Alherd Bakharevich: Authorities want to settle “Lohvinau issue” once and for all
A fine to Lohvinau publishing house is equivalent to its destruction. Belarusian writers said it in an interview with Deutsche Welle.
On January 9, the Economic Court of Minsk fined published Ihar Lohvinau for selling books without the permission of the Ministry of Information. The fine is 30 penalty units – 5.4 million Belarusian rubles or 325 euros. The court also ruled to recover “incomes from the illegal activity” of more than 960 million rubles (58,000 euros).
Most Belarusian authors, whose books are known in Europe, have been published by the private publishing house Lohvinau. Andrei Khadanovich, the head of the Belarusian PEN centre, describes Lohvinau bookshop as a “joyful island in the gloom of unfree and far from perfection Belarus”.
He recalled the metaphor by Belarusian philosopher Valiantsin Akudovich, who called one of his books Archipelago Belarus. “No one would ever touch a plain unremarkable conformist publisher, but Lohvinau bookshop had no censorship and self-censorship, which annoys me and which we have a lot in Belarus,” Khadanovich said.
“Having turned from a ghetto for the select into an important for Minsk creative platform that hosts literature meetings and poetic festivals, Lohvinau bookshop has become a prominent public place,” writer Artur Klinau said. All his books were published by Lohvinau publishing house, which licence was revoked in 2013 due to Belarus Press Photo Album 2011, which was found extremist by the Ashmiany district court a year later.
Klinau says the claims against the publishing house are “absurd”, because what Lohvinau does “works for establishing the Belarusian identity and citizenship”. “Those who do not understand it are barbarians who harm the state,” he says. Writer Alherd Bakharevich says revoking the licence and depriving Lohvinau of an opportunity to sell books in Belarus are a blow to the Belarusian culture.
Bakharevich thinks the fine was predictable. According to him, he didn't expect justice from the court. By choosing the severe decision, the state represented by the economic court demonstrated its intention to “settle the 'Lohvinau issue' once and for all by destroying first the publishing house and then the bookshop,” the writer says.
“What impressed me most is that the judge asked everyone to leave the courtroom for three minutes and then took the prepared printed court decision out of his folder,” Mikhas Yanchuk a representative of Belsat TV, shared his impressions.