2 December 2021, Thursday, 9:34
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Viktor Shenderovich: All Authoritarian Regimes Slip on the Same Banana Peel

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Viktor Shenderovich: All Authoritarian Regimes Slip on the Same Banana Peel
Viktor Shenderovich

Protest sentiment in Belarus is like gasoline fumes that build up in a garage.

In an interview with Salidarnasts, Russian writer Viktor Shenderovich spoke about what can bring the end of the dictatorship in Belarus closer.

- Alexander Nevzorov considers a peaceful protest "a stupid form of obedience." On the contrary, you spoke with respect about the peaceful protests in Belarus. What do you think about this now?

- I have mixed feelings about it. Peaceful protests ended with a change of power many times - from Gandhi to the "velvet revolution" in Czechoslovakia and so on.

Only Nevzorov with his demonstrative brutality could call a peaceful protest “stupid.” It is not stupid to defend your position in this way, there was the expectation of feedback. Wherever there is at least minimal feedback, a persistent and prolonged peaceful protest can lead to political change.

The peaceful path is longer. It will certainly end with the collapse of the regime. We see, following the example of both Venezuela and Belarus, that the process can be very traumatic.

- Observing the events in our country from the outside, what conclusions do you draw?

- No one who is closely watching it had any special illusions about this regime.

I think that historically Lukashenka is doomed. But it is not clear how long it will take to get free.

- The names of the "snitches" are known not decades later but only a year later. Recently, the database of the Ministry of Internal Affairs was published in the network with the appeals of "not indifferent citizens," who reported to the police which of their neighbors listened to songs of opposition content and who drove around the village in a combine harvester with a white-red-white flag.

Viktor, what do you think, after the publication of such leaks, the number of those wishing to snitch on a neighbor will decrease?

- It will decrease, of course. Because the smartest understand that their lives will not end with the end of the Lukashenka regime.

A very important question: where is the line beyond which a peaceful protest ends, and the instinct of self-preservation begins to demand illegitimate actions? At what point does a person become a partisan, using the terms of the past war? When does the feeling of impossibility to live the way we did yesterday accumulate in society?

It's like gasoline fumes that build up in a garage. Just two seconds ago you could light a match with impunity, and then it explodes. At what point this happens is a mystery each time.

We see in the Arab examples from ten years ago how suddenly everything happens. What was perfectly acceptable yesterday turns out to be unacceptable today. As in Tunisia, where there was complete control, but the self-immolation of a street vendor in the market led to the overthrow of the government.

It is impossible to predict in advance the moment when gasoline fumes will accumulate in Belarus and when quantity will turn into quality. Right now the process is going in two opposite directions.

The fact that Belarus is in the middle of Europe speaks in favor of Belarus. It's simply difficult to cut it off and make a small kingdom in the middle of nowhere. I suppose that gives the Belarusians some chance of getting out.

- In your opinion, what consequences do you think the regime fails to consider?

- The inability to like something on a social network, express your opinion, legitimately change something pushes people either into marginalization and migration or into resistance. This is physics - energy cannot just disappear somewhere.

And if the energy of protest cannot enter political life, it can take on illegitimate forms. I think the authorities understand that if a person cannot like it, he will have an idea to express his attitude in some other way. In this sense, all authoritarian, totalitarian regimes slip on the same banana peel.

A free country has sociology, tools for changing power, free media, independent courts, elections. Yesterday's TV viewers become voters, the government is changing, the former government goes into opposition, and so on. Where this machine is broken, the energy of indignation, protest, discontent sooner or later passes into other forms.

But, I repeat, it's too late to talk about legitimacy in the case of Belarus, because Lukashenka himself is illegitimate. And everyone understands this: he and everyone else. Today it's just a conversation about the possibilities of confrontation that society has.

- What do you think can stop Lukashenka?

- Following the example of Ancient Rome, all the coups were carried out by the Praetorians - the people who served this or that Caesar. Does Lukashenka understand this? I think he understands it perfectly. Therefore, he is trying with all his might to make sure that it would be advantageous for his praetorians to stand on guard. And he ties them up with blood. He makes it so that people can no longer go outside, so that they stink up Lukashenka themselves. So that they don't have a choice.

He is very afraid of those around him who can still leave. From the point of view of Lukashenka, these people are capable of betrayal.

- What do you think can bring closer the end of the Lukashenka regime closer?

- I think the return of self-organization at some point. This is a game with mutual chances. Gogol wrote about Chichikov: the residents of town N could not understand whether he was a person who had to be immediately arrested or a person who could arrest anyone.

This describes the situation of a totalitarian regime. They can grab anyone, but they understand that, at any second, they can be grabbed, and there is a reason for that. Power looks at numbers. Remember, when there were hundreds of thousands of people, the authorities locked themselves in and sat quietly. It's the same in Moscow.

We are only talking about the degree of protest, about its persistence, about its mass nature. And yes, alas, we are already talking about the readiness to resist.