Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 120

Uladzimir Nyaklyaeu, chairman of the Belarusan Writers’ Union–a highly prestigious office in the post-Soviet countries–has requested political asylum in Poland, according to reports in Minsk’s official and opposition press yesterday. While on a private visit to the neighboring country, Nyaklyaeu notified the Polish authorities that he can no longer stay in Belarus either as a writer or as a citizen. He pointed to the repressive atmosphere in the country, the stifling of Belarusan education and culture through russification, and threats made to him by representatives of the authorities. Nyaklyaeu cited Deputy Prime Minister Uladzimir Zamyatalin, responsible for ideological affairs, as threatening him with arrest for his latest article in an opposition journal, in which Nyaklyaeu criticized the official policy of discrimination against the Belarusan language (Belapan, June 22).

In Minsk, the Goskompechat (State Committee for the Press) reacted instantly by announcing an investigation into Nyaklyaeu’s activity as editor-in-chief of the “Krynitsa” literary magazine. The Belarusan Goskompechat has preserved that Soviet name along with its Soviet-era function of pressuring the media into political conformity. The case dramatizes the pre-perestroika situation still prevalent in Belarus: press censorship, cultural-linguistic russification, ideological pressures on writers, and democratic oppositionists forced to emigrate.

Poland has already granted asylum to the well-known Belarusan businessman and supporter of the opposition, Alyaksandr Pupeyka, as well as to a number of Belarusan Popular Front activists. The Front’s emigre chairman, Zyanon Paznyak, operates mostly out of Poland.