By Volha Birukova
Protesters marred festivities as Belarusians around the world celebrated March 25th as the creation of the Belarus Popular Republic. Established in 1918, the independent state existed just a few months before being absorbed by Soviets.
The day is highly symbolic, representing the hope for a free, democratic, independent Belarus to some. Not surprisingly, inside Belarus an opposition rally takes place every year.
This year, the March 25th rally drew about 2,000 nationalists in Minsk, in a city with a population of 2,000,000. The rally was strictly controlled by police.
While the president was on holiday in Russia, armed forces patrolled and filmed rally participants, preventing them from demonstrating along the main avenue.
Corralled to the front of the National Science Academy, protesters listened to speeches by opposition leaders, sang in Belarusian and burned several portraits of President Alexander Lukashenko. The Lukashenko portraits, sold in every book shop in the country, and found everywhere from kindergarten classrooms up to government offices, were denounced as 'propaganda' by the protesters.
Field reports alleged that nobody was jailed during the rally, but sources stated that activists from the Young Front were arrested before the event, and several activists from Russian Oborona were deported.