Somewhere in the silence, a group of frustrated Belarusian youths are fighting back. Taking inspiration from Greece’s “cells of fire”, they launched high-stakes attacks against reviled state symbols, focused primarily on Lukashenko, who we’ve run a couple of stories on before. In power since 1994; Lukashenko was banned from attending the 2012 Olympics for his atrocious human rights record. Nice guy. More recently, he labelled opposition in the Belarusian election “cowards” for boycotting what is widely believed to be a fixed vote. Belarus needs a break, and in a country where street demonstrations are brutally suppressed, perhaps the surprise attacks of an anarchist group will help to provide an ignored and oppressed people with the platform they need.
I spoke to an anarchist inside the regime, who explained that the motivation for the attacks was born from a frustration at there being “no legal way of getting people’s attention or making a public event for more than 10 minutes. This, alongside the popularity of the Greek protests, led to new methods of struggle”. They have little choice – after all, most legitimate forms of opposition are banned.
“It is almost impossible to register a party or a political movement in Belarus”, says my contact, “and there is a law that bans activity on behalf of an unregistered organisation. Every action has to be approved. Illegal actions are punished by short arrests”. If you fail to comply with the government “You can be expelled from university, or fired, if the special forces ask for it. Sometimes they don’t have to ask – managers do it to prevent unnecessary attention from the KGB. Simple leaflet distribution can be viewed as an illegal mass media production.”
The current nascent anarchist movement has its roots in the punk and hardcore scene, with squats and other counter-cultural projects increasingly emerging in Belarus over the last decade. Actually, despite a history of being crushed by various dictators, Belarus has a history of anarchism, with “Propaganda of the Deed” going as far back as 1905. If anarchy is in its blood, there are a bunch of reasons for it to bubble up right now, stemming from what our source describes as “a growth of disappointment in 2008-2009, at the methods and ideas of the opposition”. The sudden rise in their numbers, he explained, was particularly evident “during the annual Chernobyl march, organised by the opposition but supported by anarchists who were against a new power plant being built in Belarus”. Apparently the anarchist bloc “outnumbered any other opposition movement” that day.