International Conference as a Foreword for the XV Hutsul Festival

The International Conference “Ecological and social-economic aspects of ethnic-cultural and historical heritage conservation in the Carpathians” was held in the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve, Rakhiv, within the frameworks of the XV Hutsul Festival.

The Conference was organized by the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve in association with the Ministry for Environmental Protection of Ukraine, Swiss-Ukrainian forestry development project in Transcarpathia FORZA and NGOs “Our Home” and Ecological Club “Carpathians”.

This scientific event was attended by prominent scientists of the region, authorized representatives of the Ministry, writers, representatives of local communities and bodies of state power, Ukrainian NGOs, and also representatives of various institutions from France, Romania, Slovak Republic, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary - 200 participants all in all. 

Director of the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve Prof. Dr. Fedir Hamor opened up the Conference: “The XV Hutsul festival begins today in the town of Rakhiv, in the very heart of Transcarpathian Hutsul Land. It has become a good tradition to hold scientific conferences within the frameworks of this great cultural event in order to discuss various aspects of life in this mountainous region.

Today we plan to discuss the issues concerning ethnic-cultural and historical heritage conservation of the Carpathians with a special emphasis on ecological and social-economic components of this problem. It is especially important, as during last centuries the civilization has influenced greatly both national and ethnic-cultural environment, in particular in Europe. Clear cuts, intensive agricultural pressure, urban processes and other anthropic factors have disturbed the existing balance in forest, meadow and wetland ecosystems. This changes also touch upon the people’s ethnic originality.

Under the aforementioned conditions, the Carpathians probably remain one of a very few places in the world where it is possible to find undisturbed wildlife, vast areas of primeval forests, as well as rich cultural and biological diversity.

Today the Carpathians accommodate a number of authentic nationalities and ethnic groups, that is the people divided by different languages, dialects and traditions, but closely connected with one another by mountain way of life and common problems. People here preserve their spiritual heritage with great honor, though their history is full of tragic events.

Joining of some European countries to EU, adoption of the Framework Convention “On protection and sustainable development of the Carpathians”, positive results of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine and market metamorphoses open up new possibilities for economical and social development of the region. At the same time, new threats for conservation of biological, ethnic and cultural diversity may appear now too. There is a dilemma in the whole world in general and in the Carpathians in particular: by what means is it possible to improve welfare of the locals using ecologically safe techniques in order to preserve the rich biodiversity and cultural heritage within the region? And there exist no simple answer to this question.

And because of this we consider, that the conclusion made by a number of scientists that “it is not possible to preserve a single area if it is deprived of human activity” together with the statement that “the nature is better protected not by nature protection establishments, but by people dwelling there” may guide us to the right solution. UNESCO program “Man and Biosphere” is a great help here, as well as biosphere reserves also contribute much being model sites of sustainable development. The experience gained by the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve (CBR) might also be very useful in terms of aforementioned problems. 

I’m pleased to note that the proposed theme of the Conference has interested both scientists and public. About 200 applications were submitted to the Conference Organizing Committee from Ukraine, Hungary, Slovak Republic, Czech republic, Sweden, Poland and France. The Volume of Proceedings contains materials contributed by a number of participants.” 

At the end of his welcoming speech, Dr. Hamor expressed gratitude to the Ministry for Environmental Protection of Ukraine, to the Rakhiv District State Administration and Rakhiv District Council, to the Ukrainian-wide society “Hutsulschyna”, Scientific-research institute of Ukrainian country-study, to the president of Association “Our Home” Yuriy Vasidlov, to Dr. Prof. Stepan Stoiko for active assistance in organization of the event. He also gave special thanks to the administration of the Swiss-Ukrainian forestry development project in Transcarpathia FORZA and the Lviv firm “Galka” for their financial support. 

The voice of trembita (Hutsul alpine horn) and joyful Hutsul melodies performed by local musicians welcomed the participants. 

Afterworlds other guests delivered welcoming speeches. They were such as: the head of the Rakhiv District State Administration Mr. Volodymyr Saik; people’s deputy of the Ukrainian Parliament Orest Klympush; deputy of the Romanian parliament Stefan Bucuita; director of Department of the Ministry for Environmental Protection of Ukraine Yaroslav Movchan; head of the Hunting and Wild Fauna Office in Morte et Moselle department (France) Alain Demoyen; writer, prize winner of Taras Shevchenko Award, head of the Hustulschyna Society Dmytro Vatamanyuk; scientist of the Mendel University of Brno (Czech Republic) Ing. Jiri Veska; research supervisor of the National Nature Park “Bukk” Andras Schmotzer; head of the Local Communities Association, head of the Verkhovyna District Council Dmytro Steflyuk; Dr. Prof. Stepan Stoiko and others.

The head of the Rakhiv District Council awarded some of the guests with special Diplomas: Alain Demoyen (France), Stefan Bucuita (Romania), and Ivan Voloscuk (Slovakia).

A writer from Transcarpathia, deputy editor of the ecological journal “Zeleni Karpaty” presented to a writer Vasyl Herasymyuk and to the director of the Carpathian Biosphere Reserve Fedir Hamor the pictures by a well-known artist Yuriy Herts. 

A very lively discussion took place during the Plenary Session. There were made the following presentations: “Ethnic-cultural peculiarities of mountain-dwellers as a factor of social-economic development of the Ukrainian Carpathians” – Pavlo Samolyotov, Institute of Regional Investigations UNAS, Lviv; “Carpathian Convention: collisions of intentions and reality” – Yaroslav Movchan, Ministry for Environmental Protection of Ukraine, Kyiv; “Specific problems of people’s labor and life organization in the Carpathians” - Petro Shkriblyak, branch “Hutsulschyna” of the Research Institute of Ukrainian Country-Study, Verkhovyna; “Swiss-Ukrainian project of forestry development in Transcarpathia FORZA as an important factor of economical development and conservation of natural and cultural values of the Carpathians” – Hilmar Foellmi, Switzerland; “Alternative role of biosphere reserves, national nature parks, and regional landscape parks for conservation of ethnic-cultural and historical heritage” – Prof. Stepan Stoiko, Institute of Ecology of the Carpathians, Lviv, and other presentations.
Within the frameworks of the Conference there was made a presentation of the book “Hutsuls of the Ukrainian Carpathians” by Maria Lavruk from the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv. 

Mrs. Lavruk told about her work on the book, and gave some conceptual background and methodology of ethnographic investigations – a complex study of the original ethnographic group (sub-ethnos) of the Ukrainians – the Hutsuls.

After the Plenary Session participants worked according to the four sections: “Role of natural environment in mountain-dwellers’ spiritual and cultural values of formation ”, “Impact of negative ecological and social-economic processes on the state of ethnic originality conservation in the Carpathian Mountains”, “Carpathian Convention as an important tool of international collaboration in the sphere of ethnic-cultural and historical heritage conservation”, “Role of protected areas for ethnic-cultural and historical heritage conservation ”. 

One more important event of the Conference was the Round table on the problems of the Carpathian Convention Implementation. 

About 40 presentations referring to ecological and social-economic aspects of ethnic-cultural heritage conservation in the Carpathians were made and discussed during the Conference. 

At the summing-up session of the Conference a Draft Resolution was adopted, that covered such issues as local population’s culture and traditions conservation on both national and international levels. There also have been worked out the propositions to the Government of Ukraine and other countries that had ratified the Framework Convention. These propositions concerned co-ordination of activity and mutual assistance in the Carpathian Convention implementation, as well as networking of protected areas, NGOs and other scientific research and public institutions of the Carpathian Region, and also creation of inter-institutional coordinating council on the basis of the Carpathian Biosphere reserve that would work on solution of the aforementioned problems. 

In the hall where the Conference took place, there also were exhibited picture by a famous local artist Ivan Doroban and his student Maryna Bilak. In the entrance hall there also was an exhibition of works by artists Yosyp Yahnyuk and Mykhailo Vorokhta, a craftsman Mykola Voloschuk, embroideries by Maria Vorokhta and other.
This International Conference has become a preamble to another great cultural event – the XV Hutsul Festival. There are no doubts as for the importance of this Conference, as there have been discussed not only the problems of the Hutsul Land, but those concerning the original ethnic and cultural heritage of the Carpathians in general.

Ivan Voloschuk