Chronicle from Belarus: An Introduction

Chronicle from Belarus
Authors:
Lidiia Akryshora

Conditions were not auspicious for Svetlana Tikhanovskaia. “Our society is not ready to vote for a woman,” Lukashenko claimed.

Women opposition activists had been threatened with rape—and with having their children taken away. Tikhanovskaia sent her son and daughter abroad in the care of their grandmother. Two other women joined Tikhanovskaia‘s campaign: Veronika Tsepkalo, the wife of Valery Tsepkalo, another presidential contender who, following threats, had fled the country with their children, and Maria Kolesnikova, a flautist and the campaign manager of Viktor Barbariko, another would-be presidential candidate who was in prison. This trio of women adopted the hand gestures of a heart, a fist and a peace sign.

At the close of election day, 9 August 2020, the Central Election Commission announced that Lukashenko had won an overwhelming victory with some eighty percent of the vote. The results were widely understood to have been falsified. Hundreds of thousands of Belarusians took to the streets in protest at the stolen election. Three days of terror followed. Tikhanovskaia was detained and made to read a scripted self-criticism. Soon afterwards she, like Tsepkalo, was forced to leave the country, giving a filmed statement under duress: “Most likely I remain the same weak woman I was when I began.”

Kolesnikova avoided expulsion only by tearing up her passport at the border. Since then she has been in prison.

Lukashenko has little popular support, even among workers and pensioners. What he does have command of is a large, masked security apparatus, the so-called siloviki, who, since August, have been carrying out mass detentions, brutal beatings and torture—including of women, the elderly, and the disabled. Covid-19 has been spreading massively in prisons overcrowded with political detainees. More than half a dozen activists have been killed, including thirty-one-year-old designer Roman Bandarenka. Despite that, massive protests have continued for more than half a year.

There are very few foreign journalists in Belarus; Lukashenko has repeatedly refused to grant visas to journalists and closed the borders. In this context that at IWM we decided to create the “Chronicle from Belarus.” The Chronicle is an archive of curated material from a wide variety of sources, including first-person testimonies.

Where possible, we have commissioned translations from Russian, Belarusian, Ukrainian and Polish into German and/or English and posted the original together with the translation.

Texts are posted in their original language, with their titles translated into English and a link to a translation of the whole text when available. Postings are listed chronologically, with the most recent material first, and organized into the following categories:

Some highlights include: Pavel Barkouski's reply to Slavoj Zižek’s “Are You Serious, Mr. Professor?”; Almira Ousmanova's articles on “Belarus 2020: Time for #evalution” and Belarusian partisans in the Cyber Age; historian Steven Seegel's Why Follow Belarus?; a poetry and photography collaboration between Hanna Komar and urbanparadox titled “Unprotected”; paintings by Yana Chernova, as well as an interview with the artist about the making of her famous Belarusian Venus IWM Post #126; Hanna Komar’s testimony about her imprisonment Задержание, Анна Комар, Arrest and Detention; an interview with Belarusian novelist (and former IWM fellow) Viktor Martinowitsch; a Yiddish rendition of a Belarusian protest song by Maria Kolesnikova’s music conservatory classmate Zisl Slepovitch; testimony by detained protestor Valeria Pozdnyakova «Я вышла на протест потому что своими глазами увидела как силовики расстреливают людей» EN I went to the protests because I saw with my own eyes how the authorities were shooting people; the Estonian Flute Association’s tribute To Maria Kalesnikava; and multiple interviews including “Es geht jetzt um die demokratische Zukunft von Belarus”, with philosopher and civic activist Olga Shparaga, who after being repeatedly detained and imprisoned in Minsk, is presently working with Sviatlana Tikhanovskaia’s coordination council in exile in Vilnius as the representative for education.

Organized and curated by IWM and Ukraine in European Dialogue Program:  

  • Lidiia Akryshora (Research Assistant Ukraine in European Dialogue Program)
  • Marci Shore (IWM Visiting Fellow)