Svetlana Alexievich

Writer, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature

Original name:

Aleksievich Sviatlana


Date of Birth



She was born on May 31, 1948 in Stanislav (Ivano-Frankivsk). Her father had Belarusian roots and her mother was originally from Galicia. After the completion of her father’s service, their family moved to Minsk, where both parents were engaged in teaching at a rural school.

In 1965, she received her high school diploma in the town of Kopatkevichi in the Gomel region.

By 1972, she was a graduate of the journalism faculty of the Belarusian State University.

Since the early 2000s, she lived in Italy, France, and Germany. In 2013, she returned to Belarus. In September 2020, she emigrated to Germany.


Worked as an educator, history and German teacher in schools of Mozyr district, journalist of the newspaper “Prypyatskaya Prauda” (“Pripyatskaya Pravda”) in Narovla.

In 1972 she started working in “Mayak Kommunizma” – a district newspaper in Beryoza, Brest region. 

In 1973-1976 she worked in the Belarusian “Rural Newspaper”, in 1976-1984 – head of the department of essays and journalism of the magazine “Nyoman”.

In 1983, on the recommendation of A. Adamovich, Y. Bryl, V. Bykov and V. Vitka. Vitka was admitted to the Union of Writers of the USSR.

Member of the Rada (Council) of the Union of Belarusian Writers, Vice-President of International PEN, since October 26, 2019 – Chairman of the Belarusian PEN Center.

During the 2020 protests in Belarus she became a member of the Coordination Council for organizing the process of overcoming the political crisis.

Personal Life

Svetlana Alexievich adopted the daughter of her sister who passed away early. The writer’s adopted daughter works as a schoolteacher in Minsk.


She has more than 25 awards and prizes. Among them are the Remarque Award (2001), the National Critics Award (USA, 2006), the Big Book Award (2014) for her book Second Hand Time, the Kurt Tucholsky Award for Courage and Dignity in Literature, Andrei Sinyavsky Prize “For Nobility in Literature”, the Russian independent prize “Triumph”, the Leipzig Book Prize “For Contribution to European Understanding”, the German prize “For the Best Political Book” and the Herder Prize. In 2013 Alexievich won the International Peace Prize of German Booksellers; she was awarded the gold medal of the Belarusian contest “Brand of the Year 2013”. Laureate of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

Nobel Prize

In 2013, Svetlana Alexievich was considered one of the contenders for the Nobel Prize in Literature, but the prize was awarded to Canadian writer Alice Munro.

In 2015, Alexievich won the Nobel Prize for Literature with the wording “for her multi-voiced work – a monument to suffering and courage in our time.” Svetlana Alexievich is the first Nobel laureate in the history of independent Belarus; she is the first Russian-speaking writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature since 1987. It is the first time in half a century that the prize has been awarded to a writer working primarily in the genre of non-fiction, and the first time in history that the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded to a professional journalist.

Political Views

She considers herself a supporter of social democratic views. Alexievich has always been critical of President Lukashenko’s actions, while noting the lack of real politicians in the opposition. After Lukashenko came to power, national publishing houses stopped printing her works. But in 2019, Mastatskaia Litaratura published her “War Does Not Have a Woman’s Face.”

In 2014, in an article for the German publication Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, she condemned Russia’s annexation of Crimea, calling it “political robbery.” Speaking about the conflict in eastern Ukraine at a book launch in Warsaw, Alexievich expressed dismay that people resolve conflicts through violence, while emphasizing that this is not only characteristic of Russians. She has not visited Ukraine since the conflict began and has no intention of returning there.

In the 2015 presidential election in Belarus, she supported the opposition candidate Tatiana Korotkevich, although she did not vote. In her view, Belarusian society is “frozen in development.”

In 2018, due to threats, Alexievich canceled her speech in Odessa. Her words about the role of Ukrainians in the Holocaust caused a wave of discontent.

On Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in an interview with Radio Liberty, she sharply condemned Russia’s actions, emphasizing that the current conflict is even worse than World War II. She observed that communism has not been completely defeated and that the current events are echoes of the past, from which society has not fully recovered.

Literary Works

  • "War Has Not a Woman's Face" (published in 1985)
  • "The Last Witnesses" (1985)
  • "The Zinc Boys" (1989)
  • "Enchanted by Death" (1993)
  • "Chernobyl Prayer" (1997)
  • "Second Hand Time" (2013)

Speeches at conferences


Belarusian State University
Faculty of Journalism


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