Belarus and the United States of America: Personality, Culture, Dialogue (the Results of the Project “Belarusian-American Cultural Dialogue: Strategy of Development”)

The greatest value and the characteristic feature of the contemporary world is intercultural dialogue. It ensures active participation in global cooperation, which is the intrinsic part of any progress. The adoption of the humankind’s most valuable heritage and contribution of one’s own achievements to the world treasury is the primary goal of each nation unless it wants to become an outsider, lose its sovereignty and disappear first from the international arena and then from its own land.

Today’s global problems can only be solved by joint efforts, including intercultural dialogue that opposes violence and teaches how to live in peace, with solidarity and tolerance. Then, intercultural dialogue is, mostly, a supercultural, universal phenomenon that embraces the features typical of all the nations and cultures and is based on the recognition of equal dignity and equal opportunities of and for individuals, social groups, nations and cultures.

Rights play the crucial role here. First of all, the right to life, the recognition of the right to equal dignity of the people, their opinions, beliefs, and religions, open mentality – everything that constitutes the basis of human freedom and democracy.

However, intercultural dialogue is, first and foremost, a dialogue between cultures that reflect the worldview and values of each nation: what kind of God created nation they are, the live development of its history and culture, its perception of itself. Such a dialogue is only possible in the national languages, on the national lands, from national perspectives and interests. There can be no constructive dialogue between the homeless.

That is exactly the national culture that can be the central subject of the contemporary cultural dialogue in its international perspective. And this cultural dialogue is feasible when, on the one hand, there is no confrontation, and on the other hand, there are one’s own traditions and respect to others. The understanding of intercultural dialogue, which acknowledges the right to be different and sees the value of cultural diversity, creates the foundation of many international acts, including the UNESCO Declarations.

Intercultural dialogue is an attribute of Belarusian people with their traditional multiculturalism. This notion includes religious dialogue, which grows more and more vital today as the mentality differs dramatically from that of the previous century. Hence, the attempt to raise the persons’ basic ability to tell Good from Evil becomes a wonderful starting point for mutual understanding between religious confessions.

Belarus is a Christian country with Christian values and ideals, where the world view is shaped by the rejection of war as a means to solve conflicts, where the ideas of equality and justice, sympathy and understanding of the needs of other persons have always been very popular. The Belarusian mentality is liberal. It has historically absorbed the respect to the notion of right, urge towards the supremacy of law, trust in the foreigners, in those who are different. The main obstacle for the intercultural dialogue is xenophobia that is based on the fear of the ‘other’ and distrust in something unfamiliar, which is a sign of heartlessness, regress, and decay.

Intercultural dialogue is extremely important for Belarus as it ensures the opportunity to implement the integral function of the Belarusian culture and national identity, to facilitate the democratization of the society and formation of self-sufficient, creative personality.

The need to develop the intercultural dialogue both in regional and international perspective conditioned the foundation of Center for Intercultural Dialogue, which was the result of my ideas and work for 15 years. What helped me enormously was the experience of working on other civil initiatives, and especially my work at the Ministry of Education and Science of Belarus, the time I spent as the Head of the unique organization Skaryna Center, and also my international experience. Our Center functions on a voluntary basis and it has only turned possible thanks to the support of many people, their patriotism and professionalism, their kindness and compassion, but first and foremost, thanks to the support of the Chargé d’Affaires ad Interim of the USA to Belarus Distinguished Michael Scanlan who, together with the US Embassy Staff, emphatically supported the professionalism, the initiative and provided the opportunity for its authors to implement the project “Belarusian-American Dialogue: Strategy of Development” I have always admired the United States as the country of freedom, democracy, progress, success, and the American Dream. Today, I’m also extremely grateful to it. This country of human dignity, humanism, justice, openness, humbleness, heroism, patriotism has become a second Motherland for me. Christianity associates baptizing with a new birth – the birth of spiritual person, free from the original sin. In a similar way, the United States supported my creative potential, life perspective, strength, and dignity.

Intercultural dialogue requires a certain level of spirituality that is realized not through the group, the crowd, which are always regressive, but always and exclusively through the Personality. The Personality is the highest being in the nature, is the highest in its spirituality. Freedom as the possibility to make choice, to maximally develop human abilities and talents that we are endowed with from the very beginning, turns into the responsibility to the Creator for this development. And then, the creativity is born, the aspiration to get to know the other, love for people and various acts of life. The intercultural dialogue is born.

The geopolitics of the previous century was grounded on the issue of territory, which led to the struggle between people, classes, etc. But this history reflects only the biological side of the human as the fight for the territory is typical also of monkeys. The development of the spiritual component can be the way to overcome biological constrains and distrust of the unfamiliar, to elevate oneself to understand the community and unity of people.

There were other reasons why the Center started with the Belarusian-American dimension in its focusing on intercultural dialogue. One of the factors is that today, this field is unjustifiably neglected. But nothing can facilitate the settlement of the international confrontations better than cultural dialogue as it helps to learn more about the things that constitute and reveal the national essence. Belarusian-American cultural dialogue is an absolutely natural phenomenon as Belarusian immigrants made a great contribution towards the formation of the American nation. Intercultural dialogue is an urgent issue for both the Belarusian and American societies not only with respect to multiculturalism but also with respect to, on the one hand, the need to consolidate the contemporary Belarusian society, and on the other hand, the need to use the American experience of the harmony between national unity and sociocultural diversity equal in rights.

In the framework of the project “Belarusian-American Cultural Dialogue: Strategy of Development”, we organized three international “round tables” and an open national creative competition “American Culture: What is It Like?” with two nominations: “Attractiveness of American Culture” and “Belarusian Emphasis in American Culture”.

The International round table “American Culture in Belarus and European Experience: Strategies of Development” (November 3, 2011) welcomed the leaders of all the large business associations in Belarus, entrepreneurs, priests and bishops of Christian Church, diplomats, heads of international organizations, European experts, representatives of academic and cultural elite of various generations, schools of thought, traditions and opinions. And that is already a unique phenomenon that demonstrates the real intercultural dialogue. At the round table, the main centers of American Studies and the sphere of their development in Belarus were examined in the following dimensions: the culture of American business as a promoter of social responsibility in business; achievements of the US higher education system as a motive power for the world’s education systems; American Studies in Europe, contemporary migration processes and American Studies in Belarus, Belarusian-American religious contacts; American centers in Belarus and Belarusian-American parallels; cultural policies in national and international dimensions.

The second round table “Belarusian Studies in the USA and Polish Experience: Perspectives of Development” (January 31, 2012) brought together the leading experts – representatives of education, culture, business, religion, and diplomats. The emphasis was made on economy as a component of culture (the event itself was held in the premises of a successful Belarusian-American enterprise). The special attention was given to the implementation of American social and cultural experience (including social responsibility of businesses) in contemporary Belarus. The main centers for Belarusian Studies in the USA were identified, their activities were analyzed, history and the state of the Belarusian Studies in the USA were examined, and the main directions of the development of the knowledge about Belarus was defined with the help of the Polish experience. Thanks to the Polish Institute in Minsk, representatives of Polish scientific elite participated in the meeting and shared the experience of the Polish-American cultural dialogue.

The open national competition “American Culture: What is it Like?” obviously increased the interest of Belarusians in the USA (and the Belarusian culture as the language of the competition was Belarusian) and revealed the need to stimulate creativity in American studies. And the fact that we received a lot of works for the competition (50) from people of various ages and occupations who live in all regions of Belarus, the active participation of the society in the voting demonstrate that, too. 13 winners of the competition (including a doctor, a student, a civil servant, a schoolboy, a businessman, an artist, a mother taking care of her little child, etc.) were solemnly awarded with the certificates of the US embassy (we are grateful to the US Embassy and the Distinguished Mr Jonathan Benton) and prizes from the Center during the third, final International round table “Belarusian-American Cultural Dialogue: Strategy of Development” (April 13, 2012).

At the final round table, the suggestions for the development of Belarusian-American cultural dialogue prepared by the analytical group were discusses. The brochure written beyond the scope of the project was also presented at the event (Uladykouskaja, L. Discovery of my American, or Why would Belarusians need the USA? / L. Uladykouskaja. – Minsk: Tesei, 2012). The need for such a brochure turned obvious when it became clear that the knowledge about the USA is insufficient in Belarus and at the same time, that there is no adequate popular science books in our bookstores and libraries. The book highlighted the stereotypical ideas that Belarusians have about the USA, described the history of development and the phenomenon of the American nation, and emphasized the social and cultural American experience that the author considers vital to use in Belarus.

The event also featured the exhibition of the traditional Belarusian weaving and embroidery items prepared by the craftswoman Natallia Kananovich, live Belarusian national music, and three-minute video about Belarus.

The participants of the final international round table – representatives of culture, science, education, religion, business, mass media, civil society, diplomats, winners of the competition – unanimously agreed that the cultural factor plays an extremely significant role in the strengthening of the Belarusian sovereignty and democratization of the society and in the development of the Belarusian-American relations.

The participants also concluded: The project is of enormous significance for the entire society and is implemented very successfully – systematically, with integrity, interdisciplinarily, with participation of people of different social backgrounds from all regions of Belarus, and creatively (eg., the European context was taken into consideration, the European experts were invited), which broadened and deepened the scale and the meaning of the project. The aims and goals have been achieved. The participants of the project were able to depict the integral and coherent essence of the cultural interaction of our nations.

However, it has also become clear: there is a need to continue the successful and fruitful work and to define the practical strategies to implement the suggested ways of development of the Belarusian-American cultural dialogue. It is necessary to study the American experience in the intercultural dialogue (practical and scientific, theoretical aspects), especially the ways to stimulate and support social activities and bottom-up initiatives, to learn from the national solidarity and coherency of the multicultural American society.

All these efforts are to give the opportunity to implement the strategy of development of the Belarusian-American cultural dialogue, improve the system of spreading the knowledge about America in Belarus and Belarusian culture in America based on mutual respect, trust, tolerance and openness, which covers, but not limited to, joint scientific research (including social sciences), educational courses and projects (conferences, publications, competitions, mass media initiatives, etc.), cultural events, and others.

“We the People of the United States…” – begins the first Constitution in the world, the Constitution of the United States of America. “We the Belarusian people…” – we, Belarusians, should think, feel and act as the mankind has invented nothing better than patriotism. The idea of freedom and liberty for individuals and for the entire nation is the idea that should unite the nation (that’s exactly what my favorite American hero fought for: Abraham Lincoln’s life was guided by the motto that there should be neither owners, nor slaves.). And that is a universal idea. To implement it, “God bless America!” and God bless Bealrus!


Let me also express my deepest gratitude to everyone who supported me and helped enormously to implement the project “Belarusian-American cultural dialogue: strategy of development: Michael Scanlan, Jonathan Benton, Carrie Lee, Halina Paulouskaja, Yury Dudzinski, Piotr Kazakevich, Halina Parafiyanovich, Dzeyan Keseravich, Tadevush Struzhetski, Liudmila Rychkova, Anatol Zeliankou, His Excellency bishop Antoni Dziamianka, Father Aliaksandr Shymbaliou, Vasil Strazhau, Yauhen Babosau, Mikhas Kastiuk, Tatsiana Kamarouskaya, Yury Stulau, Tatsiana Dziamentseva, Aliaksandr Hil, Georgi Badzei, Aliaksandr Kalinin, Uladzimir Karagin, Kanstantsin Kalamiets, Aleh Dzenisiuk, Yury Dankou, Viktar Shadurski, Volha Paulouskaja, Ales Krautsevich, Alena Kudzko, all the participants of the competition, my children Raman and Palina.


Liubou Uladykouskaja, Project Manager, General Director, Center for Intercultural Dialogue