What “new state” is Lukashenka building – DW – 09/07/2022

Alexander Lukashenko
Alexander LukashenkoPhoto: Maxim Guchek/BelTA Pool Photo via AP/picture alliance

Specially for headings “Belarus. Prospects” political scientist Pavel Usov wrote a column that Lukashenka has begun the final stage of the formation of a “new state” and a “new society” in Belarus, in which he will live comfortably and safely. You can discuss the opinion of a political scientist and share your own under the corresponding post in Telegram channel “DW Belarus”.

The “new state” is a society where, according to the dictator, people will function, if not ideologically loyal to the regime, then at least politically neutral and obedient. The policy of the state must be entirely subordinated to this task. In fact, we are witnessing the process of the formation of a modern state dystopia, which the country’s authorities are trying to put into practice using the methods of classical terror and political purges.

Under the circumstances loss of basic legitimacya deep political crisis and an understanding of what to hold the reins of power in the country without reliance on repression is impossible, Lukashenka will use terror practices as long as he is in power. In addition, terror and purges should ensure maximum consolidation of the bureaucratic and repressive apparatus. Those who understand their “great historical mission” and the correctness of the policy of repression should be in government. It was to create a “moral right” to repression that it was fabricated case of “state conspiracy” led by Zenkovich (sentenced to 11 years in prison), Feduta (10 years in prison), Kostusev (10 years in prison).

Pavel Usov
Pavel UsovPhoto: CEAPP

By creating this “new state” of a neo-totalitarian type in Belarus, the Lukashenka regime actually subordinated all key socio-political institutions, which, like in Putin’s Russia, create a “convenient reality” with the highest possible level of internal mobilization and tension.

Is there any hope for a thaw?

The fact that recently Lukashenka announced the possibility of an amnesty for certain categories of political prisoners does not at all mean hope for a thaw and less pressure on society.

First, the motivation of the dictator in this matter is not the manifestation of “good will.” Here we can rather talk about his confidence that he managed to fully restore internal control in the country and that the repressive apparatus coped with the crisis. On the other hand, it is clear that external influence opposition structures for Belarusians has largely decreased. In addition to fear, society is going through a phase of disappointment and cooling, so the release of even a few dozen or even hundreds of people from prisons will not affect the situation. Moreover, some “repentant” can be used for propaganda purposes.

Secondly, there are a number of requirements that the “prisoner” will have to meet. It must be understood that the most dangerous “enemies of the state” will not fall under the amnesty. And the key condition will be the repentance of the prisoner, writing a petition for pardon addressed to the “president” and a promise to take “the right path.” This is a moral and psychological challenge for those in prison. It is on the moral and psychological suppression that the authoritarian system works.

Moreover, as practice shows, “petition” and so-called “cooperation with the investigation” (the example of Yury Zenkovich in the “conspiracy” case) are not a guarantee of freedom. It, among other things, can be a tool for the purposeful destruction of the psyche and suppression of a person in prison. By manipulating “petitions” or “cooperation with the investigation”, the repressive authorities deliberately create the illusion of hope for release, which the prisoner can buy at the cost of his own convictions. The “administration” reinforces these hopes, extracting everything that is needed from a person, from “repentance” and “confessions” to “self-incrimination” and “testimonies” in relation to others.

Security forces detain a man in Minsk
Detentions in Minsk during protests in September 2020Photo: alliance

Having received everything that was necessary, the “authority” cynically deprives this “hope”, awarding huge terms or refusing amnesty. It is difficult to imagine the state of a person who has fallen into such a trap. This is a diabolical psychological torture, the purpose of which is to bring a person to an extreme degree of despair and self-destruction.

Repression as a filtering mechanism

In addition, “amnesty” does not mean an end to systemic repression and purges. They will continue, acquiring new forms. In Lukashenka’s speeches, one can catch the term that is common in totalitarian systems – “re-education”. It is possible that the regime has set itself the fundamental task of psycho-ideological and political filtering of citizens and reformatting the personality of those who have shown disloyalty through the implementation of a set of repressive administrative measures and procedures.

The main tool, as always, will be direct physical pressure: arrest, detention and imprisonment, through which a person is forced to admit his mistakes and abandon wrong ideas. This explains the regular waves of mass detentions. Repression is no longer a form of exclusively suppression, but a filtering and “cleansing” mechanism. We can safely say that the authorities intend to put through the process of “cleansing” all those who were in any way connected with anti-regime activities before and after 2020.

White-red flowers
The section “Belarus. Perspectives” gives Belarusians the opportunity to express their opinion on the DW websitePhoto: DW

At the same time, the ruling class seeks to introduce new practices of reprisal, re-education and purges – the possibility of depriving the citizenship of opponents of the “new state” acting to its detriment, as well as a special approach to those who received the “card of the Pole” and similar “harmful documents”. It is important for the regime to effectively eliminate those who challenged it from the Belarusian society, and force everyone else to follow/correspond only to the correct rituals and forms of the “new state”.

Of course, one can argue for a long time about whether the Lukashenko regime will have enough resources and time to build a “new state”, however, it is obvious that he will not give up these attempts, regardless of the devastating consequences of the “new state” project. “will have for Belarus.

Author: Pavel Usov, head of the Warsaw Center for Political Analysis

The comment expresses the personal opinion of the author. It may not coincide with the opinion of the editors and Deutsche Welle as a whole.

See also:

A thousand political prisoners: what will force the regime to release them?

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