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The Be­laru­sian lan­guage is un­der at­tack

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The Knihauka bookstore in Belarus, which specialised in Belarusian language books, had unexpected visitors on the morning of its first day of operations on May 16.

Rygor Azaronak and Lyudmila Hladkaya, two journalists infamous for spreading state propaganda, visited the small shop and criticised it publicly for its alleged “nationalist ideology”.

A few hours later, the police arrived, searched the store, confiscated more than 200 books – including a translation of George Orwell’s 1984 – and reportedly sent 15 titles to an “expert” to determine whether they contained “extremist materials”.

During the operation, the shop’s owner, publisher Andrey Yanushkevich, and sales assistant, literary blogger Nasta Karnatskaya, were also arrested on “petty hooliganism” charges that are commonly used in politically motivated arrests in Belarus. They remain behind bars after their administrative sentences were extended.

This attack on Belarusian language publishing was not unique or out of the ordinary. Earlier in March, Andrey Yanushkevitch’s namesake publishing house was asked to vacate its office. A year earlier, its accounts were frozen and equipment confiscated.

Several other publishing houses specialising in books by Belarusian authors or in the Belarusian language – Halijafy, Limaryus, Knihazbor, as well as the printing house Medysont – were ordered to temporarily cease operations “for violation of regulations” earlier in the spring.

This wave of persecution in the book publishing industry rolled on top of another one the year before. “With the current government, I don’t see a future for book publishing [in the country],” a........

© Al Jazeera

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