Some of you might have seen Belarus in news on Coronavirus. Dictator Lukashenko didn’t want to move on with quarantine. Instead he was generating ideas to solve the problem with COVID-19. For example, in one of his press conference he suggested that vodka and sauna can save you from the virus. Driving tractor in the field was also one of the options. To show the dedication to the cause of ignoring coronavirus Lukashenko even organized a military parade on 9 May – day of victory in the second world war.
However outside of those news there were a lot of things happening in the country. People saw that once again you can’t count on the government and started organizing by themselves as in many other countries. Support for the medical personal was coming from small business and self organized initiatives. Collection of information on the spread of the virus became task for non-state media websites and independent journalists. Information on the situation was passed on to the society through the medical personal that was blowing the whistle on the situation.
This was not left without attention from the state. After 9 May over 100 journalists and bloggers were detained for live streams on situation in different regions with the epidemic. Many were sentenced to short 10-15 days arrests and some got fines for disturbing public peace.
To press on with politics as usual government announced on 8 May that president elections will happen on 9 August 2020, just three month beforehand giving short window for anybody but Lukashenko to register himselves/herself in the race. Most of opposition politicians have declined to participate in the elections as the government doesn’t count the voices so or so. However some “independent” figures appeared. One of the is a wife of and independent blogger. He started using events planned for signature collection for his wife as political rallies. With speeches, thousands of people and demands. For several days police and KGB had no idea what to do with those. But at one of those events provocation by police was started with mass detention. As a result, one police officer fell on the ground. Police got legite reason to use force against other demonstrators. Several people are now charged with attack on the police officers. Dozens got short term arrests.
Repression didn’t stop the population that keeps on gathering even after detentions. Currently organized anarchists are not participating in those events, however the situation might change in months to come. Belarus was hit hard by economical crisis before the epidemic of coronavirus. In fact the main reasons why quarantine was not introduced in the country is economical.
In Belarus presidential elections are seen as high point of political life. Although there is little hope in changes from voting people still rally and try to change things. Elections are also connected with high repressions against politically active part of population. In 2006 and 2010 protests against president led to mass arrests. With more economical and political problems appearing on the horizon the small hope starts growing that the society can finally rise to get rid of the Dictator and it’s apparatus of police and bureaucrats.