Quintessence of beauty
[b]Glubokoe (in the Vitebsk Region), with its rich history and majestic architecture, is home to just 20,000 people — yet many among them have gained wide recognition, domestically and abroad.[/b] The town is to celebrate its 600th anniversary this summer, inspiring a host of festivities. Its traditional Cherry Festival is held from June through to July, welcoming guests to try the sweet ‘Her Majesty’ variety, take part in cooking contests and buy hand-made souvenirs: berry-shaped earrings and brooches. People come from all over the district to buy cherries, planning to make jam to sustain them on cold winter nights.
The town is to celebrate its 600th anniversary this summer, inspiring a host of festivities. Its traditional Cherry Festival is held from June through to July, welcoming guests to try the sweet ‘Her Majesty’ variety, take part in cooking contests and buy hand-made souvenirs: berry-shaped earrings and brooches. People come from all over the district to buy cherries, planning to make jam to sustain them on cold winter nights.
Last September, the town gathered guests for its Day of Belarusian Written Language, which I attended happily. Each year, various towns host the event, promoting themselves as centres of culture, science and book printing. The Glubokoe District boasts a rich cultural-historical and spiritual heritage, with 61 architectural monuments, in addition to ancient settlements and hills. Writer Vatslav Lastovsky was born here, as was aircraft designer Pavel Sukhoy, Belarusian theatre founder Ignat Buinitsky and fantasy writer Yazep Drozdovich. Some born in Glubokoe have gained recognition far beyond Belarus: Eliezer Ben-Yehuda founded modern Hebrew in Israel, while Tadeush Doleng-Mostovich’s Witchdoctor was screened with much international success.
Tourists love coming to the Glubokoe District, enjoying its virgin beauty and fishing at local lakes and rivers. Five lakes are situated within the town: called the ‘second Venice’. For those seeking rejuvenation, a better spot cannot be found.
Yazep Drozdovich’s dream
It takes just a couple of hours to travel the 160km from Minsk to Glubokoe by bus. On reaching this small district centre, I immediately headed for the Local History Museum, to see its Wonderful World of Uncle Yazep exhibition. The many pictures by this ‘star wanderer’ made me quite dizzy. His Welcoming Spring on Saturn depicts outlandish aliens, while his Roman Catholic Church (in the village of Zadorozhye) is still open to believers. His portrait of Polotsk Grand Duke Vseslav Polotsky actually seems alive, watching as you pass by.
Although Drodzovich is known as a writer, folklorist and ethnographer, he’s commonly viewed as a fantasy artist. His cycle of space-themed pictures still lights the imagination of fine arts lovers. Moreover, his theories regarding the origin of the Solar System and mankind’s presence on Earth are fascinating. His Celestial Run book focuses on astronomy, sharing his dreams of Belarus as a small galaxy. He imagines each resident hosting their own inner universe, with an artistic thirst for improvement. Being a journalist, such ideas inspire me greatly.
‘Planet Glubokoe’ was first mentioned in 1414, being located on the Old Smolensk road — between Vilno and Polotsk. It was a ‘bridge’ connecting Western and Eastern Europe, bringing established trading ties with Riga, Konigsberg, Vilno and Warsaw. As the town became wealthier, it gained many stone homes and other buildings. Among them were Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches and Carmelite and Basilian monasteries; these survive even today.
The town is now quickly developing, with a district library opening recently, and the quay revamped. A summer amphitheatre and a stadium have been built and many industrial enterprises are working successfully. Glubokoe Dairy has received an award from the Belarusian Government for its top quality produce. Positive achievements are evident and worthy of emulation.
These positive changes are now influencing demographics: from January-August, 2012, there were 250 children born in the Glubokoe District while, in 2013, the figure rose to 290. More families are registered with several children, while local salaries have reached Br4m ($450) on average per month: sixth highest in the Vitebsk Region. Young specialists are much valued in the town, being encouraged to stay with housing and privileged loan terms (to buy or construct their own accommodation). Unsurprisingly, many are returning after graduating from educational establishments in Vitebsk or Minsk.
Cranberry as force for progress
State run companies successfully operate in Glubokoe, working with private firms. Investment forums are commonplace; an event last summer gathered over 200 Latvian, Lithuanian and Belarusian businessmen. Among the diverse projects on show were a Belarusian Venice water system in Glubokoe and a Golden Crucian fishing-tourist complex for Ozerki, alongside a Park of Europe for Ivesi.
Local entrepreneurs are not merely waiting for foreign investors but are working independently. Some truly successful businessmen live in Glubokoe. Anatoly Brilenok was the first to introduce sugar-glazed cranberries: now widely sold in Belarusian shops. Until my trip to the town, I hadn’t realised that the delicacy came from Glubokoe. Mr. Brilenok set up his business after a long career at the Dairy Plant’s repair workshop. In 1988, he began developing a line to process berries and, a decade later, decided to launch his own production. He rented premises and made repairs before installing equipment. By 1996, the first sugar-glazed cranberries were being produced. Of course, they now enjoy great popularity among Belarusians, as do those glazed with chocolate, coconuts, peanuts, almonds and hazelnuts. His berry syrups and cans are also in demand.
In 2012, the company paid Br350m of tax into the district budget and, by late 2013, profits exceeded 30 percent: an impressive result. “My father used to say: ‘Continue sowing, even if you plan to die’. Accordingly, we do, so that everything happens for the best,” muses the businessman.
Promoting cultural brands
It’s truly convenient to live in a town rich in cultural events. In this respect, Glubokoe is exemplary. Apart from the above mentioned Day of Belarusian Written Language and the Cherry Festival, the town hosts the globally famous International Festival of Christian Films: Magnifiсat. In addition, an arboretum is located in the village of Mosar, attracting thousands of tourists and hosting diverse regional and republican events.
The reconstructed House of Culture contributes to city life, hosting wonderful concerts and shows. It now boasts the latest lighting equipment (several dozen colour programmes) plus sound-amplifying systems. Local soundman Sergey Polyakov is a true ‘lord of musical worlds’ at his sound desk.
I promenaded Glubokoe’s Avenue of Famous Countrymen, which features busts of Drozdovich, Lastovsky, Buinitsky and many other outstanding personalities born in the district. A special atmosphere reigns — especially when walking alone. You can feel the breath of history and our interconnectedness.
Instead of postscript
On snowy winter days, Glubokoe is elegant and festive — resembling a bride. Walking through Tsentralnaya Square, you see neighbouring streets with 19th-early 20th century buildings. An Orthodox church is on one side and a Roman Catholic church is on the other. Small cafes are common and everything looks smart and cosy, inspiring me to stay longer. The town unites the past and the present in an enchantingly attractive manner. I drop into a small cafй, to try a cup of green tea and a strudel. Students nearby are ordering pizza — as popular here as in Minsk.
I sit watching passers-by until stirring myself to my next excursion: the SU-17M3 bombardier aircraft, which sits near the main road outside the town. For over 30 years, it was serviced by Soviet and Russian air forces: it’s more than a military symbol: it’s an indication of residents’ love for the sky. The plane was designed by Pavel Sukhoy (also born in Glubokoe); the engineering pioneer dedicated himself to flight safety and was called ‘the quintessence of Soviet aviation’ by famous Soviet plane designer Oleg Antonov (who designed the AN planes).
Echoing Mr. Antonov, I’d say that Glubokoe is the quintessence of beauty in Belarus’ northern lands. It is a shining example among our many charming small towns.
By Yuri Chernyakevich