Svetlana Aleksievich to use her symbolic capital to transform Belarusian society?
Belarusian writer and Nobel Literature Prize winner Svetlana Aleksievich has agreed to become the honorary chairman of the ‘Chernobyl Path’ organizing committee. Aleksievich, as a writer, has been recognized at the international level and awarded the Nobel Prize, which strengthened her position and moral authority in the Belarusian society, especially among supporters of democratic changes. Many public and political leaders, representatives of the independent media have identified Svetlana Aleksievich as a Belarusian of the year. Unlike civil society, the state media has ignored the first Belarusian Nobel laureate, but the authorities have allowed Radio Svoboda to hold the presentation of her book at the Palace of the Republic Hall (often used for official events). Yet it would be premature to talk about Aleksievich’s possible influence on uniting the political opposition, mobilizing civil society and initiating a dialogue with the authorities.
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.