Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

Churches in the 2020 Elections and Anti-War Protests in Belarus: Raising Voices in the Time of Repression and Turmoil

Fri31  Mar12:30pm(20 mins)
James Watt South Room 361


Nikolay Zakharov1
1 Södertörn University, Sweden


In post-communist Europe, the Church still retains its role of a support of the state’s project of national identity, or otherwise it contributes to the preservation of ethnic identity of minorities, but it rarely works as a locus of civil resistance. However, the religious factor unexpectedly became central to both the mobilizations and to government repressions in Belarus, where the initiatives of religious groups have fostered collective action in the state system that is punitive of any dissent. Moreover, the forms of protest that Church could suggest neatly fit into the non-democratic settings of Belarus, providing with a necessary opportunity structure for otherwise forbidden mobilizations. This presentation analyses the position of the Churches on the recent events in Belarus and discusses why their contract with the authoritarian regime was challenged. The study has shown that there is a noticeable correlation between the extent of civil engagement by believers and their specific denominational choice, their choice of a congregation or parish, and even their geographical area. By looking at societal engagement of various religious confessions campaigning for their rights and promoting their visions of desirable political development, this presentation addresses a range of opportunities to engage in civic activism in Belarus.