By Paul Goble
Despite the widespread assumptions among many in Russia and in the West, Belarusians are not pro-Russian or so passive that they simply accept the Lukashenka dictatorship. Instead, they do not show up at planned pro-Moscow rallies and continue to demonstrate against any union with Russia and against Lukashenka’s regime.
Belarusian writer and journalist Severin Kvyatkovsky, who blogs for Radio Liberty’s Belarusian Service says that any objective observer can see these things but many continue to believe what Moscow says rather than what is before their own eyes. And other data only reinforce these conclusions (svaboda.org/a/30336116.html).
To be sure, some 60 percent of Belarusians supported Russia’s Anschluss of Crimea, he continues;” but polls show that “only three percent” of Belarusians want their country to cease its existence by being absorbed by Russia and 25 percent are ready to take up arms to defend the independence of Belarus. If Russia didn’t control the media, that figure would be higher.
And in fact, Russians don’t believe what they say about how pro-Russian Belarus is. Many complained when Belarusians did not come out in droves to defend the Regnum journalists who were charged with promoting Russian interests at the expense of Belarusian ones. A few did but not the masses Moscow expected.
To be sure, Kvyatkovsky says, no one who loves Belarus should rest easy. “People without principles or with uncertain positions always force one to remain prepared. You never know where and in result of what the compass needle will shift. But no one should be exaggerating ‘the pro-Russian nature’ of [Belarusians].”
For the second weekend in a row, Belarusians did come out in large numbers to voice their opposition to greater “integration” with Russia. But those who did so also were protesting against the Lukashenka regime whose behavior has allowed Moscow to achieve as much control over Belarus as it has (charter97.org/ru/news/2019/12/21/359754/).
As one Belarusian woman taking part in the demonstration this weekend said, “the Lukashenka dictatorship is guilty” of the country’s problems, and “therefore I came out not only to show my opposition to union with Russia but to the dictatorship. This regime must be changed.”
She was carrying the red and white national flag, not Lukashenka’s neo-Soviet one.