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    INDEPENDENCE DAY. 3 JULY 2017-2018


The festivities go by following the traditional recipe - flags, fireworks and, most importantly, the military parade. The adults and children alike are joyous with the spectacle of tanks, artillery, marching brigades and fighting jets, amongst other armed forces. And despite the supportive cheers, in the context of Belarus, the 3rd of July emerges as a contentious day to be celebrating independence.

On the 27th of July 1990, Belarus passed its Declaration of Sovereignty from the Soviet Union; the date came to mark a new country's independence. The first years of a free Belarus also gave hope to the government in exile of the Belarusian People's Republic founded in 1918, on the 25th of August, lost to the Soviet Union two years later. Similar chronologies of freedom and occupation had riddled the histories of other post-Soviet countries. For five years Belarus stood hand-in-hand with its neighbours in celebration, yet what is being observed in Belarus today falls under a foreign account of events. In 1996 the date reflecting Belarusian independence changed, pushing the previous narratives of sovereignty into disregard. Freedom became synonymous with the 3rd of July, marking the year 1944 when the Red Army liberated Minsk, then a part of the Byelorussian SSR, from Nazi control. The changes started taking root with the 1994 elections, with Alexander Lukashenko coming into power. Two years later a referendum to move the date of Independence Day was organised. With 89% of people’s support, the referendum was a success, although the EU and the Council of Europe did not accept the vote as democratically sound. Nowadays, besides the opposition and Belarusian diaspora, most Belarusians don't pay too much mind on which date the fireworks go off, yet many still feel betrayed, having lost the hope they had for when the day of an officially free Belarus did come in 1991.  

© 2018 Jānis Žguts