We have already drown your attention to how government in Belarusian is destroying culture. In the hot autumn of 2020, actors, musicians, and singers who spoke out against violence and electoral fraud were repressed. Later, writers were added to the team. And now the illegitimate president has turned his attention on the artists.
Ales Pushkin is a nonconformist artist, who designed decoration for the performances at the Yakub Kolas Belarusian Drama Theater and painted the walls of churches. Since Soviet times he fought for the freedom of Belarus. He was a member of a student circle that restored monuments and was engaged in educational activities. In 1988 he organized a branch of the Belarusian Popular Front (an organization whose activities were aimed at popularizing culture and building a democratic state) at the Belarusian State Theater and Art Institute (now the Belarusian State Academy of Arts). From the same time, Ales Pushkin began to participate in protest actions. In 1988, he was arrested for 15 days for organizing a rally for the autumn Day of Remembrance of Ancestors. On March 25, 1989, Ales Pushkin presented 12 posters, which were planned to be carried along the main avenue of the city to the square in front of the Government House. The posters called for the revival of the people’s Belarus. On March 31 of the same year, Ales Pushkin was sentenced to two years of probation.
In 1999, Ales Pushkin opposed Lukashenka. On July 21, the fifth anniversary of his inauguration, the artist overturned a cart filled with manure in front of the presidential administration building. “I placed a poster “Alexander Lukashenko with the people”, a sign “For five years’ work”, denominated one thousand rubles, handcuffs, the 1994 constitution (amended in the 1996 referendum) and official state symbols”, the artist later recalled. For this action he was punished with two years of probation.
Ales Pushkin continued with performances later. For example, in 2019 he went to the “Euroopt” store in his hometown of Krupki with posters “Stop Russian agression on Europe” and “Russia – war!” together with a portrait of Vladimir Putin. Ales was detained. During the arrest, the posters were seized by the police, and he spent about a day in custody. For this action, Pushkin received a fine of 204 rubles.
All these years Ales Pushkin continuously suffered for his civil position. His exhibitions were regularly checked and closed. He was detained several times at the events and served the sentences in a pre-trial detention center. On March 24, in Grodno, the prosecutor’s office began checking the exhibition of Ales Pushkin, which featured a portrait of Avgen Zhikhar, a representative of the post-war anti-Soviet underground. Two days later, on March 26, a criminal case was opened against the head of the private institution “Center for Urban Life” (where the exhibitions of journalist Pavel Mozheiko and Ales Pushkin were held).
The prosecutor’s office explained: both were accused of inciting ethnic hatred, because Avgen Zhikhar was trained in Nazi Germany in 1944 and then expatriated to Belarus, where he headed a detachment of former policemen who killed party officials and police officers. According to the information in the reference book “Anti-Soviet Movements”, Avgen Zhikhar was a member of the anti-communist and anti-fascist party, the aim of which was disruption of the Soviet government events and prevention of the creation of collective farms, which actually meant a return to slavery and lawlessness.
On March 26, Ales Pushkin returned to Belarus from Kiev, where he was at the exhibition, and soon stopped communicating. On March 27, a search was carried out in his house in the Krupsky District. At two o’clock in the morning, officers of the Grodno department of the Investigative Committee and five riot police officers visited him. The search was carried out in the house and in the studio of the artist: the security forces ruined his paintings and smashed glass. They confiscated telephones and equipment from the entire family, including minors.
On March 30, Ales Pushkin went to the agricultural town of Zhilichi, Kirovsky district, where he was working on the restoration of a historical object. At the request of the Grodno police, colleagues from the Kirovsk police station came to pick him up. He was invited to “talk”, but Ales refused to follow the police, for what security officials handcuffed him and carried him out of the room.
On April 6, human rights activists issued a statement recognizing Ales Pushkin as a political prisoner. The statement says that the portrait of the anti-Soviet fighter Zhikhar is not an excuse for Nazism and crimes against humanity. “The anti-Soviet resistance carried out on the territory of Belarus in the post-war period against the totalitarian and extremely repressive Stalinist communist regime is also part of the history of our country”, the human rights activists clarified, stressing that the actions of the artist are not considered being a crime under article 130 of the Criminal Code (incitement of racial, national, religious or other social enmity or hatred). This means that the case is exclusively political in nature and is associated with the artist’s civic position.
Meanwhile, restrictions on freedom of opinion should not be imposed under any circumstances, and restrictions on the right to freedom of expression should not go beyond the requirements provided for in paragraph 3 of Art. 19 and art. 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the signatories of the statement note. Among them, are The Human Rights Center “Viasna”, the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, the Belarusian PEN Center, the organizations “Legal Initiative” and Human Constanta.
NGO “Nash Dom” joins human rights defenders. We remind once again that Ales Pushkin has long been targeted by the illegitimate authorities because of his civic position and the struggle for freedom. His persecution is motivated precisely by politics, as well as by a negative attitude towards anti-Sovietists and nationalists of Belarus, whom the state considers to be fascists. We ask to immediately release Ales Pushkin and drop all charges against him.