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Lukashenka Laments that «Freedom Has Not Given Birth to Great Literature»

Belarus -- Pupils hold books about President Alyaksandr Lukashenka at a school in Minsk, September 1, 2012

Belarus president Alyaksandr Lukashenka today expressed regret and disappointment that Belarusian literature of the past 20-30 years has failed to produce anything comparable to Leo Tolstoy’s «War and Peace» or Mikhail Sholokhov’s «Virgin Soil Upturned».

At a meeting with Belarusian writers in Minsk today Lukashenka wondered aloud about this state of affairs: «Is it because of the lack of talents or because the book has ceased to be the primary source of information?»

The meeting was notable for its guest list: In attendance were not only pro-government writers union but also the heads of Belarus’ two independent writers’ organizations.

«Nowadays nobody dictates to anyone what and how to write,» said Lukashenka. «But freedom has not given birth to great literature; it has only led to a split in the writers community,» he added.

Lukashenka was referring to a 2006 disagreement which led to a number of pro-government writers leaving the Union of Belarusian Writers, having accused the organization of disloyalty. This group subsequently founded the Union of Writers of Belarus. The new union, headed by Russian-language prose writer Nikolay Cherginets, has ostensibly detached itself from politics and, in return, obtained financial and moral support from the government.