Minsk: decentral strike

Photography: Maxim S.

The mass protests of 2020 in Belarus showed the whole world, as well as the Belarusians themselves, how many people disagree with the political regime and are ready to resist it. These protests played an essential role in uniting the Belarusians, taking a big step from an atomized, divided society to an integrated civil society.


One of the most notable cases of political self-organization occurred in mid-August in the form of a volunteer camp near the prison on Akrestsina. Thousands of detainees were held there in inhuman conditions and subjected to state violence in the first days of the protests. In a few days, a real field camp of people utterly unfamiliar to each other was set up in the park opposite the prison: doctors, psychologists, drivers, priests, human rights activists, lawyers, technicians took part in it. It existed for about a week (August 11-18), when there was a maximum flow of people going free and waiting for their relatives.


The level of solidarity and self-organization of people in critical situations is surprising. Spontaneous Telegram channels, where help could be found, grow to several thousand subscribers in a matter of hours, whether it is bringing water to de-energized protest areas or ordering pizza for the round-the-clock guards at the memorial of the murdered Raman Bandarenka in the Square of Change.


The absence of leaders has become one of the key and unexpected features of the protest. It led to its decentralization and transformation from mass marches in the city centre to daily neighbourhood activities. On warm evenings in all Minsk districts, yard cultural and entertainment events were held: concerts, movie screenings, children's parties, educational lectures, and excursions. For the first time, these non-political activities made it possible for residents to get to know each other and build horizontal ties with their neighbours from courtyards and districts. The urban environment also began to change: national flags in the windows, protest graffiti and murals, white-red-white ribbons hanging on the trees and lampposts appeared.


In November 2020, the large-scale Sunday rallies completely switched to the format of district protests, transferring the mechanics of organizing marches to local district groups. Now the routes and tactics are determined by the district's residents themselves. It made it very difficult for the security forces to suppress the protest. Instead of several familiar locations in the city centre, they have to travel to dozens of districts, often unfamiliar to them. The protest became flickering and liquid: after dispersal in one place, it immediately appeared in another.


More about: Belarus

Get up close to what one of the most man-made rivers in Europe looks like.

An estimated 1,400 girls are not born every year in Armenia due to a rooted preference for male children. The son-bias combined with a lower birth rate, has led to an alarming number of sex-selective abortions. Community activities, various laws and television shows are addressing the issue - with positive results. But is the actual problem being tackled?