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Belarus: Free Expression in the Face of Repression

18 October 2023
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Frankfurt Pavilion

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How do Belarusian authors, publishers and literary institutions continue to work despite systematic disadvantages for works in the Belarusian language and the ever more repressive political situation since the forged election results of 2020?

Belarusian independent publishing houses from the 90s, due to the language policy of Lukashenka's regime, had to compete with Russian ones, whose resources were incomparably greater. Due to that, Belarusian writers were deprived of the opportunity to appeal to a mass readership. Despite these problems, they were able to gradually expand their circle of readers and in some cases managed to engage a European audience.

But after 2020, the unfair competition is complemented by direct repressions against the participants of the protests against election falsification. If they did not end up behind bars, Belarusian writers were forced to go underground (not everyone can leave) or go abroad. From that position, they make efforts to resume their activities and maintain connections with Belarusian citizens scattered in different countries. What does it mean to renew working as a writer or publisher from abroad? What kind of networks can they use to find distribution? Is it possible to discuss Belarusian literature not from the position of the victim, not as a political statement, but from the perspective of literary qualities and messages?

This event was organised by the Belarusian Book Institute and Frankfurter Buchmesse, in cooperation with The discussion will take place in Belarusian and English.