Celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Belarusian People’s Republic

March 27th, 2018   Belarus | News | Uncategorized

The March 25 rally was to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Belarus’s 1918 proclamation of independence from Russia and it is considered as the foundation of an independent Belarus. The Belarusian People’s Republic lasted until 1919, when it was effectively taken over by Soviet Russia.

Known as Freedom Day, the anniversary is traditionally a day for opponents of the authoritarian government of Alexander Lukashenko to stage protests. It accuses Lukashenko, who has been in office since 1994, of attempting to erase Belarusian identity and “Russifying” the country.

Lukashenko, who has declared that the Belarus republic was a “dismal page of our history”, allowed this year’s March 25 to be publicly celebrated for the first time in his 24-year rule.

But while the authorities sanctioned a concert in a park in central Minsk, the opposition march was banned. Thousands of people attended the concert, many carrying the red and white flag of the 1918 republic that was also used by Belarus from 1991-95 and has become a symbol of the opposition.

According to Viasna (the Human Rights group based in Minsk), Belarusian authorities arrested around 30 protesters this Sunday. Previous days they detained organizers and leading opposition activists (Mikola Statkevich and Vladimir Nyaklyaev) in order to prevent their participation in the celebrations. Viasna informs that by Sunday evening most of the arrested had been released but that Statkevich and Nyaklyaev remain in detention.

In last year’s opposition March over 700 people were arrested, prompting warnings from the EU, which had lifted sanctions on Belarus after Lukashenko freed imprisoned opposition politicians in 2016.

Analysts say authorities allowed the holiday to be celebrated to avoid last year’s unrest and a possible new reprimand from Brussels.

“This topic came up during Lukashenko’s meeting with EU commissioners,” said analyst Alexander Klaskovskiy. “Europe sent a signal that authorities should let people celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Belarusian People’s Republic.”

Belarus remains the only country which gained its independence the first time during the collapse of the Russian Empire not to commemorate this event officially.

RFE/RL, Viasna, Eurasia Review

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