Peppa Pig Now In Belarusian, Forum of Entrepreneurs, Quote Your Own! – Belarus Civil Society Digest
A popular cartoon Peppa Pig now in Belarusian – thanks to the crowdfunding platform Talakosht, the organisers collected money for audio dubbing.
Recently launched cultural project Quote your own! will gather the best examples of Belarusian thought. City Without Barriers contest aims to create an accessible environment for people with disabilities for their full participation in society.
All this and more in this edition of Belarus Civil Society Digest.
Civil Society Activities
Peppa Pig is successful in crowdfunding. Funds for audio dubbing in Belarusian of the first season of a cartoon Peppa Pig have been collected; the first series is available online. In less than a month, via the crowdfunding platform Talakosht, the project collected almost 43 million rubles (about $3,000). Initially, the project team planned to collect $2,600 for audio dubbing of the first season of 50 episodes. But successful crowdfunding allows organisers to hope that they will collect the money for at least one more season.
More than 1,000 people participated in the global clean up action Zrobim! On 16 May Belarus joined the global action Let's do it! (Zrobim! in Belarusian) – for one day, the participants removed about 100m3 of garbage. The action took place in 24 Belarus’ cities; the participants cleared about 40 dumps across the country, which were pre-mapped on the special web site.
Quote Your Own! project launched. On 21 May a number of CSOs and educational institutions announced a new cultural project Quote Your Own! The project aims to actualise the best samples of the Belarusian thought. Among the initiators are Flying University, EuroBelarus Consortium, Belarusian Collegium, Mova Nanova language courses, Budzma campaign. The quotes will be placed at the Budzma website. Everyone is welcome to participate and send his/her favourite quotes by Belarusian authors.
Equal Opportunities new nomination has been established by HR-Brand Award in cooperation with the DisRight Office. The award aims to encourage employers who provide adequate working conditions for people with disabilities. The Accessibility Week held in April 2015, showed that Belarusian companies have a related positive experience that should be demonstrated to other companies. For instance, in the first quarter of 2015, 2,000 marked job positions were registered on the RABOTA.TUT.BY that is by 40% more compared with the previous year.
Seminars, Conferences and Workshops
Minsk hosted the Forum of Entrepreneurs organised by the Perspectiva CSO on 18 May. The Forum brought together about 250 participants, which is significantly less than in the previous forum in February, held on the eve of the entry into force of the Decree on certificates for selling light industry goods. This time entrepreneurs asked the authorities for a 5-year moratorium on inspections.
Territorial marketing and branding international festival OPEN will take place on 4-6 June in Minsk. The OPEN Festival is a unique opportunity to attend workshop sessions of world-known brand gurus in the sphere of country marketing and branding. Participants are guaranteed to obtain new ideas and an opportunity to make their names known to the whole world. Among the organisers are SATIO Group of Companies, Professional Marketing Association of Belarus.
Online magazine Idea organized a public lecture of an analyst of Euromonitor International company, Olga Murogava. In her lecture 'Self-Amazon: How to build an innovative trade in Belarus' Olga Murogava taught about the latest trends in retail and trade and their impact on business in Belarus. The lecture was held on 22 May at the Minsk business club Imaguru.
'Minsk after Riga: Forum on the reforms, or How Belarus can adapt and develop in new regional contexts' international conference will take place on 28-29 May in Minsk. The Conference organizers are BISS and the Latvian Embassy in Belarus. The opening session provides participation of representatives of the Belarus Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Russian expert community. The online broadcasting will be organised at the BISS website.
Film School Studio by Andrei Polupanov and Superheroes School invite to a 4-day workshop under the guidance of a renowned Polish TV producer Paweł Kwaśniewski. The participants will learn how to properly shoot high quality video and make money online on their creative activity. The practical part includes shooting comedy mini-series about one of the Minsk deprived areas and young people. The organisers are collecting funds for the workshop and the mini-series via the crowdfunding platform Ulej.by.
Sustainable development as a science. On 13 May the Office for European Expertise and Communications (OEEC) together with the Scientific and Technical Library conducted a scientific cafe, presenting the latest researches in the field of sustainable development, as well as in regional and local development in Belarus. The video bridge connected nearly 50 researchers and presented six thematic studies. The event took place within the Sustainable Development Week 2015.
New Eurasia Establishment calls for applications of pilot areas under the project 'Expanding economic opportunities in rural Belarus'. The project aims to involve partnerships of local authorities, CSOs and citizens' initiatives in economic development and improving the quality of life in rural areas. At least 9 rural areas will be selected and become the pilot demonstration sites for sustainable economic development. Applications are accepted until 7 June. On 29-30 May under the project, the New Eurasia holds a thematic conference.
Egalite Center invites to a public presentation of the results of a pilot educational project Egalite Media Workshop on 28 May. During the week, the first floor of the Business Club Imaguru will be put for an exhibition of socially oriented photo projects. Egalite Media Workshop is an inclusive training program on citizen journalism and social filmmaking for ordinary young people and young people with fewer opportunities (with disabilities).
Interaction Between State and Civil Society
City Without Barriers competition launched. The contest aims to create an accessible environment for people with disabilities for their full participation in society. The organiser is the Minsk municipality with organisational and methodological support of the DisRight Office. The competition is held for the first time. All Minsk new and reconstructed facilities of 2013-2015 are invited to participate.
BCD was denied a possibility to hold the registration Congress indoors. The Belarusian Christian Democracy Party (BCD) is organising its registration congress on 13 June in Minsk. This will be BCD's fifth attempt to get state registration. Thirteen BCD’s applications to various organisations in Minsk with a request to rent a conference hall were answered with refusals. Respectively, BCD plans to hold the Congress on Svaboda square in the centre of Minsk.
Belarus Digest prepared this overview on the basis of materials provided by Pact. This digest attempts to give a richer picture of the recent political and civil society events in Belarus. It often goes beyond the hot stories already available in English-language media.
Why Ukraine Failed to Revolutionize Belarus
Given the numerous ties which link Belarus to Ukraine, one might expect the radical political changes in Ukraine to revolutionise Belarus. Yet political activity in Belarus is barely noticeable, despite dramatic developments in Ukraine and the forthcoming presidential election.
Last month, political scientist Tatiana Chyzhova published the results of a monitoring project that reviewed protests in 2014. According to her, public political acts, be they protests or other events, remained few and far between and were ill-attended. In fact, the level of street-level political acts in Belarus was eight times lower than the period preceding Maidan in Ukraine.
Even Belarusian opposition politicians like Pavel Seviarynets who actively advocated for street protests in the past have recently said that calling on Belarusian youth to engage into politics is basically the equivalent of inviting them to stick their fingers into an electrical socket.
At the moment, Ukrainian events have most influenced Belarusian politics through the widespread use of Ukrainian symbols and rhetoric by the Belarusian opposition, but little else.
No Time for Street Protests?
Chyzhova, who works at the Institute for Political Studies “Political Sphere”, counted a total of 81 protests last year in Belarus. That is slightly more than in 2013, when 64 protests were held. This spike in protests was largely due to the local elections held in March 2014 – and if one sets aside the election campaigns, picketing and other social protests – there were only 52 political acts or events.
Most of these actions involved a small number of people and only four events were attended by more than 100 people.
All in all, the study posits that protest-related activity in Belarus in 2014 was eight times lower than in Ukraine, before Maidan. This is just more evidence that Ukrainian-style political change in Belarus is improbable.
Last year, the authorities issued permits for only seven out of a total 52 political events Read more
Many factors have contributed to the low level of activity with regards to street-level politics in the country – mistakes by the opposition, the absence of efficient political organisations, an ideological and methodological crisis among opponents of the current government, and the poor state of the media landscape.
The government has also done their part to prevent people from taking to the streets. Last year, the authorities issued permits for only seven out of a total 52 political events. 33 of 52 political actions ended with some negative consequences for the organisers, be it administrative arrests, fines, detentions or some form of warning.
Ukraine Does Not Inspire Ordinary Belarusians
17 of these political events dealt with developments in neighbouring Ukraine and 13 of them were pro-Maidan, while four were expressly anti-Maidan. Solidarity with Ukraine has even galvanised football fans to engage in politics – probably for the first time in Belarusian history.
A collective photo of Belarusian fans supporting Ukrainian comrades and a flash-mob of support for Ukraine at a football match raised concerns among the Belarusian authorities who were well aware of the role that Ukrainian football fans played in toppling the Yanukovych government in Kyiv.
The opposition community enthusiastically welcomed the radical shift in power in Ukraine and stood behind the new Kyiv government as the war in Eastern Ukraine unfolded, something which the opposition is very eager to demonstrate. Even traditional Belarusian mass rallies unrelated to Ukrainian events and dedicated to specific historical dates (like 25 March) have featured numerous Ukrainian flags.
Some activists have uncritically emulated the revolutionary Ukrainian demonstrations. For instance, last year “Young Front” publicly displayed a banner praising Ukrainian nationalist fighters, among them Roman Shukhevych, despite, however, his active participation in Nazi atrocities in Belarus in WWII. Resorting to such dubious figures was akin to the opposition shooting itself in the foot in the eyes of the public.
the Ukrainian tragedy has influenced Belarusian society by making it even more cautious in its attitudes towards possible political changes Read more
The Chairman of the Belarusian People's Front Party (PBNF) Alyaksei Yanukevich finally reacted to this politically suicidal behaviour before this year's Freedom Day (25 March). He asked the activists to not bring the portraits of Ukrainian nationalists and banners like “Death to Russian Occupiers!” Yanukevich also emphasised the importance of having more Belarusian than Ukrainian flags at Belarusian rallies. Correct as his point may be, unfortunately, the political damage had already been done.
After all, the Ukrainian tragedy has influenced Belarusian society by making it even more cautious in its attitudes towards possible political changes and even more sensitive to any allusions and parallels with Ukraine. Even before the conflict broke out in Eastern Ukraine, 78% of respondents told the Independent Institute for Socioeconomic and Political Research that a better future was “not worth bloodshed”. Seventy percent said they did not want a Ukrainian-style revolution. The pervasiveness of this attitude only grows stronger as time goes on.
Fake as Mainstream
Of course, Belarus is not immune to Ukrainian influence. Much of this political influence has a rather destructive character as they lead to the growth of extremist groups of both pro- and anti-Russian inclinations, neither of which are much engaged in the fight for democracy. A case in point is the participation of well-known Russian neo-Nazis from Belarus – like Sergei Korotkikh – in the war in the Donbas.
Many activists of all political stripes and colours are also trying to import ideas to push their positions in the confrontation between pro-Russian and pro-Western elements into Belarus. Two remarkable media stories stand out in particular. Both involve ludicrous accusations and both were reported by authoritative individuals or organisations and turned out to be blatantly false, though no one admitted their guilt.
The first story, from last September, regards wild Belarusian nationalists allegedly brutalising a small child for his wearing Saint George's ribbon – a sign widely abused today by Russian official propaganda. Tut.by, Belarus's largest internet portal ran the story. This fabricated bit of news, however, has never been followed-up and no complaint has been filed with the police by the mother of this unknown child.
The second story was about an alleged incident where a girl in the centre of Minsk had her hair violently cut off by Russian tourists last April. A well-known activist Andrei Kim promoted this story, despite the fact that there has been absolutely zero confirmation of the events described.
Despite the general tranquillity of Belarusian society, proof of which can be found in nearly every successive sociological study, it could become impossible to avoid some violence spilling over from a neighbouring country.
The government will respond by resorting to even harsher measures should anything happen in Belarus. The consequences could be disastrous. A similar situation in the 1990s contributed a great deal to the transformation of another post-Soviet country, Uzbekistan, into a brutal regime. Tashkent then fenced off the war in Tajikistan by persecuting every member of the opposition inside Uzbekistan, cutting ties to neighbouring countries and building up a huge repressive apparatus.
Belarus, for its part, will never endure this level of repression and isolation. Yet the clampdown on the opposition and every public activity after some kind of provocation – which might not even be linked to the opposition – is a likely future possible scenario.