Belarus: Speed dating 'boosts neglected language'
An art collective in Belarus has started to run speed dating evenings with a difference - potential partners must chat in Belarussian.
The Art Siadziba (Art Manor) group wants to give a boost to the neglected national language, which has gradually been squeezed out of the media, education and public life in favour of Russian during the 20-year rule of pro-Kremlin President Alexander Lukashenko. Singles hoping for a Belarussian romance have to email Art Siadziba with details about themselves - including their social media presence - in advance, and the location of the event is not made public ahead of time. Belarussian has retreated to its western and rural strongholds since a controversial referendum in 1995 granted Russian equal status, but youth groups have become increasingly active in promoting it in the capital Minsk, where native-speakers and learners find it difficult to meet kindred spirits.
After the first event was held at a Minsk cafe, speed daters interviewed by the Nasha Niva news site agreed that their dream partners should have a good knowledge of Belarussian language and history, although one young woman added the more prosaic point that any potential beau also needed to "smell nice".
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