Belarus citizens shifting away from under Moscow influence

Iryna Shevchenko
09:00, 13 July 2018
World
1246 0
Opinion

In Belarus, a civic petition was put forward suggesting that the government ban the "St. George" ribbons, initially used in Russia to honor the WW2 heroes but then becoming one of the notorious symbols of the "Russian world" the Kremlin has been imposing on neighboring states, yet another instrument in its "soft power" toolkit.

A corresponding petition appeared the other day on the petitions.by online platform. The author believes that the St. George's ribbon became "a symbol of lawlessness, chaos, instability and hundreds of victims of separatism," and that its use "threatens the territorial integrity of Belarus." To prevent the threat, it is proposed to introduce administrative liability for the promotion of such ribbons on the country's territory. The author suggests, including, forbidding production, public display, and distribution of such ribbons in Belarus.

The petition has already collected more than a thousand signatures in its support, and in a few days it will be submitted for consideration to the Council of Ministers and the House of Representatives of the National Assembly.

On the one hand, "what is a thousand voices?" you might ask, adding that we, Ukrainians, within 24 hours managed to crash the FIFA and Gazprom's Facebook rating... On the other hand, it's not about us. It's about those living in a country which has no physical border control with Russia as such. Here, the very fact of such petition emerging is truly important.

Perhaps, against the backdrop of the latest developments in Ukraine, Belarusians started thinking more often about what a close friendship with "brotherly" Russia could turn into. And these are not some suggestions... The text of the petition directly states: "In connection with the inclusion in the beginning of 2014, unrecognized by international community, of part of the territory of the Crimean peninsula within the administrative borders of the regions of Ukraine - the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, as well as the use of St. George's tape as a symbol of pro-Russian forces in the territory of Donbas (territory of Ukraine) during the seizure of power with the use of firearms and military equipment, as well as [the ribbon] becoming in the present time the symbol of lawlessness, chaos, instability and hundreds of victims of separatism, as well as promotion of the tape for cultural, social and political reasons, we believe that its use constitutes a threat to the territorial integrity of the Republic of Belarus."

Perhaps, against the backdrop of the latest developments in Ukraine, Belarusians started thinking more often about what a close friendship with "brotherly" Russia could turn into

"We, the citizens of the Republic of Belarus, are extremely interested in preserving the independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Belarus, preserving national security of the Republic of Belarus in the political, military, information, social, demographic spheres, as well as raising among out youth the spirit of patriotism and national identity," sums up the author.

Indeed, it is likely that so far, the petition will be of little effect and the National Assembly will simply turn a blind eye to it. But water grinds stone… And the general realization of the price of the Kremlin patronage for Belarus is clearly increasing.

Besides, this is not the only curious petition. The mentioned website hosts a proposal to increase to 50% the use of the Belarusian language in state television broadcasts. "Indeed, there was a referendum, and it was decided that the Russian language would become the state language of the Republic of Belarus, along with the Belarusian language, but the de-popularization of the Belarusian language is ongoing in Belarus. The only way to popularize the Belarusian language is through the media, primarily television," the author explains.

Even if while the effectiveness of these petitions as an instrument to reach the authorities tends to zero, it still rings a bell

There is also another petition, perhaps  authored by the Belaruusian "Vyatrovych," proposing renaming the metro station "Lenin Square" to "Independence Square" ...

Even if while the effectiveness of these petitions as an instrument to reach the authorities tends to zero, it still rings a bell. After all, the Belarusian leader cannot fail to realize the level of Russian appetites. Sometimes he even snaps at Russia's outright brazenness. For example, in May, he slammed criticism on Russia as regards attempts to "privatize" victory in World War II. Lukashenko's reaction is quite understandable – it is a known fact that Minsk was practically destroyed in that war and the city was rebuilt from scratch.

By the way a few weeks ago, I was in Minsk. The city was just preparing for the national holiday (July 3, Independence Day of the Republic of Belarus) and it was striking. Everywhere - on billboards, in shop windows, pharmacies and restaurants, inside cafes, at the supermarket cash registers, in the metro, at public transport stops - holiday posters were posted promoting the upcoming Independence Day. And this, just like the Belarusian language and the rejection of St. George's ribbons, is also about identity, which however is still a challenge for many.

You might ask, what an advertising poster or a petition might mean for Belarus… I'll tell you. In fact, you never know what will allow breaking the umbilical cord tying the country to Moscow.

Iryna Shevchenko

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