Artist Alyaksandr Pushkin and his friend were severely beaten by the men in the town of Bobr after they were heard speaking Belarusian. Most people speak Russian in Belarus.
Pushkin called the police and the inebriated men were detained.
Pushkin told the men he would not press charges against them if they went to church with their parents, made a confession, and asked for forgiveness. The men agreed.
Pushkin told RFE/RL's Belarus Service that he feels sorry for them.
"[They live among] emptiness, drunkenness, and empty homes," he said. "How can we send five [young] guys to jail when we see that our villages are already dying out?"
The case received great attention in Belarus.