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Marco Fieber

A Cossack in a school: Mikalai Ulakhovich speaks in Vitebsk

The bell is ringing and students are flocking through doors of the public school No. 31 in central Vitebsk. In the auditorium, where the school’s theatre-group usually present their plays, presidential candidate Mikalai Ulakhovich meets potential voters. But not many of them come to the event on 7 October. The audience consists mostly of Ulakhovich’s campaign staff and loyal Cossacks in their uniforms. The school also hosts a polling station which is located right next to the stage, only separated by a thin yellow curtain.

On time, the Chairman of the Belarusian Patriotic Party and supreme Ataman of the “Belarusian Cossacks” starts his speech with presenting his vita in breadth and depth. Ulakhovich continues his talk by explaining what he would do if he became president: initiate economic reforms, but “they have to take time”, and liberalise the political system with more parties, “instead of dominating individual politicians”. In a Belarus governed by him “only political parties should appoint a presidential candidate”, he states. At the same time the 64-year old declares himself to be “against parliamentarian democracy”.

His speech unveils a whole range of opinions – or maybe rather an outstanding flexibility: “I am for Putin, I am for Russia”, and later “I am for the European Union”. Of course the notoriously pro-Russian supports a close cooperation with its eastern neighbour. In domestic politics he criticises the current situation but not the state leaders.

Ulakhovich says that the opposition focuses too much on ideological issues instead on economics: “They are fighting for changing the Belarusian flag”, but the “most important thing is that people have something to eat every day”. Or in a nutshell: “welfare” and “stability”. These words of Lukashenko’s long standing friend could be the president’s own.

Author and Photographer

Marco Fieber is project coordinator of Belarus Votes and Chairman of Libereco – Partnership for Human Rights in Germany. He currently studies East European Studies in Munich.



The background image is a derivative of "Belarus" by Marc Veraart, used under CC BY.