Svetlana Alexievich, Winner of Nobel Prize in Literature



Native name Svetlana Alexandrovna Alexievich
31 May 1948 (age 67)
Stanislav, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
Occupation Journalist
Language Russian
Nationality Belarusian
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Literature (2015)
Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (2013)
Prix Médicis (2013)



Born in the west Ukrainian town of Stanislav (since 1962 Ivano-Frankivsk) to a Belarusian father and a Ukrainian mother, Alexievich grew up in Belarus. After finishing school she worked as a reporter in several local newspapers before graduating from Belarusian State University (1972) and becoming a correspondent for the literary magazine Neman in Minsk (1976).

She went on to a career in journalism and writing narratives from interviews with witnesses to the most dramatic events in the country, such as World War II, the Soviet-Afghan war, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the Chernobyl disaster. After persecution by the Lukashenko regime, she left Belarus in 2000. The International Cities of Refuge Network offered her sanctuary and during the following decade she lived in Paris, Gothenburg and Berlin. In 2011, Alexievich moved back to Minsk.

Literary work

Her books are described as a literary chronicle of the emotional history of the Soviet and post-Soviet individual, as told by means of a carefully constructed collage of interviews.

Her first book, War’s Unwomanly Face, came out in 1985. It was repeatedly reprinted and sold more than two million copies. The book was finished in 1983, but published only two years later because of “pacifism, naturalism and dethronement the heroic image of the Soviet woman”.  Another book, The Last Witnesses: the Book of Unchildlike Stories, describes personal memories of children during war time. The war seen through women’s and children’s eyes revealed a whole new world of feelings. In 1993, she published Enchanted with Death, a book about attempted and completed suicides due to the downfall of the Soviet Union.

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Her books were not published by Belarusian state-owned publishing houses after 1993, while private publishers in Belarus have only published two of her books: Voices from Chernobyl in 1999 and Second-hand Time in 2013, both translated into Belarusian. As a result, Alexievich was better known in the rest of world than in Belarus.

She has been described as the first journalist to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.


In Russian

  • War’s Unwomanly Face, Minsk: Mastatskaya litaratura, 1985.
  • Zinc-Covered Boys, Moscow: Molodaya Gvardiya, 1991.
  • Enchanted with Death, Moscow: Slovo, 1991
  • Voices from Chernobyl, Moscow: Ostozhye, 1997.
  • The Last Witnesses: the Book of Unchildlike Stories, Moscow, Palmira
  • Second-hand Time, Moscow: Vremia, 2013.

English translations

  • The Unwomanly Face of War, (extracts), from Always a Woman: Stories by Soviet Women Writers, Raduga Publishers, 1987.
  • War’s Unwomanly Face, Moscow : Progress Publishers, 1988,
  • Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster -Dalkey Archive Press 2005;
  • Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War (W W Norton & Co Inc 1992}

Awards and honors

Alexievich has been awarded many international awards, including:


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