By Gerald J. Bekkerman

Chicago-Kent College of Law

December 21, 2005










I. Introduction: The “Last True Dictatorship in Europe”

            a) Belarus under Lukashenko  

            It has been called an “outpost of tyranny”, and the “last true dictatorship in Europe”.[1] Its government has been condemned for suppressing opposition voices, and its elections have been deemed fraudulent and unacceptable by the international community.[2] In a time where its neighbors are adopting the democratic process, slowly integrating into the European Union, and forging alliances with the west, the country of Belarus remains mired under an autocratic, Soviet era regime, which suppresses dissent, ignores human rights, and intimidates its citizens into a false sense of hope and belief.

             Since coming to power in 1994, the former Soviet republic of Belarus, strategically located in between Russia and Eastern European, has been ruled by a soviet era strongman, Alexander Lukashenko. During his tumultuous tenure, Lukashenko has altered the Belarus constitution, harassed and stifled political rivals, journalists, and foreign diplomats, destroyed the foundation of the political opposition, imposed state control over the media and rigged election results to ensure his continuing reign at the top.[3] Lukashenko’s vision of Belarus is one of a unified Russia and Belarus, together as an empire.[4] Consequently, Lukashenko has steered Belarus away from all aspects of western integration and a Soviet era system of economic and social rule of law thrives. Belarus is the only post-Soviet state where the secret police continue to be called the KGB, and at least 80 percent of the Belarusian economy is centrally planned, and what little private business is permitted is heavily regulated and taxed.[5] Social and political rights, especially for those opposed to the regime remain nonexistent.

            Despite internal opposition and international condemnation, the Lukashenko regime has continued to rule Belarus with an iron fist. Lukashenko and his strict policies appeal to several key classes of Belarusians that have grown custom to a Soviet style autocratic ruler, and either fear or don’t understand democratic change. Among these classes are the elder ex-communist population, the rural non educated elite, and the low income population. Nevertheless, a large part of the Belarusian community, primarily the middle class, the educated elite, and the youth remain frustrated with the lack of social, political and economic freedoms that exist under the Lukashenko regime. Despite attempts to change the direction of their country, the anti Lukashenko movement has been met with harsh repercussion.

                   b) The impact of the “color revolutions”

            The situation facing Belarus today is not an unfamiliar one. Like Belarus, several other former Soviet Republics, particularly Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan faced oppressive, autocratic regimes in the mold of the Soviet era Lukashenko regime in power today in Belarus. Like Lukashenko, the regimes in the above countries suppressed opposition, hindered individual rights, and rigged the democratic process to ensure an unchallenged reign of power. Despite the obstacles to regime change in these countries, in 2003 and 2004 the people of Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan stood up to their oppressive regimes, took to the streets, and showed the world what a unified and powerful democratic movement can achieve. The results of the labor of the brave citizens of the aforementioned countries are now remembered as the “color revolutions” of 2003 and 2004. 

            The “rose” revolution in Georgia, the “tulip” revolution in Kyrgyzstan, and the most infamous “orange” revolution in Ukraine were non violent, unified, social and political mass movements, promoting legitimate election procedures, aimed at electing a legitimate democratic government. Each “revolution” was in fact a civic movement, composed of both politicians and every day people, representing numerous political, social, and economic interests with one common goal; a fair and free democratic process and democratically elected government. Each revolution consisted of a massive nationwide get out the vote campaign, demonstrations, and eventual massive street protests which followed rigged election results in favor of the incumbent autocratic regimes. The eventual results of these civic campaigns were fair and free elections, resulting in regime change, with legitimate pro-western democratic leaders and their parties taking power.

            The elements of the “color revolutions” were similar in all three of the former Soviet republics, and at their core contained familiar revolutionary elements previously seen in similar movements worldwide. That is all except for one major and most significant factor; the “color revolutions” were non violent.[6] The regime changes that took place in the “color revolutions” were not products of violent guerilla groups, military coup de tats, or international invasions. On the contrary, the “color revolutions” were enormous civic movements, composed of ordinary citizens, encompassing a wide spectrum of social and economic classes, all looking to accomplish real and significant change in their country.

            The elements of the “color revolutions” were relatively similar in all three countries. With international backing and financing, pro democratic opposition parties united under a common leader to oppose an authoritarian ruler in the next election. To support the opposition candidate, there was a mass mobilization of the people, led by a defiant youth movement and charismatic politicians who did not fear reprisal from government. The mobilization effort was furthered by an independent media, which countered the state run media’s propaganda, and educated people on the virtues of regime change. The unified mobilization effort of the opposition climaxed in the days and weeks following the rigged presidential elections. In these crucial days, the people of the civic movement took to the streets, in massive street protests, demanding fair election results while refusing to succumb to government threats and pressure. In all three countries, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine, the eventual result of the non violent mobilization efforts was a fairly elected new government, looking to achieve real democratic reform in their native countries.   

            The impact of the “color revolutions” cannot be understated. One year after the Orange Revolution, Ukraine enjoys a vibrant and diverse political spectrum with three major parties and important minor parties, all with significant influence on the current and future state of the country.[7] In Ukraine political activism remains high, with protesters challenging everything from economic policy to environmental degradation to urban development plans.[8] There are increased economic prospects, newfound social independence, and an independent and prosperous free press.[9]

III. The Roadmap to Regime Change: Four Steps to a Color Revolution

            The success of the “color revolutions” in Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, and Ukraine provide a blueprint for how a revolutionary civic movement can succeed in Belarus. With a model for success in place, there remain four key elements that must work together to achieve successful results in Belarus. The focus of this paper is to provide an in depth analysis of the four main components of a potential successful “color revolution” in Belarus. The four key components to a “color” revolution in Belarus, as discussed below include:

·        An organized, innovative, and technologically savvy youth opposition movement, operated under a system of hierarchy. Such a youth movement would be led by an underground leadership consisting of the most active and prominent revolutionaries. The youth movement would need to utilizes numerous technological advances and be evolved in a clandestine recruiting campaign, aimed at both expanding internally and publicly promoting the opposition’s message to the masses. This youth opposition movement would serve as the spark plug for the unified nationwide opposition civic movement.

·          A unified political coalition, composed of the major opposition parties, working as one with the common goal of defeating Lukashneko in the 2006 elections. The united opposition would need to elect a single candidate and support him as the sole candidate, thus avoiding any inherent political divisions. The political opposition would further need to work the international community, NGO’s, and the youth movement to create a successful presidential campaign aimed at defeating Lukashenko.

·        A free, viable and prominent independent media that can overcome the tight grip that the Lukashenko regime has over the state run media. An independent media would serve as the voice of the opposition movement, and counter the rampant propaganda spread by the state run media. To avoid interference from the regime, the independent media would utilize Internet, television, and radio feeds from foreign countries, to go along with an underground printing press far removed from the reach of the government.

·        International support and intervention from the international community, particularly the United States and the European Union. Among the actions that the international community would take aside from funding and supporting the opposition include: enforcing light economic sanctions, implementing travel restrictions for the regime’s leaders, and freezing regime leaders’ foreign bank accounts.       









III. The Youth Movement: The Match That Sparks the Fire

            Influenced by the successes of neighboring youth opposition groups like Ukraine’s “PORA,” and Georgia’s “Kmara”, the opposition youth movement in Belarus has proven to be an influential force in the anti-Lukashenko movement. In fact, although relatively small in overall numbers, the youth opposition groups in Belarus today are organized, strategic, technologically savvy, and can be capable of sustaining an effective underground opposition to the Lukashenko regime. The organizational and technological skills of the Belarus youth opposition, when compared to the success of similar youth groups in Poland, Ukraine, and Georgia, is indicative of a movement that can help to achieve regime change in Belarus.

            To successfully utilize their technological and organizational advantages and bring forth a successful underground youth opposition movement aimed at removing the Lukashenko regime, the various youth opposition groups in Belarus must take three key steps. First, and most importantly, the various youth opposition groups need to unite into a coherent unit, much like the successful integration of the Ukrainian youth oppositions into the “PORA” civic movement. Only by uniting can the youth resistance movement achieve real results.  Second, the youth opposition groups need to mount a carefully planned underground recruitment process, both at the university level and among the general youth population, to expand the base in numbers. Third, the youth groups must organize a well planned get out the vote campaign, and spread their message to the masses (particularly the older generation of Belarusians) concerning the corruption within the Lukashenko government, the benefits of regime change, and the virtues of a fair electoral process. Finally, the youth opposition needs to prepare for the presidential elections during the summer of 2006, utilizing election monitoring techniques, publicizing voter fraud, and taking to the streets in public demonstration to protest a rigged election result.

            a) Influence of “PORA” and the background on Belarusian youth            opposition groups


            Inspired by the “solidarity movement” in Poland, and copying the successful techniques of Ukraine’s “PORA,” the new wave of youth revolutionaries in Belarus is putting a 21st century feel to the underground opposition movement. The success of the “Orange Revolution” that took place in Ukraine was heavily influenced by what can be considered the model for modern day youth opposition movement, “PORA” ("It's Time!").[10] PORA, a youth movement that began with the coordination and consolidation of the five major Ukrainian youth opposition groups, and armed with nothing more than an Internet web page and an active base, was able to be a major player, if not leading star, in Ukraine’s “Orange Revolution.” [11]

            “PORA” consisted of Ukrainian youth, in particular active students, organized into mobile groups and united in an efficient and coordinated countrywide network. The number of participants numbered around no less than 35,000 volunteers (registered members of mobile groups), and through the coordinated use of email, text messaging, web blogs, radio, print media,  rock concerts, and a thrust for public exposure, “PORA” was able to achieve its goals of democratic regime change in Ukraine.[12] In particular, “PORA” and its members were able to stage an effective get out the vote campaign, thus educating the Ukrainian people on the benefits of European integration, and most importantly, were able to effectively monitor the electoral process, and mount a coordinated protest following the corrupt election results.[13]

             Following the success youth opposition groups like “PORA” the underground youth groups of Belarus have began to adopt a similar, modern, approach to regime change. The number of volunteers in the youth opposition movement is beginning to increase, and money is slowly beginning to flow to youth parties like “Zubr”, Belarus’ current equivalent of “PORA”.[14] The methods are the same as were used by “PORA” and “Kmara” in Georgia: unregulated Internet web pages, mobile-phone and web-based networks of supporters, chat-rooms, blogs, and videos and political cartoons. All the above tools are now being used to attempt to organize non-violent political demonstrations on the streets of Minsk and other Belarusian cities. However, despite a well grounded foundation, and an effective model to work with, the youth opposition in Belarus has not yet been as successful as its predecessors in achieving actual results.     

            The youth movement in Belarus consists of seemingly well organized underground movements, as well as youth groups attached to formally recognized political parties. Among the more prominent and active youth group are; “ZUBR”, “VESNA,” “LEMON (part of the United Civil Party),” “Young Gramada,” “Young Politicians Association,”Studentskaya Dumka,” “Belarusian Students Union,” and “Malody Front”, the youth branch of the “Belarus Popular Front Party.”  The most advanced, nationally recognized, and organized group seems to be “Zubr (or Bison),” a youth group that has adopted the techniques used by “PORA” and has seen its number of active volunteers grow.[15]    

            Zubr utilizes an underground cyberspace network as well as a successful underground print media outlet, where it create and leaks numerous fliers, posters, and press releases advertising its cause. Zubr has developed an elaborate system in which only a handful of members know where their newspapers and fliers are printed, and its success has had much to do with the well crafted secret underground network. Zubr members use their cyberspace networks and underground print media to organize peaceful protests in Minsk’s main squares, but their presence has consistently been met with violent repression by Lukashenko. In 2004, Zubr says that some 500 of its activists were arrested, beaten by police, and expelled from universities for involvement in opposition politics. Lukashenko calls them terrorists, though they have never resorted to violence. Recently, 20 year old student and Zubr member Mikita Sasim drew international attention to the movements cause when he was brutally beaten and thrown in jail for waving a national Belarusian flag during a protest in Minsk.[16]  

            b) The need for youth opposition groups to merge into a coherent, horizontal      network.


            To achieve the success, the youth opposition movements in Belarus must first unite under a single expanded civic movement. After uniting and growing at the base, the movement must then set up a horizontal network similar to the one used by “PORA,” in order for the voice of the opposition to fully resonate throughout the country.

            The successful merger of the major youth Ukraine opposition groups into the “PORA” civic movement, and its organizational structure were major reasons behind the success of the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine. The organizational structure of the civic campaign PORA followed a model of horizontal network management.[17] It was based on sending mobile groups to provide for information and education activities in various regions throughout Ukraine. These groups of young activists comprised of between 10 and 15 volunteers, and the volunteers aimed at recruiting and spreading their message to fellow students and young activists throughout the country. Altogether, 380 to 400 of these groups formed an organized network that functioned throughout the electoral campaign and whose activities reached an estimated 25 million citizens. The “Riys” as these volunteer groups were called acted in circumscribed territories, called “Kusches,” whose population they addressed. Altogether, 78 Kusches covered the entire territory of Ukraine, with each comprising a population of approximately 500,000 people and reflecting specific regional, social and cultural profiles. The activities of this vast network were organized by the coordination center of the campaign, run by PORA leaders, which was responsible for elaborating the information strategy of the campaign, coordinated the actions of regional units, organized the production and distribution of printed products, and consulted with partners.[18] Thus, with a coordinated effort, started at the youth level, the “PORA” movement was able to achieve success.

            An analysis of the youth of Belarus today shows a young population that can form a successful youth opposition movement. The young people in the country are well educated, as evidenced by a 99.6% literacy rate and a stringent educational system.[19] More importantly, besides being generally intellectual, the youth opposition is highly skilled in technological warfare. Out of a population of 10,300,483, there are 1,391,900 Internet users in Belarus, and 1,118,000 citizens have cellular phones.[20] These numbers are very comparable to Ukraine, where out of a population of 47,425,336, there were 3.8 million Internet users, and 4.2 million people had cellular phones.[21] The youth movement in Ukraine was able to utilize cyberspace and modern technology, of which it had a comparative advantage of knowledge over the older generation to successfully organize and expand.[22] Similarly, it is this technological advantage that the youth movement in Belarus must use to expand and spread its message throughout the country.

            The first step that must be taken by the youth groups in Belarus is for these groups to unite under one single opposition movement, with a distinct name, which would span the entire country and represent the common goal of democratic reform and regime change in Belarus. The core center of the movement would be run out of Minsk, with the current leaders of the present day opposition groups taking charge of the organizational structure. This core center, likely run out of a secret underground headquarter, would be responsible for the spread of information, such as campaign strategy, coordination of regional units, organization of the production and distribution of printed products, and the distribution of the finances of the movement. Through the Internet, text messaging, cell phones, and other high tech means of communication, the core of the movement in Minsk would be able to run an organized network, directing the youth groups in cities outside of the capital and disbursing the proper funding and supplies to help organize popular revolt.           Although the united opposition movement would have to be an underground operation at its core, with operations housed in a secret location, the expanded layers of the movement will depend greatly on the work of the student population spread among the numerous universities in Belarus. There are 59 Institutions of higher learning in Belarus, with 337,000 students taking classes in these institutions, which amount to a ratio of 3,430 students for every 100,000 people.[23] Universities are not only located in Minsk, but are spread throughout the major cities in Belarus.[24] Universities in rural cities like Gomel, Brest, Polatsk, and Grodna, where political apathy is rampant, can serve as the outer layers of the hierarchical organization of the opposition movement.

            Since the leaders of the core underground leadership would be too prominent and dangerous to be allowed to enroll in the universities, this core base of the movement would have to run an underground network through cyberspace. Through this network, the volunteers of the movement who are enrolled in academic institutions would operate secret underground groups within the universities, utilizing fellow students sympathetic to the cause, and spreading the message of the movement throughout campus and beyond. The participants in this second layer of the movement, the university students and educated revolutionaries in institutions in Minsk, would then be able to communicate with students in the other major universities in the regional cities of Belarus. These student volunteers in cities like Vitebsk, Gomel, and Brest, who are sympathetic to the movement but are far removed from its heart in Minsk, would then be responsible for spreading the message to the far of regions of the country, thus reaching a vital rural base that may not even be aware that a revolutionary movement is taking place. 

            By organizing into a three layered hierarchical organizational structure, the united youth movement would be well prepared to utilize its comparative advantage in technological revolutionary warfare by creating a sophisticated underground revolutionary network. The core movement in Minsk, composed of the most prominent and experienced revolutionaries, would be responsible for co-ordination and disbursing funding. The next layer of university students in Minsk, who would be working directly with the movements underground leaders, would be able to coordinate on campus revolutionary activities and communicate with students in the outer regions of the country. This final layer of students in universities in cities outside of Minsk would be responsible for spreading the directions from Minsk throughout their particular region.          

            c.) Recruiting and expanding the youth opposition movement

            As discussed above, the vast number of institutions of higher learning throughout Belarus, combined with the favorable ratio of students in the general population, creates an environment that is favorable to recruitment for the youth opponent movement. The youth in Belarus, particularly students, having tasted brief spells of democracy and western culture in their lifetime are eager to make a difference in their futures.[25] This desire by the Belarusian youth to make an impact on their futures provides the youth opposition movement a golden opportunity to expand their numbers, thus further spreading the revolutionary message, and gaining their cause more legitimacy.       

            There are three key factors related to the Belarusian youth’s interests in furthering the goals of the opposition movement. First, the young generation, particularly the student elite, are frustrated by Lukashenko’s tight grip over society, and yearn for more individual liberties, such as a right to protest and voice opinion, which is particularly discouraged by the regime. Second, the young generation, technologically advanced and in tune with the world’s events, is likely inspired and at the same time jealous of the success and notoriety achieved by their brothers and sisters in Ukraine and Georgia, who successfully organized a youth movement and brought democratic reform to their homeland. Finally, like the revolutionaries of the 1980’s who craved to wear blue jeans and watch American movies, the Belarusian youth, frustrated by the lack of democratic reform and European integration since the fall of communism in 1991, yearns for the chance to be a part of the western world. The blue jeans of the 1980’s have become today’s rap cd’s, books, magazines and other sources of western pop culture which have been restricted under the anti-western Lukashenko regime.[26]

            With the above factors in mind, expansion of the youth movement at its core would seem to be an ascertainable goal. However, staying one step ahead of the game, the Lukashenko regime has carefully instituted its own pro governmental youth movement which threatens to undermine the recruiting and expansion of the youth opposition movement. Lukashenko’s strategically created Belarusian Republican Youth Union, (BRSM) commonly known as Lukamol, a compound of Lukashenko and Komsomol, the communist-era Young Communist League.[27] The BRSM is a carefully organized, pro-government, youth group created by the Lukashenko regime to counter the opposition movement. Taking its cues from the Soviet era youth groups like “Pioneers” and “Komsomols,” the BRSM represents a unified pro Lukashenko youth movement, and its members stand behind President Lukashenko and stand behind his policies of Russian integration. In early April, 2000, the BRYU, prepared to merge with the Russian Youth Union. The BRYU viewed the merger as a logical and natural step and expects it to strengthen the longstanding friendship and cooperation between organized youths in Belarus and Russia, forming confederacy, whose top goal will be to promote Belarusian-Russian unification.[28]

            The effect of the BRSM (and its sub-groups like the Belarusian Patriotic Youth Association, created in 1997 under Lukashenko’s order) has been significant. At university or in school, members of the youth opposition, or even regular students even contemplating becoming opponents, are being summoned to the dean's office and threatened with expulsion. Ordinary students are being threatened and bribed to join the BRSM.[29] The above numbers signify that the excitement and rebellious desire that brings many youths to the opposition movement can be taken away by government actions. Coercive government actions aimed at frightening the ambitious and excited youth can be a potentially deadly blow to the growth and success of the youth opposition movement.        Despite the obstacle posed to recruitment and expansion by pro- Lukashenko youth groups, the youth opposition movement can continue to press on, spreading its message in the face of defiance. Using the Internet and other means of underground media, the youth opposition can sway undecided young students, or even convert pro Lukashenko youth members to join the opposition in achieving real and positive change for their country. Although there will be those whose excitement and desire for social change will be outweighed by fear from government reprisal, the idealistic nature of young people and students in general, to achieve something great within their lifetime, will certainly provide a needed edge for recruitment for the youth movement.[30] As evidenced in Ukraine, an inherent drive within the young person to impact his or her life can result in extraordinary things.

            So how can the youth opposition win the recruiting battle? Once again, the battle for recruitment begins wit the hierarchical organizational model described above. Through technological means, starting with the underground core, and expanding to the volunteers within the universities throughout the country, youth groups must mount a carefully executed recruiting campaign to expand the numbers for the revolutionary movement.

            An essential element to the recruiting process would be a central Internet website representing the unified youth movement. The Internet domain, created through an untraceable server, would serve as a key source of information for potential youth opposition participants to learn the goals and strategy of the opposition movement. Run and operated by the underground core of the opposition movement, the Internet site would promote opposition activities as well as serving as providing clandestine information regarding opposition meetings, demonstrations, and related activities. Volunteers sympathetic to the movement, especially at the University level, would be able to promote the website without risking expulsion by secretly writing the website’s address on chalkboards, bulletin boards, and other means of public communication on available at the universities. Some of the key components of the website would be: 1) chat rooms planning on campus activities, such as organizing discussion groups devoted to spreading the message of the opposition; 2) articles and statistics revealing the “true” state of the Belarusian economy and the bleak futuristic prospects of the Lukashenko regime; and 3) links to websites and downloads of western music, films, clothing, and other restricted information prohibited by the government.

            The main obstacle to such recruitment remains the fear instilled into University students by the Lukashenko regime of expulsion or imprisonment for such recruitment activities as discussed above. Generally, it will take strong, passionate, revolutionaries who are not afraid of the consequences to fuel the recruitment drive. The youth opposition movement must put in place safeguards to ensure that potential volunteers can survive the consequences. The youth opposition movement will have to have the support of international NGO’s and neighboring states to make sure that those students expelled from Universities for promoting opposition activities are taken in and educated abroad. For example, when members of the opposition group Malady Front were recently thrown out of universities in Belarus, Ukraine's foreign ministry opened the doors of Kiev National University to gave them a chance to continue their studies.[31] Such assistance by the international community is a crucial aspect to the overcoming of fear inherent to the recruitment drive, and will be discussed further in the section on international intervention and support for regime changes.

            In addition to the Internet fueled underground recruitment campaign, the youth opposition will also have to utilize two key recruitment tactics, previously utilized successfully in Ukraine: 1) musical concerts to promote the movement; and 2) use of graffiti on public buildings. Putting on rock concerts would expand the youth movement by bringing together youth to share revolutionary ideas, and the regime wouldn’t see the concert as hostile on its face. Moreover, if the regime attempts to shut the concerts down, it would be viewed as a hostile action by the government, thus strengthening the movement. Through these two tactics, the youth opposition will not only be able to recruit young people sympathetic to the cause, but will also be able to spread their general message to the masses.

            During the buildup to the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, in order to attract young people to its cause, PORA organized dozens of concerts throughout the pre-election period in various parts of Ukraine.[32] These concerts, as well as other forms of mass events, created occasions to publicize positions and mottos of PORA, mobilize new volunteers, and strengthen public support for PORA.[33] Similarly, the Belarus youth opposition movement needs to sponsor popular concerts, using the concert as a promotional tactic aimed at recruiting the youth likely to attend to supports the revolutionary cause. There are two advantages of holding such concerts across the country. First, a concert put on by the youth opposition likely wouldn’t be interpreted by the government as a hostile activity in the same sense that a mass protest at a public square would. Bringing in a popular musical act, and setting up booths and having volunteers pass out information during the concert promoting the movement, would achieve the recruiting goals by spreading the message of the movement, yet it likely wouldn’t be interpreted by the attendees or the government as a full fledge demonstration promoting regime change. Second, attempts by the government to stop the concert would likely anger the youth attendees, thus highlighting the very government’s suppression of the everyday social activities that the youth movement is promoting. Unlike a demonstration, the government would have a harder time shutting down a popular rock concert, where thousands of Belarusian youths would interpret such action as hostile. With hundreds of thousands of youth gathered for these concerts in a social setting, any actions taken by the government would only be seen as more social intolerance from the regime.

             Yet another key facet to the success of the PORA movement in Ukraine was the promotion of the use of graffiti by PORA members to spread their revolutionary message.[34] Ukraine’s youth is certainly not the first to use graffiti to promote social causes. The Berlin Wall, covered in political messages and symbols, became a symbol of overcoming governmental repression during the fall of communism in the late 1980’s. Since the 1980’s  use of graffiti has become an important tool used by social movements to promote their causes, with a goal of reaching young people and to involving them actively in the opposition movement. Graffiti significantly popularized the PORA movement in Ukraine, making it recognizable on a broad scale.[35] The Belarusian youth movement needs to follow a similar path, with the underground center of the movement purchasing and disbursing graffiti to its artistic members, who would then paint locations which would be primarily symbolic to the youth in Belarus. This method of promotion and recruitment would be ideal in reaching the segment of the population not at the university level. Putting symbolic messages outside lumber yards, construction sites, and factories would send a message of hope and opportunity to the downtrodden blue collar Belarusian youth, unaware that political or social change is feasible in his lifetime.

            Through a secretive recruiting campaign organized at the university level utilizing underground recruitment, and a public campaign targeting the general young population through public displays such as concerts and graffiti, the youth opposition movement can increase its core numbers and prepare to expand their message to the general masses. By utilizing a centrally run webpage and secretive recruiting drives at the university level, while also targeting non university students through concerts and graffiti, the opposition movement would be able to increase its numbers at the core. These volunteers, spread throughout the country, would be the foundation the movement. After recruiting the core foundation and achieving exponential growth in its numbers, the youth opposition would then be able to begin a legitimate and successful campaign. Through the “get out the vote” campaign discussed below, other young people, believing in the message of a more prosperous Belarus, would join the movement. Thus, the youth would have a centrally organized, hierarchical opposition movement, large enough in number to make a difference, and always leaving room for others sympathetic to the cause to join the fight.

            d.) Turn on the bullhorn: spreading the message to the masses.

            After successfully organizing and expanding in numbers, the youth movement must organize a well planned get out the vote campaign, and spread their message to the masses concerning the corruption within the Lukashenko government, the benefits of regime change, and the virtues of a fair electoral process. Not quite a door to door campaign, and not quite a hunger strike, the public awareness campaign by the youth opposition movement will have to utilize a combination of several key factors involved in promoting a political message through peaceful means. Besides the use of independent media, as discussed in further detail below, the most important elements to the successful spread of the movement’s ideals include: 1) selecting a specific style, including a color, logo, quote, or other visually symbolic reference for the movement; 2) printing fliers, banners, t-shirts and other means of advertising, and disbursing them in city squares and on public transportation systems; and 3) organizing pickets, sit-ins, and demonstrations at places and at times likely to get the attention of the general population.

            The color for the revolution in Belarus has yet to be picked, and it is not ideal to have the youth movement select the color, such a symbolic task must be a united decision made cooperatively between the political opposition parties, NGO’s, and the youth movement. However, in order to promote their message to the masses, the youth opposition movement will need to select a symbolic logo and quote to represent the movement. In Ukraine, PORA, which translated to “time” adopted the word “PORA” with a ticking clock in the letter “O” set against a yellow background as its official symbol.[36] The significance of the word “PORA” or “time” was further emphasized by the movement in its fliers and press releases, as the word “time” was used in powerful terms such as a “time to live,” “time to choose”, and “time to be free” among others.[37]  

            Currently in Belarus, youth opposition groups like ZUBR, which has adopted a Bison as its logo, black as its color, and the motto “Honor! Motherland! Freedom!,” are following the PORA model. However, to achieve successful results, the united youth opposition movement in Belarus will have to take the ZUBR example a step further and select a powerful and symbolic logo, color, and accompanying verbal messages to have an affect on the general population. Having a specific, creative, and powerful symbol which could be widely recognized by the people would gain the opposition movement credibility in the eye of the people, while at the same time serving as a reminder to the masses of what the youth movement represents.

            Once the appropriate symbol has been created and agreed upon by the movement’s core, the marketing campaign to spread the symbol all over Belarus must begin. The size of the marketing campaign must be enormous in scope. In Ukraine, PORA claimed to have distributed 40 million copies of print products throughout their revolutionary campaign leading up to election day. [38] For a country with a population 4 times less than that of Ukraine[39], a distribution effort of at least 10 million copies of print products must take place in Belarus. The print products will need to include fliers, posters, banners, t-shirts and other forms of print product incorporated in the modern day marketing campaign. Given the inevitable intolerance of such print product by the Lukashenko regime, the production centers of these print products will have to be either in deeply secretive underground printing presses, or more likely created outside the Belarusian border and then brought into the country.

            While the actual production of the print products may be an arduous task for the youth movement, the more inherent difficulty lies with the process of actually distributing the print product into the general population. The key to this part of the process lays heavily with the courage of the most loyal and passionate youth revolutionaries, who would be willing to risk not only imprisonment and fines, but also deportation and possible physical harm to themselves and their families. These volunteers would be responsible for passing out fliers, t-shirts, buttons, stickers, and other print media in public squares, stadiums, and heavily populated residential complexes. These volunteers would also be responsible for setting up booths, hanging banners, and doing any other activity related to the marketing of the youth movement campaign. Specifically, these volunteers of the youth movement should take particular advantage of the mass transit system in cities such as Minsk. Setting up booths in train stations, distributing fliers while riding on busses and trains, and even taking cross country trains from city to city would serve as effective techniques in spreading the print media.  

            Once the print product is distributed to the masses, the most crucial element of the spreading of the message requires large scale demonstrations, pickets and sit-ins. Like the public marketing of the print products, the organization of these large scale public conventions, in clear defiance of the Lukashenko regime, will have to be organized and lead by the bravest and most political active youth opposition leaders. These are the young leaders who would be willing to suffer great pain in order to promote the common good.

            In Ukraine, PORA involved in its work over 35,000 permanent participants and an even larger number of supporters.[40] Of these, a small number in the leadership was responsible for conducting and organizing more than 750 regional pickets and public actions, and 17 mass rallies with more than 3,000 participants. [41] In Belarus, numbers similar to these must occur in order for the youth opposition movement to resonate with the public. Minsk, the capital, and the most populous and thriving commercial center of Belarus, with its numerous large boulevards and city squares, would be the epicenter of the protest movement. Sit ins, pickets, work stoppages, and other means of civil unrest common to most non violent revolutionary movements would spread the youth movements message. Although ideally national media coverage would notice the protests and give them airtime on television, the Lukashenko regime controls all the television stations in Belarus and would not allow such demonstrations to ever reach the airwaves.

            However, the youth movement in Belarus faces significantly tougher challenges than its Ukrainian brothers. Much as the youth opposition movement in Belarus will have to learn from the Ukrainian model, the Lukashenko regime has also learned the lessons of the Orange Revolution. It is most certain that Lukashenko will never allow the civil unrest to reach a level anywhere near what was allowed by the Ukrainian regime leading up to the election. Where the Ukrainian regime may have underestimated the power of the youth movement in Ukraine, Lukashenko has taken note, and has vowed to stop public civic unrest to take place in his streets.[42] Recently, activists from ZUBR have faced consistent rebuttal from the Lukashenko regime, and many of its members have been imprisoned, beaten, deported, or worse. [43] However, it seems as though the will of the participants in the youth opposition movement is strong and defiant, and young volunteers, fighting for the cause will be willing to suffer even the greatest loss in order to achieve success.

            e.) The Climax: Election day protests and voter monitoring

            Following the months of hierarchical organization, recruiting and expansion, and a mass spreading of the democratic message, the youth opposition movement in Belarus will have to prepare for the day of climax in their civic campaign: election day. Scheduled to take place in July 2006, and likely to be stained with fraud, deception, and manipulation by the Lukashenko regime, the elections serves as the day of reckoning and fulfillment for the youth opposition movement. To achieve success on election day, the youth movement will need to coordinate with election fraud monitors, work with the main opposition candidates party, and effectively organize peaceful mass election day protests aimed to capture international attention.

             In Ukraine, following months of organizing, expanding, and promoting their cause, PORA transformed from an informational and educational campaign into an organizer for the active protection of the election results, with a central focus on “direct action” such as staging mass protests. PORA approached the first round of the presidential elections with a full understanding of the situation and with a detailed plan of organizing protest activities in the case of electoral fraud. Once it became clear that the elections had been stolen from the Ukrainian people, PORA were the first to issue a statement about the falsification of the first round of elections and called upon the citizens of Ukraine to assert their democratic rights. PORA took to the streets, setting up tent camps full of protesters on the major boulevards in Kiev, and later on in other Ukrainian cities. These tent camps became the centers of protest and involvement of new activists.

            PORA started preparation for large-scale protests after the first round, in which the main contenders to the presidency had been Viktor Yanukovych, the representative of the incumbent authoritarian regime, and the leader of the democratic political forces, Viktor Yushchenko. After that first round, PORA coordinated its actions with the electoral headquarters of Viktor Yushchenko to jointly work towards the protection of free and fair election results. The second round of elections was accompanied by an even larger scale of violations of electoral fraud, which were recorded by tens of thousands of observers from political parties, PORA and other civic initiatives, and other international observers. Based on the results of election monitoring, the elections qualified as fraudulent without reservations.

            Following the second round of the elections, PORA increased its presence in the streets, setting up 1,500 “orange” tent communities, set up all throughout Kiev. Student protesters, shouting slogans, took to the streets in Kiev’s central square, and for almost two weeks of continuous protest, the tent communities became the symbol of Ukraine’s non-violent resistance. These civic activities, organized primarily by the student movement PORA contributed to the historical decision by the Supreme Court of Ukraine that ordered a repeat of the second round of the 2004 presidential elections that eventually led to the victory of the democratic candidate Viktor Yushchenko in free and fair elections.[44]

            Following the PORA model, the youth opposition movement in Belarus will have to work together with NGO’s and other international election monitors to organize an effective election day monitoring program. Evidence of past election fraud led the international community, including the United States to officially not recognize the results of the 2001 Belarus elections. [45] Judging from past behavior, it is certain that the 2006 presidential elections, with so much on the line for the Lukashenko regime, will likely be tampered with. The Belarus youth opposition movement should anticipate and be prepared to react to election fraud that included forged ballots, illegal voting, falsifications of voter lists, vote-buying and intimidation of voters, and violations of the law by members of the polling station commissions. It is the immediate reaction to the inevitable voter fraud that will determine the success of free and fair elections in Belarus.

            Using evidence obtained by the election monitoring program that will be set up on election day, the youth opposition movement, using sources of independent media (discussed infra), will need to release a public press release, not only to the citizens of Belarus, but to the international community, describing the voting violations that took place and declaring that the youth movement and the people of Belarus do not accept the election results. This public press release will not only serve as a notice to the people of Belarus that their electoral processes are illegitimate, but it will also serve as the justification for the massive street protests that the youth opposition will have to organize starting election night, and proceeding as long as long as necessary, until election results are officially declared void.

            Prior to taking to the streets, the Belarus youth movement will need to co-ordinate with the main democratic opposition leader and his party (discussed infra), and work together with the candidate and his party to achieve election victory for him. As will be discussed later, the main opposition candidate will likely already be known before election day, thus eliminating any surprise candidates who can seriously challenge for victory. The youth movement in Belarus will likely have to co-ordinate with that democratic opposition leader and his party prior to election day, anticipating an illegitimate second place finish, and thus preparing together for the upcoming protest. The press release declaring unfair elections will have to include a statement made by the democratic opposition leader. The opposition leader will also have to be a central part of the demonstration process, this includes creating giant posters with the opposition leaders face, slogans with his name, and organized speeches at the demonstrations. Thus a coordinated effort between the opposition political party and the youth movement prior to and during the street protests is essential.

            A serious difficulty that did not face the Ukrainian youth opposition but may face the Belarus youth movement, will be the lack of a second round of elections. The Belarus Constitution states that a winner must have 50% of the vote in order to avoid a second round of run-off elections. The most likely scenario will have Lukashenko “officially” declared a winner with more than 50% of the vote, thus eliminating the need for a second runoff. Such a hypothesis has precedent in 2001, as merely an hour after the polls closed, and in violation of the election rules he himself had carefully doctored in his favor, President Lukashenko went on national television to proclaim his "convincing victory."[46] This will put the Belarusian youth movement on new ground, as unlike in Ukraine where neither candidate received the mandatory 50%, there will be no chance to stage mass protests in between potential stages in the electoral process. This will only heighten the need for immediate mass protest on the streets of Minsk and other cities on election night. With no possibility of second round run offs, the key message will have to be that the elections were rigged, and must not be accepted here and now.        

            With voting regularities recorded and election results seen as being rigged, and  the opposition party leader and his party on board, the youth movement will have to stage the most elaborate and prominent street protest within its powers, taking to the streets in numbers, and preparing to stay there until the election results are declared illegal. The impact of a massive, well organized street protest cannot be understated. Had it not been merely a few thousand people, but hundreds of thousand of people protesting the 2001 election, the Lukashenko victory would have been cast into serious doubt.[47] Bringing together 100,000 people to peacefully protest the election results and demand a fair electoral process will achieve significantly greater results for Belarus.

            With months of preparation and planning, the youth opposition movement will be able to have the infrastructure and support in place to stage meaningful and powerful street protests. Following the Ukraine model, “tent” cities will need to be set up on the major boulevards and squares in cities all across the country, but in particular in the capital, Minsk. These tent cities, comprised of active volunteers and leaders of the youth movement, as well as others sympathetic to the cause, and even ordinary Belarusian citizens who believe in the goals and message of the youth movement. The tent cities should be clad in the chosen color of the revolutionary movement, full of banners, loudspeakers, flags, and other visual and audio tools aimed at spreading the message. The use of celebrities, or popular music groups who are sympathetic to the cause would serve as a means of legitimacy for the protests. The success of the street protests and the tent cities is based exclusively on the numbers of people willing to come support the cause. Adding legitimacy, and eliminating the perception that this is merely a disorganized student rally, would serve to overcome the barriers that ordinary citizens who are afraid to take political action would have in joining the demonstrations.

            If organized ahead of time and carefully planned by the inner core of the youth movement, these tent cities and street protests will have a significant effect on the Belarusian people. Since local state run television and other media outlets would be forbidden from giving coverage to the protests, the movement will have to grab the attention of the masses by being so prominent that it cannot be ignored. The participants in the demonstrations and those inside the tent cities would have to prepare for as many days or weeks as would be needed before successful results, namely the declaring of the elections as illegitimate, would take place. By becoming so large and so prominent that they cannot be ignored, the demonstrators and activists of the youth movement will not only catch the attention of the people of Belarus, but also of the international community.     

            International attention being given to the street protests is key to their success.  Given his history of utilizing violence to repress demonstrations, and his prior threats to in fact combat any “color” revolution” in Belarus, it is likely that Lukashenko will utilize military force to suppress any election day uprising. Participants making their temporary homes on the streets in the tent communities will likely face stern opposition from the Lukashenko regime. Thus, being as large as possible in numbers would not only make the military effort more difficult, any military action brought against such a large demonstration would likely attract international outrage toward the Lukashenko regime. Large scale international attention given to the protesters would hinder Lukashenko’s abilities to wage a violent attack upon the non-violent demonstrations, and would likely result in the legitimizing of the movement in the eye of the Belarusian people.  

            If properly organized, coordinated with the main opposition party, and executed properly, the mass election night demonstrations in Minsk and the other major cities in Belarus would go far in overturning the inevitably illegitimate election results in the 2006 presidential elections. Although faced with potential for violent repression, the opposition youth movement will need to stand up to the Lukashenko regime’s threats, and be able to carry out mass protests, for as long as it takes to achieve fair and democratic elections in Belarus. This final and critical phase of the youth opposition movement, if carried out properly, would be the climax of months of work and preparations by the youth movement, and should result in eventual free and fair elections for Belarus, thus ending the Lukashenko regime’s strangle hold on Belarusian society.


III. United We Stand: The Need for Political Unity and Organization

            Similar to the youth opposition movement, the unification and organization of the major opposition political parties in Belarus is critical to the potential removal of Lukashenko from power in 2006. Since Lukashenko’s election in 1994, the democratic, pro-western opposition parties and their leaders have suffered numerous failures, and these failures have led to a further usurping of power by Lukashenko, and consequently a move away from western integration. Although signs of progress have been made recently, the opposition parties in Belarus remain weak and unorganized. To achieve real success in turning the autocratic political rule in Belarus into a pro democratic, pro-western regime, the political opposition parties in Belarus will have to: 1) unite into a coherent unit and select a single candidate to challenge Lukashenko in 2006; 2) work with Belarusian pro-democratic NGO’s and organizations that are working toward achieving regime change in Belarus; and 3) work closely with the youth opposition movement in coordinating protests and spreading the revolutionary message to the masses.    

            1) The need for a political coalition and one main opposition candidate

            The unification among the political parties in Belarus will likely be a more difficult process than the unification of the youth groups into a coherent youth opposition movement. Even though there exist several prominent opposition parties, it seems as though finding a common platform for unification for these parties may be easier said than done in Belarus. As Jauhen Afnagel, leader of the youth group ZUBR says. "We have fewer problems agreeing with each other than grown-ups."[48] If there is one common platform that all the opposition parties in Belarus share, that platform is the unanimous

 desire to see Lukashenko leave the presidential office in 2006. By utilizing this common desire to see regime change, the opposition parties may find that they are not that far apart on the issues as they seem to be.

            There are numerous anti-Lukashenko opposition parties currently in Belarus, among the major ones are: The Belarusian Popular Front or BNF; Belarusian Social-Democrat Party; Belarusian Social-Democratic Party; United Civic Party or UCP; Party of Communists Belarusian or PKB; and the Women's Party "Nadezhda”.[49] Together, these main opposition parties are governed by the Permanent Council of Democratic Forces (PDSDS), an umbrella body coordinating the activities of the opposition.[50]

            Present throughout these parties there are numerous candidates wanting to challenge Lukashenko in 2006. Still, a major obstacle is that the Belarusian opposition parties are too weak to organize a full-scale election campaign for one single candidate, let alone for half-a-dozen. Only by standing behind a single candidate and doing their best to persuade Belarusian voters on that candidates merits, can the Belarusian political parties achieve a successful color revolution in their country.

            Recently, major steps to achieving such unity occurred. On October 2 of this year, the leaders of the opposition parties in the PDSDS in Belarus held a congress of pro-democratic forces in Minsk at which they elected Alyaksandr Milinkevich as their candidate for the 2006 presidential election.[51] Milinkevich received 399 votes, defeating his closest challenger, Anatol Lyabedzka of the United Civic Party by just eight votes. Other candidates, such as leader of the Party of Communist Syarhey Kalyakin and Social Democrat and former parliamentary chairman Stanislau Shushkevich withdrew. [52] Milinkevich was the candidate of the nationalist Belarusian Popular Front, and initially proposed by the Green Party. Aged 58, he is an academic who was a member of the Faculty of Physics at Hrodna State University for more than 20 years. Fluent in five languages, he also attended the University of California, as well as an institute for security studies in Germany. In addition to his impressive credentials, Milinkevich is known for his tolerance and moderation, advocates a desire to return authority to the legislature that it possessed from the 1994 Constitution, and aims for a gradual shift toward gradual western integration.[53]

            Although the now seemingly united opposition coalition has its chosen candidate, if all else is left as is, today, prospects for a real victory in 2006 seem bleak. An analysis of Milinkevich's chances for victory, naively assuming that election fraud wont occur, shows that the electoral support for Lukashenko hovers around 40%, while no opposition leader to date can muster more than 3% individually.[54] However, if the new found unity recently displayed by the opposition parties can stay true to form, than Milinkevich stands to see significant increases in those numbers. In the 2001 election, although voting irregularities conceal the true results, officially, the opposition leader won only 15% of the vote nationwide, but around 30% in the city of Minsk.[55]

            To see significant increases in those numbers, it is essential that Milinkevich and the united opposition parties work with Belarusian pro-democratic NGO’s, as well as with the youth opposition movement to create a fully functional and effective political campaign.

            2.) The political opposition working with NGO’s

            There are currently approximately 2,500 NGOs registered in Belarus.[56] Many of these NGO’s operate specifically in the political sector, but over the past decade, and particularly since the 2001 presidential election, the Lukashenko regime has stepped up its pressure on politically associated NGO’s. As a result, it has become almost impossible for organizations deemed unacceptable to the government to operate and register legally. Unregistered organizations and initiative groups have been subjected to severe persecution, often leading to fines or arrests of their leading activists. NGOs are subject to the same rates of taxation on earned income as for-profit companies, thus making it difficult for them to obtain local funding. Neither individual nor corporate sponsors receive tax deductions for donations to NGOs. Furthermore, the law does not protect NGOs from state interference. Many organizations have had their technical equipment, including equipment financed by international donors, illegally confiscated. In addition, many organizations are plagued with endless inspections by controlling bodies ranging from the tax police to firefighters.  The "situation is getting worse every year," said Ales Belyatsky, leader of the Vesna rights watchdog group, one of the more than 60 nongovernmental organizations that Lukashenko has banned since last year. Belyatsky`s group is now running an office from a private apartment.[57]

            This troubling trend is likely to get even worse as the 2006 elections approach. The United States has taken notice, and recently publicly criticized the Lukashenko regime for their arrest, detention and conviction of Belarusian citizens participating and working in the Partnership organization who were peacefully and legally meeting in Minsk.[58] Partnership was a Belarusian non-governmental organization devoted to training Belarusians to be election observers and to educate Belarusians on their voter rights under Belarusian law.

             Despite these obstacles, NGO’s, especially politically active pro-democratic NGO’s have been able to survive, although be it quietly. To overcome the local funding restrictions, anti-Lukashenko NGO’s have relied on foreign funding. By doing so, they have been more able to survive under the radar, and have mounted a semi-effective campaign aimed at promoting democratic reform in Belarus. Moreover, a recent trend among the NGO’s is a growing understanding of the need to unite, which has resulted in the creation of five new coalitions involving approximately 100 NGOs that advocate on behalf of NGOs and coordinate election-related activities. The Assembly of Pro-Democratic NGOs played the most active role in organizing the civic election observation and non-partisan get-out-the-vote campaigns. In 2001, a large coalition of citizens' organizations, Independent Observation, supported by USAID and OSCE, mobilized over 10,000 people to monitor voting throughout the country.[59] This kind of successful mobilization is a strong sign that despite heavy obstacles, Belarusian NGO’s can be a powerful force in dethroning Lukashenko, and thus the opposition parties and their leaders must work with NGO’s in preparing for the 2006 elections.

            A carefully planned and implemented campaign between the united opposition would rely heavily on discreet and underground type of electoral warfare, similar to that of the youth opposition movement. Lukashenko tight grip over NGO’s means that the political opposition must be careful in associating with NGO’s that Lukashenko deems a threat. By working too closely and too publicly with NGO’s that Lukashenko deems a menace, the opposition threatens to bring upon itself even more negative publicity from the state run media. Thus efforts between pro-democratic NGO’s and the opposition will have to be secretive. Key funding that NGO’s will be able to provide for the opposition will have to be disbursed and spent in a manner that cannot be traced by the Lukashenko regime. As well, the opposition candidate, whether Alyaksandr Milinkevich or other, will have to be careful when associating with NGO’s deemed illegal by Lukashenko. Not only would this risk hurting the candidate in the public eye, but it would also further crackdowns on the NGOs and its leaders. By working together carefully, the opposition could utilize the abundant source of funding, manpower, and other assistance that NGO’s could bring toward an effective revolutionary campaign.

            3) The political opposition working with the youth opposition movement

            As discussed extensively above, the youth opposition movement in Belarus will likely be the key catalyst to organizing a true civic campaign with the goal of removing the Lukashenko regime from power. Accordingly, the united opposition political parties must work closely with the students and young activists within the youth opposition movement to achieve success on election day.

             Coordination between the youth groups and political parties should be conducted very closely. Iryna Vidanava, a former coordinator for the Assembly of Belarusian Pro-Democratic NGOs and the editor-in-chief of Studentskaya Dumka says "The activists of these [youth] groups will be the major 'work force' for the democratic candidate, the civic mobilization campaign, and the independent [election] observation team. They will be bringing out their supporters to distribute materials and knock on doors, organizing and participating in Get Out the Vote campaigns,"[60] Vidanava further believes that youth groups will not just work for the opposition candidate, but will also help shape overall strategy. "In some way they will be mediators between the democratic opposition and young people," she says. "They will have to establish a two-way communication channel between the democratic forces and young people.” [61]

            The prominence of the youth opposition movement signifies that the older generation of politicians in the opposition parties must work together with the youth opposition movement. Being that these political parties would better be able to raise funds, it is essential that money raised by the party go into supporting the youth oppositions activates. Working together with the youth serves a key purpose for the political opposition in that the youth would essentially do the type of ground work that the politicians in the party could not. The youth movement not only has a better knowledge of the Internet and related technology, but it also has the volunteers that would be willing to be beaten, arrested, and even deported for their cause. The young protesters passing out leaflets, organizing concerts, and protesting in city squares operate as a shield for the political parties who cannot subject their high officials to jail times or deportations. In particular, opposition candidate Alexander Milinkevich will need to work with the youth movement in putting his face on posters, billboards, and other promotional techniques. With the above benefits that the youth opposition brings to the table in mind, the political opposition parties must reach out to the youth movement, and work in collusion with the youth movement to achieve maximum results.





IV. EXTRA! EXTRA!: The Impact of an Independent Media

            The current status of the media in Belarus is disturbing. With each passing day, another source of independent media is shut down, or another journalist is imprisoned, beaten, or fined. The Lukashenko regime’s crackdown on non state owned media has been nothing short of vigilant. Recently, the main Belarus opposition newspaper, Narodnaya Volya, was shut down, its assets were seized, and the printing house and factory responsible for distributing the newspaper annulled their agreements on the grounds that Narodnaya Volya had published materials that contradict the laws of the Republic of Belarus, specifically the law "On the Press and other Mass Media."[62] To overcome the obstacles that the regime has brought down on it, the independent media, which remains a vital source for the opposition movement, must take advantage of modern technology and use the Internet, as well as TV and Radio feeds from foreign soil in order to reach the Belarusian people. And, the newspapers and magazines that have been shut down that cannot utilize technology, must change direction and go underground with its printing press, forming an alliance with the political and youth opposition movement to form clandestine channels of distribution networks. By utilizing technology and underground revolutionary tools, the independent media can gibe the people of Belarus an accurate picture of the state of their country.    

            1) Say what? The problem of the state run media monopoly

            As demonstrated in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan, the independent media can serve as a powerful force in non violent revolutionary movements in the former Soviet Republics. The lack of an objective state run media was present in all of the color

revolutions, and this vital element is certainly not missing in Belarus under the Lukashenko regime.

             In Belarus today, a large number of print outlets, all national television stations, and most radio stations, in Belarus are controlled by the state. This is done through direct budget subsidies and a monopoly on printing, distribution and broadcasting facilities.[63] The government, having this control, is able to utilize their monopoly over the media to not only promote and exaggerate the current economic and social prosperity in the country, but also to suppress any foreign or negative information regarding Belarus’ current plight. Further, any outside information that is allowed is usually taken from Russian media, but these re-broadcasted Russian television programs are often manipulated through the insertion of Belarusian footage presented as part of the Russian program.[64] Quite simply, citizens do not receive objective information from the state-controlled media.

            The situation is also quite disturbing for journalists in Belarus. In May of 2002, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) named Belarus one of the 10 worst places in the world to be a journalist. Since that time, the situation of the country's independent media has deteriorated further, as Lukashenko has mounted a comprehensive assault on all dissenting independent and opposition press. In the wake of the media hijacking, the movement toward a viable and efficient independent media has been curtailed. Independent newspapers and magazines exist, but they are constantly faced with government harassment and a lack of distribution sources.  Independent radio broadcasts are limited to non-political music and advertising. Independent TV-channels exist, but they are scarce, and are only available via satellite, which due to the economic plights of the country, most cannot afford.  

            Many tactics are used by the government to suppress any dissenting or independent opposition voices. Independent newspapers and radio and TV stations must continuously register and re-register with the government. Media outlets also need to have a business address to be registered, and often times the rent is spiked on the rented premises of these media outlets pressure them out. The regime also has a virtual monopoly on subscription/retail distribution of print media, as well as a virtual printing monopoly. Tax inspections and illegal audits are common to non state sanctioned media outlets. And finally, the government works diligently to not only pressure advertisers to withdraw their contracts with independent media outlets, but it also significantly limits access to information for independent media.[65]

            The effects of the crackdown have been significant and successful for the regime. According to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe:



            As a result of these “filtering” difficulties, according to the Belarus Association of Journalists, the number of independent media outlets in 2004 fell from 50 to 18. [67]There was only one independent daily in the country, Narodnaya Volya, but it has recently been shut down. The rest are weeklies or even more irregular publications. The combined weekly circulation of all independent media taken together is only a fraction of the state based paper circulation. According to the Ministry of Information, the number of new newspapers registered decreased from 132 in 2000, to only 51 in 2004. The number of newspapers suspended in 2004 was 24, up from 0 in 2000. [68]

            The political influence of the state run media monopoly is a key obstacle to the success of fair and free elections and subsequent democratic regime change in 2006. In 2004, the long-standing government pressure on independent newspapers intensified in the run-up to the October elections.[69] State run TV heavily backed pro Lukashenko forces and painted negative portraits of opposition candidates. As well, oppression of the very futile independent media heightened, and some printing houses were pressured to stop printing independent newspapers, damaging their circulation. Even several large stores in Minsk refused to sell independent print media.[70] Around a dozen print media outlets were suspended within the preceding two months, mostly for violating largely formalistic registration requirements. Changes to the publishing schedule of the newspaper Navinki was one of the grounds for its three-month suspension by the Ministry of Information.  Journalists who criticized the government faced prosecution. In September a court convicted Alena Raubetskaia, editor-in-chief of the Birzha Informacii newspaper, on defamation charges after the paper criticized the referendum on lifting presidential term limits.[71]  All these actions turned out to be successful in helping pro government leaders get elected.

            2) Steps to insure a successful independent media   

            Although the situation seems overwhelming, there are some steps that the people of Belarus can take to insure that a fair and balanced independent media can thrive in Belarus, particularly in time for the 2006 election. The opposition movement, working together both at the political and youth level, with international funding and support will need to: 1) use technology to operate Internet based media and to provide outside satellite television and radio feeds into Belarus from neighboring countries; 2) use an underground printing press and distribution network to avoid legal obstacles; and 3) grant asylum in Europe to Belarusian journalists expelled or threatened by Lukashenko.

                        a) Independent Internet, television and radio feeds

            Much like the utilization of technology is crucial in expanding and coordinating the activities of the youth opposition movement, technology remains the most vital element in creating a functioning and effective independent media in Belarus. There are two specific ways that the opposition can use a technological advantage in getting around the strict media guidelines imposed by the regime. First, the opposition must utilize the Internet and create untraceable, and effective Internet feeds into the country, thus creating websites where independent media sources can work effectively. Second, the opposition must work with foreign governments and NGO’s in creating television and radio feeds from foreign soils that cannot be terminated by the Lukashenko regime.      

            Much like an Internet web page should be utilized by the youth movement as a source of information for recruiting and organization, independent media sources need to utilize Internet web sites as a means of publishing and promoting opposition ideas in a manner that doesn’t reflect propaganda, but reflects a more realistic, unbiased news source. This shouldn’t be difficult, because the people of Belarus for the most part are aware that the situation in their country is not as rosy as portrayed by the government. Therefore, true information about the true economic state of the country, and reports of human rights abuses and other social curbs put into place by the regime would resonate well with the people. Thus independent newspapers who’s printing presses have been shut down or who’s licenses have been revoked, could be able to publish crucial information. Through these web sites, independent media sources can reach a mass audience. As evidenced earlier, out of a population of 10,300,483, there are 1,391,900 Internet users in Belarus.[72]

            A key downside to Internet web page news sources is that these web pages would not be able to reach a key audience, the older generation living in rural areas, who lack Internet access. However, this source of independent media would be able to reach the technologically save youth and middle aged working population, particularly in the urban cities such as Minsk. Secure, untraceable, and effective Internet web pages, blogs, and chat rooms can be utilized by journalists without the pitfalls of government regulation. Thus by utilizing this technological advantage, independent media sources can spread the message of truth and revolution to a mass audience, without fearing repercussions such as fined or imprisonment from the government.    

                Second, the use of live radio and television feeds from foreign soil into Belarus is a key technological advantage that can be taken by the opposition in effectively utilizing an independent media to promote regime change. Support for independent media has already been expressed by Belarus’ neighbors, including Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic States to the north.[73] With the assistance of these foreign governments and NGO’s within their borders, live television and radio feeds could be a great source of independent media in Belarus.

            It must be recognized that television feeds, although potentially a great resource for independent media, and still a viable alternative to state run media, are realistically not as effective as the Internet and even radio because of the difficulties of getting satellite registration and the difficulty of having people actually receiving the feeds. The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPT) is in charge of telecoms policy, licensing, and certification of equipment and tariff approval. And although the use of satellite dishes to receive TV is permitted, cable and satellite television broadcasters must obtain a license from the MPT. This presents a challenge for any independent media sources, because obtaining a license for such sources is impossible. Thus, to reach the audience, independent media sources utilizing satellite TV would likely have to originate their satellite feed in foreign countries.  On top of the initial registration obstacle, there are few homes in Belarus receiving direct to home (DTH) satellite programming. Due to the prohibitive cost of buying and installing individual satellite dishes, most satellite reception in Belarus is via collective antennae (SMATV and CATV).[74] Thus, a more effective independent media source is live radio feeds into Belarus.

            Live radio feeds into Belarus from foreign countries present a more viable alternative to television feeds. Radio feeds are would be more effective particularly in reaching the rural areas, near the borders with Ukraine, Poland, and Lithuania and Latvia to the north. In fact, all signs are pointing to the coming of fruition of these foreign radio feeds. During an international seminar in September of 2005, organized by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and the European Parliament (EP), it was stressed that an independent radio station for Belarus should be broadcasting from one of Belarus` neighbor countries. [75]

            Recently, the European Commission said that it will start funding independent radio broadcasts to Belarus starting November 1, saying that it will pay 138,000 euros ($169,000) to German broadcaster Deutsche Welle, to make 15-minute daily broadcasts to Belarus.[76] The 15-minute Deutsche Welle broadcasts will run from Monday to Friday and provide news reports from a network of correspondents inside Belarus on political, social, and economic matters. A website will also be created to displaying the texts of the broadcasts with audio files for download.[77] As well, Poland announced in August that it planned to start radio broadcasts to Belarusians who have no access to independent media.[78] The $40 million project is to be funded by the European Union and the plan included setting up transmitters along Belarus' northern border with Lithuania. [79]

             Actions such as the one by the European Union, the European Commission, and foreign governments are a great start, and will be particularly effective for the opposition near election time. Although relatively poor, most citizens in the outer regions of Belarus likely have access to radio. Thus NGO’s and foreign governments that work with independent media could broadcast effectively into Belarus, reaching the outer regions from a basic feed, and can thus be able to spread the opposition message and relay key information to the people in the rural regions that they are unlikely to hear coming from the state run media in Minsk. On a grander scale, satellite radio broadcasts would likely be able to reach into Minsk, but the availability of satellite radio in Belarus is still rare.

                b.) Underground printing press and asylum for journalists

            Besides going abroad, the independent media in Belarus has also been forced to go underground. In October of 2005, when the only Belarusian independent daily Narodnaya Volya was taken of the streets, subscribers mysteriously continued to receive the newspaper.[80] In the face of government opposition, the newspaper had continued an underground production of its newspaper. Such defiance is a great example of what the independent media must do in the age of authoritarianism; go underground. Much like the youth opposition movement will have to operate underground, the independent media must also change the way it can print the news.

            With funding and assistance from foreign governments and NGO’s, independent newspapers, and their publishers and contributors must not cease their production in the face of government action. A successful underground press involves two key components: a printing facility, and distributors. Those newspapers or magazines who are prohibited from printing their work in Belarus must immediately relocate and continue to continue their print operation, albeit on a much smaller and more clandestine scale. The successful participation of the political opposition and the youth opposition is vital to the success of an underground independent printing press.

            The political opposition, who would benefit from the existence of objective, and anti-regime newspapers and magazines, must lend immediate assistance to those media sources who have been shut own by the government. Using political connections or other means, the media sources must relocate their equipment (if not destroyed) and their offices to an undisclosed location, where government detection would be difficult. On certain occasions, moving the offices outside the borders would be a viable alternative, but sneaking the newspapers across the borders on a truly grand scale would be too challenging. Instead, setting up underground printing shops in warehouse districts or other difficult to locate areas in cities such as Minsk, or on farms in rural country-sides presents a better option for the independent media.

            After relocating and continuing its work in the underground, the independent media sources must utilize the youth opposition movement as its source of distribution. A coordinated effort between the independent media and the youth movement would involve the newspapers or magazines using its funding to hire the youth movement as distributors. The youth movement would then follow a similar distribution channel as with the leaflets, fliers, stickers, and other sources of propaganda that they would be distributing as a part of the movements activities. Once again, distribution in largely populated city squares, and on public transportation would be the ideal way to reach the largest audience. By having the location of the printing press concealed, and by having youth distribute the newspapers and magazines, the independent media would be able to avoid detection, and still have its message reach a wide audience.

            Although most underground journalists would need to write under pseudonyms and use other clandestine techniques to avoid detection, if they are caught, it is vital that an international safety net exists for the independent media’s journalists to be able to have a safe escape into foreign territory. Neighboring countries like Poland, Ukraine, and the Balkans, as well as the entire European Union and possibly the United States would need to offer asylum, or other means of safe extradition for journalists who are caught expressing views contrary to government policy, whether underground or through the mainstream.

            Despite constitutional safeguards protecting free speech, the Lukashenko regime has continued massive human rights violations against journalists. The right to freedom of expression in Belarus is guaranteed both domestically, by Article 33 of the Belarusian Constitution, and by international treaties which Belarus has ratified and is therefore legally bound to observe. However, Belarus has frequently been criticized both domestically and internationally for violation of these rights, particularly with regard to lack of press freedom in the country.[81]  Within the past few years, numerous journalists have disappeared, and although many more are thought to have been murdered, officially 1 journalist has been killed.[82] To protect those journalists who face repercussions, and to promote the independent media, foreign governments must work to offer asylum or other security to susceptible journalists.

            Given safety outside the Belarus borders, these journalists could continue to write for the underground media and be an inspiration for the opposition movement. As well, these expelled journalists could work in promoting the opposition cause in European countries, thus further de-legitimizing the Lukashenko regime. Overall, although the obstacles remain stacked against the independent media in Belarus, a move to the underground and a safety valve from neighboring countries could assure that the independent media in Belarus can continue to work with the opposition in promoting real, and positive change for Belarus.















V. All eyes on Belarus: International Intervention and Support


            In addition to the work done in Belarus internally by the political opposition, youth opposition, NGO’s and the independent media; the influence of the international community remains one of the most vital parts of the push for democratization and regime change in Belarus. At the forefront of the international push to dethrone Lukashenko are the United States and the European Union. Both the U.S. and the EU have great interest in democratic reform and regime change in Belarus, from an economic and social perspective. A democratic, pro-western, Belarus benefits the Belarusian people as well as the U.S. and EU.

            a.) The United States: Strong words but a need for stronger action.

            On October 20, 2004, President Bush signed into law the Belarus Democracy Act of 2004.[83] The act in part:


            The Belarus Democracy Act represents a step in the right direction for the U.S., as it announces publicly and formally the U.S.’s dislike for the Lukashenko regime. However, the Lukashenko regime has ignored the Act, using it as political clout by spreading the act’s aggressive language at home to promote its policies. To actually be effective, the U.S. needs to: 1) specifically interact with the united political opposition in Belarus, promoting the opposition candidate, and funding the opposition’s resources inside Belarus; 2) specifically work with the youth opposition movement by funding their activities and providing legal assistance for their leaders; and 3) impose light non-economic sanctions, and sanctions aimed at making the regime less legitimate at home, such as visa bans and travel restrictions for government leaders.        

                        1)The U.S. working with unified political opposition

            The U.S. needs to do more than just promote free elections and commend the democratic opposition. The U.S. needs to work first hand with Alyaksandr Milinkevich, or another main opposition candidate if he is the backed choice of the united opposition movement. This means that the U.S. needs to invite the opposition candidate to the White House, or set up a meeting with him somewhere, to send a message that the opposition candidate is legitimate and can be worked with if elected. The U.S. needs to establish common platforms with the opposition candidate and the unified opposition. These platforms and agreements could then be used by the opposition candidate in the campaign. By agreeing in principal to trade agreements and other U.S.-Belarusian platforms, the opposition candidate would be able to campaign on promises of economic co-operation between Belarus and the U.S. This would likely resonate well with the downtrodden Belarusian public, tired of the economic hardship and lack of trading partners in the west under the Lukashenko regime.

            Having a superior knowledge in a fair electoral process, the U.S. needs to work directly with the opposition in teaching essential skill such as campaigning, public speaking, election monitoring, and other electoral knowledge. The U.S. needs to work closely with the opposition in developing campaign slogans and campaign strategies. Most importantly, the U.S. must fund, by providing either manpower (if allowed), or equipment, to monitor election day activities. If not allowed to actually have U.S. representatives monitoring the elections (which will likely be the case), the U.S. needs to train Belarusian election monitors, and provide the equipment and supplies necessary for the training and the carrying out of the election monitoring activities.     

            Furthermore, as part of the funding described earlier, the U.S. needs to work with the support behind the campaign of the opposition movement, including financing NGO’s and independent media that would be working to help the opposition leader get elected. This means providing funding and assistance for the technological and underground activities that the independent media will have to take. This also means providing funding and political support for NGO’s working to promote democracy in Belarus.

                        2) The U.S. working with the youth opposition movement.

            Besides working with the political opposition, the U.S. needs to have actual and efficient contact with the youth opposition movement that will be so crucial to the success of the regime change in Belarus. In the past, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has met with Zubr representatives in a visit to Lithuania. As well, Studentskaya Dumka has in the past received support from the U.S. State Department.[85] However, more substantial and serious contact between the U.S. and the youth opposition movement, coupled with increased funding of youth activities is necessary.    

            To further legitimize the youth opposition movement, coordinated meetings between representatives of the youth movement and U.S. representatives need to take place. Not only would these meetings be important for the youth movement in that it would obtain key information and support from the U.S., the youth movement would also be able to publicize its meetings with the U.S. in their leaflets and posters and other means of public communication as discussed earlier. The significance of this cannot be understated because in the eyes of the common Belarusian citizen, the youth opposition would be viewed as more than just rebellious students, but as serious international political players. After all, if several 20 something students could obtain a meeting with representatives of the U.S. and the president cannot, maybe the people of Belarus will agree that it is time for change.

            On top of face to face meeting, the U.S. would obviously have to pour in financing to the youth opposition for things needed for their successful campaign. (See supra for discussion on these activities). But besides pure financial help, the U.S. would be able to play a key role by providing legal assistance to youth activists who’s human and political rights have been violated by the Lukashenko regime. The U.S.’s needs to not only support NGO’s that promote free speech, fair elections, and human rights, the U.S. also needs to work firsthand through its government’s human rights lawyers to defend and protect youth opposition leaders and activists who have no help otherwise. Another viable alternative would be to train young lawyers from Belarus in international law and human rights law. The U.S., having a superior knowledge in the field would be able to train young lawyers who are either active or support in the opposition movement, giving the youth movement some sort of legal support in its struggle.

                        3) The U.S. needs to impose light sanctions aimed at lessening the                                   legitimacy of the regime

            As proposed in the Belarus Democracy Act of 2004, the U.S. government should impose sanctions, albeit on a small scale, against the Lukashenko regime. The proposed sanctions should include: 1) light economic sanctions such as limiting U.S. aid except for humanitarian aid and medical products; and 2) freezing bank accounts and restricting foreign travel for regime leaders. Such sanctions can succeed by de-legitimizing the regime at home. However, the sanctions must be imposed carefully, so as to not play into the hands of the regime. Imposing heavy sanctions, such as complete restrictions on trade and delivery of aid, would only serve to promote the regime in Belarus by making the U.S. and the West seem as an enemy of the Belarusian people. However, carefully imposed economic sanctions could serve a useful purpose, by making the Lukashenko regime look weak in the eyes of the people. The goal must be to not cripple the economy to the extent that anti U.S. rhetoric will become popular.

            However, a serious consideration that must be taken into account before imposing sanctions is the potential harmful affect that sanctions can have on the U.S. economy. Since 1970, unilateral US sanctions have achieved foreign policy goals in only 13 percent of the cases where they have been imposed.[86] In addition to whatever effect repeated failure may have on the credibility of US leadership, other recent research suggests that economic sanctions are costing the United States $15 billion to $19 billion annually in potential exports.[87] This, in turn, translates into 200,000 or more jobs lost in the relatively highly compensated export sector[88] Despite the above numbers, small scale light economic sanctions, if carefully implemented by the U.S., would likely serve the purpose of weakening the Lukashenko regime at home.

            A viable alternative to only economic sanctions, are sanctions aimed at the leaders of the regime personally, through the freezing of regime leadership bank accounts abroad, and travel sanctions placed upon regime leaders. These sanctions can and should be used by the U.S. government to decrease the legitimacy of the regime in the minds of the Belarusian people. The figure heads at the top of the regime, including Lukashenko himself, would be viewed as an inept and weak due to their inability to achieve such basic political acts as traveling abroad to meet foreign leaders. Similarly, by freezing foreign bank accounts of the regime leaders, would send a sign to the Belarusian people that their leaders are not respected by the international community. Most importantly, the opposition would be able to use the imposition of these types of sanctions, to point out the shortcomings of the regime leaders, and promising the Belarusian people a stronger and more internationally respected leadership after the 2006 elections. 

              b) The European Union: Strategic location and money to spend 

            The European Union serves a vital role in the promotion of democratization and regime change in Belarus. With its expansion into the former Soviet Bloc countries like Poland, the EU now borders Belarus, and can thus serve an essential geo-political role in the democratization of Belarus. Like the United States, the EU should increase its efforts to support civil society in Belarus. Besides working with the political and youth opposition directly and imposing light economic sanctions and travel bans on Belarusian leaders, the EU can take several other key steps to promote regime change, by utilizing its proximity to Belarus.

            Primarily, the EU needs to serve as a host for the independent media that could stream into Belarus. For example, a radio or TV station which could operate from Lithuania or Poland would be unregulated by the Lukashenko regime and would benefit the opposition leaders as an alternative source of information for the Belarusian people. (See earlier discussion of independent media). The EU has already taken steps toward financing an independent media in Belarus by spending 2 million euros on funding for television and radio broadcasts into Belarus.[89] Recently, the EU awarded a 138,000-euro contract to Germany's Deutsche Welle Radio to begin broadcasts to Belarus.[90]  More investment on such projects would ensure that an independent media would be successful in Belarus.

            Additionally, the EU should provide scholarships to young Belarusians who have either been expelled for promoting anti-regime rhetoric or to those youths from universities closed down by the regime. Offering continuing education in Europe’s institutions of higher learning would enable the youths to continue their studies in one of the EU member states, while at the same time learning more about democratic reform that could occur in their home country.

            Finally, the EU must offer some sort of public condemnation of the Lukashenko regime, something similar to the Belarus Democracy Act of 2004 from the U.S. An official, signed, and unanimous call for democratic change in Belarus coming from Brussels would send a message to the Belarusian people that its European neighbors, and the entire international community, not just the U.S., supports a regime change in Belarus. Such a public condemnation of the Lukashenko regime would also resonate well with those in Belarus who favor European integration, instead of continued ties to Russia.   








VI. Conclusion: What Color for Belarus?

            For the people of Belarus, who have lived under the autocratic rule of Lukashenko and his hard-line regime, the prospects for political change remain desired but difficult to achieve. Belarus remains divided socially and politically, with its population differing on what path their country should take. At the center of the divide is Belarus’ autocratic leader, Alexander Lukashenko, who has successfully manipulated his constituency, while suppressing the opposition, throughout his tumultuous years as President. With an economy on the verge of collapse, and declining social and political freedoms, the people of Belarus have started to realize that the years under the Lukashenko regime have transported Belarus back in time, to a Soviet style communist era. Despite this newfound realization, the people of Belarus have been unable to create a unified voice of opposition. With an inherent fear of their government and the consequences of public dissent, the people of Belarus have succumbed to an oppressive regime.   

            Despite difficult obstacles, there remains hope for the people of Belarus. The past few years have provided a blue print for modern day non violent revolutionary regime change in the former Soviet Republics. The people of Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan have shown the world that by uniting and working to achieve real democratic change in their homelands, everyday people can overcome the perils of an autocratic regime. In light of the success of the color revolutions in its neighboring countries, it is very reasonable to assume that the people of Belarus will pursue a similar, non violent path to real democratic reform and regime change in their homeland. To truly achieve real democratic reform in their country, the people of Belarus will need to unite, organize, and stand up to repression. To achieve regime change and create a color revolution in Belarus, four key groups must work together under a common goal.

            First, the work of an effective youth opposition movement must serve as the spark for social change. The elements for a successful youth opposition movement are in place in Belarus today. Armed with a comparative advantage in technological knowledge, and inspired by its brothers and sisters in Eastern Europe, the ambitious youth of Belarus is hungry to leave a lasting impact on its society. Yearning for western integration, and suffering from repression at the hands of the Lukashenko regime, the youth of Belarus yearn for realistic political, social, and cultural change in their country. In order to achieve their goals, and dethrone the repressive Lukashenko regime from power, the youth opposition groups existing today in Belarus will have to take four key steps.  First, and most importantly, the various youth opposition groups need to unite into a coherent unit, much like the successful integration of the Ukrainian youth oppositions into the “PORA” civic movement Second, the united youth opposition movement needs to mount a carefully planned underground recruitment process, both at the university level and amongst the general youth population, to expand the base in numbers. Third, the youth movement must organize a well planned campaign to spread the message of regime change and the virtues of a fair electoral process to the masses. Finally, the youth opposition needs to prepare for a climatic election day, and take to the streets in a show of public unity and demonstration to protest what is inevitably going to be a rigged election result in the summer of 2006.

            Second, the often inept and sometimes dysfunctional political opposition must: 1) unite into a coherent unit and select a single candidate to challenge Lukashenko in 2006; 2) work with Belrusian pro-democratic NGO’s and organizations that are aiming  toward achieving regime change in Belarus; and 3) work closely with the youth opposition movement in coordinating protests and spreading the revolutionary message to the masses. It seems as though steps in this direction have been taken, with the Permanent Council of Democratic Forces (PDSDS) recently electing a single candidate, Ayaksandr Milinkevich as the unified opposition candidate in the 2006 election.[91] Continued work under a unified opposition coalition, aiming at regime change in 2006 must progress, without inherent political battles and divisions.

            Third, a viable and prominent independent media will have to overcome the Lukashenko regime’s stranglehold on state run pro government media coverage. To overcome the obstacles that the regime has brought down on it, the independent media, which remains a vital source for the opposition movement, must take advantage of modern technology and use the Internet, as well as TV and Radio feeds from foreign soil in order to reach the Belarusian people. On top of that, the myriad number of newspapers and magazines that have been shut down that cannot utilize technology, must change direction and go underground with its printing press, forming an alliance with the political and youth opposition movement to form clandestine channels of distribution networks.

            Finally, the international community, particularly the United States and the European Union must put international pressure on democratic reform in Belarus. To achieve this, the U.S. and the EU will have to: 1) work with the united political opposition in Belarus, training the opposition in political warfare such as campaigning; 2) work with the youth opposition movement by funding their activities; and 3) imposing light economic sanctions aimed at weakening the legitimacy of the regime at home, including visa bans for the regime leaders and the freezing of regime leaders’ international bank accounts.

            The successful color revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan have shown the international community that a non-violent democratic movement, organized and implemented by the people, can succeed despite the threats and obstacles from the repressive and stubborn autocratic regime. The ingredients for a color revolution are present, and within the next year, positive steps to real social change can occur in Belarus. By implementing the above strategy, real and positive results, in the form of fair and free elections, culminating in the election of a pro-western, non-repressive democratic candidate can occur, and thus, legitimate social change will finally take shape in Belarus.

            What color will it be for Belarus? Will it be green, red, or white, the traditional colors of the Belarus flag? Will it be a bright color like yellow symbolizing sunshine and prosperity for a proud nation? Will there be a color of any kind?  That decision is best left to those brave men and women in Belarus today who look into the future and see their country as a prosperous and free nation. It is these architects of the revolution, the students, the politicians, the working men and women of Belarus who will have to choose their color and choose their battle. With the election of 2006 approaching it is up to this new class of non-violent revolutionaries to take to the streets and achieve real political and social change in their homeland. With the framework for realistic governmental reform in place, the prospects for a free, democratic, and prosperous Belarus remain bright.     





[1] BBC World News (visited Nov. 20) <http://>

[2] BBC World News (visited Nov. 20) <>

[3] Jackson Diehl, Battle for Belarus, Washington Post, January 3, 2005, at A13

[4] Id.

[5] Illana Ozernoy, The Revolution Is On Hold, OK?; The U.S. calls Belarus 'an outpost of tyranny,' but many of its citizens are in no rush for democracy, U.S. News & World Report, 138, no. 18, May 16, 2005, at 30-32.  


[6] (Although Ukraine and Georgia saw relatively bloodless conflict, Kyrgyzstan experienced initial street violence as protesters were met with harsh retaliation by the regime)

see: The Telegraph News (visited Nov. 20, 2005) <>


[7] Adrian Karatnycky, Zigging and Zagging Toward Democracy, Washington Post, Tuesday, November 15, 2005, at A21



[8] Id.

[9] Id


[10] Vladyslav Kaskiv, A case study of the civic campaign PORA: (visited Oct 1, 2005) <    >

[11] Id. 

[12] Id.


[14] Tom Hundley, Bold Moves in Belarus: Democracy Advocates Challenge Europe’s Last Dictatorship, Chicago Tribune, October 4, 2005

[15] Id.

[16] Young Belarusians Fight For Their Future, Baltimore Sun, June 21, 2004 (visited Oct  3, 2004) <>

[17] Vladyslav Kaskiv, A case study of the civic campaign PORA: (visited Oct 1, 2005) <    >

[18] Id.

[19] CIA World Fact Book Belarus (Visited Oct. 4, 2005)<


[20] Id.

[21] CIA World Fact Book Ukraine,(visited Oct. 4, 2005)< geos/up.html>


[22] A case stydu of the civic campaign pora, see:, accessed

[23] CIA World Fact Book Belarus (Visited Oct. 4, 2005)<



[24] Universities and Colleges in Belarus (viewed Oct. 5, 2005) <


[25] Ana Dolgov, Belarus Vote Is Seen as Pivotal, Boston Globe, October 11, 2004

[26] Larissa Titarenko, Post-Soviet Youth: Engagement in Civil Society-Belarus and Beyond, The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, Volume 7, Number 3 (summer 1999), at 413. 

[27] Andres Schipani-Aduriz and Alyaksandr Kudrytski, Banana Revolutions and Banana Skins, Transitions Online (Visited Oct. 6, 2005) < 4&NrIssue=132&NrSection=3&NrArticle=14432>

[28] Clubs and Youth Organizations (visited Oct. 6, 2005)<>

[29] Id                                                          

[30] Larissa Titarenko, Post-Soviet Youth: Engagement in Civil Society-Belarus and Beyond, The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, Volume 7, Number 3 (summer 1999), at 413

[31] Andres Schipani-Aduriz and Alyaksandr Kudrytski, Banana Revolutions and Banana Skins, Transitions Online (Visited Oct. 6, 2005) <>


[32] Vladyslav Kaskiv, A case study of the civic campaign PORA: (visited Oct 1, 2005) <>

[33] Id.

[34] Id.

[35] Id

[36] Id.

[37] Id.


[38] Vladyslav Kaskiv, A case study of the civic campaign PORA: (visited Oct 1, 2005) <>


[39] CIA World Fact Book Belarus (Visited Oct. 4, 2005)<



[40] Vladyslav Kaskiv, A case study of the civic campaign PORA: (visited Oct 1, 2005) <>


[41] Id.

[42] Illana Ozernoy, The Revolution Is On Hold, OK?; The U.S. calls Belarus 'an outpost of tyranny,' but many of its citizens are in no rush for democracy, U.S. News & World Report, 138, no. 18, May 16, 2005, at 30-32.  

[43]  Jackson Diehl, Battle for Belarus, Washington Post, January 3, 2005, at A13


[44] Vladyslav Kaskiv, A case study of the civic campaign PORA: (visited Oct 1, 2005)


[45] United States Supports Non-Recognition of Belarus National Assembly, (visited Oct. 8, 2005)    <>

[46] Alex Campbell, Lessons From Two Elections: Ukraine and Belarus, The Ukrainian Weekly, June 9, 2002, No. 23, Vol. LXX   

[47] Belarus Presidential Elections 2001, (visited Oct. 14, 2005) <>

[48] Andres Schipani-Aduriz and Alyaksandr Kudrytski, Banana Revolutions and Banana Skins, Transitions Online (Visited Oct. 6, 2005)

[49] CIA World Fact Book Belarus (Visited Oct. 4, 2005)<


[50] Andres Schipani-Aduriz and Alyaksandr Kudrytski, Banana Revolutions and Banana Skins, Transitions Online (Visited Oct. 6, 2005)

[51] David Marples, Belarus Opposition Choose its Candidate, (visited Oct. 14, 2005) <>

[52] Id.

[53] Id.


[54] Id.

[55] Id. 

[56] USAID Europe and Eurasia: Belarus (visited Oct. 16, 2005) <>

[57] Ana Dolgov, Belarus Vote Is Seen as Pivotal, Boston Globe, October 11, 2004

[58] Belarus Harassment of NGO Partnership (visited October 16, 2005)     <>

[59] USAID Belarus (visited October 16, 2005) 



[60] Andres Schipani-Aduriz and Alyaksandr Kudrytski, Banana Revolutions and Banana Skins, Transitions Online (Visited Oct. 16, 2005)



[61] Id.

[62] David Marples, Belarusian Authorities Move to Shut Down Main Opposition Newspaper, Eurasia Daily Monitor, Volume 2, Issue 183 (October 03, 2005)

[63] Press Now Media Landscape Belarus (visited Oct 19) <>

[64] Id.

[65] Human Rights Watch Country Summary Belarus (visited Oct. 18)

[66]Miklós Haraszti, Regular report to permanent council of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (March 10, 2005) <>

[67] Id.

[68] Id.

[69]Belarus: Human Rights Concerns for the 61st Session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (visited Oct. 18 2005)


[70] Human Rights Watch Country Summary Belarus (visited Oct. 18) <>

[71] Belarus: Human Rights Concerns for the 61st Session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights (visited Oct. 18 2005)


[72] CIA World Fact Book Belarus (Visited Oct. 4, 2005)<


[73] Press Now Media Landscape Belarus (visited Oct 19) <>

[74]Datafile of Eastern European Communications (visited Oct. 22, 2005) < termometro/boletines/docs/telcos/consultoras/citpubs/1999/CIT_bielorusia_sat_cable_1999.pdf>

[75] Independent radio for Belarus should be based in Latvia, Lithuania or Poland (visited Oct. 28, 2005) <

[76] Belarus: European Commission To Fund Pro-Democracy Radio Broadcasts (visited Oct. 28, 2005) <>

[77] Id.

[78] Lukashenko: Polish Radio Into Belarus 'A Waste Of Time' (visited Oct. 28, 2005)

[79] Id.


[80] Independent Press Forced to Go Abroad and Underground  (visited Nov. 1)  <>

[81] Belarus: As long as there are journalists, there will be prison cells (visited Nov. 1, 2005)    <>

[82] Opposition Journalist Killed in Belarus (Visited Nov. 1, 2005) <>

[83] Belarus Democracy Act of 2004, H.R. 854, 108th Cong. (2004).

[84] Id.


[85] Andres Schipani-Aduriz and Alyaksandr Kudrytski, Banana Revolutions and Banana Skins, Transitions Online (Visited Oct. 6, 2005) < 4&NrIssue=132&NrSection=3&NrArticle=14432>


[87] Id.


[88] Id.

[89] EU boosts funds for independent Belarus broadcasts, (visited Nov. 12, 2005) <>

[90] Id.


[91] See Supra