The Leader of Europe's 'Last Dictatorship' Is Facing an Unprecedented Challenge. Here's What It Could Mean for Belarus

Europe’s longest serving leader Alexander Lukashenko has long worked hard to seem invincible. He has dominated past elections that the U.S. has deemed neither free nor fair and brokered no dissent and suppressed protests. Now, he is facing an unprecedented challenge as he runs for a sixth term as president of Belarus in elections on August 9. A former teacher and political novice, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, has emerged as his main rival, pledging to topple Lukashenko’s regime and restore democracy.
Tens of thousands have rallied across Belarus in some of the country’s biggest opposition protests in a decade, amid mounting frustration over the government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis, combined with grievances about the economy. Referring to Lukashenko, protestors chanted ‘stop the cockroach’ and held placards reading ‘change!’.
“For the first time in his 26-year rule, Lukashenko knows the majority don’t support him,” says Aleksandr Feduta, a former aide to the incumbent, who was i…

Thus human courts acquit the strong, And doom the weak, as therefore wrong.

Jean de La Fontaine par-by Hyacinthe Rigaud, en-in 1690
Food for thought...

The Animals Sick of the Plague

The sorest ill that Heaven hath
Sent on this lower world in wrath,--
The plague (to call it by its name,)
One single day of which
Would Pluto's ferryman enrich,--
Waged war on beasts, both wild and tame.
They died not all, but all were sick:
No hunting now, by force or trick,
To save what might so soon expire.
No food excited their desire;
Nor wolf nor fox now watch'd to slay
The innocent and tender prey.
The turtles fled;
So love and therefore joy were dead.
The lion council held, and said:
'My friends, I do believe
This awful scourge, for which we grieve,
Is for our sins a punishment
Most righteously by Heaven sent.
Let us our guiltiest beast resign,
A sacrifice to wrath divine.
Perhaps this offering, truly small,
May gain the life and health of all.
By history we find it noted
That lives have been just so devoted.
Then let us all turn eyes within,
And ferret out the hidden sin.
Himself let no one spare nor flatter,
But make clean conscience in the matter.
For me, my appetite has play'd the glutton
Too much and often upon mutton.
What harm had e'er my victims done?
I answer, truly, None.
Perhaps, sometimes, by hunger press'd,
I've eat the shepherd with the rest.
I yield myself, if need there be;
And yet I think, in equity,
Each should confess his sins with me;
For laws of right and justice cry,
The guiltiest alone should die.'
'Sire,' said the fox, 'your majesty
Is humbler than a king should be,
And over-squeamish in the case.
What! eating stupid sheep a crime?
No, never, sire, at any time.
It rather was an act of grace,
A mark of honour to their race.
And as to shepherds, one may swear,
The fate your majesty describes,
Is recompense less full than fair
For such usurpers o'er our tribes.'
Thus Renard glibly spoke,
And loud applause from flatterers broke.
Of neither tiger, boar, nor bear,
Did any keen inquirer dare
To ask for crimes of high degree;
The fighters, biters, scratchers, all
From every mortal sin were free;
The very dogs, both great and small,
Were saints, as far as dogs could be.
The ass, confessing in his turn,
Thus spoke in tones of deep concern:--
'I happen'd through a mead to pass;
The monks, its owners, were at mass;
Keen hunger, leisure, tender grass,
And add to these the devil too,
All tempted me the deed to do.
I browsed the bigness of my tongue;
Since truth must out, I own it wrong.'
On this, a hue and cry arose,
As if the beasts were all his foes:
A wolf, haranguing lawyer-wise,
Denounced the ass for sacrifice--
The bald-pate, scabby, ragged lout,
By whom the plague had come, no doubt.
His fault was judged a hanging crime.
'What? eat another's grass? O shame!
The noose of rope and death sublime,'
For that offence, were all too tame!
And soon poor Grizzle felt the same.

Thus human courts acquit the strong,
And doom the weak, as therefore wrong.

- Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695), Les Fables (1678-1679) (translated from the French, see below)

Jean de La Fontaine was a French fabulist and one of the most widely read French poets of the 17th century. He is known above all for his Fables, which provided a model for subsequent fabulists across Europe. (Wikipedia)

Les animaux malades de la Peste

Un mal qui répand la terreur,
Mal que le Ciel en sa fureur
Inventa pour punir les crimes de la terre,
La Peste (puisqu'il faut l'appeler par son nom)
Capable d'enrichir en un jour l'Achéron,
Faisait aux animaux la guerre.
Ils ne mouraient pas tous, mais tous étaient frappés :
On n'en voyait point d'occupés
A chercher le soutien d'une mourante vie ;
Nul mets n'excitait leur envie ;
Ni Loups ni Renards n'épiaient
La douce et l'innocente proie.
Les Tourterelles se fuyaient :
Plus d'amour, partant plus de joie.
Le Lion tint conseil, et dit : Mes chers amis,
Je crois que le Ciel a permis
Pour nos péchés cette infortune ;
Que le plus coupable de nous
Se sacrifie aux traits du céleste courroux,
Peut-être il obtiendra la guérison commune.
L'histoire nous apprend qu'en de tels accidents
On fait de pareils dévouements :
Ne nous flattons donc point ; voyons sans indulgence
L'état de notre conscience.
Pour moi, satisfaisant mes appétits gloutons
J'ai dévoré force moutons.
Que m'avaient-ils fait ? Nulle offense :
Même il m'est arrivé quelquefois de manger
Le Berger. Je me dévouerai donc, s'il le faut ; mais je pense
Qu'il est bon que chacun s'accuse ainsi que moi :
Car on doit souhaiter selon toute justice
Que le plus coupable périsse.
- Sire, dit le Renard, vous êtes trop bon Roi ;
Vos scrupules font voir trop de délicatesse ;
Et bien, manger moutons, canaille, sotte espèce,
Est-ce un péché ? Non, non. Vous leur fîtes Seigneur
En les croquant beaucoup d'honneur.
Et quant au Berger l'on peut dire
Qu'il était digne de tous maux,
Etant de ces gens-là qui sur les animaux
Se font un chimérique empire.
Ainsi dit le Renard, et flatteurs d'applaudir.
On n'osa trop approfondir
Du Tigre, ni de l'Ours, ni des autres puissances,
Les moins pardonnables offenses.
Tous les gens querelleurs, jusqu'aux simples mâtins,
Au dire de chacun, étaient de petits saints.
L'Ane vint à son tour et dit : J'ai souvenance
Qu'en un pré de Moines passant,
La faim, l'occasion, l'herbe tendre, et je pense
Quelque diable aussi me poussant,
Je tondis de ce pré la largeur de ma langue.
Je n'en avais nul droit, puisqu'il faut parler net.
A ces mots on cria haro sur le baudet. Un Loup quelque peu clerc prouva par sa harangue
Qu'il fallait dévouer ce maudit animal,
Ce pelé, ce galeux, d'où venait tout leur mal.
Sa peccadille fut jugée un cas pendable.
Manger l'herbe d'autrui ! quel crime abominable !
Rien que la mort n'était capable
D'expier son forfait : on le lui fit bien voir.
Selon que vous serez puissant ou misérable,
Les jugements de cour vous rendront blanc ou noir.

- Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695), Les Fables (1678-1679)

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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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