Legend of Belarusian independent journalism passed away

April 22, 2016 18:57

SBIO is sad to share that Petr Martsev, a leading force of Belarus’ independent media community and civil society, passed away on September 13th, 2014 at the age of 52. We send our deepest condolences to his family and friends. 

Yuliya Slutskaya, SBIO director, said “We first met sometime in the mid-nineties. I was Chief Editor at Komsomolskaya Pravda and Petr was founder of Belaruskaya Delovaya Gazeta. I was just starting out in journalism, while Petya and his team were at the top. I read BDG and Imya and learnt.  After I needed to leave Komsomolskaya Pravda, Petya was the first to offer me work, despite the fact that he was also going through difficult times.  

In 2011, when I had set up SBIO, Petr was the first one we thought of when organising expert roundtables, as he was one of the few people who could explain to an outside audience exactly what was happening in our country, and put it into perspective.  

From time to time we’d see each other in a cafe and talk - about life, newspapers, the country, and the future. Petya was my friend and teacher. Petya, who knew how to fight and how to compromise, who could invent and materialise his ideas. Even though he’s gone, he will still be my mentor." 

Petr Martsev made his name in the nineties, as the founder of Belaruskaya Delovaya Gazeta, and the tabloid Imya. During this time, he co-wrote and produced ‘An Ordinary President’, a highly critical documentary film about Aleksandr Lukashenka that received an award at the Berlin Film Festival in 1997. More recently, he had been involved in the advertising, construction and oil businesses. 

In an article published by Belarus Partisan, Petr Martsev’s colleagues share their reflections. Here are some short extracts, translated into English.

Svetlana Kalinkina, journalist: Something needs to be written on a large scale about Petr Martsev, because a man of his time has left us, a legend of Belarusian journalism.

Andrei Dmitriev, politician: he never gave into the authorities and paid the exorbitant fine that was imposed on BDG, a newspaper that he founded and which has never been equalled. Petr was a businessman, a social activist, an expert, a media-magnate, a chief editor, a PR person, a father, a husband, a friend… 

Aleksandr Feduta, writer and political activist: Petr Pavlovich Martsev has died. A person who created two legends of independent Belarusian media – Belaruskaya Delovaya Gazeta and Imya has died. He was only 52 years old. An irreplaceable loss. 

Pavel Sheremet, journalist: I was the Chief Editor of Belaruskaya Delovaya Gazeta, founded by Petr Martsev.  It was a wonderful time. I am grateful to him for that. Rest in peace... 

Irina Khalip, journalist: All of us journalists graduated from the journalism faculty where they didn’t teach us management, but taught how to cover party congresses. And Martsev, with his linguistic education, understood how to make a newspaper so that it was profitable. He created Imya with the money that BDG had brought him. 

Nikolai Khalezin, theatre director: ...this was the first lesson that I learnt from him: it doesn’t matter what you are by profession, it matters how you think. And one other lesson from him: write, even if you don’t plan to be a journalist….Two useful life lessons from one person, that is far from little. 

Aliaksandr Starikevich, journalist: ‘He had a sharp, ironic mind, and an explosive charm capable of charming anyone. I, for example, can’t stand tobacco smoke. But I used to leave Petr’s office completely smoked out to the ears, and even quite liked this. 

A Wikipedia page (in Russian) has since been set up

Photo by Alena Lis. Brussels, March 2012