Constitution (fragments)

Constitution (fragments)

By Hanna Yankuta
Translation: Translation: Hanna Komar, John Farndon


The State shall bear responsibility for preserving the historic, cultural and spiritual heritage, and for free development of the cultures of all ethnic communities residing in the Republic of Belarus.

Each culture has its own range —
from brushed pottery to penicillin,
trees that raise arcades in honour of gravity,
and nettles that absorb monthly rhythms —
to pluck itself from obscurity,
even neurosis is no less than jazz,
and the arrhythmia is a Beethoven sonata.

The Belarusian and Russian languages shall be the official languages of the Republic of Belarus.

Language comes to me
In the hardest way,
I crumple the sounds in my mouth,
producing in the first year of life
obscure combinations
and then till death
limited by my own
oral cavity —
my cave and my prison.
I speak the language of fear
the language of bitterness
a language that lacks words
for many things.
Legislators must take
a number of emergency measures
in this regard.
In the nature reserve of language
mine was given a confined cage
but one day I will
set it free.


The capital of the Republic of Belarus is the city of Minsk. The status of the city of Minsk shall be determined by the law.

Every city has the right to be the capital of something,
for all cities are equal
and each must have an initial capital letter,
in each there must be at least one square
and a barking dog,
a park, a crooked fence and a cemetery,
a church, a cathedral and a synagogue
as well as a cafe selling ice-cream
that you can’t find in other cities,
a world leader in liberal arts
and a forever dissatisfied old man,
a museum of junk,
a Friday when everyone forgets to go to work,
a stump over which everyone will stumble,
a plaque dedicated to the revolution,
and a copy of the Constitution.
The status of each of these city values
is determined by its inhabitants.


No one may be found guilty of a crime unless his guilt is proven under the procedure specithe law and established by the verdict of a court of law that has acquired legal force. A defendant is not required to prove one’s innocence.

We are guilty that
we are born, we live and die.
The state and the biosphere
bill us differently.


No person shall be compelled to be a witness against oneself, members of one’s family or next of kin. Evidence obtained in violation of the law shall have no legal force.

I can identify maybe
only the after-effects
of the Big Bang.
Witnesses of what came before
signed a non-disclosure agreement.


The freedom to hold assemblies, rallies, street marches, demonstrations and pickets that do not disturb law and order or violate the rights of other citizens of the Republic of Belarus, shall be guaranteed by the State. The procedure for conducting the above events shall be determined by the law.

I was once seaweed
in a warm shoal,
the lapping of waves is still in my
and now I yearn for the boundless space
which can contain everything,
and I return to the sea of people —

Citizens of the Republic of Belarus shall have the right to vote freely and to be elected to state bodies on the basis of universal, equal, direct or indirect suffrage by secret ballot.

Anubis weighs the hearts of those
who participate in the election process,
seven thousand litres of blood per day
for a heart, enough for a slaughter-house,
because elections are a dirty business,
just like embalming,
go to the right — you will get somewhere far away,
from where one doesn’t return,
go to the left — Anubis will eat you
will chew you up,
because a heart is heavier than a stone,
a word is heavier than a stone,
but the weighing pans are swaying —
there is something to fight for.
And for the rest, Anubis adds a signature to their heart,
a proven preventive
against falsification.

Everyone shall be entitled to a conducive environment and to compensation for loss or damage caused by the violation of this right.
The State shall supervise the rational utilization of natural resources to protect and improve living conditions, and to preserve and restore the environment.
The right to walk in the logged forest
can’t be denied,
unlike many other rights.
It is as universal as
the right to write to prison letters
which will not reach the addressees,
to stick a needle into a straw voodoo doll
or to cast a lure from a fishing rod
to the first-best embassy,
to live in the news day after day
and bump into those who are with you
in the same city —
my rights are not secured
by any of the declarations.
And the damage is covered
in a couple of years
by raspberry bushes.


Everyone on the territory of the Republic of Belarus shall abide by its Constitution and laws and respect national traditions.

Sometimes I just really want to break
a couple of laws of physics,
to make the sun rise in the morning because
I drink tea,
or make winter come
because we talk about it a lot,
and to make something falling hang in the air
a second before it drops
and then fly back up —
but all I pull off is
petty hooliganism.


It shall be the duty of everyone to protect the environment.

The only value of amber is
to load it into stoves
or load it into power plants,
so that it gives amber energy,
because what’s beautiful
burns the best in the world,
what’s ugly can’t burn
like that.


Everyone shall have the right in accordance with the international instruments ratified by the Republic of Belarus to appeal to international organisations to defend their rights and liberties, provided all available interstate means of legal defence have been exhausted.

In this text I would like
the language of trees to sound,
so that trees speak for themselves
in their own voice
uninterrupted by others’ lamentations,
so that their speech in court
accepting legal action claims
from metaphysical persons
and appeals against apolitical decisions
is not reduced to a black woodpecker’s cry
or the rustling of leaves in the wind.
I need the language of trees
to sound convincing,
they are experts in their misfortunes
and unprotected by any constitution,
unlike some of us at least.
Trees could have warned me long ago
about the danger
but I did not hear it
and did not see it,
the thinking reed
could have contacted me long ago
but my response is silence.