Student community is unhappy with authorities’ actions, but their protest potential is low
Last week, for the first time in ten years, an unauthorized march of students was held in Minsk at the Belarusian State University (BSU) administration. The students were protesting against the introduction of fees for re-examination and tests at the BSU. About 90 students from different Belarusian universities gathered for the march, which had not been clamped down by the power bodies. It should be noted that other higher educational institutions have long practiced charging for the re-examination and tests without consulting with students, who have not been objecting these charges. That said, students are rather willing to sign online petitions to the authorities and write comments on social networks, including other safe ways of expressing their dissatisfaction with the university administration’s decisions. Student protest actions are unlikely to attract more participants and grow into political demands.
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.