Vitebsk - A view from our expert author

Vitebsk Belarus Europe by nodff Shutterstock© nodff, Shutterstock

Experience the Slavic Bazaar summer street party in the country’s cultural capital.

Vitebsk is widely regarded as being second only to Minsk as the cultural capital of the country and then not by much. It is the location of the popular and much-loved Slavianski (Slavic) Bazaar, an international song and culture festival that takes place annually in the open air in late July and early August. Most of the musical programme is devoted to a celebration of ethnic Slavic music. The main participants are artists from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, but there are also guests from a significant number of other countries, both Slavic and non-Slavic. For one glorious week in high summer, the entire city turns into a gigantic street party, with 5,000 artists performing at significant and fringe events, seemingly on every street. The English-language website is a mine of colourful facts and information on the history of the festival and current practical arrangements. The main events take place at the purpose-built 6,500-seat domed amphitheatre on Frunze Avenue in the middle of town, just along from the junction with Lenin Street. Now 25 years old, it’s a sizeable concrete bowl and an enduring image of the city. Over three million people have attended events since it was built. As well as the bazaar, the city also hosts 27 other annual festivals celebrating the performing arts, including modern dance and chamber music. At times, it seems that the entire city morphs into festival mode. And the original School of Arts founded in 1919 by Marc Chagall continues to thrive. Overall, there is little doubt that the reputation of Vitebsk as an international centre for the promotion of the performing arts and fine art is assured.

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