By Kristina Kurlovicheva
Belarus was one of the first countries to sign the 2003 UNESCO Convention on the Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Since 2005, huge efforts have been made to record precious customs countrywide. Among the first to be entered on the list were the ‘Kolyady Tsars’ customs, performed over Christmas and New Year in the Minsk Region’s Semezhevo village. At a UNESCO Committee session, hosted by Indonesia, Belarus submitted its traditional felt-making crafts and the unique language used by felt hat masters from the Mogilev Region’s Dribin District: ‘Katrushnitski Lemezen’.
Belarus has a single State List of Protected Historical and Cultural Treasures, which covers both tangible and intangible sites. The list already boasts 65 cultural customs; this year, our country received support from the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund to set up its National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Belarus.
The protection and preservation of our heritage is impossible without the local community being encouraged in its traditions. Meanwhile, these can be used to generate tourist income, if businesses can be persuaded of potential profitability. In 2010, an international cultural conference was organised in Belarus, attended by Belagroprombank and the Agro and Eco-Tourism Association, discussing how best to attract tourists. Already, a brochure dedicated to Belarusian customs is being prepared, for use in enticing visitors.
Belarus has good experience of looking after its intangible cultural heritage, with traditional dance given particular attention. The Bereginya Festival, organised for the past decade, embraces every region, encouraging youngsters in enjoying dance and nurturing the traditions of the past. In 2013, the Festival is to be submitted to UNESCO for inclusion on the intangible cultural heritage list.