Aleh Pralyaskouski, Head of the Ideology Department of Presidential Administration, made the unexpected move. On Nov. 21 he invited leaders of the most popular blacklisted Belarusian groups to his office for a conversation. Aleh Pralyaskouski not only acknowledged the sad fact that some musicians are prevented from performing, but also proposed them to become… friends. He even offered them the state help and support in organizing a major concert “Rock for Belarus”. The musicians, however, refused to sing under this politically charged motto (“for Belarus” is the slogan of all major pro-Lukashenka political campaigns). “Then, why don’t you come up with the concert title which suits you?” offered the chief Belarusian ideologist.
Ihar Varashkevich, singer of the rock band Krama says that “the conversation was a rather constructive one. We have made our position clear, and nobody demanded that we repent our alleged sins or something. On the contrary, we received a promise that we will not be hindered in our work in the future”.
Aleh Praliaskouski called the recent ideological crackdown on Belarusian musicians an “excesses of the work of local authorities”. (On Nov. 14the presentation of the new album “Stasi” by Neuro Dubel was not allowed to take place in one of Minsk clubs; in another incident, the authorities voiced their determination to ban the independent annual rock festival “Rock-Kola”, which has been held annually for 17 years).
Alyaksandar Kilinkovich, leader of Neuro Dubel, called this “a shock” and wrote an open letter about the state of Belaurusian independent rock music – a voice in the wilderness, which was unexpectedly heard by the Ideology Department.
The audience of NN.by is split in its opinion. Some see this conversation as a good sign, other call the musicians traitors.
As Aleh Hamenka, leader of folk-rock group Palac, told in his interview to the Belarusian service of “Radio Liberty” “we were prepared to see that all this will be actively discussed. I want to encourage everyone to look at the results, which, I hope, this discussion will bring. I think there is still a chance that a major shift in the today’s Belarusian state ideology takes place. Hopefully, it will improve the position of the Belarusian language, of modern Belarusian musicians, and Belarusian politics as the whole”.
The move by Aleh Pralyaskouski indeed seems to be a sign of the changing ideological policy. Pavel Yakubovih, head of “Belarus Segodnya”, the daily mouthpiece of the President, has recently invited some blacklisted musicians to his headquarters for a discussion. The authorities also encourage the non-registered youth organizations (such as “Young Front”) to get legal and participate in the official youth work (a rather cynical offer considering the fact that the “Young Front” leaders are now in jail).
Kasya Kamotskaya, leader of rock group Novaye Neba, is rather skeptical about the conversation with Pralyaskouski: “What can I say? It’s a dialogue between a cat and a mouse”.
Nasha Niva editorial comment:
“First of all, such a move shows that authorities failed to subdue the Belarusian rock to their will. But if you fail to subdue someone, you can always try to buy him. This is the logic of the official morality. In any case, today we celebrate a great victory of our music and our language. Let them sound, and the time will settle everything”. Barys Tumar