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.