17 May 2022, Tuesday, 10:31
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There Is Choice

There Is Choice
PHOTO: PICTURE ALLIANCE

For historical memory, the slogan "no one is forgotten, nothing is forgotten" is especially relevant.

Fairly bald billboards evoke an awkward feeling that cultural life used to be in full swing in Minsk, even if many concerts, exhibitions and performances touched you personally only tangentially. And now even visiting guest performers are a rarity, and the eye often stumbles upon cancellations, then postponements - "due to the difficult epidemiological situation", "due to the introduction of new restrictions on holding mass events", "due to insurmountable logistical difficulties", and even simply, without explanation.

Or like this, for example - the January concert for the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust "Yellow Stars" is canceled (because a libel came to the Ministry of Culture from a vigilant citizen, they say, the funds go to support "opposition organizations", and the participants of that unreliable). And then announce again: under the same name, but with a new date, the participants and organizers are ideologically correct. Shostakovich was only left in the repertoire, which should probably look like a ray of light, but in fact is perceived as a special cynicism.

However, who would doubt that the audience will come to this second, sanctioned, concert. And they will listen, and applaud, and praise; perhaps even through letters of gratitude to the radio, to the Ministry of Culture or to Sportloto - where is it now customary to express admiration for the policy of the party?

And any alternative event will not be noticed by any state structures issuing permits at best. At worst, on a big or small day or half an hour before the start, an inspection from the Ministry of Emergencies, or even a sanitation station, will come and ban everything, finding a violation and three wrong lines. Because everyone understands everything.

On TV, too, the "wrong" topics are skillfully bypassed. A gala concert of opera stars from Belarus and Russia and a new version of the opera King Stakh’s Wild Hunt - here you are, please, a musical gift for Christmas, but about the purges taking place at the same time in the Bolshoi (and the only opera and ballet theater in the country) - the right word, what are you talking about in decent society on such topics, sir. Although everyone understands that the change of director - and just in January the former ideologue was replaced by a new, experienced and hardened one - purges of disloyal cultural workers will not go anywhere, but accelerate.

The official media and propaganda bypass with the same silence, with the confidence of an experienced gaslighter - "nothing happened, nothing happened!" - everything that does not fit into the puzzle of Belarusian stability. They try to bury in silence a lot, from the 'Kupala' biopic buried behind the plinth to the mentally alien Eurovision song and dance contest, which BT needed for fifteen years, and then, after a public reprimand from European TV broadcasters, it became an example of double standards, censorship and in general, who wanted it anyway.

You can be silent about many things today. Repressions in the sphere of culture, film failures, the replacement of competent specialists with loyal members of the party, new political prisoners among actors, musicians, writers, journalists - what are you talking about, citizens? We have the Year of Historical Memory, and there is no end to the work of rewriting textbooks.

And then? It is really interesting: what are these people counting on, who vaguely, and who firmly understands that they are not the majority? No, of course, those who are at the forefront of victory-madness have little choice. It’s not just to stand on the sidelines, keep silent, you need to break into the presidium, but be more active, otherwise, like the old joke, "Petka, you will have neither a horse, nor a hat, nor a new cloak."

But all those who do not sign and do not decide personally, but voice, rat out, peep, agree - do they really think they get lost in the shadows in the rosy future, while the conditional Dryha, responsible for the "black lists" of artists, will get the attention and condemnation of the society, or Niafiodava, who brought to heel Kupala Theater, etc? To pretend, they say, that we, simple cogs and gears - against the backdrop of the crimes of the insane Herostratus, don't we really need to be understood and forgiven?

Or maybe they believe that it will somehow resolve itself, as the heroes of the Brazilian TV series beloved in the post-Soviet space say, "everything will work out", and no one will cut their fingers on the corner of a page that has not been turned over? Or is there no faith, no hope, only the ability to nod, click your heels and accept for execution, brought up over 27 years? Without being tormented by any reflection and all these remorse of conscience.

For a year and a half, I still did not find answers to these questions. Moreover, the feeling has increased that the information bubbles, in which there is "this" and "that" part of the Belarusian society, diverge farther and farther from each other, like parallel worlds.

But the faith in the better remains, even if it's irrational.

Maybe because, really, more and more people, even if they don’t understand, then start understanding what is happening, and move on away from the learned hopelessness. And pensioners, who now know that reading Belarusian classics in the train is considered a picket and undermining the existing system. And schoolchildren who skip classes of "spiritual and patriotic education."

I recently asked 12-14-year-olds I know which of the modern popular Belarusian artists they know, morally preparing to hear the names of one-day idols or a dismissive remark that we have nothing to listen to at all.

"Popular? You mean those whose songs can be turned on with all might, and nothing will happen to you for it?" the teenagers squinted slyly. You can't help rejoicing. Normal children grow up, they won’t let themselves be cut equal and driven into the ranks.

Until the page is turned, it is important to remember that there is a choice. Every day. To join or not to join, to leave or to stay, to create or to destroy. Learn and memorize the lessons of recent history in order not to give the current Herostrats a chance to pretend that they have nothing to do with it. Already in the year of historical memory, the slogan "no one is forgotten, nothing is forgotten" is especially relevant.

Viktoryja Prakapovich, Svobodnye Novosti