About the monitoring report
Since October 2019, PEN Belarus has systematically documented the violations of cultural rights and human rights of cultural workers. This monitoring report contains statistics and analyses of violations in the field of culture during January – March 2023. It presents the summarised information collected from open sources and in direct communication with cultural figures.
NB: For users’ information security, we do not provide direct links to information sources if, according to current regulations in the Republic of Belarus, they are subject to restrictions. More information about the monitoring.
Human rights violations against cultural figures
Censorship and administrative obstacles in the cultural sector
The right to participate in cultural life
Additions to the list of cultural “extremist materials”
Combating “unnecessary” memory (historical and cultural heritage)
State policy in the field of culture
- In January – March 2023, 459 cultural and human rights violations were recorded in Belarus.
- The violations affected at least 229 cultural activists and 72 cultural organisations and communities.
- The list of political prisoners includes 115 cultural figures in colonies, prisons, pretrial detention centres or open-type institutions. At least 137 are in custody or under home confinement.
- At least 28 cultural figures were tried and convicted. The sentences include the first verdict in the ad hoc trial of cultural figure and politician Paval Latuška. Lengthy prison terms: human rights activist, writer, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Alies Bialiacki (Ales Bialiatski) and publicist and political scientist Valeryja Kasciuhova were sentenced to 10 years in prison; musician Jauhieni Hluškoŭ to nine years; culturologist, archivist, activist of the independent trade union “REP” Vaclaŭ Areška and journalist, essayist, member of the Union of Poles in Belarus Andrzej Poczobut each received eight years in prison. At least 193 cultural figures have been convicted since November 2020. The number of repeat offenders is growing.
- The authorities continue toughening the conditions of imprisonment for cultural figures already serving their sentences by opening new criminal cases under Article 411 of the Criminal Code (“Persistent disobedience to the demands of the administration of a penal institution”).
- The police arbitrarily detained at least 56 cultural figures, with 32 subjected to administrative arrests and fines and at least 12 facing criminal proceedings.
- The Ministry of Internal Affairs included 23 cultural figures in the “List of citizens of the Republic of Belarus, foreign citizens and stateless persons involved in extremist activities”. Being on this list entails a more significant limitation of rights both during the term of conviction and afterwards. Since March 2022, 127 cultural figures have been designated as persons involved in “extremist activity”, 20 people are allegedly involved in “terrorist activity”.
- The Tor Band and the Belarusian Association of Journalists are recognised as “extremist formations”.
- Another ten (10) non-profit organisations from the cultural sphere were forcibly liquidated. The total number stands now at 193 since the targeted campaign to dismantle civil society in Belarus started in late 2020.
- Additions to the list of cultural “extremist materials” – the Ministry of Information included 44 more materials on the topic of culture or social networks of cultural figures in the “National list of extremist materials”: 15 books (already 26 in total) – fiction, historical or scientific materials; 9 issues of Naša historyja magazine and three issues of ARHCE for 2018–2020; 2 music videos – “Extremist” (2023) by the band Daj Darohu and “Čerci” by the band Sumarok; 2 “VKontakte” pages – dedicated to the Belarusian neo-folk band Kryvakryž and promotion of the Belarusian feature film “Žyvie Bielarus! || Viva Belarus!” as well as other materials.
- PEN Belarus registered numerous facts of censorship and violations of cultural rights: liquidation of two publishing houses – Januškievič and Knihazbor; cancellation of the concert of the Homiel folk band Jahorava Hara; the closure of Prime Hall, a leading concert venue in Minsk; distribution of a “stop list” of banned artists in Belarus; censorship at the art exhibition of Belarusian paintings titled “Leanid Ščamialioŭ. Prysviačennie…”; detention of a sightseeing group travelling to participate in the UNESCO-listed Belarusian rite “Kaliadnyja Cary”; withdrawal from distribution of the Russian film “What Men Talk About. Simple Pleasures”; cancellation of the festival “Unfiltered Cinema”, and other examples.
- The regime’s fight against “unnecessary” historical memory: the 100-year-old fresco “Miracle on the Vistula” was painted over in the church in Soly; the monument to dissident poet Larysa Hienijuš was dismantled in Zielva.
- The state policy in the field of culture includes:
- control – regulation of exhibitions, cultural events and sightseeing guides, repertoire restrictions and loyalty-based recruitment;
- parallel importation and pirated use of music and audio-visual works;
- an increase in the number of guest artists and directors from Russia;
- patriotic education in schools and kindergartens;
- termination of agreements with France and Poland on cultural and educational cooperation;
- refusal to transliterate the names of geographical objects in the Belarusian Latin alphabet;
- persecution of everything nationally oriented and independent.
By the end of March, there were 1,474 political prisoners in Belarus. In the first quarter of 2023, at least 229 cultural figures had their rights violated. 115 cultural figures are political prisoners. At least 137 people are being held in penal colonies, prisons, and pretrial detention centres, in open-type correctional facilities (“khimiya”) or put under home confinement (the so-called “domestic khimiya”) under criminal charges. This data is incomplete, given the scale of repression against cultural figures in Belarus and that many victims choose to stay silent. At the same time, state bodies restrict the spread of information on such cases.
There were 57 detentions and 39 administrative cases against cultural figures. 28 people were convicted in criminal trials. 22 persons were designated as “extremists” and 2 as “terrorists”. Criminal proceedings were opened against 21 people. 14 searches were conducted. 8 cultural figures lost their jobs for political reasons.
On 5 January, a court in Minsk sentenced culture expert, archivist, and activist of the independent trade union “REP” Vaclaŭ Areška to 8 years in a medium-security prison. On 20 January, musician Jaŭhieni Hluškoŭ, who took a picture of a military airfield in the village of Ziabraŭka in the Homiel region, from where Russian forces launched missile attacks on the territory of Ukraine, stood a closed-door trial and was sentenced to 9 years in a medium-security colony. On 8 February, a court in Hrodna sentenced journalist, essayist and member of the Union of Poles in Belarus Andrzej Poczobut during a closed session to 8 years in a medium-security colony for expressing his views on the Belarusian protests of 2020, the historical facts of 1939 and the protection of the Polish minority. On 3 March, the human rights defender, writer, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Alies Bialiacki was sentenced by a Minsk court to 10 years in a medium-security prison and a fine of 185,000 rubles (~ USD 63,000) for his human rights activities and helping repressed people. On 17 March, in Minsk, the columnist and researcher Valeryja Kasciuhova received 10 years in prison for her intellectual work.
During the analysed period, the following people were sentenced to terms ranging from 2.5 years of home confinement to 11 years in prison: local historian and journalist Aliaksandr Lyčaŭka (3 years of home confinement), guide and researcher Valeryja Čarnamorcava (2.5 years of home confinement), singer Meryem Hierasimienka (3 years of home confinement), musician and public figure Barys Kučynski (court hearing on introducing reinforced regime: 3 years of home confinement was replaced with 2 years in prison), Andrey Žuk, owner of the ‘Banki-Butylki’ bar (2.5 years of open-type correctional facility) – in January; cameraman and cover-performer Hlieb Hladkoŭski (5 years in prison), actor, casting director Viktar Bojka (3 years of home confinement), history teacher Siarhiej Koziel (3 years of home confinement), moderator of the group “For the Single State Language in Belarus!” in the social network “VKontakte”, researcher Uladzimir Butkaviec (3 years in a medium-security prison), architect Valeryja Sokal (2.5 years of home confinement), cultural manager, video blogger and politician Siarhiej Cichanoŭski (another 1.5 years in a medium-security prison added to 18 years of imprisonment) – in February; founder of the Spanish visa centre Ruslan Labanok (11 years in a medium-security prison philologist), Italian language specialist Natalia Dulina (3.5 years in jail), musicians Uladzimir and Dzmitry Karakin (2.5 years of home confinement each), culture and etiquette expert Aksana Zareckaja (1.5 years in prison), a graduate student of the history department of the Belarusian State University Jury Ulasiuk (home confinement), photographer and journalist Hienadzi Mažejka (3 years in jail), writer and bard Aliaksiej Iljinčyk (2.5 years in prison), photographer Varvara Miadzviedzieva (home confinement) – in March.
In February – March, the following cultural figures were scheduled to stand for trials. Still, we know nothing more about them: artist-illustrator Vadzim Bahryj, artist and cartoonist Ivan Viarbicki.
In March, Paval Latuška, former minister of culture of the Republic of Belarus, former director of the Janka Kupala Theatre and politician, was sentenced in absentia to 18 years in a colony.
At least 28 cultural figures were convicted in criminal proceedings between January and March 2023.
Violations of detention conditions in closed institutions were recorded concerning 26 cultural figures. One of the consequences of the inhuman treatment of political prisoners is the deterioration of their health. Artist Ruslan Karčauli died in a Hrodna prison. According to the information received, the cause of death was pneumonia because Ruslan had received no timely medical assistance. After his transfer to a Mahilioŭ colony, translator and literature critic Aliaksandr Fiaduta had heart issues, eventually leading to his hospitalisation. Literary worker and bard Aliaksiej Iljinčyk was not allowed to receive the necessary medication, and his right arm is almost inoperative after a stroke he suffered in the spring. As a result of the information blockade, the relatives could not pass the necessary medication to philosopher Uladzimir Mackievič. Professor and organiser of cultural events Jury Bubnoŭ suffered a head injury in the pretrial detention centre. Journalist Siarhiej Sacuk’s health deteriorated when he did not receive the necessary medication. Ksienija Luckina contracted bilateral pneumonia in the colony. The health of the publicist and activist Alena Hnaŭk deteriorated. Two days after the trial culturologist Aksana Zareckaja was taken to hospital in an unconscious state. The conditions in the Belarusian prisons are a severe physical and psychological ordeal. Writer and journalist Kaciaryna Andrejeva (Bachvalava) has been imprisoned for almost 2.5 years. In one of her letters to her husband, she wrote about “enormous physical and moral fatigue“.
Authorities continued placing political prisoners who are cultural activists on preventive watch lists, transferring them to solitary confinement, a punitive isolation ward, a punishment cell, and cell-type premises (CCP). They also continued to tighten the punishment regime by transferring prisoners from the colony to jail. In February, philosopher, methodologist, and publicist Uladzimir Mackievič stood a new trial over a stricter imprisonment regime. In March, the same happened to UX/UI designer Dzmitry Kubaraŭ. At least nine cultural figures have been transferred from the corrective colony to prison as of today. Persecution of political prisoners under Article 411 of the Criminal Code (“Persistent disobedience to demands of the administration of a correctional facility”) continues. The charges were applied to convict culture manager, video blogger and politician Siarhiej Cichanoŭski in the February 2023 trial adding 1.5 years to his ongoing 18-year sentence. Artist and cartoonist Ivan Viarbicki was convicted in March under similar charges. (The publicist and activist Alena Hnaŭk’s trial started on 11 April). Following a motion by the prosecutor, the sentence was increased for musician and public figure Barys Kučynski. In late January, he saw three years of restricted freedom without referral to an open institution (home confinement) replaced with two years in prison.
During January – March this year, at least 56 cultural figures were detained (one of them twice). The number of detentions increased dramatically at the end of March. It became known on 29-30 March that police detained no less than 13 specialists associated with the Polack National Historical and Cultural Museum-Reserve. Most received 15 days of administrative arrest for the alleged “distribution of extremist materials” (Article 19.11 of the Code of Administrative Offences). In mid-April, two museum employees were reportedly subsequently charged in a criminal case. During the monitored period, at least 32 detentions ended up in administrative proceedings. At least three cultural figures were re-arrested and given additional days behind bars. At least two administrative proceedings transformed into criminal cases. Eight people were probably released on the same day or a few days later without charges. Criminal cases were opened against 17 people immediately after detention or following an administrative arrest. The fate of some of them remains not fully known. Cultural figures in administrative detention received at least 444 days of arrest (almost 15 months) and 5,254 Belarusian roubles in fines (~$1,850) during the analysed period.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs included 23 cultural figures in the “List of citizens of the Republic of Belarus, foreign citizens and stateless persons involved in extremist activities“. In total, it contains 127 persons from the cultural sphere. During the reporting period, the monitors spotted a new trend, that is, the inclusion of names of cultural figures in the “List of organisations, groups and individual entrepreneurs, involved in extremist activity” as “participants” of those “formations“. Thus, on 16 January, Tor Band was recognised as an “extremist formation” (its YouTube channel, Patreon, social networks and musical compositions were declared extremist in August 2022). Musicians Dzmitry Halavač, Jaŭhieni Burlo and Andrej Jaremčyk, as well as the press secretary of the band Julija Halavač, were included in this list as its (formation) participants. The same applies to several members of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, a non-profit organisation established in 1995 and liquidated by the Lukashenka’s authorities in August 2021. In late February 2023, the organisation appeared on the list of “extremist formations,” with poet and journalist Andrej Bastuniec (Andrei Bastunets), translator Siarhiej Kamlač (Sergei Komlach) and others listed as “participants” of this “formation”. The “List of organisations and individuals involved in terrorist activities“, maintained by the State Security Committee, already has 20 cultural figures. In 2023, Aliaksandr Franckievič, author of prison literature and anarchist, and Vadzim Vasiljeŭ, light artist, were added to the list.
In January, Polish writer Maja Wolnych was not allowed into Belarus despite the visa-free regime for Lithuania, Latvia and Poland citizens. She was banned from entering the country for 20 years.
On 10 January, Minsk Economic Court ruled to cancel the state registration certificate of the self-employed entrepreneur Andrej Januškievič, essentially meaning the closure of the Januškievič publishing house. The decision was motivated by the publication of printed editions “containing information of extremist nature“. In 2022, the Ministry of Information included three books from the publishing house in the “National list of extremist materials”. On 26 January, the founder of the Knihazbor publishing house Hienadzi Viniarski wrote on social media that his 27-year “epic” publishing activity was over.
At the beginning of January, local authorities cancelled a concert dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the folk band Jahorava Hara in Homiel. In mid-January, the website of one of the most famous concert venues in Minsk – Prime Hall – published information about the temporary closure of the club “for technical reasons”. According to the latest version, voiced in the media, the closure resulted from a corporate New Year party, at which some banned artists performed.
On 8 February, public sources published a “stop-list” of banned artists in Belarus, which includes 87 names of bands and artists. The Ukrainian rock band Nervy appears twice in the list [as Band Nervy (item 28) and Nervy (item 64)]; the Meladze brothers – Russian singer Valery and Russian-Ukrainian composer Konstantin – are included in the same line. The presence of Russian journalist Aleksey Pivovarov in the list, which focuses on music, is remarkable. Almost one in two performers/groups (38 out of 87) listed in the “stop-list” represents the Russian musical scene, every third (29 out of 87) is a Belarusian artist, and every fifth (18 out of 87) is a Ukrainian artist. We rarely include in the monitoring report the unverified lists that appear in the public space [mainly due to doubts about their credibility]. Still, this time we proceeded from the fact that this is a valid document and decided to include in this report the instances of censorship against each performer/group mentioned in it.
The participants of the Lüsterka project – a virtual exhibition of works by contemporary Belarusian artists, created by Uladzimir Maliaŭka in response to repression and “blacklists” of artists – received letters from the Ministry of Culture of Belarus informing them that state cultural institutions could no longer these authors.
On 23 February, the Palace of Arts in Minsk opened an exhibition of Belarusian paintings titled “Leanid Ščamialioŭ. Prysviačennie…“, dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the People’s Artist of Belarus. As usual, not all artists, who offered their works, saw them on the walls of the exhibition space. The “unreliability” of artists proved to be the problem. As far as public sources are concerned, the Ministry of Culture did not admit Andrej Smaliak to the exhibition (“You’re on the list!”), and at least one other artist was unavailable. As it turned out, several paintings were still on display on the opening day, but a day or two later, the works by other artists replaced them. We do not know exactly how many artists were censored at this exhibition.
In March, the website of the independent Belarusian scientific, popular science, socio-political and literary-artistic magazine ARCHE was blocked again (the last time was in July 2022) and is currently inactive. Access to the Belarusian Council of Culture website is restricted on the territory of Belarus under a Ministry of Information’s decision based on the Law on the Mass Media of the Republic of Belarus. On 7 June 2022, the Ministry of Internal Affairs designated it an “extremist formation”.
At least 10 non-profit cultural organisations were liquidated. In the first quarter of 2023, the Dance and Sports League and Ludmila Dance and Sports Club public associations were on the liquidation lists after lawsuits were filed with the Minsk City Court in October 2022 seeking to suspend their operation. By the end of March 2023, 193 influential NGOs in the cultural sphere in Belarus had been forcibly liquidated.
In January, about 80 people in a company of three tour guides travelled to the agricultural settlement of Siemiažova, Minsk Region, to attend the UNESCO-listed intangible heritage rite of “Kaliadnyha Cary” (Christmas Kings). The ceremony, held annually, takes place on the Generous evening of 13 January. The trip participants were detained and spent five hours on the bus while the police checked their documents and phones. For the guides, Ivan Sacukievič and Ales Varykiš, the trip to the rite ended with 15 and 9 days of administrative detention.
In the first half of February, the Ministry of Culture withdrew the Russia-made film “What Men Talk About. Simple Pleasures” from cinemas. The film features actors from the Quartet I theatre, who spoke out about the cruelty of the “so-called siloviki” against the people of Belarus in 2020. Their participation in the film caused censorship and prevented it from being screened for mass viewers.
The round table on the role of women in the cultural epoch at the turn of the 19th-20th centuries at the Academy of Sciences of Belarus, timed to coincide with International Women’s Day, was not held on 9 March following a “heads-up” for the police by the pro-Russian and pro-governmental activist Volha Bondarava. Bondarava found it inappropriate that the program mentioned the names of pro-Belarus independence dissident writers Natallia Arsienjeva and Larysa Hieniuš. On 16 March, it became known that the National Art Museum had to cancel the lecture “Ethnometaphysics and the sacral sphere in traditional Belarusian culture” by Iryna Dubianieckaja, senior researcher at the Institute of Philosophy of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus.
On 21 March, a few days before the start, the Ministry of Culture banned the Unfiltered Cinema festival without explanation. The IX Independent Offline festival of auteur cinema, “Cinema without commercial, ideological and aesthetic censorship?” as the organisers positioned it, was scheduled for 24-26 March in Minsk. Initially, the films on the agenda had a green light for screening and appeared in the State Register of Films of the Republic of Belarus. However, they were no longer on the register following news about the festival’s cancellation.
In this section, we would also like to leave on record the mass detentions of teenage anime fans who tried to gather in shopping malls on 28 February in Homiel and on 1 March in Brest. We did not classify this event as a violation of cultural rights, as this phenomenon is yet to be thoroughly studied. Nevertheless, we consider it necessary to pay attention to the repressions against minors, which the Investigative Committee explained as a counteraction to a new youth subculture known as PMC Redan. You can read about the history of the Japanese subculture in Belarus in this article.
44 materials containing cultural content (websites, YouTube channels, articles, clips, books) or relating to cultural figures (pages in social networks) were added to the “National list of extremist materials” by the Ministry of Information of the Republic of Belarus in January – March 2023.
- Literature and history
15 books were designated as “extremist materials”. These are works by Anatol Taras or edited by him: “Belarus Above All! (On the National Belarusian Idea)”, “Notes of the Vaclaŭ Lastoŭski Belarusian History Lovers Society. Challenges of the “Russian world” and Belarus. Issue No. 6″, “Post-Soviet Transit: Between Democracy and Dictatorship: Collection of Articles”, “Pages of the Past: Articles on the History of Belarus”; “Problems of Humanitarian Perspective in Belarus: Matters of Scientific and Practical Conference” and “Transformation of Belarusians’ Mentality in the XIX Century – Matters of Scientific and Practical Conference” (edited by A. Taras). The other added titles: Uladzimir Biešanaŭ “The Year 1942 – Study Year”; Vadzim Dzierużynski “Forgotten Belarus”; Siarhiej Zacharevič “Big Blood: How the USSR Won the War of 1941–1945”; Leanid Lievič, “The War of the Soviet Union in the Nineteenth Century” (edited by A. Taras); and others. For instance, Leanid Lyč, “National and Cultural Life in Belarus during the War (1941–1944)”; Viktor Suvorov, “Shadow of the Victory”; Oleg Usachev, “Who, How and Why Killed Wilhelm Kube”; Aliaksandr Smaliančuk, “Liberated and Imprisoned. The Polish-Belarusian Interaction in 1939–1941 in the Documents of the Belarusian Archives”; Alhierd Bacharevič “The Last Book of Mr. A.”; Anatol Hatoŭčyc “The Odyssey of Belarusian People’s Republic Captain”. Since 2021, 26 books, whether fiction, history or science, have been recognised as “extremist”.
On 27 February, a Telegram channel dedicated to the history of Belarus, Historyja, already an “extremist formation” since June 2022, was listed. On 6 March, nine issues of the popular science magazine Naša historyja and three issues of the independent scientific, popular science, socio-political and literary-artistic magazine ARCHE, published between 2018 and 2020, were listed.
On 7 February, the late 1990s punk anthem “Our home is Belarus” was declared extremist. On 8 February, Daj Darohu’s music video and lyrics of the 2023 song “Extremist” were added to the list of “extremist materials”. It was the second video of the band, which received extremist status after the 2020 video “Baju-Baj” (“Lullaby”) in August 2021. On 24 February, the page of the Belarusian neo-folk band Kryvakryž was included in the list, whose opus magnum is 2009 album Malitvy Vajny (Prayers of the War) – “extremely politicised, biased and Russophobic“. On 14 March, the video clip “Čerci” by Sumarok, containing scenes from the 2020 protests in Maladziečna, was included in the list. An October 2020 article about this video clip in the local newspaper Rehijanalnaja Gazeta was labelled as extremist material one year ago.
On 24 February, the Court of Salihorsk district in the Minsk region, among other things, recognised as extremist material a “VKontakte” group dedicated to the 2013 feature film “Žyvie Belarus! || Viva Belarus!”. It was “the first feature film about modern Belarus in the Belarusian language“, according to the group’s description.
It became known in January 2023 that in the rural settlements of Hrozava and Siemiažova, Minsk region, the crosses commemorating the participants of the 1920s anti-Bolshevik uprising went missing. On 28 February, in the Catholic church of Our Lady of Rosary (enlisted in the state list of historical and cultural properties of Belarus) in the rural settlement of Soly, Hrodna region, at the request of the authorities, the famous fresco “Miracle on the Vistula” depicting the Battle of Warsaw in 1920, a turning point in the Soviet-Polish war, was painted over. The precursor was a propaganda report aired on the state TV channel last December. Remarkably, the Soviet authorities had already painted the mural in the past.
On 30 March, news appeared about the dismantled monument to the Belarusian dissident poet Larysa Hieniuš, erected in 2003 on the Church of the Holy Life-Giving Trinity territory in the township of Zielva, Hrodna region. A week before the 40th anniversary of the poet’s death, late in the evening, the silumin bust was secretly cut down and carried away in an unknown direction. The dismantling resulted from a campaign by pro-Russian and pro-governmental activist Volha Bondarava to denigrate the memory of Larysa Hieniuš, something she had been waging since autumn 2022. The activist appealed to the ideologists of Hrodna executive committees, also wrote appeals to the Presidential Administration, the Minsk eparchy and other authorities and called the poet “a negative figure“, “an abettor of the Hitler invaders“, and “a Nazi criminal“. Despite interim failures – such as the response of the Zielva District Executive Committee about the legality of the installation of this sculpture – the dismantling took place.
- On 1 January, Decree No 582 “On Tour Guide Services” came into force, regulating the activity of tour guides and interpreter-guides. Under the edict, only certified specialists can work in the profession. Proficiency tests are not allowed for persons with a history of convictions under “political” charges. Previously issued proficiency certificates are revoked.
- The field of culture is under state control. According to the amendments to the Code of the Republic of Belarus on Culture that came into force:
- The organiser of an exhibition shall notify the relevant local authority, providing information on the organiser, the authors of the works exhibited and their creative biographies, and the exhibition’s title, date and location. However, these requirements do not apply to exhibitions held by decision of or by agreement with public authorities.
- To be able to hold a cultural event, the organiser must not only be entered on the appropriate register but also be required to obtain a special permit, a certificate, for each event. When deciding to issue such a certificate, the local authorities may request information on the participants in the event from the internal affairs bodies, state security bodies and/or the Ministry of Culture. A dedicated artistic council shall evaluate the aesthetic significance, artistic integrity, design, dramaturgy, level of performance and other components of an event. However, no certificate is required if the organiser is a public cultural authority.
- Guided tours of museums may be provided exclusively by employees of those museums. Service by other persons is prohibited.
- The decree establishes exclusive powers of the Ministry of Culture to grant and withdraw the status of cultural property.
- The Law on Restrictions on Exclusive Rights to Intellectual Property was published on 6 January. It allows the import and use of musical and audio-visual works, computer software and other intellectual property without the consent of the rights holders and payment of remuneration. In effect, it legalises the parallel import and pirated use of films, music, television and radio broadcasts from “foreign states that commit unfriendly acts”. The law will be in force for two years, until 31 December 2024.
- International cooperation: On 25 January, during the 9th session of the House of Representatives, MPs decided to terminate the agreement with Poland on education (which was signed in 2016 and dealt with the professional development of teachers of the Belarusian language in Poland and Polish in Belarus) and with France on culture, education, science and media (which was signed in 2010 and dealt, among others, with French language learning and student exchanges) – Culture Minister Anatol Markievič said further cooperation would be inappropriate
- Under the 24 March 2023 Resolution of the State Property Committee “On the transliteration of geographical objects’ names from Belarusian and Russian to other languages,” the Russian language replaces Belarusian for the designation of geographical names. Effectively, it rejects the transliteration in the Belarusian Latin alphabet. The adoption of this measure is yet another “success story” of the pro-governmental activists, the companions of Lukashenka’s regime in the struggle against the Belarusian language, historical heritage and everything Belarusian-oriented.
- Minister of Culture Anatol Markievič states that “traitors [cultural figures disloyal to the regime] have no place on stage“. The government actively recruits Russians to solve the personnel shortage caused by mass “purges” in the cultural sphere in general and several leading institutions in particular. For example, the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre employs an increasing number of Russian artists in its productions, including the ballet company, conductors and soloists. More and more Russian actors are stepping in to replace those dismissed from the Janka Kupala National Academic Theatre in August of 2020. After at least eight castings in the last two years, the cultural institution is still short of actors, and the theatre has switched to Russian performers and directors. In parallel with the roles, the actors are also learning the Belarusian language, which, for obvious reasons, none of them knows. “Belarusfilm” will shoot a film based on the novel Black Castle Alšanski by Uladzimir Karatkievič, a classic of Belarusian literature, in collaboration with a Russian director.
- Support and encouragement of figures loyal to the authorities:
- On 8 March, Minsk Palace of Sports hosted a gala concert titled “Song of the Year of Belarus.” The authors and performers were “selected considering their contribution to national musical culture’s development“. The best composition was the song “Pravda za nami” (“Truth is On Our Side”) written by Hanna Sialiuk and performed by the art group “Bielarusy”. Sialiuk, Lukashenka’s daughter-in-law, won the Best Lyrics nomination. Russian singer and composer Oleg Shaumarov won the Prize “For Contribution to the Development of the Music Industry in Belarus”. Ruslan Aliachno, a performer loyal to Lukashenko’s regime, received the award “For Fidelity to the Belarusian Popular Music Industry”.
- The first two books in the “The Genocide of the Belarusian People” series – a project of the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Republic of Belarus that reveals the alleged connection between the genocidal policies of the Nazis during World War II and the political protests in Belarus in 2020 – have been awarded the Grand Prix of the National Competition “Art of the Book”.
- Employees of the state media and cultural sector have been awarded the Francysk Skaryna Medal and received presidential commendations for their services.
- The main course of the state policy is de-Belarusisation, Russification, Sovietisation, militarisation, ideologisation, propaganda and hate speech, defamation, persecution for white-red-white symbols, the political use of history, discrimination against the Ukrainian and Polish languages, among other things.