The cultural sphere of Belarus has been seriously affected after the 2020 elections. Talented and honest turned out to be of no use to anyone, devotion to the Lukashenka regime came to the fore. Musicians ended up in prison, were forced to leave the country and start a new life – already without creativity, since the main thing is to survive. Today we will talk about talented singers and musicians who became the heroines of the Belarusian revolution.
On August 11, 2020, a Viktor Babariko’s headquarters volunteer, the head of Ruin Bar Ok16, Levon Khalatryan, left the apartment and did not return. He was charged under Part 2 of Article 293 of the Criminal Code (participation in mass riots), and after three days, they were supposed to release him, but Levon never left the detention centre. In the winter of 2021, the article was reclassified to the softer 342nd. Levon stayed behind bars until February 19, 2021, and then, after the trial, he went to an open correctional facility in the Kamenetsky district for two years. His wife, Yana Smolyago, who releases songs under the pseudonym Iva Sativa, was left alone with her little son in her arms. «In the very first days of his detention, she wrote a statement in which she demanded a meeting with her husband. The investigators who handled his case changed: at first, there were two, and they allegedly refused to do it. In GUBOPiK, he was purposefully beaten on the head until he said the password to the phone. Seeking at the same time: “black, black”. The first months I couldn’t do anything at all», Yana recalled in an interview. Music became a salvation for a woman. She independently organized recordings and looked for authors for song covers. Already when Levon was in prison, she released two tracks. Levon Khalatryan supports his wife in letters.
On October 27, 2020, at the Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theater, before the performance of «The Tsar Bride», the orchestra artists addressed the audience, stating that they could not remain indifferent to the events taking place in the country, that they were against violence. Then they played the anthem «Mighty God». The next day, five musicians got fired from the theatre for an open expression of civic position. Orchestra concertmaster Regina Sarkisova signed an open letter against violence and for fair elections. Until December 2020, the first violin of the theatre remained in Belarus, but then she received a call from the police and was told that she did not appear on the agenda. Regina decided to leave the country so as not to be detained. Now she lives in Lithuania.
Violinist Alla Dzhigan left Belarus a month after her dismissal. Alla worked in the theatre for 37 years and was fired with the wording «for an immoral act committed by a person performing educational functions». After that, Alla could not get a job, as they refused to accept her. Alla Dzhigan’s family has been living abroad for a long time, so after what happened in the theatre, she decided to move to Switzerland with her daughter. Another dismissed was the violist Alexandra Potemina.
On November 17, 2020, the singer and member of the Harotnica Mix group, Valeria Volodko, was fired from the school job. The famous Belarusian musician Andrus Takindag played in this group. The group performed at courtyard concerts and went out to protests. Some musicians were convicted on administrative charges. Valeria worked part-time at the school, and after the active support of the protesters, she was told: «We have an order to fire everyone like you because you are too noisy, they see and know a lot about you». Valeria also became aware that a denunciation had been written against her.
On February 13, 2021, Valeria Surovitskaya, known under the pseudonym LEAR, was detained. The girl has been releasing tracks in Belarusian since 2019. She was detained at the recreation centre in Sokol village, Smolevichi district. There was a concert of the group «Razbіtae serca pacana». Forces broke into the event and detained all the participants – 68 people, including musicians. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, under the guise of a musical party at the camp site, «activists of destructive Telegram channels» staged an illegal mass event with white-red-white symbols. Valeria Surovitskaya was sentenced to 15 days of arrest. After the arrest, LEAR continued to release songs in Belarusian.
On April 14, 2021, the media reported on the dismissal of the orchestra of the Bolshoi Theater musician, Anastasia Petrova. Before this, on March 27, 2021, the 29-year-old artist was detained with food and coffee at the exit of the pizzeria. She was sentenced to 15 days of administrative arrest. The protocol said the girl shouted «Long live Belarus» and participated in an unauthorized mass event.
On June 16, 2021, the soloist of the National Opera and Ballet Theatre, Natalya Akinina, resigned from the theatre by agreement of the parties. She explained that this was a wish on the part of management. Natalya Akinina had a long-term contract, offering to stay in the troupe part-time. Natalya refused. In a conversation with journalists, she noted: «I found it impossible for me to stay in the current conditions even for the sake of music and singing. It was unacceptable for me to prove my professionalism to these people, both for a person and a singer».
On June 16, 2021, it became known about the criminal case brought against the opera singer and former soloist of the Bolshoi Theater Margarita Levchuk. According to the accusations, the singer «made a video recording with scenes of insulting and blasphemous actions against state symbols using computer technology». Margarita and an «unidentified person» threw the flag on the ground and placed it in a garbage container. Margarita Levchuk actively expressed her civic position even before the 2020 elections. She condemned the violence by the Belarusian security forces, took many photos with a white-red-white flag, took part in opposition events and supported her dismissed colleagues. Since the fall of 2020, Margarita has been living in Lithuania, where she first went on tour, and after the threat of reprisals, she decided to stay.
On August 2, 2021, the vocalist of the IRDORATH group, Nadezhda Kalach, was detained. Along with friends and musicians of the group, she was detained at a house in the Minsk region. She celebrated her birthday here. Nadezhda was charged under article 342 of the Criminal Code (organization and preparation of actions grossly violating public order or active participation in them). On December 14, 2021, Nadezhda was sentenced to two years in prison in a penal colony. IRDORATH played at protest marches in the summer and fall of 2020.
The soloist of the Belarusian-speaking folk group BY CRY, Alexandra Grakhovskaya, was also at the house that evening and was detained. According to the indictment, Alexandra «refused to open the gate for investigative actions, thereby disobeying the police officer». The 39-year-old singer noted no gates were in the house. When the guests gathered, people in military uniforms ran from two sides and started shooting. Alexandra added that there were so many shots that she did not understand why everyone was still alive. They put 15 people on the ground and seized their phones. The women were then allowed to sit on the sofa. Alexandra denies her guilt. She was fined 870 rubles.
On August 9, 2021, Ekaterina Vodonosova, a singer, poet and presenter, left Belarus. Ekaterina was the author of the «Living Culture» program on the state TV channel Belarus 3 and supported the protests in August 2020, for which she was fired from the TV. She also was the leader of the «Kaciaryna Vadanosava & Fantasy Orchestra» group. They played «minstrel rock». In November 2020, the singer was called to the police. They said to her: «If you will not come, we will take your children to an orphanage». She left the country under the threat of a criminal case and the removal of children. Now Ekaterina lives in Kyiv with her family and organizes Belarusian holidays.
On November 5, 2021, composer Larisa Simakovich left the Belgorod Philharmonic. The official reason is age: Larisa Simakovich turned 64. Before that, the contract with the composer was always extended. For 13 years of work at the Philharmonic, Larisa Simakovich has staged 11 performances, assumed the functions of a stage director, choreographer, dancer and singer. The website of the Belgosfilarmony stated that Larisa Simakovich’s creativity is characterized by «conciseness of utterance and freedom of experiment, allowing her to find her distinctive vividly individual style». On October 31, the composer appeared on the stage of the Belgosfilarmony for the last time.
We are proud of our talented musicians who did not serve the regime but chose the path of honesty and support of the people. They can’t build a new life because a creative person more deeply experiences everything. But we are sure that the events in Belarus have made them stronger and, after the return of the rule of human rights to the country, they will receive long-awaited applause from the public on the streets of our cities.