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Belarus’s Revolution of Dignity

Like most revolutions, the mass uprising in Belarus has come as a surprise, even though it was long overdue. Here, Sławomir Sierakowski, a first-hand chronicler of the protests, speaks with former Polish dissident leader Adam Michnik about the historical context and implications of today's events.

MINSK – Since claiming – preposterously – to have won 80% of the vote in the election on August 9, Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus’s president for the past 26 years, has been facing a growing protest movement comprising not just opposition supporters but also his own blue-collar base. Writing from Minsk for the past two weeks, Sławomir Sierakowski of the Institute for Advanced Study in Warsaw has tracked the evolution of the democratic uprising. In what follows, he interviews Adam Michnik, one of the leaders of Poland’s Solidarity movement and an architect of the country’s democratic transition after 1989.

A Long Time Coming

Sławomir Sierakowski: Are you surprised by the scale of the protests in Belarus?

Adam Michnik: Yes, I am surprised, in the same way one is always surprised by explosions of social activism, anger, engagement, protest. I was surprised in 1980, when all of Poland suddenly went on strike, which no one had expected. I was surprised in 1989, when the opposition overwhelmingly won the elections, even though they were not fully democratic (though the Senate elections were democratic, and the Senate was the measure of the opposition’s success). I was also surprised by the 2004-05 Orange and 2014 Maidan revolutions in Ukraine; I was surprised by the Arab Spring in 2010-12.

In that sense, I am surprised today at what is happening in Belarus, and I am observing with admiration and great respect what the heroes of this Belarusian Revolution of Dignity are doing.