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10 January 2024, 13:42

Preserving Belarus’ traditional heritage named as the main idea behind Spiritual Revival Award

They create and transform the world with their kindness, faith, hope, love and beauty. This means that they deserve a special award... In a new episode of the YouTube project "After the Fact: Lukashenko’s Decisions", we will tell you when and why the Spiritual Revival award was instituted. What will the state spare no expense for? Can Belarusians disappear as a nation?

When was the Spiritual Revival award instituted? 

The Spiritual Revival Award was instituted in Belarus in 1997. The president signed the decree on 5 January. There were only three items in the document and five people on the honor roll. An award ceremony was held on the same day.

The president spoke about the importance and scale of the new humanitarian project. Why was it important? It was a difficult time back then: the Soviet state collapsed, there were attempts to impose so-called Western democratic values based on foreign ideals and lack of spirituality. How do you counter this? First of all, by promoting our traditional Christian values, morality and rich culture. It was important to preserve and pass them on to new generations.

“We pay tribute to the Orthodox Church, which for many centuries has promoted the unity of the Belarusian people, peace and civil harmony in our land. In the days of Christmas, we strongly feel the peacemaking power and depth of the Gospel commandments, the moral code of humanity,” the head of state said as he presented the Spiritual Revival award in January 2008.

Why is the award timed to coincide with Christmas celebrations? 

The award is timed to coincide with Christmas celebrations. This is not just a winter holiday. It is a celebration of spiritual rebirth. Hence the name with a very deep and sacred meaning. Since ancient times, Belarusians have valued spirituality, enlightenment, and also education. The Orthodox Church played a significant role in this. The name of St. Euphrosyne of Polotsk is known all over the world. It is no coincidence that the first ceremony to present the Spiritual Revival awards was held in the Minsk eparchial administration of the Belarusian Orthodox Church. 

But this does not mean that Orthodoxy is valued any higher than other confessions. Belarus has always advocated friendship and brotherhood between people of different ethnicities and faiths. This is also the principle underpinning the Spiritual Revival award. For example, the award has been presented to the teams of the Biblical Commission of the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Section for the Translation of Liturgical Texts and Official Documents of the Roman Catholic Church. There are many such examples. They confirm one thing: our spiritual strength is in unity.

“You know that we really value the interfaith peace that we have built over a quarter of a century. Maybe it’s too immodest, but I’m proud that this was achieved during the years when I served our Fatherland. It means a lot to me on a deeply personal level. You should understand that no one should be able to take it away from us. We will stick to it. Every time I visited a church, I would emphasize that the Orthodox Church is the stronghold of this peace. Simply because it is huge compared with other churches,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with Metropolitan Veniamin of Minsk and Zaslavl, Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus.

Who is honored with the Spiritual Revival Award? 

Since the Spiritual Revival Award was instituted, it has been bestowed on people from all walks of life. These include clergy, employees of charitable organizations, doctors, teachers, creative intelligentsia. Those who set an example of true patriotism and inspire us with their talent and success get recognition and appreciation. The ceremony is held every year and is attended by the president. According to the head of state, he cannot but attend such an event.
“I couldn’t but present the Spiritual Revival Award although there were suggestions to deliver a speech and leave, and to delegate this task to someone else. I thought that this would not sit well with people, so I didn’t really have a choice. I didn’t shut down churches back then [at the beginning of the pandemic] for Christmas and I visited a church, so how can I not come now? I always invited journalists, artists, our cultural figures, and officials to the Old New Year reception. How can you not show respect and appreciation for their work? There were a number of events that could not have happened without the president,”Aleksandr Lukashenko told journalists in January 2022.

The presentation of the Christmas awards is a kind of nationwide review of the work of the country's cultural figures, a show of the public recognition of each laureate.

“All our projects are aimed at raising our children, teenagers, and youth as true patriots. In my opinion, the Spiritual Revival Award remains very relevant. The fact that we became nominees and winners of this award gave a new impetus to our projects and programs, it inspired our teachers and counselors. And it set a standard of work for our younger generation,” said Aleksandra Goncharova, Chair of the Central Council of the Belarusian National Pioneer Organization. 

Who received the Spiritual Revival Award in 2023? 

2023 was rich in momentous events and great achievements. The presidential Spiritual Revival Award went to five recipients. Among the winners was Mother Superior of the Convent of the Patronage of the Mother of God Anfisa. A few years ago, she was honored with the Person of the Year of Vitebsk Oblast title. 

The other four recipients were the Polotsk cadet school, the Gomel Inclusive Culture Center, the Mother and Child national research and treatment center and the Mogilev Oblast center of folk art, culture and education. All of them have made important contribution to arts and humanities. For example, the team from Mogilev Oblast center was celebrated for their popular cultural and tourist project Alexandria Gathers Friends. The Mother and Child center – for its achievements in improving the quality and accessibility of medical care, promotion of family values in the society. 

How did Lukashenko reward BelTA’s contribution to preserving the historical memory? 

Ten special awards of the President of the Republic of Belarus also found their owners among culture and art luminaries. Among them was the team that has launched the Batskava Bulka fest. Ruslan Makarevich's talent for reviving the traditions of making musical instruments did not go unnoticed either. It is noteworthy that our colleagues were also on this honor roll. 

The Last Witnesses is a joint project of BelTA and the General Prosecutor's Office. The publication includes stories of juvenile prisoners of fascist concentration camps, recorded during the investigation of the criminal case of the genocide of the Belarusian people. The pieces by our journalists made the basis of the book launched in the Year of Historical Memory. There is a great hope that the book will help young readers to see the history through the eyes of eyewitnesses of those terrible events. This will undoubtedly make them true patriots of their country.

“Every story in this book was lived by the journalist, lived in the soul, in the heart, through the history of his/her family, because each of us has terrible stories to tell,” Irina Akulovich, Director General of BelTA said about the book. ”My father was born at the very beginning of the war and remembers very well bombed Mogilev and how they lived in dugouts. But it is nothing compared to what is described by the main characters of this book. These are the memories of prisoners [of concentration camps], small children, and some of them went through several concentration camps. It is really scary to hear their stories about baths filled with human fat for making soap, about a mother killed in front of her child or a child killed in front of his/her mother.”

What will the state spare no expense on?

The main principle of the Belarusian cultural policy is both to preserve the spiritual traditions of our people and also to multiply them. The president has reiterated this many times. This is why Belarusians restore monuments, preserve the traditions, invest in art schools and discover new names. This is something that the state will spare no expense on!

“Talent to the Top has become the motto of modern Belarus. Perhaps, nowhere in the world talents are treated with such respect as in our country. Highly gifted and extraordinary people get support from the state from early childhood and throughout their lives. No matter how the economic situation develops, we will spare no expense on talented people, education, science and culture,” Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko said at the ceremony to present the Revival Award and special presidential awards in January 2011.

Just think about it: this good Christmas tradition is 27 years old. And the challenges of the time remain the same. Protection of the national legacy remains as important as ever. The only difference is that our people have come to understand this simple truth. Belarusians are becoming increasingly enthusiastic and curious about their traditional culture and way of life. Maybe we have finally realized that values are the code of the nation. The thing without which the Belarusian nation will not survive...

“Patriotism and spirituality are inseparable concepts. All the best things in life begin with love – love for family and friends, one’s hometown, one’s Fatherland. This is what inspires us to serve truly noble causes.

“Each award list of today’s awardees chronicles the story of our life, the history of the country. All of you, especially those in this hall, shape the future of Belarus. We preserve our cultural heritage, revive ancient arts and crafts, traditional festivals and holidays, give a new lease on life to masterpieces of high art, welcome babies, educate the younger generation about centuries-old moral values, show compassion and help compatriots who need it, rise to the sports Olympus to make the Motherland proud, help our sports hopefuls achieve excellence, cover victories of our athletes in the media,” Aleksandr Lukashenko said at the ceremony to present the Spiritual Revival award, a special prize for figures of culture and art and the Belarusian Sports Olympus Award on 9 January 2024.
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