The European Humanities University (EHU) has been presented with the Atlantic Council's Freedom Award at an awards ceremony that took place at the Wroclaw Global Forum in Wroclaw, Poland on June 14.
Founded in Minsk, Belarus in 1992, EHU was shut down by authorities there in 2004 after standing up against encroachments on its academic freedom. The University relocated to Vilnius, Lithuania, where it serves approximately 1,600 mostly Belarusian students, offering them undergraduate and graduate degree programs and promoting research in the humanities and social sciences.
“Our students learn to think and act as free human beings—something no regime can take away from them,” said EHU’s Founding Rector Anatoli Mikhailov. Mikhailov and two students, Maryia Sliaptsova and Dzianis Kuchynski, accepted the award on the University's behalf. The students spoke about opportunities available to them at EHU that are not available in Belarus.
EHU is the only Belarusian university where Belarusian students and scholars can study and conduct research in freedom. Recent expulsions of faculty from Belarusian universities like Yanka Kupala State University of Grodno and ongoing harassment of EHU staff and faculty when they are in Belarus show that this is not the case there.
The majority of EHU faculty and students come from Belarus and the majority of EHU alumni reside there, where they apply their skills and knowledge in business, non-profit organizations, and the independent media.
This year’s honorees also include former Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki; Pakistani youth activist and blogger Malala Yousafzai; and, posthumously, U.S. Ambassador Mark Palmer.
Inaugurated in 2009, Atlantic Council Freedom Awards are presented to individuals who have contributed to expanding freedom around the world. Previous recipients include Jerzy Buzek, former President of the European Parliament; Aleksander Kwasniewski, former President of Poland; Javier Solana, former NATO Secretary General and EU High Representative; Vaclav Havel, former President of Czechoslovakia; Hillary Clinton, U.S. Secretary of State, and others.