In Western mainstream media, the current protests in Belarus are portrayed as a natural development, in which the country’s peaceful citizens are finally standing up against an aging dictator clinging to power after the allegedly fraudulent August 9th elections. However, with a closer look at the people and entities behind the unrest, a much less benign picture emerges: far-right regime-change activists supported by foreign backers who have an interest in (1) driving a wedge into the decades-old dependency of Belarus on Russia, (2) integrating the country into a “buffer zone” between Western Europa and Russia that is increasingly looking to the U.S. as an ally and (3) co-opting the last predominantly Russia-orientated Eastern European state into the NATO ambit.
The 2020 protests in Belarus show all the signs of yet another foreign-backed color revolution in Eastern Europe.
They are also not the first Western-backed effort to get rid of President Alexander Lukashenko’s government, which has managed to stay in power since 1994. In 2006, the country saw the so-called Jeans revolution (March 19-25, 2006), a short-lived series of protests that, similar to the current protests, erupted on the evening of the elections. At the time the protests were led by the Belarusian “democratic opposition,” whose figurehead was then presidential candidate Alaksandar Milinkievič, then and now propped up by the West.
Top: Coat of Arms of the Belarusian People’s Republic, known as Pahonia. Bottom: Flag of the Belarusian People’s Republic.
As is the case with the current protests, during the run-up to the 2006 Jeans revolution, white-red-white flags were waved by the demonstrators. But when their usage was outlawed starting in late 2005, the Belarusian opposition adopted denim as a symbol of protest. In the former Soviet Union, denim was often identified with Western culture and the fabric symbolized the pro-Western sentiment of the anti-Lukashenko opposition of the time.
The white-red-white flag harks back to the history of the Belarusian People’s Republic, a short-lived state that emerged after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk of March 1918, when Russia, in exchange for a truce, was forced to make large territorial concessions to Germany in the Baltics.