Belarusian authorities use national symbols to reduce tension in relations with opposition
Last week, the ‘Vyshyvanka Day’ celebration was held near the Sports Palace in Minks, aiming to promote traditional national Belarusian symbols and ornamental codes, which was organized by the State Youth Union. It is not the first time the Belarusian authorities ‘seize’ the initiative and ideas from the opposition, which become popular among the population. For instance, since mid 2000s, the Belarusian authorities have completely changed their rhetoric about the value of Belarusian sovereignty and independence. National symbols and ‘vishivanki’ were initially popular only among the politicised youth, now the state has picked up this fashion. Some nationalists in the opposition sympathise the authorities’ efforts to promote traditional national symbols. However, the authorities are unlikely either to enable the formation of a system opposition or empower it to gain influence on the state policy.
Image: Siarhei Hudzilin, NN.BY
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.