Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk unites Belarusians of the world
Just imagine: Belarusian songs are still heard in Siberia, performed by the descendants of those who arrived from Belarus in the late 19th century to master new lands. Recently, the grandchildren of those pioneers visited the homeland of their forefathers, hundreds of years on, to attend the 1st Arts Festival of the Belarusians of the World. It was among the brightest events at the 20th International Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk Arts Festival.
Thousands of singers, painters and writers work abroad, continuing the traditions of Belarusian culture. Until recently, no contact has been established with them from their homeland but the Festival has helped gather these masters of art. Over 230 diaspora representatives attended, arriving from 12 countries: Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Holland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia and the USA.
“The state does not forget about Belarusians abroad, who preserve their national traditions and the Belarusian language,” notes Culture Minister Pavel Latushko, promising to organise the Festival in the future. The Culture Ministry is now working on a draft Belarusians of the World state programme. If supported by the Government, co-operation with Belarusians abroad will become systematic — covering not only culture but also education and trade.
Valery Kazakov — a leader of Russia’s Belarusians — has called for legislation to protect Belarusians abroad. “Millions of people await this in Russia and elsewhere; there are many of us,” he stresses. In turn, the Chair of the Belarusian Public-Cultural Comradeship Association in Poland, Yan Sychevsky, hopes to see agreements soon come into action to establish a 30km zone for free movement of residents from Polish and Belarusian neighbouring districts. In his view, this will contribute to closer ties between our countrymen, supporting shared language and traditions. “Not long ago, Belarusians in Poland felt shy of their origins and Orthodox religion; now, they’re proud of having a specific culture and an independent Belarusian state — on which much hope is pinned. The deputies at the Polish Parliament — the Sejm — also defend our interests.”
Sadly, Belarusians abroad tend to speak more often of problems than successes. It is only recently that close ties have been set up between the metropolis and diaspora but the state promises to eliminate all difficulties in future, allowing our countrymen to gain broader opportunities for close contacts with their historical homeland.
Those from Kazakhstan, Latvia, Ukraine and Russia have made a great journey to the homeland of their forefathers. Many were arriving in Vitebsk for the first time. Some wish to return while others plan to develop Belarusian cultural centres abroad to act as the country’s ‘public embassies’.
“This Festival will be held annually, contributing to the preservation of ties between our countrymen and their homeland,” stresses Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovich. “We know of their achievements and are proud of them. Each is part of Belarus abroad, acting as a representative of ‘public diplomacy’; they remember their historical roots and proudly demonstrate our rich culture and traditions.”
A network of Belarusian cultural centres is soon to open across Russia, Lithuania, Germany and Ukraine. Moreover, the number and geography of cultural events hosted outside Belarus is to be expanded. Plans include erection of monuments to Yanka Kupala and Yakub Kolas in Warsaw and to Vladimir Mulyavin in Yekaterinburg. Many famous Belarusians arrived from abroad to attend the Slavonic Bazaar, including the Honorary Consul of Belarus to Russia’s Tyumen Region, Vladimir Shuglya. He notes that Russians of Belarusian origin are viewed as being people of ‘quality’.
Perhaps no one else has done as much for the promotion of Belarusians songs as composer Igor Luchenok. His melodies were used by legendary Pesnyary band and, this year, he was given a place on Star Avenue, which features the names of those who hold the President’s special award: ‘Through Art to Peace and Mutual Understanding’.
The Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk Arts Festival was born twenty years ago and, today, features many representatives of non-Slavonic states — including Cuba and Azerbaijan. According to the Belarusian President, “Having originated as a joint enterprise by Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, this wonderful holiday of creativity soon outstripped its borders, becoming a global scale event. Here, respect for each nation’s individuality reigns. Our festival is kind and responsive, always welcoming artistes and audiences, for which it is loved.”
This year, about 5,000 guests from 27 countries visited the Slavonic Bazaar. Nikolay Baskov, Dima Bilan, Valery Leontiev, the Turetsky Choir art band, Taisia Povaliy, Patrisia Kaas, Didier Marouani, Space band and Azerbaijani Eurovision 2011 winning duo Ell/Nikki performed on stage. Belarus was represented by Pesnyary and Syabry ensembles, Nikolay Skorikov, Irina Dorofeeva, Anastasia Vinnikova and Daniil Kozlov.
These days, Vitebsk resembles a resort city, with stands of craftsmen and artists selling their works in the street. Dozens of new cafes have opened, with thousands of guests from all over Belarus and abroad arriving. Assumption Cathedral has been restored, with a stairway connecting it with the Dvina bank. The local Art Museum exhibits folk costumes from Latvia’s neighbouring region of Latgalia and actors from Israel and Russia give performances. Vitebsk Concert Hall hosts musicians from Poland and Lithuania while Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Czech and other languages are heard at the Summer Amphitheatre — a major venue of the Festival. No translation is needed, as all songs are devoted to love and happiness.
Despite all the difficulties, the Slavonic Bazaar continues gathering the world’s top artistes, who share their talents and celebrate Belarusian culture.
By Victor Andreev
When song is clear without translation
[b]Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk unites Belarusians of the world [/b]Just imagine: Belarusian songs are still heard in Siberia, performed by the descendants of those who arrived from Belarus in the late 19th century to master new lands. Recently, the grandchildren of those pioneers visited the homeland of their forefathers, hundreds of years on, to attend the 1st Arts Festival of the Belarusians of the World. It was among the brightest events at the 20th International Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk Arts Festival.Thousands of singers, painters and writers work abroad, continuing the traditions of Belarusian culture. Until recently, no contact has been established with them from their homeland but the Festival has helped gather these masters of art. Over 230 diaspora representatives attended, arriving from 12 countries: Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Holland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Estonia and the USA.