The cultural tradition in Belarus has roots
in the Kiev Empire in the 11th century and the
Lithuanian period in the 13th century. Today's most
notable cultural personality is the author Svetlana
Alekseevich, who received the Nobel Prize in literature
A well-known artist originating in Belarus is Marc
Chagall, who grew up in Vitebsk's Jewish ghetto around
the turn of the 1900s. City motifs are common in his
paintings. However, Chagall lived most of his life in
Latest population statistics of Belarus, including religious profiles and major languages spoken as well as population growth rates in next three decades.
Belarussian literature experienced a rebirth in the
early 1900s, when national writers Janka Kupala and
Jakob Kolas laid the foundations for the modern
Belarussian language. During the Stalin years
(1924–1953) much of the Belarusian culture was banned.
The struggle for independence to a large extent also
became a struggle to regain it.
Svetlana Aleksijevich was awarded the Nobel Prize for
his "multifaceted works, a monument of suffering and
courage in our time". Among her books in Swedish is the
documentary interview book "Prayer for Chernobyl".
Mention should also be made of Vasil Bykau, who was
internationally recognized for his works on the Second
World War. Bykau was a prominent critic of President
Aleksandr Lukashenko's regime. The poet and human rights
activist Uladzimir Njakljajeu, who was a candidate in
the 2010 presidential election, was awarded the Swedish
Pens Tucholsky Award in 2011. Only in 2014 was he given
the opportunity to receive the award.
Belarus has a strong singing and folk music
tradition. Every year, the international music festival
"Slavic Market in Vitebsk" takes place in the city of
There are also alternative cultural movements that,
among other things, seem to strengthen the position of
the Belarusian language. The independent Gallery Y in
Minsk has a bookstore that sells books written and
translated into Belarusian, a design shop, exhibition
hall and a café where young Minsk residents gather. The
gallery also organizes seminars and debates on art and
In the villages of Nezvizh and Mir there are castles
that are listed on the UN agency UNESCO World Heritage
List. In the city of Brest is a large fortress which,
after the Second World War, received the epithet heroic
fortification because of the courage that Soviet
soldiers showed when fighting there against the German
Nazi army in 1941.
Another attraction is the Belovezhskaya Pushtja
National Park, which is also on the World Heritage List.
The nature area that is shared with Poland is best known
in Sweden as the Białowieża forest.
In Grodno there is the Great Synagogue, whose history
dates back to the 16th century, although the building is
of newer dates. Only some of the former many synagogues
in Belarus are preserved, as Jews in the country were
subjected to severe persecution both by Nazi Germany and
by the Soviet Union during the Stalin era.
The EU promises support to countries in the east
Representatives of the EU and six former Soviet republics meet in Brussels.
The EU promises deeper cooperation with Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Georgia,
Armenia and Azerbaijan. The EU does not place a view on membership of the Union,
on the other hand, help fight corruption, strengthen the rule of law and
modernize the countries' economy.
Latvia announces border fencing
In neighboring Latvia, a chief within the border guard announces that a
twelve-mile-long fence, with barbed wire, is to be traveled along the border. It
will happen as soon as the Latvian finishes building a similar fence at its
border with Russia and is expected to be ready by 2020.
Imprisonment for protests
The poet and opposition politician Vladimir Nekliyev was sentenced to ten
days in prison by a Minsk court for calling for protests against President
Lukashenko's rule. Regime critic Mikola Statkevich was sentenced for the end of
October to five days in prison. The ruling against Statkevich was about a
demonstration in September against a military exercise held jointly with Russia.
Demonstration against the Belarusian regime
At least 200 people are participating in a demonstration in Minsk demanding,
among other things, that President Lukashenko resign. They also protest the
widespread bullying in the Belarusian army, which since 2008 has driven at least
37 conscripts into suicide. The demonstration is led by opposition politician
"Decreased respect for human rights"
The UN Rapporteur for Belarus writes in a report to the UN Human Rights
Council that respect for human rights in the country has deteriorated
dramatically. According to the reporter Miklós Haraszti, the regime has fallen
back to repression on a large scale after, for a few years, most often refrained
from using violence. In particular, he points to the crackdown on demonstrations
in March against the "sponges law" - a special tax law for those who do not have
full-time employment - when over 900 people were arrested for no apparent
reason, including opposition politicians, human rights activists, journalists
and foreign visitors.
Opposition movement is registered
Opposition movement Govori Pravdyu (Say the truth) is allowed to register
after every year since 2010 has been denied all applications.
Disguised criticism of Russia
In a televised speech, President Lukashenko said it was difficult to
establish "equal and mutually respectful relations" within the Eurasian Economic
Union (EEA). He complains about constant disputes between the countries,
accusations of price wars and unwillingness to create joint funds. He says the
Eurasian market cannot be "a particular country's market". Assessors say that
Russia has long wanted to use the EEA to strengthen Russia's influence in the
former Soviet Union and to create a counterbalance to the EU.
The mass arrest during protests
Kravall police seize hundreds of people in Minsk to stop a planned major
protest that the regime declared illegal. Among the arrested are several
journalists, but also people who just happened to be nearby. In a raid against
the civil rights organization Vjasna's office, nearly 60 people are arrested,
among them several foreign observers. They will be released later. Prominent
opposition politician Uladzimir Njakljajeu is stopped at the border when he
arrives by train from Poland and is detained.
Lukashenko: "Armed provocateurs" arrested
President Lukashenko says that about twenty armed people who planned an
"armed provocation" have been arrested. He suggests that they received military
training in their home country but also in Ukraine and "probably" in Lithuania
and Poland as well. Lukashenko also describes its political opponents as "fifth
columnists" who, with Western funding and support from Western intelligence
services, want to create tension in Belarus.
Protests are growing in strength
About 3,000 people take part in a protest march through Minsk, where, among
other things, demands are made for Lukashenko to resign. Participants in the
march say that the protests are not only aimed at the "sponge tax" but equally
against the difficult living conditions. In the town of Grodno, the police
arrest the organizers of a protest march with about 800 participants. Since the
demonstrations began in February, about 100 people have been arrested according
to the human rights group Vjasna. Several of them must have been sentenced to
prison for up to two weeks.
The arrest during continued protests
the 12th of March
Although Lukashenko temporarily halted the "sponge tax" protests continue and
spread. Several opposition politicians and at least three journalists are
arrested in connection with a demonstration in the city of Orsja. In Maladzejna,
thousands of people attend a protest rally, and in Pinsk, hundreds protest
against the regime. At the same time as Lukashenko said that the tax on
unemployed would not be collected until further notice, he ordered the Interior
Minister to establish "perfect order" in the country.
Collection of "sponge tax" is canceled
President Lukashenko announces that the recovery of a special tax from the
unemployed (see February) will be suspended for the remainder
of 2017. He criticizes local authorities for being overly zealous and says
innocents have been affected. But the opposition claims the play is merely an
attempt to silence the unusually widespread protests and that resistance to the
"sponge tax" is continuing.
Protest against "sponge tax"
A few thousand people in Minsk participate in one of the largest
demonstrations in Belarus in many years. They object to a tax of about SEK 1,700
introduced by President Lukashenko to punish the "social parasites" who work
less than 183 days a year. The tax is reminiscent of the attitude during the
Soviet era, when those who did not have full-time work and who were not
registered as job seekers were labeled as "smarter". About 430,000 Belarusians
have been ordered to pay the tax by February 20, but the days before the
deadline expire, only about 10 percent have done so.
Moscow faces checks along the border
As a result of Belarus's decision in January to abolish the visa requirement
for a number of nationals on short visits, Russia sets up checks at its border
with Belarus. A "security zone" is set up on the Russian side of the border.
Russian authorities justify the decision that visa facilitation to Belarus poses
a security threat to Russia, but also says that it is not really about regular
border checks but just about "following the flow of people" across the border.
However, President Lukashenko describes the situation as Russia trying to "take
strikes on Belarus" and suspects the neighboring country of planning to violate
a number of current agreements on, inter alia, energy supplies.
Facilitating visa requirements
The government decides to abolish the visa requirement for citizens of 80
countries for a maximum of five days. The relief applies to, among others,
citizens of the EU countries and the United States arriving by air.