Belarus Today

The pace of events quickens as an air of crisis surrounds President Lukashenka, who was roundly booed while speaking in public yesterday, a previously unthinkable moment that recalls the final days of Nikolai Ceaucescu in Romania.

For English speakers, Meduza has opened a live blog this morning. The Moscow Times has a dedicated section, Unrest in Belarus. RFERL has one too, under the banner Crisis in Belarus. And the Baltic Times has a range of articles.

If you can speak Russian, try tut.by Belarusian portal, or if not, Google can roughly translate it for you.

Might Happen?

Best laid predictions, well, sometimes they aren’t all that well laid. In spite of my last, curmudgeonly post, a video posted to RFERL today of protests in Minsk is just thrilling. It shows political engagement we’ve just never seen before in post-Soviet Belarus.

Please watch it. And this:

I’ll hold to my original thoughts for now. But it would be fun to be wrong.

Ain’t Gonna Happen

With their breathless talk of crisis, protests and turning points in Belarus, pro-democracy pundits are making their most common mistake, namely, prematurely declaring victory over authoritarianism because they want it to be so. In the Belarusian protests it’s particularly important to consider the position of Vladimir Putin, for whom a functioning democracy on Russia’s border is utterly impermissible.

Note that after he took in the fleeing Ukrainian Viktor Yanukovich (tour Mezhyhirya, Yanukovich’s former residence outside Kyiv here), as he doubtless would Lukashenka, Putin found it necessary to seize Crimea and disrupt the Donbas, in order to be able to upend the larger Ukrainian political situation as he sees fit, at a moment’s notice, until further notice.

Kudos to the Belarusian people, credit to their bravery, and a paean to the heart’s indomitable spirit. And apologies for my cynicism. I may be wrong, and it would be nice if it turns out that way, but in this case it’s hard to imagine the Russian president permitting free elections, leading to something close to democratic rule, in his fellow Slavic, White Russian buffer state.

Border Towns

As we continue around the world slowly, we’ve hit pause here in Finland to spend a lovely summer month or two on Lake Saimaa. Early this month we briefly visited Vyborg, Russia, and my monthly column tomorrow in 3 Quarks Daily will have the story. Here are a few photos:

Lappeenranta, Finland, about thirty miles away from Vyborg via the Saimaa Canal.

The underwhelming border between Finland and Russia on the canal.

A Saimaa Canal lock.

The round tower, Vyborg, Russia.

The Esplanade, Vyborg.

Graffiti, Vyborg.

Transfiguration Cathedral, Vyborg.

Transfiguration Cathedral, Vyborg.

Transfiguration Cathedral, Vyborg.

Esplanade Park, Vyborg.

Old Town, Vyborg.

Trolley Café, Vyborg.

The presidents of Finland and Russia, Lake Saimaa, Finland, August 2017.

Collected photos from this so far two month long, slow trip around the world post here.

Optimism

Having just returned from a couple days in Russia, it’s interesting to see the headline In Russian Cities, Mock Gravestones Are Sounding Putin’s Death Knell. Add that to this, and go ahead, take a moment to be an optimist.

There are a lot of people at this protest, aimed against a proposed law allowing extradition of Hong Kong citizens to Beijing.

Chinese media blamed “collusion with the West”.