The Free Theatre as Belarus’ Most Successful PR Phenomenon
I can not call myself a theatre specialist or a lover of contemporary art. I do not know if I could appreciate the artistic value of the performances of the famous Belarusian Free Theatre. I shall admit that, like probably most of the readers, I have never been to a performance by the theatre, which I certainly plan to eventually fix.
Nevertheless, even a superficial acquaintance with the work of the theatre is enough to appreciate its political effect on raising awareness about Belarus problems. The political aspect seems to have been a key component of the theatre’s work almost from the beginning of its public existence.
Hardly anyone now has a bigger emotional power to attract international attention to the problems of freedom in Belarus than this semi-underground theatre group from Minsk. The fact that these people managed to get the attention of London’s theatrical community and how confident they are getting known in the US, deserves great respect. By becoming popular among the Western cultural elite, the theatre is promoting the public interests of Belarus and the Belarusian democracy.
It is no exaggeration to call the Free Theatre the most successful PR-project of the broadly-viewed Belarusian opposition. In Britain, for instance, it is the Free Theatre that has become the main brand of the Belarusian democratic opposition. Nikolai Khalezin and Natalya Kolyada are perhaps better ambassadors of the Belarusian democratic society than some of the opposition politicians.
The democratic movement of Belarus does not have a living prophet, a person-symbol like Aung San Suu Kyi, Andrei Sakharov or the Dalai Lama. The politicians Zianon Pazniak and Aliaksandr Kazulin had a chance to claim this role but the first one seems too much separated from the broad masses of Russian-speaking Belarusians. In addition, Kazulin’s morale was obviously broken by the harsh months in Lukashenka’s prison.
Even the Rada of the Belarusian Democratic Republic, with its unique historical status as the 90-years-old Belarusian government-in-exile, failed to become a true symbol of the Belarusian society. Still, as long as representative institutions in Belarus remain a fake, the Rada will have a great potential for it and will remain such a symbol for many Belarusians.
Without such personifications among politicians, the democratic Belarus is often personified by the Free Theatre. And the snowball thrown by the Free Theatre, after December 19, 2010 could become a big PR-avalanche, unpleasant for the ruling authoritarian regime.
Despite the obvious and deliberately popularised failures of the Belarusian political opposition, the Belarusian democratic society is able to generate successful initiatives and projects. The success story of Free Theatre is a lesson to learn for the rest of those who want changes in Belarus and work for this cause.
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