Opposition musicians and bands have never been held in high esteem by the illegitimate government. Recall at least Sergei Mikhalok, bands BRUTTO and “Lapis Trubetskoy” leader – since 2015, the musician has been living in Ukraine. The music of the Belarusian rock star of the 1990s-early 2000s, Lyavon Volsky, has been banned by Lukashenka for more than ten years. After the elections, musicians were subjected to repression – many of them began to speak out against violence and falsified elections. We tell you how the authorities are destroying Belarusian protest music.
In September 2020, the singer Rusya (Shuma) was forced to leave Belarus. After August 9, 2020, she began coordinating one of the funds to help victims of the protests. Fearing that this might be enough to open a criminal case, Rusya and her family decided to move to Kyiv.
On September 19, 2020, after a street concert in the capital’s residential district, Shabany, musician Alexander Pomidorov and vocalist of the metal band Gods Tower Vladislav Novozhilov, known under the pseudonym Lesley Knife, were detained. The musicians were leaving the forest park when the security forces received an order to detain them. Forces injured Pomidorov’s shoulder during the arrest. The musicians were convicted under the popular article 23.34, and both received eight days each. On March 17, 2021, Alexander Pomidorov was interrogated for about an hour in the Department of Financial Investigations.
On September 29, 2020, it became known that the VAL group was deprived of the right to represent Belarus at the Eurovision Song Contest 2021, although they won the selection for the 2020 contest. The Belteleradiocompany noted that the artists “have no conscience” – after the elections on August 9, they supported the opposition leaders and condemned the violence. In March 2021, the group “Galasy ZMesta” was chosen for the competition. Their songs condemned the protesters and mocked the Belarusians who suffered in the protests. However, the European Broadcasting Union banned our country from participating in the competition, and then Belarus was excluded from the EBU.
On October 10, 2020, trumpeter Timote Suladze was arrested in Minsk. He decided to support the marching Minsk residents by performing protest songs. After 10 minutes, the security forces approached him and detained him for 13 days. The security forces were outraged by his Georgian surname – the musician was asked why he came to Belarus, and his origin was insulted. The police told him that many of his compatriots are asking for Belarusian citizenship, and he should be grateful to the state. After one more detention for 15 days, Timote decided to leave Belarus for Lithuania.
On October 20, 2020, Grodno musician, leader of the street-punk band Mister X Igor Banzer was detained. On the night of September 4 to 5 of the same year, he danced in front of a police car in pink shorts and then took them off and continued dancing in a thong. On March 3, 2021, while in the pre-trial detention centre, Igor Banzer declared a dry hunger strike, stating that the case against him was politically motivated. On March 19, 2021, Igor was sentenced to 1.5 years of restriction of freedom. After returning home from the pre-trial detention centre, he ended his hunger strike. Igor Banzer has three minor children left.
On October 25, 2020, Erik Orlov-Shimkus, an ex-musician of the Kupala Theater Orchestra and a member of the Harotnica mix and Luty Sakavik groups, was arrested at a protest rally in Minsk. Together with him, his girlfriend Alexandra Bobkova and Alexandra’s mother, TV presenter Natalia Bibikova, were detained. During the arrest, Erik was beaten with a baton and injured in the face. In the police, the musician was threatened with rape. Erik Orlov-Shimkus received 12 days under Articles 23.34 and 23.4 of the Administrative Code.
On October 29, 2020, Galina Kazimirovskaya, conductor of the Concordia Choir and wife of singer Zmitser Wojtyushkevich, was detained. On November 2, 2020, according to the court verdict, she was fined 1,620 rubles for participating in unauthorized protest actions.
On October 27, 2020, the artists of the Bolshoi Theater Orchestra performed the composition “Magutny Bozha”. After that, conductor Andrey Galanov, soloist Ilya Silchukov, concertmaster of the orchestra Regina Sarkisova, violinist Alla Dzhigan and violist Alexandra Potemina were dismissed. After that, Regina Sarkisova was called to the police with a demand to come on the agenda. Because of this, Regina decided to leave Belarus. Conductor Andrey Galanov also left the country. Alla Dzhigan moved to Switzerland to join her family. Ilya Silchukov’s concerts in Belarus are limited.
On November 3, 2020, during an evening concert in one of the capital’s courtyards musicians Ivan Artimovich (Vuraj group), Andrey Alekseenko (TonqiXod), Philip Petchenko (Dee Tree) were detained. The police bus drove up to the musicians when the audience had almost dispersed. The security forces tied up the guys and took them to the police department. Ivan Artimovich was sentenced to 7 days in prison, Andrey Alekseenko – to 10 days, Philip Petchenko – to 15 days.
Also, on November 3, 2020, choral conductor Tatyana Galuza, a teacher of the Minsk State College of Arts, was taken into custody. She was arrested in the agro-town Lesnoy, Minsk district, late in the evening with her husband. On November 5, Tatyana was awarded a fine of 810 rubles.
On November 4, 2020, chamber choir artist Denis Ivanov and cellist Alexander Serdyukov were detained. They were arrested at their workplaces in the Belarusian State Philharmony. Both detainees were taken to the police department. The musicians took part in protest actions after the 2020 elections.
On the same evening, accordionist Nikita Kamenetsky was detained in the Malinovka micro-district. After playing a yard concert for residents, he was going to leave the yard by taxi. Security forces pulled him out of the car and took him to the Moscow police department. After the incident, Nikita decided to leave Belarus and study music in Lithuania.
On November 5, 2020, after a yard concert, the vocalist of the group “Mutnae Voka” Evgeny Zmushko was detained. On November 6, the court found him guilty of “violating the procedure for organizing and holding mass events.” Evgeny Zmushko was sentenced to 15 days of administrative arrest.
On November 7, 2020, jazz musician Pavel Arakelyan was arrested after a yard concert. They put him on a bus and took him away. On November 9, Pavel was sentenced to 15 days of arrest. On the same day, the performer Andrus Takindag was sentenced to the same term. He was arrested at a yard concert in the capital’s Kamennaya Gorka micro-district. Together with him, the musicians of the Rekha group Igor Osidchenko, Konstantin Lisetsky, Leonid Pavlenok were detained. All of them served 15 days in one cell. In prison, Andrus Takindag fell ill with a coronavirus.
On November 22, 2020, musician Timur Reizis, keyboardist of the reggae band “Addis Abeba”, was detained. Also, on November 22, 2020, musician Ilya Cherepko-Samokhvalov, leader of the groups “Cassiopeia” and “Petlya Pristrastiya”, was detained at a protest rally in Minsk. On November 24, the musician was sentenced to 15 days of arrest for participating in an unauthorized mass event. On December 7, Ilya Cherepko-Samokhvalov was released.
On December 6, 2020, musician of the groups “Partyzanski praspekt” and “luty sakavik”, poet Vladimir Lenkevich was detained at a protest rally in Minsk. On December 7, he was sentenced to 15 days of arrest under Article 23.4 and part 1 of Article 23.34 of the Administrative Code. Before that, Vladimir was detained in September – then he served six days.
On February 13, 2021, at the recreation centre in Sokol village, Smolevichi district, during a concert, musicians of the groups “Razbitae sertsa patsana” and Ok-band, as well as singer LEAR (Valeria Surovitskaya) and music manager Vladislav Lepeshinsky, were detained. The security forces descended during a musical event. Later, the Ministry of Internal Affairs reported: activists of “destructive” Telegram channels staged an illegal mass event with white-red-white symbols under the guise of a concert. The concert-goers were also detained. The participants were sentenced to 15 days of imprisonment – they were released on February 28, 2021. On March 30, the musicians of “Razbitae Sertsa Patsana” moved to Ukraine.
On March 17, 2021, the leader of the Amaroka group, Dmitry Afanasenko, said about the search in his house. Employees of the Department of Financial Investigations came to his apartment. The search also took place at the musician’s cottage. The actions of the security forces were caused by a denunciation that Dmitry and his brother organized the Belarusian Popular Front, where there are weapons and explosives.
On April 2, 2021, in the transition to the Kamennaya Gorka metro station, 20-year-old musician Ivan Pireiko was detained. He performed songs as part of the “Pedestrian” project. As it turned out later, an anonymous person called the police and said that the musician performs songs in the Belarusian language, glorifying the 100th anniversary of the Belarusian People’s Republic and using the words “we will win”. The musician was detained during the performance of the song by Max Korzh. In court, Ivan said that he was suffering from several diseases and asked not to judge him. However, he was sentenced to 15 days of arrest.
On April 4, 2021, the concert of the Belarusian band “Krama” in the capital’s bar “Friends” was cancelled. The group administrator said that tour certificates are not issued to artists who took part in yard concerts. Musicians have reduced royalties for broadcasting songs on the radio.
On April 20, 2021, it became known about the cancellation of the performances of the band J:MORS, whose leader, Vladimir Pugach, is a member of the Coordinating Council. Two concerts were cancelled allegedly for technical reasons, another one – because of the coronavirus. Vladimir Pugach actively spoke about what is happening in the country. “I feel insulted when they call me a “people” and humiliate our women. I feel rage for the lawlessness, for the way my compatriots are being grabbed left and right in the streets, beaten for the peaceful expression of their civic position. Judging by the countless reports, they do it with pleasure. That’s what’s in their heads?”
On April 22, 2021, street artists Yulia Shabanova, Elizaveta Paketova and Alexey Zhuravlevich were detained for 15 days. They performed the song “Razbury turmy mury” in the underground passage. They were taken to the police department, where protocols were drawn up for them under Article 24.23 of the Administrative Code, considering the song prohibited. Elizaveta Paketova was sentenced to 11 days of arrest, Alexey Zhuravlevich – 25 days. The case of Yulia Shabanova, who had an official permit to sing in the transition, was considered on May 6, 2021. The woman has minor children. Yulia was fined 1,450 rubles.
On May 7, 2021, the concert of the rockers from Brest – the group “Daj Darogu!”, who was supposed to perform at the Minsk club Re:Public, was cancelled. During the protests, Yuri Stylsky was detained several times by police officers. He also supported the defendants in the “round dance case ” in Brest to the court. On March 2, 2021, the security forces disrupted shooting of a concert of the band in one of the Minsk clubs.
On May 13, 2021, 30-year-old drummer of the band “We demand to disperse” Alexey Sanchuk was convicted. He was found guilty of participating in mass riots and their preparation. He was detained at an ensemble rehearsal and has been under arrest since November. At the trial, he said that the evidence that was used against him was found in the garage of a completely different person. The court sentenced Alexey Sanchuk to 6 years in prison.
On June 7, 2021, it became known about the detention of a 22-year-old musician for a song that, according to the security forces, insults Alexander Lukashenko. The track was distributed in social networks and on Internet music platforms and received wide publicity. A criminal case has been initiated against him for insulting the president (Article 368 of the Criminal Code). The accused musician deleted the recording.
On July 20, 2021, musician Maxim Subach, a member of the bands TonqiXod and Subtonans, was detained. An opposition sticker was on his car at the beginning of spring. Several times he was invited to the police “just to talk”. Then, they decided to detain him until the trial. In addition to his musical activities, Maxim Subach was in Viktar Babaryka’s initiative group for the 2020 elections. The musician was sentenced to 15 days of administrative arrest.
If we gather the Belarusian musicians who left Belarus and were arrested, there is no doubt that a brilliant, high-quality and beautiful orchestra would turn out. Everything that these people did was full of meaning and sincerity. It will not happen if a person works on someone’s orders or under fear. Brave, free, hardworking, talented, these musicians deserve to perform at the best venues in Belarus. They deserve to be the pride of their country – but the illegitimate government brands them with shame and closes them in prisons. I want to believe that in the new Belarus, the protest musicians will write more than one beautiful song, play many concerts on the biggest stages and delight hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands of viewers with their music.