(Cameron Woodhead’s article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, 8/12.)

A Belarusian call to arms

In our country, if jeans are proffered as a symbol of freedom you can be pretty sure someone’s trying to sell you something. But then, we didn’t grow up behind the Iron Curtain.

Co-founder of Belarus Free Theatre Nicolai Khalezin did, and with Generation Jeans he turns his life story into a kind of gonzo memoir, blending satire on authoritarianism with a fierce and urgent call to action in the ongoing struggle for human rights.

Jeans first appear as a motif through serio-comic anecdotes about smugglers and bootleggers in the former Soviet Union. Under communism, Western goods were prized, and Khalezin wasted no time dabbling in the black market as a young man.

True, the stylish and strapped-for-roubles could and did try to fudge it: bleaching the bejesus out of state-issued denim pants until they cracked, trying to get that deliberately distressed look, but they were fake jeans everyone knew were fake (a bit like the fake democracy that seized Belarus after the Soviet collapse).

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