Updated at 13:48,15-08-2017

A day at the Miss Dairymaid contest in Belarus - in pictures

Siarhiej Lieskiec for The Calvert Journal, part of the New East network, The Guardian

At an annual contest showcasing local workers, photographer Siarhiej Lieskiec found Soviet traditions celebrated with a modern twist. The Calvert Journal reports

Irina Nikolayevna Kachanovskaya, runner-up

Photographer Siarhiej Lieskiec has made it his work to document the lives of rural Belarusians. On a trip to a town called Maladzyechna near Minsk, Lieskiec happened upon the annual Miss Dairymaid contest, a competition celebrating the skills of women working at milking farms in the region

A day at the Miss Dairymaid contest in Belarus - in pictures



Irina out of uniform

The photographer made two portraits of each of the contestants. In one, he captured them wearing their uniforms, and the other in their own clothes.If you put those two photos together they look like different people, he says

A day at the Miss Dairymaid contest in Belarus - in pictures



Yelena Anatolyevna Yakubovskaya, runner-up

The contest is far from a usual beauty pageant, and is meant to celebrate the workers skills above anything else. Every contestant represents her own agricultural cooperative and is tested through four stages

A day at the Miss Dairymaid contest in Belarus - in pictures



Vera Miroslavovna Babey (right), winner

First, theres an introduction with a talent show where all the participants have to perform and also bring homemade cakes or pastries. Then, a theoretical test with questions about the nuances of the milking technique. After that, they have to pull apart and put back together a milking machine while explaining every stage. Finally, theres a showcase of the actual milking process

A day at the Miss Dairymaid contest in Belarus - in pictures



Yelena Vladimirovna Soroko, runner-up

To Lieskiec, the event exposed the shaky relationship between from the communal values prevalent when Belarus was part of the USSR, to the more individualist society that slowly emerged after 1991

A day at the Miss Dairymaid contest in Belarus - in pictures



Maria Mikhailovna Timoshko, winner

I was surprised to see that state ideology often sees the Soviet time as sort of golden age, the photographer says. Like in the previous epoch, there were contests held for the best workers or the most forward working collective. In the last 20 years Belarusian society has been moving from institutional to personal but ideology keeps addressing the collective memory of the past

A day at the Miss Dairymaid contest in Belarus - in pictures



Natalia Vasilyevna Guretskaya, winner

Despite the fact that this tradition dates back to Soviet times, the reality today is far from the socialist workers paradise. The atmosphere was festive but I felt a little sad, says Lieskiec

A day at the Miss Dairymaid contest in Belarus - in pictures



Alla Petrovna Sokolovskaya, runner-up

I noticed how dismissive the local TV correspondents were towards the women and I think they felt it as well. Regardless what we see in the media, there is hardly enough respect for hard labour in our society All images by Siarhiej Lieskiec. A version of this gallery first appeared on The Calvert Journal, a guide to the new east

A day at the Miss Dairymaid contest in Belarus - in pictures