Free Expression in Eurasia
While Eurasia has seen democratic progress in countries including Ukraine, Armenia, and Georgia, in others like Russia and Belarus, authoritarian regimes continue to crack down on independent cultural expression. In this political context, writers, musicians, and artists across the region play vital roles in their societies as champions of free expression.
PEN America is a steadfast supporter of, and partner to, free speech champions in Eurasia, actively opposing the persecution of journalists and cultural workers, writers, and artists through large-scale international campaigns, targeted engagement with policy makers, and intercultural exchange.
In recent years, PEN America’s Eurasia advocacy has centered on Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. President Vladimir Putin’s dominance in Russia has led to Kremlin control of virtually all media outlets, and increasingly, of other forms of culture and free expression. The ‘Foreign Agents’ law – targeting organizations and individuals – has worsened the already restrictive conditions for cultural workers. In Ukraine, free expression remains in jeopardy in Crimea and Donbas, areas occupied by Russia and Russia-backed separatists. While the state of democracy in the country has improved markedly since the Revolution of Dignity in 2013/14, cultural workers still face harassment due to the prevalence of traditional values and discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. In Belarus, the persecution of cultural figures has increased dramatically since the fraudulent Presidential elections of August 2020 with the Lukashenka regime using illegal means to stifle and persecute artistic expression.