Belarusians in Estonia held a poetry reading on Sunday to commemorate the 86th anniversary of the mass execution of poets, novelists, translators, and critics known as the "Night of the Executed Poets".
Dozens of people gathered at RahvaRaamat bookshop in Tallinn's Viru Keskus shopping center to hear literary works written by those who were killed in 1937.
The event was held in Belarusian and Estonian and some of the poems were also read out in Catalan and Ukrainian.
"These poets never had a chance to be properly celebrated in Belarus. When Belarus became independent it suddenly became illegal to actually read their poems and commemorate them," co-organizer Diana Olesyuk told ERR News, speaking about why it is important to mark the occasion
"We need to fix the errors of the past by recognizing our culture and celebrating it," she added.
Due to the repressions of the current Belarusian regime, it is easier for the diaspora to hold these events abroad, Olesyuk said.
"At the moment is it quite difficult – it might be considered illegal, it's not illegal on paper, but we know how things go there," she said, describing the situation in Belarus.
The event marks the murder of more than a hundred members of the Belarusian intelligentsia who were shot on the evening of October 29-30, 1937 on the outskirts of Minsk at Kurapaty.
Among those murdered were poets, writers, critics and journalists. They were killed as part of USSR leader Joseph Stalin's repressions to stifle Belarusian culture.
Of the 22 literature figures who were killed, the eldest was 47-year-old prose writer Janka Niemanskaja and the youngest were poet and translator Julija Taubin (26), literary critic Pjotr Hatuljou (25), and educator Ivan Žylutski (25).
Thousands more people were killed in Belarus between 1937 and 1941 during the Great Purge by the Soviet secret police.
No one knows how many people are buried at Kurapaty and estimates vary from 30,000—250,000. The Belarusian authorities have so far not disclosed any information.
Since 2020, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has led a crack-down on people who oppose his rule and on Belarusian culture which is seen as a symbol of dissent. Approximately 1,500 people have been jailed in Belarus on political grounds.
The poetry reading in Tallinn was organized by Valgevene Maja (Belarus House).
Similar events were also held in Warsaw, Kyiv, Vilnius, Antwerp, and The Hague on Sunday, organizers said.
Editor: Helen Wright