The regime will collapse in a few days in case of militant actions.
Well-known Russian journalist and music critic Artemy Troitsky, currently living in Estonia, said so in an interview with Charter97.org.
- Belarusians have been protesting in one form or another for over 300 days now. What is the phenomenon of this manifestation that is called by many people the Belarusian Revolution?
- I would say that the protests have taken different forms and have varying degrees of intensity. What happened in Minsk and other cities of Belarus in August, September and October was, in fact, phenomenal. Now everything has moved to a more sluggish phase. The peculiarity of the Belarusian revolution (it can even be called the Belarusian experiment) was, in my opinion, first of all, in that almost all strata of the people were involved in the protest events. The very scale of the demonstrations was incredibly impressive. Secondly, the Belarusians deserved the applause of the whole world: the protest was absolutely peaceful and non-violent. How effective this was is another question. Unfortunately, it has not yet had a practical result, but the fact that it has taken place and that there is a consistent position of the Belarusians is undoubted.
I think that very important results of this protest have already been achieved. There are two such results (there may be more). The Belarusian nation has been born, that is, the Belarusians have realized themselves as a nation, as a whole, and as a people with their own national and global values. In Russia, this has not happened yet. There is no single nation, no national idea, no formed and self-aware nation. Belarusians are great heroes in this sense, and the direct consequence of it is that the whole world has recognized the Belarusians. It should be stated straightforwardly that in contrast to, say, the Russians or Chinese, or even Poles, only neighbors or some international relations professionals knew that there was Belarus, such a nation. Now, everyone knows about Belarus, they support and admire it. The Belarusian protests have put Belarus on the political map of the world. Now we know that your country has not only Europe's last or next-to-last dictator, but also the heroic people. This is, of course, very important!
- How would you assess the current political situation in our country?
- Now, there is, of course, such an incredibly tough, even brutal reaction of terrified and enraged Lukashenka and his henchmen against the revolutionary events of the summer-autumn of last year. This is repression, absolute lawlessness, not only on a national scale, but as it has recently turned out - on an international scale as well. This is a direct consequence of the fact that the protesting Belarusian people were close to the victory in summer, but did not press this victory to the end. In my opinion, it was a huge mistake, and now the fruits of this indecision and inconsistency are being reaped.
I certainly understand that it's easy to talk from afar, as they say, "after the fight," but I'm just insanely hurt and sorry that it turned out that way. I remember perfectly the moment when, in my opinion, the revolution was lost. I did not tear my eyes away from the TV, thankfully, we have the Dozhd TV channel, which broadcast everything that happened in the streets of Minsk and other cities 24 hours a day. So, it was Minsk, and it was night, I do not remember what day, I think - in the middle of August, a huge crowd came to the prison - whether it was in Volodarsky or Akrestsin street.
And that huge crowd was standing there, some woman got separated from it and came up to the gate of the prison. There she had a short conversation, apparently with the guards, after which she stepped away from the gate and addressed her comrades-in-arms. There was no sound, only the picture, but it was absolutely expressive. After which that group of activists started urging the crowd to disperse, and the crowd dispersed... I believe this was one of, and maybe the most crucial moment of the events of that time. That woman, and others like her, were the unwitting gravediggers of the summer revolution.
There was not enough determination to go all the way, to press the situation, to storm the prisons, to free all the political prisoners; instead there was such a retreat, a throwback and a recess. I have heard arguments a thousand times that blood would have been spilt then. Naturally, there are grounds for such arguments, but they do not seem very convincing to me.
First of all, blood would have been spilt anyway, but if it wasn't for that rollback, neither the blood of Raman Bandarenka, nor that of Vitold Ashurak and of many others would have been spilt. It is also very important that all those riot policemen were quite demoralized and insufficiently motivated at that time. I do not think that many of them were ready to fight for Lukashenka to the end. I am sure that if the people had fought back violently, then maybe not all of them, but the majority would have simply chickened out - and then the scenario would have followed a completely different course. Obviously, the very fact that it was necessary to release the political prisoners, among whom there were almost all the leaders of the Belarusian protest, was very important - without them the revolution was disoriented.
These are my sad reflections upon the subject of what it was. Now, yes, it is fascism. Lukashenka's regime is 100% fascist. There hasn't been anything like this in Europe since Hitler's time. I believe that Russia also has a fascist regime, but a milder one, a Franco-Salazar one, while Lukashenka - it's pure Hitlerism. Everyone must be aware of this: both those who live in Belarus and those who look on it with horror from outside. So far I have not heard from the Western leaders (I am not even speaking about the Russian ones) such clear designations of the current Belarusian regime. They say that it is a dictatorship, autocracy, etc. A dictatorship and autocracy, yes, but this is fascism, real fascism. And it is more than symbolic that Lukashenka has just ordered a national holiday to be celebrated on the day of the beginning of Stalin-Hitler's operation in Poland...
- What are the weaknesses of the Lukashenka regime? How can advocates of changes achieve their goals, what methods are needed?
- As strange as it may sound, especially in the current tragic and difficult situation, but I look at the prospects with great optimism. I see a big difference between Russia and Belarus. The Russian regime can be compared to the African baobab tree, that is, it is a thick trunk that cannot be encompassed made up of many thin layers. This is Putin, his inner circle, some influential security forces, others, third ones, the army, regional leaders, the Caucasian elite, the Tatar, Bashkir, Far Eastern elites, the oligarchs, who are also stratified into different parts. In general, it is such a thick trunk, wrapped with powerful vines of corruption. It is very difficult to bring down this trunk, so I look at the future of Russia if not completely without hope, then rather pessimistically.
The Belarusian regime is not a baobab, but a lonely aspen tree, and the name of this aspen tree is Lukashenka. This aspen can be brought down with a few blows of the axe, i.e. the task is much less fundamental than, say, with the Russian regime. However, in order to cut down this aspen tree, you also have to try hard.
This is not a matter of Americans, Poles or anyone else, but a matter of Belarusians. Belarusians must work on it. There may be a variety of methods, both high- and low-tech. Ideally, the dictator should be rounded up and tried in a civilized manner for crimes against humanity and his own people. But I suppose that the Gaddafi or bin Laden scenarios wouldn't upset anyone, either. In the case of active and effective action, the regime would collapse in a day or two, because it is being held together solely by Lukashenka's blue fingers and the fear of reprisals among his security forces.
At that, there is no need to fear Russia's reaction. There will be no forceful reaction to Lukashenka's funeral cortege. I cannot say that the Kremlin will be very happy about such a turn of events, but it will not be very upset either - for the simple reason that Lukashenka is uncomfortable and toxic for Russia, and most importantly - there are alternatives to him in Belarus. I think the Kremlin will be able to resolve the Minsk palace dilemma more or less in its favor without much difficulty. There are quite a lot of people among the leaders of the Belarusian opposition, on whom Putin sets cap for. This includes Babaryka, and perhaps Tsikhanouskaya, former prime minister Rumas, and many others.
The regime itself will not be able to resist for a long time without Lukashenka. Several thousand security officials will rush to Russia across the border, hoping to get settled there - some at Rublyovka, some as mercenaries in Syria; those who are richer and more cunning, such as Halouchanka, for example, will fly to the United Arab Emirates in private business jets. I think that the ground will be instantly cleared for the triumphing people, you just need to try.
- You once said that Lukashenka will leave his post before the end of 2021. What is your confidence based on?
- I can't say that I'm 100% sure, but I think it is probable. It is based on the obvious facts that I have already mentioned. Almost all the people are against Lukashenka. It is very difficult for a dictator, even if surrounded by gorillas and strongmen, to hold his ground in such a structure against all the people for a long time. Secondly, support for Lukashenka from the outside is not as strong and consolidated as one might think. I don't think China will make any effort to give a helping hand to Lukashenka, and Russia is also extremely limited in its means of support. That is, on the part of the Kremlin, apart from monetary contributions, there is some moral support, though not that unconditional and hysterical. Judging by the Ryanair story: the reaction of Peskov and then Putin himself was that "we have to sort it out, take a look, no need to judge in the heat of the moment", "this is their internal business" and so on, but not in the sense of "Hands off Belarus!" and "Lukashenka did the right thing!" Everything is somehow more restrained. I also liked Putin's phrase "let Pratasevich fight against Lukashenka's regime".
Then, as I said, I'm sure that there will be no forceful intervention from Russia. And because it does not really need it, and the main thing is that it may run into global trouble in its relations with America and Europe. This is not good for Putin: Russia is now in a weak position. The economy is very bad, its foreign policy is a mess, and the situation inside the country is quite shaky, so I don't think that Putin feels confident enough to make waves to the fullest right now. I don't think the Crimean-Ukrainian story can happen again.
In addition, one cannot discount the international sanctions, the total condemnation of the regime by the international community. Now they are just starting to impose them, and I think that they will be not only economic and personal, but also financial and political. Of course, sanctions are a double-edged sword. They hurt both the Belarusian establishment and ordinary Belarusians. However, it is good that these sanctions exist - both in a practical and symbolic sense.
The sanctions can have quite serious consequences in economic terms, as well as stimulate a split in the Belarusian elite. In general, there are many factors that play against Lukashenka. I would say that there is not a single factor that plays for Lukashenka, except for the moral and material support of Russia. This regime is held together with spit and bailing wire. If not days, then at least months of this regime are numbered. I think a lot of people in the Kremlin are aware of this, and the work is in progress.
- Recently Lukashenka has signed Decree No.2 on transferring his powers to the Security Council in case of a successful attempt on his life. What do you think is the reason for such a decision? Is the dictator preparing for his funeral?
- I would not attach much importance to it. I think it is a demagogic and hysterical gesture, i.e. Lukashenka is simply ratcheting up the atmosphere. This is also related to the kidnapping of Pratasevich: by doing so Lukashenka is trying to convince the people that someone is trying to kill him, and that if he is killed, horrible times will come. I am not in Belarus, certainly, but I doubt very much that there are many people there who believe in this nonsense.
- Does such a document push the members of the Security Council and the people around the dictator to some scenarios to remove him from power? Is it really possible that one fine summer morning we will see "Swan Lake" on the state channels in Belarus?
- I think such a possibility exists, but I cannot give any expert assessment, simply because I know very little about Lukashenka's entourage. As for Putin's entourage, I can more or less picture them, and I suspect that hardly any of them would hit him with a snuffbox against the temple. People are very cowardly, dependent, and in general - the human material is of extremely low quality. I suspect that Lukashenka's entourage consists of the same cowards, moanbags, and mediocrities. It is hard for me to imagine that "Swan Lake" would be shown on TV. However, I repeat, it is not impossible. If there are at least a couple of strong people with the initiative, and not with trembling knees, I think that it will not be difficult to do. Unlike in Russia, it's a cushy number and it's very fast.
- You once said: "If Lukashenka is killed, very few people will shed a tear over it. In your opinion, how strong is the hatred for this figure in the Belarusian society?
- I know a lot of Belarusians who live abroad and in Belarus itself. As far as I can tell, the hatred towards Lukashenka is almost total and very strong. I cannot compare the degree of hatred towards Lukashenka with the degree of hatred towards Putin. The latter is despised, scolded, people don't like him and consider him a rather pathetic and disgusting type, but to the point of clenching their fists and being ready to strangle him... I do not note such sentiments towards Putin among my acquaintances. I think that most people have a rather negative attitude towards him, but it's such a lukewarm negativity.
In addition, Putin has a lot of harassed supporters, who believe that although he is a thief, a corruptor, and so on, but that there is no alternative to him. This is the popular, and maybe even dominant, attitude to Putin in the country. The attitude towards Lukashenka, as far as I can judge, is much more consolidated: he is a bastard who must be got rid of, otherwise we will all perish. It is noticeably more radical.
- Famous Russian politician Boris Nemtsov said in 2013: "I really want Belarus to become free, and I can tell you why: because if you become free, Russia will also have a chance to become free". What do you think about this? Why can Belarus show Russia the way to changes?
- I would say the following: the case of Russia is much more difficult and inveterate than that of Belarus and Ukraine or, say, Georgia and Armenia. Nevertheless, of course, what happens in the neighboring countries, especially the Slavic ones, affects the situation in Russia greatly. In fact, if you imagine Putin as Koshchei, then as you know, every Koshchei has an egg and a needle. Yet there is a way to send him to the other world. In my opinion, this "Koshchey's needle" is in the hands of the Ukrainians, Belarusians, Georgians, and so on. When Russian people see how much better life is in the Ukraine, Belarus and other former Soviet republics, and when they realize that people there are richer and happier and, of course, freer, it will be a very serious warning to the Russian regime.
In this sense, it certainly depends not only on Belarus, I think that Nemtsov was just talking in the Belarusian context. It depends on Belarus, and the Ukraine, and other parts of the former Soviet Union. I'm sure it will happen in the near future. Belarus will soon become free and will start rapidly approaching Europe, developing economically and humanely, wages will rise from 400 euros to 1400 euros, as in the Baltic States, and, of course, it will be a convincing example for the Russian population.
- There were massive protests in Russia recently in support of Navalny. To what extent do Russians also want change? Can protests of the level of Ukraine-2014 or Belarus-2020 erupt in one moment?
- In my opinion, no. The situation in Russia is very different from that in Belarus and Ukraine. Our country is extremely disintegrated, the people are very separated. There were several attempts to unite the people, there were quite a lot of mass protests, and the latest protests of 2019-2021 went beyond Moscow. St. Petersburg stood up vigorously, as well as cities in Siberia and the Far East. These protests scared the authorities, and they got down to business, as we see.
Belarus has served as an inspiring example for Putin and the strongman: they have seen that you can be almost against the whole people, but nevertheless stay in power, if you have all these riot police, police officers, Rosgvardiya, the army - in the long view, and so on. In this sense, Lukashenka has greatly reassured Putin and his company. The result of this, I guess, is that the security services in Russia got pretty brazen, as evidenced by all the recent events, arrests, dispersals, beatings, imprisonments, and so on. The situation in Russia is obviously developing according to Lukashenka's scenario. However, if Lukashenka waits upon Russia, then Russia has no one to wait upon.
I am afraid that this is not the end; the information space in the Russian Federation will still be mopped up. What will happen to the Dozhd TV channel, or the Echo of Moscow, or the Novaya Gazeta, the devil only knows. I am morbid about this, and most importantly, I do not see any energy, any enthusiasm or determination among the people. Some leave the country, just like the Belarusians, giving up on it in utter hopelessness, whereas others go into a kind of deaf internal immigration, thinking that "it's none of our business," "fuck it all," or "we'll be able to survive somehow". So I don't know. I don't see the spark from which a flame can be kindled now. Moreover, all the opposition politicians have been almost entirely annulled along the same principle as Lukashenka has done it.
I think that the scenario is very similar, but as I said, there is a substantial difference between Russia and Belarus. This difference makes me believe that, at least in your country, things will be all right pretty soon. Belarus is Europe. All that's left to do is to get registered.
- Lukashenka has brought military aviation to force a Ryanair civilian plane to land at Minsk airport. The international community called these actions "an act of state terrorism." How do you assess these events?
- Undoubtedly, it was both an act of piracy and an act of state terrorism. There is, in fact, nothing to discuss. Although the investigation and the trial have not taken place, of course, yet, there is no doubt as to what the outcome will be. Yes, this is an act of state terrorism.
Why did Lukashenka need it? I don't know. My personal opinion, which may be wrong, is that Lukashenka is really not in his right mind, or rather, in his mind, but this mind is addled. Here again there is a difference between Lukashenka and Putin. Putin, first of all, is a thief, a greedy group mugger, who acts strictly in his own interests, and if he occasionally shoots himself in the foot, it is solely out of stupidity or ill-informedness. As for Lukashenka, he behaves not only like a power-obsessed dictator, but also like a clinical madman.
I think that the story with the Ryanair plane is from the realm of psychosis. Because all the minuses and failures that arose in connection with this egregious act are quite obvious, and they in no way compensate for all the pluses from the category of “caught an opposition journalist,” “tried to organize a television propaganda campaign.” No, I think that very few people in Belarus believe in the confession of unfortunate Pratasevich, and, in the rest of the world, I am sure, not a single person believes at all.
- In response, many European airlines began to fly over the airspace of Belarus, and also some European countries banned Belarusian companies from flying over their countries. What other measures are needed to punish the terrorist Lukashenka?
- I don’t know, I’m not an expert in the field of sanctions. As far as I know, measures are being taken. I had no doubt that the reaction in Europe and around the world to this act would be very harsh. In Russia, most experts and political scientists said that Europe and America are weak, they will swallow it, and nothing will happen. I think Lukashenka also thought so. And from the very beginning, I said that no, they would not swallow, and for one and only reason - it happened with a European plane that flew from one EU capital to another, carrying European passengers. This could have happened to any other aircraft of a European company that flew from another European capital.
This concerns everyone and has caught public opinion - therefore, the politicians of the Western countries, which, as you know, are elected, could not help but react to this. This is the opinion of ordinary people, air passengers, they instantly said: "This is a crime; I and my wife could have been in the place of these people, and this must be punished." This is pure psychology, not even politics.
In general, everything happened as I predicted. I think that all these measures will be taken and, naturally, Lukashenka and his regime will find themselves in total isolation and rejection. And if the Europeans - say, the Germans - can argue about Nord Stream 2, whether it's good or bad, what the pros and cons are, then there is no confusion or vacillation about Lukashenka in any country of the civilized world. Everyone totally and harshly condemns him.
- You are known as a rock journalist and music guru. What can you say about the role of music in the Belarusian revolution? Why did Viktor Tsoi and his song "Change" become a source of inspiration for the protesters in Belarus?
- I believe that music played a huge role in the Belarusian revolution in 2020. Moreover, I do not even remember that there has ever been such a musical explosion of protest inspiration anywhere, as it was in Belarus. These songs were played much more than in the Soviet Union in the "perestroika" 80s, which are also considered revolutionary in our country and when the songs "Changes" or "Chained by one chain" were written. Then there were about 10 such revolutionary hymns, and people sent me about 200 songs about freedom and dignity from Belarus. I was struck by the number - I believe that this is an absolute world record. There has never been such a powerful musical protest movement anywhere, ever. Neither in the United States in the 60s in connection with the Vietnam War, nor in Britain in the 70s, when they protested against Thatcher's policies. The Belarusians have set a world record for sure. This is, of course, very cool.
Another thing that struck me was the repertoire variety. If we take Russia, then we have all these anti-regime and freedom-loving songs - rock or rap. There is no third option. In Belarus, it was everything: folklore ensembles, and some big choirs, and electronics, and opera vocals, and some kind of jazz, and the most amazing thing - pop, pop songs. In Russia, for example, pop music is considered a pro-government, flattering, corrupt bitch. All these Baskovs, Kirkorovs, Gazmanovs, and so on, all sing to the glory of Putin and the authorities, who are given television broadcasts, government orders, and other privileges for this. And here, in Belarus, pop soloists, ensembles also sing beautiful songs on the topic of the day. I was absolutely struck by this and finally convinced that the entire Belarusian people had rallied against Lukashenka.
- What would you like to say to people in Belarus who are fighting for democracy and freedom?
- I cannot give advice from afar. The situation in Belarus is now extremely tough. I wish good luck and speedy return home to those people who have the opportunity and desire to leave Belarus. Those who are not going to leave Belarus... naturally, I would have to tell them - fight, fight, and go to the end, but I understand perfectly well that it is easy to say being in an EU country, and not so easy to do it.
I have already said that the situation in Belarus has a very simple solution. Since everything rests, in general, on the vileness, cunning, and madness of one particular person. I believe that you need to focus on this issue and not spend energy on everything else. Beautiful mass demonstrations and round dances, flowers, slippers, and hearts proved that this is a noticeable target for sadists. So, as Vladimir Ilyich Lenin said: "We must go the other way."
- You succeed in clear and well-aimed definitions that quickly sink into memory. Let's try a short blitz survey, shall we?
- Let's do it.
- Belarus is...?
- Belarus is a knight in pursuit of the future.
- Lukashenka is...?
- Lukashenka is the death of Belarus
- Putin's Russia is...?
- Putin's Russia, as they said long before me, is an example of how you should not live.
- The protesters in Belarus are...?
- The protesters in Belarus are heroes who lack the last decisive step.