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Holiday of Independence 2018: Freedom Day in Belarus

Holiday of Independence 2018: Freedom Day in Belarus

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The Movement For Freedom (MFF) took an active part in organizing the Holiday of Independence of 2018 in Minsk. Regional activists have organized, applied for, and participated in the holiday activities in Baranavichi, Lida, Brest, Homel, Vitsebsk, Hrodna, and Mahiliou.

Holiday of Independence in Minsk

A steering committee was set up in Minsk, with the MFF being one of the members, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Belarusian People’s Republic. MFF First Deputy Chair Halina Skarakhod became one of the applicants of the event with a march and a rally in the city centre. However, Minsk authorities didn’t allow this option of celebrations.

After that, on February 28, the MFF, ‘Belarusian Popular Front — Revival’ NGO, ‘Amaroka’ Information and Educational Institution, the United Civil Party (UCP), and the Belarusian Social Democratic Party (Hramada) submitted a new application to hold a rally and a concert on March 25. The organizers counted on 25 thousand participants of the celebration in the square near the Opera and Ballet Theatre. The authorities allowed the celebration.

The organizers have prepared a comprehensive programme for March 25 between 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Key events included a festive rally, where the BPR’s Independence Declaration Charter was read aloud, and the musical part. Thematic areas functioned during the holiday, such as ‘The BPR Street’ with presentation stands and activity areas of Belarusian NGOs and political organizations, ‘The BPR Cuisine’ food service areas, ‘The BPR Fair’ with souvenirs, and ‘The BPR Kids’ with activities for children.

The MFF on the BPR Street

The MFF’s main activities took place on the BPR Street. You could make an instant photo in the memory of the celebration, take part in the lottery, receive information on the organization’s activities, and join our work.

“We were present for six hours in this area of freedom, under our flags, with our language, and with our musicians. I am convinced that each of us will transfer this feeling to the rest of Belarus, and that Belarus will be free!” said MFF Chairman Yuri Hubarevich in his final speech at the celebration rally.

Freedom Day in the Regions

The MFF members were one of the organizers of celebration of the BPR’s 100th anniversary in several regional cities. A street festival took place in Brest.

“Our society is young. There are still many unsolved issues. The citizens’ opinions are not always taken into account by the authorities. There are complaints about and the way elections are held. The society hasn’t yet matured to assert their political rights. But the freedom and independence of the country have become core values. And most importantly, we didn’t come here on some order from above, but on our own will to mark the anniversary of one of the most momentous event for the Belarusian statehood,” said MFF member Zmitser Shimanski in his address to the celebration participants.

The MFF members organized the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the BPR in Baranavichi. For the first time in many years, permission was received this year to hold a street festival and a rally.

“It’s a great day for us today; if the short history of the BPR didn’t occur 100 years ago, there would have been then no history of the BSSR, and perhaps the Republic of Belarus wouldn’t have appeared in the 1990’s, and we would not stand under the white-red-white flags now,” said MFF Brest Regional Coordinator Yuri Kazakevich.

The festival programme included speeches by politicians, historian Ihar Melnikau, performance by bard Zmitser Bartosik, and an exhibition and sale of crafts.

Lida activists, including MFF members, organized a joint concert with the local authorities. The performers included a swan from Minsk Zmitser Zaharevich and a swan from Lida Siarhey Charniak. The party was hosted by poet Ales Khitrun and museum director Hanna Drap. A professor from Hrodna Aliaksey Piatkevich delivered a lecture on the BPR’s history.

Homel public activists, including MFF member Uladzimir Katsora, filed an application to hold a huge gala concert. The municipal authorities didn’t give such permission. Nevertheless, the activists managed to hold a celebration at another location. The famous band N.R.M. played for Homel citizens. Local MFF activists joined the events.

Organizing committee for the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Belarusian People’s Republic in Vitsebsk decided to abandon the rally in Vitsebsk, because the municipal authorities have demanded an impracticable payment for their services. Nevertheless, the celebration took place there.

The participants laid flowers to the monument of king Alherd, writer Uladzimir Karatkevich, and to the commemorative plaque in honour of writer Vasil Bikau.

The authorities refused permission to hold an information picket dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the proclamation of the BPR in the centre of Mahiliou, and sent the organizers to a stadium on the outskirts of the city. MFF Mahiliou Region Coordinator Ales Silkou was one of the applicants there. As a result, the city activists decided not to hold the event, but there are a number of planned celebrations to be held there soon.

On the eve of the Freedom Day, MFF Pinsk Coordinator Ales Ramanovich organized a trip for Pinsk residents to the grave of BPR Prime Minister Raman Skirmunt in honour of the BPR’s centennial. The participants, including MFF members, listened to the historian who spoke about the times of the BPR and Skirmunt, sang the national anthem God Almighty, and laid a wreath with the inscription ‘To the BPR Prime Minister from Pinsk citizens’.

Pressure and Persecution of Activists

The Belarusian authorities have not abandoned the practice of persecution and pressure on political opponents and public activists before Freedom Day.

MFF Minsk Region Coordinator Vital Amialkovich was detained thrice in two days. He was initially taken to a police station for putting up festive posters to the 100th anniversary of the BPR. The police detained him twice on March 25, the second time on the outskirts of the city, when he was planning to go to the permitted event in Minsk.

In Minsk, the participants and human rights observers of an unauthorized march from Yakuba Kolasa Square were detained, including MFF member Tatsiana Mastikina. She is accused, among other things, of resistance to the police, as the activist didn’t agree to fingerprinting, and the police conducted it by force. The trial against her has been postponed for now.

Traffic police detained MFF Salihorsk Coordinator Uladzimir Shila on his way to Minsk. He spent more than a day at Salihorsk Detention Centre, and then he was tried on charges of disobeying the police. The judge has decided to fine the activist 3 basic values.

The Results

The MFF leader has later summed up the results of the March 25 celebration during a live broadcast on Euroradio.

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