Belarus ban denied

September 1, 1995

Alaksandr Lukashenka, the Soviet-leaning president of Belarus, has denied issuing a decree banning all university text books in the humanities and social sciences published since 1992.

The decree, announced on August 16, provoked widespread protests and a confrontation between the president and outraged historians, writers and educationalists.

But Mr Lukashenka says the order was an act of disinformation perpertrated by his political enemies, who had even penetrated the presidential entourage. He quietly ignored that fact that his personal press spokesman, Viktor Zametalin, had held a press conference to explain the move.

But despite his denial, there is no sign that the textbooks, banned for alleged political bias, have been reprieved. Carlos Sherman, vice president of the Belarusian centre of PEN, the international writers' pressure group, said the denial was just meant for the media.

The order to remove the post-1992 text books is still in force and the process of replacing them with the old Soviet text books from stores and depositories continuing in the period up to the beginning of the new academic year.

The decision was announced only two weeks before the beginning of the new term. The ban covers books commissioned by the ministry of education after the declaration of Belarusian independence four years ago. They were intended to eliminate the "distortions" of the Soviet era.

Earlier this year President Lukashenka's old-guard government won backing in a referendum for closer links with Russia, with Russian replacing Belarusian as the official language. But even before the final result, the government halted printing of many books in Belarusian or on Belarusian issues.

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