After Saturday’s concert in Hrodna, Minsk picked up the torch of celebrations of the 101st anniversary of the Belarusian People’s Republic (BNR).
The Minsk authorities barred people from celebrating the Freedom Day in the city centre, and organisers, the Belarusian Social Democratic Party Hramada and the centre-right coalition, decided to hold a rally and concert in Kyiv public garden. On Sunday, about 3,000 people showed up at the event. A fair, food courts and playgrounds were available; the feast’s midpoint was Belarusian musical bands’ performing.
Freedom Day (Dzień Voli) is an unofficial holiday in Belarus, which is celebrated on March 25 to commemorate the creation on that date in 1918 of the Belarusian People’s Republic (BNR). It came into existence at the end of the First World War, when Bolshevik forces left Minsk and the city was occupied by German troops. On March 25, 1918 the Provisional Government (Rada) proclaimed the independence of the BNR. After the Red Army re-entered Minsk, the Communist government replaced the Rada; its members had to emigrate. The Lukashenka regime denies Freedom Day and often prevents the opposition forces from celebrating it.
The format of the festival is almost new, but old problems and challenges remain.
“The regime grips Belarusians by the throat by jailing them for political beliefs, imposing taxes, fines and unfair contract on them. Under such circumstances the unity of the Belarusian democratic movement is crucial,” Pavel Sevyarynets, a co-chairman of the Belarusian Christian Democracy, said.
Several participants had banners demanding the release of Belarusian political prisoners Svyataslau Baranovich and Mikhail Zhamchuzhny and stop the persecution of Henadz Fyadynich, Head of Belarusian Radio and Electronics Industry Workers’ Union (REP).
“We do hope there will be a great feast. But there is no escaping that it has its political context. After all, we are talking about independence, and currently, there are threats to the independence of Belarus,” Yuri Hubarevich, Chairman of the movement For Freedom, stressed.
Taking the stage one after another, Belarusian musicians, politicians and activists made speeches and gave performances. Former political prisoners Pavel Sevyarynets and Zmitser Dashkevich urged Belarusians to join Kurapaty defenders: shortly before Freedom Day, the memorial had been vandalised.
Dashkevich, who took a jab at the Belarusian police during his speech, was detained and later taken to the predetention centre.
Despite the fact that the city authorities slapped a ban on holding any events on March, 25, the organizers of the Freedom Day celebration in Minsk came up with the initiative to gather together in Kastrychnitskaya Square and take a walk to Volodarsky Street – there, in House No. 9, the independence of the Belarusian People’s Republic was proclaimed. Belsat TV will start livestreaming the event at 18.30 (local time) on Facebook.