Repression in Belarus is generally considered more severe than in Russia. But Vladimir Putin is constantly clamping down on his country. A political scientist explains how the security forces of both countries operate.
A law based on the Soviet model will go into effect in Belarus this week. Alexander Lukashenko’s regime is now allowed to strip exiled opposition figures of citizenship, rendering them stateless.
For Belarusian political scientist Artom Schreibman, who now lives in exile, the law is an attempt to extend repression within Belarus beyond the country’s borders. “You want to say: ‘These people are no longer part of our society, they are foreigners and they no longer play a role in Belarusian politics, in the future of Belarus,'” he says.
The law testifies to Lukashenko’s Soviet domination mentality. “Lukashenko was formed by the Soviet Union,” says Schreibman, “he knows about such laws and thinks they were wrongly abolished.” “Since 2020, many Soviet practices have been reintroduced.”
Indeed, the wave of repression in Belarus has not subsided over the past three years. The authorities continue to take systematic action against all those involved in the mass protests at the time and who could be identified later. Torture and humiliation have become the norm in Belarusian prisons.
In Belarus, a person is usually arrested on the spot. Repression in Russia is more selective.
In light of the situation in neighboring Russia, where repression has escalated since the start of the large-scale attack on Ukraine, the joke of the Minsk comedian Slava Komissarenko has become a cultural treasure in Belarus: “Russians and Belarusians both watch the same series, but you are still with us Season three and we are already in the fifth. And sometimes we look at you and say, “Oh, you’re about to get interesting!”
Repression in Belarus is generally considered more severe than in Russia. “If the Russian authorities want to cause trouble for someone, they declare him a foreign agent for the first time,” says political researcher Schreibman. «In Belarus, as a rule, a person is arrested on the spot. Repression in Russia is less comprehensive and more graduated and selective.
But is the old-fashioned Belarusian repression more primitive because of its Soviet influence? Schreibmann says no. “In terms of technology, the Belarusian security forces are very advanced,” he says. They use the latest monitoring technology and have digital databases of their opponents. So we see a kind of symbiosis between modern and outdated methods of oppression.
So, is the joke about showing that the horror in Belarus will inevitably reach Russia as well? “In the end, Putin and Lukashenko rule different societies with different political systems,” says Schreibmann. There are also ideological deviations: unlike Lukashenko, Putin criticizes the USSR and orients himself more towards Russian national-imperialism.
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