Belarusian elections: Lukashenko’s biggest test?
An art project was carried out in St. Petersburg to compare the content of official Belarusian TV channels and independent media
A video installation about life in Belarus has opened in the Borey Art Center in St. Petersburg. Visitors have the opportunity to compare the reality in this country, presented by state TV channels and the one that was captured by bloggers and volunteer correspondents of the telegram channel NEXTA.
Sometimes striking comparisons come across: for example, in the program of the Belarusian National Television (abbreviated ONT), Alexander Lukashenko strictly says to the members of the government and the heads of law enforcement agencies gathered at the meeting: “Our task is not to hurt a single person!” video filming of the information resource “TUT.BY”, where the riot police surrounded a small group of young people and rudely dragged them into police vans. Or on the first screen, Lukashenka instructs his officials in front of the participants of the congress of Belarusian trade unions: “We must all put our heads to ensure that the living standards of our citizens are constantly increasing,” and on the monitor opposite there are footage taken during the March of pensioners, where elderly Belarusians are holding holding posters with cartoons of “Sasha 3%” and loudly chanting “Go away!”.
Belarusian riot police in action
The Borey Art Center is located in a semi-basement room in one of the houses of Liteiny Prospekt not far from the intersection with Nevsky Prospekt. By Petersburg standards, this is one of the most prestigious and expensive places in the city. But in a small room rented for video installation, only a little more than twenty people could fit. However, the juxtaposition of the propaganda picture and the casual reality caused some visitors a real emotional shock, and they left the hall in confusion, not having watched the proposed video installation to the end..
“The current protests are a surprise for all Belarusians”
The artist became one of the organizers of the art action Paul Titus. A citizen of the Republic of Belarus, a native of Pinsk, he has been living in St. Petersburg for ten years. In an interview with a correspondent for the Russian service of the Voice of America, he said that it was he who proposed the format of the video installation. “At the beginning there was a different idea. A group of civic activists gathering at the branch of the Belarusian embassy in St. Petersburg came up with a proposal to arrange an exhibition of drawings and graphics mixed with protest posters. These posters are now very popular in Belarus, many have seen them on the Internet. But we faced the problems of collecting exhibits and transporting them here – a lot of legal issues arose that required an urgent solution, ”explained Pavel.
The political situation in the country was developing too quickly, so the content of the posters and drawings was rapidly becoming obsolete. As a result, in order to enhance the visual effect and achieve the greatest possible emotional response from visitors, it was decided to stop at the currently presented version. “We, those who organized this art project, should in no way be called its authors. The author is the Belarusian people, insists Pavel Tit. “We just collected the finished material, filtered it, and as a result, only a small part of the documentary filming got here. Only a small part of the protest is presented here, but it also reflects popular discontent with the blatant lawlessness of the power structures, and trying to figure out why this is happening.
Well, as for the news of the official Belarusian TV channels, everything is also clear. We didn’t cut anything out there, we just took the most typical issues from the last year and a half and put them together. “.
Assessing what is happening in his historical homeland, the artist has no doubts: “Of course, the current protests are a surprise for all Belarusians. That is why the famous expression appeared: “Belarusians, you are incredible!”. This is indeed the case. And the fact that the protests have been going on for so long is because people are boiling over. They saw that they were deceived, they were removed from political life. And everything that happens today is a consequence of these actions of the authorities “.
“This is not entertainment content, this is heavy video.”
Another organizer of the exhibition – Andrey Podluzhny – introduced himself as a citizen of Russia and Belarusian by birth. “I have many friends and relatives in Bobruisk, Mogilev region. And here I came to study in 1988, when this city was still called Leningrad. And then he stayed here, “he told the Voice of America correspondent..
“I found the idea of a video installation proposed by Pavel interesting, and I supported it. It seems to me that it quite accurately reflects the painful events that are now taking place in Belarus. But the attitude of the Petersburg spectators to this action is more important to me, because I personally have reviewed these shots many times..
And for many Russian citizens, the perception of Belarusian events is somewhat distorted by official propaganda. And some Belarusians living here have a certain lack of information. They know that “everything is bad there,” but they do not really understand the essence of what is happening. And during the opening ceremony, some untrained viewers admitted that it was hard for them to watch the documentary footage of the brutal actions of the police, who beat with batons even the participants of the bike ride, who advocated only for a healthy lifestyle without any political sound..
Of course, this is by no means entertaining content, this is a heavy video, but there is no other way to tell it. We did not want to give any personal color, calls to action and anything that could give the art action a political sound. We just see that lawlessness is happening and humanitarian crimes are being committed within the framework of both Belarusian and global laws. And at the same time, it seemed to us important to compare these footage with the blissful picture of the official TV channels, which show “the president who keeps the situation under control”, “the president who cares about the country,” which, of course, is a pure lie, ”Andrey comments on the action. Subject. And he emphasizes: “Belarusian television is now the worst version of Soviet television”.
“It is very difficult to convince people”
Another interlocutor of the Russian service “Voice of America” - Arthur Gruntov – came to St. Petersburg from Vitebsk 8 years ago. Here he works for the largest private company with strong ties to the city administration. But from time to time, Artur travels to Belarus to visit his relatives and friends and has the opportunity to receive information “first-hand”.
After the opening ceremony of the art project, local residents approached him and other organizers and bombarded them with questions about what is really happening in Belarus and how it happened that the security forces reached such a stage of cruelty.
At the same time, the young man admits that about 80% of his St. Petersburg entourage assess the latest events in Belarus, starting with the acute stage of the election campaign, then the presidential elections themselves and subsequent protest actions – inadequately. “Their age contingent is from 30 to 50 years old, they watch Russian TV channels, and their main reaction is:“ Do you want a civil war, revolution and Maidan, like in Ukraine? Do you want NATO to come to you? ” Personally, at work, I often heard from colleagues and from management: “You probably get paid? You just can’t go to the embassy so easily ”.
Almost no one believes that I am doing this honestly, and it is very difficult to convince people. They live in their pink glasses, watch “Russia 24”, Solovyova and other similar programs, ”he said..
And he added that the remaining approximately 20% of his acquaintances receive information from Belarusian and Russian telegram channels, where, according to him, “they objectively cover the events”. “These people support us and stand on the side of the Belarusians. They want us to succeed, ”concludes Artur Gruntov.
“The Belarusian people are beaten, tortured and killed”
In turn, Paul Titus testifies: “My environment is artists, creative people. And most of them, shall we say, are “in the subject” of what is happening. They understand and approve of the Belarusian protest. And just like the Belarusians, they are at a loss for what is happening. But there is a very small group of people who believe that we go out to protest for money. They are confident that we are paid for what we do. There are two people from my environment, and, moreover, these are people who are very respected by me, and I could not even think that such thoughts would come to their minds, ”the Belarusian artist is amazed..
Andrei Podluzhny, answering the same question, noted that the attitude of his acquaintances from St. Petersburg to the events in Belarus is very different. “I have good friends who speak very negatively about the protests, and when we got the idea to organize this art project, I first of all remembered about them. And I thought that it was necessary to tell about what was happening in simple language that did not enter into controversy: “Just open your eyes and look. Draw your own conclusions, and if simple human things, such as sympathy, compassion and humanism are at least a little peculiar to you, the conclusion should suggest itself ”.
At the same time, I am glad to realize that there are a lot of smart, good, kind people who are aware of what is happening in Belarus. They don’t necessarily have seen everything, but they sympathize. It is very pleasant to hear from them their words of approval of this action, although it is primarily addressed not to them, but to those who doubt, who do not know, or who have drawn the opposite conclusions for themselves. After all, the Belarusian people are beaten, tortured and killed. And these facts served as material for this video installation “.
Information about the art project at the Borey Art Center was disseminated through e-mail, social networks and telegram channels. The first responses to the video installation have already begun to appear there..
By the way, the ratio of the St. Petersburgers condemning and supporting the Belarusian project, which Artur Gruntov spoke about, corresponds to the rule of thumb deduced by the Italian sociologist Vilfredo Pareto at the end of the 19th century. According to “Pareto’s Law”, “20% of the efforts give 80% of the result, and the remaining 80% of the efforts – only 20% of the result.” In other words, in order for the changes to begin in the country, a critical mass of 20% of citizens dissatisfied with the situation must accumulate..