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Monitoring Violations of Cultural Rights and Human Rights of Cultural Figures. Belarus, January – September 2022

Last update: 27 October 2022
Monitoring Violations of Cultural Rights and Human Rights of Cultural Figures. Belarus, January – September 2022

Since October 2019, the Belarusian PEN has been systematically collecting information on violations of cultural and human rights against cultural figures. This document contains statistics and analysis of violations for the nine months of 2022 and reflects the main trends and nature of the state policy in the sphere of culture. The material was prepared on the basis of generalized information collected from open sources and in direct communication with cultural figures.

NB: for the sake of users’ information security, we do not provide direct links to information sources if, according to current regulations in the Republic of Belarus, restrictions are imposed on them. More about monitoring.


From January to September 2022 there were 998 violations* of cultural and human rights against cultural figures. These include:

  • 715 violations against 403 cultural figures and individuals whose cultural rights were violated;
  • 158 violations against 133 organizations and communities;
  • 94 violations against sites of historical and cultural heritage or the Belarusian language;
  • *the total data record also includes 31 materials related to the topic of culture (website, YouTube channel, article, clip, book, etc.) or cultural figures (a page in a social network), included by the Ministry of Information of the Republic of Belarus in the list of extremist materials.


According to the Human Rights Center Viasna, there were a total of 1,324 political prisoners [1] in Belarus as of September 30, 2022. A total of 101 cultural figure has been recognized as political prisoner.

43 people are in penal colonies:  architect Arciom Takarčuk (sentenced to 3.5 years); bard and programmer Anatoĺ Chinievič (2.5 years); concert agency director Ivan Kaniavieha (3 years); documentary filmmaker and blogger Paviel Śpiryn (4.5 years); UX/UI designer Dźmitryj Kubaraŭ (7 years in a high-security colony); drummer Aliaksiej Sančuk (6 years, high-security); cultural manager Mia Mitkievič (3 years); writer and social and political activist Paviel Sieviaryniec (7 years, high-security); dancers Ihar Jarmolaŭ and Mikalaj Sasieŭ (5 years, high-security); art patron Viktar Babaryka (14 years, high-security); actor Siarhiej Volkaŭ (4 years, high-security); lighting designer Danila Hančaroŭ (2 years); musician Paviel Larčyk (3 years); poet and publicist Ksienija Syramalot (2.5 years); former students of the faculty of aesthetic education at BGPU Jana Arabiejka and Kasia Budźko (2.5 years each); former student of the Arts Academy Maryja Kalienik (2.5 years); former student of architecture at BNTU Viktoryja Hrankoŭskaja (2.5 years); designer and architect Raścislaŭ Stefanovič (8 years, high-security); musician and DJ Artur Amiraŭ (3.5 years, high-security); history and social sciences teacher Andrej Piatroŭski (1.5 years); poet, bard and lawyer Maksim Znak (10 years, high-security); musician and manager of cultural projects Maryja Kalieśnikava(11 years); musicians Uladzimir Kalač and Nadzieja Kalač (2 years each); musicians Piotr Marčanka, Julija Marčanka (Junickaja) and Anton Šnip [2] (1.5 years each); artist Alieś Puškin (5 years, high-security); writer, musician and author of the magazine Naša historyja Andrej Skurko (2,5 years); author of the musical project and director of the printing house Arciom Fiedasienka (4 years); history reconstructor and activist Kim Samusienka (6,5 years); author of texts for Naša historyja and Arche magazines Andrej Akuška (2,5 years); musician and activist Siarhiej Sparyš (6 years, high-security); non-fiction Internet author and blogger Paviel Vinahradaŭ (5 years); poet, translator and journalist Andrej Kuźniečyk (6 years, high-security); architect Ivan Paršyn (2 years); writer and activist Aliena Hnaŭk (3.5 years); jeweler and history reconstructor Michail Labań (4 years); writer and journalist Kaciaryna Andrejeva (Bachvalava) (8 years and 3 months, high-security); author and Wikipedia editor Paviel Piernikaŭ (2 years); poet and founder of the literary Honey Award Mikalaj Papieka (transferred from “chemistry” to 8.5 months in colony).

6 cultural figures are serving “chemistry” [3] sentences: poet and filmmaker Ihnat Sidorčyk (sentenced to 3 years); designer Maksim Taćcianok (3 years); scientific associate of the Center for Research of Belarusian Culture, Language and Literature of the Academy of Sciences Aliaksandr Halkoŭski (1.5 years); director of web-design studio Hlieb Kojpiš (2 years); cellist Iĺlia Hančaryk (4 years); movie actor Dzianis Ivanoŭ (2 years). [On October 6, cultural project manager and sociologist Taćciana Vadalažskaja left to serve her sentence (2.5 years)].

12 people are in prison: artist Aliaksandr Nurdzinaŭ (sentenced to 4 years in a high-security colony); artist and cartoonist Ivan Viarbicki (8 years and 1 month in a strict regime); author of prison literature, anarchist activist Mikalaj Dziadok (5 years); history promoter, blogger Eduard Paĺčys (13 years in high-security prison); author of prison literature, anarchist activist Ihar Alinievič (20 years in high-security prison) and cultural manager and blogger Siarhiej Cichanoŭski (18 years, high-security) have been transferred to prison from penal colonies. Philosopher, methodologist and publicist Uladzimir Mackievič [4] (had been sentenced to 5 years in a high-security colony), street artist and IT-specialist Dźmitryj Padrez (7 years, high-security), librarian Julija Laptanovič (5 years) and architect Aliaksiej Parecki (3 years) are waiting in a penal colony for transfer to a prison. Ethnographer and activist Uladzimir Hundar (who had been already sentenced to 3 years in penal colony) is kept in prison because of a repeated trial. Cultural manager Paviel Mažejka, detained on August 30, 2022, is also being held in prison.

38 cultural figures are being held in KGB and Ministry of Internal Affairs detention centers pending trial or transfer to a prison: cultural manager Eduard Babaryka (from 18.06.2020); poet, journalist and media manager Andrej Aliaksandraŭ [5] (from 12.01.2021); poet and member of the Union of Poles in Belarus Andrzej Poczobut (from 25.03.2021); author, editor, political analyst Valieryja Kaściuhova (from 30.06.2021); literary scholar, researcher of the history of Belarusian literature, essayist, human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Alieś Bialiacki (from 14.07.2021); musician Siarhiej Dalivielia [6] (from 29.09.2021); photographer and journalist Hienadź Mažejka (from 01.10.2021); the founder of Symbal.by, the manager of the cultural projects Paviel Bielavus (from 15.11.2021); fiction writer and journalist Siarhiej Sacuk (from 08.12.2021); musician Kryścina Čarankova (from 22.03.2022); teacher-artist Andrej Raptunovič (from 16.05.2022); former director of the event agency KRONA Siarhiej Huń (from 03.06.2022); designer and photographer Dzianis Šaramiećjeŭ [7] (from 14.06.2022); teacher of Belarusian language and literature Halina Tarnoŭskaja (from 25.07.2022); architect and musician Aliaksandr Kucharenka (from 02.08.2022); ceramist Nataĺlia Karniejeva (from 19.08.2022); local historian and journalist Jaŭhien Mierkis (from 13.09.2022).

Artist and interior designer Kanstancin Prusaŭ (sentenced to 3.5 years in penal colony on 09.02.2022); sound engineer Vadzim Dzienisienka (sentenced to 2.5 years in colony on 23.03.2022); director Dźmitryj Pancialiejka(sentenced to a year in colony on 28.03.2022); bassist Viktar Katoŭski (sentenced to 3 years in colony on 14.04.2022); theater actress Viera Ćvikievič (06.05.2022 sentenced to a year in prison); writer Aliaksandr Novikaŭ(sentenced to 2 years in colony on 27.06.2022); student of Romance-Germanic philology Danuta Pieriednia, expelled from the Moscow State University named after Kuleshov (sentenced to 6.5 years in colony on 01.07.2022); DJ Ihar Faliejčyk (sentenced to 2 years in colony on 07.07.2022);  participant of folk art festivals Aliaksiej Viačerni(sentenced to a year and 9 months in prison on 08.07.2022); publicist, author of prison literature and activist Źmicier Daškievič [8] (sentenced to 1.5 years in prison on 14.07.2022); ethnographer and traveler Ihar Haluška [9] (sentenced to 2.5 years in prison on 14.07.2022); librarian Julija Čamlaj (sentenced to 2 years in colony on 18.07.2022); photographer Valieryj Klimienčanka (sentenced to 1.5 years in colony on 01.08.2022); musician Uladzislaŭ Pliuščaŭ (sentenced to 2 years in colony on 04.08.2022); photographer Aliaksandr Kudlovič (sentenced to 2 years in colony on 17.08.2022); digital artist Viktar Kulinka (sentenced to 3 years in a high-security colony 01.09.2022); writer, translator and literary critic Aliaksandr Fiaduta (05.09.2022 sentenced to 10 years in a high-security colony); administrator of the cultural and historical Telegram channel Rezystans Mikita Śliepianok (sentenced to 3 years in a high-security colony on 09.06.2022); artist Hanna Kisialiova (sentenced to 1.5 years in colony on 15.09.2022); designer Maryna Markievič (sentenced to 2.5 years in colony on 15.09.2022); documentary filmmaker and journalist Ksienija Luckina (sentenced to 8 years in colony on 28.09.2022).

Chairperson of the Union of Poles in Belarus Andżelika Borys and former teacher of Belarusian language and literature Ema Ściepulionak were transferred to house arrest after a year of detention and still remain under political prisoner’s status.

Along with 101 political prisoners who are cultural figures, another 19 representatives of the sphere are in criminal detention [of those whose status we know about]: DJ Vitaĺ Kalieśnikaŭ (in penal colony); history reconstructor Vadzim Šyĺko (in remand prison); graphic designers Uladzimir Jaršoŭ (in colony) and Siarhiej Stocki (no information); poet, producer and blogger Uladzislaŭ Savin (transferred from colony to a detention center); musicians Vadzim Hulievič and Siarhiej Nikiciuk (no information about the places of detention); light artist Vadzim Vasiĺjeŭ (in a detention center); artist Hienadź Drazdoŭ (no information); singer Meryjem Hierasimienka (in a detention center); tour guide Aksana Mankievič [10] (in a detention center). Some are serving a “home chemistry” [11] sentence: translator Voĺha Kalackaja; poet and musician Hanna Važnik; designer Taćciana Minina; cultural manager Rehina Lavor;humorist and KVN participant Vasiĺ Kraŭčuk; Russian language and literature teacher Aliena Pucykovič; former manager of the Pružanski palacyk museum Juryj Zialievič; author, Wikipedia editor and IT specialist Mark Bernstein.


A total of 62 cultural figures were convicted in the first nine months of 2022. The charges against them ranged from one to six articles of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus. Most often they included one or more defamation articles (188, 367-370): for “insulting” or “slandering” Lukashenko or other representatives of power, “discrediting Belarus” – under the Lukashenko’s regime this is punishment for expressing opinions about what is happening in the country: 22 cultural figures had one of the defamation articles in their charges; musician Aliaksandr Kazakievič was convicted twice under the same article. The second most frequent charge is Article 342 (“Organization and preparation of events that grossly violate public order, or active participation in such”) – criminal prosecution for participation in peaceful assemblies at the 2020 protests: 21 cultural figures were convicted solely on the basis of this article, another 6 had this and other charges as part of the “crime” they had committed. The third – criminal prosecution under Article 130 (incitement of enmity or discord), also used by the judicial system of Belarus as a punishment for expressing opinions – was present in the charges of 11 cultural workers.

Most of the cultural figures were sentenced to a penal colony.  Thus, 8 people were or will be sent to a high-security colony, another 32 to a common one. 12 cultural figures were sentenced to “chemistry”, 10 – to “house chemistry”.


During January – September 2022, we recorded the detention of a string of cultural figures about whom we have no further information (in full or in part): On February 18, musician and student Kanstancin Zimnicki was detained – there was no further information about him; musician Andrej Zadziarkoŭski (May 5); history teacher at Minsk Languistic and Humanities College Andrej Darachovič (May 16); designer Alina Kaŭtunoŭskaja (May 17): it is known that she is charged under article 342, but there is no information about her current whereabouts. On 3 August director and founder of the tourist company Vijapoĺ Halina Patajeva was detained. The same happened to manager of the bar Banki-Buteĺki Andrej Žuk on 4 August (it is known that he is now in pre-trial detention, but there is no information about the charges brought against him); on 17 August to illustrator Vadzim Bahryj (there is information about article 130 of the Criminal Code, but no information about where he is being held); on 18 August to bard and writer Aliaksiej Ilinčyk and artist Hienadź Drazdoŭ (the latter was charged under article 342, but there is no information about his current whereabouts). We also know about three criminal charges against musician Siarhiej Nikiciuk, who was arrested on 25 August, but neither his whereabouts are known. On August 27 guitarist Zachar Sabin was detained. On September 13 the fact that historian Jaŭhien Hurynaŭ had been arrested came to light; it has not been revealed what charges were brought against guide Aksana Mankievič, who was arrested on 14 September and is held in a detention center; on 21 September we got to know about the detention of Arciom Ślizki, director of the project Unknown narrow-gauge railroads, engaged in the preservation and popularization of the heritage of narrow-gauge rail lines. On September 22 Dźmitryj Jurtajeŭ, children’s writer and private school teacher, has been detained. On September 28 we got to know about the detention of musician Alieh Samsonaŭ.


Persecution of cultural figures develops after they become political prisoners. There is a lot of evidence that administrative convicts face unsanitary conditions, cold, lack of mattresses in their cells, overcrowding, prohibition of correspondence, reading and walks, night inspections, poor-quality medical care, rude treatment by employees of the penitentiary system, etc.

We continue to receive reports from cultural figures detained and convicted under criminal articles that they regularly face obstruction of correspondence and deprivation of parcels, restriction of walks, reading and participating in sports activities, prohibition of calls and visits to relatives, communication with other prisoners, refusal of hospitalization, etc. There are many additional “precautions” that are being taken for political prisoners, which creates more room for control and deprivation. Another way of exerting pressure is the imposition of administrative penalties on political prisoners for spurious reasons. For instance, Maryja Kalieśnikava, a musician and manager of cultural projects, received her second reprimand because, according to the colony administration, she interrupted the head of the penal colony during the first reprimand.

One of the common practices of pressurizing prisoners disloyal to the authorities is placing them in a cell inside pre-trial detention centers (SIZO) or in a solitary confinement. History promoter and blogger Eduard Paĺčys, author of prison literature and anarchist activist Mikalaj Dziadok, ethnographer Uladzimir Hundar, philanthropist Viktar Babaryka, non-fiction author and journalist Alieh Hruździlovič, writer and activist Aliena Hnaŭk, non-fiction Internet author and blogger Paviel Vinahradaŭ were placed there once, each for 10 days or more. Mikalaj Dziadok was given the opportunity to “celebrate” New Year’s Eve in a solitary confinement and then his birthday in a SIZO cell. Author of prison literature and anarchist activist Ihar Alinievič was also placed there on his birthday.

For “persistent violations” political prisoners can be sent to special cells, from which they can leave only for work and a half-hour walk a day, where restrictions are imposed on parcels, letters, purchases of necessities in the prison store, etc. It is known that during the analyzed period Mikalaj Dziadok (4 months), cameraman Viačaslaŭ Lamanosaŭ (duration unknown), artist Alieś Puškin (5 months), and UX/UI-designer Dźmitryj Kubaraŭ (6 months) have been or may still be in such cells.

For “disturbing order at the place where the sentence is being served” one can be transferred to a “covered prison”or to institutions with higher security and worse conditions. In March 2022, the Human Rights Center “Viasna” reported about 28 political prisoners (known cases) who were transferred to prison. Representatives of the cultural sphere of the country are among them. Thus, the court had decided to replace the “chemistry” with 8.5 months in penal colony for the poet and beekeeper Mikalaj Papieka. From the colony to the prison regime were transferred artist and cartoonist Ivan Viarbicki (term unknown), artist Aliaksandr Nurdzinaŭ (2 years), author of prison literature Mikalaj Dziadok (2 years and 10 months), promoter of history and blogger Eduard Paĺčys (duration unknown) and cultural manager and blogger Siarhiej Cichanoŭski (3 years), who was transferred to prison just after a month in the colony.

Regarding the practice of repeated trials: We know from public reports that in order to exert further pressure on those brought to administrative responsibility for political reasons the administration uses a method that is known as “carousel”. It is a practice of retrial, when at the end of serving one day in penitentiary a prisoner is put on another trial and immediately arrested for another day. This is what happened during the analyzed period to the manager of cultural projects and human rights activist Aliaksandr Kapucki, book publisher Andrej Januškievič, literary critic Nasta Karnackaja, teacher-artist Andrej Raptunovič, musician Barys Žachoŭski, singer Meryjem Hierasimienka, musician Ihar Bancar, philosophy teacher at Minsk Theological Academy and priest Uladzislaŭ Bahamoĺnikaŭ, poet Anatoĺ Sanacienka.  On several occasions administrative cases turned later into criminal prosecution.

All this also happens to those who had already been convicted of criminal offenses. For example, there were repeated proceedings against literary critic and journalist Kaciaryna Andrejeva (Bachvalava) which resulted not only in her not being released in early September 2022 upon expiration of her first sentence (two years in a minimum-security colony), but also in her being sentenced again to eight years and three months in a high-security colony. One of the defendants in “The Aŭtuchovič case” [alleged preparation of an act of terrorism] is ethnographer Uladzimir Hundar [12], who is already serving a three-year sentence in colony. A few months after the first verdict (3 years of “home chemistry”) librarian Julija Laptanovič was detained and sentenced to 5 years in colony in a new criminal case. A week after the first trial and the sentence of 1.5 years of “house chemistry,” musician Aliaksandr Kazakievič was detained again under the same criminal article and after two months in pre-trial detention was sentenced to a total of 2 years of “house chemistry”. Writer and activist Aliena Hnaŭk is a record-breaker in the number of sentences: first she was sentenced to 2 years of “house chemistry”, the second time – to 3 years of “house chemistry” (a total of the sentences), the third time – to 3.5 years in colony. It has also been revealed that another trial awaits poet, producer and blogger Uladzislaŭ Savin and musician Uladzislaŭ Pliuščaŭ.


During the nine months of 2022, 30 cultural figures were added to the list of persons “involved in extremist activity” maintained by the Ministry of Internal Affairs: Maksim Znak, Maryja Kalieśnikava, Paviel Sieviaryniec, Artur Amiraŭ, Mikalaj Dziadok, Eduard Paĺčys, Julija Laptanovič, Alieś Puškin, Arciom Fiedasienka, Andrej Ščyhieĺ, Vasiĺ Kraŭčuk, Maksim Šaŭlinski, Siarhiej Sparyš, Dźmitryj Padrez, Mia Mitkievič, Paviel Śpiryn, Ihar Alinievič, Uladzislaŭ Makaviecki, Paviel Piernikaŭ, Paviel Vinahradaŭ, Viktar Katoŭski, Michail Labań, Ivan Paršyn, Valieryj Klimienčanka, Vadzim Dzienisienka, Aliena Hnaŭk, Juryj Zialievič, Aksana Kaśpiarovič, Andrej Kuźniečyk and Andrej Piatroŭski. Counting those added to the list in the first half of October 2022, there are already 54 cultural figures on it at the time of publication of this report.

The names of 12 cultural figures that included in the “List of organizations and individuals involved in terrorist activities” maintained by the State Security Committee are: Siarhiej Sparyš, Maksim Znak, Maryja Kalieśnikava, Danuta Pieradnia, Aksana Kaśpiarovič, Aliaksiej Parecki, Ivan Viarbicki, Julija Čamlaj, Paviel Vinahradaŭ, Siarhiej Cichanoŭski, Viktar Katoŭski i Ivan Paršyn. With four more people who are on the list from 2021 (Ihar Alinievič, Paviel Latuška, Anton Matoĺka, Vadzim Hilievič) also Andrzej Poczobut and Ihar Haluška (who were added in October 2022) – at the time of publication of the report, at least 18 cultural figures have the status of “terrorists”.

Paviel Sapielka, lawyer of the Human Rights Center Viasna, notes that people on these lists suffer a significant “loss of rights” for the term of their criminal record and after. It applies to the ability to engage in certain activities, and the difficulty of conducting financial transactions, and a few others. Violin teacher Aksana Kaśpiarovič, who was released from prison at the end of her sentence, said that her name on the terrorist list resulted in the blocking of all her bank accounts and the inability to open new ones, which, in turn, deprived her of the opportunity to work in Belarus [13].


Lawtrend alongside with the OEEC monitors the forced liquidation [14] and self-liquidation [15] of non-profit organizations. From January to September 2022, at least 49 public organizations registered as cultural or having such a component in their activities were subjected to forced liquidation. Among them was the institution of culture Terytoryja Miuzikla Theater. In the semi-annual report it was mentioned that at the beginning of the year the theater had to cancel its performances twice for reasons beyond its control, its activity was suspended and in July it was liquidated by the decision of Minsk City Executive Committee. There were several cases of appeal but none of the court decisions have been overturned.

The persecution of independent publishers continues. In spring the Ministry of Information has suspended the activity of 4 independent publishers that printed books of Belarusian authors and in Belarusian language for three months: Medysont and Goliaths – since April 15th, Limarius and Knihazbor” – since May 16th. To date, there is no indication that any of these publishers have been allowed to continue their work after three months. Besides, according to the state register, Goliaths and Limarius are already in the process of liquidation.

Since mid-May the activity of Minsk music club Brugge has been “suspended“. “For technical reasons” the bar Banki-Butelki was closed, which was inspected by the Ministry of Taxes and Duties of the Republic of Belarus on 4 August, and its manager Andrej Žuk was detained the same evening. At the beginning of September representatives of the law enforcement agencies “paid a visit” to the antiques store Buržuaznyja Kaštoŭnaści, which has also been closed“due to technical reasons”. On September 16th the musical bar Graffiti was closed. It had opened in Minsk in 1999 and became a landmark in the music industry. In the first half of the year Lo-Fi Social Club, the cultural center Korpus, and the event space Miesca announced the termination of their work in Minsk, and the gallery 400 squares has been closed in Hrodna.


In Belarus, the existence of censorship, the control by the state over the content of artistic works (in the broad sense), is an indisputable fact. For decades there has been a phenomenon of “black lists” of musicians disloyal to the authorities; we know about the list of actors, writers, and even photographers who are prohibited from free distribution of their works; there is an unspoken ban on the profession. Over the past two years, we have regularly documented the cancellation of performances, the removal of books by certain authors from libraries and stores, refusals to grant touring certificates, etc.

Thus, during the analyzed period was canceled spectacle Graded Essay (“Кантрольнае сачыненне”) at the Belarusian Theater for Young Audience, the plot of which is based on the conflict between the school administration and the graduates, who seek justice. At the Musical Theater, the premiere of the operetta The Duchess from Chicago(“Герцогиня из Чикаго”) was canceled as the play alludes to the current events (e.g., jokes about the beginning of the war). Plays by some authors were removed from the repertoire of several theaters and as mentioned above, the Terytoryja Miuzikla Theater was liquidated.

The following art exhibitions were censored: Troubling Suitcase (“Тревожный чемоданчик”) in the gallery of the Union of Designers; The Time of Screens (“Час экранаў”) by Ryhor Ivanoŭ, Demography (“Дэмаграфія”) by Siarhiej Hrynievič and Art-Minsk in the Minsk Palace of Arts; SCULPTURE in the gallery 400 squares in Hrodna; This is a diagnosis (“Это диагноз”) in the Minsk Factory space. We know of other cases of interference and control – when representatives of administration came to the exhibitions and ordered to remove certain authors’ works. For unknown reasons, several murals in Minsk were painted over by the decision of local authorities.

Singer Meryjem Hierasimienka was arrested the day after a street concert where, among other things, she performed a song written by the Ukrainian band Okean Elzy. There were several cases of unjustified detention of street musicians. It is known that a representative of security agencies is always present in the hall during the concerts of the state bands and orchestras. The Ministry of Culture did not allow a tour of the band Shortparis as its frontman Mikalaj Kamiahin is known for his anti-war stance.

Books by Śviatlana Alieksijevič, Saša Filipienka and some other writers continue to be withdrawn from libraries. After a denunciation by a pro-governmental activist, several books on LGBT topics were removed from OZ Books stores. The publishers were forced to withdraw from stores books that had been improperly included by the Ministry of Information into the list of “extremist materials”.

Censorship made it impossible to organize the official screening of the film Three Comrades (“Тры таварышы”) by Uladzimir Kazloŭ in Belarus.

The Ministry of Information blocked the website of the photo project The Square of Changes and an independent literature and popular science magazine ARCHE.

Due to the potential threat of persecution for creative expression, the phenomenon known as self-censorship is gaining momentum. Currently, Belarusian creators tend to work anonymously on their projects, events are often of closed nature, and many activities are suspended or canceled.

We regularly receive messages of the following content: “… refused to give a public lecture so as not to attract any unnecessary attention“, “… for security reasons decided not to continue holding a literary …”, “… said that under the name of … it is better not to hold this festival“, “… asked to remove from social networks … publication of her illustrations“, “… refused to award the Alieś Adamovič Literary Award“, etc.

Not all works of art end up in the exhibition space by the decision of their authors. Many events are held online – for instance, the festival of independent filmmaking HLIADAČ, which was supposed to take place in Minsk offline. Cancelation of an event may not be the only option, even if it had already attracted the attention of the security agencies, but it must be done as inconspicuously as possible – e.g., The Orsha Battle festival was held like this. Numerous creators of documentaries, reports, articles and other materials remain anonymous. Tour guides during their excursions are forced to choose words and choose what they can or should not talk about, because “you never know who could be listening to you“.


From the beginning of the protests in August 2020 [that arose in response to the rigged presidential election and unprecedented violence by the security forces] to the present day, the Lukashenko regime has engaged in the anti-Western rhetoric and even more in the anti-Polish rhetoric. Having made Poland one of the enemies of the Belarusian people, the authorities exert massive pressure on the Polish minority and conduct a slanderous anti-Polish campaign in the media.

Thus, in March 2021, the leadership of the Union of Poles, unregistered in Belarus, was detained. Its chairperson Andżelika Borys and member of the Union Andrzej Poczobut are defendants in the “rehabilitation of Nazism” case and are considered political prisoners. Artist Alieś Puškin, also detained at the end of March 2021, has been serving a 5-year sentence in a high-security colony since April 2022 for his portrait of Jaŭhien Žychar, a member of the anti-Bolshevik post-war underground, whom, according to the indictment, he “glorified”. Throughout 2021 pressure was put on members and activists of the Union of Poles and the Polish minority throughout Belarus. Additionally, the Polish School in Brest was liquidated. Polish Institute in Minsk has been inactive for a while, its website and social media pages have not been updated since spring and summer 2021, and the Union of Poles in Belarus’ website znadniemna.pl was declared extremist material in December. In May 2022 the same fate befell on nadniemnemgrodno.pl. In February, the resource Radio Racyja, a media outlet based in Poland that criticizes the government of Belarus, was added to the list. In April, the Internet resource MOST (“information bridge between Belarus and Poland“, as stated on the site) was also added to the list.  Same happened to the Polish websites polskieradio.pl and polskieradio24.pl in late July 2022.

The list of non-profit organizations subject to forced liquidation in January-September 2022 also includes the oldest Polish organizations operating in Belarus: Club of Polish Folk Traditions (registered in 1994), Society of Polish Culture in Lidčina (1994), Polish Scientific Society (1994), Polska Macierz Szkolna (1995), and Wspólnota Polaków (2019).

On the recommendation of the state security bodies in Pinsk the planned events dedicated to the 90th anniversary of Ryszard Kapuscinski, a well-known Polish writer and journalist, were cancelled. As a result of pressure and statements of a pro-governmental activist about the “pro-Poland” character of the literary critic and translator Adam Maldis, the Hrodna Regional Executive Committee suspended the procedure of naming the Astravecki district library after Adam Maldis, an honorable native of Astraveсki district.

Similarly, in 2022, at the new stage of persecution of Poles, Polish [and Lithuanian] minorities have been deprived of the opportunity to study in their native language. According to new law [16], from September 1th only the state language [Russian or Belarusian] can be the language of teaching. That is why teaching in Polish schools in Hrodna and Vaŭkavysk is conducted in Russian language from the new school year and Polis was reduced just to a subject – one hour a week of Polish language and literature lessons.

One of the topics of anti-Polish rhetoric in the state media concerns the partisans of the Polish Home Army, whichallegedly purposely exterminated Belarusians during World War II. Back in April 2021, official Minsk initiated criminal proceedings against former fighters of the army, and at the end of June 2022 the destruction of the “unnecessary” memory – the Polish historical heritage in Belarus began [17]. As of the end of September, at least 12 memorial sites in Hrodna region were damaged: in the following villages: Jedkavičy, Stryjeŭka, Surkanty, Pliabaniški, Mikuliški, Kačyčy, Pieskaŭcy, Bahdany, Babrovičy, Dyndyliški. Not only that, in Vaŭkavysk and Ašmiany vandals pushed back gravestones, destroyed the graves of soldiers. By order of the local authorities, a memorial plaque in memory of soldiers of the Home Army was removed from the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Iŭje. A similar memorial plaque had been removed from the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary in town Soly back in August 2021.

In September this year, Lukashenko drew attention to the holders of the Pole Card: “they either are citizens of Belarus, or maybe they are just misguided, pretending that they took this card by accident, or they have a different kind of “orientation[18]. Soon after the statement, the first evidence began to come in that the law enforcement authorities started collecting data on the citizens’ ability to relocate to another state or a Pole’s Card.


  • Discrimination of the Belarusian language

Violation of the rights of Belarusian-speaking citizens and discriminatory attitude to the Belarusian language remain. Belarusians are persecuted for their “Belarusianness,” and there is evidence that talking in the Belarusian language can be the reason for being detained on the street. In the penitentiary system, as well as in public services, employees of institutions may demand that they be spoken to “in a normal language” [Russian]. There is very little Belarusian, one of the two state languages, in the public space as well. Thus, banners developed by the Ministry of Culture in honor of anniversaries of famous Belarusian figures appeared all over Belarus this summer – all of them exclusively in Russian. Numerous outdoor advertisements devoted to the so-called Year of Historical Memory were also made in Russian. The suppression of the use of the Belarusian language leads to under-enrollment in Belarusian-language classes, low demand for the specialty “Belarusian language and literature” (for example, the University of Hrodna submitted only 16 applications for the new enrollment) and other issues.

  • Dismissals from state cultural and educational institutions

Dismissals of specialists disloyal to the regime, who work in the sphere of culture or teach about culture, language, and history in educational institutions has been present in all of Belarus since the second half of 2020. The monitoring contains information about 55 cases of dismissal, non-renewal of the contract or creation of conditions for the employee to quit “by mutual agreement of the parties”. There were cases of dismissal from the Ministry of Culture, the Theater for Young Audience, the Republican Theatre of Belarusian Drama in Minsk, the Yakub Kolas National Academic Drama Theatre, the Mahilioŭ Drama and Comedy Theater, the University of Culture, the Minsk State Gymnasium-College of Arts, the Belarusian State Philharmonic Society, the Grand Theater of Opera and Ballet, Yakub Kolas Institute of Linguistics, National Historical Archives of Belarus, Maksim Bagdanovich Literary Museum, Belkniga, Mastactva Magazine, Polack, Hrodna and Belarusian State Universities, secondary schools, and other educational institutions.

  • Recognizing materials as extremist

In the third quarter of 2022, the list was updated with new websites and YouTube channels on culture: the previously mentioned polskieradio.pl and polskieradio24.pl, the website and social networks of the Belarusian Council for Culture, Symbal.by and Hodna.by, the YouTube channel TOK | TALK, etc. The list was also supplemented with the popular science encyclopedia “Luftwaffe Heroes” by Kanstancin Zalieski and the book “A short course of the history of Belarus of the IX–XXI centuries” by Anatol Taras. A total of 6 books have been added to the list of extremist materials during 9 months period of 2022.

  • Persecution for Belarusian and Ukrainian national symbols

Persecution for the use of white-red-white and Ukrainian (blue-yellow) symbols remains.

In the conditions of the socio-political crisis, repressions, the ban on the profession, which has been very common for the last two years, cultural figures are leaving the country individually or all together – theater troupes, musical bands, publishing groups, etc. New books written by independent Belarusian publishers are issued abroad. Festivals, film shows, and other events are also held outside the country. Due to the departure of a large number of representatives of the independent cultural sector, the quality of the cultural product in the country is falling as a whole. The main demand of the state culture is for promotion of the theme of the Second World War and genocide of the Belarusian people: thematic expositions, “lessons of memory” and school elective courses, museum exhibitions, video projects, presentations of books and contests of creative works on this topic, mobile propaganda structures in the streets of cities, state purchases of films about the war etc. The government’s actions negate the possibility of cultural exchange and diversity. Foreign creators cannot [and do not want] to perform in Belarus. Only products of Russian culture are heavily imported into Belarus. The list of international events that took place without the participation of Belarusian (and Russian) performers grows, while Ukraine undertakes actions to reduce the presence of the Belarusian culture in its country.


The state takes further steps to strengthen control in the sphere of culture and to minimize the presence of the independent sector in it by creating new registers, lists, commissions, attestations, etc. Here are a few examples ofexpansion of the state’s tools of control during the analyzed period.

  • Register of organizers of cultural and entertainment events

On August 1th, a decree came into force, according to which only organizations which are in the register of organizers of cultural and entertainment events can carry out such activities. Organizers who are subject to inclusion in the register, but are not included in it, cannot hold cultural and entertainment events [19]. The list is formed and maintained by the Ministry of Culture or a person authorized by it, and in order to make a decision on inclusion in the register, the commission analyzes the artistic level of events previously held by that person, the presence of any violations, the criminal record or administrative responsibility of the organizer under a number of articles of the Criminal Code [20] [including defamation articles and the “protest” 342d].

  • National Register of Tour Leaders and Guides

On September 2d, the government adopted a decree no. 582 “On the excursion service” [21]. According to it, tour leaders and guides are required to undergo an attestation, confirming their qualifications. Since 1 January 2023, only specialists listed in register maintained by the Ministry of Sports and Tourism will be allowed to work [22].

  • The Book Quality Control Committee

On September 3d a senior member of the pro-government Union of Writers said that “at the behest and with prompting” of the Ministry of Information a Commission for monitoring the quality of books has been created and its main task will be to carry out public control over the products of bookstores in terms of their ideological component and artistic quality [23].

  • Committee on Oversight over the Activities of The Institute of History

This commission was created under Lukashenka’s Administration and is headed by deputy head of the Administration Maksim Ryžankoŭ. The commission consists of ideologically motivated historians.

[1] The procedure for recognition as a political prisoner is established by a certain framework document.

[2] On October 11, Piotr Marčanka, Julija Marčanka (Junickaja) and Anton Šnip were released after serving their full sentences.

[3] This is the colloquial name for one of the types of punishment according to criminal articles – restriction of freedom with referral to an open-type correctional institution.

[4] On October 14, Uladzimir Mackievič was transferred to a colony.

[5] On October 6, Andrej Aliaksandraŭ was sentenced to 14 years in colony.

[6] On October 7, Siarhiej Dalivielia was sentenced to 2 years in prison.

[7] On October 18, Dzianis Šaramiećjeŭwas sentenced to 2 years in colony.

[8] In early October, Źmicier Daškievičwas transferred to a colony.

[9] In early October, Ihar Haluška was transferred to a colony.

[10] On October 5, Hienadź Drazdoŭ, Meryjem Hierasimienka and Aksana Mankievič were recognized as political prisoners.

[11] This is the colloquial name for one of the types of punishment according to criminal articles – restriction of freedom without sending to an open-type correctional institution.

[12] On October 17, local historian Uladzimir Hundar was sentenced to 18 years in a high-security colony.

[13] “I sacrificed many years of work to this country. Why am I being forced to leave?”

[14] Monitoring of NGOs that are in the process of forced liquidation.

[15] List of NGOs, in respect of which a decision on self-liquidation has been made.

[16] On changing the Code of the Republic of Belarus on education.

[17] Destruction of Polish memorials and cemeteries in Belarus.

[18] Lukashenko on the Pole Card.

[19] Register of organizers of cultural and spectator events in Belarus.

[20] About the register of organizers of cultural and spectator events.

[21] Resolution “On the Excursion Service”.

[22] National Register of Tour Leaders and Guides.

[23] The Book Quality Control Committee.