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Belarus labels classical 19th century poems as ‘extremist’

Belarus labels classical 19th century poems as 'extremist'
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Belarus on Thursday declared two famous 19th century poems extremist material, the latest sign of the deepening crackdown in the reclusive country.

Since his disputed re-election triggered mass protests in 2020, Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko has intensified the repression of critical voices.

The prosecutor’s decision concerns two poems by Vintsent Dunin-Martsinkyevich, a well-known figure in Belarusian literature, and the preface to an edition of his works by literary critic Yazep Yanushkevich.

“What is happening is the transition from a dictatorship into a totalitarian regime. People are being intimidated, classics calling for national resistance are being banned,” literature expert Ales Pashkevich told AFP.

The works revolve around the uprising led by Polish-Belarusian writer Kastus Kalinouski against the Russian empire in the 19th century.

A well-known group of Belarusian volunteers fighting against Russian forces in Ukraine, the Kastus Kalinouski Regiment, has even been named after the revolutionary.

“This period is being reinterpreted by the Belarusian society today, in connection with the war in Ukraine, mass repression in Belarus and Russia’s role in it,” Pashkevich said.

Lukashenko last year provided the Belarusian territory as a staging ground for Russia’s offensive in Ukraine.

The Belarusian leader received decisive support from Russian President Vladimir Putin during the protests that shook his regime in 2020.

Since then, most Belarusian opponents have fled or been jailed.

Independent human rights organisation Viasna says nearly 1,500 political prisoners are currently detained in Belarus.



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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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