It started as an act of graffiti at a playground in Minsk. It turned into a remarkable campaign of defiance against an increasingly totalitarian regime.
One day in the middle of September, the authorities returned to the mural. This time, Stepan and a few others stood in front of the booth, blocking their access. Stepan asked the officers wearing balaclavas to identify themselves. “If you show your credentials, we will, of course, follow the orders of any policeman,” Stepan repeated loudly and calmly, his hands behind his back. Two siloviki in ski masks grabbed him and carried him away. Residents blocked the police car with their bodies and filmed the whole encounter. “Take off your mask!” they shouted. “Show your face! Introduce yourselves! This is our children’s playground!” An unmarked van pulled up, and a group of men in green, wearing ski masks, ran out. They grabbed Stepan, threw him in the van and sped off.
How Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya came to challenge her country’s dictatorship.
via The New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/12/13/the-accidental-revolutionary-leading-belaruss-uprising
Lukashenka seems to have settled in for the long haul. With the possibility of open protests cut off, Tsikhanouskaya said that it was impossible to predict how long he could hold on: “It could last a long time—many months.” But she maintained that his administration was mortally wounded, its legitimacy beyond repair. “The regime has cracked, and the crack is widening. Processes are going on inside the regime that we cannot see.” With the opposition shut out of the homeland, the decisive blow might come from within. “The regime is trapped by its own actions—there’s no one left to blame,” she said. “Someone inside the inner circle may decide that the time has come.” ♦
At the end of January this year, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko hosted US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the Independence Palace, a glassy, corporate-looking building on Prospekte Pob…
via Literary Hub: https://lithub.com/interpreting-america-at-the-minsk-book-fair/
It’s jarring that an industry ostensibly built on understanding the world’s complexity is so basic and unvarying in the stories it tells and the perspectives it considers. Include too many of the bigger, weightier issues and suddenly you’re in the realm of hard-news journalism, which is filed in its own separate category with its own separate publications and its own separate faults—including, in a reversal of the gaps in travel writing, an all-too-common lack of cultural context and individual human stories and the specific everyday joys that exist even in the most troubled places.
The Nobel Prize winner seeks to represent the will of protesters in Belarus, despite intimidation by Alexander Lukashenka’s regime.
via The New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/svetlana-alexievich-is-not-going-anywhere-belarus
The Coordinating Council, which Tsikhanouskaya originally selected from a pool of volunteers, has continued accepting applications. Alexievich told me that more than six and a half thousand people have now put in their names, and in the past few days existing members have chosen a hundred and twenty people who will now share decision-making power. Unlike the names of the original members of the council, the names of what’s now called the Expanded Council will be kept secret, to protect them from arrest. “Every day, people keep signing up,” Alexievich said.
The brutality of the state’s response not only failed to scare people into staying home but united them against Alexander Lukashenka’s regime.
via The New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/we-were-locked-up-in-one-country-and-released-into-another-horror-and-hope-as-protests-in-belarus-continue
The following day was marked by absences. There was no food or water, and no formal charges or grounds for arrest presented to the inmates. More than twenty-four hours after they were detained, the women were taken out of their cell and told to sign a document that purported to describe the circumstances under which they were detained. “We heard people saying, ‘I was at a polling place,’ or ‘I was walking the dog,’ or ‘I was with my kids,’ and immediately the sound of blows, and you could hear that they are using their batons and, from their comments, that they are trying to impress each other with how hard they are hitting.” Svetlana couldn’t read what she was being asked to sign, because an officer covered the top part of the sheet with her hand. “I could see that the address and time of arrest were false,” she said. “So I wrote, ‘I do not certify.’ The woman officer started twisting my arms behind my back and made me kneel. She had some trouble getting me down to the floor, so she put me in a choke hold. I said, ‘You are going to strangle me now and will have to live with it on your conscience,’ and she loosened her grip. She then forced me to stand facing the wall, legs spread super-far apart. Then I was put back in a cell.”
Alexander Lukashenka is claiming his sixth term, and his strongest opponent has fled the country.
via The New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/after-a-rigged-election-belarus-crushes-protests-amid-an-information-blackout
The streets of Minsk and other Belarusian cities have been battlegrounds since Sunday evening, when authorities announced that eighty per cent of voters had chosen to reëlect Alexander Lukashenka, who has been President for twenty-six years. His electoral opponent, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, has fled the country. At least three thousand people have been arrested, one protester has died, and an unknown number have been injured.