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Stsiapan Stureika: Society should be responsible for preserving our heritage (PHOTO)

14.12.2016  |  Society
Stsiapan Stureika: Society should be responsible for preserving our heritage (PHOTO) Photo by "EuroBelarus" Information Service

Why does the protection of monuments require decentralization and if it is possible to preserve our heritage without disturbing the authenticity?

As a part of the cycle "Imagining Belarus: ideas and images for a common future" by Flying University and the International Consortium “EuroBelarus” Stsiapan Stureika, a historian and culture anthropologist, EHU teacher, told about what is wrong with our architectural heritage. "EuroBelarus" Information Service retells some at times sharp, at times provocative, revolutionary and at the same time true thoughts of the speaker.

 - We failed to be relevant, especially when calling for preservation of the sites in discussion. The restoration of monuments is rapidly marginalized and it’s only us to blame.

Moreover the discourse of preservation is incompatible with the discourse of creative development. According to Stsiapan Stureika architectural heritage needs a "revolutionary" approach, which would be based not on the blind faith in the precious past and concern for the "stones", but above all on a new research.

Thus, the speaker leads us to the problem that there are too many monuments. And if there are many of them, the restoration becomes a mission impossible.

"All the significant sites in varying degrees are "ships of Theseus”

Historical sites largely kind of prove the existence of our society as a nation. But the authenticity of the monument is important, as it is impossible to argue the greatness of the nation without it. There is a world practice of replacing the reconstructed historical buildings, reduplicating certain sites.

 - Can we call Stonehenge authentic considering that none of its stones is in its original place?     

 

These doubts illustrate the ancient Greek Theseus' paradox. It can be formulated as follows: does an object that has had all of its components replaced remain fundamentally the same object? According to Greek myth, retold by Plutarch, Theseus’ ship, aboard which he returned from Crete to Athens, had  all its boards gradually replaced due to the repair until a dispute started among the philosophers: is it the same ship, or is it a new one? Paradoxically, the attempt to resist change - the restoration or preservation – makes things change itself.

Activists against the professionals and utility instead of tourism

Who should be responsible for the preservation of the monuments? At first the answer seems obvious: all citizens. But it’s not that simple. Sometimes the public’s attitude towards the sites resembles squatting rather than even appropriation.

- Activists defend Asmalouka because they ‘appropriated’ it and historians defend the castles as they came up with their historical interpretation, - sums up the speaker.

Restoring the remnants of the past is an integral part of the heritage protection discourse. But everyone has their own meaning of what restoration is.  
 - Society should bear the responsibility for the heritage preservation- this is the way to gain victory, - said the historian.
He gave an example: one of the best preserved historical and cultural sites in the country include orthodox and catholic churches, and synagogues are among the least preserved for in the case of the first ones they have a community - parishes, and in the case of the latter there’s no such community.

However it poses a logical question: what should we do with the sites that cannot have such a community? For example, with the castles. We may need to look for such communities. But it would not be enough to just bring a bus tour a few times, - believes Stsiapan Stureika.  

By the way, speaking of the bus tours. Historical and cultural sites get absorbed by the tourism industry more and more often. The speaker rebukes the touristic approach towards our heritage and says that at least it should not be the most popular one.

Historical heritage can solve the economic problems of the local communities, but in a different way, assures Stsiapan Stureika and provides an example of the dispensary in Galshany, the construction of which is now is in its final stages.

 - There is a lot of debate about the castle ruins. Why is it in ruins? Because it is national heritage, which must be used for tourism purposes,  and which is waiting for the restoration and opening of a  museum. But if we change the paradigm of our thinking, we can make the aforementioned dispensary inside the Galshany castle. This way the restoration will be just as good, the castle will be used for the benefit of the local community and it would be possible to make tour inside it - the site will come alive again.

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