The Hidden School

Alessandro Vincenzi

With the outset of Perestroika and the collapse of the Soviet Union, many former republics faced the task of restructuring their educational systems. On December 6, 1990, in the Belorusian capital Minsk, the first evening classes were held in what would become two years later the Belarusian Humanities Lyceum. It became the country’s most prestigious school and at the start of every academic year, the Minister of Education gave a speech to its 500 students. When Aleksandr Lukashenko won the presidential elections of 1994 problems began to surface, as some of the school’s programs and teaching methods did not fit in with the President’s views. Meanwhile, the fledgling school had already begun contacting schools in France, Belgium, Poland and Lithuania to promote student exchange programs. In 2003 the authorities announced their intention to replace the school’s founding principal Uladzimir Kolas with a Russian-speaking principal, as part of a drive to assert Russian over the Belarus’s own language and reviving culture. Teachers, students and parents protested but to no avail. By the end of the year the school had been banned. Activities continued in private apartments but this did not last long as the authorities constantly threatened the teachers and students. They moved to the basement of a Catholic church but after three months of immense government pressure on the priest they were forced to leave. In 2005 the Belarusian Humanities Lyceum found some stability, settling in a house on the outskirts of Minsk. With the support of the Polish government the school received tuition in Polish and scholarships for graduating students to study at Polish universities. Today about 60 students and just over a dozen professors attend lessons in classes ranging from nine to 15 students. In 2011, the Belarusian Humanities Lyceum was officially registered and recognized at the University of Gdansk in Poland.

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