One of Belarus’s largest pop culture conventions is modeled after Comic Cons (starting with the famous San Diego Comic-Con International) and anime festivals which are more popular in former Soviet republics than comics conventions. Universe Convention is a not-for-profit event run by volunteers. Its main goal is to create a meeting place for science fiction, fantasy, gaming and comics fans from Belarus and its neighboring countries.
The inaugural UniCon was organized by Alexander Shulyak with the help of the youth public association Avangard. Despite the fact that the organizers had some mishaps due to their lack of experience, they didn’t give up and decided to hold another UniCon in a year. About two months before the 2013 UniCon, its team welcomed a group of active users from Russian blogging site Diary.ru. They came up with some new ideas and helped make the second convention much better than the first one. Currently, UniCon team consists of about 50 people.
UniCon programming is similar to that of other fan conventions. It includes the exhibition area with fandom-themed stalls and boots which offer merchandise and interactive activities, workshops and seminars, presentations, panels and Q&A sessions with special guests (writers, publishers, actors, directors, illustrators, game developers, etc.), a cosplay show, various contests and competitions, exhibitions, and a concert on the main stage. Each year, UniCon features about 30 sci-fi and fantasy universes, from Star Wars and Star Trek to Doctor Who and Marvel Cinematic Universe.
UniCon is a two-day event that used to be held every spring (in 2016, the convention was moved to fall). Daily attendance is about 2,000 people. Although this number might seem small in comparison with world-renowned Comic Cons, it is quite impressive for Belarus, where geek culture is not mainstream.