The authorities welcome moderate Slavism
On November 25th, the “Slavic March”, authorized by the city authorities was held in Mogilev.
The authorities encourage political activities of organizations that are not associated with the “conventional” opposition. Simultaneously Minsk attempts to demonstrate to Moscow that Belarus is the bearer of the “true” Slavic values and Russian historical traditions.
The event in Mogilev was of an explicitly “pro-Russian” character: the participants intended to use the black-yellow-white flags of the Russian Empire (all in all, it was not allowed by the local administration), and also claimed to represent the Russian nation and chanted “Glory to Belaya Rus” “Glory to Russia” and “Forward, Russians”. A participant of the 2010 presidential campaign Mr. Ryzhov spoke at the rally.
Most likely, the authorities are interested in holding such events due to their patriotic and pro-Russian character, and especially that they take place near the hometown of President Lukashenko. Mogilev is an informal capital for governmental personnel and the closest to Lukashenko family leaders come from this region.
The “Slavic March” was approved and held for the second time. The first “Slavic March” was approved to be held before the presidential elections in September 2010, but then it did not take place because of the organizer’s desire to use the unauthorized black-yellow-white flags. On November 25th the March was attended by about 40 people - mostly young people, united around an informal leader Mr. Denisenko, who was not a member of any organization.
The authorities’ arbitrary policy towards different political players is confirmed by the Slutsk Executive Committee’s rejection of the request filed by the head of the Belarusian Popular Front local branch Mr. Amelkovich to hold a rally to commemorate the anniversary of the Slutsk uprising on December 1st. The BPF is known for its patriotic, but stridently anti-Russian position, which has probably predetermined the authorities’ decision against the BPF initiative.
It would be a mistake to assume that the government is really interested in the revitalization of political movements in Belarus - any political activity is perceived as a threat to the current regime. Therefore, the authorities were quite comfortable and safe with a small number of the “Slavic March” participants, as well as with the non-existence of ‘Slavism’ organizations in Mogilev.
The Belarusian authorities regard the Catholic conference as yet another international event to promote Minsk as a global negotiating platform. Minsk’s proposal to organise a meeting between the Roman-Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church is rather an image-making undertaking than a serious intention. However, the authorities could somewhat extend the opportunities for the Roman-Catholic Church in Belarus due to developing contacts with the Catholic world.
Minsk is attempting to lay out a mosaic from various international religious, political and sportive events to shape a positive image of Belarus for promoting the Helsinki 2.0 idea.
Belarus’ invitation to the head of the Holy See for a meeting with the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church should be regarded as a continuation of her foreign policy efforts in shaping Minsk’s peacekeeping image and enhancing Belarus’ international weight. The Belarusian authorities are aware that their initiative is unlikely to find supporters among the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow. In Russia, isolationist sentiments prevail.
In addition, for domestic audiences, the authorities make up for the lack of tangible economic growth with demonstrations of growth in Minsk’s authority at international level through providing a platform for religious, sportive and other dialogues.