Greetings from the Axis of Evil
The Soviet past taught Minsk that guns and oil are the most powerful instruments for shaping the international politics. Arms transfers to client governments allowed the Soviet Union to recruit allies and expand its strategic influence. Belarusian heavy industry constituted 25 percent of Soviet machine production, and when the Soviet Union collapsed, Minsk started exporting arms independently – only not so much to advance its strategic goals as to simply survive. In 1997, profits from selling the warehouses of the former Soviet Army reached $500 million, securing Belarus ninth place among the world’s ten largest arms exporters. The Soviet Union funded the decades of military and economic aid to allies through millions of barrels of oil exported in petroleum and natural-gas products. Belarus cannot emulate the USSR in this respect because its oil reserves are negligible and it has to import 75% of its oil from Russia. After the Soviet implosion, its deference earned Minsk generous energy subsidies. However, Moscow eventually raised the gas prices and in June 2009 started building a new pipeline, which will cut Belarus from a key supply route to Europe. Last summer, the Kremlin went as far as to stop supplies to Belarus altogether after Minsk had expressed discontent. Chavez’s overtures have come at the time when Belarus is looking to diversify its fuel supplies. On Lukashenka’s visit to Venezuela in 2007, Chavez promised to supply the oil needs of Minsk for years to come and this promise seems close to fulfillment. Venezuela is one of the world's richest countries in oil reserves, which are estimated at 77.7 billion barrels. In return, Belarus will supply weapons and technological expertise. Partnership with Caracas will give Minsk access to South America's defense industry market. Having recently launched a military modernization program, Venezuela is interested in purchasing an anti-aircraft defense and portable missile systems. The two states are also considering joint design and manufacture of new military and technological equipment and transfer of technology. Like Russia, Venezuela is not shy about exploiting energy dependency of its customers. Chavez has already warned of cutting off oil exports, should the United States become aggressive. This matters little to Belarus, however, as Caracas will be less sensitive than Moscow about Lukashenka’s overtures with the European Union. Lukashenka has been seeking closer ties with the European Union and the United States, but made merely cosmetic changes to his behavior at home and abroad. If the marriage of Belarusian arms to Venezuelan oil succeeds, he may change his mind about improving Minsk’s relationship with the West and revert to old ways.
Underground Belarus Free Theatre Performs in Washington on September 15-16
Washington, D.C. — The Georgetown University Theater and Performance Studies Program, in association with Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and in cooperation with the We Remember Civil Initiative, presents the internationally acclaimed Belarus Free Theatre at the Davis Performing Arts Center’s Devine Studio Theatre.
Effectively banned in its home country, this underground troupe from Minsk, Belarus will perform the area premiere of “Generation Jeans” on Sept. 15, a freedom fighter’s semi-autobiographical monologue which details growing up as a member of the counterculture that regarded jeans and Western pop music as a symbol of rebellion.
On Sept. 16, the company performs the U.S. premiere of “Discover Love,” based on the true story of Irina Krasovskaya, whose husband Anatoly, a businessman who supported the Belarus opposition movement, was kidnapped and murdered. The performance takes place exactly 10 years after Anatoly and Victor Gonchar, the Vice-Speaker of the Belarusian Parliament, disappeared on Sept. 16, 1999.
Irina, who is now based in Washington, D.C., co-founded We Remember, a civil initiative that disseminates information about politically motivated disappearances of Belarusian citizens and informs the world community about the situation. A memorial reception organized by Irina Krasovskya follows the Sept. 16 premiere.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity to introduce the Georgetown community and D.C. audiences to two urgent works from a world-class company doing theater that couldn’t matter more,” says Davis Performing Arts Center Artistic Director Derek Goldman.
Since its founding in 2005 in Europe’s last surviving dictatorship, Belarus Free Theatre has been giving memorable performances in apartments, bars, and other private locations, alerting audiences to the location of performances and time — often the middle of the day — through text messages and e-mail.
The husband-and-wife team of Nikolai Khalezin and Natalya Koliada and director Vladimir Scherban created the company as a means to resist government censorship and have garnered praise from around the world for their powerful message and visceral, dynamic aesthetic. “Drama doesn’t come more urgently political than in the work of the Belarus Free Theatre,” noted The Times.
Renowned playwright Tom Stoppard has praised their “marvelous work,” noting that “What I saw in Minsk is much closer to a true theatre, to its sources, to its true objective,” and Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter has said, “They’re bringing back the essence meaning of the theatre.”
Described as a love story, “Discover Love” explores the reflections of a woman who finds out her husband has been kidnapped and murdered. Following the initial shock of the tragedy, her thoughts turn to words left unsaid, dreams unrealized. The work intermingles the experience of the widow Irina Krasovskaya with that of similar stories of women from Asia, South America and Latin America.
For “Discover Love” and the troupe’s previous activities, Belarus Free Theatre received the French Republic Human Rights Prize in 2007, marking the first time in the history of the prize that it was awarded to a cultural institution. Collection of materials for the piece took nine years, and the play launched an artistic campaign to support the UN Convention against enforced disappearances in the world.
Both “Generation Jeans” and “Discover Love” are underscored by a soundtrack from DJ Laurel (Lavr Berzhanin) and performed in Russian with subtitles.
Sept. 15, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. / Generation Jeans
Sept. 16, 2009 at 7:30 p.m. / Discover Love
Davis Performing Arts Center, Devine Studio Theatre
(37th and O Streets, NW – Washington, D.C.)
Tickets are $12 general; $10 faculty/staff/senior (65 or older); and $5 student. To order, visit http://performingarts.georgetown.edu or call (202) 687-ARTS (2787).