Thursday, October 9, 2008

Random thoughts on Belarus

There are two images of Belarus.

There is the Belarus that the outside world knows. And there is the Belarus that the outside world doesn't know.

In a way, you have to be here to see it for yourself. Because the image of an autocratic police state can be at odds with daily life here.

If you talk to the residents, they will say, Everything is doing fine. Life here is good. They are not aware, for example, of how they are viewed in the world outside of Eastern Europe.

And yet even with the gray beauty that is Minsk and the contented calm that pervades life here, there are, in fact, some instances when you will encounter how the culture of the Soviet era has indeed permeated Belarusians completely. On my first night, for example, Putin and his entourage drove by the same highway as the car I was in. He was going the other way. He was leaving Minsk, after a series of meetings, while I had just arrived and gotten off the plane.

There are no borders, in fact, between Russia and Belarus; you can go to and fro freely and with no problem. You can also travel from Belarus and go to Cuba without needing a visa!

But then how does one add into this picture the stories told by the Belarus Free Theatre, such as the email I posted above? How do these stories complicate the picture?
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