Cultural citizenship - revived

Photograpy by Victor Hilitski

A profound spiritual attachment to one’s birthplace is considered to be a determinative characteristic of the Belarusian mentality. This is because many people consider themselves to be affi liated to the Belarusian nation in accordance with the traditional culture and history of their native village or settlement. Despite a large urban population, Belarusians are often referred to as a nation of “locals”. Using this feature of emotional attachment to the rural background can become a “cultural engine”, reviving Belarusian villages.

The project “Living history of my village”, implemented by DVV International, was all about activating rural populations in Belarus, raising their civil responsibility and developing a national identity by collecting and preserving local history and culture, as well as learning from history. One part of this included developing and implementing 18 diff erent small projects on a local level in all six Belarusian regions to involve rural populations in the process of developing their territories. Almost one year after the offi cial end of the project, the team of DVV International in Belarus and the photographer Victor Hilitski visited four places where the small projects had been implemented to see their impact and extended results.

Cherven, located in the Minsk region, based its project in the local boarding house for people with special needs. Here the instructors introduced its residents to the peculiarities of Belarusian cultural heritage, customs and traditions. This was done as a way to prepare them for life in society and to help with their social inclusion. Semezhevo revived long-standing culinary traditions – the intangible heritage of the forefathers. Today the village is setting the pace in attracting attention to the question of saving the cuisine and local rites of the Minsk region.

Radyn emphasised its uniqueness by creating an open-air museum of Ice Age stones. The idea of the project was to overcome the informational and cultural gap between the existing natural wealth and the real awareness of it among the local population.

In Stoyly, the last permanent resident – Mikola Tarasiuk – created the museum “Recollections of the Homeland”, housing the exhibits of woodcarved handicrafts featuring scenes from the lives of the village’s former residents. Mikola Tarasiuk has left this life, but his work is now used to attract rural tourists to Stoyly by showing an “open air encyclopaedia” of Belarusian peasantry.

Participants of the festive opening of the memorial to the famous Belarusian craftsman in the village of Stoyly. The works of Mikola Tarasiuk are referred to as an ‘open air encyclopedia’ of Belarusian peasantry, and are admired by his peers and followers
Opening of the arts exhibition dedicated to the famous craftsman M. Tarasiuk in Stoyly. Master classes on traditional Belarusian handicrafts enable an exchange of skills between the generations and make
the territory more attractive for the local population and for tourists
Every element of a ritual Belarusian doll is symbolic and meaningful. Young people are becoming more and more interested in Belarusian national customs, rites and traditional occupations, and are playing an active role in master classes on traditional handicrafts
The eldest participant of the project on reviving national cuisine in Semezhevo at work showing the traditional way of making butter during the master class on “St. George’s Day dishes”
Senior citizens living in Semezhevo village during a master class on “St. George’s Day dishes” talking about the peculiarities of celebrating St. George’s Day and sharing the secrets of traditional cuisine
Traditional Semezhevo food prepared by senior citizens living in the village and their younger companions, combining eff orts to save the regional and local rites within the activities of their Semezhovochka amateur association
Certain stones are so inseparably linked with their land and its history that when touching them you touch history. The pupils of Radyn Grammar School tell the legendary story of this stone, which is connected with the life of the famous poet Adam Mitskevich and those he loved
Mini-excursion to the open air museum of Ice Age stones in Radun with school children preparing a video show for school television on the history, legends and traditions of their native area
Master class participants in Belarusian national festive cuisine testing traditional Easter cake recipes in Cherven in a boarding house for people with special needs
Master classes on national festive cuisine enable participants with special needs to obtain cultural experience, communicate and prepare for an independent life