What next, Minsk? March 26, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
My god but the internet has been the place to follow events in Minsk in recent days. I mean, the (TV) BBC’s been OK, but a little gaggle of Belablogs and various Belasites have really provided a great stream of information and comment on everything that’s happened. Once the permanent protest on the square of contentious name was broken up in the middle of Thursday night/Friday morning, I’d worried that the whole protest thing had fizzled. That that was it. That Belarus would get back to the normality of subservience to and (perhaps frustrated) patience with Lukashenka’s rule. Opposition-supporting Belarusians in Minsk seemed to be complaining that the opposition’s protest tactics were not well organised enough, lacked coordination and direction. So I was doubly worried, especially now the police had form, that the call to come out and protest in numbers yesterday, on the anniversary of Belarus’s declaration of independence in 1918, would be met with resigned indifference. So how wonderful that people came out in such numbers. And what a reaction they provoked. Shield-thumping riot police gagging to kick ass. A show of strength. And one which genuinely seems to have evoked some outrage, if not exactly shock.
But what next? OK, so Belarusians have protested in reasonably large numbers and in scenes that Lukashenka’s Belarus had not previously seen. But without a next step in the ‘plan’ being in place, what happens now? The annual event to mark Chernobyl will take place in a month’s time, but what about between now and then?
In any case, you’ve got to hope this is all the seed of something that will grow and grow. Lukashenka obviously has power on his side, but he must have been shaken by such outward and open displays of defiance, the like of which he’d never seen. As has been the case throughout its history, Belarus is now the scene for another East-West tussle. It’s clear where Luka’s own loyalties lie (and they’re certainly not at home. He dimly sees a bigger picture). And even if Putin might think Lukashenka’s a bastard, at least he’s his bastard. And on the western side, the Poles and the Lithuanians, logically, are those speaking out most vociferously for the polar opposite world view. But, most importantly, of course, you’ve got to hope that such shows of strength by Lukashenka against his own people will rouse rancour among more and more Belarusians. As important as outside influences clearly are, their fate ultimately remains theirs to shape.
And elections in Ukraine later today. My pseudo-Slavic soul can’t take much more of this…