Public campaign on social networks prompted authorities to soften repressions
The Education Ministry has commented on the story with the students of the Brest Regional Cadet School, who have photographed in T-shirts with the "Pahonia" coat of arms under their uniforms. Initially, the media reported that the cadets were expelled from the school by the administration for posting photos with the “Pahonia” symbol on their T-shirts on the Internet. Social networks reacted immediately with a campaign in support for the students. Most likely, the campaign in social networks and information pressure have influenced the government’s decision to abandon the use of rigid repressive measures against young people and forced the school administration to revoke the expulsion. Until now, politicized campaigns in social networks have not had any noticeable impact on the authorities, especially with regard to easing repression against their opponents. However, online activity is unlikely to lead to greater a number of participants in the opposition activities, including street rallies and election campaigns.
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.