New face for old town

17th century castle to be partially restored for Day of Belarusian Written Language in Bykhov
By Tatiana Smirnova

The Day of Belarusian Written Language is a traditional holiday held on the first Sunday of September. Each year, an historical centre of culture, literature, science and publishing welcomes guests from all over the country, with Bykhov enjoying the honour this year.

Reconstruction and conservation
The main historical attraction in Bykhov is Sapega Castle, built in the 17th century. At that time, the residence was surrounded by a moat and fortified with defensive towers. Today, it needs reconstruction, notes Nella Shunkova, the Deputy Chair of Bykhov District Executive Committee. She tells us, “We plan to restore the two watchtowers for the Day of Belarusian Written Language. Work on them is almost finished, with wooden decking for the roof installed on one of the towers and the grounds landscaped. The building is being conserved according to the Castles of Belarus programme; reconstruction is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2018.

Students of Mogilev State University are helping restore the historic building, led by Professor Igor Marzalyuk, conducting archaeological excavations within the castle grounds. Many finds have already come to light, as Ms. Shunkova admits. “We’ve found plenty of artefacts, including many ceramics and encaustic tiles — which once covered the walls and facades. We’ve also found various tobacco pipes. In all, we’ve unearthed about 400 items from across the centuries. They’ll be exhibited in one of the restored watchtowers.”

The castle is not the only historical and cultural treasure in the area, as the city also has a synagogue built in the 17th century. Funds are yet to be forthcoming for its reconstruction but investors and sponsors are invited.

From the past to the future
The whole city is enjoying a ‘face lift’ for the grand festival, including new tiles being laid in Railroad Square and renovations at the railway station. The Square is also to receive a composition called ‘Razvіtanne’ (Farewell), by Belarusian sculptor Andrey Vorobiev.

“Retail sites are almost ready and, in the centre, most public areas are receiving attention, including Rodina cinema, which is gaining 3D technology,” adds Ms. Shunkova. For the Day of Belarusian Written Language, facades of apartment buildings along Lenin Street are being painted bright colours and the two-stored houses near the Executive Committee are being decorated with paintings.

Artist Oksana Krasnitskaya tells us, “I wanted to show Bykhov’s historical past, expanding the urban space and extending the street with an imaginary ‘duplicate’. From the Executive Committee building, you’ll be able to see a view of Sapega Castle. It will be like looking back in time and into the future — at the new buildings now appearing in the city.”

Beauty by our own hands
Private residents are also helping beautify their home city. A bas-relief is being installed in memory of famous Belarusian journalist Boris Streltsov, who was born in the Bykhov area, and the city library is to be named after him. An Avenue of Cities will open for the festival, with a tree planted to represent each previous host city, including a memorial bench.
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