Interpreting America at the Minsk Book Fair

At the end of January this year, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko hosted US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Independence Palace, a glassy, corporate-looking building on Prospekte Pob…

It’s jarring that an industry ostensibly built on understanding the world’s complexity is so basic and unvarying in the stories it tells and the perspectives it considers. Include too many of the bigger, weightier issues and suddenly you’re in the realm of hard-news journalism, which is filed in its own separate category with its own separate publications and its own separate faults—including, in a reversal of the gaps in travel writing, an all-too-common lack of cultural context and individual human stories and the specific everyday joys that exist even in the most troubled places.

Svetlana Alexievich Is Not Going Anywhere

The Nobel Prize winner seeks to represent the will of protesters in Belarus, despite intimidation by Alexander Lukashenka’s regime.

The Coordinating Council, which Tsikhanouskaya originally selected from a pool of volunteers, has continued accepting applications. Alexievich told me that more than six and a half thousand people have now put in their names, and in the past few days existing members have chosen a hundred and twenty people who will now share decision-making power. Unlike the names of the original members of the council, the names of what’s now called the Expanded Council will be kept secret, to protect them from arrest. “Every day, people keep signing up,” Alexievich said.

“We Were Locked Up in One Country and Released Into Another”: Horror and Hope as Protests in Belarus Continue

The brutality of the state’s response not only failed to scare people into staying home but united them against Alexander Lukashenka’s regime.

The following day was marked by absences. There was no food or water, and no formal charges or grounds for arrest presented to the inmates. More than twenty-four hours after they were detained, the women were taken out of their cell and told to sign a document that purported to describe the circumstances under which they were detained. “We heard people saying, ‘I was at a polling place,’ or ‘I was walking the dog,’ or ‘I was with my kids,’ and immediately the sound of blows, and you could hear that they are using their batons and, from their comments, that they are trying to impress each other with how hard they are hitting.” Svetlana couldn’t read what she was being asked to sign, because an officer covered the top part of the sheet with her hand. “I could see that the address and time of arrest were false,” she said. “So I wrote, ‘I do not certify.’ The woman officer started twisting my arms behind my back and made me kneel. She had some trouble getting me down to the floor, so she put me in a choke hold. I said, ‘You are going to strangle me now and will have to live with it on your conscience,’ and she loosened her grip. She then forced me to stand facing the wall, legs spread super-far apart. Then I was put back in a cell.”

After a Rigged Election, Belarus Crushes Protests Amid an Information Blackout

Alexander Lukashenka is claiming his sixth term, and his strongest opponent has fled the country.

The streets of Minsk and other Belarusian cities have been battlegrounds since Sunday evening, when authorities announced that eighty per cent of voters had chosen to reëlect Alexander Lukashenka, who has been President for twenty-six years. His electoral opponent, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, has fled the country. At least three thousand people have been arrested, one protester has died, and an unknown number have been injured.