MINSK – Western diplomats in Minsk thought of more than 130 Belarusian intellectuals, including 22 writers and poets who were executed by the Soviet secret police 84 years ago.
October 29th ceremony comes amid an ongoing crackdown on the opposition, civil society and independent media following last year’s controversial presidential election that gave authoritarian leader Aljaksandr Lukashenka a sixth term.
Representatives of the diplomatic missions of the European Union, Great Britain, Switzerland and the United States gathered in Kurapaty, a wooded area on the outskirts of the Belarusian capital that was used as a place of execution by the NKVD, the Soviet secret police, in the 1930s and 1940s.
Some state media journalists attempted to disrupt the ceremony, for example by asking diplomats to identify at least one of the victims they are commemorating.
On the night of October 29th to 30th, an event will be held to commemorate the Belarusian victims of Soviet repression takes place online. Activists created a special website for the occasion – Poets’ Night.
Similar memorial events are held in other parts of the former Soviet Union to celebrate an unofficial day of remembrance for the victims of the Great Terror of Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, which killed hundreds of thousands.
Many of those executed overnight in Belarus on October 29, 1937 were from the local intelligentsia.
The Lukashenka government cracked down on the pro-democracy movement after unprecedented anti-government protests erupted across Belarus after the August 2020 elections.
Thousands of people have been arrested, dozens of news websites banned and independent media outlets closed as part of the widespread crackdown that has driven most of the opposition leaders out of the country.
The Vyasna Human Rights Center considers 833 people to be political prisoners.
The opposition and the West say the presidential election was rigged to keep Lukashenka in power, and the European Union, the United States and other countries have refused to recognize him as the election winner.