Summer season will calm down Belarusian protest movements
On April 26th, the authorities allowed the Chernobyl Path, the annual demonstration, to be held in Minsk.
The small number of the demonstration participants demonstrates that the opposition’s political message as well as the environmentalists’ message advocating against the NPP construction enjoy little popularity among Belarusians. The summer holiday season, which is about to start, will make it even more difficult to gather people for street protests in the coming six months.
The Chernobyl Path demonstration, which conventionally included a march through the city and a meeting, advocated against the started construction of a nuclear power plant in Ostrovets. Independent media reported about 600 participants in the demonstration and about 200 in the meeting.
The Chernobyl Path did not attract many participants, - even less than the Freedom Day rally on March 24th – which could be explained by the starting holiday season. This factor, combined with others, such as people’s low motivation to participate in mass protests, and the opposition’s low popularity, imply that political activity in Spring-Autumn 2013 will be low.
During this period, the opposition, as well as near-political activists (environmentalists) will face difficulties in organizing street protests due to these objective reasons, even without the authorities’ interventions. In turn, the authorities if necessary can use the administrative tool to reduce the protest activity.
In particular, before the demonstration started on April 26th, the police arrested several environmentalists, thereby preventing them from taking part in the rally. After the event, several journalists, working for the independent media outlets, were briefly detained. United Civil Party Chairman Anatoly Liabedzka was detained in Ostrovets, when he was trying to enter the NPP construction site.
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.