Friday, March 25, 2005

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Another day, another vulnerable ex-Soviet republic

If there were an award for Most Quiescent ex-Soviet Population, Belarus would probably just squeak by Turkmenistan for the trophy. Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko rules with an iron fist, but in the past most Belarusians have just shrugged their shoulders in coping with their dictator.

Via Glenn Reynolds comes an Interfax report suggesting that may be about to change:

Members of Belarussian opposition parties and movements and entrepreneurs have joined an unauthorized rally in downtown Minsk to show their support for previously arrested opposition activists and entrepreneurial movement leaders, an Interfax correspondent reported.

Here's a photo:


There are additional reports from Mosnews, Reuters, the Associated Press, and Pravda. The AP has the most detailed account:

About 1,000 pro-democracy protesters [Interfax and Reuters both have the number as only "several hundred"--DD.] tried to gather Friday near the palace of President Alexander Lukashenko, claiming to be emulating the popular uprising in fellow ex-Soviet republic Kyrgyzstan, but they were beaten and dispersed by police in riot gear, and several dozen were arrested.

It took the truncheon-wielding police about two hours to disperse the protesters, who chanted "Down with Lukashenko!'' and "Long live Belarus!'' A group of 100 or so opposition activists regrouped, only to be pushed away a second time.

Protest organizer Andrei Klimov said the demonstration was intended to help spark a revolution similar to those that have swept Georgia, Ukraine and, most recently, Kyrgyzstan, ousting unpopular governments.

"Today's gathering must send a signal to the West, Russia and our own bureaucrats that Belarus is ready for a serious change,'' Klimov said. "Our aim is to start the Belarusian revolution and force the resignation of Lukashenko, the last dictator of Europe.''

Pravda notes wryly that the demonstration took place, "just as the government criticized Kyrgyzstan's opposition for the seizure of power there.... The Belarusian Foreign Ministry on Friday harshly assailed the Kyrgyz opposition, warning that its action could destabilize the entire region. 'The unconstitutional overthrow of the government in Kyrgyzstan could have fatal consequences for peace, stability and prosperity in the country, as well as in the Central Asian region as a whole,' it said."

The cautionary note comes from the Reuters report:

Belarus's opposition takes heart from the protest movements which led to authorities being toppled in other ex-Soviet states -- like Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.

But opposition to Lukashenko remains small and divided, with activists fearing repressive measures. A Belarussian identity was crushed under communism and any post-Soviet revolt would be hampered by a lack of the nationalist sentiment present in the other countries.

That assessment seems true to me -- but then again, I didn't think the Ukrainians were going to rise up a few months ago.

The key difference is that, as today's events demonstrate, Lukashenko will have no problem whatsoever with using all the coercive tools at his disposal to stay in power.

Developing -- the fourth wave, that is.....

posted by Dan on 03.25.05 at 02:54 PM


Aren't real democracy movements evidenced by babes demonstrating in the streets? These guys look like they've just come out of a soccer match.

Dan used to have an eye for these details . . .. Too many revolutions a'brewing?


posted by: PD Shaw on 03.25.05 at 02:54 PM [permalink]

Darn -- PD Shaw beat me to it. He's right -- definitely not enough hot chicks.

posted by: Klug on 03.25.05 at 02:54 PM [permalink]

In the very least, the opposition parties are becoming more unified. Two of the main ones are combining and rallying behind a single charismatic looking leader, which is a good sign. So perhaps September 2006 may yield democratic results after all, and hopefully I'll have raised enough money to go and document it.

posted by: Robert Mayer on 03.25.05 at 02:54 PM [permalink]

Personally, I would have blurred out the facial features on this photograph. the Lukashenko crowd is not a nice crowd, and you never know how a clear id photo is going to be used. Let us not help them inadvertently.

posted by: godement on 03.25.05 at 02:54 PM [permalink]

godement -- Good observation. They watch just about any and all press that gets said about them. Might be a good idea to do Dan.

posted by: Robert Mayer on 03.25.05 at 02:54 PM [permalink]

Good God! Glenn Reynolds quoted me! (Me!) See these hands

posted by: Klug on 03.25.05 at 02:54 PM [permalink]

Never gonna wash 'em -- never.

P.S. Godemint sure has a good idea, especially with pictures that good. (Of course, this may be a less perceptible but similar problem to Lebanon. Lebanon seems to be full of the same five hot brunettes -- is Belarus full of the same five white blonde dudes? I mean -- I swear I saw my college dormmate in there.)

(This may be an awkward point to bring up, but does it ever kinda weird Americans out (okay -- white folks) that other countries have white folks that all kinda look the same? I mean, I'm of Chinese descent and white people are still weirded out me (and others) and say silly stuff like "you all look alike." What happens when you go to a country full of white people and they all kinda-sorta look alike? (I get by having grown up here, having good facial recognition and living in a country where all the white people don't look alike.))

posted by: Klug on 03.25.05 at 02:54 PM [permalink]


The first time I noticed that phenomenon was at Live Aid, where the crowd at Wembley was distinctly monochromatic, while the American crowd was far more multihued.

posted by: Glenn Reynolds on 03.25.05 at 02:54 PM [permalink]

Speaking of demonstrations, there was another demonstration in Egypt that didn't seem to get much attention in the Right Wing blogosphere. It was from the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, and thousands of Egyptian police tried to break it up.

On a more positive note, a 4 year process of democratization in tiny Bhutan is goind quite well.

One has to give the BBC credit, they even seen to have a reporter in Thimpu.

posted by: erg on 03.25.05 at 02:54 PM [permalink]

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