19 August 2022, Friday, 8:48
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The Drazdy ‘Independence’ Day

The Drazdy ‘Independence’ Day

The parade has gone, but the toilet bowls remained.

Wait a minute — where's the parade? What kind of Belarus-style July 3 is that, without a parade? Have they finally run out of money? Or maybe the military men are already in the trenches on the Ukrainian border?

They used to live the high life, those rich guys. Held a parade every year. Moreover, the schedule of parades was built using the square-cluster method, so as not to miss a single season: if the year was a multiple of five, then the parade was held on May 9. The rest of the time it was on July 3. Luxurious, one might say. In a single formation — domestic military, Ryazan paratroopers, Kantemirov tankers, Chinese people's liberation army, banner groups of Azerbaijanis, Kazakhs, Armenians, Uzbeks, Tajiks. IT-1 “Dragons”, “Caimans”, “Polonaises”, “Bogomols”, “Citruses”. In the sky — MIGs, ILs, SUs, and TUs. On the carriages — toilet bowls, refrigerators, televisions and rotary harvesters. On the stands — kids in Soviet service shirts on the lap of their mothers, dressed in khaki. On the main platform — solid marshals with golden pistols. And right away it became clear to kind people that Belarus is a rich and stable country, that every year it can afford to launch planes into the sky, and tanks into the streets, and order military personnel from China to march in a column. Enemies, of course, did nothing but scoff in impotent rage and envy of someone else's prosperity and well-being.

Journalists, by the way, tried to find out how much money was spent on this pleasure. But the military remained silent, as if in captivity. When non-state media still lived in Belarus and were even registered, they used to even send official requests to the Ministry of Defense. They got a vague answer: “financing is carried out within the limits of the funds allocated for the current maintenance of the Armed Forces.” About a decade ago, however, the spokesman for the Ministry decided to answer wittily and told reporters: they say, don’t worry, guys, don’t try to calculate how much was spent on the parade and what could be built with this money; if the parade had not been held, it would have been possible to distribute only 10 grams of sausage to each Belarusian with the saved funds. Cunning colleagues did not appreciate the wit and began to consider that the amount goes depending on the type of sausage. They calculated both expensive and cheap sausage. So, they got 600 thousand dollars if the sausage was cheap, and 1.2 million if it was expensive. Add all sorts of concerts, fireworks and other entertainment — in general, millions of dollars every year in order to wave the marshal's baton and admire the toilet bowls on the gun carriage. As I say, our country is rich.

But this year there will be no parade, for the second time in a row. Officials are lying even in such small things: they say that parades are held only in jubilee years. Firstly, it is not clear what anniversaries they are going to celebrate with parades. Victories in World War II? Liberation of Minsk? A referendum after which July 3 was declared Independence Day? But these are completely different years, and, respectively, completely different anniversaries. For example, last year was the anniversary of that referendum — 25 years. And the parade was not held for the first time. Secondly, earlier officials argued that only the date of the parade changes depending on the anniversary, but nothing will force the Belarusian state to abandon this spectacle. So don't lie. And it's not at all that you suddenly wised up and decided to save. No, you never save on your own entertainment.

The point is different. Lukashenka held the last parade on May 9, 2020. And exactly three months later came August 9. And now, many of those young people who went out to protest, were imprisoned at Akrestsin Street detention center, who were tortured and beaten, serve in the army. They were called to active duty. And what, will you send them to the parade? Just like that — by order to the very avenue along which they walked under white-red-white flags? Scary, downright scary. So it's better without a parade just in case — let the people celebrate on their own, while they would build a stand in Drazdy. The officials would march in formation with a song to please their master. It’s going to be such a cozy little parade. The Drazdy Independence Day. And only toilet bowls with refrigerators will be gleaming white lonely on dusty gun carriages.

And people are offered to celebrate as they like: in the morning field kitchens with barley porridge from bowlers, in the afternoon karaoke at the Sports Palace, and in the evening everyone will sing the anthem in unison. I still don’t understand why in any European city, even the smallest, any holiday is beautiful, fun and tasteful. And we have barley porridge and karaoke. As if in every official, of any rank, there is an inner Nadenka Katkovets who signs orders.

Iryna Khalip, exclusively for Charter97.org