Belarusian Publisher, Januskevic Forceably Shut Down

@davidschmeling pointed me to a Facebook post that had some upsetting news. The post a year old and was a German summary of a personal post made by Andrej Jansukevic, the principal behind the Januskevic Publishing House that produced the Belarusian translations of books 1 ~ 3 and it basically said that Januskevic Publishing House’s “license had been revoked”.

The original post made on 2023-01-16, announced that the Belarusian Ministry of Information had shutdown Januskevic Publishing House and includes photos of the decision.

Now it is officially known that the publishing house “Januskevic” is deprived of the right to publish books in the Republic of Belarus. It was difficult to imagine a more short-sighted, anti-cultural, anti-Belarusian step by the Ministry of Information.

The decision cited the publication of “extremist materials”—not Harry Potter, mind you. The decision lists a couple of books, one of which being “Dogs of Europe” by Alhierd Baharevich. It sounds hard to describe—might be best to read about it yourself.

Of course, Januskevic denies the claim:

I state responsibly that we have not published any extremist books. Each of our books has its artistic, scientific and cognitive values, each one we are proud of. And issuing them was guided by cultural principles, ignoring politics and ideology.

In Belarus, children and adults will not see new books about Harry Potter, the Witcher, or Lord of the Rings.

There may still be hope for new Belarusian Harry Potters though:

Our publishing house will still publish books. Nothing is lost. New opportunities are coming up.

It appears that Januskevic opened (or was involved in opening?—I think there’s probably a whole other story here) a physical bookstore in Minsk, Knihauka, which was shutdown by the Belarusian government on the day it opened 2022-05-16. That store seems to have transitioned to an online store hosted in Poland, and in their “about” section it attributes the site to “Andrei Januskevic Publishing” (a new publisher). The existing Harry Potter books are available on that site.

Hopefully he’ll be able to continue his work through his new company; I can’t imagine what challenges there must be though. For one thing, I doubt the contract for publishing HP will transfer directly to his new publishing company—that would likely need to be renegotiated. For another, who knows if his books—even non-contraversial ones—would be allowed into Belarus. When you have been denied your target market, is it economically feasible to publish a book?

We can hope, though. Not only as Harry Potter fans, but as proponents of free speech and anti-authoritarianism. Those are, after all, values that the books share.

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2 responses

  1. Baldur says:

    For what it’s worth to add, the shutdown may have more to do with the fact that they *did* publish in Belarusian than *what* they published in Belarusian. The country has an odd relationship with its language. Belarus’s president, a native speaker of Belarusian, speaks only Russian in public and insists that Belarusian is just an ineloquent form of Russian. When he rose to power in the 1990s, he launched a crackdown on Belarusian literature and propelled Russian as the language of instruction in schools. Belarusian writers (think of Ales Bialiatski) have since been portrayed almost as separatists who selfishly value their own personal gain and leisure over the sacrifices everyone must make for a prosperous society. At the same time, Belarusian writers became the forefront of the opposition. So even if their writing appears apolitical at face value, the government might consider it “extremist” simply for normalizing Belarusian expression. That may even apply to the act of translating Harry Potter, which the president would no doubt prefer children read in Russian translation instead of Belarusian.

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