In a wonderful part of the Mogilev Region, the mighty Dnieper River has united craftsmen and fans of folk culture, from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine; the town of Alexandria has become a venue for friendly meetings and public diplomacy.
“This year, we’ve welcomed representatives of Lithuania, celebrating Jani Day in late June. I hope that this visit will lay the foundation for a new tradition of inviting representatives of other countries to celebrate Kupalie,” notes Alexander Lukashenko. “This will become Belarus’ contribution to the preservation of global cultural diversity, while strengthening friendship between nations. The festival in Alexandria has been gaining momentum every year, so it’s time we set grander goals.”
The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, has emphasised the significance of the festival in this Year of Culture, saying, “Traditional culture forms the spiritual foundation of a nation. It has always been and continues to be an ever-living source of inspiration and fruitful ideas, so important for today’s art. The Alexandria Gathers Friends holiday is truly a people’s festival, providing the opportunity for hundreds to show their talents.”
The President notes that the Kupalie festival in Alexandria only showcases a small part of what Belarus has to offer but that it does feature our wonderful art and crafts. He notes, “We should ensure that, each year, either the Slavianski Bazaar or this festival features something new, to ensure growth. We should do our best to make this festival brighter every year.”
The President notes that this year’s Alexandria Gathers Friends Festival welcomed a large number of participants. He states, “Over a relatively short period of time, this modest meeting of compatriots on the bank of the River Dnieper has become a major festival of folk culture.”
According to Mr. Lukashenko, it’s especially important that young people learn more about the history of their native land and master the basics of traditional crafts.
The Kupalie holiday in Alexandria has become a landmark event for the Mogilev Region and for all Belarus: a cultural bridge between the three nations of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. The phrase that ‘the Dnieper is a river of friendship’ is symbolic and we cannot but think of the holiday as a full-flowing river, its current gaining strength over time. Water and sun combine in natural surroundings, enabling folk crafts and talents to shine brightly.
The Alexandria Gathers Friends Festival was first held in 2010, supported by the Head of State, although he didn’t expect it to become such a grand event. Over 600 masters from Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and Lithuania presented their work this year, while the ‘Cities of Friendship’ theme united Minskaya, Moskovskaya and Kievskaya streets. Craftsmen organised a fairground of street vendors and travelling minstrels, as well as groups of entertainers and musicians.
As 2016 is the Year of Culture in Belarus, the ‘Alexandria Journey’ tour was launched, showing major artistic sites, and embracing Belarusian culture in various manifestations: its books, cuisine, music and folk crafts, as well as Eastern Slavonic ties. Young women in national costume acted as tour guides.
The Kupalie festival also launched celebrations dedicated to the 500th anniversary of Belarusian book publishing. In the ‘16th Century Print Yard’ pavilion, visitors were able to see how printing took place five centuries ago, viewing a printing press used by Frantsisk Skorina to publish his books. Papermaking was conducted, and guests were able to view the full printing process, even making an etching of a page from Frantsisk Skorina’s Bible. Much respected books by classical writers of Belarusian literature were on display, alongside works by contemporary writers.
Over 50 mini amusement rides entertained guests of the ‘Public Merry-Making’ venue in Alexandria. Each district of the Mogilev Region presented traditional games unique to their location. The capital of Belarusian felt making, the Dribin District, invited guests to try their luck in a felt boot shooting gallery, while the Osipovichi District challenged guests’ agility with bowling. The Mogilev District displayed traditional Kupalie entertainments of the ‘Kupalie Wheel’ and ‘Kupalie Wreath’ while the Krugloe District invited guests to find the ‘flower of happiness’.
This year, the ‘Suburb of Delicacies’ launched for the first time, promoting Slavonic brotherhood and sharing our historical and cultural heritage. Trade stalls were divided into three zones, Belarusian, Ukrainian and Russian, each decorated in national style.
The Alexandria Gathers Friends holiday brings together people of various nationalities and ages, promoting unity of Slavonic nations. It’s vital that our Slavonic traditions continue to be passed down from generation to generation. There can be no future without the past.
By Vasily Kharitonov