Vitebsk of all times

The Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk amazes with its artistic atmosphere, popular artistes, hundreds of events and thousands of reasons to enjoy

The Slavianski Bazaar in Vitebsk amazes with its artistic atmosphere, popular artistes, hundreds of events and thousands of reasons to enjoy. In 24 years of its existence, the festival’s joy-bells have circled the planet but this year’s arithmetic has impressed even the most hard-nosed sceptics: in 2015, the city over the Dvina River has welcomed young performers from 42 countries. Meanwhile, in years of its artistic longevity, the hospitable Vitebsk has accepted representatives of 70 countries but never before such a great number of states has been simultaneously represented at the festival.


This year, Mexico sent its application among the first. Last summer, its representative — Rodrigo de la Cadena — made a successful debut in Vitebsk: the 26 year old man captured audiences’ hearts with his performance of Kalinka-Malinka and was awarded a Grand Prix and a $20,000 prize. As the artiste then admitted, the possibility to earn money inspired him a lot to compete for a win. This year, 20 year old Mayo Korneyo failed to repeat her countryman’s success: the Grand Prix went to the sunny Kazakhstan. The country’s representative — 21 year old Dimash Kudaibergen — received 175 points for the jury, leaving no chances to our Valeria Gribusova. The young Belarusian singer was behind the winner by just four points, eventually winning the prestigious contest’s First Award and $15,000. After the results were announced, the lady admitted that she was truly pleased with her performance, “For me it was important to demonstrate myself on the Slavianski Bazaar stage. I thought of no prizes or awards; I was rather enjoying my performance.”

Dimash, in turn, has shared some pieces of advice with future participants. As a winner, he recommended, “A thorough approach to the choice of compositions is the key. For me, it was most challengeable to choose a song for the first contest day: all Slavonic hits are really very beautiful. I initially wished to sing Belovezhskaya Pushcha but then changed my mind. Its original performer — Valery Daineko — produces an ideal version. I had no place for any invention of my own.”

The young man is extremely popular in his homeland. His musical genes probably play their role: Dimash is a son of famous Kazakh musicians — Kanat and Svetlana Aitybaevs.


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Guests from the CIS and beyond love to repeat: the Slavianski Bazaar is the best advertising of Belarus as a tourist centre. Every year, fans of this major CIS musical forum prefer to spend their holidays at the festival — to enjoy each day of it. Every corner of summer Vitebsk is bright and attractive and each guest is truly much anticipated and beloved. Truly, anyone visiting the festival in previous years has been pleasingly impressed with its recent changes — such as new video, audio and light equipment on the stage and in the hall. Large LCD screens enable all those coming to concerts to see everything happening on the stage in details. Actually, much attraction has happened there. The range of festival events is truly extensive: this year, the programme has been incredibly rich — uniting 95 events. Even central posters on the directorate’s building failed to enumerate all of them. Officially, performances were organised on 17 stages but there were many more of them in reality. The Summer Amphitheatre had several alternatives: among them were not only the traditional Yakub Kolas Theatre, Vitebsk Regional Philharmonics, Art Museum and Vitebsk Concert Hall, but also city streets (for the first time in the festival’s history). "On Seven Winds" street art event is now officially on the Slavianski Bazaar schedule; to make it possible, the city authorities have even allowed to cover city lamps for a while — to satisfy the request of InGest Plastic Theatre.

The Vitebsk festival is now among the most beloved by artistes and fans. This year, the Summer Amphitheatre hosted a record number of solo concerts: six — featuring Grigory Leps, Natali, Yelena Vaenga and Bi-2. Each of them was a full house, with plenty of applause. Apart from them, a dozen of mixed concerts were organised, as well as concerts of young performers, opening and closing ceremonies… The main stage was truly starry: Lyubov Kazarnovskaya, Lev Leshchenko, Tamara Gverdtsiteli, Dmitry Malikov, Sergey Lazarev, Nikolay Dobronravov, Alexandra Pakhmutova, and a legendary Azerbaijani ‘nightingale’ — Polad Bülbüloğlu. This year, he’s joined the bouquet of ‘cornflowers’ in the festival’s Alley of Stars. The People’s Artiste of Azerbaijan received a special award of the Belarusian President: ‘To Peace and Mutual Understanding Through Art’. Alexander Lukashenko personally awarded the Azerbaijani singer — who is celebrating his 70th jubilee this year — at the closing ceremony. The artiste heartily thanked the President and the hospitable Vitebsk land, “It’s a great honour for me. I’m much grateful for being invited this year to head the international jury. This is a very honourable and responsible mission: to define someone’s fate. On plunging into the festival atmosphere, I clearly understand: the Slavonic unity does exist! I’m deeply convinced that the Slavianski Bazaar opens wide possibilities for strengthening all-sided ties between nations.”

The Vitebsk festival attracts artistes not only from Slavonic states but all over Europe. This year, the event has become a kind of a mini-Eurovision — visited by musicians who’ve performed (or applied) at the major European musical contest. Among them were the 2007 winner — Serbia’s Marija Serifovic (who was also a jury member), the 2009 winner — Alexander Rybak, in addition to Sweden’s Bosson and Latvia’s Intars Busulis.


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The Slavianski Bazaar is not merely a musical festival; it embraces diverse trends and impressions. On festive days, Vitebsk streets are full of popular artistes, modern theatrical performances, art exhibitions and the Town of Masters show which amazes with the fantasy and skills of Belarusian craftsmen. While the festival stage was full of light and dancing in the disco style, Vitebsk’s central grounds did not sleep as well — attracting guests with all possible means. Similarly to the Summer Amphitheatre, an exhibition-fair of folk craftsmen’ articles, in the historical district on the Dvina River, was definitely a centre of attraction for thousands of Vitebsk residents and festival guests. An artistic atmosphere always reigns here and no imitation can break it. The festival’s Town of Masters offers hand-made articles; these patchwork quilts, baskets, willow furniture, floristic pictures of petals, stems and poplar wool, stone and metal decorations, and felt boots — which are always on top of sales — are truly unique as they have been made by craftsmen with open hearts. This year, around 300 craftsmen came to Vitebsk and the fair expanded its artistic borders — regaining its ‘international’ status: apart from Belarusians, folk masters from Russia, Ukraine, Latvia and Lithuania have arrived. It seemed masters occupied each spare square metre — which could be easily explained: demand on wooden painted spoons and ceramic spoons with cornflowers is huge. Celebrities bought out traditional Belarusian souvenirs. Among them was Yelena Vaenga who gave birth to her child not so long ago. In her talk to journalists, she admitted that she buys children’s clothes and Belarusian food in great quantities. Yelena is especially pleased with prices on Belarusian products. “Their quality is of the global level,” she explains. “Moreover, prices are attractive: it’s possible to buy enough clothes for a child spending just $100. It is not an advertising but the truth. For example, I have crawlers — bought in New York; these are of worse quality than those produced in Belarus. I tell you absolutely openly and sincerely: my child wears Belarus-made clothes.”


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Interestingly, this year, the Slavianski Bazaar has transformed from a usual musical and song contest into a major discussion venue where dozens of national cultures met. The open dialogue format was supported by participants of the round table discussion — initiated by the Ministry of Information of Belarus, the Ministry of Culture and the Zvyazda Publishing House. A truly global theme was in focus: Culture and Art as Source of Development of Spiritual and Moral Values — Mass Media Role in Formation of Common Cultural Space for Slavonic Nations. As the Zvyazda newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief (who led the discussion) — Alexander Karlyukevich — stressed, they aimed to expand foreign journalists’ view on Belarus and the events occurring in our national culture. According to Lilia Ananich — Belarusian Information Minister who also attended the meeting, such round table discussions gathering art and mass media representatives should become an annual venue for exchange of opinions. Moreover, Vitebsk is to play a major role in the process — being an unofficial cultural centre of Belarus. “Where else — if not in Vitebsk — can and must we speak of the common cultural space of our Slavonic nations, while focusing on the authenticity, peace and mutual understanding?” she wondered.

The international Festival Movement: Traditions and Innovations conference also mentioned Vitebsk as a centre of the global festival movement. The ‘cradle of Chagall’ — as the city is sometimes called — attracted festival heads from Bulgaria, Serbia, Kazakhstan, Slovenia and Macedonia to discuss the present and future of the festival movement. Two good pieces of news were announced. One of them is already a reality: this year, the Slavianski Bazaar has become a member of the International Festival Association. The second piece of news aims at the future: the Vitebsk festival’s Director — Alexander Sidorenko — has been appointed the Association’s President for the upcoming five years. Actually, this has become recognition of many-year efforts of the festival’s organisers and participants: heads of the Vitebsk Regional Executive Committee, the Vitebsk City Executive Committee, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Information, as well as directors, artistes and administrators. The former International Festival Association’s President — Marjan Kataroski — admitted, “I’ve many times visited the Slavianski Bazaar as a head of the Macedonian delegation. I can sincerely state that I’m impressed with its work and organisation. I believe that the festival’s joining the Association would help it become even better.”

Mr. Sidorenko is convinced that festivals of different countries are united not by the Association but common interests and topics. “Many festivals work as minor events — representing diverse contests: fairs of crafts, competitions for youngsters and children, pop singing, folklore or academic songs and choreography. In turn, the Slavianski Bazaar acts as an Olympiad of arts enabling winners of festivals to gather together. This is a different level and we gradually approaching the format when winners of song contests would come to us from all over the world,” he says.


Valeria Gribusova, contest participant from Belarus

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Next year, the Slavianski Bazaar will celebrate its 25th jubilee. Its organisers have already promise to amaze audiences with numerous surprises and pleasant impressions. We, in turn, can calculate the days until the grand event starts — to enjoy the voices of those artistes whose names have become known owing to the 24th International Slavianski Bazaar in the Vitebsk Festival of Arts.


Results of Vitebsk-2015 International Pop Song Performers Contest


The Grand Prix and $20,000 went to Dimash Kudaibergen, while the First Award and $15,000 went to Belarusian Valeria Gribusova. The Second Award went to Bulgaria’s Nikolay Manolov and the third Lyra was shared by two singers (as it happened last year as well): Ukraine’s Anna Tverdostup and Sofi from Georgia. Both ladies received $2,500 each, in addition to a special statuette. A special award named after Vladimir Mulyavin — for the best demonstration of a national theme and supreme singing mastery — went to Macedonia’s Nade Talevska. Another award — a certificate and a golden coin of the World Festival Association — went to Russia’s Sofia Muratova.

Results of Vitebsk-2015 International Children Music Contest

Here, the Grand Prix also went to a Kazakhstani representative: Luiza Nurkuatova, from Aktau, won the major award and $5,000. Ukraine’s Darina Galitskaya won the First Award and the second place was shared by Belarusian Stephania Sokolova and Georgia’s Lizi. The Third Award went to Russia’s Veronica Ustimova and Ukraine’s Daria Pyshnaya. A certificate and a silver coin of the World Festival Association went to Romania’s Selena.
By Yuliana Leonovich
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