In May 2020, Maxim joined the team of opposition figure and then presidential nominee Viktar Babaryka to provide legal assistance to his team. Maxim later represented Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Maria Kalesnikava, with whom he has since stood trial. He faces up to 12 years in prison on charges of calling for “actions aimed at causing harm to the national security of the Republic of Belarus.”

Letters from Lukashenka’s Prisoners

Following the illegitimate 9 August 2020 presidential election, protests erupted across Belarus, prompting an unprecedented crackdown from the authorities which continues unabated. One year since the election, hundreds of political prisoners remain in the country.

Letters from Lukashenka’s Prisoners, gives unjustly detained individuals a voice by collecting, translating, and publishing letters on our channels. This campaign is a collaborative project by Belarus Free TheatreIndex on Censorship, Human Rights House Foundation and

Read more about Maxim Znak and other Belarusian political prisoners here.

Translations are available in Russian and Belarusian here.

While in prison Maxim has been writing and sending poems to his family. In November 2020, a poem he sent to his father, Alisksandr Znak, was almost completely censored by the authorities.

In July 2021, he wrote the poem translated below. His reference to “[t]he ghost of the bloody Troika” may be a reference to the Soviet era’s Special troika, which issued sentences after speedy “investigations” without a fair or public trial. “An expert in black balaclava shame” is likely a reference to the fact that the witnesses in the trials of political prisoners are often policemen who remain anonymous. Some give testimony in black balaclavas.

An extract from the most recent letter to his father, dated 9 August 2021, is also shared below.

16 July 2021


It’s despicable to judge in secret.

It’s low. Embarrassing. And indecent.

Did I call publicly? To revolt? I?

At least accuse me publicly.

Conspiracy? With whom, how and when?

Why a secret trial in another house?

A secret trial is forever:

That kind of thing doesn’t sink in the Summer, either.

An extremist group? That’s a lie!

Unless the ghost of the bloody Troika

And, hiding his name,

An expert in black balaclava shame.

It worked. Here I have already mastered many allied professions. I can’t say that something is a vocation, but it’s certainly interesting to live in. So, like the classic – to struggle and to seek, to find and not to give up! By the way, mining mechanical engineers are very cool in all the cool fantasy books. They’re gnomes 😉 Do! Hi all!

Maxim Znak

9 August 2021 

My thoughts on the court hearing is that it will save us quite a bit of time. So lots of positives. If the trial was open you would need to attend many long hearings to understand exactly what’s going on. Instead, there is just one piece of news and everybody knows the result. Savings!