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Unlikely headline: Belarus journalist wins Nobel Prize for literature

Because of frequent negative press coverage of Belarus, I always try to highlight positive developments with respect to my homeland. That’s a tendency that I typically share with the Belarusian government.

So perhaps the bigger piece of news than a Belarusian person winning the Nobel Prize in Literature is whether the Belarusian government would congratulate her or not.

On October 8, the Nobel Committee for Literature at the Swedish Academy bestowed the 2015 honor on Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarusian journalist, author, and teacher. Alexievich also happens to be an outspoken supporter of the opposition in Belarus. Her work has been censored on occasion in both the Soviet Union and in Belarus.

During a press conference following news of Alexievich’s win, journalists asked her whether she had been congratulated by members of the Belarusian or Russian governments – specifically, the presidents of either country. Alexievich said that she had not been congratulated by either president, and that the only member of government who had contacted her was Russian Minister of Information, Vladimir Grigoriev.

“The Belarusian authorities pretend that I don’t exist. They don’t print me,” Alexievich stated.

Several hours after the press conference, news stories started to appear that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko had indeed congratulated Alexievich. The reports state that Lukashenko commented on the moving power of Alexievich’s work, that he was “sincerely happy for [her] success,” and that he “hope[s] very much that [her] award will serve our government and the Belarusian people.”

Alexievich has certainly garnered plenty of attention for Belarus from around the world. She has also been explicit about her opposition to the current regime. Journalists asked Alexievich about her intentions for the elections this upcoming Sunday, October 11. She remarked that she would not go vote (because she thought the outcome was predetermined), but if she did, she would support Lukashenko’s opponent, Tatyana Korotkevich.

Regardless of who wins the election, it will be fascinating to see in just what way Alexievich’s Nobel Prize victory will serve the Belarusian government.

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Ilya Zlatkin is a Chicago attorney focusing on business planning, intellectual property, and international entrepreneurship. He’s also a Certified Fraud Examiner. He can be contacted here.

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