Maxim Sarychau
Cold Spring

(2017)
PRAFOTA 2020 Documentary Photography Short-list
The protest wave in Belarus in the spring of 2017 became the strongest and most extensive one in the last 7 years. It was provoked by the Decree on the Prevention of Social Dependency, which obliged the state to charge the equivalent of $ 250 per year from citizens not paying taxes for more than six months. Only 11.5% of the 470,000 citizens recognized as social dependents paid the new kind of tax. Peaceful protests across the country caused a severe response from the authorities in the form of detentions, fines, arrests of political activists and rally participants. Moreover, cases were fabricated against the ex-members of the White Legion organization, who were accused of creating an illegal armed group. According to the estimates of the Viasna human rights organization, from February to April, approximately 930 people were detained, of whom more than 100 were arrested. The Cold Spring project covers the entire timeline of the events in question, starting with the first and biggest opposition rally in February known as the Angry Belarusians' March held in Minsk and ending with a harsh crackdown on the Liberty Day procession on March, 25 as well as with the very last protest in the series, which took place on May, 1. The project also focuses on the less visible of the related events: trials, manifestations of solidarity and support and the release of activists. The heroes of the project are the protesters who were arrested for up to 15 days. For most of the activists who suffered, it was the first experience of facing detention and imprisonment. They share their personal stories: experiences, fears, details on becoming human rights violation victims. They are not afraid of voicing their attitudes toward the authorities.
Short-list 2020: