Hrodna court orders to close down iconic Centre for Urban Life

Pavel Mazheika, founder of Centre for Urban Life, after court hearing. 12 May 2021, Photo: Belsat

The Economic Court of Hrodna Region has ruled to liquidate the local Centre for Urban Life.

On Wednesday, judge Yuliya Baklazhets settled the corresponding claim lodged by Hrodna prosecutor Uladzimir Klishyn.

The Centre for Urban Life found itself in the crosshairs on the back of the exhibition of works by well-known Belarusian artist Ales Pushkin. Uladzimir Klishyn considered one of the paintings to be a violation of the law ‘On Countering Extremism’ and demanded the Centre for Urban Life be shut down. Moreover, artist Pushkin was taken into custody; currently, he is a suspect in a criminal case and a political prisoner. As reported earlier, Pavel Mazheika, the Centre’s director and founder, was also detained and interrogated by the Belarusian Committee for State Security (KGB) as part of the case.

Belarusian law defines the term ‘Nazism’ very clearly , and both Pushkin nor Mazheika are far cry from it. There was just an order to destroy the independent uncontrolled venue, which has been carried out. Another reason is the white-red-white background in the painting by Pushkin,” Pavel Mazheika believes.

For five years of its existence and activity, the centre has become a place of great importance for creative and enterprising citizens. By the moment, it has hosted over 250 cultural and educational events, more than a hundred book presentations, meetings with outstanding writers, several festivals such as Watch Docs feast and Pradmova book fair.

Trying to fight back the iconic venue, unindifferent residents launched a petition; the appeal has already been signed by over a thousand Belarusians, including artists Syarhei Hrynevich, Valyantsina Shoba, historian Ales Smalyanchuk, film director Syarhei Kurylenka and others.

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