The State Committee for the Press (the censor) has gone after one of the last newspapers in the country to publish in the Belarusan language. The paper, a biweekly with a circulation of 5,000, has been haled into court for — bad spelling. “It is forbidden,” roared the censor, “to deviate from generally accepted linguistic norms.” The paper apparently uses orthographic conventions that Stalin banned in 1933.
The only free press left in Belarus is at the mint. The Belarusan ruble has lost half its value since prices were frozen in March and the exchange rate fixed at 43,000 to the dollar. Goods have disappeared from the shelves but inflation rages in the black market, where the ruble trades at 86,000 to the dollar. In an effort to shut down Russian and Polish arbitrage between the black and the official exchange rates, the government last week announced it would no longer accept its own currency in payment for exports.