The famous dystopian novel “1984” by British author George Orwell is being withdrawn from sale in Belarus.

According to independent Belarusian media outlets, Belarusian publishers have been instructed to withdraw the book from their shelves and from sale. The order is set to come into force no later than May 19.

As of May 18, the state publishing chain was still selling “1984” on its website and the Russian-language version is available on some Belarusian online bookstores.

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Orwell’s novel criticizes the tendency for a totalitarian society to cancel individual freedoms and dignity. On May 16, publisher Andrey Yanushkevich and a colleague were detained after his apartment was searched by state security forces. They confiscated 200 copies of the book.

The Belarusian language version of the novel was republished in 2020 and 2021 by the Yanushkevich publishing house. After Yanushkevich’s home was raided the bookshop of the Knigavka publishing house had to close its doors.

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The novel “1984” is set in a fictional country, where the news and history of this country are rewritten in accordance with the requirements of the ruling party. It resembles the totalitarian regime in contemporary Belarus, where self-proclaimed President Lukashenko hinders the state’s development through his totalitarian regime and recent signing of amendments to the law on the death penalty for resistance fighters in Belarus.

Commenting on the ban to the Kyiv Post, well-known Belarusian poet Serhiy Prylutsky, said: “Well, first of all, this is a traditional move of all dictators – to ban the truth about how the mechanism of repression works. It is stupid, but completely in the spirit of Lukashenko. In addition, this is the 100,500th step by Lukashenko to stifle Belarusian culture. It’s hard to say exactly what kind of gesture it is. It remains to be seen whether sales of the book in Russian and not only in Belarusian will be banned. Generally speaking, this is a systematic sweep of all protests in the country, which is certainly not the first.”

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