06 August 2012

Lukashenko Never Slept with a Cuddly Bear

Lukashenko has his panties up in a bunch about the Swedish stunt in July.  I can understand why--he's trying to retain authoritarian rule with an opposition that everyone BUT Lukashenko is actively supporting.  He's jailed them, practically made them disappear, and has otherwise ignored any call for lessening his Stalinesque grip on the nation.  He even outlawed hand signals.  This man is serious about using his frenemy Russia and staying right where he is, thank you.

So two Swedish pilots from an ad agency called Studio Total flew from Lithuania over Belarus on July 4th and dropped 800 teddy bears with pro-democracy messages like "free speech is great" or "take the fight above ground" or something.  Nothing happened.  It escalated to the point of ambassador withdrawal/rejection (which happened not too long ago with the whole EU) While I understand his sentiment about people invading air space without permission (completely legit complaint!), it's about far more than regulating air space.  It's about the symbolism of something breaking through and leaving a mark that isn't pro-Lukashenko.  It's the Stalin school of political thought.  To be fair, Soviet control did last almost half a century, so there's something to it; on the other hand, it eventually backfires.  Lots of books have been written about the symbolism of defiance in the smallest things (waving to people across the border) and how that built-in mechanism for release keeps people relatively compliant, but something is brewing underneath.  That brewing can take over in a night or in a few years.  Lukashenko is so harsh on any form of public protest that a ban on clapping was considered.  He decided to beat, arrest, and bus protestors to unknown locations, supposedly for torture.

On the other hand, I'm pretty sure there were some who were excited to have a teddy bear for free. Belarus' currency is devalued, it's completely dependent on Russia, and is economically unstable.  I'm amazed it's lasted this long, even with Kremlin backing.  Maybe it's all coming from Syrian importing.  Who knows.  In any case, big, bad dictator Lukashenko has managed to perfectly ape the Soviet situation.