Wednesday, 11 May 2005

Police Disperse Rally Against Renaming Of Minsk Streets

Minsk, 11 May 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Some 40 young opposition activists staged an unsanctioned demonstration on 10 May in downtown Minsk to protest the recent renaming of streets in the Belarusian capital by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.

Police dispersed the rally and detained eight demonstrators for a short time for identification.

Lukashenka decreed before the 60th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany that Frantsishak Skaryna Avenue, Minsk's main thoroughfare, be renamed Independence Avenue, and that Pyotr Masherau Avenue, another major street in the capital, take the name of Victors' Avenue.

The Belarusian president simultaneously ordered that the names of Frantsishak Skaryna Avenue and Pyotr Masherau Avenue be ascribed to other streets in Minsk.

Stanislau Shushkevich, Belarus's head of state from 1991-1994, told Belapan that Lukashenka's decree is "stupid and shortsighted."

"There is no name more sacred for Belarusians than the name of Frantsishak Skaryna," Shushkevich noted. Skaryna (1485?-1540?) was the first Belarusian printer and Bible translator.