Belarusian opposition does not expect mass street activity on Freedom Day
On March 25th, the Freedom Day, the opposition wants to march along the Independence Avenue. It should be noted, that every year the number of participants in traditional opposition rallies, such as the Freedom Day and Chernobyl Path has been decreasing or consistently low. This is largely due to the fact, that opposition slogans about Belarus’ independence and sovereignty have been ‘stolen’ by the Belarusian authorities, who have more powerful outreach and propaganda instruments. The opposition has not yet found ways to mobilize citizens for street protests, despite enhanced tension in society due to falling living standards. The Freedom Day march is unlikely to attract huge crowds, but will become the first mass street action in 2016.
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.