Historical and cultural heritage preservation: regional programmes
The cultural heritage preservation policy is least effective in the regions. There are large-scale programmes, aiming at reconstructing historical sites, but in many cases they result in reconstructed objects losing their authentic value. Consequently, their historical value decreases along with Belarus’ tourist potential.
The reconstruction of significant cultural sites around Belarus - the Yanka Kupala Theatre in Minsk, Mir Castle, Grodno historical centre and others – has drawn criticism from society. The strategy, which aims at reducing reconstruction costs, has resulted in architectural monuments being turned into newly created objects with historical elements.
For example, 10 years ago there were at least 150 houses with elements of old carved wooden decorations in Gomel, today they number no more than 40: many have been torn down or covered with siding. This situation is typical for the country as a whole, due to the fact that historical reconstruction is a convenient way for the misuse of budget funds.
A criminal investigation has been launched against the JSC “Joint management of projects under construction”, responsible for the reconstruction of all significant cultural sites in Belarus, and under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture. The organization’s heads are accused of misusing budgetary funds, including payments to construction firms for work that they had not performed.
Current management of historical and cultural heritage is ineffective in terms of implementing the legislation. There were talks about establishing a public inspection for the Protection of Historical and Cultural Heritage at Belarus’ Ministry of Culture with structural units in the regions and Minsk. However, in our assessment, the creation of this structure will not change the current practices, and will only overcomplicate the existing rules.
Another important trend worth mentioning (mainly characteristic for Belarus’ Western regions) is that Russian nationals are showing great interest in Belarusian historical sites and purchase them through auctions. In early 2010, a Russian businessman bought a palace and park in Village Kraski, Volkovysk region (Grodno Oblast) for USD 100, 000. Local authorities regard these purchases positively and sometimes overprice these objects.