The Contemporary
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The Contemporary

Anti-Cockroach Revolution Swells to Crescendo in Belarus

Protestors in Belarus brandish slippers, a reference to their view of President Lukashenko being like a cockroach that needs flattening (Photo from Sky News).

The anti-government demonstrations in Belarus that have plagued the Lukashenko regime this year reached their crescendo Sunday night in Minsk. Like many similarly situated movements, its leader is as politically heterodox as she has been effective.

Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was homemaker and former English teacher and is now the leader of the opposition to Europe’s most oppressive dictator. Mrs. Tikhanovskaya was thrust into the international political spotlight when her husband Sergei, a popular blogger and then-leader of the popular anti-Lukashenko opposition, was arrested in the run-up the presidential election Sunday night, in which he was slated to stand as the opposing candidate.

His arrest has been widely seen as an illegitimate and political sham by the current President Aleksandr Lukashenko, who has remained in power since shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union by masterfully crushing and controlling any potential opposition to is rule.

As to Mrs. Tikhanovskaya political ambitions, they were non-existent until very recently. “I’ve never wanted to be a politician, let alone the president.”, she was quoted as saying. ‘This is just how things have turned out.”

International observers of Sunday night’s election universally condemned it as rigged for the incumbent, with some polling stations reporting voter turnout well north of 100%, indicative of anti-Democratic measures on the part of the regime. The “official” results released by the Belarusian government indicated a Lukashenko victory by a margin of 79.7% for Lukashenko to a mere 6.7% for Tikhanovskaya.

The larger protest movement itself has gone by two names, the “Anti-Cockroach Revolution” and “The Slipper Revolution.” The gist of both names is the same: President Lukashenko is referred to in a diminutive manner as a cockroach, and the Belarusian people are acting against him, (in some cases physically) brandishing their slippers to crush him (presumably at the ballot box).

The cockroach allegory was the brainchild of Sergei, who once mused that Lukashenko looked like the animal from a children’s poem called “The Mighty Cockroach.” That one offhand comparison launched the visual element of a mass movement that has gained traction across the ex-Soviet bloc nation. His campaign, which was launched on May 6th, bore the simple but descriptive slogan of “Stop the Cockroach.”

This level of backlash against Lukashenko has been unmatched in his 26-year reign at the helm of Belarus. The recent bout of public outrage largely stems from his non-action in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Lukashenko was quick to dismiss the pandemic as a “hoax” and recommended that people drink more vodka and take more trips to the sauna as preventative measures.

The protests were not a very happy sight for international onlookers, beyond the general human beauty of color revolutions. Police violence was widely documented through the night, with reports from domestic human rights organizations emerging of one protester dying after being run over by a police car.

According to messages from the Telegram channel Nexta_TV, there was a nationwide call to action in favor of a general strike in retaliation for the regime’s harsh tactics. Nexta is the outlet of Stepan Svetlov, another popular young Belarusian journalist and blogger who is located in Warsaw where he can do his work tacking and exposing Belarusian corruption safely and without interference by the Lukashenko government.

Screenshots from Nexta Telegram page (translated to English in Google Chrome) showing plans, and updated plans for a general strike and continued protests.

Other reports from international internet advocacy groups explained how the Belarusian government had cut internet access for the country in response tom the peaceful protest movement, leaving Svetlov and Nexta’s location in Warsaw is as close to an unfiltered view Minsk as Western journalists and observers will be able to get for the time being.

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A liberal blog and repository for far-reaching discussions of international politics and foreign policy, with a specific focus on Eastern Europe.

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Dylan Meisner

Dylan Meisner

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