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18:06 | May 17 | 2012

Yakut Age Park

A delegation from the Republic presented the “Lena Pillars” project at UNESCO Headquarters.

While in 2005 a Yakut delegation for the first time ever brought contacts with UNESCO to the level of signing a joint document on cooperation, in 2012 our Republic has presented its first full completion report for that project, thereby laying foundation for future cooperation.

The number of tale-tellers has increased 50 times
In November 2005 the Yakut heroic epos Olonkho was recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral Intangible Heritage and was inscribed on the 232 items long List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity protected by the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Even though this Convention has not been ratified by Russia, putting Olonkho on the List of Masterpieces entailed a number of serious steps on the part of Russia and the Republic’s government toward protection and revival of the epic heritage of the Yakut people. The RF Ministry of Culture allocates grants for projects in the area of research and dissemination of the epic heritage. As to Yakutia, an Olonkho Theatre and a Republican Center of Olonkho have been created here, implementation of the “OlonkhoLand” project has begun, education programs aiming at using Olonkho characters and principles for bringing up the young generation have been developed, etc…
The effectiveness of these measures is manifested in the fact that while in 2005 there were only two living bearers of the epic tradition (tale-tellers), by now their number has exceeded one hundred!

UNESCO members were told about khapsagai
Before Olonkho could be included in the List of Masterpieces a lot of work had been done to prepare the project for nomination: a documentary film had been shot, Olonkho texts translated into foreign languages. Events organized by the Government of the Republic played a big role, too. For example, in May 2005 a Yakut representative delegation led by the Republic’s President Vyacheslav Shtyrov made presentation of the Republic at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.
A meeting with the Director-General of UNESCO Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura, as well as a research-to-practice conference devoted to the Republic’s cultural diversity, was held during that visit. One year later Koïchiro Matsuura made a return visit, the results of which were reflected in a Joint Communiqué, the first document on cooperation between UNESCO and the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) ever signed.
It had been almost seven years since that visit that a delegation of Yakutia led by the Chairman of the Republic’s Government Galina Danchikova visited the UNESCO Headquarters again.
The timing for the visit was, of course, carefully chosen: in the end of June members of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee should render their verdict on the “Lena Pillars” Nature Park’s nomination for inscription on the World Heritage List. In addition, many of the UNESCO – Yakutia joint projects that were part of the Joint Communiqué signed by Vyacheslav Shtyrov and Koïchiro Matsuura have to-date been almost fully implemented. All such projects, and, of course, the “Lena Pillars” nomination, were considered at a roundtable held at the agency’s Headquarters on March 21.
UNESCO leading experts and top officials, including Assistant Director-General Mr. Francesco Bandarin, heard a detailed report that was presented by members of the Yakut delegation. Measures to safeguard and preserve Olonkho, the “Khomus (trump) in the World Cultural Space” project, educational projects “Nomadic Schools” and “Teachers of the Arctic”, international sports games “Children of Asia” and Yakut traditional sports (mass-wrestling and khapsagai), – information on these and other projects received a lot of attention of representatives of the corresponding sectors of UNESCO.
Following the discussion at the roundtable UNESCO expressed its intention to start preparation of a new document on cooperation.

For aesthetes and historians

Tim Badman, Programme Head at the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the person who will be preparing texts of resolutions for the World Heritage Committee session in Saint-Petersburg, arrived in Paris from Switzerland with the only purpose of taking part in the roundtable.
In his presence leading Russian and international experts in geology supported the “Lena Pillars” Park’s nomination and expressed their unanimous view that the Park was meeting the criteria of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Nature Heritage. The Park is being nominated under two Convention criteria: as a natural property of exceptional aesthetic importance, and as a property representing major stages of the earth’s geological history.
The RF Permanent Representative to UNESCO Eleonora Mitrofanova showed a lot of interest in all the projects presented by the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) and expressed a high opinion of the Yakut government’s efforts toward conservation and development of cultural and biological diversity.
At the end of the visit, Olonkho Theatre artists and other creative collectives from Yakutia presented a dynamic and colorful mix composed of episodes of “Elley Bohotur” Olonkho, trump music, Yakut traditional songs and dances. All that was very well received by admiring French spectators.

Faina Sokolova

Unlike the Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Nature Heritage has been ratified by the Russian Federation, which means not only federal, but international financing as well will be available to support implementation of measures toward conservation, protection and development of the “Lena Pillars” Park in case of its inscription on the World Heritage List.

The cooperation is multifaceted
There were other areas of cooperation discussed during the visit, as well. In particular, the upcoming “Children of Asia” Games were discussed. The Games had been granted the aegis of UNESCO back in the last year. UNESCO will send a Goodwill Ambassador to take part in the Games, and Assistant Director-General of UNESCO Pilar Alvarez-Laso is expected to come, too. UNESCO has also recognized the cultural importance of traditional sports of the peoples of Yakutia. The Agency is planning to provide all kinds of support to their popularization on the international arena. In addition, UNESCO experts expressed interest in the project for creation of a cryobank in Yakutia and in a number of cultural projects.

The “Lena Pillars” Park is both a unique natural property and a property representing major stages of the earth’s geological history.