Belarus and its future were the main topics of discussion at a well-attended screening of the film Belarusian Dream. The film was screened at the Inconvenient Film Festival organized by the Lithuanian Center for Human Rights. Speakers discussed why Belarus took a different path than Lithuania after the collapse of the Soviet Union, reasons for political apathy among Belarusian youth, and prospects for change.
President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power in Belarus since 1994, retains the support of that share of the population that wants stability and is indifferent to politics. This, according to Ana Baranovskaja, director's assistant for project management at the Belarussian Human Rights House in Exile in Vilnius, explains why he remains in power.
"There are people who support Lukashenko, there are those who protest. But a large group of Belarusians are consumers who don't care about anything. This is what scares me most," said Baranovskaja.
However, Kiryll Atamanchyk, EHU students and president of the StudAlliance Youth Association, believes that if fair and free elections were to take place, Lukashenko would not win.
"A survey carried out by an independent research center showed that 30 percent of voters would vote for Lukashenko. This also indicates that the majority of population supports neither Lukashenka nor the opposition. The civil society and political life in Belarus are in the state of isolation," said Atamanchyk.
When discussing youth involvement in the civil society movement, Baranovskaja, Atamanchyk, and Oleg Borschevskij, editor of the independent newspaper Vitebskij Kurier, agreed that most youth are not politically engaged because they have no memory of Belarus without Lukashenko. It is difficult for them to imagine a different Belarus.
"Lukashenko is creative. He made organizations that are not registered in Belarus illegal. How can you strengthen civil society when active people are suppressed?" asked Vytis Jurkonis, project director at Freedom House.
The speakers expressed their hope that the situation in Belarus could change.
"Vitebskij Kurier re-registered in Russia and we have already distributed one million copies of our newspaper in Belarus," said Borschevskij.
"You should be a real optimist when working with Belarus. I’m proud of these people who fight for freedom despite all the difficulties," added Jurkonis.