Policy paper


as a summary of Igor Rakhansky’s and Uladzimir Matskevich’s ideas and plans, as well as best practices that are common intellectual property of the project CHOICE – Cultural Heritage: Opportunity for Improving Civic Engagement.


Problems and challenges of the current situation in the sphere of cultural heritage

Cultural heritage and economy

Cultural heritage and society

Cultural heritage and culture

Cultural heritage and the policy

Belarus’ national policy in the sphere of cultural heritage

The semantic notions “inheritance” and “heritage”

The semantic notions “material” and «socio-cultural» embodiments

The cycle of life of an object of cultural heritage (inheritance)

From inheritance to heritage: new reference points for the policy in the sphere of cultural heritage

Principles of civil society’s socio-cultural activity in the field of cultural heritage

National and international tasks of the “non-govenrmental Ministry of Culture”



Today, cultural heritage becomes increasingly valuable as a factor of sustainable social and economic development. Its role includes not only the traditional questions of developing culture, preserving cultural-historical memory, providing the act of keeping cultural heritage from the present for the future, and supporting national identity and consciousness, but also the questions of economic development of the country, development of the potential of local territories, development of civil society, formation of local communities, improvement of ecological environment, and transformation of the way and quality of people’s lives. The rich potential of cultural heritage requires a corresponding policy in order to make this potential an actual and effective tool to develop the country.

This task is not in the zone of the exclusive responsibility of state power – it presupposes the involvement of a wider range of public-political subjects: civil society organizations, cultural establishments, local and regional authorities, businesses, experts and scientists, informal initiatives and groups of citizens at local levels. For Belarus, where state domination in this sphere (and in many other spheres as well) is especially palpable, it is quite crucial to dilate the sphere of work with the heritage to a wide social problematics with a multilateral dialogue of different subjects. Such an approach does not mean obligatory expropriation of the necessary functions of the state and is not aimed at revolutionary changes of the state policy in the field of preserving historical and cultural heritage. Socio-cultural public activities in the field of preserving historical and cultural heritage should be carried out within the framework of the cultural policy joint with the state one.

The purpose of this document is to designate bases, principles, and basic criteria to launch public work in the field of cultural heritage, including practical recommendations for various participants of this activity and first of all for the Ministry of Culture, international institutions that deal professionally with the heritage (ICOMOS, UNESCO, etc.), advocacy groups inside civil society, as well as grassroots organizations and initiatives in the cultural sphere.

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Problems and challenges of the current situation in the sphere of cultural heritage

The current situation and problematics of cultural heritage cannot be analyzed one-dimensionally – they require a complex description taking into account economic, social, cultural, and political aspects. Such a description is difficult not only because there are a lot of aspects, but also due to a rather weak level of elaboration of this topic in Belarus both at the level of special scientific researches and at the level of state reports that frequently provide no necessary data. While studying a number of significant questions, there is not any other possibility except for experts’ opinions and descriptions of separate cases, which creates rather a fragmentary picture of the situation. Not having a possibility to build thorough perceptions, we shall designate only the most important (from our point of view) moments in the sphere of cultural heritage.

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Cultural heritage and economy

As of January, 1st, 2017, the State List of historical and cultural valuables of Belarus includes 5,552 objects of heritage – 5,352 of which are material immovable historical and cultural valuables, 89 – material movable historical and cultural valuables, and 111 are non-material displays of people’s creativity[1]. This variety is a significant potential to develop economic activities in connection with cultural heritage. First, objects of heritage can be used economically and bring direct incomes – they can become objects of investments, direct goods (for example, when they are exhibited), accompanying economic activities (tourism and other services), subjects of purchase and sale, developing entrepreneurship and start up activities in the sphere of creative industries, etc. Second, the objects of heritage that are used economically can create new workplaces. Third, economic benefits of the renovation of objects of heritages can be the returning of the attractiveness of depressive Belarusan regions, cities, and territories, at the expense of the improvement of the quality of life and property costs in places where objects of cultural heritage have been returned to the sphere of social and economic activities. In Belarus, all these kinds of activities often face the common problem of way too many rules, legislative restrictions, and the complexity of conducting economic activities – in addition, objects of heritage are burdened by special state regulations of conducting activity on such objects (which is necessary, but often frightens off investors). Fourth, at the state level, heritage economic benefits are thought to have to do exclusively with tourism. It unreasonably limits the sphere of the heritage economic use, lays unjustified hopes on tourism, and does not consider the effect of local residents’ alienation if objects of heritage are given not to local subjects. In many cases, objects of heritage are needed not by tourists, but by local residents who are able to benefit from their use, including receipts of money from tourism.

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Cultural heritage and society

The most essential social aspect lies in the raised conflictness of objects of social heritage. Difficult relations of property in the objects, which are valuable for various subjects and social groups, inevitably lead to problems and conflicts. In Belarus, such conflicts are frequent when it comes to property and possession – for example, the object “Romanov’s Manor” in Old Barysaŭ – works were begun there without coordination with the Ministry of Culture, which led to the owner’s administrative responsibility[2]. Differences of interests quite often concern former religious buildings that represent different interests for current owners and religious groups[3]. There are various variants of the conflict of values – in Belarus, they have the form of divergences between “official” and “alternative” cultures, the discourse of state ideology and the discourse of national identity[4]. It is also possible to mention conflicts concerning esthetic perceptions and tastes (e.g. disputes on stylization during the restoration and exhibiting of monuments), the conflict of public priorities between different communities (environmental, scientific, cultural, national, religious, and local communities can have absolutely different views on the same object), the conflict of methods, techniques, and ways of carrying out these or those works, and other conflicts. Accordingly, it is necessary to develop measures of settling and preventing social conflicts, especially in the spheres that are beyond direct administrative, legislative, and judicial control. In Belarus, it is needed to widen such mechanisms as public dialogue, mediation, advocacy, PR, campaigning, lobbying, and education.

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Cultural heritage and culture

Actually, the cultural aspect is defined by a significant role of heritage when various cultural paradigms collide (“war of cultures”). In Belarus, with its difficult history, the war of cultures is today’s reality of society’s existence on the borders of cultural ruptures. It is possible to designate a number of the most important points that have to do with the wrangles concerning cultural-historical heritage. The opposition of “European” and “Russian” cultures is revealed in disputes concerning property in these or those objects of material and non-material heritage. E.g. there are quarrels over historical buildings of temples of the 16th-18th centuries of the epoch of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which today are being reconstructed by the Orthodox Church according to the West Russian canons that differ from the more westernized canons of the GDL[5]. There is a conflict concerning the installation of a monument to Grand Duke Alhierd in Viciebsk, where a part of local residents opposed the installation of this monument to the “antihero” from the point of view of the Russian cultural-historical tradition[6]. The opposition of “national” and “Soviet” cultures is demonstrated the most in disputes concerning the heritage of the Belarusan People’s Republic (1918), the BSSR, and World War II. “National” culture tries to level the cultural heritage of the BSSR and the “Soviet” one negates national culture as collaborationist and narrowly nationalist one[7]. The opposition between the ethnic (exclusive) approach and the universal (inclusive) approach to historical heritage. In the first case, the value is given only to the objects of cultural heritage, which belong to the ethno-national historical narrative; the objects of cultural heritage belonging to Polish, Jewish, Tatar, Russian, and other cultures remain with no attention. The universal (inclusive) approach to national culture considers all objects of cultural heritage on the territory of Belarus, which belong to all other nationalities and cultures, culturally significant for today’s national culture[8].

Besides the «war of cultures», cultural heritage is in the actual processes of the interpretation and re-interpretation of history. The restoration of history and actualization of historical memory is demanded in the work aimed at forming communities, in education, upbringing, development of national identity and national consciousness. The work with heritage also provides rich possibilities while involving the creative potential of the population, appropriating local history, and forming sustainable connections between citizens and the physical space of their life and activity. An indirect effect of developing cultural activity with heritage is the creation of new workplaces, the growth of cultural industries, and the formation of a more attractive image of regions both for local residents and potential investors and tourists. In many respects, all these processes in Belarus are braked because culture is ideology-driven, the freedom of cultural activity and the activity of cultural public organizations are restricted, and there exist deep dividing lines between official (state) culture and independent (alternative) culture.

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Cultural heritage and the policy

The policy in the field of cultural heritage has to do with the establishment of legislative frameworks of the use of objects of cultural heritage (protection, preservation, restoration, archeological excavations, documenting, etc.), the creation of conditions of conducting economic activities, and with actually political moments of the coordination of interests of various socio-political groups concerning the heritage, settlement of conflicts, solution of historical disputes concerning the heritage on the international scene. Not enough attention is paid to the last aspect in Belarus, although it results in substantial consequences for the international image of the country and the question of property in national brands. The inattention of Belarus to the GDL heritage has led to the fact that its history is almost exclusively associated with modern Lithuania and Poland; the oblivion of the history of the Viciebsk avant-garde of the 1920s – to the symbolical expropriation of its heritage in favor of Russia, France, and even Ukraine[9]. Belarus’ international policy should include the questions of determining property, the order of possession, use, and management of the common historical heritage – as in the case with the GDL heritage and the heritage on the territory of Belarus that has values for other nations and cultures (places of life and activity of Polish cultural and political figures, significant places of Jewish history, etc.).

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Belarus’ national policy in the sphere of cultural heritage

The characteristic of the basic subjects of political relations in the sphere of cultural heritage

Various types of subjects participate in the implementation of the national policy in the field of cultural heritage; the most important of them are: state structures (President, Council of Ministers, Ministry of Culture, local executive and administrative organs), cultural organizations and establishments (museums, libraries, houses of culture, houses of crafts, centers of folk art, etc.), civil society organizations, business (owners, investors, builders, sponsors, etc.), the scientific and expert community (historians, restorers, etc.).

State structures have the functions of state management of the cultural sphere. The president of Belarus is responsible for the definition of the state policy in the field of culture; the Council of Ministers – for the general management of the implementation of the state policy in the field of culture. The Ministry of Culture carries out the state policy, including a wide spectrum of actions – the organization and assistance to the implementation of actions aimed at protecting historical and cultural heritage; the working-out and implementation of government programs in the field of culture. At the local level, the state policy is implemented by local executive and administrative organs, often being the key executors of state decisions[10].

The important role in the state policy implementation is played by government programs in the field of culture. Today, the government program “Culture of Belarus” for 2016-2020 is being implemented; it has a sub-program called “Heritage”[11]. The tasks of the sub-program “Heritage” concern the questions of preservation of cultural heritage, improvement of the quality of services of libraries, museums, galleries, and showrooms, creation of conditions for the further development of national art crafts and for the preservation and development of cultures of national minorities. The sub-program “Heritage” has replaced the quite ambitious government program “Castles of Belarus” for 2012-2018[12] that had a number of positive moments, but still was criticized for its weak results, insignificant volumes of financing, and the absolute ignoring of social aspects of restoration[13]. Government programs aimed at developing tourism also concern the sphere of cultural heritage – in particular, the government program «Hospitable Belarus» for 2016-2020 plans to develop the infrastructure of tourism and tourist services.

Cultural organizations and establishments are an important part of the work with historical and cultural heritage. In the system of the Ministry of Culture of Belarus, there are more than 7,000 organizations of culture, including 151 state-run museums, 2,675 libraries, more than 2,600 club establishments, and about 100 houses (centers) of crafts[14]. Cultural establishments cover a considerable part of the population, carrying out the functions of museumification, popularization of folk art, preservation of local historical and cultural heritage, etc.

Civil society organizations, including informal initiatives and local communities of citizens, are in many respects pushed to the periphery of the official national policy in the field of cultural heritage. However, they play an extremely important role in the direct development of the work with heritage, the protection of historical and cultural values, monitoring and expertise, state policy control, and informal education. The most significant subjects of the civil society of Belarus, working with heritage questions, are: the Belarusan volunteer society to protect monuments of history and culture, the Belarusan association of guides and guides-interpreters, the Belarusan union of masters of folk arts and crafts, the Belarusan language association, the Belarusan committee of ICOMOS, and the Belarusan union of designers. Among regional organizations, there are: «Vitebsk4Me» (Viciebsk), “Hruntoŭnia”(Brest), and the Hrodna regional public association of young scientists «VIT» (Hrodna). While there is rather a considerable quantity of civil society organizations and informal initiatives in the field of culture (about 577 various organizations and initiatives[15]), the main problem of their participation in the national cultural policy and influence on acceptance of significant state decisions is the weak coordination of their activity and the absence of any coordinated strategic prospect of developing the policy in the field of cultural heritage. One more important problem for civil society is the weak attention to the social part and participation of local communities in the work with heritage: «even in the presence of formed local communities, their potential does not reveal for various reasons and their influence on the actualization and transformation of heritage is not felt»[16].

Business participation (owners, investors, builders, etc.) is an important part of the national policy, but is essentially limited by the weak development of state-private partnership in Belarus. Economic conditions of business activity not always promote the development of this sphere – in particular, it is possible to mention: the absence of economic preferences for sponsors and businessmen who deal with charity; complexities when one tries to receive grants, to register them and to receive permissions to use them as humanitarian aid; the absence of tax privileges for the work concerning historical and cultural valuables. The mechanisms used by the state often limit the economic development of the non-state (independent) sector (monopolization of the system of distributing books and printed matter; the practice of forcing businesses to support events and actions carried out under the aegis of the state; the absence of mechanisms of indemnification of the means spent to repair and upgrade of premises, buildings, etc.)[17].

In Belarus, where there is quite a high potential of the scientific and expert community’s development in the field of historical and cultural heritage and adjacent areas (history, restoration, national culture, etc.), its contribution to the common policy is limited by several barriers. In particular, the professional work development is characterized by the use of gathered experiences, the infrastructure and the human potential, but it does not open any opportunities for something new. Experts mark the limitation of possibilities in the development and application of new methods and approaches in design, museum business, restoration, etc. Intellectual and scientific maintenance is poorly stimulated by the state – the level of scientists’ salaries remains very low, which is reflected in the number of dissertations and the outflow of qualified personnel[18].

Implementation aspects of the national policy in the field of cultural heritage

Belarus’ national policy in the sphere of cultural heritage has a number of specific features, the most important of which are:

1)         Weak interaction of different subjects in the formation, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of the policy in the field of cultural heritage

The most vivid characteristic of the policy in the sphere of cultural heritage in Belarus is the state domination that leaves no room for other subjects’ participation in the formation and implementation of this policy. The low level of interaction of subjects of the cultural policy is expressed by the fact that civil society’s and businesses’ participation in the acceptance of political decisions is controlled by the state and, at best, is of an advisory character. Contacts are frequently limited by the informing on the part of the state and by specially organized local events and actions with limited access. There are legal mechanisms of public participation and state-private partnership, but they poorly work in practice, being limited to single cases of positive interaction. The interaction of the state, businesses, the non-commercial sector, and civil society is very low and is often accompanied by conflicts. Businesses and public initiatives have limited possibilities to contribute to the sphere of cultural heritage and do not become significant subjects of its development[19].

Recently, in the questions of protecting historical and cultural heritage, the legal possibilities of participation of the public have been restricted (e.g. there was a case when physical persons and legal entities were refused to contest by judicial means the coordination of project documentations carried out by the Ministry of Culture)[20]. As a whole, it is possible to speak about the narrowing of the cultural policy per se down to the level of administration, its replacement by marketing and ideology. In this connection, actually, there is no strategic interaction between different subjects, but tactical actions more often limited to the receiving of permissions and coordinations.

2)         Domination of the expert-focused approach in questions of protecting and using cultural heritage.

Participation of civil society, businesses, and interested groups of citizens at the local level is limited because of such participants’ “non-professionalism”. There is a mechanism of public discussions of projects, but it has only an advisory character and takes into account only experts’ suggestions (i.e. only the proposals that are proved by standard-legal and normative-technical documents)[21].

3)         The basic directions of work with heritage are their protection and preservation, museumification, popularization, and tourism developments; much less attention is paid to all other economic, social, cultural, and political aspects.

4)         The Belarusan legislation, in many respects, considers the cultural policy as management of a special type of manufacture (cultural industry), consisting basically of cultural establishments, which is aimed at satisfying the population’s cultural requirements and increasing people’s moral qualities. All other aspects of the policy (coordination of interests, participation of various social groups, non-discrimination, dialogue of national cultures, the international policy in the field of heritage, economic benefits, etc.) are considered according to the residual principle.

5)         In the questions of work with historical and cultural heritage in cities, the authorities, first of all, pursue their own economic interests and consider, first of all, the interests of large private investors (for example, builders), while the cultural component is not taken into account. E.g. only in Minsk it is possible to remember the demolition of the district Osmolovka[22]; hotel “Kempinski” – as a result of its construction the first Minsk powerhouse was destroyed[23]; the destruction of the old building of the Museum of Great Patriotic War after the museum was transferred to a new place[24].

6)         Within the pale of the current cultural policy, basically there is no practice of working out a strategy of cultural development of separate cities or regions, development of its general vision. Such coordination is not required from officials and representatives of official bodies even at the local level. As a result, there is no culture of communication and no practice of public discussions of strategic development of cities.

7)         As a rule, within the bounds of the state policy, there are events and actions (projects) focused only on «historical and cultural valuables» from the state register. The lack of such an approach is the absence of attention to «historical and cultural objects» that are not in the state list of objects under protection.

Such a state of affairs leads to an essential reduction of the policy in the field of cultural heritage as it happens to be incapable of turning the potential of Belarus’ cultural heritage into an actual tool of social, cultural, and economic development. Still, it would be incorrect to lay all responsibility for the inefficiency of the national policy exclusively on the authorities and state structures. The activity of civil society and other subjects also has a number of essential drawbacks that bring their negative contribution to the general situation. In particular, it is necessary to mark the low level of motivation of subjects of civil society and the business community to participate in the policy formation at the national level, their absorption in their private (niche) interests, and their inability to cooperate and consolidate in order to solve valid questions. From our point of view, the formation of the public focus of management of the sphere of cultural heritage (in addition to the government focus) can help to solve this situation. A part of responsibility for the definition of the agenda of the national policy, its execution and monitoring, should be taken by public actors. In other words, in Belarus, in addition to the existing governmental mechanisms, «the public ministry of culture» should be organized. Thus, we do not speak about the creation of a new structure or a new public organization; we speak about the general conceptual bases, new principles of implementing various projects in the field of heritage, coordinated strategies with a decentralized system of coordinating actions of various public actors.

Conceptual foundations of civil society’s socio-cultural activity in the field of cultural heritage preservation

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The semantic notions “inheritance” and “heritage”

There are a lot of definitions of cultural-historical heritage – in this very document it is important to differentiate between the notions “cultural inheritance” and “cultural heritage”.

«Cultural inheritance» is a set of all historical and cultural objects located within the borders of a concrete territory, or beyond its limits, which are important for carriers of this or that culture.

“Cultural heritage” is a part of cultural inheritance located within the borders of a concrete territory, or beyond its limits, which is used socially-culturally by society.

In other words, the “inheritance” is «raw» heritage: objects, traditions, norms, habits, which are inherited by each new generation from the previous one simply because they are; without any quality evaluation of their contents. The “heritage” is already a professional term that means that this or that building, creative product, or people’s way of life and thinking have received certain value[25].

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The semantic notions “material” and «socio-cultural» embodiments

Any «historical and cultural object», in this or that proportion, inseparably unites in itself the two semantic components: “material” and «socio-cultural» embodiments. The «material embodiment» means the existence of a historical-cultural object as it is with all its characteristics. The «socio-cultural embodiment» means the process of society’s interaction with the cultural norms embodied in the «material embodiment». This interaction includes, inter alia, the social perception of the object, or the image of the object developed by society with regard to this historical and cultural object.

The basic challenge for society concerning historical and cultural inheritance is the inevitability of the fact that both “material” and «socio-cultural» embodiments regularly turn from one condition into the other. For example, there can be a process of degradation of a “material” embodiment of an object of heritage through a change of its conditions: «refined architecture» – «critical condition» – «ruins» – “landscape”. In parallel, there is also a change of conditions of the «socio-cultural» embodiment of the same object: «residence of a magnate» – “a stable” – «romantic recreation» – «pasture for goats» (See Fig. 1).

Fig. 1 Scheme that illustrates the change of conditions in the course of degradation of “material” and «socio-cultural» embodiments of a historical-cultural object

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The cycle of life of an object of cultural heritage (inheritance)

The cycle of life of an object of cultural heritage (inheritance) includes a change of conditions of its material and socio-cultural embodiments. These conditions change and turn from one condition into the other by leaps and bounds under the influence of external forces. A “palace” turns into «ruins» as a result of atmospheric and anthropogenous influences; «the image of the temple» turns into «the image of the scrap-heap» as a result of changes of society’s perceptions.

Attempts of state institutions to oppose these, as a matter of fact, degradation processes with the help of a barrier at the level of activity in the field of “protection” and “restoration” of historical and cultural valuables do not lead to any desirable results. The problem is, first of all, that the used methods of preserving historical and cultural objects, as a rule, are aimed at «material embodiments» and do not concern «socio-cultural embodiments».

It is obvious that relations between society and historical-cultural inheritance are defined through the perception of a concrete object by members of society, i.e. through its socio-cultural embodiment that constantly changes – there are consecutive changes of types (or levels) of its social perception: from the utilitarian-historical perception of an object to mythical-poetical, art-shaped, scientific-research, institutional and, at last, modern utilitarian perception (See above the cycle of life of a monument – the history of receiving value).

During its cycle of life, an object of cultural heritage receives absolutely new social-cultural contents in comparison with its primary utilitarian function. Regarding only the scientific-research (studies, museumification, etc.) and institutional (protection of valuables) relations, we, on the one hand, essentially reduce the substantial riches of heritage. On the other hand, heritage protection can slow down the degradation of the material embodiment of valuables, but per se does not rescue historical and cultural valuables from destruction. In order to really preserve historical and cultural valuables, it is necessary to implement a complex of actions that provide their utilitarian use here, now, and on a sustainable basis. An object of cultural heritage must be give such a socio-cultural embodiment, provided with such a perception by society, which would make it included in the actual processes of cultural, economic, social, and political consumption and use.

Of course, this task is not trivial and generates questions of selection of the cultural norms from all socio-cultural contents of values, which should be broadcast and implemented further and which should be excluded from the broadcasting process (“buried”, «museumificated», etc.). Some folklore legends should live, and some of them should be in the archive; the former “sacral” utilitarian function can be returned to an object or replaced with new modern contents. Thus, it is important to underline that any activity in the sphere of historical-cultural heritage should cover the whole complex of works aimed at preserving historical-cultural objects both in their “material” and «socio-cultural» embodiments.

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From inheritance to heritage: new reference points for the policy in the sphere of cultural heritage

Mission, tasks, and tools of the national policy in the field of cultural heritage

The national policy in the field of cultural heritage requires rather a serious revision; however, it would be naive to believe that this task can be solved by state structures without participation of other public-political stakeholders. For various reasons, including bureaucratic inertia, it is difficult to think that the Belarusan Ministry of Culture will essentially audit its own approaches in the field of cultural heritage in the near future. Much bigger potential of changes belongs to civil society – because of its bigger flexibility, mobility, ability to perceive new ideas; it can complete the missing political mechanisms. Here, again, we speak not about confrontations, collisions of approaches of the state and civil society, but about a possibility of a complementary approach. The state policy is basically aimed at protecting the material embodiment of cultural-historical valuables; civil society can add and expand it at the expense of its activity aimed at cultural-historical objects in their socio-cultural embodiment. Civil society does not withdraw itself from the activity of preserving material embodiments of historical and cultural valuables, but its priorities are the actions aimed at developing social imagination and aspects of socio-cultural perceptions of heritage. We believe that this very way of interaction will be able to influence the gradual improvement of the state policy and the transformation of frameworks of the Belarusan legislation in the field of cultural heritage.

The aspiration to turn “cultural inheritance” into “cultural heritage” should become the joint mission of state, non-state, and international actors in their activity connected with historical and cultural objects. In practical sense, it means that any activity aimed at historical and cultural objects should lead to their sustainable utilitarian use in the current social-economic and cultural conditions.

The work aimed at developing the social imagination and socio-cultural component of heritage should become the primary goal of civil society («the public ministry of culture») in the performance of this mission. The social imagination sets the area of society’s perceptions of a possible and due use of objects of heritage. As heritage is a conflict area, it is necessary to develop such a condition of the social imagination that is able to remove or reduce conflictness.

While launching the social imagination and solving conflicts, the basic tool of work is advocacy campaigns.

We understand «advocacy» as a process uniting separate creative projects, which is aimed at implementing interests of communities. The purpose of advocacy is system social and political changes reflecting interests of wide social classes. This process includes diverse participants (social groups, communities, private business, etc.) who are connected with the problem the advocacy efforts are aimed at. Advocacy is aimed at authorities and (less often) concrete officials who make decisions. One of basic principles of advocacy is to attract various strata of society. Advocacy campaigns are a temporary process; they last till the moment of achievement of changes.

Civil society’s advocacy campaigns can include various creative projects organized on the following bases:

  • “Action” or every project should be focused on the practical result (for example, to return the UNOVIS cultural heritage to the inhabitants of Viciebsk) through a set of certain actions (forums, conferences, re-design of municipal transportation according to the samples of the Viciebsk Art School)[26].
  • “Infrastructure” or each project should contribute to the appearance of a new infrastructure that can promote the continuation of new socio-cultural contents (for example, within the framework of the CHOICE project, a special infrastructure to work with heritage – archives[27], catalogs[28], communication and discussion platforms – was created).
  • “Reflection” or constant monitoring of the effects made by the project actions and results for a circle of interested participants touched by the problem (for example, regular club meetings or special seminars within the pale of the CHOICE project).
  • “Presentation” or wide public exhibiting of new socio-cultural contents made by a creative project (for example, theatrical performances in Ašmiany[29], an interactive audio performance and an app – the guide on the history of the Jews of Brest[30], the mobile exhibition «Color Of Belarus» in different cities of Belarus[31]).

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Principles of civil society’s socio-cultural activity in the field of cultural heritage

Civil society’s socio-cultural activity in the field of preserving historical and cultural heritage (inheritance) is based on the following principles:

  • Recognition of historical and cultural heritage (inheritance) as a factor of socio-cultural development;
    Recognition of society’s responsibility for the preservation of historical and cultural heritage (inheritance);
    Citizens’ participation in the preservation of historical and cultural heritage (inheritance)
    The basic directions of socio-cultural activity in the sphere of preserving historical and cultural heritage (inheritance) are:
  • Assistance to the revealing of material objects and non-material displays of people’s creativity, which can be of historical and cultural value;
  • Assistance to institutionalization by implementing initiatives to provide material objects and non-material displays of people’s creativity with the status of historical and cultural value in conformity with the current legislation;
  • Assistance to the preservation and restoration of historical and cultural objects (valuables);
  • Assistance to the sustainable upkeep and use of historical and cultural objects (valuables) with the necessary unconditional preservation of their distinctive spiritual, art, and (or) documentary qualities;
  • Financing of actions aimed at preserving historical and cultural heritage (inheritance) with the help of the means directed to charitable (gratuitous) purposes;
  • Presentation (education and exhibition) of historical and cultural objects (valuables) in order to broadcast cultural norms;
    According to the main principles, non-state associations and informal initiatives in the sphere of preserving historical and cultural heritage (inheritance) can carry out the following actions:
  • To assist state structures in the implementation of the state policy in the sphere of protecting historical and cultural heritage;
  • To popularize historical and cultural objects (valuables), the current legislation that protects historical and cultural heritage;
  • To carry out public control over the implementation of the current legislation that protects historical and cultural heritage;
  • To make proposals to state structures concerning the protection of historical and cultural heritage;
  • To promote the formation of citizens’ national self-identification, responsibility for the preservation of historical and cultural heritage (inheritance);
  • To carry out other actions that have to do with the preservation of historical and cultural heritage (inheritance), which are not forbidden by the current legislation.

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National and international tasks of the “non-govenrmental Ministry of Culture”

Advancement of the principles of the new policy («from inheritance to heritage») at national and international levels can become an essential line of activity of the “public ministry of culture”. Regular interaction of national actors concerning the formation and development of conceptual bases of the activity in the field of cultural heritage in Belarus is able to lay the foundations for coordination of efforts aimed at preserving and developing the potential of cultural heritage. In the long term, such a common communication and coordination platform should bring its contribution not only to the activity at the level of Belarus, but also lead to the enrichment of the global practice of working with heritage.

The problem condition of cultural heritage and the incomplete use of its potential are, in many respects, caused by the inattention to its socio-cultural component. We believe that it is necessary to fix the inalienability of the socio-cultural component of historical-cultural objects and to fix the need to protect it and to know the rules of working with it – this will be an essential step towards the development of the international practice in the sphere of cultural heritage.

The international principles set by the Athens Charter for the Restoration of Historic Monuments, the Venice Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites, the Florence Charter on heritage and landscape as human values, and other international documents should be supplemented by the Belarusan Charter on the socio-cultural component of heritage.

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[1] More than 5,500 objects of heritage in Belarus have the status of historical and cultural value, http://www.belta.by/culture/view/bolee-55-tys-objektov-nasledija-v-belarusi-imejut-status-istoriko-kulturnoj-tsennosti-227248-2017/

[2] Manors wait for owners, https://www.sb.by/articles/usadby-grustyat-v-ozhidanii-khozyaev.html

[3] See, e.g. cases of conflicts concerning the demolition of synagogues in Minsk and Lubań and Jewish cemeteries in Hrodna and Mazyr // The head of the World Association of Belarusan Jews has urged Lukashenko to stop the demolition of a synagogue in Lubań, https://news.tut.by/society/135864.html

[4] See, the conflict concerning the construction of a new «Polatsk Sophia Cathedral» in Viciebsk, http://www.belmarket.by/strasti-po-sofii

[5] Belarusan intellectuals against the barbarous “reconstruction” of the church, http://forb.by/node/242

[6] The Russian public of Viciebsk opposes the installation of the monument to Grand Duke Alhierd, https://ej.by/news/sociaty/2013/05/02/rossiyskaya_obschestvennost_vitebska_vystupaet_protiv_ustanovki_pamyatnika_knyazyu_ol_gerdu.html

[7] “Thus, critics questioned both art values of the Soviet past and those of recent times, cruelly discussing them with both supporters of “Europeanism”, in which they saw the blind copying of western literary patterns, and supporters of “revivalism” they called a sub-cultural concept” // H. Kiślicyna. Belarusan Criticism of the 1990s, BSU Bulletin. 2012. № 2, p. 3-6

[8] “It is necessary to use the space of life through the use of all the culture (or cultures) that generated this space. It means to use all the completeness of Belarusan culture: Belarusan culture of the GDL, Belarusan Polish culture, Belarusan Jewish culture, Belarusan Russian culture, Belarusan Soviet culture, and Belarusan contemporary culture. It is necessary to accept all this difficult layered device.» // A. Yahorau. Towns against the background of cultural catastrophes, in the book “Game of Towns: materials of expeditions to towns of Belarus”. – I. P. Logvinov, 2009. – 220 p.

[9] See, an indicative article of Lithuanian journalist Arturas Jancis “The Belarusans crave more often after Lithuanian rulers” («Lietuvos rytas», 3 Jun 2015) with accents on the doubtful (from the Lithuanians’ point of view) treatment of the GDL history in Belarus, http://lithuania.mfa.gov.by/ru/embassy/interview/b7abc442fd3980d0.html

[10] Belarus’ Code of Culture, 20 July 2016. № 413-З

[11] Decision of the Council of Ministers of Belarus d/d 4 Mar 2016 №180 about the government program “Culture of Belarus” for 2016-2020

[12] Decision of the Council of Ministers of Belarus d/d 6 Jan 2012 №17 about the government program “Castles of Belarus” for 2012-2018

[13] Culturologist Anton Astapovich: the state program «Castles of Belarus» is nothing but a PR action, https://people.onliner.by/opinions/2015/04/22/mnenie-195; Report on the research «Restoration of castles as a cultural and social project», Center for European Transformation (2014), https://cet.eurobelarus.info/files/65/58/Vosstanovleniye_zamkov.pdf

[14] About the results of the carried out “Year of Culture” in 2016 and tasks of developing the sphere of culture in Belarus in 2017,  http://www.kultura.by/uploads/files/dlja-smi-korotkaja-spravka.pdf

[15] The author’s calculations on the basis of analyzing various databases on public organizations: 1) Database «Belarus Social», 2) Database of unique identification numbers “Card Index”, 3) Database of the Ministry of Justice of Belarus, 4) Database of Region.by, 5) Database «NGO.BY»

[16] Stepan Stureiko: “Dažynki” and architectural heritage, http://fly-uni.org/stepan-sturejko-dozhinki-i-arxitekturnoe-nasledie; Report on the research «Restoration of castles as a cultural and social project», Center for European Transformation (2014), https://cet.eurobelarus.info/files/65/58/Vosstanovleniye_zamkov.pdf

[17] Monitoring on Belarus’ implementation of UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, Center for European Transformation, 2015, http://cet.eurobelarus.info/files/userfiles/5/CET/2015_Convention_UNESCO_Monitoring.pdf

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Decision of the Council of Ministers of Belarus d/d 1 Jun 2011 №687 «About the order of carrying out public discussions in the field of architectural, town-planning, and building activities»

[22] Osmolovka will not receive the status of historical and cultural value; it will stop being a residential area in due course, https://realt.onliner.by/2016/11/24/osmolovka-8

[23] For the sake of Mr Chizh and Hotel Kempinski, the first Belarusan powerhouse in Minsk will be destroyed, https://ej.by/news/culture/2011/03/12/radi_chizha_i_kempinski__v_minske_snositsya_pervaya_belorusskaya_elektrostantsiya__.html

[24] The Architecture Committee about the former Museum of Great Patriotic War: “The City has not decided yet what to do with this territory.”, https://realt.onliner.by/2015/03/17/vov-2

[25] Heritage is an arena of hostilities for the sake of what we would like to bring to the future, https://eurobelarus.info/special-project/choice-belarus/2016/03/09/nasledie-eto-arena-boevyh-deystviy-za-to-chto-my-nesem-v.html

[26] In Viciebsk, trams and trolley buses have been decorated with Kazimir Malevich’s and Nina Kogan’s sketches, http://www.vitebsk-region.gov.by/ru/news-ru/view/v-vitebske-tramvai-i-trollejbus-ukrasili-eskizami-kazimira-malevicha-i-niny-kogan-13858-2016/

[27] Archive of Belarusan artists’ and designers’ posters «Belarusan Poster», http://plakat.ocean.vps-private.net; Dmitry Surskiy: We should pay a tribute to the Belarusan poster, https://eurobelarus.info/special-project/choice-belarus/2017/05/25/dzm-tryy-sursk-my-pav-nny-addats-belaruskamu-plakatu-nalezhnae.html

[28] Information database on necropolis heritage (cataloguing of old cemeteries with the information on burial places, photos, decoding of gravestone inscriptions, dates, etc.). See here: In Mahiloŭ, a catalog of survived ancient monuments of the Uspenskiy Cemetery is created, https://news.tut.by/society/500877.html

[29] Ašmiany: Dialogue of the town and its inhabitants, https://eurobelarus.info/special-project/choice-belarus/2016/10/01/ashmyany-dyyalog-zhyharo-gorada.html

[30] “Kryły Chałopa” has presented the Brest Stories Guide, http://www.racyja.com/kultura/kryly-khalopa-prezentavali-brest-stories-guide/

[31] “Color Of Belarus” – Michał Aniempadystaŭ’s exhibition will open on 2 May in Hrodna, http://budzma.by/afisha/kolyer-byelarusi-vystava-mastaka-i-dyzaynyera-mikhala-anyempadystava-adkryyecca-2-trawnya-w-harodni.html
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