Since last August, we’ve continuously reported on how Belarusian Eurovision stars have been affected by the crises in their own country in the aftermath of pro-democracy protests. Recently, a Belarusian “list of banned artists” has appeared in local press and on social media that highlights the continued limitations to freedom of expression in Belarus.
The 9 August marked a year since the 2020 Belarusian presidential elections and the start of widespread protests against the current government. In that year, barely anything has changed for the Belarusian people. For pro-democracy artists, it has increasingly become difficult to perform in their native country, with a crackdown on those who may speak out against the government.
Over the past week, a list of “banned artists” in Belarus has been circulating over social media. This list includes names of many Belarusian Eurovision participants. Here’s an explainer on what we officially know about the list and what it means.
“List of banned artists”: What is it all about?
On the 5 August, several publications in Belarus started reporting on a list they had received. In fifteen pages, it detailed the names and professions of hundreds of key workers in the cultural sector, media and sports. Most of them have taken an outspoken pro-democracy stance in the past year.
In total, over 40 individual artists and an additional 19 musical groups are visible on the list. Next to that, it records the names of over 150 journalists who left state media following the protests.
The direct origins of the document remain mostly mysterious and exact creators of the list have not been verified.
The document appeared in the independent Belarusian media after an anonymous employee of a recruitment agency tipped different outlets. This anonymous person claimed they received the list in the mail and that they were told to not employ anyone on the list.
According to Radio Svaboda, the Belarusian service of RFE/RL, the list first appeared in a pro-governmental Telegram group called “Traitors of the Republic of Belarus”.
Although the original source of the list remains unknown, it has nevertheless sparked outrage on Belarusian social media as it is yet another tool of intimidation used against artists.
Who is on the list and what does it mean?
The list includes Eurovision participants Angelica Agurbash, Polina Smolova, Dmitry Koldun, Litesound, Uzari, NAVIBAND and VAL. Next to that, it includes former Belarusian Junior Eurovision stars Olga Satsiuk, Ksenia Sitnik and Aleksey Zhigalkovich.
The inclusion of Smolova and Koldun is noteworthy. Neither of them have spoken their minds on the conflict or sided with the pro-democracy movement publicly. Smolova has not made any public appearances in recent times.
Eurovision fans might also recognise the names of national final stars Alexey Gross, Alen Hit, Evgeny Litvinikovich, Max Lorens and Rusya from the musical group SHUMA on the list.
Former Eurovision commentators Evgeny Perlin and Denis Kurian are among the list of former employees of BTRC.
The direct implications of the list are unclear. However, such an inclusion is nonetheless an evident form of intimidation. It demonstrates the limitations on freedoms of expression within the country’s music industry.
The political situation in Belarus eventually led to the country’s disqualification from the Eurovision Song Contest 2021. Belarus’ state broadcaster BTRC was later expelled from the EBU, making it impossible for BTRC to participate in both Eurovision and Junior Eurovision in the near future.