Belarussian writer wins Nobel prize, denounces Russia over Ukraine

Thu Oct 8, 2015 2:17pm EDT
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By Daniel Dickson and Andrei Makhovsky

STOCKHOLM/MINSK (Reuters) - Belarussian author Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize for Literature on Thursday for her portrayal of the harshness of life in the Soviet Union and in her first public response denounced Russia's intervention in Ukraine as an "invasion".

The Swedish Academy said Alexievich's work, which chronicles the lives of Soviet women during World War Two as well as the consequences of the 1986 nuclear disaster in Chernobyl and the Soviet military adventure in Afghanistan, was "a monument to suffering and courage in our time".

Alexievich collected hundreds of interviews from people whose lives were affected by these tumultuous events, putting them together in works that were like a "musical composition", the academy said in awarding the 8 million crown ($972,000) prize.

"By means of her extraordinary method – a carefully composed collage of human voices – Alexievich deepens our comprehension of an entire era," the academy said.

Born in Ukraine in 1948, Alexievich lived in exile for many years because of her criticism of the Belarussian government and after returning home four years ago has kept a low profile, staying out of politics.

But after the prize was announced on Thursday she obliquely criticized Belarus's hardline leader Alexander Lukashenko and denounced Russian forces for their involvement in the separatist conflict in neighboring Ukraine.

"It is occupation, a foreign invasion," she said at a news conference in Minsk, adding that she wept when she saw photographs of those killed during pro-European street protests in the Ukrainian capital last year.

"I love the good Russian world, the humanitarian Russian world, but I do not love the Russian world of Beria, Stalin and Shoigu," she said, referring to Soviet leader Josef Stalin, the security chief responsible for Stalin-era mass purges, Lavrenty Beria, and the current Russian defense minister, Sergei Shoigu.   Continued...

Belarussian author Svetlana Alexievich holds flowers as she arrives to attend a news conference in Minsk, Belarus, October 8, 2015. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko