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Privatized Country
On November 25, Slutsk witnessed a unique court trial. The trial where the authorities came out in their true colors, and definitely not the bright and honorable ones. Believe it or not, 23 local deputies launched a war against a pensioner who “dared” to organize a community cleaning up day at the local cemetery
The story started on October 1. No, it rather started on the day of local elections with all the Belarusian “peculiarities”, from the time when no democratic activists were allowed in the election committees, from pre-election promises of all the candidates (including the candidates from the government), falsifications and closing the ways for alternative candidates to local Councils. Then we, supposedly, chose the “servants of the people” for ourselves that were to make our life better, according to their own election campaigns.
Slutsk, as any other town, has its cemetery. All around the world the state of the cemetery is considered to show the attitude of the descendants to the ancestors. Is it important to keep cemeteries ideally clean and well-groomed? Would You want to lie after your death in dirt and wild grass? And when the cemetery is old and gave the final rest to the prominent persons, then it’s the indicator of the attitude towards people’s history. At the Slutsk old cemetery, there are graves dated from the 17th century. Some renowned Belarusians are also buried there, for example, AlgerdAbuhovich, the famous writer and translator. However, despite all that, the cemetery in Slutsk is in horrible condition. Unlike the authorities, local community does care about its history, and for many years it has been trying to make the cemetery an example and demonstration of the respect towards the ancestors and history. A local activist and retiree, ZinaidaTimoshek has had a three-year long bureaucratic struggled for maintaining the cemetery in proper conditions: thousands of signatures were collected from various institutions; after the trial, the court obliged the living and communal services and ROVD to control the state of the cemetery; an appeal was also sent to the regional Council of Deputies to allocate money for that purpose. But things haven’t got forward an inch. The only thing that the Council of Deputies could offer was to clean the cemetery at the community cleaning up day.
When ZinaidaTimoshek understood that the authorities cared much more about pompous celebration of the end of the harvest and useless indicators, she decided to act and organize the volunteer cleaning up day at the cemetery. To bring more attention to the problem of national history preservation, she sent the invitations to 24 local deputies who would pay at least some attention to the problem afterwards. However, the volunteer cleaning up day was attended only by those who were not indifferent: local activists, people from other cities and regions… “Servants of people” were not among them... And nothing else but presence was expected from the deputies – aware of poor local budget (no money was allocated for the cleaning up), the participants of the community service day prepared for the deputies even the cleaning equipment (shovels). To avoid confusion, the shovels had special plate on them attached by the sticky tape. And that was exactly the shovels that irritated the local authorities the most. Someone treated them as crosses. As a result, the policemen that were present at the event first tried to break the small wooden plates, then a tractor drove over the shovels. It seems that the word “order” at the cemetery, as understood by living and communal services and ROVD, means not the tidy graves but clean hands of the local authorities... On that day the police didn’t make a record on anyone, although Zinaida asked them to do so.
Deputies of local Council felt insulted for a month and ten days. Then, after almost a month and a half, ZinaidaTimoshek was called to the police where 23 records were made on her according to the article “Insult”. The deputies were insulted by Zinaida’s “setting of crosses made of household shovels and putting the plates with the names of the deputies on crosses”.

The trial was held on November 25. The participants of the court trial were ZinaidaTimoshek (the accused), the judge Svetlana Pastukhova; 10 victims: YuriyBondarenko (director of the ZhES-3), Sergei Lavrik (military commissioner), DmitriyBondarev (head of the Slutsk Canning Factory), Vladimir Gurkin (director of the trading house), Inna Tsetsevskaya (the head of the regional post office), Natalia Serid (director of the Slutsk Local History Museum), ValentinaRaiko (headmaster of school No13), Sergei Tsygankov (deputy head of the Slutsk Department of Ministry of Emergency Situations), DmitriyShkliarevskiy (head of the department of public order of Slutsk ROVD), Makarov (military retiree); pensioners from Slutsk and Vitebsk who came to support Zinaida. The appearance and behavior of the trial participants deserve some attention, too. The judge was quite clear in supporting the “offended” who looked like some kind of “local princes”. It was surprising to see how the police authorities show off making speeches. Almost all the men had faces broader than shoulders and were big enough not to see what is under their well-fed bellies. One of the “offended” (Bondarenko) barely ever stopped chewing a gum openly. And the ladies… To see them, one don’t need to come to Slutsk, one may just meet a head of a local Executive Committee or her assistant. And don’t forget that they all are deputies of the Regional Council.
During the trial the judge kept interrupting the speech by ZinaidaTimoshek as soon as she tried to say anything about the importance of keeping the cemetery in decent state. The judge said it was “not relevant to the case”. At the same time, the deputies could reason safely that the invitations were unjustified and illegal (the connection to the shovels is unclear).


The trial lasted for almost nine hours. During these nine hours the deputies mostly expressed their outrage not about the ill-fated shovel offence but about the fact that they “didn’t receive personal notifications”, that “each deputy should work solely in their own district”, that “cemetery is not a prerogative of communal services and ROVD”. For example, deputy Burkin claimed: “You care about the cemetery? Organize people, don’t organize an action, don’t invite the deputies”. Deputy Bondarenko said: “Do you think we are paid for that (for being a deputy in the regional Council)? Not at all, it’s a community service in addition to our main job. We are responsible to voters. If they don’t want us, they will elect someone else. You have a f*ing bunch of people who could be responsible”. The impression was that the deputies were most indignant at the fact that they were invited to clean up the cemetery, that for the first time someone tried to tell them – “We have elected you. You are the “servants of the people”. And you are to behave adequately”. But deputies are not used to that… They are used to a different principle: “You have elected us and we don’t need you anymore!” During the breaks the deputies had to listen to everything that Zinaida’s supporters had to tell them. Many of them already regretted that they got involved with the trial. In general, the people present were grateful to ZinaidaTimoshek for her active position and brave actions.
The general impression of the trial reminds the one of vising any state institution: it’s the feeling that these “princes” have privatized our country. They live on our taxes but behave as if the organizations they run are their private shady business. When I want, I answer the question, when I don’t want, I don’t answer; I will register the organization if I want, or will not register if I don’t want to. And it doesn’t matter whether it is legal or illegal. The law for them is the order of the boss. In any country of the world, these shovels would indeed be the cross for these deputies. The cross on their political and public career. But here they are likely to get a salary bonus, a promotion, and get reelected. It sounds weird but our country has something to hope for solely because there are people like Timoshek who are brave enough to bring the deputies to the account at least in such a way.




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