On December 14, Uladzimir Shantsau, head of Mahiliou region branch of the United Civic Party, notified the city executive committee of his intention to hold a mass event on his own balcony.
“Once hanging out the white-red-white flag on balconies and in windows is considered to be ‘picketing’, such picketing must be authorised. Therefore, I inform Mahiliou city executive committee about staging such a picket at home, and within ten days they shall give or deny permission to hold it. Let’s see if they will forbid me to picket at home,” Shantsau said.
Last week, the Minsk city police department warned Belarusian citizens against hanging out ‘unregistered symbols’ even on their own windows or balconies, saying that such action may be penalised under administrative law.
According to them, showing ‘unregistered symbols’ is a violation of Art. 10 of the law ‘On Mass Events’; law enforcers consider it as holding a mass event (picketing). To date, the Minsk police have drawn up more than 20 protocols for hanging out white-red-white flags and sent them to court.
In 1991, the white-red-white flag and the emblem Pahonya (Pursuit) were adopted as national symbols of the country. In such a way, the Belarusians paid tribute to the heritage of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Belarusian People’s Republic. Notably, Soviet ideology and historiography had long denied the significant role of the above state formations in the history of Belarus.
However, Historical Belarusian symbols were official until the 1995 referendum, when on the tip from Belarusian leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka, who is an ardent adherer of the USSR, they were replaced by the Soviet ones, an emblem that bears a close resemblance to that of the BSSR and a red and green flag which was introduced in 1951.
Pro-Lukashenka officials keep linking the white-red-white flag to the opposition. They are not officially banned from public usage, but are treated by the authorities as unregistered symbols, which means that demonstration of them by protesters or sports fans may result in detention and fines.