Listen to Batka

  The Independence Day parade in Minsk is a grotesque sight. Held annually on the 3rd of July, the event attracts huge crowds of people and usually begins with a military show featuring roaring tanks, swooping airplanes, and the perfectly groomed soldiers juggling their rifles. They are followed by the acid-red tractors, combines, seeding machines and other farming mechanisms. In authoritarian Belarus the sowing and harvesting campaigns are still regarded as “the battles for the crops”. Then come the sportsmen. Ice-hockey players on rollerblades are playing the non-existing puck, tennis players are swinging their rackets at imaginary balls, wheel-mounted yachts are rolling down the asphalt road, strange figures on stilts act as chess pieces and, as the climax of the action, several dozens of athletes form some kind of vase with their bodies, which is slowly waving its tentacles. Pop singers are opening their mouths in accordance with the pre-recorded soundtrack, transmitted

through the loudspeakers. And, above all this faked splendour there is Alexander Lukashenka with his stern smile, hugging a girl with red-and-green bows who is clutching flowers sent to the president “by the grateful people of Belarus”.

Better than anything else, these parades reveal the essence of the official culture in the „last European dictatorship“. This is a primitive pop-product for the masses, serving to transmit simple ideological messages like „Belarus is an island of stability“ and „We shall never bow down to our enemies“. The ultimate ideological commandment reads „you shall have no other presidents before me“. The promotion of the official culture goes hand in hand with the repressions against independent cultural actors.
The parade is just one example of the official cultural production in Belarus. While delivering the ideology to the masses, the regime uses many other public events, which are also broadcast by the state-owned mass media. The „Slavic Bazar“ is an annual music fest which brings together practically all state-sponsored Belarusian pop singers. Every major political campaign, such as presidential elections or a referendum, is accompanied by the nationwide concert tour „For Belarus“, which reaches most of Belarusian towns and cities with its appeal to support the president. „Dazhynki“, the harvest fest, is celebrated each year in a different town of Belarus. The hosting city is always renovated beforehand. Facades of the central square get a facelift,
a couple of sidewalks get covered with new bricks, and sometimes the ground is sprayed with green colour if the new lawn grass doesn’t grow soon enough.

Then there is a big concert with the president attending.

Who is performing during these concerts? Among the rising stars is Polina Smolova, former soloist of the Minsk police orchestra. (Polina Smolova, official web-site:

Another name is Irina Dorofeeva, who has sung during the open-air concert in front of the National library in Minsk on the 25th of March 2007. The concert was aimed at countering the opposition demonstration, scheduled for the same day. Her Marilyn Monroe-style photo taken during the concert stirred waves this spring in the Belarusian internet.

(Irina Dorofeeva, official web-site:

There are also old „stars“, such as „Siabry“ music group. Its frontman, Anatol Yarmolenka, performed quite a number of hit songs during the soviet times. Then, during the early years of the Belarusian independence, he sang to the lyrics by Zyanon Pazniak, who is now the opposition politician in exile. These days, together with his daughter Alesya, who shocks the public with her short dresses, (Alesya video: Anatol Yarmolenka performs the song called „Listen to Bat’ka“. „Bat’ka“ means „father“ in Belarusian, which also is the nickname of president Lukashenka. The song’s lyrics speak for themselves:


Well-built and tough-composed,


He won’t teach you bad things.

Bat’ka can put everyone in order,

Bat’ka is cooler than the rest.

He will solve all the troubles

With a single movement of his hand,

He is reliable and confident.

Just a look at him is enough to  understand

who’s the master of our house.


Listen to Bat’ka“ video:

(“Syabry”, official web-site:

Among the high-rollers of the official culture there is omnipresent Mikhail Finberg, conductor of the National symphonic and variety music orchestra, who takes part in practically every single official concert and in any possible state ideology initiative. He also seats in the parliament and even flaunts his shining smile in TV-commercials. There is also Angelica Agurbash, former model, now happily married to a Moscow “butcher tycoon”. She was also one of the several failure entries from Belarus during the Eurovision music contest.

(Angelica Agurbash, official web-site:

In fact, the European pop song contest is something of a national sport in Belarus, with the president and the whole nation sending the contestant to the

Eurovision competition like astronauts on a space mission. Despite all the effort, these attempts have been rather unsuccessful. The last Eurovision contestant from Belarus was Dmitry Koldun, a young man with albino contact lenses. During his appearances on TV he frantically waved the official red-and-green flag and screamed out his many thanks to president Lukashenka for giving him a chance to take part in the contest and take the 6th position in the final.

(Dmitry Koldun on YouTube:

As you see, the official culture clearly puts an emphasis on music and other types of shows, with other spheres being rather neglected. The cinema is stagnating, the state-owned theatres can’t stage innovative plays due to the state supervision. The regime tried to put literature under its control by forming the loyal Belarusian union of writers, headed by the former policemen officer Mikalay Charginets. However, the state support didn’t help its members to start writing good books. In such conditions, the pop music remains the only major source of ideological influence, combined with shows, sports and television.

Oh yes, we forgot about the aggressively advertised state lotteries, which had become something of a nationwide mania in Belarus. The popularity of the lotteries is easy to explain. In the country, where most people are poor, the lottery creates an illusion that prosperity is just around the corner. Simply go to the booth selling lottery tickets, buy yourself one, watch the weekend drawing on television (which is also quite a show), and get rich! Just take you mind off your problems, don’t think too much, relax. Change is bad, stability is good. Everything will be fine, as long as you listen to Bat’ka.

Photo by www.

Irina Dorofeeva (photo by

Irina Dorofeeva (


Polina Smolova (photo

Alesya  (photo by

Angelica Agurbash (photo by

Dmitry Koldun  (photo by



Photo by


Prepared by

Ales Kudrytski for the Office for a Democratic Belarus