Now that the Belarussian President, Lukashenko, has lived up to the thuggish reputation that he hoped to preserve, the tools of those denied the space to speak, can be deployed. Lukashenko was a manager of a collective farm, and like all civil steroids from the communist era, he had become sensitive to those who ridicule his status.
Back in the days of the early communist regime in Russia, the newly promoted apparatchiks emulated the mores of their leaders, the sons of Russia's minor landowners and professional classes. They displayed all the pride of a newly promoted insurance underwriter keeping up with the neighbours, except they had the power to send their neighbours to hell. Lukashenko's conscious awareness of his own status is a minor echo from this earlier time, perhaps directed at the communist copies of the haute bourgeoisie, the nomenklatura, that never adapted to the free market in Belarus like their brethren in other transition economies.
Now, the strong tradition of satire is directed at the President of Belarus. Cartoons can be found in both Russian and English at the multclub site, which Lukashenko wished to close down in August 2005. Let us not forget that human rights organisations in Minsk are estimating that four hundred and eighty protestors have been arrested. Most are serving sentences of about ten to fifteen days, since they will probably be expelled from university and rendered unemployable. The withdrawal of such opportunities increases the probability that they will seek employment in the West, and Lukashenko will view the removal of these dissidents as a bonus.
Unlike the totalitarian predecessors of the Belarussian rump state, dissidents are encouraged to leave, sapping the strength of the democratic movement in the country. However, forced to adopt more brutal methods than previously, leaves Belarus more of a thorn in relationships between Russia and the West.
One small prediction: Poland will prove far more effective at fostering the necessary opposition than the European Union. Once Lukashenko falls, documents will show that France and Russia found this blank space in the international map useful.