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Minsk the capital of Belarus is in Russia’s Backyard

Pushkin Square in Moscow on Saturday could have been mistaken for the centre of Minsk, where protest marches calling for change have occurred each weekend despite the fury of Soviet era strongman Alexander Lukashenko.

Many protesters in Moscow waved the red and white flag which has become the symbol of protest in Minsk. However, another similarity in Moscow which maybe of long-term significance, was the appearance of toy drums aiding the rhythmic chanting of one song again and again- ‘Changes’. A Soviet era dissident rock anthem, that has deep resonance for millions widely across Russia.

For us in America and Europe it is most important to appreciate that the song was then and is now in its resurrection, about ‘waiting for ‘change’ within the existing governance of the State. It was not then nor now, a call for democracy.

The protests in Minsk are calling for Lukashenko to step down and recognise that he lost the October election. They do not seek to overthrow the State or even his Government. This is no Soviet era Velvet Revolution. It is not a demand for our Western style democracy.

The Minsk protests continue each weekend. They are not widely reported here, because they are largely peaceful and we have other things on our agendas.

Saturday’s protests in Russia were the first under Putin’s rule, where Russians pushed back against the Police. Forcing their way through the Police barriers and then freeing detainees from Police custody. To the great surprise of the Police themselves, the protesters happily drove back the Police with showers of snowballs – again a first for Moscow.

“Nobody thought this could happen before, just like Belarus” said a spokesman for the Carnegie Moscow Centre. “but the rise in protest activity shows you that a huge number of people are unhappy with the government … people aren’t coming out for Navalny so much as they are because they are tired of corruption and bad governance” – just as they are in Belarus.

Reports from Saturday in Moscow suggest over a third of those present had never attended a protest before and half of them were women.

Winter cold may minimise the protests in Belarus and Moscow – but come the Spring, who knows?


January 21 2021