Food for the soul

The year of russian culture in belarus starts in april
The year of russian culture in belarus starts in april .

The Year of Russian Culture in Belarus opens on April 15th in Minsk with the ballet ‘Swan Lake’ — being performed in the renovated National Academic Bolshoi Opera & Ballet Theatre of the Republic of Belarus. Last year, the Ministers of Culture of both countries signed agreements during the Slavyansky Bazar in Vitebsk International Festival of Arts. Ballet dancers from Maryinsky Theatre in St Petersburg have already performed on the renovated stage of the Opera and Ballet Theatre, giving a gala concert dedicated to the re-opening of the Theatre in Minsk.

The Year of Russian Culture includes such events as an Assembly of Russian Peoples (featuring multinational creative groups from the Russian Federation), an exhibition of Russian and Belarusian artists at the National Art Museum (timed to coincide with the 65th anniversary of Belarus’ liberation), and touring Russian theatres performing on Belarusian stages. This amazing cultural marathon will end in November with a concert by the Tchaikovsky State Academic Big Symphony Orchestra, led by People’s Artist Vladimir Fedoseev.

Belarus and Russia’s cultural liaisons have been gathering strength in recent years, with Belarusian artists touring Russia and vice versa. Not long ago, legendary ‘Peter Fomenko’s Studio’ came to Belarus to perform ‘Wolves and Sheep’ and ‘Family Happiness’; each was a sell-out success. Meanwhile, Vladimir Pankov, a famous Moscow stage director, presented Chekhov’s ‘Wedding’ at the National Academic Theatre of Yanka Kupala. This is to be staged at the Chechov International Theatre Festival in Moscow next summer and is the first major joint work by Belarusian actors and a Russian stage director for some time. Moreover, this is the first visit by the Chekhov Moscow Art Theatre to Minsk in 20 years.

The National Academic Theatre of Yanka Kupala is returning the visit by going to Anapa. Last year, Russia’s ‘Smolensky Kovcheg’ festival saw performances by the National State Academic Yacub Kolas Drama Theatre, the Mogilev Regional Drama Theatre and the Gomel Regional Drama Theatre. This year, the Gorky National Academic Drama Theatre performed ‘Strawberry Meadow’ — directed by Arkady Katz — at the prestigious ‘Golden Mask’ festival (in the non-competition ‘Mask Plus’ nomination). Rostislav Yankovsky, a People’s Artist of the BSSR and USSR, took the lead.

Cinema also has a role to play, with Russian film-makers taking the most active part in Minsk’s recent ‘Listapad’ International Film Festival: Alexander Sokurov; Sergei Nikonenko; Alexander Pankratov-Cherny; Anna Gorshkova; Lidia Fedoseeva-Shukshina; and Inga Strelkova-Oboldina. The festival presented the works of such luminaries and favourites as Svetlana Druzhinina and Stanislav Govorukhin. Mr Govorukhin’s new film ‘Passenger’ won the Listapad Grand Prix. This year, the festival was marked by a special ‘Day of Russian Cinema’; Minsk citizens were able to view ‘Live and Remember’ by Alexander Proshkin, ‘Paper Soldier’ by Alexei German Junior and ‘St. George’s Day’ by Kirill Serebrennikov — all recent releases. After the festival, the most topical Russian premieres moved to the ‘Central’ cinema and ‘The House of Cinema’.

This year, a joint patriotic film is being made — ‘Brest Fortress’, directed by Alexander Kott. The film has a 225 million Russian Ruble budget and will be the first to have its production and distribution fully financed by the government since Soviet times.

The National Library of Belarus and the Russian State Library have initiated a Union State project — ‘A Treasury of Slavic Culture’; library director Roman Motulsky explains that it combines rare publications from both countries within a single electronic database, giving easy access. Each edition is being converted into an electronic format. Among them are Francisk Skorina’s works (10 versions of the Bible, Prague, and the annals of 1517–1519) — as kept by the National Library of Belarus. These works are the common treasure of the Belarusian and Russian people. The project is being realised under the UNESCO program ‘World Memories’.

This year, Belarus is also organising a ‘Days of Culture of St. Petersburg’ while Moscow is holding a ‘Days of Belarusian Culture’. The latter began at the Stanislavsky Moscow Academic Music Theatre with a February concert directed by Valentin Dudkevich, a People’s Artist of Belarus and Art Director of the State Dance Ensemble. The concert featured Yadviga Poplavskaya and Alexander Tikhonovich, as well as the groups Siabry and Pesniary, Andrei Kunets (‘Junior Eurovision’ winner) and Peter Elfimov (Belarusian entrant for ‘Eurovision 2009’). Yury Luzhkov, Mayor of Moscow, sent his greetings on the occasion of the opening of the Belarusian ‘Days’.

The ‘Days of St Petersburg in Belarus’ is dedicated to the 65th anniversary of Belarus’ liberation from German fascist invaders. It is to include theatrical and musical events, alongside exhibitions. Belarusians will be able to view exhibits from the Russian Museum and the Hermitage. St. Petersburg is also to host a ‘Days of Belarus’ festival.

One of the main cultural highlights of 2009 will be the ‘Slavyansky Bazar in Vitebsk’ International Festival of Arts, which is becoming a cultural event on an international scale. Vladimir Rylatko, the First Deputy Culture Minister of Belarus, believes that ‘this forum gives a complete palette of arts, capable of attracting a huge audience’. Everything from folklore and pop, to classical music and jazz is represented; it’s no wonder that interest in the Vitebsk festival is spreading worldwide.

Sergei Petrov
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