In the center of Europe

The oldest city of our country, Polotsk, is preparing for its jubilee in 2012
The oldest city of our country, Polotsk, is preparing for its jubilee in 2012.

In 862 Polotsk was mentioned on the pages of chronicles. This is the oldest city of the country, a peculiar historical symbol of Belarus. In the future Polotsk claims to be a tourist capital. According to the Complex city development program for 2008–2012, global changes are already taking place in the city.

Until the XVIth century Polotsk was the oldest and biggest city in Belarus. At the beginning of the same century Polotsk paid the biggest taxes to the public treasury. It was called a city-patriarch. Suffice it to say that such great enlighteners as the blessed Evfrosinya, the first Belarusian publisher and translator of the Bible Francis Skorina came from here. The first Jesuit collegium on the territory of Belarus was founded in Polotsk. It obtained the status of an academy in 1812, equal to the university status.

Polotsk was admitted to be the Geographical center of Europe in 2008.
Today different measures are being taken in several directions in order to “promote” the city not only on the national, but also on the international level. In particular, UNESCO’s experts came here more than once to study the issue of inclusion of several architecture monuments into the List of World Heritage: Saint Sophia Cathedral of the XI–XVIIIth centuries, Spaso-Preobrazhensky church of the XIIth century of Spaso- Evfrosinievsky monastery are only the minimum.

Viktor Yankovenko, the Director of the Department of the Ministry of Sport and Tourism, notes a special status of Polotsk in the general national strategy of tourism development. For example, it is known that Polotsk is the biggest center of organistic music in the country. Specialists think that it can compete with Riga with its famous organ in Dom church.

Walking about Polotsk, you realize that the city is well-conditioned, there are many preserved old buildings of the last and the one before last centuries, and even of the XVIIIth century. Quite a lot has been made in Polotsk to restore the monuments in recent years. It’s impossible to forget that not long ago they were in the ruins of the former Jesuit collegium building. There are classes here today. The plate “Polotsk State University” decorates the old walls. The bell calling the students for classes rings under the massive domes. It seems that more than four hundred years after the Tradition continues here that was started in the XVIth century when the king Stefan Batory ordered to found the higher educational establishment in Polotsk…

In one of the buildings of the XVIIIth century not far away from the collegium on the Independence Square there is Polotsk Information and Tourist Center. People work here to make Polotsk a real tourist capital of the country. According to Igor Zagrekov, the chief specialist of the Department of Sport and Tourism of Polotsk City Executive Committee, it is necessary to create comfort conditions existing in the European historical cities in order to count on a flow of tourists. The road signs in the national and English languages and information stands have already appeared in the streets. Soon the traveler will be aware of the fact that addressing to the Information and Tourist Center, to the hotel and other public institutions, he will always obtain a necessary prompt: how, where to go, where and what to see and buy. The museum card was worked out allowing a tourist to visit all 11 Polotsk state museums at the “single tariff.” Besides, there are 11 private museums. The administration of Polotsk has a principal approach: there should be even more souvenirs and interesting sights.

Meanwhile, new monuments to the local outstanding natives appear in Polotsk streets. The streets change their names to those connected with the local history. Thus, Lenin Street is again called Nizhne-Pokrovskaya in honor of Pokrovskaya church that existed here by the beginning of the ХХth century and recently restored.

The mayor of Polotsk Vladimir Tochilo is sure that by 2012 Polotsk will have become the tourist center of Belarus: “There are reasons for this. We have many sanctuaries and monuments of architecture of the XI–ХХth centuries. There are many surprising facts. Somebody is skeptical towards the fact that the Cross of the blessed Evfrosinya lost during the Great Patriotic War was restored. Well, this is a copy. Do you know that during the restoration of the shrine the secret of clod enamel was opened anew? The National Repository allocated more than 100 kilograms of silver for restoration of the tomb with the hallows of the blessed Evfrosinya.”

The Complex development program of Polotsk provides reconstruction of the hotel complex “Slaviansky” and the construction of one more hotel in addition to the existing “Dvina” hotel. In whole, it is planned to form a modern complex of tourist services in Polotsk and the region. There is an idea to draw a tram-line connecting Polotsk and Novopolotsk. “By 2012 you will not recognize Polotsk!” the mayor Vladimir Tochilo says. “A lot of work will be done on restoration of the historical center. Polotsk closely cooperates with Sweden within the frames of international programs, and the example of this country is very useful. There is an idea of creation of the settlement resembling the settlement of the Varangians near Stockholm, the corner of the ancient Polotsk on the bank of Dvina. Here it will be possible to live just as in the remote past: wearing the clothes of our ancestors, learning to grind grain, baking cakes, sewing costumes, mastering military arts. The hospital complex will be removed from the territory of the Upper Castle (Acropolis of Polotsk). The hospital will also be removed from the buildings of the former monastery of Bernardians.”

By the way, Francis Skorina, a “Belarusian Guttenberg,” got initial education in the end of the XVth century from the monks of the order of Bernardians, who founded their convent in Polotsk. The monastery is a symbolical building within the frames of the whole Belarus.

In compliance with the development program of Polotsk, the former House of Officers will be reconstructed into the museum of history of the city, the monuments to famous Polotsk citizens will be installed — to the stage-director of the first Belarusian film “Forest true story” Yuri Tarich, the architect of the first Polotsk churches of the XIIth century John. It is planned to organize a permanent effective archeological expedition of the National Academy of Sciences to research the Polotsk area and include Polotsk into the routes of Russia. Besides, in compliance with the Polotsk development program the monument to the heroes of the Great Patriotic War of 1812 demolished in 1932 will be restored. By 2012 the monument will be rebuilt from the budget resources of the Union State of Belarus and Russia. The Prime Minister of Russia Vladimir Putin supported the idea. Thus, the celebration of the 1150th anniversary of the oldest Belarusian city acquires an international scale.

Viktor Korbut
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