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Yuri Bondar, new Culture Minister of Belarus, on work priorities in new office

Last week Alexander Lukashenko appointed a new minister of culture. The post was given to Yuriy Bondar, a former rector of the University of Culture and Arts. When the CTV channel asked the new minister for a meeting, he chose the venue himself. Instead of meeting in his office, Yuriy invited us to the National Art Museum.

Good morning, Yuriy Pavlovich! The idea to meet in the National Art Museum belongs to you, doesn’t it?

Yuri Bondar, Minister of Culture of the Republic of Belarus:
Yes, it does. From my point of view this is a sacred place for every intelligent Belarusian, especially for those who live in Minsk.

Do you know that we are standing on the most expensive marble staircase in Minsk?

Yuri Bondar:
Yes, I know this a historical fact. This is the truth indeed.

Maybe it can somehow symbolize the promotion of cultural values, which you were talking about on the day of your appointment?

Yuri Bondar:
I suppose, everything, in fact, can be a cultural brand. It can be the historical building of our National Art Museum, as well as this very staircase. We can have a lot of cultural brands. All we need is to popularize them properly. We must position them, taking into account the fact that we love Belarus and want it to have a good image in the world.

Yuri Pavlovich, have you noticed that the wrappers of Belarusian sweets "Mishka in the North", for some reason, seem to have the picture "Morning in the Pine Forest" by famous Russian artist Shishkin on it. As a minister, are you going to correct this mistake?

Yuri Bondar:
I want to say that it can be very difficult to affect the manufacturer's opinion. However, the main task of a manufacturer, if they are patriots of Belarus, is to promote their own brands.

Did you come on the meeting directly from the film studio Belarusfilm?

Yuri Bondar:
Yes. I came from the film studio. The Belarusian public is very excited; People wonder whether the renovation will be finished by November 7. But I have no doubt that we’ll finish the project on time. It will be a perfect, modern film factory, one of the best in Europe.

The tendency to translate films into Belarusian appeared lately. There are famous soviet films and many others. What do you think about the idea?

Yuri Bondar:
It's great, it's a normal move. I do not know how much widespread this idea is. However, as far as I know, it is a lucrative direction for private studios.

On the other hand, do we have the right to interfere in the idea of films creators?

Do you remember how much was the hype because of a wolf from “Nu Pogodi” (a famous Soviet movie) was always smoking? Fortunately, people have almost forgotten the story…

Yuri Bondar:
In the 80's we watched American movies on tapes. They were translated by a strange nasal voice, like if there was a clothes pin on it. Do you remember? It became a part of American culture of that time. And even today this peculiarity makes people laugh.

I really like watching these films.

Yuri Bondar:
This is a piece of culture, a huge piece of culture. It is constantly creating new phenomena.

Cooperation with the Ministry of Culture has become a kind of traditional for CTV Channel. We’ve done a big number of great projects together. Are you going to preserve this tradition?

Yuri Bondar:
Of course, I intend to expand our cooperation significantly. Because I’m absolutely sure that without television, without modern electronic media, promotion and popularization of national culture are impossible. So these, I suppose, are the most important functions of television industry. As you can see, there are a lot of reasons.

For example, an exhibition of Belarusian icons in the Vatican. This is a unique cultural event, because even the Hermitage did not exhibit these paintings, these icons and other works in the Vatican.

Your work will be judged and estimated by other people in many years. What are the main criteria of your work? Is it queues in the National art museum? Or is it the amount of people in this museum?

Yuri Bondar:
Of course, all of these factors are criteria for me. What’s more, I would like to create new performances; I would like more people to go to libraries. I wish we had a national film, and long queues for tickets.

Is it necessarily a film about the war?

Yuri Bondar:
The national film project, of course, should be devoted to our rich history, our traditions. There are, of course, the laws of the success of this or that film.

What phenomena in culture are inadmissible for you? What do you dislike? What would you like to change?

Yuri Bondar:
Of course, I have certain goals and plans. I think we need to change attitude of society towards our culture. We, unfortunately, often think that we are worse than someone else; we suppose that our culture is not unique enough to be proud of it... Or that we should borrow some phenomena from other countries’ culture... However, all we need is to admire Belarusian culture, to be proud of it.

Of course, I would like the salaries for the results of creative work to be higher. We should create a fair system of payment in the sphere. People can’t get money just for nothing. They must earn this money, they must deserve it, and I understand it very well. We will work in this direction.

By the way, I will give you an example. Today the average salary in the cultural sector is 464 rubles (about $230). I know it for sure.

So, from this point, the sphere of culture is a kind of outsider?

Yuri Bondar:
Yes, unfortunately, it is. Nevertheless, the salary in the organizations of republican subordination is a little higher (there are 30 of such in the Ministry of Culture).

They have more opportunities to earn money.

Yuri Bondar:
Yes, it’s true. The National Art Museum is one of such organizations. The salary is 606 rubles (about $300) there. The reason is a higher proportion of their income. This link is obvious; therefore I see certain potential in such places.

I would like to create a performance, a concert program, so that people stand in line to buy a ticket.

Some periodical publication (I do not remember which) called you “Belarusian Casanova”. Why Casanova?

Yuri Bondar:
It is not connected with my way of life. They simply associate me with the character from the beautiful musical I created together with Kim Breitburg.

The musical was rumored, in a good way.

Yuri Bondar:
Yes, it really was. Everyone expected certain piquancy, but it's just a good musical about love, about faithfulness, about the harm of stereotypes. And this is not the only performance we created with the students of the University of Culture and Kim Breitburg. There is also the musical “Dubrovsky”, which is very magnificent and beautiful as well.

I am very proud that in a short, rather short period of my work as a rector (4 years) I managed to create these 2 wonderful musical innovative performances for young and talented students.

Does it mean that we can expect more experiments, more freedom in our theaters?

Yuri Bondar:
Yes, there is definitely place for experiments, of course, within reasonable limits. We also should remember that every theater has its own viewer. You can not disappoint your viewer and his expectations.

Yuri Bondar