Belarusian authorities are loyal to opposition activity in national-cultural sphere as long as it excludes protest activity
Last week, the opposition was collecting signatures in the Independence Square in Minsk to recognise the white-red-white flag as a historical and cultural value. The authorities seem ready to allow the opposition activity in the national and cultural spheres, so as amid falling incomes and rising unemployment the population shows interest in it. The security forces have set informal rules for opposition activists in organising unauthorized activities. Often they do not detain or prosecute organisers, unless they are too active or their activity involves the top leadership of the state. Should the opposition organise protest actions to promote socio-economic issues, the authorities are likely to take action that is more drastic.
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.