The second European Intercultural Festival. Review of the most important events

This year the 2nd European Intercultural Festival was held under a slogan “Getting to know each other better”. During 10 days of exhibitions, movie and photo shows, discussions and lectures, master-classes and presentations in Minsk, Hrodna, Mahilyou and Brest hundreds of participants united by the Festival had a chance to learn more about the culture of Belarus, Germany, Georgia, France, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and other countries.

At the beginning of ten-day intercultural forum two films – French and Georgian – were shown. In the youth education centre “Fialta” after viewing the French drama “Welcome” the participants discussed the actual problems of immigration in Europe. The comedy “Love with an Accent” was also followed by the discussion about the development of contemporary Georgian literature. The main hero of the discussion Dato Turashvili, a famous Georgian writer, one of the scriptwriters to the movie shown and the author of the bestseller “Jeans Generation”, Dato Turashvili, writertold about the international literary forums and opportunities provided to the authors being published in Europe. In the nearest future the film based on his novel “Jeans Generation” is going to be shot in Hollywood. The writer expressed his willingness to work in cooperation with Belarusian authors.

As for Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of Belarus, at the meeting with students and Bruce Bucknell, the British Ambassador to Belarus  members of English club of the youth centre “Fialta” Bruce Bucknell confessed that he is fond of “Game of Thrones” series. In the informal atmosphere during the tea-party in Art-café of the National Art Museum the British Ambassador to Belarus told about his work and family. At the breaks the British diplomat played jokes and even made “selfie” with participants of the meeting, changing for the better stereotypes about the image of a diplomat.

One of the headliners within the scope of the 2nd European Intercultural festival was the discussion about postwar history of Minsk held during the presentation of a new book “The Minsk Phenomenon” written by a German historian Thomas Bohn. More than a hundred of participants, among them historians, writers and journalists from Belarus and Germany gathered for this meeting. Thomas Bohn appealed to Belarusian artist and writer Arthur Klinau, who in his turn gave a public answer to the German historian. The discussion about “aurochs”, “partisans” and historical perspective of the Belarusian capital lasted for Thomas Bohn, historianseveral hours. Among its participants was Siarhei Khareuski, a well-known Belarusian artArthur Klinau, writer historian. Aspects of Minsk life in Soviet time and influence of the city on its dwellers today are only a few themes discussed during the meeting with Thomas Bohn. For a long time the researcher has been studying Belarusian archives and therefore insists that he has discovered the phenomenon of the “City of the Sun”. To make sure you should read his new book.

The EU policy and the European future were the main themes during the meeting of the leading Belarusian experts with Hrant Kostanyan, an Associate Research Fellow at the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS). The discussionHrant Kostanyan, an Associate Research Fellow at the Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) “New EU Foreign Policy in Eastern Europe” in Belarus became one of the headliners among the public discussions devoted to international policy for the last half a year. Its participants agreed that the EU is to draw up a new strategy of relationship and form new approaches towards the countries of Eastern Partnership. As Hrant Kostanyan remarked, the key interests of the EU and Russia cross in the Eastern Europe, and this fact influences on the countries situated between them. The experts think that the policy towards the post-soviet states should be re-examined, as well as clear position and more flexible instruments and methods of interaction with neighbouring countries including Belarus should be worked out.Richard Youngs, a researcher of the Carnegie European Centre

Not less interesting was a lecture held by a researcher of the Carnegie European Centre Richard Youngs.  The open discussion was devoted to the EU policy considering the Ukraine crisis, and the adequacy of the EU response to the new world order. Youngs compared two competitive models of regional integration in Eastern Europe – the Eastern Partnership and Eurasian Union. The participants of the meeting discussed the opportunity of “reloading” of the EU relations with neighbouring countries in accordance with new situation, and significance of the changes in this region from the view of historical perspective.

This year the 2nd European Intercultural Festival comprised a lot of lectures and presentations in the field of higher education. Within presentations of “Erasmus +” and European Voluntary Service students and school-leavers had a possibility to get acquainted with new opportunities for internships and informal education abroad. During the presentations organized by the Centre of Swedish Studies and the Swedish Institute in Minsk graduates and students of Belarusian universities got detailed information about studying, scholarships and application for universities in Finland, Sweden and Norway.

As well the participants of the 2nd European Intercultural Festival got to know about the milestones of Bologna process and higher education Dorina Baltag, expertreforms in Europe - in the context of Samuel Abraham, a rector of BISLAMoldova at the lecture by the expert Dorina Baltag and during the discussion with a rector of BISLA, a liberal arts college in Bratislava, Samuel Abraham. The Slovak expert raised the issue of current “crisis” in higher education system. During the lectures in Minsk and Mahilyow the expert Dorina Baltag discovered the core of “Bologna” transformations in universities of Moldova and benefits given to the students and professors by the European system of education. At the same time the “Opportunities Fair” for Belarusian students including the presentation of the project “” took place in Hrodna.

The Finnish expert Carita Peltonen discovered the nature of gender equality policy in the Nordic countries and common stereotypes about female and male Carita Peltonen, expertsocial roles imposed by the media. She encouraged the participants of the meeting to look at the mass media and marketing from a different perspective. The expert also told about the background of gender stereotypes and ways of changing attitude to male and female roles in the family. Carita Peltonen gave two lectures illustrating the contemporary gender policy in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. As well the participants of the lectures had a possibility to learn about the development of the movement for women’s and men’s rights in these countries.

The event that definitely added spice to the 2nd European Intercultural Festival was the national Georgian cooking class. The chef of the restaurant “Batumi” together with a famous Georgian writer Dato Turashvili gave an exclusive master class on making of one of the best dishes in national Georgian cuisine – khachapuri. The festival atmosphere was complemented by the comedy “Love with an Accent”.

Picture series in the open air within the scope of the 2nd European Intercultural Festival – is a festival exhibition by Ulf Andersen, portrait photographer of writers. The most popular photo portraits of the best writers in the 20th century (Solzhenitsyn, Marquez, Burroughs, Borges, Bradbury) were presented in Minsk for the first time. At the opening of the festival exposition the guests could take part in book crossing – exchange of books, including the ones written by the authors depicted in Andersen’s photos.

Following the last year tradition the creative contests were held within the framework of the European Intercultural Festival. In particular, a young Belarusian photographer Andrey Liankevich became the winner of the photo Andrei Liankevich, photographercontest “Europe is near us”, Nikita Volkau won the essay competition “My favourite town in Belarus”, and in the contest of children’s drawings “My Europe” 10 finalists were defined at once. The winners of photo and essay contests got a free trip to Brussels, while the finalists of the children’s contest were awarded with souvenirs.

To sum up, the best experts from Europe, Scandinavia, Asia and Belarus and more than 30 events in the field of culture, education, politics and society (lectures, contests, movies and master classes) were united by the 2nd European Intercultural Festival that fulfilled its mission aimed at the intensive exchange of new knowledge and ideas successfully.