By Yevgeny Lisitsky
On September 4th, Gantsevichi officially welcomed its guests, although it has long since been preparing. Its Avenue of Written Language, with its Literature Rotunda bearing poets’ verse, is a sight to behold, honouring local writers such as Alexander Serzhputovsky, Victor Gordey, Vladimir Maruk and Ales Kasko. Gantsevichi may not boast ancient history but it has its own literary and cultural traditions.
Yakub Kolas, a classical writer of Belarusian literature, once taught nearby; Lyusino village now has a museum in his honour. An unusual monument to Kolas was unveiled in Gantsevichi during the festival, with sculptures immortalising his young image — as he described himself under the name of Lobanovich in his At the Crossroads trilogy.
The holiday began before the official opening. On August 31st, a traditional scientific and educational expedition, entitled ‘Road to Sacred Places’ set off from Minsk’s Holy Spirit Cathedral, to Gantsevichi, visiting churches in the Minsk and Brest regions. Candles were lit in relay from the flame of the Holy Fire, brought from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
On September 4th, Gantsevichi’s major stage hosted a bright opening ceremony, with a celebratory script written by famous poet and writer Ales Badak.
Of course, the Festival of Book and Press drew huge crowds, eager to explore the numerous stands of new editions and old favourites. Each editorial office and publishing house prepared a programme of contests and performances. Meanwhile, The Genius from Belarus exhibition was organised, dedicated to poet and writer Maxim Bogdanovich, alongside The Oldest Book from the Family Library show and other surprises.
Unfortunately, the complex economic situation of recent months has affected book publishing, with circulations down 15 percent in the first half of this year. Nevertheless, Lilia Ananich, Belarus’ First Deputy Information Minister, noted at the press conference that over 5,000 new titles were published during this period. Sadly, only 10 percent were published in the Belarusian language; Ms. Ananich is keen to see this number rise and stresses that the state will continue to support national book publishing, as well as Belarusian books, which bring spirituality.
This year, the winners of the Republican Art of Books Contest were not awarded at the Day of Belarusian Written Language; the ceremony is planned for Minsk’s International Book Fair. However, the event still hosted an awards ceremony for winners of the Republican competition to recognise the best poetry, prose, drama, literary criticism and other genres. Meanwhile, poets, writers, bards and folklore bands from the Gantsevichi District performed throughout the day at the ‘Berestie Voices’ venue.
The holiday finished with a firework display and Gantsevichi passed the baton to Glubokoe, in the Vitebsk Region.