Unsurprisingly, as an Honorary Consul of the Republic of Lithuania, I am very connected with the events in Belarus. As all Lithuanians do, as well as the populations of other Central European countries. This is because the history of Lithuania and Belarus have much in common. Not only in recent history, referring to the cruelties in the 20th century in the area of Central Europe where we find now Lithuania, Belarus and adjoining territory. A region heavily terrorized by Hitler and Stalin. Timothy Snyder writes about this barbarism in his book “Bloodlands”. The most impressive book I ever read about this period in Central Europe.
But the connectedness between people in Belarus and Lithuania has its roots further back in time. One of the biggest countries in Europe from the 16th till the 17th century was the Polish – Lithuanian Commonwealth. But even before this Commonwealth, Belarus was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
No wonder Lithuanians feel a big solidarity with their cousins in Belarus.
The members of the Union have learned more about this when Ivo van de Wijdeven was keynote speaker on the annual dinner three years ago in Rotterdam. See his book “De rafelranden van Europa”.
I am following the events with the biggest interest. A very dangerous situation in which Putin will try to restore the old sphere of influence and the West is acting very cautiously having in mind the events in the Crimea.
Journalists and specialists on foreign politics are more qualified to write in more detail about the situation than I am. Therefor I will focus on an item which triggered me seeing the protests. The EU is not playing a role in the protests in Belarus. Main goals are honest elections and reform. Therefor protesters are banning the EU flag in the streets. Rather, we see an abundance of white-red-white flags, small as well as huge.
Does Belarus have two flags?
Supporters of the opposition are waving white-red-white flags, which differs very much from the official state banner which is red and green. See pictures.
The white-red-white flag was used in 1918, before Belarus became a Sovjet Republic. After Belarus regained its independence from the Sovjet Union in 1991 the white-red-white flag was reinstated for a couple of years and was official banner until 1995.
The official state banner (in red and green) was introduced in 1995 after a controversial referendum. It is a modification of the flag which was used when Belarus was part of the Sovjet Union. In Sovjet times the red and green flag also showed the hammer and sickle and red star.
The pattern on the left side is a traditional ornament commonly used in garments and woven cloth use for ceremonial events. You can recognize professional Belarusian sportsmen and women, who are using the same pattern.
The white-red-white flag is used by the opposition as a symbol. The colours are based on the Pahonia coat of arms and an official emblem of the Republic in 1918 and 1991 – 1995.
My colleagues from Lithuania immediately will recognize this emblem, because the Pahonia was originally a symbol of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, of which Belarus was a part. Mrs. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya knew she was very welcome in Lithuania.
Gert Zandsteeg, Honorary Consul of Lithuania, August 2020