Books

Bookstore owner detained over Orwell’s ‘1984’

Book Banning appears to still be very much in effect, with the country of Belarus being the latest in taking book matters into their own hands by banning George Orwell’s classic novel 1984 over the weekend.

The landlocked country of Belarus has already made headline news for being a close ally of Russia’s war against Ukraine. Now it’s making its headlines by staking its own claim on censorship by declaring today, that it is banning Orwell’s 1984. According to independent Belarusian media outlets, local publishers and bookstores have been ordered to withdraw the book from their shelves and from sale by no later than May 19.

The Belarusian Weekly newspaper, Nasha Niva, reported that security forces detained publisher Andrey Yanushkevich and a colleague after his apartment was searched by state security forces. They seized 200 books, primarily focusing on Orwell’s novel 1984. The pair were detained on May 16, preceding the May 19 deadline.

khitayka bookstore
Andrey Yanushkevich’s bookstore in Belarus. Credit: Radio Liberty

Nasha Niva said it would not publish the government order due to security concerns, but quoted the order in part “Withdraw from sale all versions of the book Orwell […] 1984. The implementation will be reported no later than May 19.”

Yanushkevich’s detainment came after an exposition via Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported on a “well-known pro-government propagandist journalists Ryhor Azaronak and Lyudmila Hladkaya […] started berating the bookstore staff for selling books in Belarusian that they said were inappropriate,” after which, police came to search the store and apprehend Yanushkevich and his associate, Nasta Karnatskaya.

The article also noted that the crackdown on independent publishing houses in Belarus has been on the up since the 2020-2021 protests against the presidential election. Since then, “Belarusian authorities have suspended the activities of several independent publishing houses—Limaryus, Knihazbor, Haliyafy, and Medysont—for the ‘violation of regulations on registration at the Information Ministry.’”

Yanushkevich’s family says they do not know yet the grounds on which Yanushkevich and Karnatskaya were detained. It also remains unclear whether any charges have been made.