After October Square

Lukashenka tried to look fierce, sober, yet triumphant, at his inauguration gala the other day, but just looked morose and lonely. Nobody’d seen him since election day, and rumours had been racing all around Minsk, that he’d suffered a nervous breakdown, or had a heart attack. Well, he should be worried. Vladimir Putin is Lukashenka’s only ally on Earth, and all he could muster was an official statement of congratulation; he didn’t even send anyone to Lukashenka’s party parade. (It’s just not like the old days, comrades shoulder to shoulder on the balcony, saluting the military drive-by. So sad.)

Meanwhile, Lukashenka’s “defeated” opponent, Alyaksandr Milinkevich, traveled to several European capitals to shake hands with smiling statesmen, and stopped off in Berlin for a photo shoot with Chancellor Merkel. Not only that but the EU’s just slapped visa bans on Lukashenka and 30 of his top officials. And not only that but, despite police intimidation, KGB surveillance, mass arrests and political violence, the opposition groups keep their low-key, rippling revolution alive with sporadic street demos, jamborees, satirical masques, and absurdist stunts.

Free Belarus graffiti appears, fresh paint dripping, across the State. More denim ribbons are tied to lampposts, gates, railings, buildings, and public monuments. Zubr activists publish satirical bulletins and lists of jailed comrades and circulate them on the street. They wash out Russian flags and loon around in Lukashenka clown masks. They celebrated April Fools Day all day (the fool still rules??) and just laugh at Lukashenka now. (Notice that Lukashenka is not laughing. No evidence, even, of his own special, creepy power-smirk, that once staple tic.) They mock “Stalinist” State symbols and remove and deface the regime’s flags. (BPF party activist Dzmitry Kaspiarovich is in jail for climbing the Minsk City Executive Committee building and trying to swipe its flag.)

The ripples continue, and Lukashenka looks grim, because the political landscape of Belarus has been rent not by his unconstitutional and fraudulent reelection, but by the opposition’s solidarity, strength and humour. They have the punchline: it’s a future.

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