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Aleś Bialacki

Last update: 28 October 2021
Aleś Bialacki
Literary scholar, researcher on the history of Belarusian literature, essayist, human rights defender.

President of the Viasna Human Rights Center, member of PEN Belarus, the Union of Belarusian Writers, and the Belarusian Association of Journalists (BAJ).

One of the founders and chairman of the Society of Young Writers Tutejšyja. Members of the association initiated a mass march on October 30, 1988, on the day of remembrance of the ancestors of (Dziady). The peaceful demonstration was brutally dispersed by the authorities with the use of police batons and tear gas. Aleś Bialacki was detained and fined. From 1989 to 1998, he worked as the manager of the Maksim Bahdanovič Literary Museum. In April 1996, he founded the human rights organization Viasna-96, which since 1998 has been called Viasna Human Rights Center.

Aleś Bialacki is the author of the books Literature and the Nation (1991), Runs on the Shores of Lake Geneva (2006), Sanctified by Belarushchyna (2013), Mercurial Silver of Life (2014), The cold wing of the Motherland (2014), Fight with Yourself (2016), Prison Notebook (2018). Five of these books were written behind bars.

Community Service Awards:

Per Anger Prize; the Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award; the Homo Homini Award awarded by Václav Havel himself; the award of the United States Department of State; the Lech Wałęsa Award, the Petra Kelly Award; Václav Havel Human Rights Prize of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE); award For Human Rights and Rule of Law (2019); Right Livelihood Award (2020).

He was nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Literary awards: For Freedom of Speech Award, given by Norwegian Writers Union (2011); Francišak Alachnovič Award, founded jointly by PEN Belarus and Radio Svaboda, for the best work written in prison, for the book Mercurial Silver of Fife. Prologue: notes of a human rights activist.

On April 7, 2021, Aleś Bialacki was summoned to the central office of the Investigative Committee for questioning. Aleś Bialacki demanded the interrogation report in Belarusian. As a result, the investigative activities were postponed for several days, which were needed to translate the documents into Belarusian. The interrogation took place within the framework of the criminal case under part 2 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (training or other preparation of persons to participate in group actions that grossly violate public order).

On July 14, 2021, he was arrested under parts 1 and 2 of Art. 342 (organization and financing of group actions that grossly violate public order) and part 2 of Art. 243 of the Criminal Code (tax evasion).

On October 6, it was revealed that Aleś Bialacki was charged under part 2 of Art. 243 of the Criminal Code (tax evasion).

On January 28, 2022, the Partizan District Court in Minsk heard in closed session another appeal of Aleś Bialacki for the extension of the term of detention. Judge Natalla Dziadkova rejected Bialacki’s appeal.

On September 26, 2022, it became known that the criminal case against Valancin Stefanovič, presumably Aleś Bialacki, Uładzimir Łabkovič, and other members of the Viasna Human Rights Center under part 2 of Art. 243 of the Criminal Code (tax evasion) was closed. The human rights defenders were accused of “failing to register the organization they manage in the prescribed manner as a legal entity, as well as a taxpayer, and did not submit the relevant information to the tax authorities about payments made, persons who were paying on behalf of the organization (while it presumably was providing services) and evaded recognition of the organization as a tax agent.” Aleś Bialacki, Uładzimir Łabkovič, and Valancin Stefanovič remained in custody; they were charged with smuggling (illegal movement of a large amount of cash across the customs border of the Eurasian Economic Union by an organized group) under part 4 of Art. 228 of the Criminal Code and financing of group actions that grossly violate public order, under part 2 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code. It is known that the claims of the state remain up to the same amount of money that appeared in the charge for non-payment of taxes. The three political prisoners from Viasna HRC may face from 7 to 12 years of imprisonment.

On October 7, 2022, the Nobel Committee announced that Aleś Bialacki became a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

On January 5, 2023, the trial in the criminal case of the Viasna HRC began in the court of the Leninski District Court. Among the defendants are Nobel Peace Prize laureate, chairman of the Viasna HRC, literary critic, member of the Belarusian PEN, Aleś Bialacki; his deputy Valancin Stefanovič and the coordinator of the Human Rights Defenders for Free Elections campaign Uładzimir Łabkovič were in the dock. Źmicier Sałaŭjoŭ, who is being tried in absentia, as he is outside the country. Aleś Bialacki and his colleagues were arrested on July 14, 2021, since then they have been held in Pre-trial Detention Center No. 1 in Minsk. They are tried under part 4 of Art. 228 (smuggling by an organized group) and part 2 of Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (financing of group actions that grossly violate public order). The trial is open. The defendants are kept in handcuffs and in a barred cage. At the court, Aleś Bialacki demanded that the trial is conducted in the Belarusian language and that the handcuffs are removes. The judge did not comply with these requests. Aleś Bialacki stated that had not managed to get acquainted with more than 70 volumes of criminal case materials in a single month and asked for more time. The court said that the one month allotted for this was perfectly sufficient and there was no reason to give him additional time. Aleś Bialacki demanded writing utensils, as he was only given ink chambers, with which it is impossible to take notes. Obstructions were created for observers during the trial. On January 5, Russian human rights activist Ekaterina Yanshina was arrested in court and sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention under the article on petty hooliganism (19.1 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Republic of Belarus) for taking photos and broadcasting from the courtroom. Representatives of the diplomatic corps were not allowed inside.

In his letters from prison, Aleś shares memories of his work at the Maksim Bahdanovič Literary Museum from 1989 to 1998.

On March 3, 2023, the Leninski District Court in Minsk handed down a harsh and unfair sentence to human rights defender, writer, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aleś Bialiacki: 10 years in penal colony and a fine of 185,000 rubles (approx. $73270). Valancin Stefanovič was also sentenced to 9 years in a colony, Uładzimir Łabkovič to 7 years in a colony, and Źmicier Sałaŭjoŭ to 8 years (he remains outside the country, the court heard the case and handed down the sentence in absentia). Each of the convicts was also fined 111,000 rubles (approx. $43960). Human rights defenders were falsely accused and convicted for their activities in the protection of human rights and for helping the repressed under part 4 of Art. 228 (smuggling by an organized group) and part 2 of Art. 342 (financing of group actions that grossly violate public order) of the Criminal Code. The trial was held in public. During the trial, the human rights defenders were subjected to pressure, harassment, and defamation in the pro-government media. In his last words at the court, Aleś Bialacki called the Viasna case politically motivated and separately noted the violation of language rights in the court process: “The prosecution and the court categorically refused to speak Belarusian, despite the fact that I, as the accused, am a Belarusian-speaking person in life. I speak, write, and think in Belarusian. […] This put me in an unequal position with the prosecution. I was not given the opportunity to thoroughly explain my position, to challenge this unjust and nonsensical accusation.”

On April 21, 2023, the Minsk City Court rejected the appeals.

On May 2, 2023, it was revealed that Aleś Bialacki was transferred to the Medium-security Penal Colony No. 9 in Horki.

Mail address: Aleś Bialacki, PC. No. 9, 213410, Horki, vulica Dabraliubava 16.

Aleś Bialacki Ales. Mensk – Warsaw – Mensk, 2022

Aleś Bialacki Prison diaries. Minsk, 2018

Aleś Bialacki Fighting with yourself. Creative project of poet Eduard Akulin. Minsk, 2016

Aleś Bialacki The mercurial silver of life. Minsk, 2014

Aleś Bialacki Cold wing of the native land. Vilnia, 2014

Aleś Bialacki Aśviečanyja biełaruščynaj. Vilnia, 2013

Aleś Bialacki. Jogging along the shore of Lake Geneva. Mensk, 2006

Aleś Bialacki. Literature and Nation. Minsk, 1991