"Belarusians want a change, but want others to make it"

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"Belarusians want a change, but want others to make it"

Jaume Vinyas, Spain, freelance journalist 

My story is a little bit particular because my main purpose to visit Belarus wasn´t to practice journalism but to learn Russian on an intensive course. 


Despite having only a student visa I couldn´t help but meet some members of the opposition and hear their impressions about the country’s present and future. I was lucky to have Solidarity with Belarus Information Office´s help. They advised me to contact people with an appropriate grade of discretion, a basic quality for anybody looking to work in that country. 

My Russian skills are very poor but as I studied at a Linguistic University I had the chance to meet people who were able to speak in Spanish, English or Italian. It was really interesting to get in touch with locals. Opposite to the topic, they’re not rude or narrow-minded. They are maybe a little bit wary in the first contact but it’s very easy to gain their trust, at least with the ones I met. In fact, it is very easy to win their confidence when you’re a foreigner. They really appreciate cultural exchange as a new experience. 

And they laugh a lot with Latinos and our innate tendency to speak very loud, an infrequent behaviour in a country where people are very silent because no one trusts that guy sitting in the corner supposedly chatting on his mobile phone. 

It is difficult to speak about politics with them but you can get a general idea of what they think about their government when the most frequent words when they talk about their lives are “boring” and “apathy”. 


One of my closest friends in Minsk offered to show me some suburbs in the city. He summed up life in those places as “a few shops and nothing to do”. 

I think that the general mood in the country is that people want a change but also want some others to make that change. People are afraid of mobilising after the 2011 repressions. On the other hand, one member of the opposition told me that Lukashenko, for the first time, is not popular so the next  elections in 2015 could be very interesting in journalistic terms. I asked my local friends about this and most of them were sceptical. They say most of the people don´t care about politics, they´re used to living under authoritarian regimes and so on. But regime changes are never expected, you can ask in Egypt about that, so let’s keep an eye on Belarus’ evolution. After all, Minsk is a hero city, isn´t it?
Photos (c) Jaume Vinyas

Author: Handbook on Belarus for International journalists