Picture this: My granny regrets having voted for Lukashenka in the elections half a year ago. It’s not the end of the world, but looks like the beginning of it. As we say, meaning that a certain fate is unavoidable: Annushka has already spilled the oil.
Isn’t it ironic? The name of my blog has changed its meaning several times since I started it. The spring of 2009 brought the thaw, the winter of 2010/2011 looked like an Ice Age and summer 2011 has it all: economic breakdown, complete loss of direction on behalf of the authorities and creative protests. My personal Oscar goes to the sense of humour skyrocketing these months in Belarus.
And it is ironic indeed. Now that the opposition is in jail or morally devastated, Belarusians all over the country are organising themselves with the help of social media (and use of the Internet is fairly widely spread) for silent protests. During three consecutive Wednesdays Belarusians gathered on the central squares of 20 cities, without chanting any slogans, and simply clapped their hands.
Each time more people came (several thousands only in Minsk) and even more were brutally detained or arrested. The next demo is on 29 June. On 3 July – on our Day of Independence – there is another one. Police have already announced that clapping hands will be considered a violation of public order.
Meanwhile, the EU has introduced its first ever economic sanctions against the regime. They needn’t have bothered. They regime already did that to themselves: problems with availability of foreign currency, imports and foreign debt are drastic.
In the time of economic crisis it’s finally evident – even for my granny – that the country badly needs structural reforms.
Belarus’ economic model has run out of steam, the World Bank says. Devaluation of the national currency to 56 percent is a blessing for an export-oriented economy, Lukashenka says. He is embarrassed to see how Belarusians reacted, with panic buying, to rumours about possible shortages of sugar and sunflower oil … (the oil, yes, the oil, Annushka).
A quarter of Belarusians believe they are to blame for the economic crisis in the country, Lukashenko also says. Aha, the nation responds, now we know how many Belarusians really voted for the president in December.
You can’t choose a nation to govern, Lukashenka adds. But you can choose a president is my reply.
Russia? Its involvement in the whole story of the economic deterioration in Belarus is not so clear. After years of brotherly help, it sharply raises energy prices, denies indirect subsidies, demands back debts and remindes about the Belarusian enterprises it could buy.
In terms of political pressure, the Russian government has publicly deplored politicised trials and state Russian TV is closely following our protests. For his part, Russian President Medvedev didn’t even bother to come to the Brest fortress to commemorate 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Great Patriotic war.
This is what Belarusians are saying with their silence. That changes are taking place and more is to come. It’s scary. It’s unbelievable. It’s unexpected. But it’s real and it needs to be done.
Hey EU – all eyes on Belarus for 3 July.