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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Belarus and Russia, Cooperation with EU, Nobel opposition, Money for families, Culture, Polish scandal, Sports, Blogs and the 500th Story…

  • From the Top...
  • #246

    Alexander Lukashenko: in near future Belarus will not change its policy aimed at forming union with Russia

    From: BelTA and Naviny
    Alexander Lukashenko wistfully said that the present-day power engineering has stopped being a purely economic issue and has become a political one, a factor that determines the basis of relations between nations and entire groups of countries.
    In the near future Belarus will not change its policy aimed at strengthening union relations with Russia, even if another president is elected, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko said on October 12 at a press conference for representatives of the Russian regional mass media.

    “We will pursue the same policy even if someone else from the present-day group of Belarus’ top officials is elected Head of State,” said Alexander Lukashenko. “It is highly unlikely that a representative of so-called opposition will come to power in Belarus, as they once governed the country and broke up the union,” the President added. “Unfortunately, some of these people, who are hostile towards Russia, enjoy considerable support in certain Russian political quarters,” said Alexander Lukashenko.

    “I often ask the Russian top officials: what more do you want? No doubt, Belarus has been and will always be your ally. Belarus is not ruled by billionaires who want to line their own pockets but by staunch supporters of the brotherhood union with Russia,” the Belarusian leader underlined.

    President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko said that the current problems in Belarusian-Russian relations are nothing more than an unpleasant episode in the great history of the two brotherly nations. “It is not the reason to renounce each other, smashing our centuries-old values,”.

    Alexander Lukashenko was convinced that “the nature of these contradictions is simple: certain persons in Russia desire to stuff their purses stored in Western banks with more money and become plenipotentiary owners in the Belarusian land”. According to the President, it is the reason that makes them enforce “market relations” and the law of might instead of traditional principles of equivocal and mutually beneficial collaboration. To prevent their own nation from getting angry, they came up with a fairy-tale about Belarus allegedly “freeloading at the expense of Russia”.

    Addressing the Russian reporters, the President stressed: “You have made sure this claim is absurd. Belarus works hard, earns its living, grows on and builds a people-oriented country for the entire nation. In this area we set a good example in the post-Soviet space. Our people may not be as rich as Russians, but, like you have been able to see, they live a normal life in a good and beautiful land. It is quite a good example for other republics of the former Soviet Union”.

    Alexander Lukashenko advised both Russian and Western reporters to come to visit Belarus more often and speak honestly about what they see here. “Speak about successes and problems if those exist here. Praise us if you deem it necessary. If you see genuine reasons for criticism, criticise us. Doing it in an honest manner, uninfluenced by instantaneous consideration, is the most important thing”.

    Alexander Lukashenko: no alternative to building nuclear stationin order to ensure the energy security of Belarus

    The statement was made by President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko at a government session dedicated to preparations for building the nuclear power plant on October 11.

    The head of state remarked, the decision to build the Belarusian nuclear station had been driven not by political ambitions, but by the need to ensure the country’s energy security while reserves of natural gas and oil across the globe dwindle, supplies are disrupted and energy prices ever grow on.

    Alexander Lukashenko wistfully said that the present-day power engineering has stopped being a purely economic issue and has become a political one, a factor that determines the basis of relations between nations and entire groups of countries.

    “Countries of the West are already discussing the necessity of introducing special regulations to control deals with energy installations in order to be able to block them if such deals threaten energy security. Doubtless, the energy contradictions on the global scale will worsen in the foreseeable future. The mankind will face new challenges and threats,” said the President. He underscored, these circumstances bear full evidence to confirm the righteousness of the decision to immediately work out a system of energy security measures, including the construction of a domestic nuclear power plant in Belarus.

    Lukashenka criticizes Putin for move to head United Russia list in parliamentary elections

    Alyaksandr Lukashenka has criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for his move to head the United Russia party’s list in the next parliamentary elections.

    He told a group of Russian reporters in Minsk on Friday that he did not know for what sake Mr. Putin had done this.

    Speaking at a congress of the main pro-Kremlin force earlier this month, Mr. Putin, who must leave office as president next year, said that it was “quite realistic” that he could head a future government. He said that he had he accepted the proposal by the United Russia to head the party's list, without becoming a member.

    “If a person goes to vote for the United Russia he will go to vote for Putin and this is the deception of the population. If this is an attempt to hold a referendum in one’s honor I am an advocate of open policy,” Mr. Lukashenka stressed.

    “Why did I take part in the presidential elections? Because people said straight that Lukashenka may run for presidency at the referendum,” Mr. Lukashenka said referring to the 2004 referendum denounced as flawed by OSCE observers. “We changed the terms for everyone, not Lukashenka alone," he said.

    Mr. Lukashenka promised that he would never act after Mr. Putin’s fashion. “I do not want people to attack me as a dog when I am no longer the president… If you want [to remain the president] talk to people and they will vote for you. People are emotional here. If you are heartily toward them they will support you.”

    The Belarusian leader noted that the congress of the United Russia revived reminiscences of the Soviet era when people at party sessions cried, “Glory to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union! Hurray! Hurray!” He said that his images had never been displayed during demonstrations, nor had long toasts in his honor ever been, noting that this was yet another evidence that there was no dictatorship in his country. “It took long time to teach all people this,” he added

    Lukashenka warns that Russia has only Belarus to rely on in wake of US missile defense deployment

    “However hard Russia may try to pretend that it is indifferent to Belarus it will not succeed,” Mr. Lukashenka told a group of Russian reporters in Minsk on Friday. “Look at the fact of the US missile defense deployment in Europe. Whom may your rely here on? On Ukraine that wants in NATO? On the Baltic states and Poland that are already in NATO? Do you have armed forces to contain [attacks] apart from the Belarusian army westward of Moscow?”

    The Belarusian leader reiterated that the Belarusians “will be dying for Russia” but would not let “tanks” advance toward Moscow.

    He stressed that it had been him who had suggested establishing the Belarusian-Russian Regional Group of Forces. “It was me who offered this to Yeltsin and then talked Putin into signing an agreement on the building up of the joint group of forces westward. I was thinking about not only myself and the Belarusians but also how our Union State commitments would be met within the framework of the Belarusian-Russian union. I was thinking that we should together defend our territory and the land that was feeding us with cheap hydrocarbons once,” he added

    Alyaksandr Lukashenka dismissed the likelihood of his opponents taking power in Belarus in the near future.

    “I’m far from thinking that our so-called opposition will soon come to power,” the Belarusian leader said while meeting with specially invited Russian provincial reporters on October 12.

    He claimed that the present opposition leaders governed the country in the early 1990s and destroyed the Soviet Union.

    He said he was disappointed that Belarusian opposition politicians, who he said “are allergic to the Russians,” currently find support from people “in the highest circles of the Russian Federation.”

    “You, the Russians, should understand that your Belarus was here,” Mr. Lukashenka said. “It will always be yours, not only under Lukashenka. People who came to power together with me will continue this policy even without me because they are convinced of the correctness of the course we pursue.”

  • Other Belarusian News...

    EU ambassadors stand for promoting cooperation with Belarusian regions

    From: BelTA
    Ambassadors of the European Union member states stand for promoting economic cooperation with the Belarusian regions. A statement to this effect was made on October 11 at a meeting between the diplomats and top officials of Gomel oblast held in Gomel. In particular, the diplomats representing Latvia, Slovakia, Great Britain and Bulgaria put forward proposals concerning the intensification of bilateral links.

    For example, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Bulgaria to Belarus Petko Ganchev deems it necessary to develop new cooperation forms, in particular in setting up joint ventures.

    One more important cooperation area is the implementation of projects aimed at mitigating the consequences of the Chernobyl catastrophe. According to charge d'affaires ad interim of Slovakia to Belarus, Lubomir Rehak, in 2005-2007 the EU countries have allocated Ђ28 million to carry out Chernobyl projects in Belarus. The implementation of one more such project is underway in Gomel oblast – “Cooperation for Rehabilitation” (CORE). This cooperation will be continued, Lubomir Rehak stressed. At the same time special attention will be turned to radio-ecological informing people, who live in the contaminated area.

    The EU ambassadors are visiting Gomel oblast on October 11-12. The trip is organized by the embassy of the Slovakian Republic in Belarus, the local presidency of the EU in Belarus on behalf of Portugal.

    Italian businessmen interested in tourism opportunities of Vitebsk oblast

    Italian businessmen are interested in implementing investment projects in the sphere of tourism in the Vitebsk oblast, representative of the administration of Bergamo Province Francesco Bari told BelTA. He headed the delegation of Italian businessmen at the 5th international investment forum in Vitebsk.

    This is the second time Francesco Bari visits Belarus and he believes that Italians can get good treatment in local sanatoria and rest homes. The recreation center Krupenino made a strong impression on the Italian delegation. There are many facilities in Belarus which could be of interest for foreign holidaymakers. That is why joint projects in the sphere of tourism can be implemented in the near future. Another avenue of cooperation can be search for alternative sources of energy.

    Mr. Bari also reported that the administration of Bergamo Province has been considering the draft agreement on cooperation between Bergamo and Vitebsk oblast. The document is expected to be officially signed in January 2008 in Vitebsk.

    According to the data provided by the economy committee of the Vitebsk oblast executive committee, the foreign turnover between the Vitebsk oblast and Italy in the last few years has approximated $21 million, the Belarusian exports stood at $13 million.

    Days of Belarusian Economy to be held in Hungary on October 15-17

    During the days the conference “Belarus and Hungary: Common View on the Future Trade-Economic Cooperation” will be held, BelTA learnt in the Belarusian Embassy to Budapest. Representatives of the Governments, Ministries of Economy, Transport and Foreign Affaires of the two countries are expected to deliver speeches at the conference. Negotiations between Belarusian and Hungarian businessmen about trade, investment and production cooperation, relations between regions will be held as well. The largest Belarusian manufactures will make presentations. After the conference a draft intergovernmental agreement on economic cooperation between Belarus and Hungary will be initialed.

    The bilateral working group on support of small entrepreneurship will hold its first session during the days.

    On October 15 Minsk Tractor Works (MTZ) will officially open its service center in Hungary. The center will promote Belarusian tractors and other agricultural hardware in the region.

  • Economic news...

    Belarus’ Energy Ministry: Russian gas prices will not be changed for Belarus till end of 2007

    From: BelTA
    The Russian gas prices will not be changed for Belarus till the end of 2007. This year the Russian gas will be supplied to Belarus in line with the contract signed with Gazprom, BelTA learnt from the press service of Belarus’ Energy Ministry.

    According to the source, on October 11 Energy Minister of Belarus Alexander Ozerets and Beltransgaz director general Vladimir Majorov paid a visit to Moscow to discuss quarterly gas supplies to Belarus in 2007 with Gazprom top managers.

    The issue relating to gas prices in 2008 was not discussed. Belarus’ budget was drawn up taking into account gas contract prices. The contract terms with Gazprom will not be changed, said in the ministry.

    As BelTA informed earlier, in 2007 Belarus planned to import 21.2 cubic meters of gas from Russia at the price of $100 per one thousand cubic meters.

    Belarus Chamber of Commerce and Industry helps Belarusian companies to develop foreign-economic ties

    In 2004-2007, the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry fulfilled the majority of the scheduled measures to develop foreign-economic ties and to implement the export potential of Belarus. During this time, almost 9 thousand Belarusian and about 7.5 thousand foreign participants have taken part in implementation of the measures organized by the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. As of today, the Chamber and its regional branches have signed more than 600 agreements and memorandums on cooperation with national and regional chambers of foreign countries.

    The most efficient way to establish business contacts are the visits of business circles which are organized by the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Chamber organized visits to the USA, Mexico, Canada, India, China, South Korea, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates to develop new markets. At the same time, the Russian Federation, other CIS and EU member states are the priority trends for the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to cooperate. The Chamber received delegations from China, Iran, India, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates.

    Over the three years, 57 companies with foreign capital have been set up in Belarus due to the Chamber. At present, 1646 economic entities of the country are members of the Belarusian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

    Belarus’ industry production soars by 8.2% up to Br65.7 trillion in 2007

    Over the nine months of 2007 the industrial production in Belarus beat Br65.715 trillion what 8.2% higher than over the 2006 same period, BelTA has learnt from the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis. According to the forecast, the industrial production growth in 2007 is set to make up 7.5-8.5%.

    According to the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis, in January-September the country produced consumer goods worth of almost Br14 trillion (7.3% up over the same period of 2006, the annual forecast – 8.5-9.5%). Foodstuffs production increased by 2% (the annual forecast – by 9-10%) and reached Br6.7 trillion, non-food production – by 12.2% to reach Br6.387 trillion (the annual forecast – by 8-9%). Spirits production totalled Br889.5 billion (116.5% to the level of January-September 2006).

    Over the eight months of 2007 the foreign trade in goods and services grew 21.6% as against January-August 2006 (the annual forecast – by 10.8-12%). The exports soared by 18.3% (13.2-14.5%), import – by 24.8% (8.5-9.5%). Trade deficit made up $1311.5 million.

    In January-September 2007 capital investments totaled Br16.772 trillion in Belarus and increased by 16.6% in comparable prices as against the same period of 2006, BelTA learnt from the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis of Belarus.

    Some Br7.34 trillion (up by 19.9%) was injected in building and assembly jobs.

    According to the source, in January-September 2007 some 3.578 million square meters of housing were built in Belarus due to all sources of financing. It is 14.3% more compared to the analogous period of 2006. Some 1.524 million square meters of housing were built in villages and small settlements (up by 15.3% as against January-September 2006). The volume of housing built in villages grew by 14.8% to 1.196 million square meters.

    This year Belarus is projected to build 4.2-4.7 million square meters of housing.

    Nothing good will come of Baltic pipeline-Belarus

    From: Reuters
    Belarus told Russia on Friday that it was making a mistake to build a gas pipeline under the "minefield" of the Baltic Sea, and offered tax breaks instead to increase pipeline gas flows across its own territory.

    "Why have you decided to go under the Baltic? Don't you remember I told you that nothing good will come of this?" President Alexander Lukashenko told a meeting with journalists broadcast on state radio.

    "Today you not only face (problems on the) seabed, but also with mines and bombs from World War Two. Why are you laying a pipeline on minefield?" he said.

    Russia's gas export monopoly Gazprom (GAZP.MM: Quote, Profile, Research) has teamed up with Germany's E.ON (EONG.DE: Quote, Profile, Research) and BASF (BASF.F: Quote, Profile, Research) to build the Nord Stream link, which will pump 27.5 billion cubic metres of gas a year under the Baltic to Germany from early next decade.

    Gazprom has said the 5 billion euro ($7.1 billion) link will improve Europe's energy security, which has been hit over the past two years by Russian gas supply cuts to Ukraine and a stoppage to oil supplies to Belarus over pricing disputes.

    A quarter of Europe's gas needs is met by Gazprom, which pumps exports across the territory of Ukraine and Belarus. Russia also supplies one tenth of Europe's oil needs via the Druzhba pipeline which traverses Belarus.

    Nord Stream decided in August to re-route the pipeline around Denmark to stay further away from known World War Two munition dump sites, but Lukashanko said the link also made no sense from an economic point of view.

    He said Russia should instead double the capacity of the Yamal-Europe gas link, which delivers around 30 bcm of gas a year to Germany and Poland via Belarus.

    "Here is the pipeline and its foundations, which are made of concrete and metal, and can hold two pipelines. All pumping stations can serve two pipelines," said Lukashanko, the outspoken leader of the isolated ex-Soviet state of 10 million.

    "If you are afraid that it is going be too expensive, we will give you tax and fee breaks on gas transit for five years. Just don't do stupid things!".


    Gazprom has said the chances of doubling the capacity of Yamal-Europe were slim given low demand growth in Poland.

    This year, Gazprom also raised the idea of building a link under the Black Sea to southern Europe in a move to further diversify away from Ukraine and Belarus.

    Russian oil pipeline monopoly Transneft (TRNF_p.RTS: Quote, Profile, Research) is in turn considering fully shutting down Druzhba, which pumps 1 million barrels per day, and expanding its Baltic Sea port of Primorsk, forcing Poland and Germany to buy crude in tankers.

    But Lukashenko said Russia would lose up to $2 billion a year as the new route would be $30 per tonne more expensive than Druzhba. Minsk would in turn lose only the $100 million it is getting in transit fees.

    "Tell me which (Russian) company will be willing to choose this route instead of the existing pipeline if only not being stifled (by the government)," he said.

  • From the west...

    Opposition in Belarus hopes Nobel nominations heralds reform in 'last dictatorship'

    From: IHT
    Stanislav Shushkevich
    Two activists in the former Soviet republic of Belarus are believed to be finalists for the Nobel Peace Prize — recognition, they say, the world has not given up on reform in a nation often called Europe's last dictatorship.

    Under President Alexander Lukashenko's 13-year rule, the nation of 10 million remains frozen in the Soviet era, with a planned economy, a rubber-stamp legislature and virtually no independent media.

    "The world is giving a signal that it is not isolating Belarus' civil society, but it is only Lukashenko who is being isolated," said Ales Byalyatsky, head of the Vyasna human rights center, who is believed to have been nominated for the peace award along with opposition leader Stanislav Shushkevich.

    Lukashenko, a former collective farm director, has quashed dissent, silenced opponents and prolonged his rule through elections regarded in the West as illegitimate.

    One day Byalyatsky hopes to change that.

    "The very fact that I was nominated speaks about the attention paid to Europe's last dictatorship," the 45-year-old human rights advocate told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

    An ethnic Belarusian born in then-Soviet Russia, Byalyatsky moved to neighboring Belarus to study history and philology and soon became a leading scholar of Belarusian literature.

    When Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika campaign prompted a gradual liberalization of society, Byalyatsky could no longer just stick to his literature books.

    He was one of the organizers of anti-communist demonstrations in the late 1980s. That earned him brief arrests, fines and harassment at work.

    Those protests transformed him from an academic into a rights advocate.

    "I was just mesmerized by the change in the air," he said. "I still believe in change."

    Today, under Lukashenko's authoritarian government, the office of Vyasna is hidden in a cramped Minks apartment with windows permanently covered by blinds. His colleagues are routinely arrested. But Byalyatsky vows to continue his fight.

    Shushkevich, who shares some of the credit for dismantling the Soviet Union, has many of the same hopes — and similar problems.

    The 72-year-old physicist entered politics in the late 1980s, quickly becoming parliament speaker — the top post in Belarus — and served as the country's leader for three years after the Soviet collapse in 1991.

    In 1994, Lukashenko accused him of corruption and forced him to resign.

    Former Polish President and Nobel Prize laureate Lech Walesa nominated Shushkevich for this year's prize, Walesa's office confirmed Thursday. But at home Shushkevich sees little admiration.

    While an average Belarusian retiree earns a pension of some $150 (Ђ105), Shushkevich receives $1.50 (Ђ1.05) a month — punishment from Lukashenko for his role in dismantling the Soviet Union. Shushkevich, who is forbidden to lecture in local universities, makes ends meet by delivering guest lectures in Poland.

    "In Belarus he is practically banned, every day we fear arrest," said Shushkevich's mother-in-law, Galina Simonenko. Shushkevich could not be reached for comment Thursday.

    In what critics called the government's latest move against opponents, the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the liquidation of an opposition women's political party called Nadzeya, or Hope.

    The court cited problems with registration and other documents, said party leader Yelena Yeskova. "We sharply criticize the politics of Alexander Lukashenko — that's the real reason," she said.

    US welcomes Belarus pro-freedom demo, condemns arrests

    From: AFP
    Washington Thursday welcomed a planned demonstration this weekend in Belarus for democratic reforms and European Union membership, and criticized the arrest in Minsk of opposition activists.

    "We welcome the initiative taken by the citizens of Belarus to organize a march" on Saturday, State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said in a statement, adding that it was "encouraging" Minsk had allowed the march.

    "However, we are concerned about preemptive arrests and detentions of organizers of the event as well as other efforts by the Belarus authorities to minimize the impact of the march," Casey said.

    Opposition sources in Minsk reported Thursday that several activists opposed to hardline President Alexander Lukashenko's rule had been arrested in recent days ahead of the planned "European March."

    Casey voiced "concern for the well being" of all political prisoners in Belarus and called for their "immediate release."

    Saturday's protest will also call for more democratic freedoms and the release of political prisoners in Belarus, which has been condemned by Washington as the last dictatorship in Europe.

    Casey also urged the Belarus government to allow its citizens to "participate unimpeded" in the peaceful march, and its security forces to "exercise restraint with demonstrators."

  • Family...

    Monthly benefits for children under 3 up to one subsistence budget as from January 1, 2009

    From: BelTA
    As from January 1, 2009 monthly state benefits for Belarusian families with children under 3 will be raised up to one subsistence budget, said Belarus’ Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Kosinets at a reception held at the Seat of Government on October 12 to mark the Mother Day.

    Amendments to the law on state subsidies to families with children provide for an increase in monthly benefits for children under 3 up to 80% of the subsistence budget as from January 1, 2008. Since June 1, 2007 mothers are granted lump-sum benefits of five subsistence budgets for their first child and seven subsistence budgets for the second child and more.

    According to the Vice Premier, giving a lump-sum benefit of five subsistence budgets to women decorated with an Order of Mother has become a good tradition. Last year the award was bestowed upon 512 Belarusian women. This year Br521 million has been allocated to pay out the benefits to the awardees, added Alexander Kosinets.

    Belarus protects children’s rights and interests

    Alexander Kosinets also noted that Belarus has 32 thousand children-orphans, 90% of them (over 28.000) are social orphans. In this respect, the President and the government undertake all necessary measures to settle the problem of social orphanage. Thus, from January 1, 2007 the country introduced Decree #18 on additional protection measures for the children of the negligent parents. The document is set to force such parents to work, earn money and bring their children up. “Creating a family young people should remember that they bear responsibility to their children and to the state,” the Vice-Premier considers.

    Alexander Kosinets underlines that the leadership of the country will do its utmost to strengthen the family as “a robust family ensures a strong state and national security benefiting to Belarus’ prosperity”.

    Belarus preserves birth rate augmentation

    According to Alexander Kosinets, the country has been showing such tendency for the last two years. Thus, in 2006 over 96.700 babies were born (up 6.4% over 2005). In January-August 2007 Belarusian women gave birth to almost 103.000 babies (up 6.000, or 9.1% as against the 2006 same period). “The fact proves that the Belarusian population responds to the state support and maternity and childhood protection,” the Vice-Premier considers.

    At the same time 1.5 million Belarusian families bring up over 2 million children. Some 6% of the families have three and more children, 35% of the families - two children and 59% - one child. The year of 2006 was called the Mother Year, the year of 2007 – the Child Year.

    Alexander Kosinets has reminded that the country adopted a national programme on demographic security that, first of all, is aimed at social protection and support of the family and children, healthy way of life, mortality fall and increase in birth rate. The same targets are provided in the presidential programme Children of Belarus for 2006-2010.

  • Cultural scene...

    Representatives of 33 countries intend to take part in International Film Festival Listapad 2007

    Representatives of 33 countries have announced their participation in the 14th Minsk International Film Festival Listapad 2007, Belarusian Culture Minister Vladimir Matveichuk told reporters on October 12.

    The Minsk Film Festival Listapad is aimed at popularizing the achievements of the national and world cinema art, the Culture Minister noted.

    Annually Belarus increases the state support for film-making companies. This year, the National Film Studio Belarusfilm intends to produce 8 movies at the expense of the state budget. At present, Belarusfilm is taking part in the production of 14 Russian movies and serials attracting young Belarusian filmmakers to implement film and video projects.

    Vladimir Matveichuk noted the success of the Belarusian cinema art at international film and television forums. This year, Belarusian filmmakers won 26 diplomas and prizes. Last year, Belarusian films received 30 awards.

    National theaters of Belarus, Lithuania sign long-term cooperation agreement

    The Yanka Kupala National Academic Theater and the Lithuanian National Drama Theater signed a long-term cooperation agreement, BelTA learnt from the Belarusian embassy in Lithuania.

    In line with the document the sides will exchange tours, will give joint performances, organize theater festivals and jubilee parties of the leading actors and other artists and will take part in various joint actions.

    This week a delegation of the Yanka Kupala National Academic Theater headed by director general Nikolai Kirichenko paid a visit to Vilnius to hold talks with the leadership of the Lithuania National Drama Theater on organizing tours of the Lithuanian company in Minsk in autumn this year and tours of the Belarusian theater in Vilnius in December. The tours will be dated for the 15th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the Republic of Belarus and the Lithuanian Republic.

    Lire en Fete in Belarus to showcase new French books

    Famous French writer Patrick Besson will present new French books in Minsk on October 19 in the Pushkin Library in Minsk. The presentation will open the annual francophone reading celebrations Lire en Fete in Belarus.

    This is not the first time Patrick Besson comes to Belarus, BelTA learnt in the French Embassy to Belarus. This time he will hold a series of French-Belarusian literature meetings, one of them will be held in Molodechno. Patrick Besson’s works will be in focus too. A round-table discussion for students of Minsk State Linguistic University and Belarusian State University will be organized as well.

    Among other events on the Lire en Fete programme are performances by amateur francophone theaters Clarts and Surprise.

    The main venues of the festival will be the Pushkin Library and Minsk State Linguistic University.

    For the first time Lire en Fete was organized in 1988 in France. It has been held every October ever since. Now the festival is organized in hundreds of countries worldwide. Belarus started organizing the festival in 2001. In 2006, over 2.5 million people took part in the 18th Lire en Fete worldwide.


    From: Unesco
    The project “The Music of Belarus of the 19th century: Dialogues of Cultures and Traditions” has been implemented on the initiative of the National Commission of the Republic of Belarus for UNESCO with the financial support of the UNESCO Moscow Office.

    “The Music of Belarus of the 19th Century: Dialogues of Cultures and Traditions” is a set of 2 CDs with the recordings of 36 pieces of music written by 13 composers who lived in the 19th century and were closely connected with Belarus. Attached to the set is a booklet containing general information about the music of that period and composers.

    The project is in line with UNESCO priorities in the field of safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage. Many composers of the 19th century were educated outside Belarus and thus were influenced by various musical traditions (French, Italian, Russian, German and Polish). Upon their return to Belarus they not only avoided antagonism of cultures in their work, but managed to combine features common to all Slavic musical tradition with those of Western and Eastern European, thus continuing tradition of Belarus’ music, which in the previous centuries had been also influenced by various European musical trends.

    Thanks to “the dialogue of many cultures,” which had a strong presence on the territory of Belarus due to the political and geographical circumstances, it was possible not only preserve the local musical tradition but, although it may seem contradictory, to enhance its identity resulting in the rapid development of the professional music in the 20th century.

    This project was important because it promotes dissemination of knowledge about the culture of Belarus both inside and outside of the country as well as because of the necessity to preserve and restore the old recordings, which are nowadays under the threat of being destroyed and disappeared.

    The project has been implemented by the State Museum of History of Music and Theatre of the Republic of Belarus together with the Academy of Music of Belarus.

    A presentation of the CDs took place on 27 September 2007 at the State Museum of History of Music and Theatre of the Republic of Belarus as a part of the Music of Old Country Estates Festival that had been initiated by the National Commission for UNESCO, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Belarus, Belarusian State Institute for Culture Issues, and Belarusian Culture Foundation. They were also presented at a round table meeting devoted to the music of old country estates, which was attended by experts from Belarus, Lithuania, Russia and Ukraine, in the music school in the city of Zaslavl and during the concert of chamber music in the city of Pastavy.

    The CDs will be disseminated among museums, libraries, musical educational institutions free-of-charge.

    It is expected that the CDs released under the project “Music of Belarus of the19th century: Dialogues of Cultures and Traditions” will find a good use among experts in classical music, music lovers, mass media and others thus promoting Belarus’ musical tradition of the 19th century and dialogue of cultures.

  • Around the region...

    Gazprom nudges EU over limits to expansion plans

    From: Reuters
    Russia's Gazprom (GAZP.MM: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Thursday it considered access to strategic assets as key to its relations with foreign firms and suggested it could take retaliatory measures if the EU decided to limit its expansion.

    The world's largest gas producer and supplier of a quarter of Europe's gas said in a statement that it is working on "general principles for the participation of foreign partners in Gazprom oil and gas projects."

    Gazprom would seek "gaining strategic assets abroad, cutting risks and improving the projects' economics thanks to the technologies of the partners, as well as increasing hydrocarbon production with minimal risk and capital expenditures."

    Gazprom has repeatedly said it wants to diversify into Europe's gas transportation, distribution and power generation to gain added value and part away from its current focus on wholesale gas supplies to regional monopolies.

    But many European politicians have expressed concerns about Gazprom's expansion plans following Russian gas cuts to Ukraine and oil cuts to Belarus, which led to reduction in transit supplies to Europe.

    The European Union has proposed limits on the involvement of major gas suppliers in the block's gas distribution but said that it still welcomed their involvement in power generation.

    Some European politicians have said the limits would copy those which already exists in Russia and other major energy producers, which give no equity access to outside investors to transportation and distribution facilities.

    Russian politicians have criticised the EU's proposals, but Gazprom has so far said it was only studying them.

    On Thursday, a Gazprom source said the company's statement amounted to the warning.

    "If those limits are approved, we can also approve some kind of counter measures by setting some general principles in Gazprom's relations with foreign companies by some document," a Gazprom source told Reuters.

    "We have no plan to approve it at the moment, we are only discussing it. We need to see what the EU does and whether their documents can be detrimental for our position."

    "But of course it does not mean that, as of today or in the near future, we will put on hold our bilateral talks with any foreign partner," the source added.

    Many foreign companies are seeking to enter joint projects with Gazprom, which controls around a fifth of global gas reserves, but the number of successful examples is limited.

    In most recent such big deal, French oil major Total (TOTF.PA: Quote, Profile, Research) agreed to take a 25 percent in an operational company, which will tap Gazprom's huge Barents Sea Shtokman field. Talks have continued for around 10 years.

    Russia "disappointed" with diplomat jail sentence

    From: Reuters
    Russia said on Saturday it was "disappointed" a U.S. court had sentenced a Russian diplomat to more than four years in prison for helping launder over $300,000 in bribes from firms seeking U.N. contracts.

    A U.S. district judge in New York on Friday sentenced Vladimir Kuznetsov, who once chaired a United Nations budget committee, to 51 months in jail and fined him more than $73,000 in a case linked to the then oil-for-food program for Iraq.

    "The sentence ... has been received in Moscow with disappointment," Russia's foreign ministry said in a statement posted on its Internet site,

    The ministry added it did not rule out seeking Kuznetsov's repatriation to Russia under a convention on the handover of convicted criminals.

    The Kuznetsov case has been the subject of intense media coverage in Russia, with some commentators saying the charges against him were fabricated for political reasons.

    Kuznestov said after the verdict he would appeal, citing what he said were "severe violations in the procedures" during the trial.

    Polish PM pleads voters for time to root out corruption

    From: Pr Inside
    Poland's prime minister on Monday appealed to voters to grant him more time to continue his government's fight to root out corruption, as a new poll showed his party keeping its edge over its main rival less than two weeks before snap elections.

    Parliament dissolved itself last month after Premier Jaroslaw
    Kaczynski's socially conservative Law and Justice party pushed for new elections as a way to end months of political instability.
    «We are changing Poland for the better,» Kaczynski wrote in an editorial published Monday in the Fakt daily.

    He argued that during its two years in power, Law and Justice proved in «concrete actions that it wants a transparent, honest and truly European Poland.

    «If we win elections, we are going to have to dedicate a lot of work to finish this process of change,» he wrote.

    Kaczynski has made rooting out corruption from public life the chief goal of his government and a key element of Law and Justice's campaign.

    After trailing in polls in previous months, Kaczynski's Law and Justice has rallied in recent weeks to overtake its main rival, the pro-business Civic Platform.
    According to a PBS DGA survey published Monday in the Gazeta Wyborcza daily, Law and Justice would win 36 percent of votes in the Oct. 21 elections, while Civic Platform would trail with 32 percent support, a result that is fairly consistent with many recent polls.

    Only two other parties would surpass the 5 percent threshold for entering parliament according to the survey: the Left and Democrats, an alliance of ex-communists and center-right parties, with 15 percent support, while the Polish Peasants' Party has 7 percent.

    Law and Justice won 2005 elections, but without the strength to govern alone. As a result, it has ruled either as a weak minority government or in coalition with populists and the far-right _ an alliance that has sparked some alarm abroad and alienated many Poles.

    As a way out of unending crisis, parliament voted last month to dissolve itself, forcing the elections two years ahead of schedule.

    The PGS DGA poll questioned 1,083 people Oct. 4-6. It gave no margin of error, but surveys with such a sampling size generally have an error margin of about plus or minus 3 percentage points.

    Polish police end nun rebellion

    From: BBC
    Polish police have evicted a group of defrocked Roman Catholic nuns from a convent they were occupying in defiance of the Vatican.
    Bailiffs used ladders to scale the walls of the convent in the eastern town of Kazimierz Dolny, and opened the gates to let in some 150 policemen.

    The police found some 65 nuns, a baby and a Franciscan monk in the building.

    The nuns resisted attempts to replace their mother superior, who claims to have seen visions of the Holy Spirit.

    Last year, the Vatican expelled 10 of the nuns from their order - the Congregation of the Sisters of Bethany.

    However the sisters remained and were later joined by a number of novices.

    A Church spokesman has likened the group to a sect, and said the nuns had been subjected to mental manipulation.

    A Polish court earlier this year approved a request from the Bethany order to evict them.

    On Wednesday police in riot gear found the nuns and their mother superior inside the convent playing guitar and singing religious songs, a police spokesman said.

    Police also found one woman with a baby, whom they later took to hospital.

    The women were seen being escorted from the convent.

    Franciscan monk Roman Komaryczko, the nuns' alleged spiritual leader, was led away in handcuffs.

    Polish police arrest 55 suspected of spreading child pornography

    From: IHT
    Polish police have arrested 55 people on suspicion of spreading child pornography over the Internet, a police spokesman said Friday.

    Seven of them have been charged with distributing child pornography, police spokesman Zbigniew Urbanski said. The others are still being questioned.

    All 55 are Polish citizens suspected of circulating movies and photographs of naked children through the Internet, Urbanski said.

    Police officers arrested the suspects at homes throughout the country in a 24-hour operation that began Wednesday morning, Urbanski said. Police searched more than 50 homes and seized more than 50 computers and thousands of CDs and DVDs.

    He said Polish authorities launched the operation after receiving tips from Austrian and Dutch police.

    In similar operations carried out over the last three months, Polish police have arrested about 115 people suspected of distributing child pornography, the Polish news agency PAP reported.

    None of those people have yet faced trial, because the investigations take about seven months, Urbanski said.

    Suspects face up to five years in prison for the possession of child pornography, and up to nine years in jail for distributing such material, if convicted.

  • From the blogs...


    From: Минский блог
    20 октября в клубе “Step” состоится уже второй международный UNSOUND Fest – одно из самых значимых событий в белорусской клубной жизни. Фестиваль соберет лучших представителей зарубежной и отечественной электронной сцены: The Complainer (Польша), Baaba (Польша), Barflys Dreams, Jacek Sienkiewicz (Польша), Pantha Du Prince (Германия), The Activator (США), DISCO 3000 (DJ Jean-Louis Huhta, VJ Mans Nyman (Швеция), Donald Dark, Plesk (ex-h.h.t.p.), Alex Coostoff, Manztapps, NadinKatrin, DJ Gaamer, VJ Thell.

    Краткая информация об участниках.

    Яцек Сенкевич
    Пионер восточноевропейской независимой музыкальной сцены, ведущий электронный музыкант Польши, глава звукозаписывающей компании Recognition Records.

    Яцек Сенкевич родился в 1976 году в Варшаве, где по-прежнему и проживает. С 18 лет музыкант начал выступать в варшавских клубах, играя ранний acid и minimal. Его первое живое выступление датировано 1996 годом, а первая запись вышла в 1999.

    The Complainer
    Культурный и музыкальный проект польского музыканта Войцеха Кухарчика, выступающего на андеграундных, электронных и психофолк фестивалях по всему миру на протяжении уже многих лет. В проекте The Complainer Кухарчик материализует свою идею «цитированной» музыки – музыки, полной цитат и ссылок, анализа и контекста, но доминируемой уникальной личностью самого Войцеха Кухарчика. Это просто современная поп-музыка, отличающаяся от так называемого мейн-стрима.

    Выступления The Complainer всегда перетекают в нечто большее, они удивляют публику своей зрелищностью и энергией, юмором и внутренней революционностью.

    Baaba был создан на рубеже столетий Бартошем Вебером. Изначально проект играл электронику, однако вскоре он перерос в живую группу. После шести лет и четырех альбомов Baaba была названа известными польскими музыкантами и продюсерами лучшей группой Польши. На сегодняшний день состав проекта таков: Томаш Дуда (саксофоны, флейта, сэмплер), Бартош Вебер (гитара, сэмплер), Станислав Врубель (бас), Масио Моретти (ударные). Baaba выступают в Польше и Европе, в клубах, на престижных джазовых и электронных фестивалях.

    Baaba выступил против стереотипов и победил их.

    Pantha du Prince
    Немецкий проект, созданный Хенриком Вебером, известным до этого по проектам “Panthel” и “Gluhen 4?.
    В 2003 вышел дебютный альбом “Diamond Daze”, отразивший опыт Вебера в таких стилях как инди-рок, New Music и техно. На музыку этого проекта повлияли как My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, A.R. Kane, так и электронная музыка, минимализм и фолк. Хендрик Вебер отрицает “избитые” музыкальные структуры. Яркие выступления Pantha du Prince напоминают Дэвида Боуи, Энди Уорхола и театр Сэмюэля Беккета. Несмотря на то, что музыка Вебера является смесью авангарда, раша, нойза и рэйва, он не спешит следовать ожиданиям публики. Его музыка – это то, что Маркс называл бы “королевством свободы”.

    DJ Jean-Louis Huhta
    Композитор и DJ из Швеции. В своей музыке он использует компьютер, перкуссию и струнные инструменты. Jean-Louis Huhta раньше участвовал в таких проектах как Cortex, Anti-Cimex, Texas Instruments, Stone Funkers, Flesh Quartet, Wild Planet, Lucky People Center. Сейчас же его можно увидеть выступающим с Audio Laboratory, Brommage Dub, Skull Defekts, Ocsid.

    VJ Mans Nyman
    В своей работе с видео VJ Mans Nyman уделяет большое внимание деталям, определенным моментам. Используя свой видеоматериал во время музыкального сета, он придает выступлению движение, динамичность. Мans Nyman создает новые интерпретации для музыки, иногда оставляя слишком много недосказанного.

    The Activator
    The Activator – это человек, настоящее лицо которого вы никогда не увидите, человек имеющий множество теней, настоящий линчеватель андеграунда Детройта.
    До занятия музыкой The Activator принимал активное участие в создание rave-сцены в начале девяностых. В дальнейшем организовывал многие концерты и фестивали. Так, к примеру, в рамках Detroit Electronic Music Festival The Activator создал независимую сцену. В 2004 и 2005 курировал TodaysMusic Stage, где играли такие музыканты как Wolf Eyes, Tamion 12 Inch, ESG, Liquid Liquid, Thomas Fehlmann Legowelt.
    Иногда The Activator работает с винилами, иногда с цифровым звуком – его не пугает ни прошлое, ни будущее.
    The Activator выступал в Германии, Нидерландах, Таиланде, Польше, Японии, Бельгии, Бразилии, Франции, Австралии и других странах Европы, Азии, Америки, Ближнего Востока. Скоро в этом списке окажется и Беларусь.

    Фестиваль продлится с 19:00 до 06:00.

    Вход: Br10 000

    Дополнительная информация и заказ билетов: +37529 666 45 47, +37529 862 96 84

    Polish political TV debates are like game shows

    From: Beatroot
    If your idea of a televised debate during an election campaign between the two main protagonists is of the formal, stiff, American variety, then the Polish version will come as a bit of a shock.

    The Tusk-Kaczynski TV debate game show tonight – that the media billed as the key moment in the election campaign, when government could be won or lost – was a bizarre sight. The set looked like a game show. The three different referees, with white teeth, taking turns over the three rounds looked like game show hosts. The audience whooped and applauded their man, and booed and heckled his opponent. It reminded me of that old classic – The Price is Right.

    The rules of the game show were that each politician had one minute, or more often thirty seconds, to either give an answer or ask a question of his opponent. At the end of the allotted time, a gong would go off. Bong! Like the Gong Show.

    But, of course, the combatants - Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski and leader of the largest opposition party, Donald Tusk – didn’t keep to the rules.

    Instead of asking a question, they made a statement. When they ignored the gong going off, Bong!, after still not asking a question, the hapless referees - political journalists and one was the head of Polish Radio 3 - would bark, time and again: ‘Time for a question, time for a question..’, as the politicians droned on and on and on....

    It was hilarious. Round One was on the economy – a bit predictable - but things started to get heated during Round Two – foreign policy.

    Donald Tusk berates the Prime Minister for his Rottweiler style of diplomacy [cheers, boos,] Bong! Kaczynski infers that Tusk isn’t Polish, he’s German (he comes from Gdansk/Danzig) Boo ....Cheer....Bong!...and that if Tusk wins the election then he would lay down at the feet of Brussels, giving up all the vetoes and blocks that Kaczynski is trying to make sure stay in any new EU Reform/Constitution Treaty and [referee, ‘Time for a question, time for a question’]...Boo.....Hiss.....Cheer....Poland will consequently continue to be infected by ‘homosexualism and euthanasia’.....Boo....Hiss.....Cheer......Laugh.....Boo....Bong!

    Audience: 'Don-ald Tusk, Don-ald Tusk....Ka-czyn-ski, Ka-czyn-ski....'

    And so it went on. I watched open mouthed, waiting for a hook on the end of a long stick to emerge from the side of the stage and rap around one of their necks and haul them off the set.


    Who won? Eighty five percent of viewers of the private TVN 24 said it was a crushing win by Tusk - but they are Tusk voters. Thing is – it wasn’t a game show. Nobody walked off with the cuddly toy and the fortnight in Ibiza. Supporters of Kaczynski will think he won; supporters of Tusk will say he did.

    As for the ‘floating voter’, torn widely by the charisma and verve of the two main players in the Polish election, I really don’t think they have learned anything about these characters that they didn’t, unfortunately, know already.

    I'm Coming Out of the Closet

    From: Publius Pundit
    Karl Marx
    I was just informed that two days ago was International Coming Out Day, how dare I forget?

    I've got one for you Publius readers though. I'm coming out of the closet, right here, right now, on the world wide web. Everyone will know and it will forever be available to public scrutiny. And if, some day, I am put into the horrible position where I am in some sort of political office, my opponents will forever use this against me.

    That's right. I'm a former hardcore Marxist. I loved reading boring books written in the 70s about Soviet and Chinese economic models. I carried The Communist Manifesto with me wherever I went. Camo was in style. Revolution could be pretty sweet.

    Did I mention that this wasn't the '60s or '70s, but up until about 2003? Let me just say, that 30 years later than I should have had a phase like that, such a thing does not work so well with the ladies.

    Who knew coming out of the closet could be so much fun? Any readers who want to take a crack at this, and share their deepest, darkest secrets about former political affiliations? Dumbest things, in retrospect, you've ever said about an issue? What you had for breakfast this morning?

  • Sport...

    Luxembourg Stun Belarus To Grab First Win

    Belarus were stunned at home by a late goal from rock-bottom Luxembourg, who picked up their u points of the qualifying campaign in the process.

    It was a bottom-of-the-table Group G clash, and with neither team having anything to fight for, failed to offer much excitement.

    Of course, that was until the 95th minute, when Alphonse Leweck scored with virtually the final touch of the game to hand Luxembourg a shock win.

    Belarus were the better team for much of the game, and had a majority of the possession, but failed to convert their half-chances.

    It looked like a draw, and both teams seemed to have resigned, before Leweck popped up in the box deep into injury time and converted to give his team their first points and win of the qualifying campaign.

    Belarus remain sixth with seven points from ten games. Luxembourg are seventh and last, but now with three points to their name.

  • Endnote...

    The 500th Story...

    From: The Story
    Adam and bike in front of the Hotel Prypyat in Pinsk. February, 2001
    I have been thinking for several days about what I wanted to put here in honor of the 500th post of THE BEING HAD STORY. I had considered writing an open letter to either Alexander Lukashenka or perhaps to George Bush, or maybe both. I considered making another thank you list of supporters, but the last time I did that nobody cared. Inevitably I simply sat down and started to type and whet I came up with was how my current situation is connected to the total time line of events since all of this started. And also with how the last several weeks of dealing with the Belarusian educational Bureaucracy and specifically not dealing with the local Chasidic Jewish services has not turned out to be the sort of happy ending I have been looking for since… well, for at least one play, one book, 250 newspapers and five hundred essays. I should mention that at the moment I am writing this our home is colder than our icebox. This happens every year during the period while we wait for them to turn on the radiators. But the cold in my fingers is equal to the cold in my heart right now. I feel cold for having to have gone through what I have these last few weeks. I feel cold for my neighbors since the cat got killed, for what has happened to my social position with friends since I asked several people for some money and for my current economic and social position as a whole. This is not a happy time nor a happy occasion. But if you have been reading me or have ever read me, I ask you to stick it out to the end. These days I seem to be in great need of being understood and so perhaps using this 500th blog to try yet again to accomplish this, to prove once again that I am not a pariah, have never been a pariah and that I have not disserved the fortune which has been handed me. Maybe this time might just get it once and for all.

    Once and for all… Now there is a hell of a phrase isn't it? Anyway, here are some thoughts for the occasion:

    How all of this came to be

    After I got out of Poland the first thing I did was to try and get myself settled into Belarus as fast as I could. I understood that I was working from a disadvantage. A year earlier I had everybody on my side. This wasn't just that people were willing to work with me to help get that play written, they were willing to buy into me personally as well. How many people at that time were willing to come in and invest in Belarus? How many people even thought the place was worth a second look? Well I did and I tell you that people liked it.

    I don't know that the enthusiasm with which I was handed by the bike people and by Tanya and her family were entirely why I decided to try and do something here, but certainly it wasn't a deterrent. Most probably the real reason I wanted to be here as badly as I did was that I had thought about staying five years earlier but didn't. At that time I might have except that astoundingly beautiful girl of twenty who simply put everything back into my heart which had ever been taken out already had a relationship and of course, I was afraid of the money. For sure I was still afraid of the money when I came back in 2002. But after 5 years of life after Belarus, five years of wondering whether I had made the right choice in not doing what my heart was telling me, five years of wondering if indeed "This was all there is to life", I was unquestionably on the lookout for chances to stay.

    The first to really charm me were those kids riding those ancient Harkovskis down the broken roads outside of Pinsk. They were real riders despite their situation. I was a real rider with a real pedigree: Rode across America solo, a New York City professional bike messenger (and a weekly bonus baby at that) and I had my own personal shop which could do the same fix as any big store only cheaper, faster and in most cases, better. But these kids, thirteen, fourteen years old, riding with professionalism already; not only knowing the rules of the road but also how to pace, when to run and more importantly, when to wait. They road hard, they road like gentlemen and most importantly; they knew how to ride as a team. Victor, Kolia, Sergie, these guys were also real bike people but they were doing it day in and day out on a budget of absolutely zero money for the bikes and less than $50 a month for their labors. I was with them from the moment Max introduced me and not just from drinking with them, although this was a great pleasure, but rather because there was a felling that by helping them, or at least partnering with them, there would be a possibility that a real good could come from the work. Can you understand this? It was not just about the money, it was about doing something that mattered and would really help. Talking about making a business with them gave them hope, a chance, a future.

    It was the same with that play. That theatre was tired. The people coming were so angry and cynical and perpetually outraged by the lives they were living. This was before the third election, before the last dictator, before it was popular to recognize Belarus as a place for westerners to hate and ridicule; this was a time when there was simply nothing and no one. And what did I do? I wrote a play about the problem from an inside perspective. It was not a political issues, it was about family, about wanting to see a future where none ever seemed to exist. It was about trying to put on a good face even though you didn't really believe what you were putting that face on for. And the American was not the hero. I just wanted to speak to them and tell them the issues regarding "The problem" were understood and that their side of the argument was possible to show as well.

    And then there was Tanya. Her standing up when I came to the bookstore that last day was the last piece of the puzzle. Not a word is what she said. Only that she was for real if I was. And if I would agree to try for her as well, there would also be a then six year old boy who, though as conniving a tyrant as ever was born, could already beat me at chess to try and help along. It was the whole package that got me then. Pinsk Belarus showed me a life and I agreed that it was worth taking even with all of the surrounding problems, even with six of us in the two rooms and even with knowing I would never be rich here. I chose to stay. I gave my word. This was just the way things would have to be.

    And then there was Poland. And after a year of that, and with all of my credit and credibility and face eaten, digested and flushed away like a dollar hotdog I came back here anyway. Why? Why did I come back? Because they were still suffering. And because I said I would. And because I still wanted that life that I saw their in that first day but had since been slandered and cheated and stolen away. And I am not stupid. I could see the difference in the eyes of my friends at the bike shop: Where's the money? How do you explain it? How do you explain what that corrupt group of sycophants did and that because of it I have stopped being an independent idealist, heart based idealist and now I am a social pariah. How do you show them that what they felt the last time was real and that I was real and that I meant every word that I said but now there were people who wanted me shot down rather than see someone real stand on the side of the Belarusians.

    Is this too political? Am I overstating this? Why? The Polaks, set on joining the EU and solidly behind the US in their war with Iraq were against the Lukashenka regime. The Americans, backing NATO expansion and using Poland for one of their "secret jails" were working against the Belarusians. Or better, why should they allow an unaffiliated independent to come in. That act alone might be seen as proof that there was life here even though there was not a spare penny to be had. There was life even without American intervention.

    But of course this has nothing to do with why I stayed anyway. If something like what I went through hasn't happened to you, if you have never had to sit through mental, spiritual and economic torture for a year (or five years) of your life, maybe you can't know how it is or feel it for your self. Maybe also with all of your systems in tact; your finances your own, your word still having weight you could just pick yourself up, chalk it all up to bad luck and move on. But I had already waited five years for the chance to try, the Polaks and Americans only added another year of wanting to stay on top of that. I wasn't about to quit now. In fact, I was even more convinced that I was actually doing something important.

    And so I stayed. I stayed even without really being able to help the bike club. I stayed even though the theatre, even though they said that they wanted to, never played the play. And I stayed even though I was never able to get Tanya out of her bookstore. And I waited. And I wrote. And I dug in the fields. And I took every single shread of a chance I could find. And I fought for pennies and endured insults and extortions and derisions. But mostly I just waited. I waited because sometimes, waiting is all you really can do. So I waited for my chance because I believed that I was right and that the life I wanted for myself was available here. In the beginning I believed that at least hearing the play would have meant something. I also believed that having the book out there might change things, or at least could shed some light on things or provoke some thought at least on the subject. Maybe I still do it because I still believe. And as to what that beliefe actually is, well, probably it is just something one perfect girl, exactly from here, the same place that I am from, showed me one time without speaking; she showed me, absolutly, that there could be second chances, no matter how much the world might demand otherwise, if only there would be willingness to appreciate where that chance was coming from. That's what Belarus is to me.

    And so what?

    These last few weeks of trying to acquire a simple teaching job have shown me that Belarus has become a very, very political place. The political lines are of course between east and west but also I find between old and young. Most of the local support for European or oppositionist efforts comes from young people and the older folks are still happily hiding behind a bureaucracy that allows them their place, their power and their security. And of course, they are the ones who vote regularly (or have the most to lose) so you know, as always, who is the boss around here..

    I know that I sound as if I am only sour grapes but really, I find myself in such a ridiculous middle ground where the easterners won't let me live because they don't want the west and the westerners won't let me live because they hate the east. I found this in dealing with the educational bureaucrats and I also found this in dealing with Jewish services.

    So where do I find myself these days? Well, right where I have always been. I still have hope, though I find that this hope has become somewhat grimy and dingy at the moment. But I am I am not quitting. I will keep fighting to get my place, my face, my life. I still want to help people and at the moment, I especially want to do something for the young people whose future will inevitably be mixed in the world rather than isolated. This is not my taking sides of course, but eventually, at least in theory we should all get our chances to be great or at least what we are capable of. Of course, I have also known a lot of people who have died here in the period since the end of the Soviet Union and certainly that they did go without ever having seen that colorful future actually appear is as discouraging as anything I could ever have imagined. But I am not quiting. As for this blog, probably I am simply going to focus on the books and the literature. I guess this means that I am basically working on the happy ending even as I write these words. A happy ending... now that would be nice, wouldn't it? And I guess inevitably thta's what this blog was supposed to lead to. It has been really hard though. I won’t lie to you; it has been really hard.

    So that's the story. But before I go today, I thought I would show you one little clip from a play I wrote a long time ago called "The Delicate Task of Listening". This segment is from the first act and is perhaps about appreciating moments. Who knows, maybe it also explains what these last 500 blogs were all about:

      Ah, nostalgia… I have nostalgia, too. Let me tell you a story. I have traveled a bit. I have been in a lot of places. And there was one day, when I was visiting Bratislava, in the Slovak Republic when I found myself at a small caf?, a place where you can buy your bread, cheese, and wine but also sit down at a table to have some soup or a sandwich… (He picks up the guitar) I am sitting at one of the tables, and I am writing a letter to my grandmother back at the states so that she wouldn’t worry so much about me. I’m describing the food and the people and the sites, and at this moment, a very matronly woman comes into the shop. She carried a guitar in a cloth sack. I thought she was a music teacher or a folk singer for children. But, I chose not to bring a guitar on this trip for some reason. I wanted a vacation away from everything and every one. A vacation from the noise… Who knows, maybe I wanted a vacation from that as well. But when you have been away from something you are so close to, the desire to play, even to touch the instrument for a moment becomes even greater. And the need for the sound of the music becomes so profound…
      You are describing an absence from love.
      Yes, of course. It is the same! It is exactly like being away too long form your lover. Just the sight of her is enough to make you jump from your seat, and run after her down the street.
      Such a very romantic idea; perhaps you see the world in terms of passions.
      Maybe. The passions of music, the music of passion… The music of the moment! (Sergei pours out the glasses) It’s like a river that constantly flows on, existing only in its motion. But a river cannot be seen or held because a river is never still; the moment never arrives. It is as small as the head of a pin: Only anticipated and remembered but never fully restrained. This is life…
      (Stands, Slowly walk to front of stage) I have stood on the banks of such a river, awaiting patiently the arrival of my love…
      (Stands also and joins Sergei at stage center.) So, I am sitting at this magazine at Bratislava…
      My heart races in anticipation of simply the sight of her…
      This little guitar in the hands of this tiny, frightened woman inspires me to play…
      And though my emotions are so large, I feel I would burst apart from strain. But I must wait…wait…wait…
      Pashalsta, I say to her, please, please… may I play? She is nervous; she doesn’t want her instrument to be harmed. And the only word I can think of to hopefully explain myself, a word universal to all musicians…
      And though in this moment I am alone, I feel her presence inside me…
      I show her my hands, fingers outstretched, and I say to her in one word, in Italian…dolce…
      Sweetly… I have stood on the banks of such a river awaiting the arrival of my love…
      And even if she does not really want to, she allows… she allows it to be and she carefully hands me the guitar…
      I watch the waters of the river flow on. I feel the chilled breeze on my face… on my neck… in my heart…
      I sit at my table, check the intonation and finger the “G” at the 8th Fret…
      I turn my head and she is there: All the world around her gray and black and only she in breathtaking color…
      And I begin to play. A just melody, a few chords…I add in the base, my fingers are slow and stiff, but I can feel I am getting closer.
      And I ask myself: How can I be a part of such a beautiful picture?
      I run through some familiar ideas, just bits of work, and slowly the blood begins to flow down my arms and into my fingers…
      But even as I am so with fear, I must go to her, up the bank, and take her into my arms. And it is there with the change in the breeze, that I first catch the scent of her…
      My friend, (Bill returns to the table and pours two more glasses.) what happened next is something I have never experienced before in my twenty years of music…
      And as I touch her, it is as if it were the first time…
      (Bill offers a glass to Sergei) They…just…listened.
      The fist time I realize I am alive…(They sit.)
      I don’t think the words to describe the feeling even exists in the English language…
      No, no… you’re right. It isn’t here. When I was small boy, I would listen many hours to my mother practice the violin. I would follow melodies with such attention, as she would stand by window practicing. I would crawl between her legs and place my face against her thigh so I could feel her muscles move as she swayed back and forth with the music. To this very day, the emotions the sound of violin can inspire in me can make me weep. And such a thing as this is it not in the soul of all peoples? Is this not one thing that all people share? Is music not beautiful here? Why have you made it illegal to listen? It is only music. Cannot you allow this one beautiful thing to simply exist?
      And nobody thought it was necessary to bother me as I played. Nobody stood in front of me and demanded that I speak to them. It was very polite. Nobody bothered me. They just let the music exist. They just let that tiny, little, beautiful moment simply exist, allowed it to be. It wasn’t stifled or abused. They simply allowed the music and the moment…to be. That’s what happened.
      When there is life, when it can be so simple, so beautiful, simply to listen…why must we forget and dismiss?
      For the money…
      Perhaps this is the truth… But in that moment, in that one single fleeting moment while it was there, it was good, wasn’t it?
      Yes… Yes it was. Yes it was.