Staunton, March 17 – In 2011, Time magazine named as its “person of the year” the protester in honor of demonstrations in Belarus, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Russia. If Belarus acquires this tradition, Minsk commentator Irina Khalip says, then for 2017, there is no question that “the person of the year in Belarus is the Belarusian people.”
On the Charter 97 portal, she says this has become obvious because “while politicians have spoken correct and beautiful words, the participants of the protest marches” in Belarus “simply told about their own lives” and “the hell” in which they were no longer prepared to live (charter97.org/ru/news/2017/3/17/243956/).
“When you listen to people at the demonstrations or watch online reporting, it becomes terrible: how could people live so many years in this hell and be silent?” Khalip says. “And at the same time you feel joy: they are not silent not only in the kitchens but in the streets and they are ready to protest until victory, with dignity and without fear.”
It has become obvious, she continues, that the officials of the Lukashenka regime have driven the population “to complete moral exhaustion by transforming the life of Belarusians into a humiliating struggle for existence” because “this regime didn’t need secure, well-off and self-confident citizens. It needed slaves whom it was easy to manipulate.”
Khalip says that she recalls asked a teacher in a Soviet school why communism, which had been promised for 1980 didn’t appear to be present in 1982. The teacher replied that since socialism is “the first phase of communism, it is possible to assert that we already live under communism.”
Now, 30 years later, “the functions of the little Soviet historian is being fulfilled by all possible ideologues and propagandists whose job was to convince Belarusians that they already live under communism.” These people may have believed to begin with, but even they have long since ceased to believe what they were saying.
Many people assume that it was Lukashenk’s anti-vagrancy tax that is behind the protests, but it was only the straw that broke the camel’s back, allowing “Belarusians to overcome the indifference which it was so comfortable for so many to call tolerance.” But now, they have made a choice, and they have become “new heroes” for the nation.
Some younger Belarusians are upset with their elders for having gone along so long, but everyone has the right to make a mistake especially if he or she is willing to admit a mistake and correct the situation. That has now happened. Khalip says she is pleased by this because now even those who did go along see the way to a very different future.