Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 14.COM 10.A.5

The Committee,

  1. Takes note that Belarus has nominated Spring rite of Juraŭski Karahod (No. 01458) for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

The Spring rite of Juraǔski Karahod is performed by residents of the village of Pahost on St. George’s Day. For Belarusians, St. George safeguards livestock and agriculture. In Pahost, the holiday is observed through a specific ceremonial rite that encompasses various ceremonial activities, songs, games, omens and beliefs. Traditionally, the ritual involves two cycles. The first cycle takes place in the courtyard, where the animals are led out of the barn for the first time after winter, with a series of ritual acts to protect the livestock. The second cycle is associated with the agricultural tradition; it begins on the eve of the holiday with baking the ceremonial bread (Karahod) and ‘black’ (sacrificial) bread. The next morning, the villagers go to the field, carrying a ceremonial towel, the bread and an eight-pointed star. Women singing ceremonial songs and men carrying the Karahod form a circle and sing and a piece of the black loaf is buried in the ground while pronouncing the plea to God for a good harvest. Participants then hand out pieces of ritual bread throughout the village and the festivities continue until evening. Despite the community’s concerted efforts to safeguard the element, it is currently threatened by numerous factors such as Pahost’s gradually ageing population, a shortage of jobs in the village, globalization, folklorization of the element, and the general socio-economic situation in the region.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding:

U.1:   The Spring rite of Juraǔski Karahod has important functions and meanings related to the religious beliefs of the community, which are at the core of the cultural life of the rural village of Pahost. It educates young people on how to respect the customs of their ancestors and grants practitioners a hope of prosperity, a feeling of social cohesion and religious blessing. Its practice strengthens the ties between people and their environment as well as between young people and older community members. Its transmission occurs directly within the family and through informal learning within the community itself by older women who teach young people ritual actions and creative skills all year round.

U.2:   The viability of the Spring rite of Juraǔski Karahod depends on a single village, the population of which is gradually ageing, with young people migrating to cities and losing their interest in the tradition due to globalization and the standardization of daily life. These problems are directly related to the lack of jobs and opportunities in Pahost and the increasing folklorization of the element, one of the main problems associated with the practice nowadays.

U.4:   The nomination process and development of the safeguarding plan have been carried out with the active participation of local members of the Pahost community, representatives of non-governmental organizations, experts and local educational and cultural institutions through consultation meetings and workshops since 2014.

U.5:   The Spring rite of Juraǔski Karahod was inscribed in the State Register of Historical and Cultural Values of the Republic of Belarus in 2007 and in the national inventory of intangible cultural heritage, named the Living Heritage of Belarus, in 2014, when the latter was created. It is updated regularly and the inscription and monitoring processes are carried out with the participation of the communities.

  1. Further considers that based on the information provided by the State Party to the Committee at its present session concerning the safeguarding plan, the following criterion for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding is satisfied:

U.3 The proposed measures were elaborated in close interaction with the community representatives and aimed at minimizing the risks to the life of the element. They contribute to the consolidation of the local community, create conditions for the involvement of young people in the processes of documentation, inventorying and safeguarding of the element, and contribute to the protection of human and intellectual rights of intangible cultural heritage bearers. The inclusion of the element in the safeguarding plan in the Regional sustainable development strategy should guarantee its continued practice, as well as the effectiveness and sustainability of the measures taken.

  1. Decides to inscribe Spring rite of Juraŭski Karahod on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding;
  2. Requests the State Party to submit, for the next four years after inscription, biennial reports on the results of the measures taken to ensure the safeguarding of the element and invites the State Party to take particular heed of the impacts of tourism on the safeguarding of the element in order to prevent its de-contextualization and folklorization and encourages it to mitigate any adverse impacts related to tourism;
  3. Further takes note that Belarus has requested International Assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund in the amount of US$87,761 for the implementation of the safeguarding plan for the Spring rite of Juraŭski Karahod:

To be implemented by the Centre of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts, the proposed twenty-four-month project has three main objectives. The first objective is to research the area where Juraǔski Karahod was spread historically and develop an effective strategy for its revitalization, performance and transmission. Secondly, the visibility of the element is expected to be enhanced and information about it disseminated through the media, publications and a website as well as through the biannual intangible cultural heritage festival in Pahost. Thirdly, the project aims to support the consolidation of the community and bearers through the establishment of a Local Centre for Traditions and a series of capacity-building workshops for local residents. The project is to be implemented in collaboration with national and local experts and members of the local community. It is expected to raise awareness about the element and support local initiatives, contributing to the consolidation of the community around their living heritage and fostering young people’s respect for it.

  1. Also considers that, from the information provided in the file, the request responds as follows to the criteria for granting International Assistance given in paragraphs 10 and 12 of the Operational Directives:

A.1:   The project was developed by the community and reflects the needs and aspirations they identified. Specifically, they have played an active role in the identification and inventorying of the elements of intangible cultural heritage through several workshops and meetings. Partners from non-governmental organizations and local educational and cultural institutions as well as centres of expertise have been also involved in the project.

A.2:   The amount of International Assistance requested is appropriate, with a 4 per cent contribution by the State Party and a 10 per cent contribution from other sources within the State Party. The proposed activities are well-reflected in the budget and timetable, which are clearly presented and detailed.

A.3:   The proposed activities are generalized and do not focus on the Spring rite of Juraŭski Karahod. The safeguarding measures do not address any specific threats and could even change the social and cultural functions of the element through the creation and strengthening of festivals and tourism, increasing decontextualization and folklorization. This issue is even more problematic given the lack of monitoring tools to evaluate the impacts of the project.

A.4:   The lack of specific measures and the general nature of the project make it impossible to ascertain whether it will have lasting results. The poor participation of the local youth and the proposed participation of tourists could even have problematic results in the medium and long-term. Furthermore, it is not clear how the State Party will continue with many of the proposed activities following the end of the project.

A.5:   The State Party will participate in covering the project financially, which is clearly reflected in the budget. Adding up the contribution of the local authorities and other sponsors, they will cover 14 per cent of the project. It will also cover an in-kind contribution consisting of coordination and logistical support through the Local Centre for Traditions and the Žytkaviči District Department of Culture, Public Affairs and Youth.

A.6:   The project will engage experts from the relevant cultural and educational institutions, as well as from non-governmental organization partners that deal with the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage, to develop and implement the capacity-building programmes. It is planned that five workshops will be held to encourage local young people in identifying and inventorying their heritage, relevant electronic resources about the local culture will be created, and the establishment and strengthening of a partner network will be facilitated to safeguard Pahost heritage. The project will also deliver a series of training sessions and workshops for local people and youth on safeguarding intangible cultural heritage, collective copyright in the field of intangible cultural heritage, developing small entrepreneurship forms, project management and fundraising.

A.7:   The State Party benefited from International Assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund for the project ‘Establishing the national inventory of the intangible cultural heritage of Belarus’ (2011–2013; US$133,600). The project was carried out in compliance with UNESCO regulations and was successfully completed.

10(a):   The project is local in scope and involves local and national implementing partners.

10(b):   The scientific and media interest in the region of Turaŭ as well as projects for youth could bring more financial and technical support for the development of regional culture and activities. The success of the project could increase public interest in the intangible cultural heritage of the wider Palessie region, potentially leading to further support.

  1. Further decides to approve the International Assistance request from the State Party;
  2. Reminds the State Party to take particular heed of the impacts of unsustainable tourism on the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage element in order to prevent its decontextualization and folklorization. In this regard, encourages the State Party to elaborate together with the local community, an ethical code for establishing the rules for access to the intangible cultural heritage element and ensuring respect for the restrictions on access adopted by the community. It will also allow for minimizing the risks associated with raising awareness and tourism activities, as well as to protect the bearers of intangible cultural heritage from the misappropriation of their knowledge and skills and exploitation of the surrounding cultural and natural landscape.