Global Voices Online
Friday, July 11th, 2008
A week ago, a homemade bomb packed with bolts and screws tore through a crowd of thousands of people who had gathered for the Independence Day all-night concert near the World War II monument in central Minsk. The blast occurred around 12:30 a.m on July 4; some 54 people were wounded; Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko happened to be nearby when the bomb went off, but was not hurt.
Following the bombing, police interrogated a number of Belarusian opposition members and human rights activists and searched their homes and offices. On July 9, four people were detained: Sergei Chislov, Igor Korsak, Viktor Leshchinsky and Miroslav Lozovsky, all members of the White Legion, the youth wing of the Belarusian Union of Military Personnel, banned in 1996.
Andrei Khrapavitsky of the recently re-launched Belarusan American Blog has written (ENG) about the blast and the subsequent arrests - as well as about the Belarusian bloggers' response:
[...] I guess there’s hardly a blogger in Belarus who hasn’t commented on the bomb blast. People are guessing what happened and what consequences it would have. There are lots of different versions, but I doubt there is much sense to recapitulate them here. One is for sure. This is the first major terror act in Belarus. Even if the regime itself is not involved (and most probably, it isn’t as many prominent analysts, like Silitski and Feduta, think), there’s a damn good pretense to use this bomb blast for intimidation of the opposition. The blast is especially handy for this matter, as it happened a few days after the parliamentary race had officially started in Belarus.
LJ user kabierac posted Martin Niemöller's poem "First they came…" on his blog and called Belarusian fellow-bloggers to use the emblem of the White Legion as their userpic image, to express solidarity with the four individuals detained in connection with July 4 blast. His post (BEL, RUS) has made it into the Top 30 of the Yandex Blogs portal.
Many Belarusian bloggers have supported the initiative. LJ user coipish is one of them; according to some reports (BEL), he has also been detained by the police. He wrote this (BEL, RUS):
What you see on my userpic now is the emblem of what used to be the White Legion, whose former members are now being blamed for the recent blast. I join the initiative to support them by at least changing my userpic. I really sympathize with all the victims of the terrorist act, but, unfortunately, the real perpetrators are not likely to be ever held responsible for it :((
LJ user z_hunter chose to use an alternative userpic image - with the same symbol but a different color scheme:
Here is why (a discussion in the comments section on LJ user coipish's post):
A good emblem, but the colors are bad. Not our colors - black and red. I like the white-red-white variation better.
Traditional for the Belarusian culture and art. [...]
That's right. But red flag is also associated with some not very good periods in the history of the USSR and Germany. And all this had a very destructive and sad effect on our Belarus.
As for the reactions of the relatively apolitical Minsk residents, Kartina Mira ("Picture of the World") blog, run by a Belarus-based Russian citizen, has this sketch (RUS), featuring a conversation overheard at one of the city's hairdressing salons:
- Oh, have you heard about the blast? A real terrorist act...
- Yes. Chechnya is way over there, and we are here. They are totally getting out of control.
That is, these events are so unnatural for Belarus that ordinary people come up with only one direct association for the blast: "terrorist act - Chechnya."
The realities of the country I live in. Quiet, peaceful, nice, stable. Sometimes even boring. But it's so much better than what the neighbors have.