The unique arts festival in Vitebsk has celebrated the 25th anniversary. It has set a new record for the number of participants: 5,300 artists, craftsmen and singers. Over a quarter of the century, the festival was visited by about a million viewers.
Nikolai Skorikov, People's Artist of Belarus:
I remember this stage when there was no Slavonic Bazaar, there was a festival of Polish songs.
Anzhelika Agurbash, Honored Artist of the Republic of Belarus:
It was a song "But why are you not with me?" I was in leather shorts, and for me it was a rush of adrenaline and emotions! Of course, I was really worried.
Alena Lanskaya, Honored Artist of the Republic of Belarus:
For me, Vitebsk was a launching pad. Five 5 years ago I won the contest in Vitebsk and won the Grand Prix. And, then, probably, it was the start of my career.
Taisiya Povaliy, Diana Gurtskaya, Irina Dorofeeva, Polina Smolova and Piotr Elfimov - their careers also took off to sky heights here in Vitebsk. The President did not let close the Slavianski Bazaar one of the 1990s, despite some proposals. Since then, the festival has remained under the personal patronage of Alexander Lukashenko.
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. The 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.
It is encouraging that the festival site brings peace by erasing the boundaries. Here, Russians and Ukrainians are side by side.
Created by Belarus, Russia and Ukraine in 1992 as a song contest, today the "Bazaar" has become something like cultural Olympics.
Anastasia Benedisyuk, CTV correspondent:
While one year after the official start of the festival there were only nine participating countries, today we see 45 of them.
One of them is the flag of the festival itself. This was the first time the festival's emblem was depicted on a flag. It was raised by the winner of young performers' contest from Kazakhstan.
Dimash Kudaibergen, winner of the International Pop Song Performers Contest Vitebsk 2015:
For me it is a great honor since Slavic Bazaar, as you know, has produced such famous artists as Taisia Povaliy and Anzhelika Agurbash.
Concerts and shows at the Summer Amphitheatre began two days prior to the opening ceremony.
Maxim Galkin, artist (Russia):
I love Vitebsk, of course, first of all for its festive atmosphere. And all associations are connected with the amphitheater. And now, when it is under the roof... I remember my first performance here... It rained cats and dogs during the concert. Everyone raised their umbrellas. I thought back then: how will I perform? But the audience is fantastic: they love us, artists, and are not afraid of any weather or disasters.
Perhaps the most anticipated events of the Slavonic Bazaar are vocal pop song competitions. Today, after two competition days the winners' names will be officially unveiled. Anastasia Zhabko represents Belarus at the children's contest.
It is already known that the senior competition was won by Belarus' representative Alex Gross. However, it's still unclear whether he will receive the Grand Prix, the main prize of the pop song contest Vitebsk 2016.
The first awards of the Bazaar have already been given. The President's Special Award "Through art to peace and mutual understanding" went to conductor Mikhail Finberg. A plate with his name appeared in Stars' Square in Vitebsk. It was Mr Finberg who has contributed to the festival from the very beginning.
Mikhail Finberg, People's Artist of Belarus, art director of the National Academic Concert Orchestra of the Republic of Belarus:
This is a wonderful festival! The best festival in Europe. You must know about it! Because here people here sing, not only sing along. And here people want national songs to sound and to be played.
The closing ceremony of the Slavianski Bazaar will be held on July 18.