Loud performance even in court: the story of the artist Ales Pushkin Belarus: a view from Europe – a special project DW | DW

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“Figurant” in a white jumpsuit with the inscription “Belrestavratsiya”, in which he was taken just from the historic site a year ago, lay down on a bench and showed no signs of life. Only when asked by the judge about the “demarche” did he demand that the convoy remove the handcuffs and help put him on his feet. It turned out later that he was also brought into the building in a horizontal position, he refused to go to court, “journalist Igor Korney wrote about the trial of the famous Belarusian artist Ales Pushkin. court?

What is Pushkin accused of?

On March 26, 2021, the Grodno Prosecutor’s Office opened a criminal case against Ales Pushkin. The reason was the placement of a portrait of the anti-Soviet underground activist Yevgeny Zhykhar at an exhibition in Grodno’s “Center for Urban Life”, which was interpreted as a “rehabilitation of Nazism.” It is worth noting that the painting was painted in 2014 and previously exhibited in Belarus and Russia.

At that time, the artist himself was in Kiev, where he participated in the exhibition of Belarusian protest art “Every day”. Even knowing about the criminal case, Pushkin decided to return to Belarus. On March 30, he was detained in the village of Zhilichi, Kirov District, Mogilev Region, where the artist was working on the restoration of the Bulgakov Palace. At the end of November 2021, Ales Pushkin was sent for a psychiatric examination, and in December he was charged under Part 3 of Article. 130-1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus (intentional actions to rehabilitate Nazism, committed by a group of persons) and Art. 370 of the Criminal Code (abuse of state symbols). The artist was offered to write a pardon petition, but he refused.

In one of the letters from the pre-trial detention center, Pushkin describes the portrait of Zhykhar: “I find people with a real, characteristic Belarusian history, almost forgotten. Evgeny Zhykhar is one of them. “). The portrait of the Resident is a collective” image of the Belarusian in the war of 1939-1945 between East and West, between two totalitarian systems – the Soviet and German. “

Performance against thousands of protest criminal cases

The Minsk City Court began considering the artist’s case on March 10. Ales Pushkin refused the services of a lawyer, and also expressed distrust of the court. Police removed Pushkin’s wife, Yanina, from the courtroom for saying a few words to her husband. Afterwards, it was decided to close the process. According to the Vesna human rights center, on March 10, three people who came to support Pushkin were detained in the court building. It is known that two of them, Vitaly Boris and artist Ales Tsirkunov, were sentenced to 15 days of administrative arrest for “picketing”: badges on a backpack and a passport cover with the emblem of “Chase”.

Ales Pushkin, while in solitary confinement, where he was sent for 13 days for “inappropriate behavior” at a court hearing, scratched his stomach in protest against his imprisonment and 5,000 political criminal cases opened in Belarus.

On March 30, during the sentencing, Pushkin undressed so that scratches in the shape of a cross could be seen, and demanded the release of all political prisoners. The artist also thanked those present for participating in the political performance.

Five years in a strict regime colony for a painting

Ales Pushkin was sentenced to five years in a maximum security penal colony by a partial sentence: 4.5 years in prison under Part 3. Art. 130 of the Criminal Code (rehabilitation of Nazism) and a year of restriction of liberty with a referral to an open correctional facility under Art. 370 of the Criminal Code (abuse of state symbols).

Ales Pushkin’s drawing from the pre-trial detention center

The verdict did not come as a surprise. Ales himself said at one of the meetings that he expected and was ready to be sentenced to a maximum of 12 years, but expressed hope that he would be rehabilitated later. The sentence of five years is very harsh. even being detained for an hour is illegal because Ales was tried as an artist. No arguments were made as to what he was guilty of. He was guilty of painting a picture that had been exhibited in state galleries more than once before, “he said. in an interview with DW Sergei Budkin, head of the Belarusian Council of Culture (Belarusian Council of Culture) – an association of independent cultural figures. According to him, Pushkin also disturbed both Soviet officials and those who came to power in Belarus after 1994.

Manure for the president and Lukashenko on frescoes with sinners

Ales Pushkin is a Belarusian nonconformist painter, theater artist, performer, art curator. One of his first art events took place on March 25, 1989. Pushkin walked along Independence Avenue in Minsk with posters dedicated to the 71st anniversary of the proclamation of the BNR. Pushkin was followed by about a hundred like-minded people who carried a paper stork and 71 white balls. Pushkin and 35 other people were detained then. The artist was sentenced to two years probation.

Pushkin’s most famous performance is “Manure for the President.” In July 1999, on the fifth anniversary of Alexander Lukashenko’s rule, the artist rolled a wheelbarrow with manure to the Presidential Administration in Minsk. He scattered manure and devalued rubles, put the constitution, the portrait of Lukashenko on top, and pierced it all with pitchforks. For this action, the artist was also sentenced to two years probation. Ales Pushkin recreated this performance on March 25, 2021 in Kiev at the exhibition “Every day”. Probably, this could be the reason for the subsequent accusation under the article of abuse of state symbols.

Ales Pushkin was engaged in the restoration of historic buildings and painted churches. The most famous work and, by his own admission, “the most important work for him” – the painting of the new church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in the town of Beaver, Minsk region, where the artist comes from. On one of the frescoes, Pushkin depicted Alexander Lukashenko and then-Metropolitan Filaret surrounded by riot police among sinners. Later it was painted over, but the church was still painted by Pushkin. In 2011, the temple burned down, it was rebuilt from scratch. “My father, as it was built (St. Nicholas Church), said:” Here is my son, an artist who was born and studied in his homeland, an artist who returned to Beaver, to his place – will paint! “I carried out my father’s will and painted it in 1995-1999, and depicted on the fresco” Judgment Day “among sinners very similar people who are accountable to God for their earthly deeds,” – wrote the artist from the pre-trial detention center.

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