Cultural status brings responsibilities

[b]It has been officially announced that Gomel, along with Ulyanovsk in Russia, is the new cultural capitals of the Commonwealth. This new status promises a rich programme of events in both cities over the next ten months, as well as numerous friendly contacts between them[/b]This marks the beginning of another stage in the inter-state Cultural Capitals of the Commonwealth programme, initiated by the Council for Humanitarian Co-operation, the Council for Cultural Co-operation and the CIS Interstate Fund for Humanitarian Co-operation. It aims to increase collaboration and expand ties while developing separate territories and cities.The ceremony to present Gomel with its certificates was attended by members of the Belarusian Government, the heads of the CIS Humanitarian Co-operation Council and the CIS Interstate Fund for Humanitarian Co-operation, as well as representatives of the Russian Culture Ministry, members of the CIS Council of Permanent Plenipotentiary Representatives under Charter and Other Bodies of the Commonwealth and figures from the world of culture and the arts.
It has been officially announced that Gomel, along with Ulyanovsk in Russia, is the new cultural capitals of the Commonwealth. This new status promises a rich programme of events in both cities over the next ten months, as well as numerous friendly contacts between them

This marks the beginning of another stage in the inter-state Cultural Capitals of the Commonwealth programme, initiated by the Council for Humanitarian Co-operation, the Council for Cultural Co-operation and the CIS Interstate Fund for Humanitarian Co-operation. It aims to increase collaboration and expand ties while developing separate territories and cities.
The ceremony to present Gomel with its certificates was attended by members of the Belarusian Government, the heads of the CIS Humanitarian Co-operation Council and the CIS Interstate Fund for Humanitarian Co-operation, as well as representatives of the Russian Culture Ministry, members of the CIS Council of Permanent Plenipotentiary Representatives under Charter and Other Bodies of the Commonwealth and figures from the world of culture and the arts.
Gomel is the first cultural capital of the CIS, but not the first cultural capital of Belarus. Last year, the ancient city of Polotsk was the first to bear this honorary title. This year, Gomel, which is celeb-rating its 870th anniversary next year, has taken over the ‘cultural baton’ and attained the inter-state status.
Gomel recently hosted celebrations marking its honorary status while fes-tivals in Ulyanovsk are only just now being scheduled. Both cities have been doing much to reflect their new role. The opening of the exhibition of works by People’s Artiste of the USSR, Vitold Byalynitsky-Birulya, at Rumyantsev-Paskevich Residence was one of the first cultural events. Around 160 cultural events of various kinds are planned in Gomel between now and the end of the year. The biggest events include the Student Shlyager Contest of Vocal and Instrumental Ensembles, the Golden Lynx Ballroom Dance Competition, the Music of Hope International Children’s Contest and the Slavonic Theatrical Meetings International Festival.
This is not a complete list, as many events are still under discussion. The opening of the Belarusian-Italian Beehive creative centre for young people is expected to become a wonderful source of inspiration: a factory of ideas. It’ll be a creative laboratory for implementing the boldest and most unusual ideas, situated at the crossroads of genres, sciences and branches.
There are hopes that the International Sozhski Karagod Festival of Choreography, held in Gomel since 1997, will receive a new breath of life. This time, representatives of various genres are to take part, including dance troupes of various kinds, ice dance and even a mime show.
Moreover, citizens and all those interested will be invited to make proposals regarding the celebrations and to contribute to the formation of the image of their cultural capital by contributing ideas with regard to everything from fountain design to beach development.
Belarus’ Culture Minister, Pavel Latushko, explained why Gomel has become the cultural capital of the CIS and Belarus, “This is one of the country’s leading cultural centres, traditionally hosting plenty of festivals, contests, exhibitions and concerts. Much attention is being devoted there to the development of professional and amateur arts.”
Gomel’s geographical location also played a role, being situated where the borders of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine meet. Such cultural neighbours can’t but influence the general way of life in the city.
The Chairman of Gomel City Executive Committee, Victor Pilipets, hopes to exploit the new opportunities to the utmost. He notes, “We won’t be a formal capital, as everyone will soon find out.”
Mr. Latushko guaranteed overall support, saying that, “The most vital thing about the status of cultural capital is that those living in small towns have the right to the same benefits as Minskers. Therefore, our goal is to display the leading musical bands, theatres and other creative powers of the country. Moreover, it’s vital to intensify the domestic cultural life of the city and to encourage residents to become more involved in cultural projects. It’s vital to show inside the country and abroad that Gomel is a large cultural centre while promoting the development of international and inter-cultural contacts in any possible way.”
According to Mr. Latushko, material and technical provision for Gomel will be ensured by the national and local budgets.
“In late 2011, we’ll bring definite results and figures,” promises the Minister. “This will refer to how many sites have been renovated, which new cultural institutions were established and which were restored. This is the first such project for us and it’s especially vital for us to organise everything to a high level. In future, we’ll rely on our accumulated experience. I hope this campaign will have a long future.”
Irina Kotova, Minister for Art and Cultural Policy in Ulyanovsk Region, didn’t conceal during her visit to Gomel her hopes for future joint projects. She invited her Belarusian colleagues to take part in Ulyanovsk’s competitions, which are to start soon, offering great monetary prizes and grants.
In line with the Cultural Capitals of the Commonwealth programme, the status of cultural capital is transient. It is hoped that, alongside Belarus and Russia, the programme will include other CIS members. Representatives of Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Armenia also attended the award ceremony in Gomel.

By Igor Ivanov
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