Social network revolutions take a break until autumn

Jul 26, 2011
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The past week in Belarus has been marked by two events: the regular meeting of applause on Wednesday, July 20, and the July 21 demonstration by motorists protesting the rise in petrol prices.

This Wednesday’s demonstration was a return to its original organization: participants were called to flock to the central squares of their towns at 7:00 p.m. Viačaslaŭ Dzijanaŭ, an admin of the revolution’s online community, says that the format of each demonstration is based on the preferences of the community subscribers in addition to the the admins of the online community. When polled members of the “Revolution through the Social Networks” group indicated their preference for the central square gatherings, the administrators complied.

This week’s street demonstration was rather small compared to previous ones, though hundreds of people crowded the streets of Minsk, and dozens made the trip to the central squares of their regional centers. In my opinion, the smaller numbers should not be attributed to a fall in feeling. How could they be, when all of their sources continue? the economy keeps stagnating, the multiple currency rates issue remains unresolved, salaries have fallen to 50% of 2010 levels, and prices continue to rise. Neither would I attribute it to the fear. The brutal arrests that took place on June 22 did not prevent thousands of people from coming to the squares on June 29 and July 3. Rather, I think the decline in participation is very simple — it’s summertime. July and August are traditional vacation months, and people are far from Minsk or not up to their usual habits.

But those demonstrations that do occur continue to make an impact. The July 21 demonstration by motorists against the rise in petrol prices caused the police to close the central avenue in Minsk in order to prevent the motorists from gathering there. In doing so, they created tremendous traffic jams in the neighboring streets. This had just the sort of effect the protesters intended, as masses of commuters were alerted to the disruption taking place.

The organizers and participants in the demonstration have been overwhelmingly successful in dispelling the fear the government has been trying to incite through arrests and beatings. People who are not activists or official opposition come out despite arrests and other possible consequences, such as being fired or expelled from university. The day following the demonstration, the flashmob is the talk of the town. It is being discussed in buses, trams, and the metro, as I myself witness during my commute into the city.

The test will come in autumn, when people return home from vacation and are again faced by the familiar series of economic issues and not a single positive development towards their solution.


About the Author

Alaksiej Lavoncyk

Alaksiej Lavonczyk is a media activist and social media expert from Minsk, Belarus. He had been in charge of the training projects for the NGOs and media on building their capacity in online campaigning and end-user security. Alaksiej had also acted as a consulting and technical expert for NGOs and media in Belarus and four countries of Central Asia (except Turkmenistan) on upgrading media/NGO websites to meet contemporary standards, and on their promotion online. Alaksiej is also running an online training centre for the Central Asians preparing the specialists in SMO promotion.
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