Under the pressure of the authorities street protests in Belarus that could symbolize the idea of national unity, have turned into events for marginals.
Yesterday traditional rally and demonstration dedicated to the announcement of the Belarusian People’s Republic on March 25, 2018, took lace in Minsk. This is one of the few street demonstrations permitted by the authorities.
However, this year Minsk officials have decided to correct the time of the demonstration and moved it to labor hours, changing it from 6 to 3 p.m., which shortens the minute amount of the demonstration’s participants as it is.
The EuroBelarus Information Service asked Aliaksei Janukevich, one of the Freedom Day’s organizers, the head of the Belarusian Popular Front, is there any sense to organize street demonstrations with little public resonance in Belarus and what causes the crisis of the mass-action genre.
- Over the last years we could see the crisis of the street mass-action genre in Belarus. What has the organization committee done this year to draw new people to the event?
- I firmly believe that the genre crisis doesn’t have to do with the different organization of demonstrations. This is largely connected with the successful use of different methods, such as threats and information work in the Internet made by the authorities to convince the society that there is no sense in street actions.
More radical oppositionists play to the authorities’ hand there. They tell people that there is no sense in a peaceful action allowed by the authorities. In result the majority of people loyal to the national values that Belarus has a lot, today are not sure whether they should take part in street demonstrations. They know that it will take place and what the format will be, but they are not quite sure that they need to take part in the action.
- Why doesn’t hard economic situation stimulate Belarusans to take part in protest actions?
- It is not for the first year that we keep saying that the hopes that the older generation of opposition was having for economic issues, economic crisis, and economy leading people to streets, are far away from today’s reality.
We see that while there is sufficient level of social guarantees that people can provide for themselves or get form the state, in today’s Belarus people believe political actions to be a source of additional problems, not a way to improve their lives. Thus, they don’t come to think that with the worsening of the economic situation people will immediately go to streets.
- Having the Ukrainian events at hand, the authorities can blame the participants of street demonstrations for the wish to destabilize the situation in the country even more effectively. Is it possible to find the golden mean, where both people will come to a demonstration and the authorities wouldn’t be able to blame them in some extremist actions?
- We have many times emphasized (especially last year), that today’s destabilization of political situation is not to the benefit of anyone inside the country; it would be only beneficial for Kremlin.
We are also sincerely telling people that any street demonstration shouldn’t be viewed as an attempt of some revolution. We are fully sincere when we say that we organize a street action and invite people to take part in it in order to demonstrate that this is a message to the Belarusan authorities, Belarusan society about our position and about the presence of numerous people loyal to national values.
Street demonstration in itself shouldn’t mean just an attempt to change the authorities. Today we are inviting people not to Kiev’s Maidan, whether this is good or bad.
- Some think that Freedom Day can be changed into a celebration day with songs and so on. Do you agree that in today’s situation political slogans can be put aside?
- I categorically disagree.
That’s good that certain opportunities for organizing different fests of national symbols and culture appear. But March 25 has always been a date when Belarus’ independence was announced, which, unfortunately, isn’t yet guaranteed irrevocably. Until the state is ready to defend national interests forever, the action should remain political. It is very important to keep its format while there are problems with freedom and independence in the country.
However, the more opportunities to organize non-political and cultural actions Belarus preserves, the more is the potential for political actions. It is national values that imply values of democracy and freedoms. The more people will get inspired by the national symbols, the more potential fighters for Belarus freedom we will have.
- This year it was for the first time that on the eve of the Freedom Day pro-Russian activists went active on the Internet and demanded to ban the action. Do you see some real power in them? Are they ready for concrete actions?
- Of course, they don’t present any real power today. But unfortunately, the example of Ukraine demonstrated that groups can do much evil without having a lot of potential or being mass and noticeable, but with the help of money and consult services.
- I believe that neither the Belarusan society nor security services officials should come into complacency that these powers are weak and unnoticeable. Vice versa, we need to give decisive reaction to any promotion of the “Russian World” and the propaganda, the consequences of which we see in Ukraine.
But well, is there any sense to organize street demonstrations with little public resonance in Belarus?
- I believe that street demonstrations are worthwhile to be done anyway. I can’t agree that freedom Day or Chernobyl Path that have not been as mass as we would like them to don’t have resonance. Dozens of thousands Belarusans observe these events even if without taking part in them. They read about them in mass media, sometimes even Aliaksandr Lukashenka reacts at them. That is why street demonstrations still have public resonance, and there is sense in organizing them.