Mark Chagall Exhibition in Minsk - Civil Society Digest

Chagall in Minsk. Photo: Y. Bekker

A Mark Chagall exhibition in the centre of Minsk last week became a shining example of civic-business cooperation.

The statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania also returned to Minsk after being purchased at a Moscow antiques auction for $45,000.  The funds were raised as a result of a fundraising campaign initiated by the Mahiliou Historical Museum involving Belarusian citizens, businesses and even the National Bank.

Sannikov`s female defense lawyer was barred to leave the country due to accusations of “avoiding mandatory army service”. Freedom House classifies Belarus as a consolidated autocratic regime in its "Nations in Transit 2012" report. Another seven European countries join the EU sanctions. 

Mark Chagall exhibition in Minsk. On June 7, an open-air exhibition of reproductions of the works of Belarus-born Mark Chagall was opened in the Yakub Kolas Square in Minsk commemorating the artist’s 125th anniversary. The exhibit, which will be open until mid-September, is a result of over 12 months of planning and negotiations between civil society, government and business. The idea of the project, which received wide coverage in independent and state media, is to educate and unite the deeply divided nation about Belarus-rooted personalities and was developed by the Idea Foundation (Fond of Idea).

Initially, the Minsk city authorities were asked to allow the placement of large reproductions on building walls along the main avenues of the city. The request was denied. Through negotiations, the Foundation, which partnered with the French Embassy and the Museum of Contemporary Art, was able to convince Minsk City Executive Committee to allow the exhibition to take place in the Yakub Kolas Square. BelVEB Bank provided full funding for the exhibition. Minister of Culture Latushka opened the event which by some online commentators who stated they “can’t believe this is happening in Minsk”.

The disputed Above the Sky goes online. Director of the first Belarusian youth movie "Above the Sky", commissioned by UNDP Office in Belarus as a youth series, and was then much disputed, uploaded the film on youtube.com . As previously informed, in late April, the film crew distributed a video appeal asking UNDP Office to allow a full-length version to screening, suggesting the film may have been subjected to censorship.

Committee on commemoration of Vitaly Silitski. A Committee on the commemoration of the first BISS director Vitaly Silitski has been established. The committee consists of about thirty well-known Belarusian and foreign public and academic figures. Among the Committee's activities there is a Scholarship and  anAward named after Silitski, as well as publishing of a number of his books.

"Life without Barriers". Gomel NGO "Disabled-spinalniki" implements the project "Life without Barriers" with the support of the International Children's Fund. The aim of the project is to assist people with disabilities living in the Gomel region with employment. For this purpose, the organizers conduct trainings and published brochures.

Documentary “Together”. The Office for the Rights of People with Disabilities initiated the producing of the documentary "Together" about inclusive education of children with and without disabilities. The film aims to form positive relationship models regarding people with disabilities. A presentation of the documentary "Together" was held on June 6 in Minsk.

Summer Camp for Human Rights. In order to promote civic education on human rights and legal protection of the public interest, the Legal Transformation Centre (Belarus), International Forum Burg Liebenzell (Germany), Flying University (Belarus) and others announce a call for applications for VII Summer Camp for Human Rights. The Camp will be held from July 24 to August 3, 2012 in Bad Liebenzell. The participation fee is 80 euros.

Meeting "New Media - New Rules." On June 10, cultural portal КУ holds a unique meeting "New Media - New Rules", where representatives of the most famous online resources - Lookatme, Livejournal, and Onliner - will share their expertise in the field of online media, and their views on the prospect of development of Belarusian online media and the blogosphere. The meeting will be held at the hotel "Crown Plaza", Minsk.

Interaction between state and civil society

BISS condemns jail sentence imposed on political analyst Pikulik. On June 5, the Board of the Belarusian Institute of Strategic Studies (BISS) issued a statement to condemn the jail term imposed on the institute’s academic director, Alyaksey Pikulik, on June 1. In the statement, the BISS Board accused the authorities of waging an intimidation campaign against Pikulik and urged all independent political experts to “continue their activities, carry on with unbiased surveys of Belarus and remain committed to maintaining high professional standards despite intimidation.”

“Granite” administration ignores independent trade union. The administration of the Mikashevichy enterprise “Granite” refused to provide office room for the independent trade union, though its members addressed a member of the lower chamber of the Parliament Larysa Vershalovich with a request for assistance in solving this issue.

Ronald Pofalla about Belarus. In case of an un-free election, the Belarusian opposition has no chance of winning. This opinion was expressed by the head office of the Federal Chancellor of Germany Ronald Pofalla at a press conference in Vilnius on June 8. He also noted that in the future, with the normalization of relations with the EU, Belarus "could perform a very important function - to be a bridge and to link Europe and eastern countries of the continent".

Sannikau’s lawyer banned from leaving Belarus. Maryna Kavaleuskaya, a lawyer of a former political prisoner Andrei Sannikau, was banned from leaving Belarus. She could not get to Vilnius on June 7.

Residents of the micro-district "Kolodishchi-2" initiate a public expertise. Residents of the micro-district "Kolodishchi-2" near Minsk initiate a public environmental assessment of the project of the residential area "Green Forest". They appealed to the Minsk City Executive Committee and expressed their concern about the planned construction a power plant, a vehicle fleet, and a rail and road junction. This will entail the demolition of about 800 garages and cutting green area.

Other notable news

Statute returned to Belarus. The Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania of 1588 was delivered to Minsk. The Statute was sold by a Moscow antiques auction for $45,000. The Mahiliou Historical Museum started a sound fundraising campaign which caused much buzz and managed to help to rapidly collect the necessary sum, involving Belarusian citizens, businesses and even the National Bank of the Republic of Belarus.

Nations in Transit 2012. On June 6, the Washington-based Freedom House released its comprehensive, comparative study of democratic development in 29 countries from Central Europe to Eurasia. The report classifies Belarus as a consolidated autocratic regime, in which the economy is controlled by the state with the exception of some limited activity in the private sector. The dimensions "Judicial Framework and Independence" and "Electoral Process" got the lowest scores.

UN should address «urgent human rights issues» in Belarus, says high commissioner. The UN high commissioner for human rights will recommend the UN to address “urgent human rights issues” in Belarus. In her report that will be discussed at the UN Human Rights Council’s 20th session to open on June 18, the commissioner says that the rights situation in the country has deteriorated after the December 2010 presidential election.

Another seven European countries – Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Iceland, Serbia, Albania and Liechtenstein - have joined the economic and visa sanctions of the EU against Belarus. This statement was made ​​on  June 8, byEU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton.

Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.

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