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Banned White-Red-White Flag of Belarus Travels Abroad


This flag used to be the official state flag of Belarus from 1991 to 1995. Following the controversial referendum of May 14, 1995, president Aleksandr Lukashenko banned it and reintroduced a variation of the Soviet-time Belarusian flag.

During their visit to Kyiv, Ukraine, in early May, Belarusian LJ users lysaye-dzyaucho and ml_forever took turns wearing the white-red-white flag on their shoulders. They were amazed by the friendly reaction of ordinary Ukrainian citizens to this symbol of Belarusian resistance and realized that while they could not carry the flag around openly in their homeland, they were free to do so abroad.

Here're some of lysaye-dzyaucho‘s thoughts (RUS):

[…]

As usual, we had a Belarusian flag with us. Not a very big one, but not a small one, either, with a large symbol of Minsk in the middle… It was easy to wrap yourself into it, or put it on your shoulders and tie it, using it as a raincoat of sorts. And this is what we did, [LJ user] ml_forever and I: we […] carried it around on us everywhere we went, taking turns. I've never seen such a reaction to our flag before!!!! It was quite a celebration.

Ukrainians were coming over to us, to introduce themselves, and they were asking how we were doing and where we were staying and whether they could help us in some way (and they kept insisting on buying us […] drinks ;)), and they wanted to know about the situation in our country, and they wanted to know about the fate of political prisoners, whether there were young people among them, and they were telling us about [other Ukrainians] who served time in our [Belarusian] prisons, etc.

Belarusians who saw their flag, their real flag, yelled Zhyve Belarus [Long live Belarus] from across Khreshchatyk [Kyiv's main street] and came over to greet us ([LJ user] ml_forever shook hands with, perhaps, a few dozen of his compatriots, while I was exchanging hugs), and proudly showed us their “For Freedom!” badges. They were telling us how cool it was to see our flag here in Kyiv and how cool it was that you didn't have to look around in fear.

Apolitical Belarusians […] were also happy to see us. They saw our white-red-white flag and said to one another: “Those are Belarusians? It can't be! No, I'm telling you, this is the Minsk coat of arms!!” When we heard such words, we always turned and smiled and waved to them – and they were so happy to meet compatriots!

And there were several people who asked what flag this was and when they heard it was Belarusian, they looked surprised because they recalled that it looked different, and we responded that this one was the right flag, the real one. So we also involved ourselves into some educational activity.

P.S. Among those we met in Kyiv last weekend we recognized several LJ users. Respect to you! %)

[…]

It's absolutely obvious that the Internet is, so far, the only place where it's in general safe to express your thoughts freely. Virtual Belarus has been created, […] people online are For Freedom. Beyond the borders of Belarus, it is also possible to express your thoughts and declare your position.

But this opportunity isn't really being used. I think it necessary to start doing something abroad. This is especially important as the vacation season is approaching.

What can we do? I suggest… no, I'm calling! %) to all who are going abroad […] to take Belarusian symbols with them. Better to take something conspicuous, because “For Freedom!” badges aren't enough – they are practically invisible. Take flags, t-shirts, etc. Anything you can think of, the main thing is to be conspicuous! […]

What's the use of doing it? First, it's always nice to run into compatriots. If you stand out, you'll definitely be recognized as Belarusians and greeted as such, at least. Second, to have Belarusian symbols with you means being proud of your country, of your people. It means you're a real patriot, not a patriot [who receives money from the regime]. Third, it convinces those who have doubts. Many of them will, possibly, get out of [Belarus] for the first time and will see Freedom, will see our flags! It'll make them think why here, abroad, Our Flag is flying instead of the red-green rag!

[…]

P.S. [LJ user] ml_forever will set up a white-red-white flag with the Minsk coat of arms at Cape Meganom in Crimea in July-August. And I'll take my flag to Hungary in June.

Here are just two comments to lysaye-dzyaucho‘s Kyiv trip report:

2triniti: We were in Kyiv a few weeks ago. Bought OUR flag at Maidan! It is incredibly nice to be walking around the city without the fear of being stopped… being detained. And people are smiling to you )))

***

kalilaska: We sat in a Warsaw cafe with the Flag, and the Poles were coming up to us, saying “Zhyve Belarus” [Long live Belarus].

4 comments

  • Michael Averko

    Is the featured Belarusian flag actually banned in Belarus? If so, please show me the legal code citing such.

    During and after the recent Belarusian presidential election, I saw a number of such flags evident in Belarus.

    In Belarus, which of the two flags are the more popular:

    – The one currently used

    – The first post Soviet Belarusian flag

  • mishah

    What planet are you from, Mr. Averko? Are you sure you can trust everything you see? Do you really believe that everything you see is what it actually is? Do you understand the concept of “sekretno” and “dlya sluzhebnogo pol’zovaniya”?

    Do you believe in western governments’ conspiracy against Lukashenko? Do you believe is western governments’ conspiracy against Russia?

    Do you know where to use a question mark?

  • Mr. Averko,

    Many of those carrying white-red-white flags ended up in Minsk jails after you saw them on tv.

    Back in the Soviet times, if you decided to walk around with the current Russian flag (or the current Ukrainian one) and demand a regime change, you’d end up in a Soviet jail, too. And the folks in power didn’t really need “legal codes” to justify their actions.

    If I were you, I’d ask vice president Dick Cheney for clarification, too. He said this about Belarus in Vilnius:

    “Peaceful demonstrators have been beaten, dissidents have vanished, and a climate of fear prevails under a government that subverts free elections and bans your own country’s flag.”

    Thank you,
    Veronica Khokhlova

  • Michael Averko

    All:

    There was a definite selectivity in the answers to my initial post here.

    No one addressed my question about which of the two flags are the more popular in Belarus? In such a Belarusian poll, I wonder how well the Russian tric-color would fare against the other two?

    As for citing Dick Cheney – I don’t value his comments. The man recently portrayed Russia as a very undemocratic place while lauding Kazakhstan. Any fair minded person knows that Russia is much freer than Kazakhstan.

    As for some of the other very broad and somewhat questionable replies, I find this site to offer a more reasonable overview of the situation in Belarus: http://www.bhhrg.org

    Dear Global Voices:

    I found the first reply to my initial post to be in violationof your stated standards. Please make note of this.

    Here’s that post:

    “What planet are you from, Mr. Averko? Are you sure you can trust everything you see? Do you really believe that everything you see is what it actually is? Do you understand the concept of “sekretno” and “dlya sluzhebnogo pol’zovaniya”?

    Do you believe in western governments’ conspiracy against Lukashenko? Do you believe is western governments’ conspiracy against Russia?

    Do you know where to use a question mark?”

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