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Dissident historian files appeal against refusal by district judge to hear her suit against Supreme Certification Commission

Historian Iryna Kashtalyan has filed an appeal with the Minsk City Court against the refusal by a district judge in Minsk to hear her suit against the Supreme Certification Commission, which had rejected her thesis for a doctoral candidate's degree.

The historian's dissertation examined the situation in Belarus shortly after World War II, including social stratification that created the groups of factory workers, farmers, intelligentsia, "traitors," war veterans and "westerners." It also looked into people's attitudes toward the Soviet authorities, shortages of essential goods and housing, the high crime rate during that period, and the issuance of residence permits by local authorities.

The Supreme Certification Commission concluded that the work "is intended to lead the reader to the conclusion that the Soviet state was not a natural mother but an evil, heartless stepmother for the Belarusian people and that the operation of this monster state contravened human nature."

In a letter that Ms. Kashtalyan received on July 7, Judge Ala Yashchanka of Minsk's Pershamayski District Court explains that the settlement of scientific disputes does not fall within the jurisdiction of courts.

As Ms. Kashtalyan told BelaPAN, her suit was not about any scientific disputes but about a specific violation by the Supreme Certification Commission of regulations governing the awarding of scientific degrees.

"By her ruling, the judge aimed to conceal from the public the disgraceful truth about the nature of the commission," she said. "The commission made its decision under the influence of a negative review that was of no scientific value and represented the personal emotional opinion of its anonymous author," Ms. Kashtalyan said, adding that she wants the judge's decision to be overturned and her case to be heard by the Pershamayski District Court.

According to Ms. Kashtalyan, although she cherishes no illusions, she would fight until all available remedies have been exhausted.

She insists that her dissertation was rejected because it described the post-war period in a different way than history textbooks currently in use.

When working on the dissertation, the postgraduate student at Belarusian State University used recently disclosed documents of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Byelorussia. In September 2006, the University's council for the examination of dissertations on the history of Belarus unanimously approved the work by Ms. Kashtalyan.

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