For the first time, a teleconference unites twin cities of Minsk and Novosibirsk
In early April, Belarus and Russia celebrated the 20th anniversary since the signing of first agreements leading to the establishment of the Union State. Residents of Novosibirsk and Belarus have benefited greatly from the liaison in recent years, as noted during a teleconference between the twin cities of Minsk and Novosibirsk, recently held on the eve of the jubilee.
Picture: Nadezhda Ponkratova
The big hall of the Novosibirsk Mayor’s Office, graced with national flags of Russia and Belarus, gathered deputies of the city council, headed by Mayor Anatoly Lokot, as well as heads of the city’s district administrations, employees of Novosibirsk’s Centre of Belarusian Culture, and representatives of national-cultural autonomies of Belarusians, and those from public and cultural organisations and businesses.
The Counsellor and the Head of the Embassy of Belarus to the Russian Federation, in Novosibirsk, Sergey Pyatkov, attended the event, alongside Nikolay Afanasov, of the Russian Foreign Ministry in Novosibirsk. They were joined by representatives of city authorities, headed by Mayor Andrey Shorets, and by various members of public and cultural organizations, as well as figures from the business community and various well-known Belarusians.
In the welcome speeches, it was noted that brotherly relations rely on wide cooperation. Mr. Shorets underlined, “Despite having been building reliable and friendly relations with Novosibirsk for some time, our official twin city status has brought a new level of liaison. Great opportunities are opening up before us, for comprehensive and mutually beneficial cooperation.”
Prospects for further work were discussed in detail, and the necessity of good communication emphasised. Collaboration between Belarus and various Russian regions of Siberia is well established, across the spheres of trade and investment, science and culture, as noted by participants of the video conference.
Mr. Pyatkov mentioned the need for expertise sharing, against a background of global market instability. He believes that collaboration is vital to increase trade turnover between our countries, and is keen to see a programme of Russian-Belarusian information sharing. Undoubtedly, this will promote a positive image for Belarus and raise interest among Russian business partners.
Much has been spoken of the role played by the Days of the Republic of Belarus in Siberia, which were held in Novosibirsk last autumn. A great number of visitors were able to view our machinery, alongside industrial and food products being supplied from Belarus. In mastering new sales markets, Belarusian enterprises are already making a major contribution to Novosibirsk Region’s agro-industrial complex.
Naturally, Belarusian manufacturers attend hoping to find trade partners. Around thirty Belarusian enterprises presented their goods at the trade fair in 2015, including footwear and clothes, as well as meat and dairy produce, confectionery, sweets and chocolate. In 2014, only six enterprises took part.
Mr. Shorets tells us that around 250 Minsk enterprises are trading in the region, with trade turnover between Minsk and Novosibirsk Region exceeding $60mln last year. Major exports were tractors, oil and oil products, computing machinery and transformers.
The First Secretary of the Russian Embassy to Belarus, Andrey Greshnikov, notes that long years of cooperation connect the Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus.
Photo: Yelizaveta Dobritskaya
Famous Belarus-born scientist Valentin Koptyug, whose father was born in Vitebsk Region but was forced to leave in the repressive Stalin years, used to head the Russian Academy of Sciences’ branch in Novosibirsk. Joint efforts by scientists have yielded fruit in the spheres of power engineering and crop breeding.
Belarus is keen to learn from Siberian experience in oil processing, since large oil processing facilities operate in Belarus. Meanwhile, Siberian scientists are keen on closer collaboration with colleagues in the sphere of engineering biotechnologies and in the production of medications, as well as fertilisers and agro-related items.
How can we coordinate the work of scientists in future? There are plans to set up a centre to coordinate the work of academic institutes across Belarus and Russia. Moreover, an award bearing the name of the outstanding Novosibirsk scientist and academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Valentin Koptyug, is bestowed upon Siberian and Novosibirsk scientists for joint scientific achievements.
In 2001, a bust to academician Koptyug was installed in Novosibirsk Akademgorodok, on an avenue bearing his name. City authorities of Minsk and Novosibirsk may also consider commemorating his memory by installing a monument in his historical homeland, in Belarus.
During the tele-conference, much was spoken of paths to developing cultural ties between Novosibirsk and Minsk. According to Anna Tereshkova, the Head of the Department for Culture, Sport and Youth Policy with the Novosibirsk Mayoral Office, many Belarusians and Russians share not only their Christian belief but have common roots and cultural traditions. She has invited Minskers to attend the City Day and to the Day of Baptism of Rus, as well as to visit for other holidays, in which Siberian Belarusians take an active part, together with native Siberians. Some are already descendants of Siberians, since their ancestors left their historical homeland more than century ago.
Cultural exchange is a two-way road, since Belarusians regularly invite those from Novosibirsk to attend their folk craft festivals. Official delegations, as well as creative groups, arrive annually in early July to celebrate Belarus’ Independence Day, in Minsk and in other cities countrywide.
Alexander Loguteko and Lyudmila Schastlivenko, who head the Belarusian Cultural and Enlightening Centre (named after Saint Yevfrosiniya Polotskaya) tells us in detail about their close co-operation. The Centre is known to conduct major work in Novosibirsk and has facilitated Minsk and Novosibirsk in becoming twin cities.
The recently appointed young director of the Novosibirsk Centre of Belarusian Culture, Anastasia Trubenkova, has visited Belarus several times, and has many creative plans and bright impressions. The talented singer, who heads the ‘Ivalen’ children’s choir, has Belarusian roots, though born in Siberia. Her experience, and that of her relatives, provides a clear example of close Belarusian-Russian relations and the power of cultural ties.
Photo: Yelizaveta Dobritskaya
Participants of the tele-conference discussed the exchange of creative groups, joint crafts exhibitions and master classes, as well as efforts to enhance the level of amateur groups. Of course, more can always be achieved, and we are keen to develop new forms of Belarusian-Russian co-operation. Various interesting ideas were expressed, alongside proposals to develop bilateral relations: Days of Belarusian Cinema in Siberia; the exchange of tours of Novosibirsk and Belarusian theatres, and concert groups; artistic exhibitions; and student construction brigades.
The Chair of the Novosibirsk Regional National and Cultural Autonomy, Nadezhda Santsevich, has made several proposals, including wishing to make better known the results of bilateral co-operation between Minsk and Novosibirsk. She has suggested such channels as photo exhibitions in the metro and in city squares, exhibitions of literature, and publications in the media about our twin city relations.
Ms. Santsevich believes that Siberians and Belarusians have much to share. For example, not everyone in Belarus knows about Siberians from Chernobyl, or about those who fought on Belarusian territory during the Great Patriotic War, aiding in our liberation.
The exchange of post honour guards at the Eternal Flame between those in Novosibirsk and Minsk has the potential to play a huge role in the patriotic and spiritual-moral education of the younger generation. The best pupils from school #120 (who were also present during the tele-meeting) have been awarded the honour, arriving in Minsk this summer.
We’re working for the future and will be constantly moving to meet each other half way, noted Anatoly Lokot and Andrey Shorets, heads of Novosibirsk and Minsk, speaking towards the end of the tele-conference, that was both business-like and friendly. Those from Novosibirsk thanked Minskers for initiating the event as an efficient form of communication and expressed their desire to continue. Joint proposals have been agreed, including an exchange of delegations of post honour guards: on May 9th, the Minsk delegation visited Novosibirsk, while that of Novosibirsk will attend Minsk on June 22nd.
Our twin cities will exchange creative groups for City Day, for the ‘Slavic Farmstead’ Festival of Slavic Culture in Novosibirsk, and for the Day of Baptism of Rus and Unity of Slavonic Nations. A traditional trade fair of Belarusian goods — Days of Belarus in Siberia — is scheduled for October, featuring the Festival of Belarusian Culture, alongside an exhibition of literature, dedicated to the 20th anniversary of the Union State and Days of Belarusian Cinema.
On the Day of Unity of Peoples of Belarus and Russia, a major festive concert was held in Novosibirsk, organised by the Novosibirsk’s Centre of Belarusian Culture. On the eve of the event, a traditional festival-contest of children’s amateur creativity — ‘Storks, Bring Spring from Polesie to Siberia!’ — was held for the tenth time. The concert featured winners of the contest: dancers, singers, musicians and masters of folk crafts, with Russian and Belarusian songs performed. The Belaya Rus song stirred emotions, as it always does at the festival, with such lyrics as: ‘When bells ring in Khatyn/ Russia hears their mournful chime’.
By Lyudmila Belyavskaya, Novosibirsk’s Centre of Belarusian Culture