Ales Viktaravich Bialiatski is a human rights activist born in Karelia, Russia to Belarusian parents Viktar Bialiatski and Nina Bialiatski. Viktar was born in Rahachow, Gomel Oblast, Belarus while Nina hails from Narovlya, Gomel Oblast.
Mushroom hunting and planting flowers are Ales’s two major hobbies. Here are 13 more things about him:
- While attending Francisk Skorina Gomel State University in Gomel, Gomel Oblast, he played bass guitar in a band called Baski. He was a student of the university when he met Natallia Pinchuk in 1982 while she was a student of the pedagogical college in Loyew, Gomel Oblast. In 1984, he graduated from the university with a bachelor’s degree in history and philology.
- From 1985 to 1986, he served in the army as an armored vehicle driver in an antitank artillery battery near Yekaterinburg, Russia. In 1987, he and Pinchuk got married. They have a son named Adam Bialiatski.
- In 1989, Bialiatski received a PhD in literature from the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus in Minsk, Belarus, worked as a junior researcher at the State Museum of the History of the Belarusian Literature in Minsk and became director of the Maksim Bahdanovich Literary Museum in Minsk.
- From 1991 to 1996, he was a member of the Minsk City Council of Deputies. In 1995, he became a member of the Union of Belarusian Writers. In 1996, he founded the Viasna Human Rights Centre in Minsk. He was the Belarusian Popular Front‘s secretary from 1996 to 1999 and deputy chairman from 1999 to 2001. In August 1998, he left the Maksim Bahdanovich Literary Museum.
- From 2000 to 2004, he was the chairman of the Working Group of the Assembly of NGOs. In 2006, he and the Viasna Human Rights Centre won the 2005 Homo Homini Award of the Czech NGO People in Need and he was awarded the Per Anger Prize and the Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award.
- He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, 2007, 2012, 2013 and 2014 but did not win. From 2007 to 2016, he was vice-president of the Fédération Internationale des Ligues des Droits de L’Homme (FIDH).
- In 2010, he became an honorary citizen of Genoa, Liguria, Italy.
- He was arrested for tax evasion on August 4, 2011, which became the International Day of Solidarity with the Civil Society of Belarus. Prosecutors in Lithuania and Poland released financial records that made the indictment possible. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience on August 11, 2011 and the FIDH launched a campaign on September 12, 2011 to advocate for his release. He pleaded not guilty and was sentenced on October 24, 2011 to 4 years and 6 months in prison.
- In 2012, he and Uganda’s Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law won the 2011 Human Rights Defenders Award by the United States Department of State, he won the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the Lech Wałęsa Award and he became an honorary citizen of Paris.
- On June 21, 2014, he was released from prison in Babruysk, Mogilev Oblast, Belarus.
- In 2020, he won the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament and he shared the Right Livelihood Award with Bryan Stevenson, Lottie Cunningham Wren and Nasrin Sotoudeh.
- On July 14, 2021, the Belarusian police searched Viasna Human Rights Centre’s employees’ homes around Belarus, raided the center’s office in Minsk and arrested him and his colleagues Vladimir Stephanovich and Vladimir Labkovich. On October 6, 2021, he was charged with tax evasion with a maximum penalty of 7 years in prison.
- He was 60 years old when he won the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize on October 7, 2022 alongside the organizations Memorial and The Center for Civil Liberties.