The 25th International Art Festival "Slavic Bazaar" has opened in Vitebsk. The solemn ceremony was attended by President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko.
By tradition, the head of state handed the special award "Through art to peace and mutual understanding."
During the festival, about 100,000 spectators will visit the summer amphitheater alone.
Tickets for many concerts were sold out long before the festival.
Maxim Galkin, artist (Russia):
I love Vitebsk, of course, first of all for its festive atmosphere. And all associations, of course, are connected with the amphitheater. And now, when it is under the roof... I remember my first performance here... It rained during the concert. Now everything's different. Vitebsk has a fantastic audience, true artists.
Michal Kaczmarek, winner of Grand Prix of International Pop Song Performers Contest Vitebsk 2013 (Poland):
Slavic Bazaar is famous throughout Europe. It is watched in Ireland, in England, and in Poland. The festival offers a very big motivation and is a significant event.
Since 1995 the festival has been under the personal patronage of the President.
By tradition, the festival was opened by Alexander Lukashenko, who noted that thanks to the Slavonic Bazaar festival, the world has got familiar with Belarus, its national culture and hospitality.
Alexander Lukashenko, President of Belarus:
It is gratifying that the current forum has become the central event of the Year of Culture in Belarus. This fest embodies our spiritual riches, openness and interest in the cultures of different peoples. It is not for nothing that we once united. Three fraternal countries and republics: Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. We have become the core of the festival. And over the years, with varying degrees of success, we have demonstrated this cultural unity, our traditions, our achievements.
A new star has been lit during the festival. This time it belongs to the orchestra conducted by Mikhail Finberg. Mr Finberg was a member of the jury of the contest of young performers five times. This year, he is also working at the festival.
21 artists will compete this year for the Grand Prix and a prize of $20,000. Colombia is the debutant of the festival in 2016.
The motto of the opening ceremony was "Turning pages". Via video greetings of people from different countries who earlier participated in the Slavonic Bazaar, one could trace the festival's chronicle from the beginning to the present day.