Staunton, September 18 – The Belarusian protests have arisen in the way that they have become their country is “ethnically and socially” homogeneous, Arina Dmitriyeva says. In those parts of Russia which share that characteristic such as the Russian North and Far Eastern cities like Khabarovsk, s similar course of events is entirely possible.
The Belarusian sociologist who was forced to leave her country because of political repression and now works at the European University in St. Petersburg says that where such homogeneity is lacking, the rise of protests is less likely or even almost impossible (severreal.org/a/30842654.html).
Even in those parts of Belarus, such as rural areas where the sense of homogeneity is lacking, protests have been harder to organize and smaller. The same thing is likely to be true in Russian cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg and Russian regions that are significantly less homogeneous in their populations.
“Khabarovsk is quite monoethnic,” Dmitriyeva says, as are many parts of the Russian North. Such uniformity not only means that residents feel much the same way about any given issue as do their neighbors but that it is easier for people to come together and protest. Where that commonality is lacking, so too is the likelihood of large protests.
Having returned from Belarus where she was an election observer and then a participant in protests in her native Hrodno, the sociologist also says that there are still people there who support Lukashenka “but there are no supporters of the use of force” against the Belarusian people.
At the same time, she adds, “the supporters of Lukashenka are now so few that they do not express their position.” Those who are neutral in the contest between the dictator and the streets exist, and some of them are concerned that the ouster of Lukashenka will only make things worse.
Dmitriyeva says that “repressive regimes which encounter street protests are highly likely to be replaced in the course of a year or two.” That has been true in the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Unfortunately, sometimes they are replaced by even less democratic or more totalitarian ones.
One reason for optimism in Belarus is that the population is united and mobilized. In 2010, only about 50,000 people came into the streets. Now, 250,000 do on a regular basis. “This is a big difference” almost certain to play a major role in the future course of events, she concludes.