By Yury Chernyakevich
Recently, news agencies reported on Soveiki Palace and Park Estate in the Brest Region’s Lyakhovichi District being sold at auction for almost $200,000, to a Russian entrepreneur. Similar sites in Belarus could fetch similar sums, with interest already evident among foreign businessmen, especially those from Russia.
According to Alexander Lenkov, the Deputy Head of the Culture Ministry’s Department for the Protection of Historical and Cultural Heritage, regional authorities lack funds to restore ancient buildings registered as state property. Accordingly, four years ago, the decision was made to auction the sites with the intention of buyers investing in their preservation, restoration and renovation.
The Culture Ministry hopes to see all 46 estates find new owners. However, over the past four years, only a dozen have been sold. Of course, each presupposes considerable investments, which will expand local district budgets. Over 150 estates exist countrywide with cultural heritage status, with most situated in the Grodno, Brest and Vitebsk regions. Some are a burden on local authorities, requiring continuous upkeep yet, with investment, they could become true treasures, to rival famous Nesvizh and Mir, helping promote tourism.
Other cultural sites recently auctioned include the Volkovysk District’s Kraski village manor, which sold for around $100,000 to a Russian entrepreneur; restoration has begun, with the surrounding grounds also developed, to include a hotel and a cafй, opening within the next four years. The Volkovysk District’s former Bokhvitsi dukes’ estate, in Podorosk village, has also been sold to a foreign investor, for $120,000; it is to gain a tourist centre to promote visitors from Belarus and abroad.
Of course, such sums are modest, but a far greater amount is required to be ‘promised’ for the restoration of such sites. Contracts are approved by the Culture Ministry’s Department for the Protection of Historical and Cultural Heritage, including strict rules for investors, which may be deterring some. However, purchase is open to any foreign citizen or company, so potential buyers could come from any corner of the world.
The former estate of Duke Umyastovsky, in the Ivye District’s Zhemyslavl village (Grodno Region), is also for sale: often compared with French Versailles. Radzivillimonty Palace and Park Estate, in the Kletsk District, also needs a new host. It previously belonged to the Radziwills: the prominent magnate family of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
It’s hoped that domestic and foreign investors will help preserve Belarus’ great heritage, for the benefit of future generations and to help attract more tourists to our beautiful country.