Nominations for Union prizes in literature and art have started in Russia and Belarus, Sergei Kalashnikov, deputy state secretary of the Russia-Belarus Union, told a news conference in Moscow.
The prizes were instituted by decision of the Union's Supreme Council in the spring of 1999.
Winners are determined once in two years - three laureates each get a prize equal to 1,250 times the minimum wage in Russia /in 2002, it is about 17,000 US dollars/. The main selection criterion is the public significance of the candidate's contribution to the strengthening of cooperation between Russia and Belarus in culture, literature and art. Kalashnikov described the prizes as "a symbol of unification" of the two states.
Prizes will be handed on Unification Day of the Peoples of Russia and Belarus /April 2/ and the next ceremony will be held in 2004.
The first prizes of the Union were presented in September 2002 in Minsk by Alexander Lukashenko, chairman of the Supreme State Council of the Union state and Belarussian president. The winners were People's Artist of Russia Alexei Petrenko for his roles in films made at Russian and Belarus studios; Belarussian dramatist Alexei Dudarev, Merited Artist of Belarus, for a cycle of plays and film scenarios; and People's Writer of Belarus Ivan Shamyakin, for a collection of stories "In Search of a Shelter".