could keep his manufacturing afloat, even under conditions of economic collapse. In Belarus, financial leasing is becoming a successful mechanism to raise sales of industrial production — at home and abroad. Recently, national leasing legislation was updated, with representatives from leasing companies noting a serious improvement, which should aid the promotion of Belarusian goods. Legislative measures have been adopted at the right time; according to leasing operators, the leasing market has begun to gradually revive — alongside bank lending. Most transactions relate to car and industrial equipment leasing, although change is also evident in real

estate and agricultural equipment areas. Meanwhile, smaller businesses are using the services of intermediaries when purchasing machinery. However, the Belarusian Union of Leasing Companies notes that the financial lease market is still experiencing ‘cloudy’ weather, due to outstanding debt; according to preliminary estimates, in 2009, the market dropped by almost a third. Nevertheless, export leasing is growing, with Belarusian companies managing to sign contracts worth millions of US dollars. Recently, Belarus’ leasing operator — Promagroleasing — and Ukrainian Ukragropostach signed a co-operative agreement. “This aims to bring efficient interaction between Belarus and Ukraine, creating a competitive financial product,” explains Promagroleasing. “This should help enhance the industrial potential of Ukraine, while helping promote Belarusian manufactures.” The company plans to set up international financial leasing for goods sold by Minsk Automobile Works, BelAZ, Minsk Tractor Works and Gomselmash. Promagroleasing JSC ’s Director General, Pavel Kupriyanov, tells us that over $50m of Belarusian goods will be dispatched to Ukraine within the next two years as part of this agreement. By Alexey Benkovsky

The agrarian sector is a ground for multiple transactions

2010  беларусь.belarus



Neighbouring business


Polish entrepreneurs investing more in production on Belarusian territory

n recent decades, the Belarusian economy has accumulated about $300m of direct Polish investments. “Our entrepreneurs prefer concentrating on direct injections, creating production assets on the territory of a certain state,” explains Wieslaw Pokladek, Director of the Department for Trade and Investment Promotion at the Polish Embassy to Belarus. His words are confirmed by figures: last year, Poland invested $22m into our economy, including $20m of direct investments. Poland is already the 12th most significant investment partner for Belarus and ranks 10th for volume of funds injected directly into the statutory funds of our domestic comp anies. Interest ing ly, most of these Polish firms interested in gaining a foothold on foreign markets are small or m e d iu m - s i z e d , or individual entrepreneurs. Accordingly, they invest modest s u m s — u s u a l l y, about $20,00040,000 (occasionally up to $100,000). Less than two dozen


беларусь.belarus  2010

companies have injected millions of dollars or euros into the Belarusian economy. Primary, all these firms are located on the Belarusian-Polish border — in Brest region. Here, the largest number of companies using Polish money is concentrated — about 42 percent of the total (of 552 companies) registered in late 2009. Polish partners also focus on Grodno region and the city of Minsk; here, 16 and 25 percent of firms are registered respectively.

promoting the development of small and medium-sized towns. At the moment, the largest Polish investments in Belarus are seen in the spheres of food production and agriculture. The latter has been receiving great attention from Polish investors in the past 2-3 years, with the Poles ready to invest huge sums. “I cannot say for sure what this interest is rooted in,” says Mr. Pokladek, adding, “I think scales of production are important, since our farmers feel a lack of

At the moment, the largest Polish investments in B elarus are seen in the spheres of food production and agriculture Mr. Pokladek notes that our bilateral liaisons have a long history. Since the early 1990s, many Polish businessmen have preferred to work in the field of trade and services. However, in recent years, their interests have shifted to production and, according to the diplomat, this is much due to B elarusian state programmes

space in Poland. Moreover, they realise the possibilities of sales to the Russian market.” The Customs Union’s three member states offer 170m consumers — no small figure. If this regional association works well, then Belarus has every chance of finding itself the focus of Polish business interests. “For our ent repreneurs, t he Belarusian economy is more predictable and clearer

Opportunities 2008 figures); supplies from Poland to Belarus fell by 24 percent in value while Belarusian goods sold to Poland dropped 38 percent in value. Physical volumes of cargo remain unchanged; however, prices have fallen. Several unfavourable factors persist. For instance, 60 percent of Belarusian exports to Poland are mineral products, on which Russia has


than, for example, that of Russia,” explains Mr. Pokladek. “Apart from this, it’s easier to find necessary specialists, which is also important.” The investment process continues against a background of expectations regarding the Customs Union’s formation. At present, Polish businessmen are focusing on new directions of co-operation: their sphere

Belarusian-Polish enterprise Lubava-Lux places stake on production investment

of interests embraces the manufacture of medicines and medical equipment, in addition to clothes. It is expected that the largest investment project involving Polish partners in Belarus shall soon begin: the construction of a coal heated power plant in Zelva (Grodno region) costing $1.52bn. Electricity will be produced by early 2015. In addition, TPP construction is receiving attention, with additional investment directed towards building a railroad (to supply coal from Poland). Moreover, a plant is needed to process production wastes (artificial gypsum is to be produced for the construction branch from ash). It seems that the investment aspect of Belarusian-Polish relations is developing more steadily than mutual trade, which specialists are calling ‘a variable quantity with many unknown factors’. Last year, turnover fell slightly (according to the Polish Economy Ministry, over 30 percent against

introduced customs fees (on oil and oil products, making them less attractive). The range of goods supplied from Poland to Belarus is more diversified but our neighbours are often confounded by non-payment. The situation has improved slightly following an agreement signed by our states’ banks, which envisages loans for Belarusian firms to buy Polish equipment. A credit line worth 300m euros is operational (with the first projects already realised.). About 5-10 percent of the turnover is insured by Polish Export Credit Insurance Corporation KUKE. The problem of non-payment is temporary. However, the lost ties — established for years — should be restored now. Experts recommend our two states’ companies to pay attention to other instruments of financial arrangements (i.e. letter of credit). No doubt, the established business liaisons between neighbouring states stand high.

Quality as an argument Belarus-manufactured footwear now more popular at home and abroad


ore often domestic manufacturers fail to satisfy demand for certain models which prove popular with consumers. Those aware of the quality of footwear imported from South-Eastern Asia and some other regions have begun changing their priorities, shifting towards buying locally-produced goods. In recent years, domestically-manufactured footwear accounted for around 30 percent of the home market. Now, Bellegprom Concern is taking measures to drastically change the situation, satisfying increasing demand from domestic customers for good quality, comfortable footwear, meeting world fashion trends. It has developed a new path of development for the next five years. Following the new programme, how will the domestic footwear market change by 2015? Will imports completely disappear? “We don’t aim to completely cover the Belarusian market. There’s no need for this. Customers like to be offered plenty of choice, meeting their taste and pocket,” notes Lyudmila Tyaglova, the Deputy Chair of Bellegprom Concern and one of the developers of the new programme. “Our task is to widely represent Belarusian footwear on our market and enable it to worthily compete with foreign rivals. It’s not acceptable for imported footwear (not always of good quality) to account for around 70 percent of the domestic market.” According to foreign economists, domestic products should satisfy at least half of the country’s footwear needs; imports should only fill the niche unoccupied by our own manufacturers.

By Tatiana Kozlova

2010  беларусь.belarus



Belarusian road: from the River Bug to the Amur It may be that no other language in the world boasts such a meaningful and beautiful word as ‘gastsinets’. In Belarusian, it means the same as the English word ‘present’ or German ‘Geschenk’. However, it does have another meaning: a major trading route, as used by ‘gostsi’ (guests) in old Belarusian language. This shows much about our mentality, as our ancestors welcomed merchants, arriving from remote countries, as honourable guests


oday, we retain a similar attitude towards trade, the attraction of foreign investments and creation of joint ventures. Situated at a crossroads of the world’s major trade routes, we offer a strong trade ‘gastsinets’ from the River Bug to the Amur. Recently, this topic was tackled at the traditional summer session of Belarusian Ambassadors and heads of diplomatic missions abroad. The results of this brainstorming discussion were summed up by Andrei Savinykh, an official representative of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, speaking to an international observer of Belarus magazine. How would you characterise today’s major task of implementing the foreign economic interests of our country? Think of a classical formula: foreign policy is a continuation of our domestic policy. It’s not for nothing that President Lukashenko’s election campaign motto


беларусь.belarus  2010

was: ‘For a Strong and Flourishing Belarus!’ It reflects two mutually inter-connected ideas, prosperity and independence, as the basis for the country’s development. Our political and economic strategies, dictating our priorities, proceed from this. B elar us is probably the only country within the post-Soviet space which has managed to preserve its production potential and highly educated staff. However, we understand that, to preserve our position as a developed state in the 21st century, we must modernise our industries and enterprises, focusing on innovative development. This explains our enhanced interest in resolving the systemic economic problems we are facing today. Like any other European state, we’re trying to reduce our dependence on energy impor ts. I should mention that we’re applying common European approaches to solving this issue. Belarusian enterprises are encouraged to use more actively the local energy

sources, with energy saving becoming an unbreakable rule of production discipline. Moreover, we are developing plans and ideas to start bio fuel production. We also aim to construct our own nuclear power station. In this way we’re trying to diversify our energy supplies. and searching for new energy suppliers. These are major trends in Belarus’ economic policy, which I’ll discuss later in a more detailed way. Continuing our conversation about systemic problems, I’d like to draw your attention to the extraordinary role of heavy industry in our country’s economy. At the same time our service sector is less advanced compared to the developed countries level, and constitutes only 42 percent of GDP. Accordingly, we’re implementing midterm national and state programmes to develop tourism, making efficient use of transit opportunities and building up the supply of professional services. Moreover, we seriously lag behind in our rate and volume of innovative development; our level of commis-


Andrey Savinykh, an official representative of Belarusian Foreign Ministry

sioning of new and innovative technologies is a top priority for the country’s development, in addition to the structural reorganisation of the economy. The latter should rely on the creation of high-tech production facilities and output of high added-value products. We need additional resources to implement our plans and we’re giving special priority to further improvement of the country’s investment climate and business environment. I believe that the task set by the President of Belarus – to enter the top 30 countries for favourable business terms – is vital to our country’s development. One of the consequences of the global economic crisis is the narrowing of sales markets, which is especially painful for such export-oriented states as ours. Which measures taken by the Belarusian Government to promote our exports are most important? I’d like to mention that Belarus’ foreign trade policy has always been multi-vector and diversified. Over the last 15 years, we’ve been supplying

our goods to over 150 countries worldwide. In 2009 – the most difficult year of the continued global financial and economic crisis – our exports were delivered only to 141 countries. The crisis has inspired Belarusian enterprises to strengthen their position at the traditional markets and expand into new export destinations. Last year, our Belarusian manufacturers sent delegations to Zimbabwe, Angola and Sudan. In early 2010, the same visits took place to Code d’Ivoire, Togo and Mali. These countries are new markets for us, where Belarusian products are not yet widely represented. Ne w opp or tunities for cooperation have opened with Brazil following the visit of the Governor of Goiás State to Belarus in February 2010 and the Belarusian President’s visit to Brazil in March 2010. Visits to Malaysia, Indonesia, Lebanon, Algeria, Morocco, Tunis and Australia have also been scheduled. The creation of our own trade distribution networks is of primary impor-

tance in strengthening our position in the new markets, in addition to the establishment of assembly production facilities and service centres to offer post-sales services. We’re ready to develop gradually our presence in Northern European markets, where no Belarusian foreign diplomatic missions yet exist: in Denmark, Norway and Finland. In diversifying our export deliveries, we are not reducing the level of our involvement in traditional markets; rather, we’re simply extending. Last year, we began negotiations with the European Commission, aiming for the EU’s acknowledgment of the status of the Belarusian economy. On December 10th, 2009, a new 2010-2013 EBRD strategy for Belarus was adopted, envisaging the expansion of collaboration. To our great satisfaction, this document includes the possibility to finance state sector projects. How has the position of Belarusian exporters changed regarding the traditional markets of the EU and Russia? Will our participation in the Eastern Partnership programme expand our opportunities in Europe? Russia and the EU are our major markets, accounting for the greater part of our trade. However, I believe that our enterprises can further strengthen their market positions there. Of course, the EU’s ‘E astern Partnership’ initiative opens up definite opportunities to deepen our relations with European markets. Our country accepted the invitation to join this programme for pragmatic reasons. I’d like to note, with reserved optimism, the creation of a specialised working party which aims to develop contacts between business circles of partner countries and EU member states. This will operate within the ‘Economic Integration and Convergence with EU Policies’ programme. While we are trying to ensure favourable and non-discrimina tory conditions for entering the EU market, we understand that we need

2010  беларусь.belarus


Topical to be competitive to be successful. We are working hard to bring our national standards and technical norms in line with those in the EU, while also enhancing the competitiveness of our goods in price and quality. I’d like to stress that, although the ‘Eastern Partnership’ initiative is very attractive, it can hardly be considered as a main tool for bilateral Belarus-EU co-operation. According to the pattern approved by the EU for Belarus, the ‘Eastern Partnership’ is an instrument to unite the efforts of Belarus, other partner countries and EU states to solve regional problems. We fully support this target. It meets our own desire to develop relations with European partners, not only taking but giving. We’re sharing our opportunities with others while contributing to significant European projects. However even intensive ‘Eastern Partnership’ programme cannot take our relationship to a whole new level. To achieve this, we must change our legislation to comply with that of EU. Unfortunately, today our relations are guided by the old and mainly outdated cooperation agreement between the EU and Belarus, signed back in the Soviet days of 1989. We believe it is crucially important for both sides to finalise the process of ratification of our 1995 Partnership and Co-operation Agreement (PCA), which has signed and already partially ratified by some EU members; bringing the PAC into force would be a serious and persuasive signal of the EU’s readiness to begin new relations with our country. How do you assess the potential of the recently set up Customs Union of Belarus, Russian and Kazakhstan? Undoubtedly, the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, alongside the simplification of foreign trade procedures and many other issues within the Customs Union, creates great advantages for mutual trade, primarily for member countries of this union.


беларусь.belarus  2010

However, I’d like to underline that our integration format has aroused great interest from a range of other states keen to establish preferential – free trade – regimes with us. We’ve received proposals for free trade zones from Vietnam, Egypt, New Zealand, Syria and Iran. Fo r t h e f i r s t t i m e , w e s t e r n members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) – have invited us to set up a free trade zone. EFTA unites the highly developed countries as Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Lichtenstein.. Taking into account that the EFTA and EU are working within an almost identical economic space, this step is a good signal for the liberalisation of trade relations. In Belarus, we view the Customs Union as an important step forward, forming the basis of the whole EurAsEC. At the same time, this is only a transitional period for a more profound form of integration – our Single Economic Space. This will enable us to ensure free movement of goods (terms are being set within the Customs Union), as well as free movement of capital, services and labour force. Is it realistic to diversify into the markets of Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa? Why does our country believe it can gain a foothold in such remote locations? I think you are slightly late in asking this question, due to the systematic and well-consideredt steps we have already achieved a remarkable progress in our presence in the Latin American region, primarily in Venezuela. Economic collaboration with other states from this region has been thoroughly studied during the visit of the Belarusian delegation, headed by the Assistant to the Belarusian President, Victor Sheiman; they travelled to Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela. Work is also underway to expand the geography of Belarusian supplies to Asian and African markets. Of course, we use a variety of tools: from competent management to political

mechanisms. One tool is our interaction with large regional economic groups, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the East African Community (EAC). In Asia, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is the most influential and promising within the AsianPacific region. From 2010-2011, we plan to organise a number of visits to the most promising countries while trying to cover major regional groups.

Much has been spoken recently of Belarus’ innovation development, which aims to promote high-tech, scienceintensive projects to foreign markets. Can you specify what is this about? As you know, Belarus has few raw resources on which to build a longterm export strategy. We can only boast of having potassium salts and a lot of forest and agricultural land. Most other raw materials are imported. Accordingly, we need to generate profit from added value we are able to generate ourselves; we must apply our hands and heads. The more high technologies and scientific achievements we contribute, the greater the added value will be.

Topical Our ambassadors met recently to particularly focus on this topic, discussing how to tackle the situation in the most efficient way. We have serious capacities and plenty of work to do. I can bring concrete examples of successful innovative Belarusian enterprises; however, I believe that a clearly outlined trend is more vital than separate examples. We still have much to do to develop this direction. Alongside innovations, Belarus is focusing on tourism. Which niches could we occupy?

Leaders of foreign enterprises of the Republic of Belarus familiarized with the production process of giant tires at Belshina, JSC in Bobruysk

Our country has no sunny seaside, ancient architecture or exotic culture. However, we do possess beautiful and, sometimes, untouched countryside, hospitable people and a convenient geographical location. I believe that nature tourism is the most promising: agro-ecotourism, fishing, hunting and active leisure. The Lithuanian Prime Minister recently cycled through Belarus, providing a good example to foreign tourists. Cultural and historical tourism also has prospects; moreover, we share much history with our neighbours.

Let’s not forget that we are a country with very rich and ancient history. We were the first country worldwide to constitutionally forbid any interconfessional disputes and disagreements during medieval times. We were part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Charles XII crossed the territory of Belarus, as did Napoleon on his way to Moscow and back. He suffered overwhelming defeat here. Most of his Swiss guard died in battle by the River Berezina. The death of these people army created a strong psychological effect and in some way led to adoption of the neutrality policies at the state level. These facts are of great historical importance for the region and I believe that, if we use them reasonably, they are enough to allow us to compete for tourist attention. Today, spa tourism is also very popular in Belarus, especially among CIS residents. We speak about our great potential but we shall be able to benefit from it only if we develop a first class infrastructure. Western tourists may be keen to relax on the bank of a beautiful lake in the forest, with every possible comfort, as they are accustomed to. Moreover, remote locations, perhaps in the middle of a dense forest, are perfect for training, seminars and meetings organised by western companies. Such events are held around the globe and Belarus being the centre of Europe can become part of these activities. . The most vital aspect in achieving this goal is creativity, in addition to training qualified personnel and developing infrastructure. The Belarusian Government is now seriously involved in attracting investments and creating highly efficient work places. How is this work conducted at diplomatic level? I won’t go into the details of the work of our trade missions, such as the organisation of visits and negotiations and the search for business partners. However, I’d like to mention major events run to promote our image. For

instance, recently we’ve organised six investment and business forums in Germany, Kazakhstan, Poland, Turkey, Switzerland and Finland. These ‘demonstrations’ of our country’s potential enable us to ‘show ourselves and see others’. Analysis shows that potential investors are keen to implement investment projects in Belarus: in logistics, road infrastructure, construction, wood processing, extraction and the processing of natural resources. The National Investment and Privatisation Agency has been set up in Belarus with the aim to create and maintain a single database on investment activity, including a register of investment projects to attract foreign injections. How would you define Belarus’ role in the international division of labour? According to ‘Forbes’, we are among the world’s leading IT outsourcers, alongside India in terms of IT export per capita. We have long outstripped Russia and Ukraine, which also claim remarkable rankings in this sphere. Services, especially in IT, are a very interesting niche for Belarus on the international market. We can develop high potential in offering design, architectural, engineering, medical and laboratory services and many more. Many services and especially IT doesn’t require considerable capital investment or expensive infrastructure. We need favourable conditions and political support, as seen from the work of the High-Tech Park, which is successfully operating in Belarus. We shouldn’t forget our traditional areas of industry and agriculture, of course. We account for around 8 percent of the world’s tractor market and about 30 percent of the market for heavy vehicles. We have also long occupied strong positions on the world market for potash fertilisers and dairy products. We’ll continue to build on this while switching to production of new and more innovative products. Thank you for the interview! By Nina Romanova

2010  беларусь.belarus



Nesvizh court of musical wonders Open air concerts conquered the heart of Belarusian conductor Vyacheslav Volich during his tours of European cities; he saw classical concerts by the walls of ancient fortresses, in central squares and in open pits equipped with high-tech stages


i n c e t h e n , h e’s b e e n passionate about performing opera outside, rather than just in the theatre building. He’s keen for Belarusian audiences to feel the unique mood which is created when history, music and nature combine. The heads of the Belarusian Opera and Ballet Theatre are supporting his initiative, so all that’s needed is an appropriate venue. Fortunately, the Radziwills’ Nesvizh Palace has newly opened after being reconstructed. This former residence of the most prominent Belarusian noble family is a wonderful venue for hosting cultural events. In the late 18th century, Belarusian musical and operatic art flourished in Nesvizh so perhaps it shouldn’t surprise us to learn that the inner courtyard of the castle has perfect acoustics! No microphones are needed to amplify sound; it’s as if the walls of the castle were made specially to host musical parties… Open air classical music concerts have a long history. Many years ago, the aristocracy were charmed by the French enlightenment and t hou g ht it fashionable to act like


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peasants, organising picnics with musical performances in the open air. Although this ‘love’ was rather vague (as there was a strict division between the classes), the Radziwills’ genteel lifestyle overspilled into the neighbouring village, where peasants often heard the flute or clavecin playing in the castle. The 18th century nobility often kept their own musicians and liked to follow fashions in music, composing for pleasure and, of course, playing at least one musical instrument themselves. From early childhood, a young gentleman studied dancing, fencing, horse-riding and music. It’s no wonder that all parties, dinners, walks in the park, hunting, masquerades and fire-shows — the usual noble pastimes — were accompanied by music. The Radziwills’ Palace — always full of prominent Belarusian and Polish families — surprised its guests with its diverse opera and ballet performances.

The family paid highly to buy the musical scores of Puccini, Gluck, Boccherini and Pugnani from travelling merchants and even wrote regularly to Haydn, who sent his symphonies to Nesvizh. Anything which was a success in Paris or Weimar, was staged by the Radziwills just a week later. The nobility were sometimes eccentric in their desire to impress. Karol Stanisław Radziwiłł covered his fields with salt in summer to organise sledding.

Creativity peasant women singing French and Italian arias — known for their touching melodies —while wearing full folk costume. Even the most talented peasant performers hardly compared with the opera divas of the day, such as Warsaw’s Małgorzata Jasińska and Italian Anna Bermucci (whom the Radziwills invited directly from her home country). Karol Stanisław Radziwiłł owned Nesvizh Palace in the second half of the 18th century and, sadly, had no musical talent. Alexandra, a representative of the no less famous Sapegi family, wrote in her diary that a ‘clarinet in Karol’s hands grunted like a pig’. However, his lack of musicality did not hamper Karol from conducting a delicate politcal game with Russian Empress Yekaterina II, who wished to distribute her influence via trusted Polish King Stanisław August Poniatowski. “The King lives as a king in Krakow as Radziwill does in Nesvizh,” Karol Stanisław Radziwiłł liked to say. The Radziwills’ income exceeded that of the Polish King at the time. The Radziwills also paid much to attract the best European masters — including Italian singer, conductor and composer Albertini and Czech composer, organist and pianist Jan Ladislav Dusik. It was no problem at all for the noble family to attract the greatest German composer, Jan David Holland; before moving to Nesvizh, he headed the protestant churches of Hamburg and composed church music. He may have decided t o m ov e t o

Nesvizh having become tired of composing masses or because his wife persuaded him, wishing to become an opera diva in Warsaw. No one knows the exact reason but, on coming to Nesvizh, Holland stayed for 20 long years. In his correspondence, Holland sometimes complained that the Radziwills did not always pay their agreed salary and did not meet their promised conditions. Nevertheless, the composer did not cancel his contract, so we must assume that he had fallen in love with the Belarusian landscape and atmosphere. He witnessed the division of the Rzech Pospolita (which united the lands of Poland and Belarus) and the transition of the Radziwills’ estates to ownership by the Russian Empire. The gorgeous courtyard — existing for over fifty years — disappeared in the fog of the time, while the musical scores — which had witnessed the height of Nesvizh musical art — were removed without trace… Twenty years ago, music historian and researcher Olga Dadiomova went to Poland to search for the lost manuscripts. She could hardly have imagined that she would find a true musical treasure in the libraries of Warsaw and Krakow: scores by 18th century Nesvizh composers. The find immediately changed the established beliefs that Belarus had lacked its own elite musical culture. “Soviet society formed a clear stereotype of the nobility as parasites and oppressors, refusing to talk about the noble culture of the past. It seemed that a ‘Bermuda triangle’ existed in the centre of Europe, where all cultural trends — the Renaissance, Classicism and Baroque — passed us by,” says Ms. Dadiomova. She returned to Belarus with copies of those valuable s c o r e s Aloizas Yunevich

Meanwhile, Michał Kleofas Ogiński transported famous Salzburg pie (which spoiled within just 8 hours of baking). Similarly, music, like dainty dishes, was considered fresh in the morning but addle in the evening, with palace composers ranked little higher than the cook or shoemaker. Nevertheless, it was prestigious to work for the Radziwills, who gave their composer a huge staff of about 60-100 people, in addition to several orchestras: military, dance, janissary (consisting of drums and whistles) and rare horn. Each instrument in the latter could produce only one sound, so the conductor had to precisely choose when each musician should blow their horn. This unique ‘live organ’ — played only by peasants — was extremely popular in Nesvizh. Peasants were often invited to join in stage performances, with the Radziwills even setting up a musical school for peasant children. Their studies were far from easy, with one record noting

2010  беларусь.belarus



Joining elite Yekaterina Oleynik of Belarus wins international contest in the USA


Opera artists’ performance in Nesvizh

and began compiling a scientific image of musical Belarus. However, famous cultural figures of her time could hardly accept that she was in possession of rare scores which were going unperformed. Honoured Artist of Belarus and the Opera and Ballet Theatre’s Director, Victor Skorobogatov, joined composer Vladimir Baidov and playwright Sergey Kuznetsov in restoring one of the newly discovered operas — Jan David Holland’s Another’s Wealth Serves No Good. Since it had been composed for playing in the Nesvizh Palace courtyard, it had to be adapted for the large stage. Arias for orchestra instruments were composed while the plot was perfected. Lost fragments of Holland’s score were supplemented by his music from other sources while the text was translated from the then popular Polish to understandable Belarusian. The musical head of open air opera at Nesvizh, Vyacheslav Volich, has no doubts that the piece is a foundation stone. After two centuries, the castle’s halls again ring with music by one of the Radziwills’ favourite composers. “Among our audiences, there are many local residents whose grandparents could have played on the Radziwills’ stage. They react movingly to the opera, especially when the leading character, from Nesvizh, persuades others that it’s better to live in Nesvizh than in Paris,” says Mr. Volich. A gala concert — scheduled for the second day of the recent concert programme organised at the palace — featured many works by Belarusian composers, including arias from


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Vladimir Soltan’s King Stakh’s Savage Hunt, Dmitry Smolsky’s Grey Legend and 18th century opera Apollo-Law Maker by Wardocki. Symbolically, the soloists were not from France or Italy (as they were many years ago) but from Belarus — all loved and known all over the globe. Among them were talented Oksana Volkova, Yuri Gorodetsky, Anastasia Moskvina, Nina Sharubina, Stanislav Trifonov and Ilya Silchukov — all winners of various international contests. Some are now on an internship in Germany while others work with the Russian Bolshoi Theatre and other companies abroad. However, they all expressed their wish to participate in the Nesvizh project as soon as they heard of it. Stanislav Trifonov joined Belarusian opera soloist, Tatiana Tretyak, in her Melodies of Love concert, performing romantic Italian songs and old Russian romances in the cosy town hall of Nesvizh, which is decorated with old portraits of the Radziwills and with candles. The Serenade string quartet accompanied them. There was an impression that time had shifted. For two days, the audience was able to feel the mood of the brilliant past, nostalgically recalling pride in their native land, which is even now filled with talented and spiritual people. Their feelings are easily explained. Whatever the age, people remain faithful to a single goal: seeking to inspire people and open their souls to beauty. We continue living and creating until inspiration and fantasy are alive in every mind and soul… By Victoria Kamendova

he dancer has won the Women’s Capezio Award, one of eight prestigious awards presented by the International Ballet Competition 2010 (IBC). She is the leading dancer of the Belarusian Opera and Ballet Theatre and has won several awards in the past. In 2009, Yekaterina claimed medals at international ballet competitions in Moscow and Seoul and has received diplomas from international competitions in Hungary (2008) and China (2007). She has also won international dance contests in Bulgaria (2006) and Ukraine (2004). The International Ballet C ompetition is one of the most respected in the world. This year, it was held in American Jackson, Mississippi — which becomes a centre of global ballet once every four years. The competition was founded in 1978, under the aegis of the UNESCO’s International Theatre Institute. The preliminary selection round was held by viewing videos. Over 300 applications were submitted, of which only 110 (from 35 countries) were shortlisted. Over two weeks, the future stars of global ballet competed for gold, silver and bronze medals, as well as scholarships, prizes, diplomas and contracts. The contest can be a stepping stone to a dancer’s career. In the first round, Yekaterina and her partner Konstantin Kuznetsov performed a pas de deux from Ludwig Minkus’ Don Quixote. In the second round, she danced Fragile Eternal Paradise, staged by Grodno choreographer Dmitry Karakulov. This complicated dance conquered the hearts of the audience and jury, earning her entry to the third round. There, the Belarusian dancers staged Sleeping Beauty by Pyotr Tchaikovsky and a modern dance entitled Pergolesi, by famous Radu Poklitaru.

Soyuz Smolensk: city of ambassadors

Landing brotherhood

Army General Vasily Margelov commanded the USSR’s military landing forces from 1954 to 1979 and loved to visit Vitebsk — where the 103rd guard airborne division was based

“Our city has become ambassadorial; we’re already a Union State capital,” smiled the Governor of Smolensk region, Sergey Antufiev, speaking at the solemn opening of a branch of the Belarusian Embassy.


he new branch was announced in autumn 2008 and has, at last, opened its doors to its first guests. Its first joint project is underway: in the near future, a broiler poultry farm is to be constructed in Smolensk region’s Kardymovo district. In 2010, the region’s turnover with Belarus could reach $1bn. Already 93 companies using Belarusian capital are operational there. Strong ties between Smolensk and Belarusian machine builders have been established.

Taking care of health from an early age A group of Russian scientistpaediatricians and dieticians have visited Belarus


Meetings by the sea Resort city of Anapa hosts traditional Artistry of Young festival for sixth time


he event was founded by the Permanent Committee of the Union State, the BelarusRussia Union State’s Parliamentary Assembly and the two states’ culture ministries. The festival focuses on the major directions of children’s art: vocal, choreographic, circus, instrumental and folklore. This year, it featured the Premiere-Sponide Dance Theatre (Vitebsk region), the Arena Circus Studio (Gomel region), the Inspiration Straw-braiding Studio (Minsk region) and Fantasy — a pop-vocal band (from Pinsk’s children’s musical school No.1). All teams and soloists were awarded with diplomas, valuable prizes and awards.

Belarus — Russia

rofessors from the Russian Medical Academy of Postgraduate Education participated in a round table entitled ‘Nutrition for Healthy and Unwell Children’. Russian and Belarusian scientists were able to share their expertise at the event, held in Volkovysk, Grodno region. The meeting had serious grounds, with Russian paediatricians reporting on a national programme to improve nutrition for babies under one year old. They also discussed the development of another global programme — to define a state policy for healthy nutrition until 2020. Belarusian doctors shared their experience. This year, the Government is to assess the results of its ‘Children of Belarus’ state programme, in addition to its sub-programme — ‘Children’s Food’. New programmes for 2011-2015 are to be outlined.


ot long ago, a street was named in his honour in the regional centre. Moreover, a plaque dedicate to him was unveiled on a newly built high-rise towerblock. Financial assistance was provided by the Fund for the Promotion of Defence Capability and Security of Russia. The solemn ceremony of the plaque unveiling was attended by numerous guests, including Vasily Margelov’s sons.

Gomel combines made in Bryansk Bryansk’s authorities much appreciate the experience of the joint Belarusian-Russian enterprise producing combines


he average salary there is 15,000 Russian Roubles a month, with taxes in good order. The staff also have access to social programmes. The factory opened five years ago and is now manufacturing agricultural machinery and spare parts. Warranty and after-sales services are provided in Bryansk. Additionally, purchasing procedures have been simplified. The plant sells its combines via 76 dealerships throughout Russia.

2010  беларусь.belarus


Customs for three How will economies of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan benefit from removing inter-state barriers?


s soon as our leading post-Soviet countries agreed on creating the Customs Union, repres ent at ives of world famous companies began to visit Belarus. “Czech entrepreneurs hope that their exports to this huge single territory will expand with the appearance of a new inter-state structure,” notes the Czech Ambassador to Belarus. Western businesses hope to trade duty-free with Russia and Kazakhstan, opening representational offices and consignment warehouses, as well as setting up joint and foreign ventures and producing goods popular on eastern markets. Meanwhile, people from Russia and Kazakhstan view Belarus as a gateway to relations with Europe. There are many more advantages to the arrangement. From H2 2010, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan have created a single customs territory, with b order controls shifted to common external borders; inter-state movement of goods is designed to be free-flowing. Import duties are being unified, as are documents regulating the quality of goods, aiding the competitiveness of manufacturers.


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Innovations are being encouraged, with the final goal being the creation of a Single Economic Space for our three countries within coming years. Together, Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan will become serious world players, rivalling the EU in the scale of their union. How will Belarus benefit? Is it reasonable to expect our trilateral economic str ucture to b e functional within such a tight deadline? European countries spent dozens of years forming the EU. It’s impossible to fully answer these questions without looking at the prehistory of the current integrated market. In particular, the achievements of the Union State of Russia and Belarus and the Customs Union, which has been uniting these states for over 10 years. After the USSR collapsed, numerous manufacturing and co-operative ties between thousands of industrial and sci-tech enterprises in Russia and Belarus found themselves under threat, although dozens of years had been spent on establishing them. Belarus acted, primarily, as an ‘assembly floor’ for the entire 270m population of the Soviet Union, accounting for the

lion’s share of trucks and metal cutting machines, agricultural machinery and wheeled tractors, TV sets and refrigerators. Component parts and materials were primarily supplied from Russia, which then bought most of the resulting manufactures. Minsk Automobile Works used to equip its vehicles with Yaroslavl-made engines for many years and received steel from the Urals. Ready-made machines were later dispatched across Russia’s cities and towns. From 1992-1993, when Russia and Belarus proclaimed their statehood, customs barriers then appeared, hampering such deliveries and resulting in hundreds of enterprises in both states closing. The creation of the Union State and the Customs Union has prevented total collapse, notes Pavel Borodin, the State Secretary of the Union State. He assures us that, today, over 200 interstate legislative documents govern the work of the 26,000 Belarusian and Russi an enter pr is es implementing joint projects. Over 15m people are employed by these firms, with dozens of progressive sci-tech projects underway. Such concentrated efforts are enabling us to successfully compete on foreign markets. “ There was a time when our Belarusian and Russian economies relied on a 60 percent compliment,” explains Piotr Nikitenko, an academician at the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. “This currently stands at a more optimal 40 percent — as it used to be during Soviet times. Hundreds of Russian enterprises


supply the assembly lines of Minsk’s automobile, motor and tractor works — with components, spare parts and units; 60-70 percent of their produce is then supplied to the Russian market. In other words, stable work for Belarusian factories means stable work for many hundreds of Russian business partners.” R e c e nt l y, t h i s c o - o p e r at i o n acquired greater impetus, with famous B elarusian plants opening joint ventures in Russia, assembling vehicle sets. Minsk Tractor Works has particularly progressed in this area, organising major assembly of its energy-efficient models in Yelabuga. Gomel’s Plant of Agricultural Machinery Gomselmash and Bobruiskagromash are also doing well in this direction. This enables them to provoke interest among local business structures in the agricultural machinery production and create new jobs while cheapening manufacture by using local materials and spare parts. In total, 26 joint enterprises are currently operational in Russia, manufacturing ‘Belarusian’ goods. The Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan

aids such co-operation, with unified technical regulations for various types of commodities; 38 such documents are to be adopted, including 34 in 2010. These are to clearly define technical terms, making trade wars impossible (e.g. for dairy or chinaware goods). Belarusian-Russian collaboration within the Union State aims to improve security along our common western border; many customs offices and border checkpoints are now operating at European levels regarding technologies, capacity and service, due to the realisation of Belarusian-Russian programmes financed from the Union State budget. Moreover, Belarusian and Russian customs officials have created a single opto-electronic system of prompt information sharing for cargo crossing border terminals and checkpoints. This is allowing paperwork to be processed quickly and painlessly, with transport and phyto-sanitary control shifting from the BelarusianRussian border to the external borders of the Union State (now the common border of the Customs Union of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan).

Of course, the economic interests of our partner countries do not always coincide with ours, but problems are not insurmountable. A typical example is the placement of customs duties on oil and oil products supplied from Russia to Belarus. Even now, after the Customs Union of our three countries has entered into force, the Belarusian Government still insists that there should be no exceptions regarding duty-free trade within our shared customs territory. Moreover, Russian customs duties are applied solely towards Belarusian enterprises. As a result, some have reduced their oil refining volumes and Belarus is now looking for new oil suppliers far beyond the Union State. Over 70 Russian enterprises receiving refined oil products from Belarus are suffering as a result. Due to customs duties for imported Russian paraxylene being introduced, Mogilev’s Khimvolokno Production Association has had to raise its prices by 30 percent on its polyether granulate — exported to neighbouring Russian manufacturers of polyether fabrics for furniture and automobile producers. The Union State’s Council of Ministers in Brest discussed such customs duties on Russian oil and oil products some time ago, with the Head of the Russian Government, Vladimir Putin, promising equal access to hydrocarbons within the Single Economic Space of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan (coming into operation in 2012). It was agreed that common customs duties for imported secondhand cars would also be launched at that time. Before then, several dozen basic documents regulating our shared business environment need to be settled and Belarus is ready to speed up this process in every possible way. Our new stage of integration promises to guarantee a 15 percent rise in GDP. By Vladimir Bibikov

2010  беларусь.belarus


Studies in neighbouring state


Different opportunities of two educational systems


qual opportunities in education are an evident advantage of the Union State educational space. Moreover, many of these opportunities have already been worthily assessed. In the academic year of 1995-1996, 4,355 Belarusian students studied at Russian universities, jumping to 13,706 by 2008-2009. This was much greater than the number of Russian students in Belarus. However, progress is evident, with the number of Russians studying at Belarusian universities rising from 1,161 to 1,846 over the same period. This year, centralised entrance tests have been passed by 426 Russian young people. The Belarusian State University (BSU) is one of the most popular higher educational establishments. Last year, 40 Russians entered, with 14 studying with state-financed departments. Quality and tradition, combined with lower fees than those seen in Moscow and St. Petersburg, undoubtedly attract people to Belarus’ higher education. The wide range of courses offered is another clear advantage.


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BSU also offers good accommodation to its students although it cannot promise a place for every Russian student at its hostels. In the last academic year, 87 students, postgraduates and Master’s Degree candidates from Russia lived across 10 university buildings. According to Mikhail Cherepennikov, Director of the BSU Student Campus, they paid the same fees as Belarusians — unlike other foreign students (about Br15,750 — $5 — per month). The Student Village in Minsk, which construction is to be complete by 2014, should help solve housing problems. Waste ground near the Belarusian State Medical University is to become a student suburb accommodating almost 9,000 young people. It will boast its own polyclinic and trade-entertainment centre and, even, a kindergarten. In early 2010, over 1,000 young people (including Russian students) moved into the first of eight residential buildings in Dzerzhinsky Avenue. Each flat contains two rooms: one is 14sq.m. and is designed to sleep two while the other is 21sq.m and is designed for three students.

Each room is modern and comfortable and has Internet access — to aid studies and rest. Interest in the Belarusian-Russian University in Mogilev is also rising. It offers Russian style diplomas as well as Belarusian. 574 students, including 106 Russian citizens, are currently studying for the former, many having arrived from remote locations in the Tyumen, Arkhangelsk and Kemerovo regions, as well as from the Republics of Komi and Sakha. Timur Romankov has arrived from the remote Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous District, following his older brother. In Soviet times, the young boy’s parents moved from Shklov to Russia. Fifth year student Timur is studying the Russian educational programme and would like to stay in Mogilev, as his brother has done. His diploma in higher education is equally recognised in both states. Of course, there are some aspects which must be taken into account when planning Union State social development concept for 2011-2015. “In early 2000s, obligatory job placements were considered a burden, so many graduates often applied for free employment. Now, their first job placement is guaranteed in Belarus by law and Russians can also be appointed, if they wish. “It would be nice if young specialists studying at Russian universities had the same opportunity,” notes Vladimir Zdanovich, the Chairman of the Permanent Commission for Education, Culture, Science and Sci-Tech Progress at the National Assembly’s House of Representatives. One disagreement concerns the structure of higher education. In Russia, there are three stages of higher education: a Bachelor’s Degree, a Specialist Degree and a Master’s Degree. Belarus has only two: Specialist and Master’s.

“From 2011-2012, we plan to launch the requirements of the Russian Ministry for Education and Science regarding enrolment and study for the Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. We’ll introduce four years of study for those wishing to receive a Bachelor’s Degree and two years for a Master’s Degree,” explains Natalia Skok, Pro-Rector for Scientific Work and International Co-operation at the Belarusian-Russian University. “According to Belarusian standards, a Master’s Degree takes 1 to 2 years. Russia’s programme supports the principles and requirements of the Bologna Process. Belarus is also in the mainstream of pan-European trends, adapted to take into account the goals and values of the national system of education. At present, our students with the Russian diploma can continue their studies at the university or in the Russian Federation.” Graduates of Belarusian universities who have studied at the state‘s expense are obliged to consult the Belarusian Education Ministry before applying for a Russian Master’s Degree. Mr. Zdanovich believes this is necessary to avoid misunderstandings. As far as recognition of scientific degrees is concerned, Belarusian graduates have two choices. They can defend their thesis in Russia, if no scientific councils on the chosen theme exist in Belarus (applying to the Higher Attestation Commission to receive approval) or they can defend their thesis within the territory of the Union State. He explains, “It’s difficult to completely integrate the Belarusian and Russian education systems, as we have different economies: there is a socially oriented market economy in Belarus and an absolute market economy in Russia. However, we have similar problems and can solve them together, including with the help of the Education Code and other legal acts. Entrance application can be complex since Belarusian students wishing to study at Russian universities have to take part in the Russian Unified

State Exam (USE) or take internal exams at Russian universities as foreigners. Alumni from Russia have to pass centralised entrance tests in Belarus. Some are proposing that we introduce a scale to show corresponding results between the Belarusian centralised entrance tests and Russian Unified State Exams but I have my doubts as to the wisdom of this. Firstly, USE results are valid for two years, while the results of the centralised tests in Belarus are valid only for the entrance period. Secondly, taking into account the huge territory of the Russian Federation and its various time zones, some may have already completed exams while others are yet to begin, which could lead to cheating. We boast a higher degree of objectivity, confidence and honesty — without offence to our Russian colleagues. Thirdly, our terms of examination don’t coincide. It makes more sense to unify our university entrance system, to the benefit of both our countries. The most promising form of co-operation is the signing of direct agreements between our universities on the exchange of students. Taking into account the current situation, some talented Belarusians should be sent to study at Russian

universities specialising in nuclear and space techniques. In its turn, Belarus can offer good training in the agrarian and military spheres.” 540 agreements have already been signed between our Union State universities, envisaging the exchange of students,

the Olympiad movement, bilateral internships of university professors and teachers, conferences and the publication of articles. For example, in June, female students from the North-Western Academy of State Services arrived in Minsk for introductory training. A co-operative agreement has been signed between the Russian university and the Academy of Management under the President of Belarus. Last year, Belarusian students could familiarise themselves with the process of state economy regulation in Russia. The BSU team, which primarily contains those from the Applied Mathematics and Computer Science Department, will go to St. Petersburg in November to attend the 17th programming contest — a semi-final of the annual world championship. As is traditional, the BSU hosts quarter final competitions. The Belarusian State University maintains close ties with St. Petersburg State University of Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics, as well as with St. Petersburg’s State University. Equal opportunities are now guaranteed to those planning to receive secondary special or professional-technical education. Annually, around 300 young people from Russia choose Belarusian educational establishments — primarily located within the border regions of Gomel, Mogilev and Vitebsk. There’s no need to take exams since, according to Belarusian legislation, alumni are enrolled from the results of their certificates. Moreover, it’s a good opportunity to receive a popular profession for young Russians; professional and technical education is far better developed here than in Russia, especially in its provincial regions. “Recently, we welcomed a delegation from Nizhny Novgorod region; our guests were pleasantly surprised. They highly praised our job experience activities, which aim not only to teach students but to produce goods for sale. By Natalia Pisareva

2010  беларусь.belarus


Climate control Meteorologists strengthen co-operation


eather is always much talked about, especially during these summer months. In July, Europe saw extremely hot weather, with asphalt melting on the roads. Doctors registered plenty of patients suffering from heat stroke and even the traditional siesta couldn’t save some from overheating. Belarusians and Russians were also suffering, being unused to high temperatures — unlike those living in the south of Europe. Climatic records were the highlight of newspapers and TV bulletins, as well as being the major conversational topic at bus stops and in stuffy offices. Specialists in various branches were concerned about future crops, assessing possible damages. The first consequences seem to be as follows: over the first two weeks of July, wheat prices rose by almost 25 percent worldwide. Many Russian regions announced an emergency situation, due to the heat, and command headquarters were established, aiming to liquidate any adverse consequences. Of course, we look to meteorologists to assess the situation, since the weather seriously influences millions of people. Specialists from Russia and Belarus are now developing a whole range of measures to help us cope with weather ‘cataclysms’ — perhaps even turning the situation to profit.

Dealing with the weather

The Committee for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Pollution Monitoring was one of the first to be set up within the Union State, with weather forecasters from both countries co-operating well. Their


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liaisons primarily focus on practical interaction and daily data sharing. This area is particularly accentuated in the Union State 2007-2011 programme — On Improving the System for Providing the Population and the Economic Branches of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Belarus with Information on the Current and Forecast Weather Conditions and on the Ecological Situation. Hydrometeorological services have been actively developed over this time, with equipment being improved

and Environmental Protection of Belarus. “It’s not enough to characterise phenomena generally; we need concrete information. We should know in which regions of Belarus and Russia climate change will bring positive effects and where it’s reasonable to prepare for possible losses. According to the new programme, the industries of agriculture and forestry, as well as fuel and energy, will be provided with such data.”

and new technologies being launched. Innovations have been implemented to provide the Union State with new types of forecast information. Now, hydrometeorologists from our two countries have begun to develop a new strategic document. “The new programme will logically continue the currently implemented programme, yet its focus will slightly change,” explains Maria Germenchuk, the Director of the Hydrometeorology Department at the Ministry of Natural Resources

Looking over the horizon

Meteorologists don’t like to make long-term forecasts. However, last year, weather forecasters from our two states prepared a comprehensive report — On the Strategic Assessment of the Consequences of Climate Change on the Environment and the Economy of the Union State over the Next 10-20 Years. According to Ms. Germenchuk, the issue should be studied not only at a global (or European) level but at regional level, since particular indus-


tries’ needs vary depending on their territorial location. Some are more weather-dependant than others, with the climate affecting their GDP share, so definite steps should be taken. In this respect, it seems logical to ask why Belarusian and Russian specialists need to collaborate and offer mutual assistance, if recommendations are to be local. The prepared report gives a clear answer to this question: the more information Belarusian specialists receive about climatic peculiarities in the Middle-Russian Highlands, the more exactly they’ll be able to forecast their own situation. Russian colleagues have a similar interest. There are no great differences between Gomel and Bryansk regions or Vitebsk and Pskov regions. By working together, we can forecast for these territories more accurately. Compiling the report, scientists primarily wanted to warn state authorities of the forthcoming changes, to encourage them to prepare. Looking at the past forecast, we see that specialists were exactly right when they indicated a rise in average annual temperatures within the Union State, while also foretelling more days with extremely high daytime temperatures. It’s difficult to make forecasts regarding precipitation, since this differs between regions, but it’s clear that snow and rainfall will rise in winter, with droughts expected over

the coming summers — especially in the south of Russia, with the risk of spring floods rising in Siberia. Climatic changes can also have positive consequences, since plants grow quicker in warm weather and it’s easier to breed animals. Rising temperatures alleviate the problems of long icy winters and also reduce electricity expenses during the heating period. The major issue is how to prepare for the coming changes. Recently, the Hydrometeorology Department at the Belarusian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection released a joint report with Russia’s Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environment a l Monitor ing (Roshydromet), entitled A Strategic Assessment of Climate Change in the Union State. It was distributed among the corresponding ministries of our two countries, acting as a guide to action.

Protecting from waste

Even more major plans lie ahead for meteorologists. “Belarus and Russia should considerably enhance their level of interaction in preparing a new global agreement on co-operation, aiming to prevent climate change,” believes Alexander Bedritsky, the President of the World Meteorological Organisation. “This will bring benefits to both countries’ economies while enhancing the authority

of their proposals. We need to create a global and legally binding agreement, which will be supported by both developed and developing countries.” Work in this direction has been recently intensified in Belarus. In 2008, the Government developed and approved its National Programme of Measures to Mitigate the Consequences of Climate Change for 2008-2012. A draft law has also been prepared — On Climate Protection — the first such document within the CIS. It outlines major areas of state management in the sphere of climate protection while establishing the authority of state bodies in solving various profile issues. The developers have also determined a clear mechanism and procedure of making transactions in the sphere of greenhouse gas emissions. If the law is adopted, it should lead to a reduction in harmful emissions while positively influencing the health of our population.

Looking for weather in the Antarctic

The ice continent is called the ‘kitchen’ of weather, with climate changes being easily observed there. World science has long studied weather at the Poles, with our Union State countries at the cutting edge. This year, Belarusian polar researchers will continue investigations at the Antarctic, arriving on the ice continent as part of the Russian Antarctic expedition. They’ll stay at the Vechernyaya Mountain station — as before. Currently, Russian scientists have ceased their work at Molodezhnaya station, located nearby, so some investigations will be conducted by Belarusian polar specialists, ensuring that a range of observations is continued. Our Belarusian team also plans to expand the capabilities of its lidar and radio-metric stations. Great hopes are pinned on satellite opportunities, which would enable us to more thoroughly study the snow and ice sheet of the Antarctic and learn more about the weather from inside. By Nikolay Kozlovich

2010  беларусь.belarus


Artur Prupas

Most honest stage


n Vitebsk, it would be nice to honour the New Year not in January but in July — when it hosts the Slavonic Bazaar International Festival of Arts. In 2011, it will celebrate its 20th jubilee. It has gathered singers from far beyond the Slavonic states in this time — from as far away as Cuba and Israel. It history began in 1988, when Vitebsk hosted the 1st All-Union Festival of Polish Song. In 1992, the cultural event was continued on the Summer Amphitheatre stage — with the first Slavonic Bazaar festival. “This is the most honest stage,” says Yelena Spiridovich, the irreplaceable host of the festival. “Everything is transparent: live voices and live music. There is nothing false and it’s clear from the very beginning who is the strongest artist. Many years ago, the Summer Amphitheatre witnessed performances by Taisia Povaliy, Piotr

Slavonic Bazaar on eve of its 20th jubilee

Yelfimov and Filip Žmaher. No one doubted then that they are true stars.” As is traditional, the programme consists of several competitions: the International Contest of Young Pop Performers, the International Children’s Music Contest, a galaconcert of masters of art from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine and solo concerts by pop stars. A cornflower is the festival’s logo; poet Maxim Bogdanovich named this wild blue flower as Belarus’ symbol many years ago. In the first year of the festival’s existence, its organisers pursued modest goals, simply desiring Vitebsk audiences to gain familiarity with Slavonic songs. In 1993, it became a me mb e r of t he Inte r nat i ona l Federation of Festival Organisations (FIDOF). For the first time, the event gathered singers from Bulgaria, Kyrg yzstan, Lithuania, Slovakia, Turkey and Yugoslavia. Since 1995, the

Slavonic Bazaar has been known as the International Festival of Arts. In 1998, it became an interstate cultural project of the Belarus-Russian Union, gaining its Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk name. In 1999, it began to reflect the theme of the strengthening of the BelarusRussia Union. It opened with the Day of Belarus and closed with the Day of Russia. In 2003, the 12th Festival of Arts first hosted Union State Day; since then, it has been organised annually. In 2000, the Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk was attended by all Slavic nations. In its 19 years of existence, it has brought together delegations from a total of over 65 countries. Since 1995, it has been patronised by the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko. This year, a ‘star’ honouring Vladimir Mulyavin and Pesnyary was unveiled on the avenue of laureates of the President’s special award — ‘For Peace and Mutual Understanding via Art’. Mr. Lukashenko presented Union State Awards for Literature and Art to masters who have left both a material and spiritual legacy to Belarusians and Russians: the designers of the monument to Yanka Kupala in Moscow — Lev and Sergey Gumilevsky; and the designer of the monument to Alexander Pushkin in Minsk — Grigory Orekhov (who worked on the monument jointly with his father Yuri — now dead). Yuri Grigoriev (the former Chief Architect of Minsk who now works as Moscow’s First Deputy Chief Architect) was also awarded. The fifth laureate of the Union State Award for 2009-2010 was Leonid Shchemelev — a People’s Artist of Belarus whose individual style is unique; like Marc Chagall, Mr. Shchemelev was born in Vitebsk. “At the Slavonic Bazaar, there is a place for artists of any nationality,” stresses Director and organiser Rodion Bass. By Victar Korbut


Electronic future Over the next five years, Belarus may witness a serious breakthrough regarding information-communication technologies, as envisaged by a new strategy being compiled jointly by the Communication Ministry and the National Academy of Sciences

Electronic ‘yeast’

“Problems are unlikely to emerge regarding the financing of this sphere’s development,” believes the Communications and Informatisation Minister, Nikolai Pantelei. “It’s much more important to study international experience and receive support from foreign colleagues.” Belarusian scientists recently attend a seminar on Electronic Transformation as a Factor of Competitiveness and E conomic Growt h — organised by the World Bank in Belarus. “At present, many states are forming new business models. It’s hardly possible to cope without information technologies and electronic development in today’s world,” notes the head of the local WB office, Ivan Velev. He believes these factors are ‘extremely important’ for Belarus at its present stage of economic development, as IT is essential for economic growth over the coming 15-20 years. “A strategic approach to electronic development includes not only the

attraction of investments, technologies and knowledge but also a new level of competitiveness,” says Mr. Velev.

High speeds

WB experts see three major paths to establishing a fully-fledged information society. Firstly, infrastructure is needed — primarily, broadband Internet access which ensures high speed data transfer and constant Web connection. Additionally, the information-communication technologies sector should be operational: the activity of certain firms and techno-parks, the implementation of innovations and investments into development. Finally, electronic development is needed, a l lowing IT to help businesses join our 21st century world. WB analysts have calculated that a billion people worldwide use bank accounts while four times this number have mobile phones. “Potentially, 3bn people c ou l d u s e b a n k i n g

facilitate and simplify fiscal payments, achieving system optimisation. Moreover, ‘dividends’ from using information-communication technologies in the sphere of energy are well calculated. In particular, there are intellectual networks for electricity distribution; these help improve the quality of services and save money and natural resources. There are many examples being successfully implemented in countries with well-developed IT.

Study needed

Over the past two years, Belarusian state organs have been actively integrating IT into their systems. “It’s a global trend,’ stresses the Head of Infrastructure and Informatisation at the Communications and Informatisation Ministry’s Informatisation Department, Tatiana Milaenkova. The second path involves speeding up development of information services for the state, citizens and business. Legislation is being passed to aid the Belarusian model of e-society formation. “This shows that we’re developing at a great pace, reconsidering our approaches and ad apt ing t hem to the best practice of foreign countries,” she adds. According to inter nat iona l Information technologies aim at long perspective experts, Belarus has services via their phones: it would be achieved much success in programming a huge transformation,” explains Juan — a priority of the Electronic Belarus Navas-Sabater, from the Policy Division programme — alongside culture, health of the Global ICT Department of the protection, logistics and the trade and World Bank, in Minsk. Speaking of tax system. the tax system, e-technologies can help BY Tamara Kozlovskaya Belta


usiness circles and ordinary citizens will gain wider access to e-services while enjoying simplified interaction between state management bodies. Specialists assert that, if the plans are successfully realised, Belarus will join countries with high digital readiness, enabling it to attract much investment into the IT sphere. Moreover, we’ll be better able to promote our technical developments abroad.

2010  беларусь.belarus



Trolley bus for Argentina Argentineans soon to appreciate Belarusian transport as Belkommunmash dispatches trolley buses to one of the largest cities in the country — Córdoba

Testing speed Swiss Stadler assembles first carriages for electric train to travel between Minsk and its suburbs since 2011


he first electric train arrived in Minsk in January, ready for preoperational tests, held at Baranovichi’s locomotive depot. In late June, the Swiss specialists joined Belarusian railway workers in inspecting the Baranovichi site (where the carriages will be delivered and unloaded). Belarusian Railways note that the contract with our Swiss partners is unprecedented in its terms, being the first time that Stadler has delivered its electric trains abroad in such a short period of time. In the near future, specialists from the Minsk motorwagon depot will travel to Switzerland to help assemble Stadler electric trains and will learn how this innovative machinery works in detail. The future drivers will receive their training in Switzerland. Initially, the Minsk motor-wagon depot will service and prepare each city train but, later, a new depot will be built at Dyagtyarevka station — to service all electric trains, including Stadler-made. It will be designed for interregional communication. In line with the contract, Stadler is to deliver ten modern electric trains (each seating 555 passengers) for Belarusian Railways, each worth about 6m Euros. They are to connect the capital with its suburbs. By Nikolay Pimenov


беларусь.belarus  2010


he Minsk producer of communal machinery has created a universal vehicle for Latin America: a trolley bus equipped with a diesel-generator, enabling it to drive without electricity. Its power collectors (‘horns’) can be moved lower down, allowing the vehicle to drive like а bus, without electricity. About a hundred such trolley buses are being tested in Minsk, with Córdoba authorities to decide on their purchase. The Belarusian vehicles have been painted red, to appeal to the Latin Americans. Belkommunmash’s representatives have no doubts that the tests will be a success. If so, another 20 trolley buses will be exported beyond the ocean. Interestingly, Córdoba’s authorities previously chose passenger vehicles manufactured in the former USSR; ZiUs are often seen on local streets. The Brazilians are also showing interest in our new trolley buses. Several months ago, Minsk was visited by representatives of a private trading company from São Paulo, so Belkommunmash’s machinery may well find customers there as well. The Belarusian vehicles may be interesting to Europeans, who appreciate ecological innovations, and are w or k i n g h a rd t o develop their own tram and trolley bus models. However, a potential obstacle lies a h e a d . “ We must initially

obtain a European certificate,” admits the Head of Belkommunmash’s Foreign Economic Activity Department, Pavel Pavlovets. “Foreigners pay special attention to the comfort of the disabled, which affects vehicle design. We need to install a certain number of hand-rails, seats and special buttons; every detail is important. We’re working on this and our trolley bus is almost ready for certification. We’ll then be able to participate in a tender to supply 150 3rd generation short trolley buses to Romania. We had the chance last year, as our machinery was acknowledged the cheapest and easily rivalled other producers’. However, an ecological certificate confirming that we don’t pollute the environment was asked for; it seems a formality but the Europeans consider things differently.” The new trolley bus is soon to appear on Minsk’s streets. It resembles a long worm — being long and svelte — and smoothly moves along the city’s streets… By Dmitry Ampilov


Awareness of perspectives Reconstruction of Vitebsk Bio-Factory should pay for itself in eighteen months



Experts’ view

Propitious moment Increased global demand for food could be used to advantage


elarus has done almost ever ything it can to receive a good harvest this year,” stresses the Head of the Market Department at the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute for Systematic Research, Zinaida Ilyina. “We possess well-tested technologies and the necessary equipment. Agro-technical standards have been met, so only the weather can surprise us. The climate is unpredictable, which slightly concerns us. We’ve even had to re-plant several agricultural crops — such as rape.” The expert notes that Belarus has preserved its main areas of farming activity, with agriculture remaining export-oriented. “Last year alone, we exported almost $2.5bn of agricultural produce,” notes Ms. Ilyina. “Sales continue to rise but we must think about acquiring new sales markets. I think

we need to focus on working with large foreign companies, which can offer new technologies and investments, resulting in easier entry to markets abroad.” We can supply meat and dairy products to the EU and dried milk to China and India. “Undoubtedly, the demand for foodstuffs is growing worldwide,” notes Candidate of Economic Sciences and Associate Professor of the Belarusian State Economic University Vladimir Poplyko. “This is caused by growing population figures and some part of harvests being used to produce biofuels — in addition to droughts and floods. Prices for rice look set to rise worldwide, as consumption of this product is growing in China. Because of floods in the EU, vegetables and meat products may also rise in price.” The scientist believes that Belarus should take advantage of the situation while expanding exports, primarily to the neighbouring, promising EU market. Belarusian manufacturers need accreditation of meeting high world standards but the process won’t be easy. Poland, Lithuania and other EU states will lobby their interests. Moreover, Belarusian producers must also compete against Russian and Ukrainian enterprises for access to the European market. By Nikolay Anikeev

n visiting Vitebsk Bio-Factory, Belarusian Prime Minister Sergei Sidorsky announced that an investment project of reconstruction could make the enterprise export-oriented. “We’ve established a modern company and it could be a powerful factory producing ingredients for biopharmaceuticals (much in demand by manufacturers at home and abroad),” he said. The company now aims to receive a GMP certificate and Mr. Sidorsky does not exclude the possibility of producing medicinal biopharmaceuticals.

Mr. Sidorsky praised the reconstruction to date but noted that some problems remain, regarding adjustment required to German and Polish equipment. He added that, in recent years, the National Academy of Sciences has modified the Microbiology Institute (a leading scientific establishment in Belarus) to scientifically support Vitebsk’s factory. By Diana Kurilo

2010  беларусь.belarus


Spot on the map

Through generations and borders Be-La-Rus youth camp gathers friends from Latvia, Belarus and Russia for 19th time


Mound of Friendship was raised in 1959 to honour the militar y comradeship-in-arms of Belarusian, Russian and Latvian partisans and undergrounders, who fought side by side during the Great Patriotic War. It is located at the junction of our three former-Soviet republics — now, three sovereign states. The mound, with an oak at its centre, remains a symbol of strength and long, faithful friend-


беларусь.belarus  2010

ship, situated on Latvian territory. Three avenues run outwards towards our three countries. One finishes in Belarus, with a monument dedicated to the heroic young communists of the village of Proshki. A monument to Hero of the Soviet Union Maria Pynto has been unveiled in Russia and a monument to Hero of the Soviet Union Imants Sudmalis stands on the Latvian side. Annually, our Great Patriotic War veterans gather here and, since the early

1990s, Be-La-Rus international youth camp has been organised at the site. 600700 young people from Belarus, Russia and Latvia usually arrive during the last July weekend, camping for four days and taking part in sports and artistic contests, while exchanging new ideas and finding new friends. The camp organisers assure us that, next year, the 20th jubilee event will bring children from Asia and the EU. Let’s look at the emotions and impressions left by the 19th international youth camp. Two young girls from Kalmykia — who were among the Russian delegation — had to travel over 2,000 kilometres to reach the camp. They are the first ‘ambassadors’ from their region, joining over 200 Russian young boys and girls in the forest meadow this year, situated in Belarus’ Verkhnedvinsk district. They came from Russia’s Moscow, Smolensk, Pskov, Yaroslavl and other regions. Each country takes it in turns to host the Be-La-Rus event and, this year, Belarusians organised the camp, held under the slogan: ‘65 — We Won!’. “In the year of celebrating the jubilee of the Great Victory, this topic is universal,” notes the Second Secretary of the Central Committee of the Belarusian

Genealogy Republican Youth Union, Mikhail Denisenko. “The theme is even represented in our bivouac decorations and artistic contests.” Symbolically, our Russian and Belarusian veterans arrived to chat to the younger generation. Jointly with the leaders of the three countries’ youth organisations, they laid flowers at the border monuments. The topic of the Great Patriotic War was tackled by each team individually, with those from Moscow’s State Institute of Radioengineering, Electronics and Automation issuing a newspaper dedicated to the pioneer-heroes. Brest’s young people stylised their camp as a Belarusian village from the 1940s, staging a lifelike theatrical performance. “Our performance describes how war arrived in Belarus, how courageously people fought and how they won,” explains Tatiana Vensko of Brest, with emotion in her voice. “I believe this is a beautiful and creative step.” Her opinion was shared by the jury, who recognised Brest’s bivouac as the best at the Be-La-Rus camp. According to Riga businessman Rashid Sultanov, 52, this youth camp doesn’t need advertising in Latvia. Those who have been coming for many years tell their friends about it and many return with their children, who later tell their friends about this unusual event. Despite the difficulties of crossing borders, the Latvian delegation is always large and diverse in age. “This year, we have those who’ve visited the camp over ten times, as well as ve r y you ng participants,” Mr. Sultanov explains, speaking of the Latvian delegation. “It’s my 14th time here and it’s

always interesting for me to watch our first-year entrants, who couldn’t even imagine, prior to arriving at Be-La-Rus, that a place exists where youngsters from various countries can easily communicate with each other. For example, some learn that their grandfathers struggled here. This is our common history, so it’s no surprise that, each year, we arrive with great pleasure, to meet old friends from Russia and Belarus and to make new acquaintances.” A journalist from Kalmykia, Elza Khartylova, is at the camp for the first time. She notes, “New acquaintances help expand my horizon being useful for me in future. I’ve learn how our peers from Latvia and Belarus organise their work and which youth programmes and projects are being implemented.” The Russian delegation is always ready to share news of its interesting and exciting projects, most of which are very successful. “One is called We Speak the Same Language,” notes the Deputy Chairman of the Russian Youth Union, Dmitry Yepov. “Another tackles a similar camp — called Neighbours, working on the border of Russia and Kazakhstan. This April, we organised a Euro-Asian conference, Europe-Russia-Asia, to discuss important aspects of integration of various regions.” According to Mr. Yepov, the participants of the conference showed great interest in the BelarusianRussian-Latvian camp and youngsters from Shanghai Co-operation Organisation countries and the EU may also wish to arrive for the camp’s 20th jubilee next year. The organisers can’t reveal their secrets but promise the event will be unforgettable. By Sergey Golesnik

Speaking the language of Stendhal and Balzac Pupils from Novopolotsk gymnasium’s bilingual department are now able to receive a state diploma of France for their attainment in advanced French language studies, in addition to their ordinary school diploma, following an agreement signed between the French Embassy to Belarus, Novopolotsk’s City Executive Committee’s Education Department and the gymnasium


lasses will b e g i n i n t he new academic year, allowing pupils to study the language of Stendhal and Balzac in depth, using a French syllabus. They’ll also study the history and geography of the country in French, with exams recognised by the Embassy and French universities. One of Belarus’ stage languages — Belarusian or Russian — will be the second language for advanced study. So far, 13 seventh grade students from Novopolotsk schools have successfully passed a test to qualify them for enrolment with the new syllabus. Svetlana Drozdova, the Head of Novopolotsk’s City Executive Committee’s Education Department, notes that the diploma will enable the youngsters to continue their education at any French university without taking a language test — usually obligatory for all foreign applicants. The French Embassy has provided assistance in organising a bilingual department in Novopolotsk, the first such instance outside of Minsk and Belarusian regional centres. Novopolotsk’s twincities include the French cities of Givors and Chauffailles. By Daria Kubareva

2010  беларусь.belarus



‘Simplemente Maria’

The famous tennis player, Goodwill Ambassador, Maria Sharapova visited Gomel first ago after the Wimbledon Tournament


cc ord ing to Mar i a , Gomel occupies a special place in her heart. Although coming here rarely, she says that ‘recognises and feels’ her native land. The Sharapovs lived in Gomel until the Chernobyl catastrophe. Maria was born in Nyagan (Russia’s Tyumen region) where her parents moved soon after the accident. Two years later, the family returned to Gomel, but soon again left — for Sochi. Maria’s grandmother and aunts still live in Gomel. Being a Goodwill Ambassador, the tennis player is financing several programmes aimed at giving young people more opportunities. The Maria Sharapova Foundation funds a scholarship ($3,500 a year, from the first to fifth years of study) for Belarusian State University student Svetlana Vorobieva, for her ‘achievement in study and

Maria tells us her own impressions:

Emotions on court


I think this is instinct. Tennis is hard; when playing, I always have a strong desire to win, which arouses emotions. You might say that I’ve inherited this from my father but it seems he has copied it from me!

I last visited ten years ago. The city is still beautiful and clean, as I noticed when driving from the airport and visiting the district where my parents lived. I recognise the parks where I once walked with my parents.


My parents are Belarusians and it’s written in my birth certificate that I’m a Belarusian as well. However, I was born in Russia and spent my childhood there. This is why I’m Russian. My parents lived in Gomel though, so I feel part of the city when coming here.


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Tennis and pastimes

Tennis is my life. When I was 7, my parents decided to move to America to help me learn to play. This was a hard decision, as my mother couldn’t travel — only my father and I had visas. For some time, I was even left alone but, owing to my parents, I gained the chance to play tennis. I would have failed without their help.

artistic prospects’. By 2013, twelve such to other sports. It’s within our power students will have been funded. to convince children that sports are an M s . Shar ap ov a a ls o f u nds a interesting pastime.” hospital and a centre for children’s arts Maria is convincing by example and, in Chechersk, while promoting the of course, paid a visit to Gomel’s tennis ‘Ecology of the Soul’ and ‘It’s Not Terrible courts, where she gave a master class to to Be Ill’ projects. In order to make young players. Their future may not ultiyoung patients feel less afraid of being mately lie in the game but none will ever ill, a room of fairytale-therapy has been forget that they once played with Maria set up, in addition to a mini-garden and Sharapova. She instructed the children a corner with pets. Psychological help saying ‘longer’, ‘you’re great!’ or ‘avoid is always at hand; the Western practice mistakes’. Someone’s mother, in the of a doctor and a psychologist working crowd of fans, couldn’t help but say, “It’s jointly is gaining popularity in Belarus, thanks Being a Goodwill Ambassador, to Maria. Her ‘Ecology Maria Sharapova is financing several of the Soul’ project aims to educate young people programmes for young people. Maria Sharapova foundation funds about ecological matters. Much is being spent on scholarship for gifted students medical and educational projects and Ms. Sharapova likes to see so difficult to avoid mistakes.” А course, how wisely it’s distributed. Her trip aims she was worrying for her child.  to assess the results of her investments Maria is currently ranked 17th seed and to decide what further steps are worldwide. At her master class, she played needed. While staying in Gomel, Maria Belarus 13th junior seed (under 16s) Yulia has promised that the next stage of her Shupenya. Six years ago, Yulia managed to programme will be devoted to sports defeat Darya Sharapova, Maria’s cousin. development in Chernobyl-affected “Of course, Maria didn’t play at her full districts. “We wanted to begin with this strength but, still, we all felt that she was a but there are far more important issues strong rival,” stresses Yulia.  in life,” she notes. “It’s impossible to No doubt, Ms. Sharapova’s visit to embrace everything at once. Health and Gomel has attracted much attention. wellbeing are most vital but I do wish Gomel residents are still talking about children to live an active life, so we’ll their famous countrywoman — in help them in this field. I hope good gyms trolley buses, in courtyards and on will appear in a year or two. Money will the streets… be allocated not only to tennis but also By Tatiana Morozova



It takes much effort. Two days ago, I played my latest match and came here. I’ll probably have a couple of days of rest, chatting to friends, and will then return once more to the court, to train. This is tennis life…

and traditions. I may feel this way because I won it at the age of 17. I’ve not yet won the Rolland Garros — but I’d prefer to win Wimbledon again to be honest.


My goal was to see everything with my own eyes. I wanted to come to Gomel two years ago but suffered an injury. In fact, I would have seen nothing of our project results if I’d arrived then; I can now see progress. I’ve seen how the money is being spent. In Chechersk, I met children who sang and danced for me and presented me with their drawings. This was wonderful — the major impression of my trip.

This year, the British Queen, for the first time in 33 years, visited the Wimbledon Tournament. I wanted to meet her very much but she only attended the men’s matches — held simultaneously with mine. However, if I had a choice — either to meet the Queen or to win a match I’d lost — I would choose the latter. Wimbledon is my favourite tournament, with wonderful atmosphere

Impressions of her trip

2010  беларусь.belarus



Treasures of the past

St. Nicholas Church in Chernyakovo keeps the history of many villages within the Bereza district

The village of Gorsk, in Bereza district, is home to several generations of my forefathers. It was founded about two centuries ago and, initially, was subordinate to Chernyakovo Orthodox parish. Church books remain today, showing the registration of the births of members of the Kozlovich, Kovalevich, Grishchuk, Yudchits, Chizh and Guk family. Sadly, the village of Chernyakovo (where St. Nicholas Church was built in 1725) is dying. Belarus is seeking UNESCO protection for this historic building — as it is for other Polesie Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches. The possibility of Polesie wooden buildings joining the World Heritage List is now much spoken of at the Brest Regional Executive Committee and on a national scale


o join the UNESCO list, it’s necessary to prove the unique nature of a site. So far, only such Belarusian pearls as the Belovezhskaya Pushcha, Mir Castle, Nesvizh Museum-Reserve and the Struve Arc are included. Gaining status as a global heritage site confers a number of advantages, including additional


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guarantees for preservation, enhancement of prestige, popularisation and development of tourism, and priority in attracting finances. Why is the wooden architecture of Polesie unique? Wooden churches are a unique phenomenon, as no two are identical. In Brest region, 112 wooden churches are worthy of attention. According to the chief specialist of Brest Regional

Executive Committee’s Department for the Protection of Historical-Cultural Heritage, Leonid Nesterchuk, 88 are absolutely unique. Many 16th-17th century churches have been preserved; the oldest in Belarus was built in the early 16th century, in the village of Zditovo (Zhabinka district). Some churches are roofed in shingle, while some still have crosses showing pagan influences. Meanwhile, Polesie’s school of icon painting has Uniate accents. The narrowest church in Belarus is situated in Dobroslavka (Pinsk district) — only 5-7 metres wide. Sadly, many buildings have lost their original form, with interiors and outward decorations much changed. For example, 17th century crosses were removed from a church in Drogichin district (the largest in Polesie) and new crosses were installed. Concrete fences have appeared around some old churches while others have been clad with modern siding (as in Khotislav, in Malorita district). Polesie has many other unique wooden buildings in need of protection. The village of Kudrichi (Pinsk district) is a true treasure while the streets of Rozhkovka (Kamenets district) are paved with cobblestones; its houses were built in the 19th century. Sadly, its ‘smoky’ or ‘kurnaya izba’ (peasant’s hut without chimney has been dismantled. Its logs have been given to a farmer who has promised to build the house anew and make it a central exhibit at the local folk museum. There is no doubt that the house of folk master Yekaterina Dubnovitskaya, from the village of Zhitnovichi, in Pinsk district — would be interesting to tourists. Three letters (DED) on its façade denote the owner’s initials… Of course, no one can say for sure whether UNESCO will appreciate our efforts to popularise our wooden buildings. Importantly, the first major steps have been taken; we’ve tried to find out exactly what Polesie has to offer and what can be preserved. A file is now being prepared for the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, with information stating why these sites are unique and how they can be protected and used. By Valentina Kozlovich


Golden ring of Belovezhskaya Pushcha The village of Vezhnoe, lost in the pine woods, was inhabited by only one resident until recently. Sometimes, modern day miracles occur. Vezhnoe has been known far beyond the borders of Brest region for several years, famous for its miraculous spring and small Orthodox convent. Additionally, it’s unique in being situated on the territory of two districts: its spring is located within the Kamenets district while the village itself — with ancient St. Nicholas Church — belongs to Pruzhany district


ue to the nuns’ efforts, the church and neighbourhood is being transformed. A heating system has been installed in the church, which boasts its own miracle-working icon, and a bath house has been built at the spring well. On the village outskirts, a modest hotel for pilgrims can be constructed, accessible via a forest track. However, a new road is planned, linking Vezhnoe with the R-102 highway. A new road is being built around the perimeter of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha, which should help Vezhnoe and dozens of other remote villages. Its length is 185km, with 147km through Brest region. Last October, President Alexander Lukashenko spoke at the 600th anniversary of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha, noting that a highway was to be constructed around the protected zone, with land lots around the site given to investors. Brest and Grodno regional executive committees have approved schemes for their roads but, after coordination with ministries, these have slightly changed. The district centre is to remain separated from the large sites

within Kamenets district while Shereshevo has ‘dropped out’ of Pruzhany district. The road is to bypass the village of Rozhkovka in Kamenets district, to help preserve its ‘ancient’ atmosphere. At first glance, Rozhkovka is a typical village but its cobbled streets and wooden houses, half of which were constructed in late 19th-early 20th century, make it unique. Sadly, its ‘smoky’ or kurnaya izba (peasant’s hut without chimney) — the village major sight — was dismantled several years ago for conservation. Soon, it’ll be ‘revived’ by a Kamenets farmer, who is involved in agro-ecotourism. “So as not to lose the cobbles, we’ve decided not to include Rozhkovka on the road ring. It’s an unusual village, so it’s much better to situate the road nearby,” explains Tatiana Gordeyuk, the secretary of Dmitrovichi Rural Council. Other obstacles have been found in the Kamenets district but there is no situation that can’t be overcome. A bridge is needed

to connect the village of Novitskovichi with the R-102 highway but the cost will easily be covered if investors come to the area. Local authorities have already proposed two promising land lots for developing roadside services — near the villages of Makovishchi and Yanushi. Interest is already been shown in the project. A hotel may be built in Kamenets and one of the local farmsteads wishes to equip an ecological estate near the village of Sinitychi. Alexander Ivachev, who heads Brest’s Regional Centre for the Promotion of Agro-ecotourism — Agro-ecotour, has no doubt that the Brest region boasts ‘golden’ prospects. “In 2009, around 8,000 tourists stayed at Brest region rural guesthouses — against just 270 in 2007. Kamenets district is now ranked second after Brest district in terms of agro-ecotourism. Some Brest residents began to buy land with the intention of developing rural tourism even before the construction of the road and proposals from rural councils,” he stresses. Pruzhany and Kamenets districts hope that money will appear jointly with the road. Investors may become interested in the villages of Shcherchovo, Brody and Bely Lesok, with the road covering 15 settlements. These remote villages may soon undergo revival. Construction works along the ring road have already begun, with camp sites, parking areas and snack bars soon to appear, alongside smooth roads for use by tourists and foreign investors. The project should be implemented within the next two years. The Head of the Fauna Monitoring and Cadastre at the NAS’ Scientific and Practical Centre for Bioresources, Ruslan Novitsky, assures us that the road around the National Park will be built without damaging the environment. By Valentina Kozlovich

2010  беларусь.belarus


art compaign

Open air artworks


Young Vitebsk artists restore tradition of painting city walls

itebsk is known for its ancient and glorious art traditions, such as decorating streets and houses with picturesque canvases — a custom dating back to 1918. In that year, Marc Chagall was Arts Commissioner for Vitebsk and Vitebsk region. He chose to paint the wooden fences in front of St. Nikolay’s Cathedral to celebrate the 1st anniversary of the October Revolution not with slogans urging the public to demolish palaces, but with green sheep and violin


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players, to the surprise of all! However, he truly had created a festive, revolutionary mood and, one year later, the city authorities decided to decorate the entire street in the same manner. For the 1036th anniversary of their native city, celebrated in late June 2010, Vitebsk artists copied the grand figures of Kazimir Malevich, recreating his Death to Wallpaper! (which original is housed by the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg). It’s located in the street, which has preserved the building of the People’s Art School, founded by Marc Chagall. Some specialists say that Malevich made this work to further decorate an interior while others assert that it was created for a Vitebsk house.

Whatever the truth, the fact is that Malevich founded the UNOVIS society (abbreviation in Russian of ‘the champions of new art’) in Vitebsk in February 1920. Just one year before, he and his companion El Lissitzky planned to decorate the entire street; this was curtailed though, with the pair painting only one Vitebsk building in December 1919 — the house of the Committee for Combating Unemployment. “Malevich and his UNOVIS companions established the entire vision of the city as the centre of a new visual culture,” explains the Head of Vitebsk’s Modern Art Centre, Valentina Kirillova. “His sketches were well-received by the city and were put in place for 1920’s 1st May celebrations. Death to Wallpaper! may have been created to decorate an interior but it was adapted to suit the city’s walls. The unique style is still fascinating to today’s international art specialists.” Artist Yelena Chuikova undertook to transfer Malevich’s draft to the wall with the help of an electronic measure, scaling his work up to cover almost 7m x 7m! “Two of us, me and my friend, began painting the wall and, believe me, it’s physically demanding,” Lena admits. “We had rollers, but they splash the paint, so we had to use mainly small brushes. However, you forget about fatigue when you realise that you are creating the cultural heritage that will be the pride of your city and the entire world. The city used to be the workshop of Yuri Pen, his student Marc Chagall and, later, other artists who revolutionised art! Drawing ‘black squares’ and the other suprematist images of Malevich on the house wall, we were preparing a breakthrough in the usual understanding of painting.” Of course, painting the side of a building is not like painting onto normal canvas. Moreover, the wall on which Lena

art compaign was painting (viewed perfectly from Lenin changing colour. Ordinary painters from Street — one of the main avenues through municipal services tried to reconstruct Vitebsk) is old, with numerous nooks and it; then, several years ago, during the crannies, so the working space was far rebuilding of Lenin Street, it was painted from smooth or flat. fully over. Whenever I passed by this clean Initially, the ‘black square’ placed by wall, I always felt that there was something Malevich in his lower left corner of the missing. I’m truly happy that these young sketch was moved by his followers to the upper right — to allow the images to flow properly. However, designer Alexander Vyshka then came up with an interesting solution to preserve the original integrity of the artist’s work. By painting on two planes, both on the wall and on the annex, the design will be perceived as one plane when viewing from Pravda Street (on which Vitebsk People’s Art School was founded in 1918). The creation by the y o u n g Vi t e b s k artists became a ‘diptych’ — viewable Vitebsk streets will be decorated with from several points. artists picked grand figures of Kazimir Malevich. And not just with plain figures, but with the “It is a known up our b aton.” express original copy of the work bearing fact that Malevich This time, unusual name Death to Wallpapers! denied any special paints were which original is kept in the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg bourgeois manifesused to ensure its tations in art. He endurance. wanted pure art to dominate in the world,” “It’s wonderful that this picture is explains one of participants of the art- appearing in this place!” notes another campaign, painter Andrey Dukhovnikov. Vitebsk artist, Felix Gumen. “It’s as if it “There are several approaches to his ‘black points to the building which once hosted square’, but no matter whether we want it Vitebsk Art School, founded by Chagall, or not, this work has become an icon of the where Malevich headed classes.” 20th century. The black square is a ‘unit of This year’s campaign is just the first beauty’ — nothing else but a contempo- step in a major project to reconstruct rary pixel, an idea well-known to those Vitebsk’s central part, neighbouring who deal with digital photos. It turns out this historical building. A large multithat, in the early 20th century, Malevich functional exhibition centre is planned, managed to anticipate today’s computer accommodating experimental artists. technologies!” While Dukhovnikov, Interestingly, two years ago, the project Chuikova and their helpers painted the was shown at Belarus Investment wall, they were approached by various Forum in London; recently, Vitebsk people asking questions and were able to was visited by potential British finanshare their opinions. ciers, ready to invest around $10m Famous Vitebsk artist Alexander Maley in the idea’s realisation. Works by also recreated Malevich’s work in the early Malevich and his UNOVIS friends are 1990s, in the same place. He tells us, “At still stirring debate among art lovers that time, the Kvadrat Creative Association worldwide. Their fans may soon be existed in our city. Together with our able to see the Vitebsk period of the friends, we decided to arrange a campaign lives and creative careers of these in honour of our prominent fellow coun- outstanding masters in comfortable tryman. However, our paint was unstable conditions. and the picture ‘melted’ before our eyes, By Sergey Golesnik

Summer calling on artists Belarus’ cultural capital of 2010 — Polotsk — welcomes artists from Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania and Latvia to Art-Ego international open-air painting workshop


he idea of the event is rooted in its name — translated as ‘personal art’. Among its guests are the Chairman of the Belarusian Union of Artists — Vladimir Savich, and the Director of the Lithuanian Guild of Artists — Iolanta Smidtiene, alongside eighteen artists, sculptors, graphical painters, photographers and craftsmen. Each is working in Polotsk for two weeks to create two pieces: one dedicated to Polotsk and another on a free topic. The gathering opened with an exhibition allowing each participant to present two works. Art-Ego is to close with another show — demonstrating the pieces created in Polotsk. The artists are working under public observation, allowing everyone to see the art of creation in process. They are also offering master classes to amateurs. The hot summer has introduced a few corrections, since the event (originally planned as an open air workshop using natural light) is being partially organised in specially equipped indoor workshops. By Diana Kovalchuk

2010  беларусь.belarus


artists versus time

“I interpret the reality...” Grigory Sitnitsa reflects upon the personality of an artist, his creative essence and place in society and the role of the Belarusian Union of Artists


et’s talk about the activity of the Belarusian Union of Arts. What are its goals and priorities? We’re a public association, governed by a mission statement: to create, preserve and promote Belarusian fine arts. This is exactly what we do. We also help creative people to fulfil their potential, giving assistance in the form of material aid and in solving organisational issues. Isn’t the Union rather old-fashioned? Why do we need it? O u r Un i o n h a s n’t outlived its usefulness, as we’ve moved with the times. We no longer harbour any ideological content and try to correspond to contemporary conditions, meet the needs of modern life. Firstly, we reflect society’s artistic and creative needs. Taking into account these requirements, we sometimes have to defend our corporate interests as well. Life is constantly presenting us with new challenges. Over the past two years, Belarus has hosted numerous arts exhibitions, particularly in the capital. Obviously, the Union can take credit for this. What guides you in organising such events? First of all, exhibitions are just part of our routine. However, you are right in noticing that we’re organising far more


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of them these days. It’s a trend which has become more visible in recent years. I don’t want to be too modest so would dare to say that this is largely owing to the efforts of today’s management. Together with Vladimir Savich and Sergey Timokhov, I’ve decided to head the Union. We want to inspire creativity — which we feel has

foreign artists. We pay a lot of attention to open air events and are organising far more personal exhibitions — which we see as our primary task. When Vladimir Savich [Chairman of the Belarusian Union of Artists — author] was grounding his election campaign, the first word in his programme was ‘creativity’. With all the opportunities that life gives an artist, he

Grigory Sitnitsa was born in 1958 in the village of Kuritichi (Gomel region). He graduated from the republican boarding school, majoring in music and fine arts, before going to the Belarusian Theatre and Art Institute. His works are on display at the National Art Museum of Belarus, at the Belarusian Union of Artists, at the Modern Fine Arts Museum in Minsk, at the Yanka Kupala Literary Museum, at the Maxim Bogdanovich Museum of Literature and at the Museum of Belarusian Culture in Hajnowka (Poland). Mr. Sitnitsa lives in Minsk and is the Deputy Chairman of the Belarusian Union of Artists stagnated to some degree. We’ve decided to sacrifice our own creative freedom to make this happen. I believe we’ve achieved a great deal, not only in terms of the number of exhibitions, but also in terms of their quality. We’ve initiated an annual biennale in painting, graphic art and sculpture and have begun arranging international exhibitions, more actively inviting our neighbours from abroad. We’re currently preparing an exhibition of Ukrainian artists; this follows one entitled ‘Together’, which we organised a while back, involving domestic and

should always be guided by creativity. As long as we manage the Union, we’ll never give up on our mission to drive forward the creative process. To what extent has the Union succeeded in preserving the continuity of creative generations? Are young people striving to join or do you hear them question the need for a union? First of all, I believe both personally and as a leader of the Union that preserving the continuity of generations is of paramount importance. When this continuity is broken, we often see large

artists versus time problems: both professional and ethical. I’m sure that the ethical aspect of creativity is of no less significance than the professional. Naturally, the continuity of generations should exist. It’s true that the Union is more popular among older members, because they have known it all their lives and helped found this organisation. Today, the Union helps them where possible, including giving material aid. We support many of our elderly artists, pay for their studios. Interestingly, there are a great many young artists up and coming. We’ve significantly increased the level of professional qualifications needed for admittance to the Belarusian Union of Artists. For junior membership, you need to have had at least five national exhibitions (held by the Belarusian Union of Artists, with a jury). For final admittance to the Union, you should have taken part in ten national exhibitions, in additional to all others. Our aim is to somewhat limit the number of our members, to admit only the most prominent professionals. There is a constant flow of applications, but we accept only a few. Young artists don’t ask ‘Why do I need membership?’. They see that the Union arranges interesting events and covers exhibition costs. It’s worth mentioning that we don’t ask for state funding; rather, we pay for ourselves. Of course, we receive some state support. We pay lower rents for our premises and organise joint campaigns with the Culture Ministry. I may boast without any hesitation that, soon after commencing our work, in a three month period, we tripled the Union budget. The aid given to artists has increased six-fold. There is much to be proud of. Naturally, this doesn’t mean that we have no problems but we are tackling them. Young people realise that friendship with

the Union is a professional approach. It signifies that you have been recognised by your colleagues — which counts for more than a mere diploma. Today, many Belarusian artists work independently. Are they seen as a loss to the Union or do you just accept that they have their own lifestyle? I welcome all manifestations of the arts within our Union and beyond. Many friends of the Union, including myself, live individual creative lives. I’ve arranged numerous personal exhibitions upon own initiative, quite apart from the Union. However, I always emphasise my Union membership. Most artists take part in private exhibitions and open air events outside the Union. Events organised by non-Union-members are also welcomed, but I can’t mention any significant achievements there. I can hardly quote any bright arts event which takes place outside the Union. Perhaps, I’ve missed one, but I do try to follow everything that’s happening quite dili-

One of Grigory Sitnitsa’s works

gently! When we encounter any budding young artists, we welcome them. Of course, I believe they are better off within the Union. It’s been many years since there’s been creative dictatorship associated with the Union. Does the Union limit the freedom of artists in any way? Perhaps there are some general rules which restrict creative initiative? There have been absolutely no limitations for a very long while. I understand where this question comes from. When we look back to the remote 1950-60s, ideological restrictions existed which primarily guided style. If an artist wanted to explore some publically significant topic, he couldn’t use a cubist style, for instance. It was obvious. Think of Israel Basov, Olgerd Malishevsky, Nikolay Tarasikov, Victor Sakhnenko, Leonid Shchemelev and Mai Dantsig. They were the most prominent individuals of their time, capable of showing their full potential. When I mentioned the 1960s, I meant the early years; from the mid 1960s, this fixed control over artists reduced steadily. By the early 1980s, I was being impressed by bright youth exhibitions. At that time, it was much easier to gain recognition against a background of traditional art works. Most of these were unusual in themselves; it wasn’t difficult for young artists to become noticed. They were considered interesting. I viewed them as innovative and extraordinary and strived to be li ke t hem. I c an assure you that I’ve never witnessed any ‘diktat’ and can’t recall any example of the Union limiting my creative freedom. I’ve only ever been limited by myself,

2010  беларусь.belarus


artists versus time by my own conscience. I believe in art being personal. I would never allow myself to do anything, however beautiful, which would contradict my fundamental moral values. Every artist should have a certain self-restraint, just as any civilised person should; there is a threshold that should not be passed. As far as the Union is concerned, we never limit initiative. In fact, we try to inspire young artists. This year, we organised a youth exhibition. Opening the event, I hoped to see more daring. I wanted to see the unexpected but I was disappointed. This is why I compare the present days with the early 1980s. It turns out that it was much easier to be dazzling against a background of academic art. In the Union, we expect our artists to be more experimental, to look at world trends and enlighten themselves intellectually. The intellectual development of an artist is a separate conversation. Even the most skilled professional is limited in their world outlook if they are ignorant of modern theatre, classical and contemporary music and classical literature. To my greatest regret, I often talk to colleagues and realise that they haven’t read a single book recently. You understand that they’re unlikely to create anything significant. In my view, knowledge is the basis of creativity. The life of the creative community must be quite different from what it was ten or twenty years ago. What has been lost and what has been acquired in these decades? Naturally, time passes and so does the creative process, which is deeply connected to social and political processes that are part of our everyday life. We are tied to life — you can’t close yourself away in your studio to create something. In recent decades, we’ve seen losses and acquisitions. Losses are mainly felt in academic education. We’re doing our best; I mention myself because I taught in the College of Art for 20 years. We’re trying to preserve the old academic school since, without it, we won’t achieve any serious creative results. You don’t have to strictly adhere to an


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academic style and, after graduating, you can do whatever you like. However, when I see a drawn line, I can easily say whether it was drawn by a professional or by an amateur. Anyone who thinks that an abstract image hides the absence of good teaching is sadly mistaken. It’s obvious to me: when Anatoly Kuznetsov [a Belarusian vanguard painter with a good academic education] creates an abstract work, I know immediately that it’s been done by a master. I could cite many others. When I see an abstract work created by an untrained hand, it’s quite obvious — although the artist may honestly believe that he has compensated for his lack of skills. Many young people think that a computer can do everything for them, but this is naïve and far from the truth. A computer can create an outer effect, but it cannot convey emotion. It cannot make my mistake or repeat my sorrow. Today, I may be in a good mood; tomorrow, I may feel differently. I may make a mistake, but this brings a certain emotional note into my work. A computer cannot do this, no matter how you strive. A computer cannot create poems of genius or compose music like Mozart or Stravinsky. One of our losses is our reluctance to study as we did, which required 15 years of education. However, we’ve gained open borders, the Internet and the ability to travel to any exhibition taking place worldwide. All are tremendous opportunities. At the same time, they are a double-edge sword. In travelling the world, it’s easy to be led into believing that you should conform to world trends. I don’t deny the benefits of innovation in art; I welcome new ideas and techniques. However, I believe art should be highly professional and ethical while showing some national characteristics. When I attend, for instance, the graphics triennale in Polish Kraków, I see that the Germans create the same kind of works as the Czechs, who are the same as the Koreans. I recollect the words of Boris Zaborov [our prominent artist who lives in Paris].

He said that the modern vanguard is like water spread on glass: from Lisbon to Vladivostok, water spreads in the same way. I understand the sense of these words. I’d much prefer to be able to see difference in art from Japan, France or elsewhere. The fact that each is different appeals to me. I remember Soviet exhibitions in Moscow where you could easily tell which nationality had created each work: some by Lithuanians and others

by Latvians. They lived in the same region but were cardinally different. The same was true of Estonians, Belarusians, Armenians and Georgians… You could immediately recognise their national art schools. A significant advantage is our access to the wider world, to intellectual products and informational freedom. Simultaneously, a major disadvantage is that, when we don’t know how to use this product, we put on different masks. Only a sober mind and analytical world outlook can help an artist know their own mind. What is useful to me,

artists versus time destroys my creative spirit. Frequently, young people start by trying to be something different to what they really are. Of course, they have this right and freedom, but they don’t create anything which will last for eternity. To what extent do you, as a member of the Union’s management, believe that you’ve achieved good results in recent years? In what have you failed and what are your plans for the future?

Works by Grigory Sitnitsa

As one of the leaders of the Union, I think that we’ve achieved a lot, primarily in the field of preserving the Union as a creative structure. Before taking on the responsibilities of Union management, we saw that this establishment was on the verge of disappearing. Over recent years, we’ve almost eliminated this threat. The issue really isn’t pressing any more; in fact, our Union is dynamic. We’ve done so much materially, significantly increasing our resource base, repairing buildings and studios and rebuilding Minsk’s Palace of Arts. We’ve greatly improved living conditions for artists.

A lot has been done, but even more is to come. Many tasks require large sums, which we’re fighting for. Also, new problems must be solved as they appear. Today, Belarusian artists have more freedom in terms of their participation in foreign exhibitions. Do they strive to take part in as many exhibitions as possible? People have different aims, but when an artist creates something, he should show it to the world: at the least to his colleagues but, ideally, to the entire planet. This is why the participation of Belarusian artists in foreign exhibitions is of paramount significance. I personally take part in many events and I realise that I’m representing not only Sitnitsa but all of Belarus. However private the artist’s project is, he is still perceived as a delegate of his native country and of its people. Everywhere, the nationality of the artist is emphasised. Naturally, any artistic initiative supporting the authority of our Union and of our country should be supported. What is your personal attitude towards the participation of Belarusian painters in the Venice Biennale next year? What should their concept be and how important is it that Belarusian artists take part, as they do in other international exhibitions? I’ll answer this with great pleasure. Naturally, Belarus should be present at the Venice Biennale. Besides Venice, we should participate in many other similar exhibitions: the Istanbul Biennale, Berlin’s World Forum, Kraków’s Graphics Triennale — there are dozens worldwide. Not everybody understands what the Venice Biennale is. Many think that it’s like the Olympic Games for fine arts. It is at first glance, but not in reality. There are no fine arts in the traditional sense and no drawn pictures. For instance, you might see a pile of wood called ‘Composition No.12’. It’s a very interesting world forum that is today called ‘real’ art but I object to the term, because it assumes that ‘nonreal’ art also exists. What is ‘non-real’? Surely, that which is ‘real’ is that which

is interesting and popular. Is contemporary art in demand? Is it interesting and understandable to most people? Undoubtedly, this is not the case. We may call it the art of modern technologies and I don’t mean to automatically infer that I don’t accept it. However, there are many works that I don’t accept. At the Moscow Biennale, one artist was slashing an icon. In my view, it wasn’t art; it was barbarity… We think that we’re wanted; that’s why we should go. However, I don’t agree that we should correspond to the format. I’m sure that the creative process lies outside any limitations; a format implies a standard. I must repeat that we should attend the biennale in Venice, since we should promote ourselves everywhere possible. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t feel bad that we don’t go to every event worldwide; there are ethical limitations. I’d never cut an icon or do anything else against my conscience but I’d like to see our art brought more up-to-date, making it interesting to the entire world. This doesn’t mean that we should turn into clowns or do something Satanic for the sake of attention. Today, many artists are affected by having lost the national arts school. What can be done to preserve traditions in art in general, and in painting particularly? What can be done? Teaching and explaining to young people by example. As an older artist, you are interesting to the young. I hope I was interesting for my students; I felt we had complete understanding. Those studying to become artists, or who have already earned their status follow the same rules. We should take care to preserve the national school, since it’s a school of professionalism. Anyone who believes in the redundancy of professionalism is sadly mistaken. No one would go to a non-professional dentist. We even choose from welleducated dentists. Why would we trust non-professionals in this field? At the same time, I accept what we call ‘naïve’ or ‘folk art’. It lies beyond

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artists versus time professional boundaries but often yields genius results. We know that such prominent painters as Van Gogh, Modigliani and Yazep Drozdovich never had an academic education. We don’t deny this but recognise their minority; 99 percent need education. This is why I strongly advocate preserving the school. At the same time, the school shouldn’t limit creative freedom or artistic development. We should teach an artistic

as I have power, I’ll never leave myself to rot. Sacrificing many other things, I keep my professionalism. Savich, Timokhov and I agreed that we’d work for the Union but also work at our studios. We take part in the most significant exhibitions since we must lead by example; we show creative activity. I really try to do my best. Alongside graphic art, I’m interested in literature; I’ve already

can’t accept all invitations due to time constraints. What is the creative credo of artist Grigory Sitnitsa? My credo is to nurture professionalism, morals and national characteristics. These are the factors guiding me. It’s good when professionalism and ethical values meet commercial success, but it should never be the main goal. I try to balance these virtues and strive to subdue

outlook, encouraging an artistic intellect. Without these, even professional knowledge won’t help. Half of an artist’s work is down to professionalism and the remainder is intellectual development. The idea guides you in life, pushing you and keeping you awake. There are very few people today working for the sake of the idea, yet they exist. It is this group of individuals from whom I expect results. The artist lives in such people. Their will, character, ability to exert control and refuse the unnecessary combine with other factors to create an artist. Unfortunately, I know dozens of talented men who have failed to become real creators because one component was missing. With all your public responsibilities, you must have little time left for creating your own art — yet you are an artist… a very good graphic artist. How do you manage to stay ‘artistically fit’? What are you working on today? Undoubtedly, my public duties take much time and effort but, as long

published some of my poetry and essays. I’ve earned two literary awards for the best publications of the year. I work everywhere I can, even on public transport. It’s my salvation. I’m very strict with myself. Afraid of ridicule, I didn’t publish my works until I turned forty; I was then persuaded by our famous poet Rygor Borodulin. Just after my first work was shown to the public, it was recognised as the best poetry publication of the year. Several years afterwards, I received the same accolade for a different edition. I am strict with myself since I don’t think you should present anything publicly that you’d be ashamed to put your name to. When I saw that well-recognised literary men were treating me as their colleague, I let myself show my works to a wider audience. I’ve never regretted it. I give many presentations, which I enjoy doing. Recently, I gave a speech in Slonim, where I was invited to the gymnasium to speak to around 200 people. Unfortunately, I

all my work to the idea. For me, the idea of Belarusian national art, of a national renaissance for Belarus, is sacred. My entire life and work is guided by it. So, it is also part of my creative credo. What role does graphic art play in our modern world? Has it undergone any transformation? Graphic art as a fine art is undoubtedly witnessing some change. It has certainly proven itself to be fully-fledged, significant and unique but, naturally, it is transforming. In the 1980s, we had engraving, lithography and drawing; today, the range has incomparably extended. It’s very difficult to define the line between graphics and painting. For instance, graphic artist Vladimir Savich is much more of a painter than many other painters. Eventually, he began oil canvas painting. I have acrylic works on canvas which I don’t see as paintings, although they follow the necessary criteria. I personally consider all of these works to be graphic art. Nowadays, the borders are vague. In my view, this is good, since it extends our scope. In a word, graphic art


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artists versus time is still alive, growing and developing. We’ll soon see many interesting innovations. What topics have you recently touched upon in your works? Of course, I stick to topics which are in some way related to Belarusian historical, ethnographic or folk artefacts. I’ve already mentioned how important this is for me. I’m looking for some underlying philosophical sense to life. I’ve created a large series, entitled ‘Walking along the

a place where a landlord lives with his family and with God in his heart. ‘Gaspoda’ is our universe on an earthly level and our country at a human level. It was impossible to translate. Even ‘subjective reality’ couldn’t be translated correctly as, in my version, it signified ‘the real essence of things’. This is why, when I draw a basket, I’m not creating a still-life but am trying to depict the cosmos hidden in a web of twigs.

as a nation — with our own language, culture and national shrines. Last September, I exhibited at Vilnius’ Philharmonic Society — dedicated to the Days of Belarus in Lithuania. Now, I’m planning a personal exhibition in Bialystok and, perhaps, in Warsaw. Besides, in October last year, I took part in the International Arts Festival in Slovakia. This year, I intend to return again as a Belarusian artist.

The credo of Grigory Sitnitsa is to nurture professionalism, morals and national characteristics

Fence’, in which I’ve explored the idea that even a village fence can become a modern work of art. I limited myself, to keep it from becoming a landscape. It’s an educational, documentary product while symbolising the balance between reality and abstraction. I enjoyed playing with it. I have another series, ‘Subjective Reality’, which depicts huge baskets. It’s not a still-life though; rather, it has some metaphysical essence. Two years ago, I arranged my own exhibition, entitled ‘Gaspoda: Subjective Reality’, at the National Art Museum. Later, I showed it in Gomel, at Rumyantsev-Paskevich Palace, then in Moscow. Its name was shown in Belarusian, because nobody could translate it. The word ‘gaspoda’ isn’t included in any dictionary and comes from works by Yakub Kolas [the Belarusian literary classic]. What is ‘gaspoda’? It is a mixture of such words as ‘gaspadarka’ (translated as ‘household’), ‘Gaspodz’ (‘God’), ‘gaspadar’ (‘landlord’) and ‘gaspadarka’ (‘hostess’). So, it means

Another large series of mine that I’ve exhibited is ‘Greek Salvation’, inspired by my trips to this country. The name ‘Greek Salvation’ signifies the salvation of eternal, antique, classical beauty. The rhythm of Greek columns and shadows repeats the rhythm of fences and their shadows. From an aesthetic point of view, a Belarusian village fence equals an antique column. It is a rather provocative thought, isn’t it? I’m not speaking in the historical sense, but in the aesthetic. I have my own ‘Belarusian Greece’. The Greeks have never drawn their country in such a style. I think it’s appropriate to try to adapt world culture to your national feeling. Do you plan another exhibition soon? I recently presented 62 of my works at Moscow’s Central House of Artists — the main exhibition site for Russia. Their information plates were shown in Belarusian, Russian and English. It was very interesting for our eastern neighbours and friends. I like it when people suddenly realise that our languages are actually quite different. We are unique

What role does a creative person play in society? How interesting is today’s world for such people? I believe that a creative person should be especially active. He should always be in the public eye, preserving his natural need to stay ‘current’. Today is a very interesting time for creativity. It is complicated, indeed, but every time is complicated. The creator should analyse, philosophically comprehending any epoch and manifesting it in his creative images. The most active participation in life is to create. What does tomorrow hold for Belarusian artists? It is a natural desire to see only good in the future. I hope that we’ll see our country, nation and art flourish. There is simply no other alternative: respect yourself or disappear. I would prefer not to disappear. I’d like to see the Belarusian nation on the Earth forever. With my colleagues, I’m working hard towards this goal. By Victor Mikhaylov

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elarus has few warm days to boast of, so it appreciates the sun when it does appear, organising events to allow everyone to enjoy the summer weather. As usual, festivals are being organised nationwide — including races and knights’ tournaments. Meanwhile, musical and folk events prevail, gathering crowds in both large cities and small villages. Everywhere, a reason is found to organise a song contest, with some welcoming international performers.

these local houses, church, forests and fields. “We stage all the holidays of the traditional calendar, including Kolyady, Maslenitsa and Spring Calling, explains the museum’s Director, Svetlana Lakotko. She is constantly searching for new ways of promoting our folk legacy to guests

Vitebsk regions, Alexandria and the city of Kopys. Traditional Belarusian cuisine was the order of the day. The possibility of launching tourist routes along the Dnieper is now being discussed.

Balalaika polonaise

Until 1939, it was traditional for a musician from the Slonim fire-fighters’ orchestra to climb the watchtower in the centre of the city at 8am and 8pm to play Ogiński’s polonaise. The Farewell to the Homeland melody was

Sounds of summer Guests from all over the world gather at arts festivals in Slonim, Alexandria, Strochitsy, Postavy, Vitebsk and Grodno

Solstice on the Dnieper

Kupalle is the major folk holiday for Belarusians, celebrating the ancient summer solstice. To feel the true energy of this pagan custom, you need to travel to Strochitsy, near Minsk, where the Museum of Folk Architecture and Life is situated. Besides seeing old wooden houses (relocated here from all over Belarus), you can take part in traditional folk games. A festival is organised every Kupalle. Each house at the museum is a rare architectural example. No doubt, Kupalle celebrations impress everyone who sees


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from Russia and Europe. Kupalle is celebrated in many areas of our country, including in the village of Alexandria, on the border of Vitebsk and Mogilev regions. This year, it was attended by the President, who said, “We’ll do everything possible to make this event traditional. Probably, we'll link it to our state holiday, gathering here for Kupalle.” Alexandria is the homeland of Alexander Lukashenko, who was born there. He admits that he hardly imagined that the village festival would ever become such a grand holiday, gathering people from neighbouring villages and, even, cities. This year, the Alexandria Gathers Guests festival was attended by over 3,000 people. The ‘City of Masters’ is located on the banks of the Dnieper, near the bridge connecting Mogilev and

heard twice daily over the city. Later, Slonim Radio began morning broadcasts with the polonaise; now, this beautiful custom is being continued at the annual polonaise festival. Since 2005, the holiday of music and dancing has been organised in late springearly summer, starting with a church service at St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Church. Here, I met the Chair of the Slonim Branch of the Union of Poles in Belarus, Leonarda Rewkowska, who initiated the contest for polonaise performers. She notes especially the role played by the Ogiński family in Slonim’s history,

festivals “The city once belonged to Lev Sapega’s heirs. In the 18th century, Alexandra Sapezhanka married Michał Kazimierz Ogiński, who received Slonim as a ‘dowry’ — becoming its head. He founded a theatre and composed music for it while his nephew, Michał Kleofas Ogiński, lived in Zalesie, near Smorgon. The Farewell to the Homeland polonaise was composed by Michał Kleofas but some speculate that he was influenced by his relative.”

Slonim City's Executive Committee supports the festival of polonaise and, this year alone, six (out of ten) local schools participated. Maria Girko, a lecturer at the children’s school of arts, teaches her pupils how to play the polonaise on a Russian balalaika. This year, Vasily Andreev performed, having revived the folk instrument forgotten in the 19th century. The festival is always attended by guests from Poland. Ms. Rewkowska hopes our heirs will preserve our joint Belarusian-Polish cultural heritage while continuing the tradition of the festival. “Its beauty must remain. Listen to how beautifully an ancient melody flows and how nightingales sing over the Shchara. Isn’t it wonderful?”

Dulcimer sounds for the whole world

This year, the Dulcimer and Accordion Ringing Festival was attended by folk groups from Poland, Ukraine and Russia. However, the largest number of guests arrived from neighbouring Lithuania.

Postavy festival of folk songs is the oldest such musical show in the country, with a twenty year history. It first began in Vitebsk but then moved to Mogilev. Since 1992, it has been hosted by Postavy (organised as an international event for the 13th time). Even the Italians and Venezuelans have attended. “When Belarus' only festival of folk music was first launched over 20 years ago, we hoped to revive forgotten customs but could hardly imagine that people would become keen on these traditional instruments,” smiles Deputy Culture Minister Tadeush Struzhetsky, who witnessed the festival’s initial steps and is now surprised by its scale. “It’s difficult to imagine that over 500 groups have made their names in Postavy.” At present, 17 folk bands work in Postavy district, having begun with the Gruzdy Dulcimer Ensemble — which was much appreciated at the Festival of Folk Art in Moscow in 1987. The Matskevich family, from the village of Pozhartsy, established it and their work

is now continued by the honoured amateur group from Postavy children’s arts school — Poozerie. The holiday in Postavy is international, yet cosy. Tourists love this small town, which can accommodate over 500 guests in its two hotels, Vetraz sanatorium (near the city) and Tizengauz’s former palace. The latter is a special attraction on the tourist map. Alla Keizik, the Deputy Chair of Postavy District Executive Committee, and Pyatras Blazhyavichyus, the Head of the Culture, Tourism and International Relations

Department at the Rokiškis District’s Self-Governing Administration, have disclosed grand plans. Lithuanian Rokiškis also boasts Tizengauz’s mansion and, with this in mind, a trip — Following Tizengauz’s Roads — has been planned, with EU sponsorship applied for. If approved, the two regions shall receive money for their cultural integration.

In search of New Holland

Every two years, Grodno hosts the Republican Festival of National Cultures, held for a weekend. It gathers thousands of people from all over Belarus, ready to enjoy the events held on Sovetskaya Square and its surrounding small avenues. The festival is always crowded with city residents and tourists, with every ethnic community finding a place to represent their culture — among them are Armenians, Gypsies, Azerbaijanis,

2010  беларусь.belarus


festivals Russians and Hindus. This year, forty concert sites were used, hosting groups from 30 nations on the Old Town’s streets. For three days, Grodno became a small version of our motley planet. Walking through its streets, you could meet people from almost every race and nation. In 2010, the ‘Veil of the World’ was the festival’s symbol. A 12m long patchwork, sewn from pieces sent from all over the globe (including Poland and Ukraine) was on show. The ‘Festivalny’ fountain was launched on the bank of the River Nieman, with a time capsule buried in its foundations — urging future generations to preserve peace between nationalities. Logically, the Dutch (attending the festival for the first time) were accommodated in Gorodnitsa (a district along Ozheshko Street, which was once occupied by their forefather-craftsmen). Grodno’s head Tizengauz (known all over Belarus) named this district ‘New Holland’ 200 years ago. He opened workshops there and built Dutchstyle houses for invited masters. S a d l y, o n l y o n e mansion has been preser ved — now hosting a museum.

All roads lead to the amphitheatre

On a summer evening, the sun is setting by the ancient domes on the Dvina River, as the International Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk Fe s t i v a l of A r t s launches at the Summer

Amphitheatre. Traditionally, its guests and participants are welcomed by the President; this year’s 19th festival was no exception. The atmosphere at the festival is always hot, as it is organised in July. This year, the temperature outside was over 30 degrees Celsius. With music heard on every corner, artistes painting portraits of passers-by and national cuisine cooked in cosy cafes, the atmosphere was certainly holiday-like. Not on l y S l av on i c mu s i c i s performed, of course. In 2010, Toto Cutugno was the festival’s honourable guest, arriving with a company of artists who’ve been working with him for over 25 years. The final concert was a sensation, with Toto singing an old Belarusian hit. This was wonderful, as the audience had not expected it at all. It’s now becoming more popular to sing in Belarusian. Following Cutugno, Georgian Lasha Ramishvili performed in Belarusian at the Young Performers Contest. After his song, the applause was great and the party’s host, Anzhelika Agurbash, showered compliments on Lasha saying, “You’ve conquered my heart. I’ve never heard a foreigner singing in Belarusian so wonderfully!” Ramishvili performed 'Charmed', from Pesnyary’s repertoire, with his less than perfect accent adding to his own charm. “I didn't spend much time deciding what to sing at the contest. I listened to Pesnyary’s repertoire and it seemed to me that everything they’ve done is genius. The Belarusian language is very melodious and easy to learn. Every Belarusian should be proud of having such a language,” he said. Lasha is now considering a joint performance with Pesnyary. In this way, every year, artists from all over the globe meet in Belarus. Here, at the centre of Europe and the Slavonic world, a dialogue of many cultures commences. By Viktar Korbut

B e lta


The guests from Holland were accommodated in Sovetskaya Street, where the major festival events were organised. This year, a special jazz-rock band was formed in Holland especially for the Grodno festival — called The Dutch Grodno Groovers. In the Jewish corner, guests were attracted by paper decorations — ‘vytinanki’. Host Valentina Slyunchenko explained why her works feature Judaic symbols, “These are reizele — or ‘vytinanki’. According to one story, this art came to Belarus from a Jewish shtettle (village). People of modest means would make decorations from paper for their homes.” Valentina is a Minsker and is among thirty acknowledged masters in the art of paper pattern cutting. Having chatted to her, I'm convinced that different nationalities have much more in common than might be seen at first sight. “Next year, we plan to organise a festival for Belarusians living abroad,” notes Culture Minister Pavel Latushko. “Belarusian associations from 40 countries have expressed their desire to participate.”

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Audiences to enjoy the show

Double effect in miniature

Fantastic show promised for audiences as Minsk-Arena hosts Junior Eurovision-2010 on November 20th

A new postal stamp being released by Belarus’ Ministry of Communications and Informatisation could prove popular among philatelists


e want to create a modern and flexible show to capture the attention of children and adults alike,” stresses the Technical Director of Swedish HD Resources (involved in preparations for the contest), Bo Wahlberg. He notes that the company will do everything possible to make the forthcoming show bright and colourful. According to preliminary information, at least 14m people will


The Moon of Salieri charms Prague The main prize of the 14th World Festival of Puppet Art, held in Prague, has been brought home by the Brest Puppet Theatre, which took the Grand Prix for the Moon of Salieri, based on Alexander Pushkin’s famous tragedy of the same title


t is designed jointly by masters from Belarus and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. The latter is located in Rome and focuses a great deal on the issue of stamps. The new stamp is devoted to the signing of a postal agreement between the two states. According to the Deputy Minister for Communications and Informatisation, Nina Gavrilova, the step should inspire international cooperation between the postal administrations of Belarus and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. Since 1992, sovereign Belarus has released 828 postal stamps. The first joint project was realised between Belarus, Russia and Ukraine in 1994 — dedicated to the 50th anniversary of liberation from the Nazis. Stamps devoted to the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Christianity followed, in addition to those honouring the flora and fauna of the River Sozh. This

be watching worldwide. “All children want to become adult artistes as soon as possible. We’ll do our best to make them feel like true stars on this stage,” Mr. Wahlberg smiles, noting that he really loves Minsk-Arena. It features the latest equipment and the specialist believes there is no other place in Europe so worthy to host this musical competition for children. Mr. Wahlberg adds that his company has no worries regarding preparations for the show: already, it’s ahead of schedule by several weeks. “We’re ready to create a special mood on stage for every contestant. Some might wish to see butterflies, while others would like to have hearts as their stage decoration. We’re ready to do anything that’s wanted,” the specialist emphasises.

he work by Brest’s puppeteers was recognised best from 38 performances by companies from Europe, Asia and America. This is the second victory for Brest Puppet Theatre in this prestigious international creative contest. In the 14 years of the competition’s existence, the artistes from the city over the River Bug have come first twice. In 2006, Brest’s Kholstomer (Strider), based on Leo Tolstoy’s story of the same title, charmed both the jury and audience. On the eve of the triumph in the Czech capital, the Moon of Salieri was shown at international festivals in Serbia and Poland, where it was also awarded. These expand the company’s already rich collection of prizes. It has fans throughout Europe and is headed by Mikhail Shavel.

year, the country plans to issue a series of stamps dedicated to the architecture of Belarus and Iran; a joint project with Azerbaijan will then follow. The Ministry of Communications and Informatisation promises to release stamps devoted to national achievements such as ‘Sporting Yachts’, ‘21st Olympics in Vancouver Medallists’ and ‘The 600th Anniversary of the Battle of Grunewald Victory’.

By Tatiana Pastushenko

By Fiodor Mukha

By Andrey Denisov

2010  беларусь.belarus



Inspiration from the past Styled national costumes in fashion


very nation has its own traditional costumes. The Scots are known for their tartan kilts, the Japanese for their silk kimonos and the Bolivians for their hats with feathers. Historically, Belarusians have worn white peasant’s clothes, with red embroidery, and straw hats. However, this is not the only historical costume of Belarus, as Yuri Piskun, an Associate Professor at the Belarusian Arts Academy’s Costumes and Textile Department, points out. He also works as an artist for the choreographic ensemble Khoroshki. He is perhaps the first to design reconstructed costumes, proving that Belarusian national clothing is more richly diverse than some might imagine. “ This is a peasant’s costume, chosen as an identity for the nation in the 20th century,” explains Mr. Piskun. “It became as recognisable as our emblem or flag. However, apart from peasants, other social layers existed in Belarus. Accordingly, other costumes were also common. I’ve studied works of fiction, archives and portraits of Belarusians rather than making up designs. From the 14th-18th century, the gentry ruled the state but, after Азёрныя маршруты


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the 19th centur y rebellion, they were prohibited from wearing their traditional clothing. As a result, people began to imagine that only peasants had ever worn such clothes.” Members of the gentry tended to wear a zhupan (a style of jerkin in Poland and Ukraine), a belt, y e l l ow b o ot s a n d a richly decorated fur hat. Traditional costumes were much valued and passed from one generation to the next. Regardless of i nc ome or status, the gentr y, urban citizens and villagers took pride in their appearance, with common people weaving clothes from linen or wool. The rich bought them from abroad — in exchange for food and furs; in Holland, high quality broadcloth was purchased, while velvet was bought from Italy.  

“It was difficult to restore t h e s e m at e r i a l s a decade or two ago,” says Mr. Piskun. “We had to invent t e c h niques, taking the correct kind of cloth as our basis and placing n e w ap p l i q u é o r embroidery upon it. At present, there is no problem with cloth.” According t o M r. P i s k u n ,


Alexander Ruzhechka

Belarusians were true fashionistas, being the first to sew gathered sleeves and to fix skirts to bodices. They created the zhupan (narrow in the waist and w i d e b el ow ) , pleated skirts and aprons. Moreover, they used unique decorations and colours. The Belarusian g e nt r y l ov e d red, especially ‘cold’ red — with

purple tints. Cloth of this colour gave its name to the gentry — crimson. As regards yellow boots made from goat skin, the gentry wore them for almost three hundred years. The history of Belarusian costume is very r ich, b eing a fount of motifs and ideas for modern designers. Famous designer and initiator of the Fashion Mill festival, Alexander Varlamov, believes the stylisation of a national costume is a wond e r f u l path for modern Belarusian fashion development. He proposed this topic to designers for the forthcoming 19th Fashion Mill. “It would have been wrong to further develop and ‘re-design’ European fashion and the experience of other countries. We have our own rich fashion histor y. A designer only needs to choose what is to their taste from the diversity of forms, while studying the true materials for reinvention,” says Mr. Varlamov. He believes that our present world embraces e cle c t icism, w hich is w hy costumes can combine historical and modern motifs. The only issue is who is willing to do this. No doubt, only a professional can create a high quality costume. “Wonderful designs appear from national costume motifs,” he notes. “Belarus was and, judging by the collections of our designers, will remain a unique, intelligent and cultural land.”

The Parfenovich sisters are Fashion Mill participants who long ago began addressing national costumes in their collections: initially in 1999, creating an avant-garde series from straw, with a straw spider (a Belarusian amulet). Since then, they’ve continued to use national motifs in their work. It’s no wonder, since they graduated from a folk culture department. “We make ethnographic and stylised works,” says one. “I work at the same department where I studied. Jointly with students, we use books and photos to fully reconstruct historical costumes. We search for information and then draw sketches and sew clothes. As a rule, these costumes are primarily used at exhibitions. However, for me, it’s more interesting to create garments which people can wear. Moreover, it’s now possible to make even old and forgotten motifs and elements popular again.”  When making a stylised costume, it’s necessary to understand its original form: colour, composition and orname nt at i on . A d e s i g ne r cho o s e s certain motifs and tries to reveal them in their own way. There’s no need to make cloth as it was before. For example, the sisters use linen, wool, silk and, even, synthetic fabrics; they sometimes decorate their costumes with plant and ceramic elements. “Importantly, a costume should be light and modern,” says Olga. “Slim young girls don’t want to wear long dresses as they existed in ages past.” Designers adjust their collections to reflect our modern lifestyle, creating short skirts and open tops. These clothes can be worn easily every day, being convenient and stylish. “Globally accepted practice is to draw inspiration from historical costumes,” stresses Mr. Piskun. “Think of the Russian shirt (with collar fastening on one side) and women’s knee boots.”  Accordingly, the use of national costume motifs is no mere tribute to the past. It opens huge possibilities for modern Belarusian fashion. By Lyudmila Minkevich

2010  беларусь.belarus



Medal rain in Hollywood

Paleskaya Zorachka (Polesie Star) from Mozyr. Piotr Yelfimov stood out among our Belarusians, claiming five gold and one silver medal. Ms. Gromova took two golds and a bronze, while

Team of belarusian artists participate in the XIV world championships of performing arts

Perfomance by Diana Gromova

Status is pleasing Books from over 40 publishing, polygraphic and book trading companies from Belarus to be showcased at 23rd International Book Fair — to be held in September in Moscow


his year, Belarus will, for the first time, b ecome an honourable guest of the exhibition, with eleven stands showcasing domestic editions o cc upy ing 300s q.m. These are to include books by the largest state and private publ ish i ng hous e s , on various topics — including rare editions. Their exact number is yet to be decided but about


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mong the Belarusians who tried to conquer the capital of global entertainment (we wrote about this in a previous MT issue) there were laureates and diploma-holders of intern at i o n a l a r t i s t i c c o nt e s t s : s i n g e r Pi ot r Ye l f i m ov an d button accordion player Pavel Ne v m e r z h it s k y ( b ot h f rom Minsk); Gomel’s young singer Diana Gromova; and dance ensemble

2,000-3,000 have been on show at previous such events; more could be made available this time. Mo s c ow Int e r n at i on a l B o o k Fair has been organised since 1977, gathering publishing houses, book trading organisations, libraries and cultural centres from the CIS and beyond. In 2009, it featured over 800 expositions from 55 countries. In previous years, Poland, China, France, Ukraine and India have become honourable guests at the fair.

Paleskaya Zorachka are bringing home three gold medals. Pavel Nevmerzhitsky has won one gold and one silver medal. “Our young people are very pleased with their results. Piotr was close to becoming a grand-champion of the world. Throughout the whole contest, he led the score board but, in the last round, the judges changed their minds and decided to give the title to another p e r f o r m e r ,” explains team head Margarita Korzun. She adds that, owing to their brilliant performance in Holly wo o d, the Belarusian artistes (except Pavel Nevmerzhitsky) participated in a final show broadcast on the event’s official site. By Tatiana Povalyaeva

From past to modernity Mogilev hosts exhibition of postcards from late 19th-early 20th century


rare photos of Mogilev, each restored and accompanied by a short description are on show at the regional centre’s Kosmos cinema. They are taken from late 19thearly 20th century postcards, and can be viewed as part of Mogilev: from the Past to Modernity exhibition. The postcards (called postal cards 100 years ago) were released primarily to attract tourists. From the late 19th century through to 1917, 650 postal cards were printed in Mogilev in black-and-white — unlike those printed in Minsk or Vitebsk.

BELARUS #8/2010  
BELARUS #8/2010  

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