4 min min read - August 17, 2020
Before reading this article it's worth to check great work of Tadeusz Giczan explaining complex history and position of Lukashenko regime.
Below I will try to line up recent events and difficult truths about the perception of Belarus. I don't mean to offend, but things I will mention may not sound nice. I will be calling out reasons Belarus may feel alone in recent days.
If you want to read introduction to the events in Belarus , you can read The five days of silence.
Why there is a feeling that the world doesn't care about Belarus anymore?
Belarus? Belarussia (very offensive and politically loaded spelling, don't use it)? Russia? Ask someone in the streets of London, Paris or Berlin (don't even bother outside of Europe) about Belarus. Hardly anyone would be able to answer. It may come from isolation caused by the Lukashenko regime, from identity issues which we'll describe later or unfortunate naming. it's difficult to be aware of events in the country you don't know exists.
If anyone knows, they will most likely refer to "that funny dictator".
This ignorance is so deep that you will have problems finding any mentions of Belarus from organisations like Amnesty International, UK Foreign Office or figures like James Cleverly (Minister in Foreign Office & Dept for International Development) in recent days. The latest statement is Joint statement on the presidential elections in Belarus by the Missions of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union on behalf of the EU Member States represented in Minsk from June 4th.
Take random low budget Russian movie and you'd find simple village people from Ukraine and silly, a sweet girl from a village called Minsk that falls in love in a handsome and wealthy Russian guy from Moscow. Ask Pole about Belarus and you will hear about smuggling cigarettes and cars. Ask the old Pole from noble background about Belarus you will hear about peasants. Ask German or English about Belarus you will hear about order bride service.
Despite the rich history and great entrepreneurship skills most of the people in neighbouring countries have very unfair, skewed and arrogant views on Belarus.
Belarus is the direct successor of the Great Lithuanian Duchy, which in time of its pride was one of the biggest European powers and as part of Commonwealth of Two Nations (with Poland) defeated Teutonics in XV century. After the collapse of it in late XVIII century it was merged into the Russian Empire and after World War One came back as Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. Except for a short period of early 90ties that meant the loss of original name and symbolics. Both - the name and coat of arms were attached to modern-day Lithuania (who has right, it's still dispute). Poland in own history claimed all successes of the Commonwealth to itself and to the date in Polish schools names Poland and Commonwealth of Two Nations are synonyms. Figures like Miczkiewicz and Kościuszko are also claimed, even tho former said "Lithuania, my motherland...". While 80% of the population is ethnically Belarusian, 70% speak Russian as the first language. Based on various figures state that only 23% of the population speak Belarusian at home and many of those speak so-called Trasianka (mix of Belarusian and Russian). While the regime of Lukashenko historical symbolics of Pognoya and white-red-white were banned and prosecuted and any references were named nationalism and fascism. Only in recent years, the government started to look with more favour on history to fight back support of the youth (without luck, luckily).
Belarus is a landlocked country, but have you heard about Belarusian shrimps? Or when Russia banned Polish apples have you tried sweetness of new masses of Belarusian fruits? Maybe you could see some articles of how Lukashenko magically turned cheap Russian oil into good solvents for export? Or about Chinese city in Minsk suburbs? Or Casinos full of Russian tourists? The current regime is very handy for business, but not for small and middle Belarusian, but big international. No one argues with Belarus really because no one cares. But many countries are happy to pass their goods between east and west using it. There could be many benefits for the country from that if most of the income didn't go to the regime. Even extraordinarily successful IT outsourcing and moving Polish furniture factories near Minsk are not benefiting the majority of the citizens.
Also, from the military point of view, Russian prefers to have Lukashenko in power. The Great European Plain is known as a gateway to Russia. It was used before by French and Germans as a highway to Moscow and now it's mainly occupied by NATO forces (Poland, Germany and Lithuania). That makes predictable Belarus for Russian defence strategy. Putin may not give a hand to Lukashenko on recent parade, but he still needs his service and will be keen to make a trade.
Last, but not least important. The world is a very unhappy place now and 2020 decrowned 2016 big time in that matter. Coronavirus made a mess and stole the news. Black Lives Matter, while very valid and important flushed anything else from the media. All to that extend that Metro introduced Coronavirus free zone for readers who are fed up with it. Russia battles own demons, both with the virus and Putin's regime. Poland is in the middle of little civil war between theocratic far-right and left-centre, with the presidential election next week. There are troubles in most countries and no one cares what happens around.
I have great hopes for changes in Belarus and while they are known to be the most patient and peaceful of all Slavic nations, it seems they had enough. It will be a difficult fight for them without many allies, but to be honest it all may be for better. It's their fight. It's their choice. It's their future. It's their country. We should not intervene, but we should support and give faith. We shouldn't invade, but we should give shelter in need. We should not tell them what to do, but we should watch and remind the regime they deserve the choice.
On May 6th popular blogger turned presidential candidate, Sergei Tikhanovskiy is being arrested for 15 days (remains in the custody). Except for Reuters, DW and few typical outlets, world media stay silent preferring to write about Belarusian Football League or joke about Lukashenko approach to Coronavirus. On Thursday, June 18th, Victor Babaryka, a former banker turned presidential candidate and his some Edward are being arrested as well.… read more…
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