de / en
Der Weg aus der Nische?
Belarussische Literatur und ihre Zukunft


Russian with translation into German

An event of the transcultural festival POSTWEST

A way out of the niche? Belarusian literature and its future

With: Julia Cimafiejeva (poet and translator), Andrej Januškevič (historian and publisher)
Moderation: Alexander Chertenko

Since the 1990s, Belarusian writers who do not belong to the official, pro-government writers' union and write in Belarusian have found themselves in a precarious position: due to a lack of support and systematic marginalization in public discourse, they are destined to a niche existence, both culturally and linguistically. Belarusian is regarded as secondary to Russian by the state, which is the main reason why language is regarded by many Belarusian authors as a medium of resistance—even including those who write in Russian themselves, such as Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich. Publishers dedicated to Belarusian-language literature are also faced with a double challenge: they must hold their ground against the dominance of Russian-language publications, most of which come from Russia. In addition to this their work is also shaped by cultural, political, and administrative restrictions.

Set against this difficult situation, a lively literary scene has developed in Belarus over the last two decades, with its own publishing houses, journals, literary critics, and prizes, and it is even gaining recognition beyond national borders. What conditions are the independent authors and publishers working under there? Who are their readers and how do they market their publications in a (linguistically) Russian-dominated book market? If language is a political issue, what does it mean to write and read in Belarusian? And what ultimately needs to happen in order to liberate their literature from its niche?

Julia Cimafiejeva is a Belarusian poet and translator. She has published two volumes of poetry so far: Kniha pamylak (The Book of Errors, 2014) and Cyrk (Circus, 2016; German translation, 2019) . Cimafiejeva is the co-founder of the online literary magazine PrajdziSvet (discontinued in 2018). In 2017 she curated the Znak rounasci (Equal Sign) literature festival. She also presented the television programme Remarka (Commentary).

Andrej Januškevič is a historian and proprietor of the independent publishing house in Minsk of the same name. He is also the founder of, a literature distributor that disseminates and promotes contemporary Belarusian literature.

Alexander Chertenko is a German-Ukrainian literary and cultural scholar, Slavist, and comparatist, and is currently working at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen. In 2019 he was a visiting scholar at ZOiS (Center for East European and International Studies).

In cooperation with

Funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation

Upcoming Activities:
Platform East: An Unholy Alliance? “Christian Values” and Anti-Gender Politics in Central and Eastern Europe, 26.02.
Platform East: Fragmente meiner Heimaten. Russischsprachige Migration in Deutschland, 18.03.
Dead-end Jobs: Precarious Work in Central and Eastern Europe and Beyond, 31.03.

Past Activities


An event of the transcultural festival POSTWEST

As a prelude to POSTWEST Festival in May 2020, the ensemble will thoroughly yet sensitively explore the world of POSTWEST and present artistic contributions on (un)familiar subjects and figures, their own ideas and approaches to the festival’s theme. Get to know our ensemble in a completely different way, and let this snapshot for your mind and senses guide you around the evening performance and to POSTWEST Festival.

Funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation

Ivan Krastev: The Light That Failed – A Reckoning

Book premiere
English with consecutive translation into German by Johannes Hampel

An event of the transcultural festival POSTWEST

Susan Neiman (director of the Einstein Forum, Potsdam) talks with author Ivan Kastev about sources for the current global crises, on the occasion of the German-language release of his book The Light that Failed - A Reckoning.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the model of liberal democracy was supposed to be the only alternative. Today the liberal world is breaking apart before our very eyes. Populism, nationalism and a departure from liberal democratic values are accompanying its downfall. The West won the Cold War, and yet it has lost its political relevance. How could it come to this?

In the political analysis presented in The Light that Failed, Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes argue that the supposed “end of history” turned out to be the beginning of an “Age of Imitation”. For almost three decades the imperative for the East was: “Imitate the West”! Through this imperative, the life of the imitators was increasingly dominated by feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, dependence, and the loss of identity.

Ivan Krastev, born 1965 in Bulgaria, is a political scientist. He is the chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia and permanent fellow at the The Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, where he is head of the Democracy in Questionprogramme. Krastev writes for the international edition of The New York Times. His essay After Europewas published in 2017.

“Ivan Krastev is one of the great European minds of today.” Timothy Snyder

“Reading Krastev is a pleasure, because a love of literature, political realism and the beauty of thought all flow together in the art of his style.” Elisabeth von Thadden, DIE ZEIT

“Ivan Krastev is one of Europe's leading intellectuals.” Madeleine Albright

Funded by the German Federal Cultural Foundation

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