Ales Bialiatski (Belarus)

From the start of the 1980s, Ales Bialiatski, a young Belarusian writer and graduate of the Gomel University Faculty of History and Philology, joined the national democratic movement. While the world was still divided by the Iron Curtain, he became a founding member of the Belarusian Popular Front. Helping to create a young writers’ association that he chaired for several years, Ales went on to join the Belarusian Writers’ Union. Later, he organised the first demonstrations against totalitarianism.

This commitment led to his imprisonment in 1988, marking the start of a long series of arrests and harassment.

In 1996, in the face of the increasing repression of the Lukachenko regime, Ales Bialiatski created the Human Rights Centre Viasna. In 2007, just three years after joining International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Ales Bialiatski was elected its Vice-President, the first representative of the former Soviet countries to be elected to the FIDH International Board.

A Word about Words – samizdat essay

„Besides, to be wary of words and of the horrors that might slumber inconspicuously within them – isn’t this, after all, the true vocation of the intellectual? I recall that André Glucksmann once spoke in Prague about the need for intellectuals to emulate Cassandra: to listen carefully to the words of the powerful, to be watchful of them, to forewarn them of their danger, and to proclaim their dire implications or the evil they might invoke.“

Václav Havel:
A Word about Words – samizdat essay, July 25, 1989

What Price Human Rights?