Political prisoner wins literary award: ‘Belarus is where the Belarusian consciousness, literature and language are’


On 13 May, laureates of Ales Adamovich and Francishak Bahushevich literary awards were honoured in Minsk. Political prisoner Ales Bialiatski won the Ales Adamovich Award for the book ‘Enlightened by Belarus’. Zmicer Matveichyk won the Bagushevich Award with the book ‘Uprising of 1863-1864: an Essay of the Hostilities’.

Natallia Pinchuk received the award on behalf of her husband Ales Bialiatski. She said that imprisoned human rights defender already knows about the award.

Pinchuk read the appeal of Bialiatski: ‘The book has gained a certain underlying meaning because the issues that it raises are important from the prospect of the existence of our nation (…) Belarus is where the Belarusian consciousness, culture and language are. If our neighbours define themselves as the “Russian World” in the same manner, we define ourselves as the “Belarusian World” and will stand up for it,’ Ales Bialiatski writes.

Natallia Pinchuk added that the author considers the book ‘Enlightened by Belarus’ as the summing up of his 25 years of work.

Natallia Adamovich, Ales Adamovich’s daughter, in whose honour the award was established, said that Bialiatski became the 34th prize-winner.

“Previously, books were being burned, and today a new form of censorship emerged – a ban on the import of the books,”Natallia Adamovich said emphasizing importance of the book.

On 3 July 2013, at the Lithuanian-Belarusian border, the customs officers confiscated 40 copies of Ales Bialiatski’s book ‘Enlightened by Belarus’ from human rights defender Tatsiana Raviaka. The books were printed in Lithuania. Tatsiana Raviaka carried the copies of the book for the friends of Ales Bialiatski.

Later, on the basis of expert opinion, the court concluded that the book contains material which may cause damage to the economic and political interests of the country, and decided to take the book back to Lithuania.

In 2011, the court sentenced author of the book Ales Bialiatski to four and a half years of strict regime colony imprisonment with confiscation of the property for allegedly failing to pay taxes on donations which were used for the activities of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” and the aid to political prisoners.

The Ales Adamovich Award is the annual literary prize of the Belarusian PEN Center, founded in 1995. The prize is awarded for the best nonfiction book of the year.

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In November, 2011 Ales Bialiatski, Vice-President of the International Federation for Human Rights, was sentenced to 4.5 years of imprisonment in a medium security penal colony and seizure of property for alleged tax evasion. The fact of his holding bank accounts in Poland and Lithuania gave the grounds for criminal prosecution. The cash standing to the credit of accounts was used for human rights defence activity: the centre financially supported the people affected by Lukashenka’s regime. In court Bialiatski stated that he had no other possibility of getting financial aid from foreign backers.

www.belsat.eu/en, following spring96.org

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