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Rite of the Kalyady Tsars (Christmas Tsars)

Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding

Country(ies): Belarus

Identification

Description

Rite of the Kalyady Tsars (Christmas Tsars)

The Kalyady Tsars (Christmas Tsars) is a ritual and festive event celebrated in the village of Semezhava in the Minsk region of Belarus. Typical Belarusian New Year celebrations take place according to the ‘old’ Julian style calendar and are combined with distinctive local performing arts. About 500 men participate annually in the event, of which seven are chosen to play the roles of ‘Kalyady Tsars’ in the national historical-religious drama ‘Tsar Maximilian’. Additional comic characters of the dzad (old man) and baba (old lady), played by a young girl and boy respectively, interact with the audience. During the drama, ‘tsars’ visit the local houses of unmarried girls to give comic performances and receive good wishes and awards. The procession continues into the night, lit by torchlight. The incorporation of dramatic allusions to aspects of modern life as well as to ethnic communities, groups and individuals has established the drama as a vivid example of cultural diversity. At present, the ceremony, although popular with older residents, is diminishing in popularity with the younger generation. This may result in a gap in transmission of knowledge regarding the production of costumes, instruments, interior decorations and particular dishes associated with the event – intangible heritage that may not outlast the present generation of residents.

Documents

Decision 4.COM 14.01

The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, as follows:

  • U1: The Rite of the Kalyady Tsars (Christmas Tsars) embraces several domains of intangible cultural heritage such as performing arts, rituals and festive events and traditional craftsmanship. Combining features typical to the ‘Kalyady’ rituals in a number of Slavic cultures with locally-based traditions, its annual performance plays an important role in the social cultural life of the Semezhava rural community, providing it with a sense of identity and continuity and helping to maintain the links between generations;
  • U2: The viability of the element is at risk, in spite of the best efforts of a group of enthusiastic practitioners, due to the fact that the bulk of the community, while enjoying the festivities, takes little part in the preparation or performance of the ritual. This lack of broader interest is due to recent social transformations leading, among other things, to an increased rural-urban migration of the population, and in particular, the youth;
  • U3: Several safeguarding measures, focusing particularly on education and raising awareness, have been implemented and proposed by the national and local authorities to ensure the viability of the element, but it is necessary to review certain other measures so as to enable the continued practice and transmission of the element;
  • U4: The nomination clearly demonstrates that the local community of Semezhava, as well as the village and district authorities, actively participated in the preparation of the nomination file and gave their free, prior and informed consent to it;
  • U5: The element was given the status of a historical and cultural value by a 2008 resolution of the Council of Ministers and inscribed on the State List of Historical and Cultural Values of the Republic of Belarus.

Slideshow

Video


© 2008 by Tatiata Kukharenok/ Belarusian cinema center to the Arts History, Ethnography and Folklore Institute, National Academy of Science

These videos (and many more) can also be consulted through the UNESCO Archives Multimedia website