A visit to Minsk begins here for many travelers. The square is located between the Central Railway Station and Gate Towers, one of Minsk’s landmarks. On July 3, 2011, Independence Day in Belarus, this was the site of ‘silent protests’ – an innovative way to express discontent with the economic situation and dictatorship in the country. Protesters had used increasingly popular social networking sites to coordinate the place and the time of the action. They agreed to carry no posters; no slogans were cried out – they were only clapping their hands in silence. During the first silent protests in June, the police, not knowing how to react, were confused and detained nobody. But on Independence Day, plainclothes police agents grabbed anyone clapping.
In 2013, Belarus leader Alyaksandr Lukashenka, in power for almost 20 years, won Ig Nobel peace prize for making it illegal to applaud in public. The same peace prize went to Belarusian policemen for “arresting a one-armed man for applauding”.
Clapping hands in central Minsk together with like-minded people: the fee starts from $30. The lightest punishment awarded by courts to ‘silent protesters’ was a fine (at least $30 in the local currency) under charges of petty hooliganism.
Photo: Siarhei Hudzilin