The first Belarusian river cruise: Belaja Ruś – Belarus Photo Digest
In recent years, the Belarusian leadership has been attempting to create a positive image of the country to attract foreign visitors. So far, Belarus seems to appeal mostly to Russian tourists.
Russians perceive Belarus as a nostalgic holdout of the USSR with quality food and good cheap ‘Soviet’ service. They see tourism in Belarus more as a trip down 'memory lane'. For several decades, most Belarusian health resorts have relied on Russian tourists for business.
However, the launch of the cruise ship Belaja Ruś is a new pearl for Belarusian tourism. This motor ship is a restored and altered OS-2 technical vessel. Its restoration lasted more than five years, as the project was short of funds, and the total cost of the project remains a secret to this day. Local workers at the ship-repair yard jokingly call it the Titanic.
Local water channels still lack interesting and distinctive infrastructure, but hopefully development will gain momentum as more tourists arrive. The cruise's route will run along the Dnieper-Bug Canal on the rivers Bug, Muchaviec, Pina, and Pripyat, from the city of Brest to Mazyr over 8 days. Over the course of the voyage, tourists will relax and visit tourist attractions during the daytime and cruise the river at night.
The interior of the ship room. Decorations are mostly of Belarusian origin.
Open deck for evening gatherings and fresh air.
The honorary launch of the ship's maiden voyage took place at the Pinsk shipyard. Local officials and plant workers were invited to the ceremony. Speakers expressed their hope that this new tourist itinerary would be profitable enough for the plant to finally regain its former glory and attract new orders for ship manufacturing.
Officials speaking at the shipyard near the skeleton of a new ship.
In accordance with long-standing tradition, a bottle of champagne was smashed against the ship board. The bottle only shattered on the third attempt.
A blessing by an Orthodox priest is an indispensable part of any ship launching ceremony.
Officials did not reveal the final cost of the ships, saying only that the works lasted for many years and it is hard to calculate the costs.
The city of Pinsk has its own river station with distinctive wooden architecture.
View of Pinsk from the Pina river.
Shipyard workers stare bemusedly at the first tourists.
Although many small technical ships sail along the Pina, the appearance of a tourist motor ship has sparked unprecedented interest.
The captain and his crew set out on their first trial voyage.
A notable marketing move: the name of the ship, Belaja Ruś, is the name of an official pro-government public association, which unites Lukashenka's power vertical and is widely referred to in official ideology.
Local officials and journalists were the first to embark on the ship's trial voyage. Tourists have been able to book cruises since 29 April.
About the photographer: Siarhei Leskiec is a freelance photographer whose work focuses on everyday life, folk traditions, and rituals in the Belarusian countryside. Originally from Maladzeczna region, he received a history degree from the Belarusian State Pedagogical University.