It has become a trend recently in Russia to approach the situation in Belarus the same way they see the things in Ukraine. The “Belarusian Maidan” that will allegedly shock Minsk shortly has been a popular topic of Russian political analysts for many years already.
Undoubtedly, Belarus and Ukraine have much in common, but they are still very different. First, unlike all the presidents of Ukraine, Alexander Lukashenko has a high approval rating in Belarus. It is not as high as the president-for-life was pretending to win during the last election (official numbers say, Lukashenko was re-elected by 83%), but the percentage of his real supporters is quite high. Second, the Belarusian OMON (special police force) will never act as liberally as the Ukrainian Berkut did and will detain trouble makers before the first cocktail bomb is thrown at the police. Finally, mentality and political culture of centrists in Belarus differs from mentality and political culture of Malorossiyans (Malorossiya – the Little Russia) with Cossacks’ blood in their veins.
These factors make it impossible to implement a “Maidan scenario” in Belarus. After several failed attempts by Western sponsors to organize a “Belarusian Maidan,” the last presidential election did not sport any street protests for the first time since 2006. The West made sure that Belarus is not Ukraine and shifted to plan B.
Note that Maidan is not an end in itself, but one of the instruments used to reform the post-Soviet republics into openly anti-Russian states. The West uses some other instruments too. For instance, they work with the local elites to tear them from Russia. This option was chosen for Belarus. The recent voting on Final Declaration of the PA OSCE Minsk Session, including Ukraine’s resolution condemning “Russian aggression” and “temporary occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol,” showed how much the West has succeeded therein. Four out of the six Belarusian parliamentarians supported the declaration, demonstrating an evident anti-Russian stance. It appears that they fulfilled an order of their leadership.
A well-informed political analyst Andrey Suzdaltsev said: “All the six parliamentarians met with Belarus Foreign Minister [Vladimir Makei] on the eve of the voting and received detailed instructions. The four votes for the declaration versus two votes against it should have created an illusion of “different views” so that to soften Moscow’s negative response.”
Graduated from the Diplomatic Academy of the Austrian Foreign Ministry, Vladimir Makei is quite a remarkable person. In 2013, he said Belarus might join EU “in 40-50 years.” “We stay calm and just follow processes instead of demanding the states to make a final choice between EU and Customs Union. We had lived in shadow of other peoples for long and we had common states with Poland, Russia, we lived in USSR. We have not built our identity fully during those 20 years. We need time to decide where to go,” Makei said in an interview with Dziennik Gazeta Prawna Polish newspaper. Two years later, Makei told The Washington Post: “We have not yet arrived at the realization of what we are as a nation… As a nation, we are still in search of identity.”
Another two years later, in 2017, Makei probably discovered how Belarus’ identity should look like. On July 15, he delivered a speech at the 7th Congress of the Belarusians of the World, the final resolution of which speaks about “government policy in humanitarian field aimed to foster national identity of Belarusians in Diaspora.” The minister said at the meeting: “I think, we must care for development of our identity and strengthen our independence.”
Moscow’s representative at the meeting Oleg Kravtsov in his speech suggested “gradual introduction and popularization in the Belarusian public the idea ‘Lithuanian’ as historically positive as compared with idea ‘Belarusian.’” Irkutsk was represented at the meeting by Oleg Rudakov, activist who held a poster reading “Belarusian language is the only state language” during the Freedom Day of 2015. Representatives of National Cultural Autonomy of Smolensk Region arrived at the event with Russian flags and were not let to the congress, according to well-informed media.
Belarusian nationalists of all generations were present at the congress: starting from Stanislav Shushkevich up to Pavel Sieviaryniets. Here is how Our Niva pro-western newspaper described the atmosphere of the event: “Everyone talked about independence, Belarusian language and memory. They said that the Belarusian national idea is above political regime, Belarusian language in fact needs an opportunity to be a state language and that all of us must preserve cultural heritage.” Writer Viktor Martinovich who was present at the congress wrote the following after the event: “Russian-speaking Belarusians had a certain political position and a set of ideas connected with the ‘Russian world’…I noticed that on the second day of the event, even those who initially spoke in Russian have shifted to Belarusian in their speeches.”
In his speech at the congress, Vladimir Makei among others said that Minsk is ready to become a platform for Helsinki-2. That project cherished by the Belarusian elite suggests a launch of a new Helsinki Process at OSCE, a comprehensive dialogue to overcome discrepancies between the West and Russia. One can get an impression that recently “Finlandization” of foreign policy (on the model of Paasikivi-Kekkonen in post-war Finland) has turned into a White whale for foreign ministry of Belarus. Finland having maximum correct relations with USSR and maintaining close ties with the West at the same time is a kind of ideal for Makei and his supporters to follow. But where is that ‘neutral’ Finland now? It is in the EU which Belarus may join “in 40-50 years” as Makei predicted.
Let’s imagine that forecasts of Belarusian political analysts will come true and Vladimir Makei will become the next president of Belarus. Will the West need “Belarusian Maidan” under such president?