Belarusian People’s Republic’s white-red-white flag may become historical value
The Liberal Democratic Party has proposed to award the white-red-white flag with the status of a historical and cultural value, which may become an additional argument to legitimize the national symbols of the first Belarusian state. Most likely, next year, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Belarusian People's Republic, the government could legitimise its national symbols.
It is unlikely that the leader of the LDPB was the mouthpiece of the authorities and in some way coordinated his proposal. However, as an experienced politician, Sergei Gaidukevich could see the desire of the authorities to add stability to the Belarusian state, including by co-opting national symbols and otherwise ignored fragments of the national history.
The white-red-white flag, the state flag of the first Belarusian state, the Belarusian People's Republic (1918), was proclaimed the national flag of Belarus in 1991 until 1995. In 1995, President Lukashenka held a referendum, which replaced the white-red-white flag with a red-green flag and a coat of arms designed after the state symbols of the Byelorussian SSR. Lukashenka changed the state symbols in order to strengthen his positions in the struggle against the parliament, and after the Soviet symbols were returned, the white-red-white flag became personified with the democratic opposition. As authoritarianism strengthened in Belarus, the law enforcement agencies started interpreting the white-red-white flag as an "anti-state symbol”.
However, in recent years, the Belarusian authorities, in line with the common desire to strengthen state independence, have taken some steps (albeit inconsistent) towards national reconciliation, including the recognition of some historical fragments and national symbols. The Belarusian opposition also insists on recognizing the national symbols - the flag and the coat of arms - as a historical and cultural value. For example, former presidential candidate Tatyana Korotkevich in 2015 handed over a white-red-white flag to the Museum of Belarusian Statehood and started a petition to recognise it as a historical and cultural value. In 2016, Young Front leader, Dzmitser Dashkevich, collected 10,000 signatures with a similar petition. Now LDPB leader and MP Sergei Gaidukevich has made the same appeal.
Next year, Belarus marks the 100th anniversary of the Belarusian People's Republic. The Belarusian authorities could make concessions and recognize the white-red-white flag as a national historical value.
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.