Belarusian official state symbols only dominate when ensured by authorities

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April 22, 2016 18:50

The Belarusian authorities ensured that the official state symbols prevailed at public events to mark Victory Day and the World Ice Hockey Championships opening. Outside formal events, however, the national symbols of Minsk’s guests – Russians in particular – were more visible, mainly because Belarusians are not emotionally attached to the state official symbols while historical symbols are banned.

Using the state symbols during the celebrations to mark Victory Day and the opening of the World Ice-Hockey Championships on May 9th, as well as on May 11th, the National Flag and Coat of Arms’ Day – was a concerted attempt by the Belarusian authorities to demonstrate Belarus’ independence. Amid Belarus’ deeper involvement in the Eurasian integration project and Russia’s actions in Ukraine, threats to Belarus’ independence have increased. 

Prior to the Victory Day celebrations on May 9th, the Belarusian authorities directly and indirectly restricted the use of ‘St. George’s ribbons’, which were originally introduced by Russia in 2005 as a symbol of Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War, and are now extensively used by the ‘separatists’ in Ukraine. Instead, the Belarusian authorities have used administrative resources and quasi-NGOs to disseminate red-and-green ribbons (in the state flag colours) at all public events. 

In addition, the authorities have made efforts to limit the activity and ‘visibility’ of Russian fans during the World Ice-Hockey Championships held in Belarus on May 9th – 25th. Public actions by the Russian fans have been banned, such as public demonstrations, as well as organised marches towards grandstands. While covering the Championships’ opening ceremony, the state media ensured a balanced picture as regards a variety of international fans’ national symbols, despite the fact that the Russian fans outnumbered the rest.

On May 11th, Belarus celebrated State Symbol Day, which is marked on the second Sunday of May. By using the state symbols on a mass-scale, the authorities attempted to boost the patriotic moods of Belarusians. As a result, during various celebrations and public events held in May in Belarus, Russia’s visible presence was minimised. Interestingly, outside public events, Belarusians did not use their national symbols, and, as a result, Russian flags were most visible.

By promoting Belarus’ state symbols during the May celebrations, the Belarusian authorities intended to demonstrate Belarus’ commitment to strengthening her independence and sovereignty. Nevertheless, Belarus’ national symbols (slightly modified from Soviet times), which were introduced via the 1995 Referendum, bear no emotional value for Belarusians. They are rarely used outside official public events. Belarusians are more emotionally attached to the country’s historical symbols – the white-red-white flag and ‘Pahonia’ Coat of Arms, which are perceived by the authorities as a threat and are consequently banned. 

The recent celebrations have once again demonstrated that Belarusians lack official national symbols to which they can emotionally relate and use to wilfully express support for their country.

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Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries entangle in confrontation spiral
October 02, 2017 11:57
Фото: RFRM

Over the past year, military-political relations between Minsk and Kyiv have become complicated. Due to their high inertia and peculiarities, this downward trend would be extremely difficult to overcome.

The root cause of the crisis is the absence of a common political agenda in the Belarusian-Ukrainian relations. Minsk is looking for a market for Belarusian exports in Ukraine and offers its services as a negotiation platform for the settlement of the Russo-Ukrainian war, thereby hoping to avoid political issues in the dialogue with Kiev. Meanwhile, Ukraine is hoping for political support from Minsk in the confrontation with Moscow. In addition, Ukraine’s integration with NATO presupposes her common position with the Alliance in relation to Belarus. The NATO leadership regards the Belarusian Armed Forces as an integral part of the Russian military machine in the western strategic front (the Baltic states and Poland). In addition, the ongoing military reform in Ukraine envisages a reduction in the number of generals and the domestic political struggle makes some Ukrainian top military leaders targets in politically motivated attacks.

Hence, the criticism of Belarus coming from Ukrainian military leadership is dictated primarily by internal and external political considerations, as well as by the need to protect the interests of generals, and only then by facts.

For instance, initially, the Ukrainian military leadership made statements about 100,000 Russian servicemen allegedly taking part in the Russo-Belarusian military drill West-2017. Then the exercises were labelled quazi-open and military observers from Ukraine refused to provide their assessment, which caused a negative reaction in Minsk. Further, without citing specific facts, it was stated that Russia was building up its military presence in Belarus.

Apparently, the Belarusian and Ukrainian Defence Ministries have entangled in a confrontational spiral (on the level of rhetoric). Moreover, only a small part of the overly hidden process has been disclosed. That said, third states are very likely to take advantage of the situation (or have already done so). This is not only about Russia.

The Belarusian Defence Ministry officials are restrained in assessing their Ukrainian counterparts. However, such a restraint is not enough. Current military-political relations between Belarus and Ukraine are unlikely to stabilise without the intervention of both presidents.

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