No passport? No password! That’s the sentence which resonated the most during my trip to Minsk in Belarus. When I stopped by for a lunch in the local restaurant in the downtown of Minsk and asked the waiter for wifi password, she asked me to see my passport. After my perplexed expression, she added: “It’s the new law. So no passport? No password!” Wow, that really took me back and just confirmed general observation that Belarus government (aka czar Alexander Lukashenko) takes the protection of the nation (and especially censorship of those pesky foreign visitors 😉 really seriously.
Visiting Belarus was for me like a time machine trip going 25 years back to communism. Only cars were more modern and everybody have mobile phone. But otherwise… Police with huge flat hats everywhere controlling everything. Just in case. City primarily of big blocks of flats, even the “downtown” was only modern version of those blocks. And most of all – people were not smiling. Not a bit. Just looking very seriously, in front of them and being – well – expression-less. I am sure that after knowing them closer and spending a time with them they would become friendlier and they would open up (as some of those I have spent a time together did). But overall… pretty depressing state of mind.
I understood they were explaining other citizens advantages of staying with Bathuska Sasha Alexander, to make sure that “Belarus will have independent future”. Unfortunately, all of them completely ignored my initiatives to have a conversation about Belarus and Alexander. Just turning around and completely disengaging… Pity, maybe they would convinced me too… Like other 80+ percents who voted for Alexander later on.
BTW, Belarus has their own language. But official languages are two, with Russian of course. It wasn’t surprise to me, that everybody speaks and understands Russian, but it was a bit of surprise to find out, that Belorussian language is close to be extinct, youth not understanding it, in school it is not mandatory and government really is not making a lot of effort to prioritize Belorussian over Russian – I would say other way around. Completely different to Ukrainian approach…
Pictures are here.