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Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in the Cultural Sphere (October 15 – 31, 2022)

Last update: 1 November 2022
Chronicle of Human Rights Violations in the Cultural Sphere (October 15 – 31, 2022)

The state uses repression as a tool to establish a monopoly in the sphere of culture. The regime tracks and destroys uncontrollable cultural activities. Non-governmental organizations and foundations that contribute to the development of culture are getting liquidated. On October 25, the decision of the Minsk City Court liquidated a charity fund “Viartannie”/”Return” – a long-term partner of the Belarusian PEN. Criminal cases have been instituted against tour organizers Valeryia Charnamortsava and Ihar Khmara, and musician Aliaksei KuzminSiarhei Satsuk, a journalist and writer, was sentenced to 8 years in prison. The imprisoned Nobel laureate, human rights defender and man of letters Ales Bialiatski is still restricted in correspondence. On October 18, the court of the Central District of Minsk recognized a book by Joseph Brodsky “The Ballad of a Little Tugboat” and a book by Uladzimir Arlou “Fatherland: A colorful story. From Rahneda to Kastsiushka” as “extremist”; both books were published by a publishing house “Yanushkevich”.

I. Criminal politically motivated cases against cultural figures, authors and performers

  1. On October 18, it became known that a criminal case had been opened against Ihar Khmara according to Art. 342 of the Criminal Code (organization and preparation of actions that grossly violate public order, or active participation in them). Ihar Khmara was detained in Minsk in August 2022 after a tour of the city. Ihar Khmara is a tour guide and journalist. He collaborated with the Realt.by portal.
  2. On October 18, Valeryia Charnamortsava, an organizer of tours around Belarus, researcher of the history of Soviet repressions was detained in Minsk. On October 28, after 10 days of administrative arrest, Valeryia Charnamortsava was not released, it became known that she had been transferred to a pre-trial detention center on Valadarski Street in Minsk, and a criminal case had been opened against her.
  3. On October 26, the Minsk City Court handed down a verdict in the criminal case against a journalist and writer Siarhei Satsuk – 8 years of imprisonment in a colony under the general regime, as well as a fine of 500 basic values, or 16,000 rubles. Siarhei Satsuk is deprived of the right to hold positions related to the performance of organizational and managerial and administrative and economic duties for a period of 5 years. In addition, the court decided to collect 12,384 rubles from Siarhei Satsuk as state income. Siarhei Satsuk was tried according to Art. 430 of the Criminal Code (receiving a bribe), Art. 130 of the Criminal Code (inciting enmity), Art. 426 of the Criminal Code (abuse of authority or official powers). Siarhei Satsuk is a fiction writer, investigative journalist, editor-in-chief of the Yezhenedelnik electronic newspaper.
  4. On October 26, in Minsk police detained Aliaksei Kuzmin, the soloist of a music band “Zakon Huku”; he is accused of transferring data to the administrators of the “Black Book of Belarus”, which threatens a criminal case.
  5. On October 26, the court of Baranavichy District and Baranavichy City handed down a new sentence to a blogger Uladzislau Savin, who is already serving 8 years in prison for a “large-scale fraud” (Part 4 of Art. 209 of the Criminal Code), as well as for organizing and participating in protest actions (Art. 342 of the Criminal Code). Now Uladzislau Savin was tried for a poem that he had written in the cell and used in the appeal. According to the accusers, the poem contains an insult to the president. Uladzislau Savin was convicted under Art. 368 of the Criminal Code for 2 years in prison, which are added to his term of imprisonment. The poem was not quoted at the trial.
  6. On October 27, in Vaukavysk district, after a search and withdrawal of documents three employees of an enterprise “Padarosk Estate” were detained as part of the investigation of a criminal case. The detained are Yury Melyashkevich, Deputy Chairman of the public association “Belarusian Voluntary Society for the Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments”, financial director Dzmitry Karabach and an accountant Volha Baltrukevich. The initiative “Padarosk Estate” restores the Chachot-Bochvits estate in Padarosk. In 2013, it was bought by a philanthropist Pavel Padkarytau.

II. Politically motivated administrative detentions and arrests of cultural figures, authors and performers

  1. On October 18, in Hrodna police detained a teacher of HrSU Sviatlana Silava, a candidate of historical sciences, associate professor. Since 2000, Sviatlana Silava has been working at the Department of History of Belarus at Hrodna State University, researching the history of the Orthodox Church from the 18th century to the times of communist totalitarianism. On October 21, it became known that Sviatlana Silava had been fined for “disseminating extremist materials”, and her mobile phone was confiscated.
  2. On October 27, in Mahiliou police detained a musician Aliaksei Vorantsau. His house was searched. Aliaksei Vorantsau is a drummer and guitarist; he played in bands “Bez.not» and “Wonder Spak».
  3. On October 28, members of a band “Tor Band” were detained in Rahachou – they were sentenced to 15 days of arrest each.The musicians were arrested under Art. 19.11 of the Code of Administrative Violations for subscribing to “extremist” channels and forwarding messages from them.
  4. On October 28, the decision to arrest an Orthodox priest Uladzislau Bahamolnikau was issued for the fifth time. The priest conducted a memorial service for an artist Raman Bandarenka, who had been killed during post-election protests in 2020. Uladzislau Bahamolnikau is a cleric of the Church of the Epiphany in Minsk, the head of the church-historical museum of the Belarusian Orthodox Church, a philosophy teacher at the seminary, the son of a famous Belarusian archaeologist Uladzimir Bahamolnikau.

III. Trials and arrests for Belarusian and Ukrainian national symbols

A criminal case has been opened against 6 people who hung large white-red-white and yellow-blue flags in Minsk at the beginning of October and were detained.

IV. Conditions in places of imprisonment

Nobel laureate, literary critic and human rights defender Ales Bialiatski is still restricted in correspondence.

V. Repression in the book sphere

  1. On October 18, the court of the Central District of Minsk recognized a book by Joseph Brodsky “The Ballad of the Little Tugboat”, published by the “Yanushkevich” publishing house, as “extremist”. The head of the publishing house Andrei Yanushkevich commented on the court decision: “When on May 16, the people of HUBAZIK (Chief Department of Organized Crime and Corruption Control) came to the “Bookstore” and started confiscating books, I asked the head boss what they didn’t like about the Nobel laureate’s book. A children’s poem published in 1962, the text has nothing to do with Belarus… In response, I heard that the color of the tug in the illustrations is suspicious (?!). During the entire time, neither I nor anyone involved in publishing the book even thought of associating images of the dark orange tugboat with our national symbols. None of our customers expressed such thoughts, even as a joke. I didn’t see such thoughts in social networks either. The first person who saw in the pictures a threat to the Belarusian regime was the above-mentioned man from HUBAZIK.”
  2. On October 18, the court of the Central District of Minsk recognized  a book by Uladzimir Arlou “Fatherland: A colorful story. From Rahneda to Kastsiushka” as “extremist”. The book was published by the publishing house “Yanushkevich”.

VI. Dismissals from state institutions of culture for civil position

  1. On October 20, it became known that Yauhen Klimakou had been dismissed from the position of the head of the Belarusian State Puppet Theater.
  2. On October 21, it became known that the head of the Belarusian State Archive-Museum of Literature and Art Hanna Zapartyka did not get her contract extended. Hanna Zapartyka has worked in the Archive since 1978 and, in 1994, she officially became the head of BSAMLA. Hanna Zapartyka is the author of historical essays, the editor of a book by a poet Pauliuk Trus “The Selected” (2000), of an uncensored version of Paulina Miadziolka’s memoirs “Paths of Life” (2018), one of the authors of the collection of works of the literary critic Adam Babareka (2011), a participant in numerous international and national conferences.
  3. On October 29, it became known that the leading researcher of Yanka Kupala Literary Museum Pavel Karaliou will not get his employment contract extended.

VII. State vandalism against places of memory

On October 23, there was information that in Lida, Hrodna region, someone had damaged a monument to the soldiers of the Polish Army who died in 1920 in the Battle of Nioman, at a cemetery near the village of Feliksava, Lida district. The act of vandalism was preceded by a publication on October 5 in the state mass medium “SB. Belarus Today”, in which a propagandist Liudmila Hladkaya was outraged that members of the Home Army were buried at the Lida cemetery, and that on the monument to soldiers of the Polish Army it was written “died for the Motherland in 1919-1920.” “For the motherland, you know? In other words, the Polish occupiers considered Western Belarus to be theirs even then. I have a question: in this situation, is there nothing confusing for the civil servants, specialists who are responsible for ideology, historical memory (communal economy, after all) on the ground?” – wrote Hladkaya.

VIII. Liquidation of organizations and foundations that promote culture

On October 25, by the decision of the Minsk City Court, the charity fund “Viartannie”/ “Return”, the founder of which is a philanthropist Pavel Padkarytau (Bierahovich), was liquidated. The “Viartannie”/”Return” Foundation contributed to the development of Belarusian culture, science, and education, and was a long-term partner of the Belarusian PEN.