Arrests, fines, dismissals and inability to find work in their profession – the repression of teachers and educators continues. As a result, children suffer as well – the quality of education declines.
Belarusian education is facing increasing difficulties, not only because of the ongoing repression, but also because of the actions of the regime, which supports Russian aggression. European universities sever partnerships with Belarusian universities, including stopping Belarus from participating in the Bologna process. The Belarusian language is becoming less and less spoken in schools, history is being reshaped to meet Putin’s standards, and more and more the educational programme is being replaced by the educational one. And teachers are being transformed from mentors into overseers. In addition, the developing situation since the outbreak of war in Ukraine could lead to the complete destruction of educational institutions. .
Since September 2020, more than 1,500 students and teachers have been victims of repression and political persecution in the country’s universities alone.
New detentions and dismissals of professors and academics are known. The security forces are also coming after former teachers who have openly spoken out against repression in education. Other employees continue to lose their jobs because of their political stance.
By the start of the school year 2021/2022, for example, 361 teacher vacancies have been listed in the National Bank of Vacancies and Resumes of Belarus. Minsk was looking for 118 university teachers. The Belarusian State University invited 12 teachers in different fields, Minsk State Linguistic University – 18, BNTU – six. And here it is a question of struggling to find people for positions that used to be considered prestigious for teachers.
By the beginning of the school year 2022/2023, Belarus’ schools lacked 1250 teachers, 760 educators, 650 teachers and several hundred «military instructors». There were 654 offers for teachers in the nationwide vacancy database, dated the last days of August and 1 September.
In a year and a half, around 150 teachers and researchers were dismissed from the BSU alone. Most of them have also gone through reprisals from the security services. Other universities in the country are going through similar repressions. The pressure on «untrustworthy» university staff now continues, most often targeting people who are highly qualified and highly experienced; replacing them in the current realities will be almost impossible to find.
And yet many teachers left on their own, unable to withstand the pressure and because they did not agree to go to forced rallies in support of dictator Lukashenko and participate in other regime events, which were earlier and became even more imposed after 2020, as even the primary duty of teachers and educators. Thus, many of them were driven to the approaches of possible anti-Lukashenka rallies or other actions, to catch their pupils and students and threaten them if they participated there. Because of this pressure, teachers often left their positions and tried to find other jobs or left the country.
It is difficult to know the real losses in the last 2 years of secondary, specialised secondary and vocational education teachers, as it is not possible to compare with previous periods. Lately, the statistics have been truncated and do not take into account that many gymnasiums and other institutions of vocational and special education have simply been converted into ordinary secondary schools. And the figures are only known for the usual average and so the figures are underestimated. Still, even they give an indication of a very sad trend. Thus, according to the report of the National Statistical Committee of the RB, in 2020 the number of teachers was 111.4 thousand, and in 2021 it became 106.7 thousand. The Ministry of Education presents different statistics for 2020. According to the ministry, there are 117,300 teachers in 2020 (possibly including part-time teachers). In 2021, they counted 106,700 teachers. That is, the number of teachers has decreased by 10,500 in one year (from 2020 to 2021). The ministry does not publish statistics on the number of teachers and educators ahead of the 2022-2023 school year. So far, it is a secret.
Where there is the greatest shortage of teachers
The greatest shortage of teachers, according to the nationwide database of vacancies, is in Minsk and Grodno region.
Grodno region: 133;
Minsk region: 94;
Mogilev region: 74;
Vitebsk region: 54;
Gomel region: 36;
Brest region: 23.
Only the BelStat figures for higher education, where there is also a serious trend of losses in the number of core staff, may be relevant to some extent. So in the academic year 2019/20 there were 19.9 thousand faculty members involved in teaching (as a core activity), and in 2021/2022 there were already 19.1 thousand faculty members.
Many of those who tried to resist the imposed uncharacteristic behaviour of educational institutions were dismissed on invented grounds with a record of non-compliance with the profession or dishonourably demoted. A prime example is when the Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences at BSU was demoted after the events of 2020. On 28 September 2021, Palotsk State University associate professor, candidate of historical sciences Viktor Yakubau was dismissed from the university «for truancy», while he was serving 15 days of administrative arrest.
In the summer of 2021, Minsk State Linguistic University left about 80 professors and technical staff. One of those with whom the contract was not renewed was associate professor Yury Stulow, who defended the protesting students. Also, Natallia Dulina, associate professor at MSLU, was dismissed for that.
This monitoring includes 45 stories where the names of the repressed are known and the events verified against them. Most of them are in the more vulnerable categories, such as 29 women and 16 men. Most of them are from Minsk – 28, and from the regions – 17. 23 are teachers of higher education, and 22 are teachers of special education. 22 of the 44 were dismissed on spurious grounds, at the end of their contract, demoted or forced to write a resignation. One was demoted. They have a total of 288 days of administrative arrest, 16,610 roubles in administrative fines, 22 years and eight months in prison and home detention. Three are still under investigation, with Galina Tarnovskaya in pre-trial detention and two under house arrest. Eight out of these 45 people left the country so that they could not be persecuted by the repressive authorities.
Excerpts chronicling the persecution of teachers and educators:
21 February 2022 Natalya Abrashina-Zhadaeva, who recorded an appeal in defence of a colleague, was dismissed from BSU. The professor of the BSU Department of Higher Mathematics in January 2022 published a video in support of dismissed associate professor Maxim Shundalov. Abrashina-Zhadaeva worked at BSU for 45 years, including 40 years at the physics department.
On 29 January 2021 Alexander Lukashenko came to the BSU to meet with students. On the same day it became known about the detention of three professors of the university. The teachers who were detained on the day of Lukashenka’s visit to the BSU were sentenced to 14-15 days for disobeying police officers.
On January 29, Olga Kovalevskaya, teacher of the Department of Geography of Belarusian State University, was detained. She was sentenced to 25 days of arrest.
On 29 January Sviatlana Volchak, former lecturer of Belarusian State University and participant of the university strike committee, was detained. On the same day she was tried in Frunzenski District Court of Minsk for 14 days of arrest.
In the morning of 29 January 2021 Pavel Petrov – one of the creators of the Belarusian satellite BSU Sat-1 – was detained while teaching at the Faculty of Radio Physics and Computer Technologies of BSU. The report says that Pavel Petrov resisted when the officers took him out of the entrance. Pavel argued that he had not put up any resistance. On 1 February, the Frunzenski District Court decided that the teacher’s guilt was proven – and sentenced him to 15 days of arrest.
December 14, 2021, a teacher of BSU Journalism Department Ksenia Martul was detained right in the classroom, she received 15 days on the charge of distribution of extremist materials under Part 2 Article 19.11 of the Administrative Code. The security forces said she had participated in protests, was detained for subscribing to «extremist» resources and for «promoting perversion on the Telegram channel Gender Gap». This channel with three hundred subscribers talked about social stereotypes, after the teacher was detained the channel was hacked, the avatar of the channel was made the national emblem and the publications were deleted.
On February 18, 2022 Anna Kureichyk, lecturer of BSU journalism faculty, was detained. She was tried under Article 24.3 «Disobedience to legal demands of an official» and sentenced to 15 days of arrest. She was on sick leave, they came to pick her up at home, said a colleague of the detainee. In September 2020, Anna Kureichyk commented on the events in Belarus after the election in social networks. In her opinion, there was a «deliberate destruction of the profession of journalism» in the country.
On 19 February 2022 law enforcers came to the house of Tatiana Sinitsa, lecturer of the Philosophy and Social Sciences Faculty of Belarusian State University, and invited her to the police department, allegedly for a preventive conversation. The teacher did not return home after it – she was taken to the isolation ward on Okrestina for 15 days. Tatsiana Sinitsa has been detained before – in 2020 she received a fine of 810 rubles, then she supported protesting students. In 2021 she was dismissed from the BSU.
On 16 July 2021 Ulha Filatchenkova from the Belarusian State University of Informatics and Radioelectronics was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for participating in protests and in the «student case».
On 27 October 2021 legal action against historian Igor Kuznetsov began. And on the same day he was dismissed from the BSU without renewing his contract. Within a month and a half, 17 statements to the police were filed against him for reposting on social networks. The pressure on him started back in June after the publications of Andrei Mukovozchik in «SB. Belarus Today» and several interviews with the historian on the anniversary of the start of the war. On 28 June Alena Dostanka, Dean of the Faculty of International Relations, summoned him and demanded him to write a letter of resignation, but he refused. After that his contract was not renewed.
23 September 2020 The 25-year-old Polish and English language teacher from Brest Marina Glazova was detained at home in the morning. The ground for her detention was the accusation that she had organised «mass riots in the form of round dances» on 13 September. She was sentenced to 1.5 years of restricted freedom («house chemistry»).
On 9 October 2020 a PhD candidate, ECLAB lecturer and member of the Steering Committee Olga Shparaga was detained in Minsk. She was forced to leave Belarus immediately after her arrest and two weeks’ imprisonment for participating in the protest movement.
27 February 2022 in Gomel for an anti-war picket Iryna Kuchwalskaia, candidate of science, lecturer of the Skaryna State University, was detained (received 15 days of arrest).
Repression against education officials has nationwide reach and continues unabated to this day.
On 2 November 2021 a history teacher, Arthur Eshbaev, was detained. He had previously been detained twice before under political articles, then only fined a fine and a day in jail. The third time he spent four months in detention and was released in the courtroom after his conviction. As he was sentenced to three years of «chemistry». After a while, the man left the country.
20 April 2022 Russian language and literature teacher Oksana Chechetkina has spoken out against the war in Ukraine. The 10th grade student told the school administration about it, after which Oksana was forced to resign «by mutual agreement of the parties».
25 August 2021 was sentenced in a criminal case under Part 1 Article 367 of the Criminal Code (defamation against the President) against a 46-year-old already former history and social sciences teacher of the local grammar school Andrzej Petrowski. The teacher from Smarhon was punished with 1.5 years in prison for showing a video with an «extremist» logo in his class. According to the prosecution, the video «contains knowingly false information defaming the president». Judge Lyudmila Mikhnevich sentenced the former teacher to one and a half years in a general regime penal colony. Petrovsky was detained in the courtroom after the verdict was pronounced, while before that he was under house arrest.
On August 25, 2021, Aleksei Minov, a teacher of Belarusian language and literature, was detained. The day of detention was to be the first day of work at the Lyceum of the Belarusian State University, where he had been reassigned for the last year of his work. He was charged under Article 342 of the Criminal Code (Group Actions Grossly Disrupting Public Order) and transferred to the remand centre. Alexei was found guilty of taking part in an unsanctioned event in Minsk on 9-10 August 2020 – including on the roadway on Pobediteley Avenue. According to the text of the charge, he took part in group actions which grossly violated public order, disobeyed the demands of police officers, and obstructed transport and businesses. He also shouted slogans, clapped his hands and used a «white, red and white cloth».
On 25 November 2021 in Leninski Borough Court of Minsk a political prisoner was sentenced to three years of restricted freedom with referral to IOT – «chemistry». He was found guilty under part 1 of Article 342 of the Criminal Code and released in the courtroom. At the moment Alexei is outside of Belarus.
On 30 June 2021 Svisloch District Court sentenced Vyacheslav Korotkevich, an English teacher at Svisloch Secondary School No. 2, to one year and six months in a general regime penal colony. The man was taken into custody in the courtroom. In August 20, the Svislach executive committee organized a meeting with the people, to which Viachaslau Karatkevich decided to go. The same management accused him of slandering the president at that meeting.
On 30 September 2021 Oksana Kaspiarovich, a teacher in a music school in Lida, was detained. She was prosecuted for comments on the Internet after the death of KGB officer Dzmitry Fedosiuk and it specialist Andrei Zeltser in a Minsk flat. On 14 June 2022 the KGB put Oksana on the list of «persons involved in terrorist activities». On 29 June 2022 Hrodna Regional Court Judge Aliaksandr Kozel found the woman guilty and sentenced her to 1 year and 2 months in a general regime penal colony. Oksana served her sentence in full and was released from Prison No. 1 on 9 July 2022. On 26 August 2022, the Ministry of Internal Affairs placed Oksana on the List of Persons Involved in Extremist Activity.
For two reposts with information about police officers of Ivanovo district, Brest region Elena Putsikovich was punished with two and a half years of home chemistry. On 12 November 2020, the teacher posted a repost on the «Ivanovo for Life» telegram-chat about how a police officer «filmed women protesters with white and red balloons and flowers and then perjured himself in court against them». The court also satisfied the pecuniary claims of the two injured police officers in the amount of 1,500 roubles each.
25 July 2022 the teacher of the Belarusian language and literature in Minsk Gymnasium No. 37 Galina Tarnovskaya was detained. A teacher was accused of participating in protests. Charges were brought: under Article 342 of the Criminal Code – Organising and preparing actions that grossly violate public order, or actively participating in them. At the end of September, she was in pre-trial detention.
April 2022 English teacher Marina Glazov has served her sentence in full. She was sentenced to 1.5 years of restricted freedom without referral («home chemistry») received as punishment for the «round dance case» in Brest, which was organised by protesters on the streets. She spent two months in pre-trial detention on this case.
On 29 September 2021 Emma Stepulionok, a 68-year-old resident of Mior (Vitsebsk region), was detained for comments in social networks after the murder of Andrei Zeltser. Emma Stepulyonok worked as a teacher of Belarusian language and literature at school until her retirement. She has no relatives left in Belarus, all have moved away. The woman has problems with blood pressure and eyesight. She was placed under house arrest in mid-September 2022.
On July 15, 2021, Anastasia Krupenich-Kondratieva, a former teacher of the Minsk gymnasium, was convicted for the first time together with her husband Sergei. The couple were tried eight more times after that, without being released from the isolation ward. Thus, the couple was convicted nine times for allegedly distributing information products containing calls to extremist activities or promoting such activities and for forwarding news from telegram feeds to each other. In total, Anastasia spent 111 days in administrative detention. They were last tried on 5 November, each receiving 15 days of arrest. After that, Anastasia and Siarhei fled Belarus.
In July 2021 , after being detained for «protest activity» in his native Serebryanka, history and art teacher of one of Minsk schools Vladislav Bohan forcibly left Belarus. On the eve of this, officers of GUBOPK and SOBR broke down the front door and the balcony door and stormed into the flat where Vladislav and his family lived. In front of a seven-year-old child the citizen of Minsk was brutally detained. The artist himself, after breaking his leg, was in rehabilitation at home and could only move around with crutches. According to Vladislav, it was his injury that helped him to be released pending trial on an administrative charge of «disobeying arrest». He took advantage of the opportunity and took a boat across the Dnieper to cross the border.
Maria Mikheeva, a teacher of English at Gymnasium No. 4 in Baranavichy, has been serving her sentence since the beginning of 2022. She was convicted for making comments on a photo album in the internet. She was convicted for commenting under a photo of a police officer Vadzim Yakimchik in the telegraph channel «Punishers of Belarus»: «…and I used to go out with this dude when I was young…». Since Maria is on maternity leave to take care of her child the court’s decision: 2 years of «home chemistry».
On 10 May 2022 a former lecturer of the Philological Faculty of the Belarusian State University Alla Kozhinova was arrested for 13 days. She was accused of spreading extremist information. Kozhinova is a former professor in the Department of Theoretical and Slavonic Linguistics at the BGU Philological Faculty and a researcher in the field of polonistics. In 2020, she participated in a video appeal against the violence of the security forces. In December 2021, she was dismissed from her job.
14 July 2022 Vitali Yanchenko, teacher of chemistry and biology at a school in Molozhin, Bragin district, was taken into custody. According to the operatives, the teacher collected information about the shortcomings in the work of commercial and service facilities, as well as made photo and video recordings of the movement of military equipment in Homel region, which he passed to «extremist» channels. He was sentenced to 15 days.
On 3 September Valiantsina Golubeva, a teacher of English at Minsk State Linguistic University, was detained near the Russian Embassy in Minsk. She was convicted, after which she left for Bulgaria.
On 2 June 2021, Nikolai Isayenko, a philologist and teacher of Belarusian and Russian languages and literature from Zhlobin, was detained as part of a criminal case on group actions grossly violating public order. He had previously been detained August 10, 2020 and badly beaten during his detention. Nikolai then ended up in hospital with a head injury, where he spent two weeks. He was then summoned twice for interrogation on criminal charges of insulting the flag and on mass disorderly conduct. On 6 August 2021, the Zhlobin district court sentenced Isayenko to one year and six months in a general regime penal colony.
September 29, 2021, geography teacher Ruslan Sadovnichy has been detained. He was accused of «feeling hatred for the current authorities» and having written numerous insulting messages against police officers and their relatives. Ruslan Sadovnichy was sentenced to 3 years and 6 months in a strict regime colony and ordered to pay a fine of 1,600 roubles. The court ordered to pay three thousand roubles to the policemen as moral compensation.
The Faculty of Law at BSU is firing teachers «on lists», just like in other educational institutions. Several «top» lawyers are known to have been forced to leave teaching at BSU because of their views. Among those dismissed are Yulia Gavrilchenko, PhD in Law, Professor in the Department of Business Law, one of the founders of the Master of IT Law; Kirill Tomashevsky, PhD in Law, Professor in the Department of Civil Procedure and Labour Law; Tatiana Avdeeva, Senior Lecturer in the Civil Law Department, one of the founders of the civil law group and an outstanding specialist in civil law liability.
During 2020-21, the law faculty of BSU was dismissed: Yaroslav Kot, Elena Basalay, and Elena Laevskaya. Alena Laevskaya was fired when she had less than a year to go before retirement. Her son Dzmitry Laewski was a lawyer of Viktar Babarika.
Alexander Danilevich, who worked at BSU for 20 years, was fired for his principled stance on the war in Ukraine. An associate professor of the Faculty of International Relations signed the anti-war appeal of lawyers and jurists.
On 27 February 2022 a well-known translator and English teacher Olga Kalatskaia was detained near the polling station at school No 134 in Minsk. Earlier, on 24 March 2021, she was sentenced to 2 years of «home chemistry» for slapping propagandist Grigory Azarenka. As a result of the trial, Olga was also fined.
There are less tragic examples of teacher repression, mostly pre-2020. Here’s one example of them.
With the history teacher of Talcova secondary school Natalya Ilyinich, the principal did not renew her employment contract. Natallia is sure that she was deprived of her job for her social and political activity: – The reasons given by the school director to justify it are not essential, as they do not affect the quality of the educational and teaching process. I have never had any official reprimands, I have always received only commendations for my work – both from parents, and former pupils, and from the administration as well. In support of her position Natallia Ilinich cites the situation when she, among five other teachers, was summoned to the head of the Department of Education of the Minsk Regional Executive Committee Danilevich T.I.: «It should be noted that all the summoned teachers were members of the opposition political parties. All the teachers came to the Department of Education accompanied by representatives of the respective RONOs. The only topic of T.I. Danilevich’s conversation with me was my membership in the BPF Party, my political views and activities. I was advised to leave the party or resign from the job of my own volition, as membership in an opposition political party is not compatible with working as a teacher in a public school.» She then refused to comply with these illegal, apparently discriminatory demands of the head of the department of education of the Minsk Regional Executive Committee.
A history and social studies teacher Elena Masliukova was fired from secondary school No. 10 in Svetlogorsk because of her active citizenship. Incidentally, she had the 2014 Teacher of the Year award. The official reason for the dismissal was the end of her contract. In a private conversation one of the managers told Alena Masliukova that the director received the order from the district executive committee. They said that «reliable sources» found out about the teacher’s «destructive statements».
Anna Severinets was not extended her contract at the Smolevichi District Grammar School before the 2020 presidential election because of ideology. She said that relations with the management had always been good. But here «[the principal] said that as a teacher I have the right to think about the education system, but I have no right as a teacher to criticise the authorities, that our task is to serve the ideology that we have».
Anna Seviarynets’ poem «And I never voted for you» was published on the Radio Liberty website. Anna Seviarynets is a teacher, writer, researcher, author of several books on the history of Belarusian literature. She is the sister of a jailed co-chair of Belarusian Christian Democracy Pavel Seviarynets. By the way, the daughters of the famous writer and teacher Anna Seviarynets, Yevgenia and Lyubov, were sentenced to 15 days in jail each for an anti-war action in Minsk. They were detained on 28 February 2022 outside the railway station where people had gathered that day to protest against the invasion of Ukraine.
Belarusian education under the Lukashenko regime has always had many problems. Starting with small salaries, involvement in bureaucratic procedures with a huge mass of regulatory and simply eyewashing documentation. For example, teachers’ salaries are 500-700 roubles.
The gymnasium No. 5 in Minsk was looking for four teachers, a teacher-psychologist, a software engineer and a computer operator. Among the additional requirements for the candidate is «no criminal record». The physical education teacher is sought on a full-time basis – the salary is from 700 to 1000 rubles. A music teacher (percussion class) is offered 500 roubles per half-time job. A primary school teacher would get from 700 rubles (a full-time job). And a teacher of psychology – up to 300 roubles (half-time).
Brest secondary school No. 7 is short of one teacher for September 1 (they are looking for a «worker») and «other specialists in the field of education»: a teacher-organizer, a teacher-psychologist, a social pedagogue, a head of physical education and a worker for complex maintenance of buildings. The salaries for all are from 500 to 700 rubles for a full-time position.
The most recent vacancies are from the Oktyabrskaya school in the Vitebsk district. Here an English teacher for 0,75 rate with a salary of 700-900 roubles is promptly required. It is noted that a specialist with specialized secondary education can be hired, higher education is not required. How much will he earn? Only 200 roubles more than a cleaner (they are looking for two), or a worker for complex maintenance (also short of two), or a watchman.
The sacking of «ideologically incorrect» teachers did not begin in 2020, the universities and schools have always been under serious pressure. Only teachers who rigged elections were of interest to the dictator, and the whole development of the field was to educate schoolchildren according to the ideology of the regime.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to provide real figures of the repressed Belarusian teachers and professors, as even the lists of the past years are incomplete and are constantly being supplemented and updated. The Belarusian regime is trying to conceal any defamatory information, closing access both to information materials of statistics, archives and even more so to judicial and investigative bodies. Teachers and educators continue to be pressured and often remain silent when they are harassed.
It was practically impossible to get another job in the profession in the country after showing too clear a civic position. As the Belarusian nomenklatura itself says:«You got a ‘wolf’ ticket». It means that you got on a certain list, which means you cannot get a job, not only in your specialty, but even as a caretaker.
This was the case before the events of August 2020, and afterwards it was supplemented by direct repression by the security forces of the Lukashenko regime. Many teachers and professors spoke out against election fraud and violence by the security forces and the education system came under even greater pressure. Not just reprimands, but dismissals and arrests followed. All the teachers involved in the 2020 marches have been investigated and dismissed from their jobs. Some of them manage to leave Belarus.
Since 2021, Belarusian educational establishments have not started to send unreliable people to «lists», but now «lists» from law enforcement agencies have come from above and mass dismissals of employees under various pretexts have started. However, as it turned out, they can come and punish later, and due to the toughening of criminal and administrative responsibility, with time arrest periods become longer, fines are higher.
Other cases have been noted which demonstrate the continuing practice of repression for speech, including on social media, and other forms of expression.
Professionals, especially historians, Belarusian linguists are being forced out of the school system. The number of repressions and reprimands is increasing, leading to a decline in the quality of teaching, as more and more paperwork, activities to organise events that whitewash and glorify the regime are needed.