Opposition activists stage traditional Dzyady march

An estimated crowd of about 400 people staged an annual commemorative march in Minsk on Sunday to honor the memory of Stalin terror victims...

An estimated crowd of about 400 people staged an annual commemorative march in Minsk on Sunday to honor the memory of Stalin terror victims on the occasion of Dzyady (Remembrance of Ancestors Day).

The march, organized by the Conservative Christian Party (CCP) and sanctioned 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.

Participants displayed Belarus’ historically national white-red-white flags and chanted “Zhyve Belarus!” (Long Live Belarus!). Opposition politicians Yury Belenki, Lyavon Barshchewski, Ryhor Kastusyow, Yury Hubarevich, Alyaksey Yanukevich and Vital Rymashewski, as well as former political prisoner Zmitser Dashkevich were in attendance.

The crowd was accompanied by police officers in plain clothes. Some of them were filming the crowd.

As the demonstrators reached Karbyshava Street on the outskirts of Minsk, they were confronted by a bunch of visibly drunk young men who started insulting them and shouting that Belarus should be in a union “with Russia, Ukraine and Yugoslavia.” Several elderly participants exchanged angry words with them, but no violence followed.

At the same time, the crowd received words of support from many passers-by, while many drivers honked their horns in a sign of solidarity as their cars passed the procession.

The event ended with a rally at Kurapaty. An address by CCP emigre leader Zyanon Paznyak was read out. In the address, the politician described Dzyady as a festival of “popular unity” and recalled that the first-ever Dzyady march was staged by Belarusian Popular Front members in 1988. On that day, he said, Minsk showed that Communism could be defeated in a peaceful way, through reason and resolution. “Had Minsk not shown the example, the Soviet Union’s break-up could have taken a bloody way,” said Mr. Paznyak. “Time will come and Belarus will break free from darkness and will again mark Dzyady as a state holiday on November 2. We testify that the holiday lives on, this is the people’s spiritual foundation. We stay close to our ancestors, respect the Belarusian culture and language.”

CCP Deputy Chairman Yury Belenki warned that Russian speakers in Belarus were members of an “occupation army” and were “shooting at their own people.” He called on the public to speak Belarusian and encourage their children to do the same.

Speaking about Kurapaty, Mr. Belenki said, “Here Russian occupants, imperialists killed Belarusians for nothing but being Belarusians.”

After the rally the crowd put up seven new wooden crosses at the site and laid flowers.

Yury Rubtsow, a Homyel resident who was wearing a T-shirt over his coat that had a “Lukashenka Go” message on it, was arrested after the rally. Four plainclothesmen bundled the elderly man into a minibus. He was expected to be taken to the Savetski district police station.