Friday, March 25, 2005

lots of cops and soldiers

photos of lots of police and soldiers at today's "freedom day" opposition rally in minsk. today's New York Times has an article about the "contagion" of velvet revolutions in the FSU -- here it is on Charter '97 (so no login required). interesting excerpt as regards Belarus:
Andranink M. Migranyan, a professor and political scientist at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, said challenges to power in former Soviet republics depended in large degree on the willingness of the authorities to use force.... "You must either be more adamant in using force and destroying the opposition or let others come to power," Mr. Migranyan said in a telephone interview. "The difference between [ousted premier of Kyrgyzstan] Akayev and [Belarusian President] Lukashenko is that Akayev is more democratic. And he is the loser."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

boiling point

radio free europe / radio liberty reports about the continued strike of Belarusian vendors in Minsk. excerpt:
Importantly, the vendors' protest has shown the soft underbelly of Lukashenka's regime. First, the protest has shown that the regime is really afraid of large-scale social unrest. As long as the regime has to deal with several dozen oppositionists on the street, it routinely sends riot police to respond. But when a protest involves a wider social group, police methods are deemed inadvisable. Apart from some 100,000 market vendors, the problem of VAT payments on Russian imports affects also hundreds of thousands of customers -- essentially Lukashenka's bread-and-butter supporters -- who are too poor to buy foodstuffs or other basics in shops and purchase them at outdoor markets. Police batons won't do much good in such a situation.
the mere fact that this protest has lasted nearly a month is quite unusual. each night for the last several nights there has also been a peaceful protest to release political prisoner Mikhail Marynich and others. opposition politicians have planned a large rally for this friday, though official permission has been denied. last night our 20-something group here in philly had a long session of prayer for Belarus, in the political as well as religious freedom spheres. things seem to be approaching the boiling point there.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

vendors' strike in minsk

vendors are protesting a new VAT on russian imports (which is pretty much everything they sell), which hits the independent kiosk vendors hardest. please forgive the interesting english of the article. kiosks are where you get most anything in minsk. from food to toys to clothes to household items to, well, lots of beer... the 'dinamo' market mentioned in the article is a big soccer stadium in the middle of town that functions as its kiosk-lined open-air main marketplace. the interesting thing is that this is the third day of a strike. in belarus. not the sort of thing you expect to last there, at all. i just wonder if people are getting tired of swallowing every pill they're given, and after seeing what happened just south of them, maybe they are inspired to do more. don't know where it would go, and surely it's an inconvenience for folks who need toilet paper at the moment, but it seems an encouraging sign.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

turkmenistan's loopy president

this is truly amazing: a forum 18 (religious freedom watchdog) article on the personality cult of the president of turkmenistan. an excerpt:
Although the president's cult of personality – which includes a gold statue in Ashgabad that revolves to follow the sun and a monument to the Ruhnama – began in the mid-1990s, the cult was stepped up after the publication of the first volume of the Ruhnama [a book written by the president] in 2001, which [President] Niyazov described at the launch ceremony as a "holy book". Officials later likened it to the Koran. The second Ruhnama volume was ceremonially launched in September 2004. In 2000, one government claimed that the Ruhnama would make up for shortcomings in both the Bible and the Koran, neither of which were, he claimed, fully adequate for the spiritual needs of Turkmens.
and it just gets crazier from there.