viewpoint-east.org

Belarus + Sverige + Ukraina = sant

Category: belarus, by sophie engström, photo by prallin, ukraina

Lviv gästades av Litteraturresan i helgen. Belarusiska och svenska poeter och musikanter möttes för ett litterärt samt musikaliskt utbyte. Det kanske ter sig något underligt att ett svensk-belarusisk projekt har sitt möte i Lviv, men orsaken är tyvärr så dyster som bara avsaknaden av realpolitik kan vara. Maria Söderberg, projektets producent och initativtagare, beviljades inte visum till Belarus. Belarus och Sverige har ju som bekant haft frostiga förbindelser ända sedan “nalleaktionen“. Även om det är sorgligt att Maria Söderberg inte fick visum till Belarus så betyder det vissa fördelar för oss i Lviv. Ett svenskt besök av den kalibern har Lviv inte förärats på länge. Särskild uppmärksamhet ska man också ge översättaren Lev Hrytsyuk medverkan, hans insats var ovärderlig.

Under de tre litteraturdagarna i Lviv kunde man bland annat få lyssna till dikter av den ukrainska poeten och författaren Oksana Zabuzhko, den i Sverige verksamma poeten, konstnären och översättaren Dmitri Plax, författaren Svetlana Aleksievitj, Andrej Khadanovitj och den tidigare svenske ambassadören i Minsk Stefan Eriksson, de svenska poeterna Jenny Wrangborg och Sissel Almgren för att bara nämna några få.

Dagarna avslutades med ett ukrainsk-svenskt fyrverkeri på Dzyga där Riksspelmannen Daniel Wikslund mötte medlemmar ur Hycz Orkestr samt tsymbalispelaren Petro Petrovych (även kallad hackbräde). En oförglömlig kväll där musikerna öppnande dörren till musikens världsomspännande språk.

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Dmitri Plax

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Jenny Wrangborg, Maria Söderberg, Janna Frolén och Daniel Wikslund

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Sissel Almgren

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Suddigt på Hycz och Daniel Wikslund

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Petro Petrovych

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Daniel Wikslund och Zmitser Vajtsiusjkevitj

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My Quest of the City Council: Playing the rule-changing game

Category: belarus, by Olga Karach
Tags: , ,

[Part II of Olga Karach’s adventures in the local election in Belarus]

‘Off with her head!’ the Red Queen shouted at the top of her voice. 
Nobody moved. ‘Who cares for you?’ said Alice, 
(she had grown to her full size by this time.)
‘You’re nothing but a pack of cards!’ 
At this the whole pack rose up into the air, 
and came flying down upon her.

Two cards from two different packs… Sorry, two members from two different commissions called me on Tuesday and informed me that they cancelled my registration for the coming elections to the City Council. The pretext they found was the distributing of green balloons to children. The balloons were given out outside my election precincts, and naturally they did not carry my name or any other names. Apparently, the commissions were running out of time (the elections are due in five days), so they were ready to declare a violation any action of mine. If not balloons, I could have been banned from the elections for a green scarf.


Vitebsk from 1912. From wiki commons.

The three persons who signed the petitions urging to punish me are not from my precincts. I also strongly doubt that they wrote the petitions themselves, not just signed the ready-made text. One of them is the Chief Manager of Municipality Branch #9 in Vitebsk.The second is a woman named Tatiana Tadeushevna Andreieva living at 68-4 Pravdy Street. As for the third person, we know only the last name (Starikovich) and partially the residence address (76 Moskovski Prospekt). However, in the court we will surely learn the full information about the signers and will publish it.

So now authorities consider me not eligible for the elections. But how much ‘elective’ the elections have become, how much of fair elections is left in this staged cricket game? The pro-governmental candidate, Mr. Bashmetov, has shamelessly been making use of his administrative position. Being the Rector of a government-controlled university, he used its premises for meetings and its faculty for organizing the meetings. The students were forced to go to the meetings, sometimes instead of classes. For high-school graduates Mr. Bashmetov was promising almost free admission to the university, if only he becomes one of the ‘deputies’. To crown it all, with the term exams coming many female students were ‘strongly advised’ to take part in concerts and cheer actions for Mr. Bashmetov’s promotion.

The government-staffed commissions reviewed his slanderous complaints against me practically immediately. At the same time only one out of my six complaints of April 14-20 was reviewed. The resolution signed by Mr. Miadelets, the Chair, read ‘a number of solutions have been found which now satisfy all the parties involved’. Besides the fact that no real solution was found, the resolution definitely implied that I am not a party involved. Needless to mention, the other five complaints of mine have never been reviewed.

‘That’s not a regular rule’, Alice remarked, ‘you invented it just now.’
‘It’s the oldest rule in the book!’ cried the Red Queen.
‘Then it ought to be Number One,’ said Alice.
The Red Queen turned pale, and shut her note-book hastily.

Why the officials are changing even their own rules so hastily? What are they scared of? I have no doubts the reason was the number of my representatives. Suddenly the packs (sorry again, the Commissions) got it right that our team will do everything necessary to properly monitor the counting of votes. Their hopes to reach their own goal set from the top were suddenly jeopardized. Fair elections would definitely mean failures of pro-government candidates.

I am addressing to all citizens who were going to support me: show your attitude to this staged game which officials call ‘elections’. You can do it in two ways:
1. You can just ignore the game. Do not come to the election precinct. Why waste time, if the result is fixed and forged anyway? To give officials an opportunity to give their decisions a label of ‘working people’s will’? To let them reduce social security, to raise taxes and utilities, to do nothing about real needs, and call it ‘fulfilling the working people’s orders’?
2. You can come to the election precinct and cross out all the names, then write ‘For Karach’, and put your ballot into the ballot-box. This way you will show the Red Queen and her packs that you are not a pawn in their games, where rules are being changed at will (maybe even as a result of a schizophrenic reaction). You will show that you are a human, and you demand the right to choice. Both ways are good, though they differ in openness, of course.
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My Quest To the City Council: Beginning

Category: belarus, by Olga Karach, guests
Tags: , , , ,

‘Curiouser and curiouser!’

I love quests. Otherwise I would have never become a politician. At the same time I never play computer quests, because I am very positive they are quite dull if compared with real political life in contemporary Belarus. Can you get a puzzle to solve just at the very beginning, when you are just registering for the game? Unlikely. In most cases, for introduction you get a long text of the License of Agreement, written in regular Legalese.

Unlike in computer gaming, my quest for becoming a People’s Representative in the City Council started with a whole range of puzzling tasks even before I could get the official registration. When I was registering for candidacy, I was solemnly given a letter from the Tax Inspection office. Why at that very moment? Why only me? Why not via regular mail, but via personal delivery of the Election Commission Chair? The most plausible answer coming to my mind is that the authorities are trying to put pressure on me and the Election Commission members. However, a quest is a quest, so I also sent an official request to the Tax Inspection office and asked them the same questions. They are still keeping silent about their own official motives though. Evidently they are not so experienced in questing…

Just like Alice in Wonderland, I can only say that subsequent events are getting ‘curiouser and curiouser’. Now, Vitebsk region has the one and only independent newspaper, that of VITEBSKI KURIER (Vitebsk Courier), and the newspaper has never been in favour with the authorities. Actually, we will probably soon have to re-brand it as ‘Vitebsk Phoenix’, because the newspaper team now has a lot of skills in ‘rising from the ashes’ (is there a skill like this in WORLD OF WARCRAFT?). So the authorities never liked the newspaper, but with my registration as a candidate the repressions just rocketed up. The newspaper team has violated no law, from the Election Code or any other, but now it is being considered ‘enemy #1’, and the number of enforcers from the local police who are hunting it down can definitely make a bystander think that the police are dealing with nothing less like Professor Moriarty, Vitebsk City level. Why so? Again, the most plausible answer is that in the official scenario for the coming elections there is no place for independent sources of information. But what can be explanations from the police and the authorities? Anyway, VITEBSKI KURIER will be published and will be delivered to the readers no matter what. Just like before, we will outplay the authorities in this quest as well.

‘When I use a word,’ 
Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 
‘it means just what I choose it to mean—
neither more nor less.’

Last week the cars my relatives own turned out to be included in the Road Police list of vehicles reported stolen. How come? Another puzzle to solve. Apparently, when enforcers from Vitebsk police see a car, it becomes just what they choose it to become. Humpty Dumpty did the same with words, but never with private property. The culmination of this logic was the case when on April 7 the car officially owned by my husband was arrested and delivered to a Police precinct on the suspicion that it had been stolen. The fact that I myself was sitting in the car and the owner was personally driving it definitely was not enough to clear the suspicion. The sad thing is that while a police platoon was hunting down, arresting, and escorting my husband’s car, some real criminals could be stealing cars at will.

This new type of logic invented by Vitebsk police is sometimes incomprehensible even for their colleagues. When Mogilev Region police officers found a car from the official list of vehicles reported stolen, they also had their piece of quest. They could not figure out why there were 10 000 copies of an officially registered newspaper in there, neatly packed and ready for distribution. They had seen many things in stolen cars, but a complete circulation of a newspaper issue was really something very new. When they called Vitebsk police, Vitebsk enforcers solved their problem immediately. The ‘stolen’ car presented no interest for them, they just asked to confiscate the newspaper copies. Have you already guessed that the newspaper title was VITEBSKI KURIER? If yes, you are also beginning to collect points in this quest.

By the way, the issue reached the readers anyway. The newspaper team fulfilled the civil duty, is spite of the hindrances developed by the authorities and their enforcers. We never forget about our main quest and its mission: to provide people with free unbiased information.

‘Now, I give you fair warning,’ 
shouted the Red Queen, stamping on the ground as she spoke; 
‘either you or your head must be off, 
and that in about half no time! 
Take your choice!’

Arranging a meeting with my voters was a whole new part of my quest, and there I had to use a lot of my ‘skills and points’. On April 10 my representative sent an official letter to the Administration of Oktiabrski District of Vitebsk notifying them that on April 12-14 I was going to hold meetings with my voters on the territories near their apartment houses. Knowing how ‘creative’ the Red Queen can be in putting obstacles for people who want fair representation, we also sent another copy by registered mail. The royal reaction was fast and furious. The official reply #01-19/19В signed by Mr. V. A. Galanov, the first deputy of the Administration Head, read that ‘… based on the information above, you are not allowed to hold meetings with information and entertainment elements on the territories near the apartment houses of Klinicheski Election District #51… the only place you can use is the open-air scene located at 63-1 Pravdy Street.’

In my election precinct there are a lot of places fully suitable for an open talk with voters. Why didn’t the authorities mention them? Another puzzle… Anyway, I am a law-abiding citizen, so I answered that if it is ‘the open-air scene located at 63-1 Pravdy Street’, let it be so. Let us play there, and let us play fair.

My election precinct is special, because there are four candidates. In most precincts throughout Belarus there is just one. To make the election quest simpler? Well, I and my activists are sure that ‘no selection—no election’. The citizens’ choice must be educated, people must know their candidates, their backgrounds, their programs. The candidates must meet in fair verbal battles, so that people will see who is who now and who is going to be who after the elections. That is why on April 14 I personally called all my rivals and invited them to come to the meeting in the evening to the one and only ‘open-air scene located at 63-1 Pravdy Street’. All the other candidates confirmed receiving the information, and none of them said that they were organizing their own events at the time.

However, the Red Queen had her own views on how candidates must compete for votes. At about 6pm, just one hour before my arranged meeting with voters, I got a call to my mobile phone. A male introduced himself as ‘A. K. Kondratovich, a deputy head of Oktiabrski District Administration’, and then immediately revealed his true nature of being just a playing card in the authority pack. He said that they banned my meeting with voters because another candidate earlier applied for the same place and time, and the candidate does not want my presence there. I felt just like Alice again—I had to be off, and that in about half no time. Needless to say that the candidate was one of those whom I was calling at noon, and he said not a single word about his own ‘planned’ meeting. Had the Red Queen turned him into a zombie? Or was he a zombie from the very beginning?
Continue reading…

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Alexander Lukashenko loves Sweden

Category: belarus, by sophie engström, sociala medier, web 2.0
Tags: , , , , , ,

Alexander Lukashenko has a political reputation that few wants to be confused with, and one can think that also Swedish politicians would try to avoid being confused with his ideas of running a country. But unwillingly the Swedish government has got a new fan, and perhaps a fan they never wanted to have, and that is, again, Alexander Lukashenko.


Alexander Lukashenko from wiki

Recently the Swedish Minister of Justice, Beatrice Ask, got a request from Alexander Lukashenko, where he asks her to start an exchange project, where Belarus government can learn more about how to reduce economic crime on Internet. I am however sure that this is not Alexander Lukashenko real intentions. Sweden did more than a year introduce the FRA law, that actually gives a certain department the right to track and read all emails and sms’ that crosses the border. The idea is to try to track down terrorists, which of course is complete nonsense. Sweden has a long tradition of tracking its own citizens. (It is no wonder we are the land of accurate statistics on all the moves the citizens takes.) Many in the Swedish piracy movement interpets this as a new way to violate human rights in Sweden (and other countries), and also because FRA can sell the information to anybody they want to!

I am pretty sure Alexander Lukashenko understand how the Swedish government can use all the information they track from the email and sms’ that crosses the border. (To be clear: all emails in Sweden cross the borders. Servers have a very unpatriotic style and don’t really care which server it communicates with, inside or outside Sweden, the server never care.)

It is however very easy for me to be ironic, sitting here in a country with freedom of speech, but I am really worried that this interest of Alexander Lukashenko in Internet, is more and more threatening all activity on Internet in Belarus. And outside the borders! I think it is high time that we, the blogging swarm that wants to help the citizens of Belarus to get freedom of speech and a free internet, to speaks up! At least I will do all in my power to try to high light all this crimes against human rights!

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Öst är Öst och Väst är Väst – i alla fall i OS

Category: belarus, eastern europe, guests, russia
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

viewpoint-east.org kan stolt presentera ett nytt bidrag av Maria Nilsson. Nu om fördomar och rysskräck i bland annat (så dagsaktuella) OS-sammanhang.

Vem har sagt att det är enkelt att vara slavist, eller mindre akademiskt uttryckt rysskramare eller öststatsälskare? Det är aldrig tydligare än när det är dags för OS eller annat stort sportevenemang och framför allt i individuella sporter där svenskarna har, eller i alla fall har haft stora framgångar.

Vem som helst kan i allmänhet uppskatta det vackra rörelsemönstret hos en konståkare som Evgenij Plushenko, utsökta dribblingarna av en Andreij Arshavin eller en Elena Isinbajevas (dessutom har hon ju samma manager som Christian Olsson) förmåga att hela tiden slå nya världsrekord men den längdskidåkare eller skidskytt från forna Öst som skidar förbi en Charlotte Kalla eller skjuter bättre än en Helena Jonsson finner aldrig nåd hos den svenska publiken. Finns det någon gång man kan fråga sig om muren överhuvudtaget fallit är det i längdskidspåret eller i skidskyttetävlingar. Aldrig är väl uppdelning mellan öst och väst dvs. ont och gott så tydlig som i dessa avseende.

Uppkrupen i ett hörn i ett stort sällskap mumlar du förklaringar till varför ryska namn är så konstiga och i allmänhet feluttalade av kommentatorer, försöker glatt dra på munnen när sällskapet skämtar kring att Belarusier och Ryssar inte får komma hem om de gör en dålig tävling eller snarare blir förvisade till Sibirien och framför allt anstränger dig för att inte göra det till ett statsvetenskapligt problem när någon poängterar hur mycket bättre det var när Sovjet fanns och det då fanns fem åkare istället för dagens 35.

I händelse av en ”Öststats” seger ställer sig alla kollektivt upp och skriker epo medan du lite försynt förklarar att enbart för att ryska tävlande blivit ertappade som dopade vid fler tillfällen än de allestädes samvetsgranna svenskarna behöver det inte betyda att alla på andra sidan Donau knaprar piller morgon, middag och kväll. Det kan ju faktiskt vara så att tävlande från det som i det här sammanhanget så gärna benämns som forna Öst faktiskt är bättre tränade, bättre på att toppa formen, bättre på att hålla nervositeten stången osv. än sina svenska motsvarigheter.

Alla som någon gång rest i det forna Öst eller har vänner som kommer därifrån vet om den benhårda disciplin som alla barn grillas i oavsett om det handlar om tämligen oskyldiga fritidssysselsättningar eller prestationsinriktade sporter. Det var en av många paradoxer med landet bakom järnridån, alla skulle vara bäst samtidigt som det kollektiva alltid skulle segra över det individuella. Alla som någon gång har befunnit sig i en träningshall i Öst under vintern vet också om den skoningslösa kylan, avsaknaden av varmvatten i duscharna och möglet i omklädningsrummet vilket antagligen är mer karaktärsdanande än de svenska motsvarigheterna. Till dess att jag blir motbevisad av dopingkontroller kommer jag därför att fortsätta glädjas i smyg i mitt soffhörn vid en ”Öststatsseger”.

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State of Mind – By Annica Karlsson Rixon & Anna Viola Hallberg

Category: art, belarus, gender, guests, PRIDE, queer, ukraine
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This essay by Annica Karlsson Rixon and Anna Viola Hallberg is about their installation project State of Mind. It has been exhibited in Stockholm, S:t Petersburg and Kiev, just to mention some. State of Mind will be exhibited at Y Gallery in Minsk, Belarus in March 2010.

Download full pdf here.

Acquiring direction

‘Life itself’ is often imagined in terms of ‘having a direction’, which decides from the present what the future should be. After all, to acquire a direction takes time, even if it feels as if we have always followed one line or another, or as if we ‘began’ and ‘ended’ at the same place. Indeed, it is by following some lines more then others that we might acquire our sense of who it is that we are.
Sara Ahmed Queer Phenomenology. Duke University Press. 2006.

The writing of this text started at the end of July, a few days after installing State of Mind, for the first time, in the context of EuroPride 08 in Stockholm. [Kulturhuset – Stockholm, July 25 – August 25, 2008. State of Mind is exhibited together with Resonanse at ROSPHOTO – the Russian state center of photography in St. Petersburg, September 5 – October 5, 2008. A tour is planned for Kiev and Kharkov, Ukraine in 2009 and then to move onwards.] The setting for this opening forms an accentuated framework for the narrative, it becomes a component of history writing and an illustrative element for media in the reporting on the event focusing on the themes of the festival; “breaking borders” [The theme for EuroPride in Stockholm 2008 is “Swedish Sin, Breaking Borders”.], bridging politics, culture and entertainment.

State of Mind (Installation view) State of Mind consolidates to a trilogy together with Resonance and Code of Silence. In different ways these lens-based art installations cast light on aspects of socially and culturally constructed identity-based groups in contemporary society. Photography and video are used in combination to expand on the separate histories of the two media with regard to interviews and portraits in documentary genres. This is the point of departure for all three installations. As for the overall narrative, the topics of how and why different groupings construct networks and communities in order to achieve a sense of belonging are in focus, as well as the conditions and necessities for forming the community. The projects look at the social conventions family, love and career, dealing with power relations such as gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation and class. The method of collecting the material in fieldwork is similar in the three projects, but the questions asked and issues raised are specific to each segment of the installations. Portraiture and personally based stories are central. The trilogy is presented as three separate art installations, which co-exist and cross-inform each other. They reflect upon civil rights issues and the idea of being safe and productive within society, working in the space between personal choice and social expectations. Memory, narration, visual representation and oral history are central. In each of the three works a different group is approached that relates to the artists’ personal lives. Resonance [Resonance was exhibited at Norrköping Art Museum, Göteborgs Konsthall and Uppsala Museum of Art during 2006-2007.], our first collaboration, is based on a network of peers belonging to a successful generation of artists and curators. They are all women who made an entrance onto the Swedish and Danish art scene in the 1990´s, and now have international careers. On one level Resonance is an examination of the Scandinavian welfare state, and in more specific terms, the impact of the conditions it creates for the portrayed women to make it on the art scene. In Code of Silence [Code of Silence will be ready to be launched in 2009.] this is a sibling group of five who grew up on a small farm in rural Gothenburg, Sweden. The farm had to face the challenge of major cultural reforms in the nineteenth century, but remained intact. It became a target for expropriation during the 1950´s and 70´s to make way for the reforms involved in building the modern Sweden. Hence, it remained an object of possible interest for the national cultural heritage. The farm was finally demolished in 2004. Code of Silence is based on oral history, memories told by the siblings infringing the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights paragraph 17 relating to everyone’s right to a home. In addition this installation includes a large number of private and official documents such as hand-written wills, receipts from selling milk, and letters to the King of Sweden. State of Mind explores everyday life and the boundaries between ethics, legislation, prejudice and civic expectations in the LGBTQ [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer] life of St. Petersburg, Russia. It emphasizes individuals identifying as lesbians or bisexual women.

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Massages from Belarus

Category: belarus, by sophie engström, music
Tags: ,

The Swedish NGO and civil rights organisation Östgruppen has released an album. The album is a compilation with Belarus artists and it is part of the organisation’s work to highlight article 193 in the Belarus penal.

Among the artists you can find some of the most successful artists on the alternative scene in Belarus. Artists as Krama, Kasia Kamotskaja, Tav.Mauzer are well-known in Belarus and neighbour countries, but few have ever heard any Belarusian music in Sweden. This is, strangely enough, the first compilation of Belarus popular music released in Sweden. According to the chair man at Östgruppen, Martin Uggla, the interest and knowledge about Belarus is very small in Sweden, but he hopes that this compilation will contribute to establish an interest for Belarus issues, music and culture in Sweden.

Listen to sample from the album here.

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