Belarusian Songs of Freedom: The Role of Arts and Culture in the Struggle for Democracy

December 12, 2016
05:00 pm - 07:00 pm


NED will host legendary Belarusian rock musician and activist Lavon Volski in conversation with Hungarian Ambassador András Simonyi on the role of independent art and culture in the struggle for democracy. The conversation will be interspersed with acoustic performances by Mr. Volski of some of his most socially significant songs. This will be a rare opportunity to shine the spotlight on Belarus and on the transformative power of independent culture in an authoritarian environment. The role and resurgence of independent culture is particularly important now in Belarus, as the Lukashenka government is allowing a limited “thaw” while attempting to rekindle relations with Europe and the US.

Lavon Volski, Belarusian rock musician and activist

in conversation with
András Simonyi, Hungarian Ambassador and musician

About the speakers:
Mr. Volski has been a lifelong advocate of the Belarusian language and independent Belarusian culture. He has been at the forefront of using music as a vehicle for promoting democratic values and freedoms. In 1981, he founded and led the country’s first and still popular Belarusian-language rock band, N.R.M. (Nezalezhnaya Respublika Mroja, or Independent Republic of Dreams). As a result of his unyielding civic position, Mr. Volski has been blacklisted by the authorities and forced to perform underground in Belarus or in neighboring Poland and Lithuania. In May 2016, Mr. Volski received the Eurovision Village Freemuse Music Award for his struggle to advance “freedom of musical expression.” Our partner, the Belarusian Service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, recently produced a lovely short film about him (in Belarusian and Russian); you can find it here:

Mr. Simonyi served as the Hungarian Ambassador to the United States between 2002 and 2007, and has also served as Hungary’s Ambassador to NATO. He started his own rock band in 1970 and has said that rock and roll was a key factor to loosening the tight totalitarian grip behind the iron curtain. He has appeared on The Colbert Report twice and his Washington-based band the Coalition of the Willing has guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (formerly Steely Dan and Doobie Brothers), Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman, Ambassador Alexander “Sandy” Vershbow, and Ambassador Lincoln P. Bloomfield, Jr.

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