Minsk, Belarus


Photographer: Alessandro Vincenzi

Year of Submission: 2016 (Educators Edition) 

In December 1990, shortly after the collapse of communist rule across Eastern Europe, a series of evening classes were held in the Belarusian capital, Minsk. Taught in Belarusian, and promoting Belarusian culture, those classes were the seeds that two years later led to the founding of the Belarusian Humanities Lyceum. The school was quick to establish itself as one of Belarus’s most prestigious centres of secondary education. In 1994, however, Belarus’s brief era of post-communist liberal rule came to an end with the election of Aleksander Lukashenko as the country’s president. Lukashenko, an advocate of Sovietstyle dictatorial rule, and who is still president, ordered schools to use only Russian-language textbooks. The refusal of the school’s staff to comply marked the start of years of official harassment, culminating in 2003 with an order to close the school. For a while, classes were held in private apartments, then in the basement of a Catholic church. Only in 2005 was the school able to find permanent premises, reopening in a large house on the outskirts of Minsk, where it still operates today, with a dozen teachers and some sixty students.