On 3 July, Belarus celebrated Independence Day. The holiday commemorates not only the country’s statehood, but also victory in the Second World War. On this day in 1944, the Soviet army liberated Minsk from German troops.

About 5,000 people participated in the event this year, which included military parades, concerts, and a massive fireworks display. Unlike previous years, many participants wore clothing with elements of Belarusian national ornament (vyshyvanka).

Depending on their political views, Belarusians celebrate independence on three different days: 3 July, 27 July, and 25 March.

President Alyaksandr Lukashenka proposed celebrating Independence Day on 3 July and this question was approved by a national referendum in 1996 (viewed as fraudulent by Western observers and the opposition). Between 1991 and 1996, the holiday took place on 27 July, to commemorate the Declaration of Belarusian Sovereignty from the Soviet Union adopted in 1990.

The Belarusian opposition and many Diaspora groups celebrate independence on 25 March, to commemorate the 1918 proclamation of the Belarusian Peoples Republic (BNR). The BNR existed for ten months on territory controlled by the German Imperial Army at the end of the First World War. The republic’s supreme governing body, Rada BNR, has survived to this day as a government in exile.

















About the photographer: Siarhei Leskiec is a freelance photographer whose work focuses on everyday life, folk traditions, and rituals in the Belarusian countryside. Originally from Maladzeczna region, he received a degree in history from Belarusian State Pedagogical University.