The authorities welcome moderate Slavism

April 22, 2016 18:22

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.

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The Belarusian authorities have launched a discussion on the moratorium or abolition of the death penalty under the pressure of Belarusian human rights activists and international community. Apparently, the authorities are interested in monitoring public sentiments and response to the possible abolition of the capital punishment. The introduction of a moratorium on the death penalty would depend on the dynamics in Belarusian-European relations, efforts of the civil society organisations and Western capitals.

In Grodno last week, the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Belarus or introducing a moratorium was discussed.

The Belarusian authorities are likely to continue to support the death penalty in Belarus. During his rule, President Lukashenka pardoned only one person, and courts sentenced to death more than 400 people since the early 1990s. Over the past year, Belarusian courts sentenced to death several persons and one person was executed.

There are no recent independent polls about people’s attitude about the death penalty in Belarus. Apparently, this issue is not a priority for the population. In many ways, public opinion about the abolition of the death penalty would depend on the tone of the state-owned media reports.

That said, the Belarusian Orthodox Church and the Roman-Catholic Church stand for the abolition of the capital punishment, however their efforts in this regard only limit to public statements about their stance. Simultaneously, the authorities could have influenced public opinion about the death penalty through a focused media campaign in the state media. As they did, for example, with the nuclear power plant construction in Astravets. Initially unpopular project of the NPP construction was broadly promoted in the state media, and eventually, according to independent pollsters, was accepted by most population.