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21 Dec 2015

Belarusian tradition of celebrating Icon of Mother of God of Budslav nominated for UNESCO list

MINSK, 21 December (BelTA) – The Belarusian tradition of celebrating the Icon of the Mother of God of Budslav has been nominated for the inclusion into the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, BelTA learned from Alla Stashkevich, the head of the department for scientific and methodological support for the protection of historical and cultural heritage at the Institute of Culture of Belarus.

Belarus is not widely represented in the UNESCO lists of intangible cultural heritage (these are the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding). For the first time a Belarusian rite was included into the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding was in 2009. It was the unique rite Christmas Tsars which includes the elements of the Christmas carnival and the folk drama Tsar Maximilian. The rite is held only in the village of Semezhevo, Kopyl District, Minsk Oblast.

Today another Belarusian element of intangible culture is among the nominees for the inclusion into the world heritage list. The file "Celebration in honor of the Icon of the Mother of God of Budslav" has been nominated for the inclusion in the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding this year. It is listed among the nominees which will be assessed by the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee in November 2016. In January-September next year the file will undergo scientific examination. A decision on the inclusion will be taken at a session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage which will be held in Ethiopia.

According to the specialist, Belarus intends to intensify its activity to nominate more of its heritage to the lists of universal importance. Apart from national files there are multinational files when several countries present one element. For instance, the Tango file inscribed in the UNESCO list unites a number of countries. International Nowruz Day inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity was joined by more than ten Muslim countries.

This year Slovakia decided to nominate its music instrument, which looks like the Belarusian pipe, and invited other participants to join the file. Among the countries that intend to join the nomination are Poland and the Czech Republic. Belarusian specialists also may prepare their proposal by March 2016. “When there is an opportunity to take part in a multinational project, this chance cannot be missed. The joint nomination proves the belonging of the Belarusian cultural tradition to European roots. The participation in the multinational nomination is of the same importance as presenting a national file. Besides, taking into account the UNESCO confirmed procedure, the member state may submit only one nomination a year. Participation in a multinational nomination expands these possibilities to two,” said Alla Stashkevich.

Belarus’ promising interest lies within the joint work with Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania in developing joint nominations as the countries have similar elements of intangible culture. Easter willows that are produced in Belarus and Lithuania can be cited as an example.

Apart from the State List of Historical and Cultural Values, which comprises both tangible and intangible heritage, Belarus also has the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage. It includes more than 70 elements of intangible cultural heritage. There is an online version of the inventory, the website Living Heritage of Belarus, which is available in Belarusian and in English. Such a national database is a preliminary stage for candidates to the inventory. The nominee should first pass examinations by the Institute of Culture of Belarus and the National Academy of Sciences, and only after that it is submitted for consideration to the Belarusian Science and Methodology Rada which makes the final decision.

Besides, a network connecting the regions with the center in the field of cultural heritage preservation has been created in Belarus. In each of the six Belarusian regions there is a special center that maintains and updates the regional lists of intangible cultural heritage and creates the conditions for the conservation of this heritage.

As for the preparation of documents for the nomination to the UNESCO Lists, Alla Stashkevich emphasized that this is a difficult process. Besides, it is important to have a clear understanding of how it should be done. Money is needed for shooting a film, preparing a portfolio, translating everything into English. A relevant financial mechanism has not been worked out in Belarus yet.

Belarus was one of the first countries to ratify UNESCO’s Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2004. So far the document has been ratified by 164 countries. UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage comprises representatives of 24 countries. States members to the committee are elected every two years. Belarus was a member of the committee in 2005-2009. The country has plans to stand for the intergovernmental committee in 2017.

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