Belarus now pregnant with revolution – Lukashenka losing his base in countryside

Protest against the vagrants tax in Vitebsk, February 25, 2017 (Image: Belsat video capture)

Protest against the vagrants tax in Vitebsk, February 25, 2017 (Image: Belsat video capture) 

Analysis & Opinion, Belarus, Politics

Mass demonstrations are taking place in four major cities of Belarus today, and the protest against construction at the site of the Kuropaty mass graves are continuing. But perhaps the most serious indicator that Belarus is moving toward a revolution is that Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s traditional base in the villages appears to be collapsing.

As usual, most coverage focuses on the demonstrations in Belarusian cities – there were mass meetings in four of them today – and on the nationally symbolic Kuropaty grounds where activists continue their protests and have announced plans for more actions in the future.

It is difficult to know how people in the villages are reacting, but indications that they too are turning away from Lukashenka over the vagrants tax are likely to prove even more important than the actions in the cities because they will affect officials in Minsk who have always been told and believed that Belarusians in the villages support Lukashenka – and thus they should too.

If officials in Minsk conclude that Lukashenka has lost the backing of the villages – and it is their residents that he has always presented himself, a former collective farm head, as representing – then they will be more likely to turn away from him and thus open the way to revolutionary change.

Two new messages from the Belarusian countryside will push them in that direction. Pavel Sats from Osovaya in the Maloritsky district tells Radio Liberty’s Belarusian Service today that he has the impression that “in Belarus a revolution is maturing. People are getting poorer before their eyes,” and they can’t pay the vagrants tax.

He describes the sad fate of a man in Lyakhovets who is not yet on a state pension but who has lost his job. His son is unemployed, and his wife looks after their child. How can they possibly pay Lukashenka’s tax? Earlier, they scraped by, but this foolish action has pushed them over the edge into anger and despair.

Villagers, Sats continues, now have to search for the cheapest of cheap foods, bread, and some of them are going to stores near the Ukrainian border where it is imported for half the price of bread in their own places of residence.

The other signal comes from Konstantin Syrel of Ushache. He says that he is certain Lukashenka’s situation has now become untenable. The Belarusian leader has “fallen at one in the same time” into a situation where he no longer has time or room for maneuver and where anything he does is likely to make the situation even worse.

To the extent that ever more people in the Belarusian countryside have concluded that, Lukashenka’s days are numbered not because these people will overthrow him directly but because those who have been his defenders in the past are no longer going to be willing to back him in the future.


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Edited by: A. N.

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  • Dirk Smith

    Bucharest + Minsk = Moscow.

  • Alex George

    Don’t get me wrong, I would love this to be true. But what I am seeing is hardly conclusive of a change being imminent.

    The reports I have seen of the marches today (technically yesterday) aren’t impressive. The numbers were in the hundreds, not thousands or tens of thousands. Now sure, the marches have been in cities all over the country. And the authorities are not cracking down. But we seem to be seeing the existing supporters of the political opposition having an outing, rather than a significant movement of the people.

    I appreciate that the same could have been said about the Maidan protests in Ukraine, until Yanukovych’s repression unleashed something much broader which obviously had been simmering for a time. Maybe that will happen in Belarus also.

    At present, my take on this is, unfortunately, that the government is not going to enforce the vagrant’s tax any further, and that its going to leave Kuropaty alone, and the protests will fizzle. And that leads to danger in August of this year, because that is when Russia will legally send large numbers of troops into the country for the Zapad Joint Exercises.

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Lukashenko (or his successor, whoever that may be) can always cancel the Joint Exercises. The dwarf would then have no valid reason to send his troops in- not that that would stop him if he considers it “necessary”.

    • Turtler

      Well said, and a good dose of cold water to temper our hopes.

      To me, the fact that the marches are happening all over the country is a pretty big indicator SOMEthing is going on. Usually the marches tend to be concentrated to the urban areas (like Minsk). The fact that we’re seeing these in this quantity and range is pretty heartening, because it indicates Luka’s usual MO of stomping them down has miscarried.

      That doesn’t mean we will be seeing a Belarusian Maidan soon, but I think it does mean that the last redoubt of the original KGB is starting to falter.

      • Dagwood Bumstead

        What MAY help the demonstrations is that the end of winter is approaching. Icy weather with snow etc usually tends to dampen protests. It’s no guarantee, of course, witness the Maidan occuring in the middle of winter after starting before winter started.

      • Alex George

        I don’t think there have been any marches in the villages. Note the wording of the article. There have been marches in most of the cities.

  • Mephisto

    no doubt Soros, deep state and CIA are behind it

    • canuke

      I just cannot believe how thick the ruSSkiy trolls can be.

      • Andrew Chmil

        THEY ARE EVERYWHERE!!!

        MOLE-TROLL SITE!!!

        “UKRAINE TODAY USA”

        or

        “The President Trump Channel”

        Lots of BS Disqus Channels are “moderated” by them…
        CHEAP ENOUGH!

    • Greg

      perhaps Trump wants to give Putin a gift, Belarus on a plate!

    • Dagwood Bumstead

      Don’t forget Bandera……….

    • Turtler

      Don’t forget “The Jews.” And Jihadis!

      Good God, maybe Euromaidan Press should get together and make a “Putin Troll comment generator”?

  • Greg

    I wonder if Russia moves to take over Belarus is it the right time for Ukraine to push Russia out of Ukraine? Putin would be stretched very thin to move in 2 directions at the same time.

    • Turtler

      The problem I see with that is dealing with operations on Crimea, especially since that is a place where Putin has made the occupation official and annexed it to Russia.

      I do not see the Ukrainian military having the resources to push down the isthmus in the face of prepared defenses and the Russian military. And even if by some miracle the Ukrainians were able to withstand that kind of withering fire and push through the defenses to retake the entire peninsula, they would now be right back on a peninsula where there’s a significant fifth column and all but surrounded by angry Russian warships.

      I don’t see a solution for that happening soon.

      But as for the Donbas War Zone? Maybe that might be an opening….

      • Kruton

        Make the Russkis come to you,then hammer them.

        • Turtler

          That would require them being interested in crossing the isthmus to attack mainland Ukraine from that direction, which so far they have not been. The way they came at Ukraine was in the Far East, in the Donbas. Not quite as convenient for just slaughtering everybody coming through the choke point as the connection between Crimea and Ukraine.

          Certainly, preparing will be valuable. And Ukraine should prepare like hell to defend themselves. But for now it isn’t the main focus.

  • Yoshua

    The people are basically just protesting against poverty. We see these protests all around the world, even in the EU.

    Southern Europe’s energy consumption is down 20% and their economies and financial systems are imploding.

    Belarus is collapsing economically in front of our eyes.

    • MichaelA

      at about the same rate as Russia
      belarusians are about as poor as russians

  • zorbatheturk

    FSB is working overtime on this…