No digs for foreigners

June 2, 2006

Foreign archaeologists will be banned from excavations in Belarus this summer, according to Nasha Niva , the Belarusian opposition newspaper, writes Vera Rich.

The ban has been imposed by the Institute of History at the Belarusian Academy of Sciences, following a statement from President Alaksandr Lukashenka that there are 72 camps training militants run by foreigners in Belarus.

The institute administration seems unwilling to take chances. While no formal instructions have been issued, archaeologists have been left in no doubt that they should not include foreign colleagues in their work this year.

The clampdown is not confined to archaeology. Ales Pashkievich, associate professor of literature at the Belarusian State University, claims he was sacked on "political" grounds.

Colleagues denounced his course in 20th-century Belarusian literature as "anti-Government activity" because it covered writers who were political emigres or whose views were not endorsed by Mr Lukashenka.

He agreed to resign at the end of the current academic year, but at the end of April the Belarusian authorities began legal proceedings to close down the Union of Belarusian Writers, which Professor Pashkievich chairs.

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