“In the Country with Lukashenka, you want to be a Woman”. Main narratives of the Belarusian propaganda and Russian propaganda targeting Belarus, in the First Quarter of 2024 

“In the Country with Lukashenka, you want to be a Woman”.  Main narratives of the Belarusian propaganda and Russian propaganda targeting Belarus, in the First Quarter of 2024
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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The propaganda of the Belarusian regime continues to work on the sacralization of presidential power and the strengthening of the personality cult of the authoritarian ruler Aliaksandr Lukashenka. This is done through a continuous stream of praise and gratitude to the “president” in state and pro-state media channels, as well as by creating and maintaining the image of a “president-peacemaker.” The latter is often achieved by contrasting images of the horrors of war in neighboring Ukraine with the depiction of a “safe and peaceful” Belarus.

The media in Belarus spoke positively about the organization and outcome of the “presidential elections” in Russia, which took place from March 15-17. Vladimir Putin secured nearly 88 percent of the votes, a result that was likened to those seen in North Korea. Lukashenko, the President of Belarus, mentioned that Russia could take lessons from these elections.

Propaganda continues to exploit the image of Belarus as a pure and innocent victim of external enemies. The narrative of the “genocide of the Belarusian people” in World War II is used for this purpose. This storyline not only allows for making new claims against the West but also serves to divert the audience’s attention from political problems and human rights violations in modern Belarus. The joint “Russian-Belarusian Commission on History” created in March is also working in the same direction to revise history in an ideologically correct manner.

The state media utilized “International Women’s Day” on March 8 not to emphasize the importance of the struggle for women’s rights, but to boost the image of Aliaksandr Lukashenka once again as a “women’s president”.

The state continues to deny the existence of political prisoners in the country. Propaganda calls the opposition and supporters of democratic changes “terrorists and saboteurs” and demands new repressions. In March, there were several statements by journalists from state media about the need to tighten legislation.

Propaganda is attempting to repatriate political exiles to Belarus using intimidation, misinformation, and false promises.

Regarding the situation in Ukraine, propagandists continue to blame Ukraine for the war or claim that the West has initiated a war against Russia in Ukraine.

The 10th anniversary of the Ukrainian “Revolution of Dignity” (Euromaidan) was acknowledged in Belarus with renewed claims that Ukraine lost its independence and autonomy in 2014, becoming a “puppet” of the West, with power seized by “nationalists.”

Belarusian propaganda, following the Kremlin’s propaganda, blamed Ukraine for the terrorist attack at the Crocus City shopping and entertainment complex in Moscow, even after the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack.

Propaganda continues to vehemently deny accusations against the Belarusian authorities of illegally moving Ukrainian children to the territory of Belarus.

The West remains one of the main targets of aggressive Belarusian propaganda. In February and March, new threats were made against European countries and the United States. The source of the threats is the “president” Aliaksandr Lukashenka himself.

State media actively use nuclear threats and “nuclear bravado” in their anti-Western rhetoric.

This report is not an exhaustive, detailed overview of all the meanings, storylines, and nuances of Belarusian propaganda in the period under review. Every day, tons of poison, hatred, and dirt continue to be poured from the TV screens and the pages of the state press of Belarus – on Ukraine, Western countries, or on Belarusian defenders of democracy. The monitoring of iSANS does not aim to cover the entire volume of statements and comments of propagandists in all details during the period under review. The task of this study is to analyze and show the main directions and lines of propaganda in the first quarter of 2024.

Note: in the above quotes, the author’s spelling, punctuation, and style are preserved.

INTRODUCTION

Words highlighted in our report belong to the journalist of Minskaya Prauda Yauhen Pustavoy. In his article dedicated to International Women’s Day on March 8, he writes about the wonderful conditions created in Belarus for the development of family and motherhood, and how Aliaksandr Lukashenka, who likes to call himself the “women’s president”, takes care of women. Much like other propagandists, Pustavoy used this holiday not to talk about the need to fight for women’s rights, but to raise the rating of the “president”.

Soviet holidays — March 8, Victory Day on May 9, October Revolution Day on November 7, and others — have been preserved in Belarus (and in Russia) since the Soviet era in an almost unchanged form. This happened because, by and large, no new holidays have been invented, but the old ones fully meet the ideological needs of the regime, the main of which is unification around the leader.

The romanticization of the Soviet era is one of the pillars of Lukashenka’s ideology. The regime considers the Soviet past as the only “anchor” around which the public majority can unite. The reasons for this, most likely, lie in the personality of Lukashenka himself. As  journalist Ihar Kuley said,

«Lukashenka is not a Belarusian, not a Russian, but a Soviet person, he likes to remind of the “good life” in the USSR and use typical Soviet propaganda clichés.» 

In the early months of 2024, there were many significant events, to which Belarusian propaganda felt compelled to respond. First, both the Russian and Belarusian regimes faced important tests: parliamentary and local «elections» in Belarus in February and presidential elections in Russia in March. During this crucial period, the state-controlled media were fully mobilized to combat any alternative forces (independent candidates were not allowed) and to unite the populations of both countries around their respective “leaders.”

During the third year of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the latter dealt several painful blows to Russia in January-March, and the propaganda of both authoritarian regimes worked hard to minimize the reputational damage caused by these strikes. First, Ukraine began to hit Russian oil refineries and military facilities effectively and heavily – both inside the country and in the occupied territories. But the most significant event of these three months was the record in terms of duration and intensity raid of armed formations consisting of Russian citizens fighting on the side of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the territory of Russia. Judging by the fact that the information leaked even to Russian federal TV channels, and the Russian “president” himself was forced to react to them, the blow was painful. Belarusian propaganda also could not avoid this topic.

At the same time, it is worth noting that the degree of saturation of the air of Belarusian channels with Ukrainian content is decreasing from month to month. It is becoming more and more difficult for propaganda to explain to the population why this war has been going on for so long, why it is needed, and most importantly – why Belarus needs to support Russia and become an accomplice to its war crimes. No matter how hard the propagandists tried, they failed to make an enemy out of Ukraine. In general, Ukraine is an “enemy” of Belarus only on the orders of the Kremlin.

The same cannot be said, for example, about Belarusian political emigrants – representatives of democratic forces forced to leave the country due to mass repression. Almost four years have passed since the brutal suppression of peaceful protests in 2020, but the “fugitives”, as propaganda calls them, remain the main object of the hatred of the pro-government media.  Every protest, however small, is suppressed in Belarus. Independent media is destroyed. Almost 1.5 thousand protest participants, civil activists, and journalists continue to be imprisoned, but at the same time an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the UN claims that there are “no political prisoners” in Belarus.

In second place in the hierarchy of hatred of Belarusian propaganda is the “collective West”, primarily the countries of the eastern frontier – Poland and Lithuania. Threats continue to be made against the West, now backed up by “nuclear bravado”. However, for all the aggressive rhetoric towards Europe and America, Belarusian officials and propagandists do not forget to leave the “door open”. They continue to hint at their readiness to return to “business as usual” as soon as they “forget about mutual grievances.”

According to the Human Rights Center «Viasna», as of May 10, 1374 people were recognized as political prisoners in Belarus.

The entire report can be read or downloaded by following this link.

The report can be read in Russian language.

 

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15.06.2024