Opposition activists stage traditional Dzyady march

An estimated crowd of about 200 people staged an annual commemorative march in Minsk on October 30 to honor the memory of Stalinist terror victims on the occasion of Dzyady (Remembrance of Ancestors Day).

The march, traditionally organized by the Conservative Christian Party (CCP) and permitted by the authorities, ran from Minsk Watch Plant to Kurapaty, a woody place just outside Minsk where up to 200,000 people are believed to have been slain during Stalin’s purges in the 1930s and 1940s.

The demonstration was attended by a host of opposition politicians, including Paval Sevyarynets, Yury Belenki and Vyachaslaw Siwchyk. Dzmitry Paliyenka and Vyachaslaw Kasineraw, young activists who were both convicted of criminal offenses and given non-custodial sentences earlier this year, displayed a banner featuring the swastika and the Soviet hammer and sickle emblem and reading in Belarusian, “Fascism has many colors.” Midway through the march, a group of plainclothesmen surrounded the banner, apparently to block it from the view of passers-by and drivers.

Mr. Sevyarynets, a co-chairman of Belarusian Christian Democracy, said that he was not worried by the low turnout. “It is important that there is the Dzyady march even if just a handful people attend,” he said. “It seems to me that the nation is yet to reach maturity and we are at a stage when a new generation that should take to the streets is ripening.”
Mr. Siwchyk said that many potential participants could not attend because they were taking part in a ceremony to remember the leaders of the 1863-64 anti-Russian uprising in the Hrodna region or had not yet returned from Homyel after attending dissident rock band Brutto’s concert.

Some demonstrators were seen holding up images of Belarusian art figures and intellectuals executed by Stalin’s secret police NKVD on the night between October 29 and 30, 1937.

After the march reached Kurapaty it ended with a short rally. CCP member Valery Buyval traditionally read out an address by the party’s emigre leader, Zyanon Paznyak, who described Ancestors Remembrance Day as the third most important Christian festival after Christmas and Easter. “On such days people go to cemeteries and this symbolizes the eternal existence of ancestors,” said the address.

Mr. Paznyak warned of the possibility of Russian aggression. “It is the medieval mentality that reigns on the other side of our eastern border. People there view the entire world as their enemies,” he said, urging the Belarusians to get ready “for resistance” and fighting for their homeland.

Speaking at the rally, CCP Deputy Chairman Yury Belenki lashed out at Russia over its military involvement in Ukraine and mentioned Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s recent statement that “we will be dying here defending Belarus and Russia” in the event of war with the West. “You think it is soldiers who will be dying? No, they have prepared death for everyone,” he said.

Before dispersing, the crowd sang "Mahutny Bozha" (Oh, Lord Almighty), a Belarusian-language religious anthem, and put up a new wooden cross at the site in memory of the people executed by NKVD in the Stolin district, Brest region.

The march and the rally passed off without incident and no arrests were made.