Chernobyl Path: participation as low as ever
On April 26th, the opposition held a traditionally rally ‘Chernobyl Path’ to commemorate the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, which was attended by a record low number of participants. The rally’s motto was “No to Russian nuclear threat”. In addition, this year, the government has seized the initiative and used the ‘Chernobyl Path’ brand for its own propaganda purposes (‘Chernobyl Path’ was formerly the largest mass rally organised by the opposition). The authorities have organised a series of cultural events in the Gomel region, and the regions most affected by the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, entitled “Chernobyl Path - the road of life”. By consistently raising the organisational costs for the opposition street protests (including persecution, fines, fees, municipal and police services costs, etc) the authorities have managed to minimise street activity.
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.