Chernov’s Choice

Chernov’s Choice

Published: April 6, 2011 (Issue # 1650)

Belarusian band Lyapis Trubetskoy, which performed in St. Petersburg last month, has canceled the rest of their planned concerts in their home country after sold-out concerts on the current tour in support of the band’s new album “Vesyoliye Kartinki” (Funny Pictures) continue to be canceled at short notice for alleged fire safety reasons, or with no reason given at all.

According to Lyapis Trubetskoy’s manager Yevgeny Kolmykov, the band has canceled planned concerts in Molodechno, Soligorsk and Zhlobin “so as not to torment people with pointless expectations” after planned concerts in Gomel, Mogilyov and Minsk were canceled by the promoters “for laughable reasons and at the last minute.”

Kolmykov linked the cancelations to blacklists of bands and artists allegedly issued by the Belarusian authorities, who continue to deny their existence.

“In informal conversations, representatives of radio stations, executive authorities and promoters confirm that these lists are real, that they must be obeyed and that this is controlled by a higher authority,” Kolmykov said in a statement posted on the band’s web site last week.

Lyapis Trubetskoy’s frontman and songwriter Sergei Mikhalok, who has written a number of protest songs, including the anti-President Lukashenko anthem “Belarus Freedom,” and who signed a letter demanding the release of imprisoned oppositionists, said that artists in Belarus cannot now stay out of politics.

“I want to say that the word ‘apolitical’ has lost any sense in Belarus today,” he said in the same statement.

“A person who describes himself as being so joins the ranks of the servants of the regime a priori.”

Mikhalok described what is happening in Belarus as “a kind of cultural genocide.”

“I know that many are leaving for the West now — to study or work, because they see no prospects inside the country,” he said.

“In fact, one can extend these blacklists to infinity. People like us are simply being pushed out of the country. We are not allowed to sing; others are not allowed to work in art, science or business. If previously, we were required to keep silent, now they are simply driving us out of here.”

Speaking to The St. Petersburg Times last month, Mikhalok suggested that Belarus’s authoritarian regime was a kind of “experiment” for post-Soviet countries, and that Lukashenko’s excesses that appeared outrageous to outsiders just a few years ago have since become commonplace in Russia and Ukraine.

Open Your Eyes, St. Petersburg’s anti-fascist film festival that was rejected by two state film theaters that had been happy to hold it since its launch in 2006, was shut down just four hours prior to its planned opening last week. The organizers said that a third venue, the Mikhail Shemyakin Foundation, dropped the event after receiving a call from the prosecutor’s office. The city authorities deny any involvement. Of course.

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