Lukashenka and Mickey Mouse

Lukashenka inspects the crops

Last autumn when Belarusian rock band IQ48 approached a regional TV channel, its editors told the musicians that their song contained unacceptable political hints. The editors in western Belarusian city of Maladzechna interpreted the original Belarusian words of the song “And let Mickey Mouse hang in the fridge” as a hint to the Belarus president who is a known as an avid hockey player and promoter of dozens of ice hockey palaces throughout the country. 

The careful editors also understood “and year to year we become ever more slim like birch trees” as a hint that there was not enough food in the country, so the Belarusians were getting thin. That was enough for ideological supervisors to ban the song, silencing the band as since some years all public concerts and broadcasting in Belarus are controlled by the state. Some could dismiss the Maladzechna incident as stupidity of provincial censors but there further examples show that the regime's paranoia is increasing. 

Law as a Joke

When the Justice Ministry and other state agencies deny registration to new non-governmental organizations their justifications sound no less amazing.

Following the 2010 amendments to the Law on NGOs, every tiny mistake or incorrectness in the documents has become a ground to deny registration. NGO's lawyer Yury Chavusau recently shared on “Nashe Mnenie” website  some of the reasons given by state agencies to deny registration: 

  • The office telephone number of one of the founders has not been given
  • Room for the founding meeting has been too small
  • The statute does not make clear what the organization is going to do
  • The founders previously have committed administrative offenses, therefore they are going to use the organization to break the law
  • One of the documents has been printed using font which does not correspond with the font required by the official instruction
  • The birth date of one of the founders was incorrect.

Lukashenka's Personal Security

Kafkaesque reality of the present-day Belarus culminates in Lukashenka's own behavior. Belarusian leader seriously fears for his life despite the fact, that so far no attempt has ever been made on it. The security measures taken on all his movements in Belarus are spectacular.

The whole nation knows that Lukashenka's visit is a big problem for the local population. First, the police and KGB will temporarily detain or remove on some pretexts all local opposition activists. Second, the entire local population will be effectively incarcerated to their houses and neighborhoods during the visit. And woe to anyone who lives along his route – to come to the windows and to open them while the president is passing is strictly prohibited. The snipers will be on the roofs, police in courtyards in even remote blocks of flats. The schools will be closed and emptied of children to provide shelter for hordes of special police forces brought to prevent protests.  

These security measures led to innumerable jokes. For good reason. When Lukashenka wanted to travel through Slonim to another Belarusian town, the local authorities ordered the administrative staff at a weaving plant to put aside their work and remove certain yellow wild flowers along the road because they thought they did not look good enough.

Painting the Crops and Killing the Flies 

In December 2011, before Lukashenka's visit, the local authorities of Ivacevichy in Brest region were ordered to kill all pigeons to make the town look nicer. The Belarusian ruler was going to visit the “Ice Palace” and all schools of the town had to provide pupils to fill all the seats of the large sport facility. Of course, the lessons had been canceled and teachers had to force children to go to the ice hockey palace.

Lukashenka who used to be a collective farm director loves visiting the country side. Last July, he decided to visit Pastavy in northern Belarus. Oppositional Charter-97 has published a document of local administration on preparation for the visit. He planned to visit some cattle farms among other objects. In the leaked plan among other most urgent tasks to be done, the local authorities ordered repairmen of 2.5 ha of maize”, “treatment of horns, hooves and tails, cleaning of cows”, “liquidation of flies and removal of adverse smells”, “removal of white-headed calves to other farms” etc. Among other weird actions was to urgently plow empty areas (in July!) and remove – although with compensation for owners –  crops from private fields.

Local officials explained to the European Radio for Belarus why they had to combat flies and their reasons for removal of white-headed calves. Apparently, the farm's specialty was to work with certain high-quality cattle and white-headed animals did not belong to this category. Therefore in order to prove Lukashenka the success of cattle breeding in the region non-qualifying animals had to be hidden. A few days later, the official Belarusian media reported of a 'sudden visit' to the farms already described in the leaked document published by Charter-97.

Other regions of Belarus saw similar things happening.  Prior to another visit of Lukashenka to Maladzechna the staff of a local agricultural school had to 'repair' a rape seed field on president's route. The clerks had to choose the most yellow plants from the middle of the field and put them along the road to make it look nice. If they did not look yellow enough - they had to paint the plants. Rumors from other areas suggested that treatment of cattle hooves also included painting.

The closed state system of Belarus and Lukashenka's dictatorship is more than just ineffective and abusive.  It degenerates to outward nonsense. The cases of ridiculous measures are abundant and many of them became so normal to Belarusians that they are no longer surprised. Outward lies about sudden visits seems harmless compared to much more serious human right abuses and falsifications. The essence of every dictatorship is lie, often a very ridiculous lie.

SB

 

Siarhei Bohdan is an associate analyst at the Ostrogorski Centre.

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