The draft law on the status of the white-red-white flag will be put to a vote of Belarusian deputies at the spring session of the House of Representatives.
The document was developed by the Belarusian Christian Democracy party (BChD). MPs Hanna Kanapatskaya and Alena Anisim helped to send it to ministries for consultation and comment.
“It is a shame on our country that one arrests people having the [white-red-white] flag during rallies or sporting events. It is a shame on the country and the government when our national symbols are humiliated and discriminated, when the Belarusian language is extinguished. The authorities say a lot about defending the independence, they even deem the option of armed resistance to an aggressor. But independence does not begin with a strong army, but with strong national spirit, the united nation and respect for its own history, culture and language. If we do not have them, weapons are useless, because the police and the army may sell the country for five kopecks to anyone, as it happened in Crimea,” Hanna Kanapatskaya said.
On 19 September 1991, the historical white-red-white flag and the emblem Pahonya (Pursuit) were officially recognized as the state symbols of Belarus. This decision was taken by the Supreme Council of the BSSR of the 12th convocation after the Soviet collapse. Parliamentarians then adopted a resolution to change the name of the Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic into the Republic of Belarus.
The earliest Pahonya of which we have knowledge is represented on the seal of Prince Alexander Nevsky (13th century) who was married to the daughter of the Prince of Polatsk. According to some historians, Pahonya was originally the emblem of the Polatsk State.
Pahonya and the white-red-white flag were symbols of the Belarusian National Republic (BNR). On March 25, 1918 the Provisional government (Rada) proclaimed the independence of the BNR that came into existence at the end of the First World War, when Bolshevik forces left Minsk and the city was occupied by German troops. After the Red Army re-entered Minsk, the Communist government replaced the Rada; its members had to emigrate. Opposition activists and civil society actors celebrate the anniversary of the proclamation of the BNR every year.
Historical Belarusian symbols were official until the 1995 referendum, when on the tip from Alyaksandr Lukashenka 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 Stalin’s time.
Two days after the referendum, the white-red-white flag was torn to pieces on the roof of the presidential administration, and Pahonya was removed from the Government House.
The white-red-white flag has been often associated with the opposition to the regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka. It is not officially banned from public usage, but is treated by the authorities as an unregistered symbol which means that demonstration of it by political activists or sports fans may result in arrests and confiscation of the flags.