Dear cultural activists,
Since the end of the GDR, we no longer have people who have to go to prison for expressing their opinions freely or for subversive art actions. This is a great achievement. The situation in Belarus, on the other hand, is still very different. There are currently around 1.500 political prisoners there.
On 11 July 2023, the artist Ales Pushkin died in hospital under unexplained circumstances. This makes him the fourth political prisoner since the rigged presidential elections in Belarus in 2020 who has not survived imprisonment. Ales took part in the post-election protests, of course. He was arrested in March 2021, and a year later sentenced to five years in camps for ‘incitement to hatred’. If you want to know more about Ales Pushkin, we recommend a look at our magazine partisanen 7 – Almanac for the Unconformist or the recording of his 2017 performance in Bobr. His warnings went unheeded in the Belarusian village.
Why are we particularly moved by this fate? In 2016, thanks to the photographer Janak Kouzel, Kultur Aktiv became aware of Ales’ performative works. Subsequently, Janak’s photographic and filmic documentations of Ales’ artistic work were presented several times in Dresden, for example at the nEUROPA gallery or at the Ostrale. A visit to Ales in his home village of Bobr was planned for 2018 to help organise an art festival there. Since the funding was not approved, the direct exchange never happened. This feels all the more bitter in retrospect.
Instead of letting helplessness creep over you, you can take concrete action. An alliance of Belarusian organisations has called for a fundraising campaign to support these people. With the campaign Letters to Prisoners – Against Forgetting, you have the opportunity to send a personal greeting to individual people.
Many greetings from Dresden Neustadt!
P.S.: Until the end of the GDR, a Stasi detention centre for political offenders was located on the premises of the Bautzner Straße Dresden Memorial. In the project zusammen.HALT (together.HALT), together with the memorial, we invite youths and young adults to come to terms with the fates of these prisoners.
Cover photo: Janak Kouzel, from partisanen 7 – Almanac for the Unconformist