Mogilev clear reflection in mirror of past and present

The city on the River Dnieper joined in celebrating International Culture Day on April 15th, opening an unusual exhibition. It featured a holographic image of the Cross of St. Yevfrosiniya of Polotsk; the original relic was, of course, lost during the Great Patriotic War. Being of great spiritual value to every Belarusian, a virtual image has been made, which is impressive in its beauty and magnificence. Historians, Orthodox believers and Mogilev residents believe that, one day, the original treasure will return to their city.
By Svetlana Dorokhova

“The holographic cross has returned to the place from which the original disappeared in the early years of the Great Patriotic War,” notes the Deputy Chairman of the Mogilev Regional Executive Committee, Valery Malashko. “The exhibition at the Art Museum (named after Pavel Maslennikov) is our way of reminding the world that the relic still exists somewhere in the world. Our museum has occupied the same building since before the war, and lost other artefacts: gold from Pompeii; a tray belonging to Alexander the Great; and paintings by Russian and European artists. The Slutsk Gospel recently returned to Belarus, which gives us hope that other treasures may also find their way home. Mogilev’s status as the cultural capital of Belarus and the CIS is another reason to promote our search.”

What does being cultural capital mean to Mogilev?
Becoming the cultural capital of the Republic and the Commonwealth is a great honour and responsibility. Mogilev has enjoyed similar honours several times: in 1917, when Russian Emperor Nicholas II was here jointly with his headquarters, and in 1938, when the draft law was adopted to move the capital of the BSSR into our city. During that time, we lost a number of significant architectural buildings but we later gained straight streets, and the House of Soviets, designed by legendary architect Langbard.

We’ve received a major boost to our development with this latest honour as the cultural capital of the Republic and the CIS, bestowed not only for our rich palette of cultural events but because of the history of our city and its geographical position. Incidentally, we’ve always experienced the alternate domination of the Orthodox and Catholic faiths. Unfortunately, the war years destroyed centuries of cultural layers. It’s now time to reap the benefits, conducting major reconstruction of historical monuments. We’re still seeking exhibits across various periods of history, to illustrate for Mogilev’s history. We used the rich history of Mogilev in the presentation of our city for the title of cultural capital. Moreover, we joined forces with Bobruisk, with its fascinating past and present. This was a big advantage in the final choice.

Mogilev is known for its festivals and forums, organising about 3,000 cultural events across the region annually. Will there be even more events now?
Rather than increasing the number, we plan to make each project more vibrant and will be focusing on appealing to young people. The recent ‘’ International Forum proved that we’re on the right path. It featured wonderful theatre groups, who performed classic works in Mogilev. We didn’t expect to see a lot of Shakespeare performed but it’s a global trend. The event included puppet theatres and street performances. Young people were actively discussing the performances with experienced critics and actors, debating theatre’s role in our modern world. It was wonderful to see and is something we’ll be encouraging again. We hope that, this season, ‘Magutny Bozha’ (Mighty God) and the ‘Golden Bee’ Children’s Art Festival will be successful.

Do you plan to revive such popular festivals as the outdoor stone sculpture event?
Yes, ‘Stone Tale’ will return after a five year break, gathering sculptors from around the world. After the festival, their compositions will be placed on streets and squares in the city, so everyone will have the opportunity to admire them. Of course, we’ll preserve the outdoor painting festival, as part of which Mogilev is actively liaising with Polenovo and Belarusian artists eagerly come to the Tula Region while Russians visit us. The ‘Art-Zhyzhal’ outdoor event should also be a highlight. The list goes on and on.

The Golden Hits Festival used to be the visiting card of Mogilev but has faded from view. What’s the future of this project?
‘Golden Hits’ is being organised and I hope that we’ll manage to return it to its former glory. Mogilev festival organisers were the first to focus on popular melodies from past years — even before ‘Popular Old Songs’ appeared on Russian television. The term ‘golden’ fell out of favour for a while but we plan to relaunch the idea with sparkling new faces this autumn, featuring pop stars and placing our stages in prominent, scenic areas. I’m sure it’ll prove popular.

You mentioned major restoration of ancient buildings. Tell us more…
Pustynsky Monastery, located in the Mstislav District, is being restored, as is Zhilichi Palace and Estate, in the Kirov District — called the Belarusian Versailles. The west wing of the building has been returned to its historic appearance and work is now underway on the central part. In 2013, we finally gained financing to restore Bobruisk Fortress. We’ve been lobbying for this for a while now, since the construction of the Ice Palace. Importantly, we’ve returned this territory to the city and it’s being developed. The monastery located in the fortress is an added attraction. There’s a great deal to do, so it’s difficult for the budget to cover everything fully. We need investors to sponsor restoration works, for our mutual benefit.

I want to emphasise that Mogilev’s status as Cultural Capital of 2013 gives us the chance to present the city to investors, showing that we’re open to co-operation and have good economic prospects; cultural development is closely tied to economic prosperity and to residents’ wellbeing.

In 2013, the Mogilev Region, and Bykhov in particular, is hosting the Day of Belarusian Written Language.

This is a significant event for us. Bykhov has so much history, boasting the castle in which the Hodkevich and Sapega families lived; the building is over 300 years old, with a 17th century core. Doctor of Historical Sciences Prof. Igor Marzalyuk is working at the site, bringing students in summer to take part in excavations. I’d like to believe that this year will be especially rich in a variety of events, helping us improve people’s cultural education and their creative outlook. This can impact on how people behave, dress and speak. Meetings with actors and musicians help a lot in this regard.

Which Mogilev sites are most interesting to you?
I’d like to say that Mogilev is interesting as a whole rather than for specific places. It has its own mystery, as seen at St. Nicholas’ Convent, which has many secrets. Unfortunately, the history we were taught in school didn’t include local history. Real spirituality is formed from looking at the past, present and future through the prism of family life. You feel more confident if you know your roots, understanding of what and whom you can be proud.
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