Belarus - EngTips

 

Let’s talk about our country. What can you tell me about our Motherland?

Belarus is my Homeland. It is a country with unique history and rich cultural heritage. Officially it is called the Republic of Belarus, a sovereign independent state with its own government, constitution, state emblem, flag and anthem. Belarus is situated nearly in the centre of Europe and borders on Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Russia and the Ukraine. The territory of Be­larus is 207.6 thousand square kilometres. Its population is about 10 million people. The largest cities are Minsk, the capital, Gomel, Vitebsk, Mogilev, Grodno and Brest. Belarus is a country of rivers, lakes and forests. The long­est river is the Dnieper. The largest lake is Lake Naroch. The largest forest is Belovezhskaya Pushcha. The climate of Belarus is temperate and mild. My country is a developed industrial state. Its enterprises produce tractors and automobiles, motor-cycles, TV-sets and many other goods. Beautiful Belaru­sian scenery and unique history attract a lot of tourists. There are a lot of famous people among Belarusians: writers and poets, politicians and cosmo­nauts, artists and sportsmen. They are historic figures and our contemporaries whom we are proud of.

What parts of Belarus have you visited?

I have visited a few towns in Belarus such as Minsk, Mogilev, Grodno but most of all I was impressed by my visit to Belovezhskaya Pushcha. As you know there is the Residence of Ded Moroz (Slavic Santa Clause) in Belovezhskaya Pushcha and we saw European Bisons there.

What questions do you expect to hear from a British teenager?

  • Where is Belarus situated?
  • What city is the capital?
  • Do people of Belarus speak Belarusian?
  • What places are worth seeing in Belarus?
  • I wonder people of what nationalities live in Belarus?
  • What sights would you recommend to visit in Belarus?
  • What dishes would you recommend me to eat in Belarus?

What Belarusian sights would you advise a foreigner to visit?

If I were you I would visit the National Library of Belarus, Mir and Nes- vizh castles and Lake Naroch. Mir castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site in Belarus. Brest fortress is a must for those who are interested in our history.

To my mind you should visit Belovezhskaya Pushcha, a beautiful national park, where you can see a lot of rare species of animals and birds, for example the European bison the oldest trees in Europe, the forest features the residence of Grandfather Frost, known as Ded Moroz, the Eastern Slavic Santa Claus.

Do you think it is important to follow our grandparents’ traditions?

Traditions are a part of our culture, so we should carefully observe them. We must respect our ancestors to feel that we are one nation. Such holidays as Kupalle, Dziady, Kaliady are wonderful examples of our rich Belarusian culture. We are responsible for this heritage and shouldn’t forget our history.

Let’s talk about national characters. They say every nation has got its national traits. What about Belarusians? What are our national traits?

Belarusian traditions and features of the national character were formed in the course of complex history. The country was engulfed by many military conflicts, World Wars, national liberation revolts, revolutions and repressions. So our extraordinary history cultivated special character traits of our people, the main of them are tolerance and diligence.

Different from anyone else, Belarusians are able to adapt to any circumstances — not to change the circumstances but to change themselves, to accept these circumstances, to live them naturally, in harmony and even with pleasure.

The second aspect of the Belarusian character is that a Belarusian holds tight to what he has gained. He regards the external world with little trust.

At the same time, in the view of Belarusians themselves, they are loved and respected by everyone. People turn to Belarusians for help and support, because they know that a Belarusian will always be responsive and helpful. Belarusian people always enjoy receiving guests and are perfect at this. This tradition is alive today.

To sum up, Belarusian features of character are tolerance and a lack of temper. Belarusians are kind, soft, soulful, hard-working and hospitable. But at the same time they are they are reserved, not very jolly and rather pessimistic.

New Belarusians are rather inclined to intellectual jobs. They earn their living by using brains rather than by digging the soil. The young generation has more Belarusian identity than the Soviet generation. New Belarusians express more interest in their roots and history. Many Belarusians, both young and old, are fond of gardening very much.

Are Belarusians similar to Americans? Tell me about American values and beliefs.

The United States has often been called a melting pot. This term refers to the idea that the country is a place where people from many lands have come together and formed a unified culture. Americans have many things in common. For example, the vast majority of them speak English, and people throughout the country dress similarly and eat many of the same kinds of foods.

At the center of all that Americans value is freedom. Americans commonly regard their society as the freest and best in the world. Americans’ understanding of freedom is shaped by the Founding Fathers’ belief that all people are equal and that the role of government is to protect each person’s basic rights.

Americans’ notion of freedom focuses on the individual. Individualism, understood not only as self-reliance but also as economic self-sufficiency, has been a central theme in American history.

Volunteerism is the soul of American community and political life. Volunteerism means people helping people through privately-initiated, rather than government-sponsored, agencies. Volunteers, usually unpaid, are highly motivated workers who organize themselves and others to solve a particular community problem or meet an immediate social need, rather than waiting for someone else to do it. The willingness to participate in such groups is so widespread that six out of ten Americans are members of a volunteer organization. Volunteerism reflects Americans’ optimistic pride in their ability to work out practical solutions themselves.

As a nation of immigrants, Americans have from the beginning shared the assumption that the practical solution to a problem is to move elsewhere and make a fresh start. Mobility in America is not a sign of aimlessness but optimism. Americans move from place to place with the sense of optimism, hoping to secure a better job or enjoy climate.

Moving about from place to place is such a common and accepted practice that most Americans take it for granted that they may live in four or five cities during their lifetime, perhaps buying a house and then reselling it each time they move. The American habit of mobility has been important in contributing a degree of homogeneity to a society of such extreme cultural diversity and spaciousness. Cultural differences still exist from region to region, but they are becoming increasingly less distinct as mutual exchange occurs.

What questions would you ask your American friend going to live and work in his/her country?

  • What are the main national characteristics of Americans?
  • What are the specific qualities of the American national character?
  • Do Americans feel patriotic?
  • What is their favourite sport?
  • What stereotypes connected with Americans do you know?

Your friend is going to study in America. Advise him/her how to communicate with Americans.

First of all, learn sport jargon

Americans love using idioms, especially sport phrases like "home run" or "slam dunk" when something goes really well. Another popular phrase is "taking a rain check," which comes from baseball when it rains and the game has to be postponed. These phrases are used a lot in business and in casual conversations.

Get comfortable with informality

Things are much less formal in America. Americans like being comfortable and relaxed, but that does not mean they are being disrespectful.

It is very common to call people you work for or your colleagues by their first name. One of the exceptions is teachers in school usually use Mr. or Mrs. Avoid confrontation

Americans do not like confrontation. They do not want to hurt anybody’s feelings, so they are very careful about how they say things. Americans avoid directly criticizing or opposing anyone. It would be considered very rude if someone just said, "you’re wrong" to someone else.

If you want someone to do something, you would always be very polite about it and avoid commands.

Get comfortable with interruptions

Although Americans believe being polite is very important, it is very normal for Americans to interrupt each other when they have something to contribute. It’s usually not that rude in American conversation especially with a good friend.

Give lots of compliments

Americans give a lot of compliments — all the time. It’s a popular way of building relationships with other people or just being nice. Even with strangers or people you don’t know very well, it is common to give a compliment.

Have you heard the expression "American dream?" How do you understand its meaning?

The term "American Dream," used in widely different contexts from political speeches to Broadway musicals, eludes precise definition.

J. T. Adams in The Epic of America (1931) expressed it as "the dream of a land in which life should be better, richer, and fuller for every man with opportunities for each according to his abilities and achievement." The "American Dream" is popularized in countless rags-to-riches stories and in the portrayal of the good life in advertising and on TV shows. It teaches Americans to believe that contentment can be reached through the virtues of thrift, hard work, family loyalty, and faith in the free enterprise system.

However, throughout America’s history, reality has also taught her citizens, particularly minorities, that the "American Dream" is not open to all. Segregation and discrimination are effective tools which have barred minorities from equal opportunities in all spheres.

Let’s talk about international cooperation. What is international cooperation promoted for?

International relations are an exceptionally important aspect of citizenship in a global society. As our world becomes smaller and smaller through com­munication technology, rapid air transportation and a complex international economy, the value of peaceful and cooperative relationships between nations is increasingly important.

Historically, one of the oldest expressions of international relations was the establishment of treaties and agreements between nations. Maintenance of these treaties ensured that ordinary people could go about their everyday tasks of earning a living and raising their families rather than dedicating themselves to armed conflict with neighbors. This function of international relations remains just as relevant today.

Positive international relations also promote effective trade policies bet­ween nations in terms of importing natural resources and finished products not available in the country.

Besides the transport of goods over international borders, people also frequently migrate between countries, looking for opportunities to enhance their lives. This travel may be temporary or permanent, but in either case it must be regulated to ensure the rule of law as criminals must be kept out of the country while legitimate business, tourist and immigrant travel is pre­served.

Nations often face global issues that are larger than any specific country or even continent, such as concerns over the environment, pandemics and terrorism. Sound international relations are required for nations to cooperate effectively to meet these challenges, allowing nations to share relevant infor­mation quickly and pool resources.

International relations are not only about regulating and controlling the flow of goods and information, they are also advantageous for promoting the advancement of human culture in a general way. The diversity of world cul­tures can be promoted and shared through enlightened international relations policies, allowing programs such as student exchanges and cultural exhibitions to enhance our understanding of the variety of human expression worldwide.

What is the position of Belarus on the international arena?

At present Belarus actively participates in an effective international part­nership with the governments of different states and international organiza­tions. As a co-founder of the United Nations, Belarus cooperates with various institutions and organizations of the United Nations, World Bank, World Health Organization, International Labor Organization, UNESCO, the Euro­pean Union, etc. Belarus has a friendly working relationship with such coun­tries as Germany, Denmark, France, Canada, Italy, Netherlands, Sweden, Great Britain, The USA and many others.

As a sovereign country, Belarus enjoys full rights and is active on the foreign arena. From the moment of setting up the United Nations Organization (UNO) Belarus as one of its constituent member states takes an active part in the work of this association, its organs and institutions. Belarus regularly sends its delegations to the sessions of the UNO General Assembly, has its permanent delegation and its own staff in it. Belarus is a member of some international specialized organizations, commissions, bureaus, funds and other organs.

On the initiative of Belarus the international organizations have adopted a number of important decisions, particularly on the punishment of war crim­inals, on education of youth in the spirit of ideas of peace and friendship among nations. Belarus has signed many treaties, agreements, protocols and conventions on co-operation with other countries in various fields. Together with representatives of other peace-loving countries the envoys of Belarus are struggling for implementing a policy that answers the basic interests of all nations of the world, for their peace and security, co-operation and friendship.

You are invited to take part in the international festival of cultures. What questions will you ask the organizers of this festival?

  • What are the aims of the festival?
  • What countries will be represented at the festival?
  • Where will it be held?
  • Who are the sponsors of the festival?
  • Is the participation free of charge?

What are the benefits for Belarus from the cooperation with UNESCO?

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNES­CO) contributes to promotion of knowledge, builds collaborative networks of scientists, conducts researches in the field of social, human and natural sci­ences, develops the standards for intellectual cooperation.

Participation of Belarusian scientists in UNESCO programmes and ac­tivities provides the possibility to obtain expert assistance in the implementa­tion of research projects. It is a means of bringing intellectual, material and technical capacity of other countries, of gaining access to the results and methods of the up-to-date scientific research.

How can international cooperation help in solving global environmental problems?

Naturally, global ecological problems cannot be solved by the efforts of individual States alone. National measures to protect the environment must be combined with wide international cooperation at the global level.

In order to decide who has to contribute what, we all have to cooperate and work closely together to create laws and regulations that will supersede conflicting interests.

At the present time, there are a number of international treaties of differ­ent kind governing various aspects of the protection of the environment and the rational utilization of natural resources. These agreements primarily con­cern the prevention of the pollution of maritime waters and the Earth’s atmo­sphere, the protection and rational utilization of the animal and plant world on land; the protection of unique natural objects and complexes and the pro­tection of the Earth’s environment from radioactive contamination.

An important role in the development of the international protection of the environment is played by resolutions adopted by international organizations, and above all by the United Nations and its specialized agencies.

What celebrations in Belarus are your favourite?

The life of each of us is full of "high days:" exciting days which we look forward to like school trips, visits to the circus or theatre and "holidays" which are printed red in the calendar.

I’d like to tell you about my most favourite holidays. First comes New Year. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that New Year is the greatest holiday in Belams and no other holiday is celebrated as wholeheartedly as New Year.

Throughout our country the preparations for greeting New Year start long before the 31 st of December. People send and get thousands of New Year cards, prepare presents for their families and friends and decorate their houses and a New Year tree with shining bells, colorful balls and bright lights. The tradition of decorating a New Year tree is by the way most popular with any Belarusian family. On New Year’s Eve the homes are full of great atmosphere of expectation. Air is filled with fresh smell of New Year tree and delicious smells of great variety of dishes prepared for the holiday meal. People carry on the celebration with their friends dancing, singing and making fireworks.

Then comes Christmas. Somehow it is the continuation of New Year’s mood. I enjoy Christmas holiday mood all around with its Christmas tree, decorated homes and trees, illuminations, organizing a special meal and a lot of festive foods. We exchange gifts with our relatives and friends.

Then Easter comes with its colorful eggs and very beautiful pies. There is a great ceremony at church with lit candles and songs. Churches are filled with flowers on Easter Day. Everything represents new life.

What can you tell me about Belarusian national cuisine?

Belarusian cuisine is known for a bid choice of potato dishes and rich soups, often dressed with sour cream, as well as cold soups refreshing for the hot summer periods. Geographical position and weather conditions in Belarus resulted in a wide use of such products as forest mushrooms and berries, herbs, apples, pears, river fish and crab, milk products. It is still traditional for Belarusian families to make marinated mushrooms and vegetables based on home recipes. Cooking methods characteristic for the old traditional Belarusian cuisine are stewing and boiling.

The first meal of the day in the morning is breakfast. Some Belarusian people eat toast with butter and jam or marmalade and nothing else. Others eat a bowl of cereals or muesli with milk or porridge. Belarusian breakfast may also contain sausages, bacon, scrambled or fried egg, beans, etc. Melon, grapefruit or fruit cocktails are popular, but the most common drinks at this time of the day are orange juice or a cup of tea or coffee.

The second meal of the day in Belarus is lunch. We usually eat a bowl of soup with some slices of bread, and also a cup of tea.

Dinner is the last meal Belarusian people have. It’s a cooked meal of meat or fish and some veg. It’s common to eat desert after the main dish.

Many people in Belarus like eating draniki or pancakes with machanka, Belarusian traditional souse. It may be different in different regions. Most often it is made with pork, sausage, sliced onion, sour cream and flour.

Ask me if I participated in any traditional celebrations.

  • Did you take part in any traditional celebrations?
  • What did you do ?
  • Did you make any special things or clothes for the holiday?
  • What holidays were your favourite?
  • Did you have any family traditions?

Which festival in Belarus will you recommend your British friend to visit?

I would recommend to see "Kupalle" because it is the most romantic and mysterious holiday. I think my British friend would be excited to jump over the fire and look for a magic fern-flower.

Kupala is the old pagan Belarusian god of the sun whose feast is at Midsummer, after the Soltice day. It is one of the most mysterious holidays in Belarus. There are a lot of legends and customs connected with this magic holiday. According to one of them there is a constant struggle between good and evil in our soul. People try to help the forces of light to defeat the evil witches. They light bonfires, dance and sing folk songs around them and young girls and boys jump over the fire, holding their hands together. Fire is believed to have a purifying effect, cleaning off sins. Another attribute of the Kupala feast is girls making wreaths of wild flowers and wear them on heads and then, at dawn, throwing them into the river or lake and letting them float. And one of the main moments of celebration is the search for a magic fern-flower which blossoms only one night a year and is believed to bring happiness.

Are you proud of your national holidays and traditions?

Yes, I am proud of our national traditions; they are unique and make us feel a little bit different from other nationalities. For example, the celebration of "Kupalle" is romantic and mysterious. When we celebrate Victory Day I feel proud of our people who went through great difficulties and showed courage and heroism.

What is to be outstanding, to your mind?

Once in our life we start to consider what actually to be an outstanding person means.

In my opinion to be an outstanding person means to possess personality, not to be like anyone else and it is someone who is not trying to emphasize it. An outstanding person is the one who wants to do something good in his or her life and who likes to help other people and leaves some kind of trace in the life of others, I believe, an outstanding person is not a person who is famous all over the world. A great number of remarkable people surround us and we may not even know about it.

All famous people we can speak about are outstanding, because to make yourselves known and be spoken about you have to be different in some way and not only people bom to famous and rich families can be called outstanding.

Vice versa, people who have to find their own way in life, people who have to do everything by themselves, they have a chance to become famous, strong, confident.

Americans are very proud of Bill Gates and they consider him an outstanding person. Why? He was able to create something from nothing. He is not like everyone else, he is one of a kind and that makes him an outstanding person. A young man who used to work in his garage became famous all over the world and when you exchange a word with him you’ll never get a message, that he is better than you are. This is an example of becoming an outstanding person, a respectable and strong person.

We have to live our lives to be respected, we shouldn’t do harm to anyone, we have to help people, that will make an outstanding person from each of us.

What famous Belarusian poets and writers can you speak about?

Belarusian national art has deep roots in the past. During the First Russian Revolution the voices of the young poets Yanka Kupala, Yakub Kolas, the revolutionary poet Tyotka-Elaisa Pashkevich and other talented writers could be heard throughout the country. Elaisa Pashkevich was a teacher, the author of poems written in defence of ordinary people. Kupala represented one of the peaks of Belarusian poetry. He fully expressed the spirit, the character and hopes of his people, hatred for the oppressors of the people. Kolas also created many remarkable poems about the destiny of Belarus and later two larger epics — "The New Land" and "Simon the Musician."

One of the wonderful Belarusian lyrists was Maxim Bogdanovich. He lived only 25 years but raised Belarusian literature to the world level. His poems preserve national spirit and express real pain for the people. His poems and songs are known everywhere in the world.

I also appreciate Vasil Bikov’s works. They have been translated into many languages of the world. His books "The Cranes Are Crying", "The Obelisk", "Sotnikov", "The Wolves’ Pack" are well-known. There are films made from his stories.

What questions would you ask a famous writer?

  • What characters are your most favourite?
  • What can inspire you to write a new book?
  • Do the characters of your books come from a real life?
  • Was it your dream to become a writer?
  • Is it easy to create a new story?

What outstanding personality do you admire?

It’s difficult to speak about Kupala, Scorina, Tadeush Kostyushko. Little message about their biography is not enough to understand what kind of people they were. For me it’s easier to talk about my friends or someone I know, and it’s my grandfather. What I know, the person I’m becoming is all thanks to him. He is the person who helps everyone and never asks anything in return, he taught me to love books, never to stop and to go on. That was the main idea he taught me and he gave me the message: you have to do everything in life just to respect yourself and no one will give you more in the world to be desired. These few rules my grandpa passed on to me and I’m a lucky person because I have this kind of man in my life and thanks to him I’m accepting the world as it is.

There is place for heroic deeds, each of us is able to do it, to respect others and to be respected.

Is it an advantage to be famous?

It is widely believed that famous people have a wonderful life with no worries or problems. But is being famous so easy?

The greatest advantage of being famous is that celebrities are usually very rich so they have easier life than other people. They live in beautiful houses maintained by housekeepers, gardeners, cooks and other servants. They do not have to worry about paying bills, can afford the best clothes and drive the latest models of fast cars. What is more, they spend their holidays in expensive resorts, get the best hotel rooms and the most efficient service.

Secondly, when you are famous, your name is known by everyone. Then, you are invited to the best parties and meet other celebrities. Your fans send you letters to tell you how much they admire you.

However, being recognized by everyone in the street can be annoying. Famous people have no privacy, paparazzi try to photograph them all the time, people stop them in the street, asking for an autograph.

Fame also carries worry about your own safety and the safety of your family. There is always a danger that a crazy fan may try to kidnap or kill you or your children, so it is necessary to employ bodyguards.

All in all, fame may be nice but not an easy thing to live with. You have money but you do not feel safe, you have friends and fans but you can never be sure if they like you for who you are or for your money.

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