Lukashenka's time has passed, he needs to be removed.
Former head of the National Bank and honorary chairman of the United Civil Party Stanislau Bahdankevich told Solidarity how the husbands of his granddaughters got to Akrestsin Street detention center, what impressed him most during the protests and how he sees the future of Belarus.
- Mr. Bahdankevich, how did you assess the scale of the protests after the presidential election?
- I was surprised - in a good way. To be honest, I did not expect from our people such a surge of love for freedom, the desire to be real citizens, not submitted to the feudal lord. So I was pleasantly surprised.
The fact is that after I traveled around the country with speeches in the past, I held direct lines in the editorial offices of independent media, I thought that subservient sentiments were widespread among the people. I remember how (either in Baranavichy, or in Brest) a supporter of the current authorities occupied the telephone line, and did not allow others to say anything.
Still, 26 years have passed since the election of Lukashenka. This is not the age of childhood, but of the youth of the nation. Now I see that in spite of the authoritarian regime, the people actually retained their dignity, inside them there was a thirst for freedom, goodness, and solidarity.
And I am very glad that I lived up to this moment, that I saw this in the 84th year of my life, before I left for a better place.
- What impressed you the most about the protests?
- Active participation of the female part of our society. I saw a huge number of worthy girls and women of all ages. What beautiful and clever women they are!
Europe should be proud of a nation like Belarus. Even under the conditions of the dictatorial regime, Belarusians retained their dignity. They developed a civic consciousness, they became creators of their own destiny and future.
For me all my life, dignity has been the main thing. And almost 30 years ago, being a deputy of the Supreme Council, when asked “what is the most important thing?” I answered: the most important thing is human dignity, which distinguishes us from animals.
- In your opinion, is it good or bad that Belarusians adhere to the exclusively peaceful nature of the protest?
- I think that in general it is good. But if I was not 83 years old, but at least 40 ... The first month and a half after the presidential elections, I liked our path of peaceful protest. But now I am for more active resistance. When they slap on the left cheek, I don’t like the idea of giving the right one.
As far as I know, the constitutions of some countries contain the right of the people to revolt. I think in the future, after the changes, it is necessary to register such a right in the Belarusian one.
We see crimes on our streets. I live at the intersection of Adoyeuski Street and Pushkin Avenue - not far from the Pushkinskaya metro station. I observed here the sadism of the authorities against civilians, against women and young people.
The husbands of my granddaughters, both of them, were in the Akrestsin Street detention center. For nothing. One was riding a bicycle: the bicycle was broken, the man was beaten, and passed through the fascist corridor.
The second man was an observer. He was kicked out of the polling station on a far-fetched occasion, he sat down at the entrance on the street and began counting those who came to vote early there. So they called the police and gave them 8 days of detention. For what?! This is savagery.
- How do you think the situation in Belarus will develop further?
- It is difficult to predict, the only thing I can say is that Lukashenka's time has passed, he will not stay in power. One can guess when he will retire - in a month, six months, a year - but his time is gone. You cannot drive the people into a stall, you cannot make them subjects.
- What, in your opinion, will happen to the economy - if Lukashenka stays in power for some time, and if he resigns?
- Soviet power with an ineffective economy functioned for 70 years. You need to understand that the economy can stagnate for a very long time. It is not serious to expect that now in Belarus under Lukashenka it will immediately go bankrupt. There will be no development, the standard of living will slowly deteriorate, but I do not think that the Belarusian economy will collapse.
If Lukashenka leaves, then, naturally, economic recovery and revival will begin. When I read that state-owned companies have dozens of millions of dollars in losses, and do not go bankrupt, but continue to work ... is this normal? An economy where unprofitable enterprises are kept alive at the expense of the profitable ones is sick. And with the market economy, it will become healthy and the standard of living will rise.
We are no stupider than Poles, Slovaks, Czechs. No stupider. If people are allowed to live in conditions of freedom, competition and the market, then the standard of living will certainly rise. Yes, there may be temporary problems in the form of, for example, unemployment, but over time they will be resolved.
Yes, we already have these problems: people leave the country in search of earnings. It was with regret that I learned last week that my granddaughters were planning to leave for Poland. They say that they can easily find a job in Warsaw.
I do not approve of this, I believe that European values and institutions need to be rooted on our soil.
Lukashenka likes to declare his achievements, saying that in the 90s people were starving, there was bread for three days. These are wild statements for people who have a good memory, and who understand things. In the 90s and beyond wages and gross domestic product per capita were approximately at the same level in Belarus and Poland.
And today Poles have an average pension of about 1,600 Belarusian rubles in recalculation. And we have 400. I have a normal pension, because I am a former government official, but I also have relatives, friends and their relatives: I see that people live in poverty.
It was bad for both us and them in the 90s, but they, having chosen democracy and the market, began to live better. And under Lukashenka we have remained lagging behind.
- You, leading the National Bank in the 90s, communicated a lot with Lukashenka. Knowing him personally, his psychology, what do you think: is he able to change, did he understand something after these mass protests?
- No, he is not capable of change. In the 90s, my colleagues rightly criticized me: then I sincerely thought that Lukashenka was capable of learning. I remember that we created a program of priority economic measures for him, he approved it - and then he did not fulfill anything of it. Lukashenka is a retrograde inside.
He needs to be removed. And maybe tried or treated. When I read his words that he had ordered the state-owned enterprise to allocate 15 thousand dollars for Tsikhanouskaya, who fled abroad, I thought that any of these options would work.