Belarus issues death threats to theatre directors

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Two Belarus theatre directors have received death threats via a state-run Belarusian newspaper.

The threats were made against Natalia Kaliada and her husband Nicolai Khalezin (pictured) who founded Janka Kupała National Academic Theatre in Minsk, Belarus, in 2005 but have been living in exile in the UK since 2011.

They were made in an article in the state-run publication Sovietska Belarus on December 27, Kaliada told The Stagenewspaper which said the two would be hunted down and hanged side-by-side. "They feel threatened that our work will really bring the change" Ka;iada said. "Of course they don’t say it that way, but with the language they use and talking about our work on sanctions – they are showing how afraid they are of that work. By that article they gave us such a strong message that we have to continue to do what we are doing".

Last year we published an exclusive article by the writer and actor Nichola McAuliffe, based on her own first-hand experience, about the Belarusian government’s treatment of its own national theatre which the state closed last year, and the actors and stagehands later issued a collective statement calling on theatre communities around the work to support them and their theatre.

Now the founders have called on the UK government to impose sanctions on Belarus and its government led by Alexander Lukashenko. "Nicolai and I are so often moved and heartbroken, but most of the time we feel very proud of our company, which continues to work in horrifying conditions" Kaliada said.

The government-appointed general director came out in supp ort of the demonstrators, she reported, was summarily sacked and the theatre’s personal all came out in his support.

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